Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no money from this publication.
This will be Ron/Hermione, but I'm not going to tell you who Harry will be with yet. I can promise that it won't be slash, nor will it be H/G or H/Hr.
Some readers may note that the prologue has been deleted. This was done deliberately when I decided I didn't like it. Authors prerogative. There have also been some minor changes to this chapter, mostly because I reread it and felt that the pace was a bit off. I'm going to continue to edit the chapters already posted to correct the problem.
Chapter 1 – Summer at the Dursleys.
It was summer, supposedly, although one wouldn't have guessed it from the storm over Surrey that day. The rain fell in torrents and dark grey clouds scudded across the sky before tempestuous winds. Every so often lightning flickered and thunder rumbled ominously.
Harry Potter sighed. He supposed the storm had been inevitable given the muggy heat of the past week or so but did it really have to choose right now to strike? It was just his bad luck that he had chosen to take a quick stroll only minutes before the downpour began. At first he hadn't cared; the dark skies matched his bleak mood and what was a little bit of rain anyway? But as the winds picked up and his clothes became thoroughly soaked he knew he had to make his way back inside before he made himself ill. So he'd turned around and ran as quickly as he was able back to number four Privet Drive, painfully aware of the wheezing that followed him, announcing the presence of Mundungus Fletcher, his guard for the day.
As he rounded the corner back onto Privet Drive he froze in surprise. Vernon's sparkling company car, which Harry had been ordered to clean only that morning, was missing from the driveway. He'd only been out about five minutes and when he'd left both Vernon and Petunia had been seated on the couch watching TV. They'd looked like they would be there most of the afternoon. He ran a hand through his hair that was now plastered to his forehead and ran the rest of the way to number four. Just to make sure he tried the door and wasn't surprised to find it locked. With a long drawn out sigh he trudged around to the back. There was a tree round in the garden that provided reasonable shelter. The front porch would have been better, but he knew that if he was seen sitting there during a rainstorm the neighbours would start talking and then there'd be hell to pay with his so-called family. Of course none of those neighbours would offer him shelter for an hour or so until the Dursleys returned, because he was 'that Potter boy,' the local delinquent, layabout and all around no good piece of scum. On the other hand, had it been Dudley that was left out in the rain – not that that would ever be allowed to happen – he would have been invited in with open arms and offered a hot drink and a dry towel, because he was such a 'darling angel.' Or so Petunia would have everyone believe.
This wasn't the first time Harry had been the victim of 'accidents' like this. Ever since the Order had spoken to the Dursleys at Kings Cross they had been too terrified to act as they used to. So the insults, endless chores and occasional bouts of starvation had stopped, but without their usual source of summer entertainment they were forced to be crafty. The first week he had been home Petunia had 'accidentally' knocked a picture off the wall and onto his head while she was cleaning. A few days later Dudley had 'accidentally' bumped into him as he came out of his room and only his quick reflexes had helped him avoid a tumble down the stairs. Vernon had taken to pushing out his chair when he knew Harry was behind him and then bellowing loudly for all to hear that it was Harry's fault for sneaking around. And now here he was, sheltering under a tree in the rain, while his relatives were off who-knows-where. They'd probably planned something like this for weeks, waiting for him to be outside when the rain came and then scarpering as fast as they could. They'd return in an hour or so and make a big fuss about how irresponsible he was to have gone out without a key. Harry snorted. Like they would ever trust him with a key to their precious home. They'd be too terrified of him giving it to one of his friends and letting 'those freaks' in and out as he pleased.
A hacking noise made its way over to him and Harry grinned despite himself. "Don't suppose you want to let me in, Dung?" He could just picture the look on his aunt's face if he managed to get inside after they went to so much trouble to leave him out in the rain. Maybe he could track mud all over her pristine floors just for good measure.
Dung cleared his throat, a horrible phlegmy sound that made Harry cringe, and choked out between sucking in lungfuls of air, "Not s'posed to do magic around you."
"It's only an unlocking spell," Harry argued.
"Yeah, but see, ol' Dumbledore'll be sending someun down to have a look-see if I do that."
"I doubt he'll mind," Harry said plaintively. "I'll even explain it to him myself."
"We-ell," Dung started.
"Let me guess," Harry said tiredly. "If he comes down here he might notice that you've been doing something you shouldn't have been, so instead I get to sit in the rain."
"Knew yer'd unnerstand," Dung said.
Harry huffed, mopping water from his forehead.
By the time the Dursleys returned two hours later Harry was thoroughly soaked – and miserable. Of course they pretended it had been an accident and Vernon even went so far as to claim they had left for some sort of emergency, but Harry was past caring about their excuses. Their methods might be different, but they were still the Dursleys and they still hated him.
Petunia made him wait on the doorstep until she had laid some towels on the floor for him to stand on so he didn't muddy her carpets. All the while Harry was fuming.
By the time he got back to his room and threw himself – still in his wet clothes – upon his bed he was ready to strangle someone. The Dursleys, Dung, Dumbledore, he didn't care which one. Was it too little to ask that he receive a little consideration during the summer? Especially this summer. He couldn't even complain to one of the myriad of people watching him because as far as the majority of the wizarding world was concerned he was a spoiled brat and telling anyone he was being mistreated would be met with derision. There was no point in even telling the Order, despite the fact that they had given the Dursleys a warning about the way they treated him. They would think he was over reacting to get the Dursleys in trouble if he complained about something as minor as getting locked out in the rain. No one else understood just how devious his family could be so naturally they'd think it was just a misunderstanding.
Groaning, he pulled himself out of bed and grabbed some dry clothes. He might feel better after a hot shower.
The Dursleys wouldn't have been a problem two months ago. Not when Sirius was still alive. One little comment about his godfather after an incident like this would have them scrambling to make nice. Harry swallowed hard as the warm water fell over his face. That was no longer possible and the Order just didn't scare them the way an escaped and possibly insane murderer did. Of course, Sirius had never done any of the things he'd been convicted for, but the Dursleys didn't need to know that.
That wasn't even the worst part though. All his life Harry had felt like an outsider looking in. He wasn't part of the Dursley family, that much had been made clear to him at a very early age when his attempt to call Aunt Petunia mummy had been met with a slap and a strangled cry of "I am not your mother!" At school he had been unable to make friends with the other children because they all knew that anyone that approached him would be made miserable by Dudley and his gang. Then, finally, he thought he might belong at Hogwarts with wizards and witches just like himself until harsh reality interfered and he realised that even there he was different to his peers. He might have some good friends like Ron and Hermione, but the majority of the students would always think of him as the Boy-Who-Lived, a celebrity and possibly a hero and at times a villain and they could never forget who he was long enough to get to know the real him. Even the Weasley family who claimed to love him as one of their own could never make him feel like he belonged because there was always the ever present feeling that he was intruding.
But Sirius had been his. His family. His chance to belong with someone and that had been ripped away from him because he was stupid. He had believed his dream and run off when he had Hermione right there telling him that it could be a trap. But Harry hadn't listened. He'd been so sure that Sirius was being tortured that he'd run off half cocked and put himself right where Voldemort wanted him. Sirius had paid for that mistake with his life. No it wasn't a mistake, it was sheer bull headed arrogance on his part that led him to run off to the Department of Mysteries on a rescue mission that he should have known was doomed from the start. Professor Snape was right, he was an arrogant little celebrity who always wanted to save the day. Hermione was right too, he did have a 'saving people thing,' but this time it had killed the person he'd gone to save and he'd have to live with that fact for the rest of his life.
Harry blinked away the tears that had mingled with the hot water and shut off the shower. As he dried himself and dressed in fresh clothes he tried to will his thoughts away from the depressing avenue they had turned down. Not that there was a lot else to think about around here. For the first week or so he'd tried immersing himself in his school books as a way of distracting himself only to come to the conclusion that he was not Hermione and he would never be able to read for fun; he just didn't have the patience. The Dursleys no longer gave him chore after chore so as not to give Harry reason to complain that he was being used for slave labour and they ignored him most of the time unless they had something particularly snarky, yet seemingly innocent to say to him. He couldn't even turn to the outside world for some companionship because nearly all the locals thought he was a criminal and the Order weren't supposed to talk to him unless it was an emergency. From time to time he received letters from his two best friends, but hearing about Hermione's holiday in Spain and how she had met one of the local Bruja who had cured her mother of sunstroke with a glass of water failed to raise his interest for more than a few moments. Likewise Ron's description of summer life at the Burrow left him with a bitter taste in his mouth. He tried not to let it show in his replies though and painted a picture for them of lazy summer days spent in Surrey. He didn't want either of them knowing just how miserable he was and he certainly didn't want them to pity him.
All in all he was lonely. As he exited the bathroom he could hear the sounds of the Dursleys eating. Once again they hadn't called him for the meal, hoping he'd forget and they could say that it wasn't their fault that he didn't want to eat.
He trudged downstairs and into the kitchen, ignoring the disgruntled look his uncle gave him. He grabbed his plate and sat down at the large square table, one side of which was completely taken over by his large cousin. Dudley was the only one that hadn't noticed Harry come in, his attention fixed firmly on the new TV. He was sure Petunia had seen him even though she had her face turned away, her nose pointedly in the air as if she smelled something bad. On days like these it felt like he didn't really exist. No wonder he was lonely. Of course if the only other option was living with their visible contempt of him he'd take being lonely any day.
Such morose thoughts inevitably brought him back to Sirius. His godfather had once promised him a different home, one where he wasn't hated and scorned, but that dream had faltered when Wormtail's escape meant they couldn't prove Sirius' innocence. Now it had died altogether. He could only imagine what Sirius would have been like to live with. Most likely Harry would awaken most mornings to some variety of prank before breakfast which would have been inedible because he was sure Sirius couldn't cook. Remus Lupin would have come around all the time to help Harry with his homework while Sirius would get in the way, thinking he could help better. He would have been allowed friends over whenever he liked and as much food as he wanted and taught to prank and joke and it would have been great. Sirius would have been overprotective, Harry decided, what he knew of his godfather told him that much. Hadn't he risked his life just to be close to him during the triwizard tournament? And hadn't he been just as reckless at the Ministry as Harry himself had been, just because he thought Harry was in danger?
Harry sighed and pushed his plate away. Suddenly he wasn't feeling very hungry. Dudley turned around and glared at him for making so much noise before he grabbed the remote and turned the volume up full blast.
Harry stood and began to leave the room but before he took two steps Vernon called him back.
"Have you written that letter, boy?" he demanded.
"Not yet, Uncle Vernon," Harry said quickly. "I was going to write it tonight. Hedwig's out hunting right now, but I can send it as soon as she gets back."
"See that you do," Vernon growled at him before turning away as if the whole conversation had never taken place.
Harry quietly returned to his room. He had in fact written the required letter that morning but didn't want to tell Vernon that for fear he would ask to see it. He hadn't complained about his family, but he hadn't been particularly nice about them either.
A noise at his window startled him and he jumped up to see Pig, Ron's owl, flittering to and fro. He couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face. For a moment at least he could forget all his troubles.
Once he'd let Pig in, caught him and unravelled the scroll from his leg he sat down to read.
Hey mate. How are you? I hope those muggles are treating you right. If not, let us know and Dad and the Order will come and get you. If they are, well Mum's been speaking to Dumbledore and he reckons you can leave there the day before your birthday! So we'll come and get you sometime on the thirtieth. Hermione will be back from Spain by then so she'll be joining us here. I would say I was looking forward to seeing her, but our OWL results should be here by then and you just know she'll be a nightmare about the whole thing.
Harry smirked. No matter what he said it was obvious that Ron had feelings for Hermione. Unfortunately Ron didn't seem to have realised it for himself yet, or if he had he wasn't telling Harry about it.
Anyway, we'll see you at five on the thirtieth. Mum's planning a huge Weasley party for you. Should be good. She even promised to make treacle tart for you and she always makes her famous chocolate cake for birthdays. She'll probably go way overboard, but it wouldn't be a Weasley party if she didn't.
P.S. I told Hermione I'd already decided what classes I want to take next year, but I reckon I'll just do whatever you're doing so let me know soon or she'll know I'm lying. Don't tell her. I don't know why she thinks we need to decide now, it's not like we have our results yet or anything.
Harry stared at the letter in amazement. A birthday party for him. The whole idea seemed incredible. He'd never so much as had a birthday lunch before, but now he was being offered a whole party!
Of course, that was still a week away. Six days until he could get out of here. His heart leapt. No Dursleys for an entire year, then he'd only have to come back next summer and he'd be free of them forever. He could handle that.
Despite the fact that he still had six days left in this house Harry immediately began piling all his belongings in his trunk, only leaving the things he stored under a loose floorboard beneath his bed.
By the time he was done it was dark outside and he collapsed back on his bed, happily thinking about birthday parties and Quidditch at the Burrow with his friends. Before he knew it he fell into a restless sleep.
He dreamt of cake and laughter, with upbeat music in the background and all his friends around him, all the things a party should have, but the dream soon turned stale and he found himself on a dark street of some nameless muggle town. He struggled to wake up, knowing from the pain in his scar exactly what would come next.
A scream tore through the air followed by the sound of glass breaking and Harry began to run, already knowing there was nothing he could do. As always he was completely helpless to these visions.
It was obvious which house was being attacked as soon as it came into sight. The door was wide open, hanging off it's hinges and allowing the glow of electric lights to flood out onto the front path. One of the downstairs windows had been shattered and as Harry approached he could see that the pieces of glass on the grass had flecks of blood on them. It wasn't until he was right next to the front door that he spotted the figure huddled in the bushes. He was dressed in tattered muggle clothes and was bleeding from several wounds on his face and chest.
A man stepped out of the door and looked right through Harry towards the man. "Come back inside, Derrick," he said. "Your family is dead and you have no reason left to fight. The Dark Lord might be merciful and make it quick."
Derrick whimpered, whether from pain or fright Harry couldn't tell, but he made no move to stand. Harry put himself between them, knowing he couldn't be seen, yet desperate to stop this in any way he could, but the Death Eater walked right through him and grabbed Derrick's arm, hauling him to his feet and dragged him back inside. Unwillingly, Harry followed.
Inside was chaos. There was more glass on the floor and some of the furniture had been overturned. Harry almost retched when he saw the body of a woman draped over a small child, also dead. Another little boy, perhaps six years old had been practically ripped apart. Derrick sobbed upon seeing them.
In the centre of the room, sitting on a large chair with a Death Eater on either side of him was the cause of Harry's aching scar, Voldemort, his red eyes staring at Derrick.
"You could have prevented this," Voldemort said. "You are a pureblood, I would have spared your life, but marrying a muggle is a crime I cannot forgive."
Derrick appeared to be past caring and just stood, looking past Voldemort at his dead wife with a blank look in his eyes.
"It appears we have broken him," Voldemort said, twirling his wand between his fingers. "And I had so wanted to torture him for a while."
The Death Eaters laughed moronically.
"I doubt he'd even feel it right now," Voldemort continued. He levelled his wand at Derrick. "Avada Kedavra."
Time seemed to slow as Harry screamed out against the pain growing in his head from Voldemort's sick enjoyment of this moment. "NO!"
The electricity flickered and the light bulb exploded above him. As the pain dulled Harry looked up at it in amazement. Had he done that?
Voldemort too was staring at the light as his Death Eaters cast Lumos charms.
Suddenly remembering Derrick Harry spun to find the man lying prone on the floor. Harry dropped to his knees beside him, suddenly gasping for breath as the pain in his scar flared once more.
"Harry Potter," Voldemort hissed. "You are full of surprises aren't you?"
Harry awoke in his own bed with a start and immediately turned onto his side to throw up violently over the floor. Petunia would be horrified to know he'd been sick on one of her precious carpets.
Had he really managed to effect something in the vision? That had never happened before and he'd been having these dreams all summer. If he had another – when he had another – he would have to see if he could do it again, this time before the victim was killed. It was slightly worrying that Voldemort had known he was the cause of the exploding light, but it was worth the risk if he could save a life.
With a sigh he threw his covers aside and climbed out of bed, carefully avoiding the pool of vomit on the floor. He scribbled out a quick letter, not that it would make any difference now, but he had promised the Order he'd tell them about his dreams. As Hedwig flew off Harry grabbed one of Dudley's old t-shirts and used it to clean up the floor.
The next few days passed slowly as Harry counted the hours until he would leave for the Burrow. He desperately wanted to get out of this house and away from these people that made no secret of the fact that they hated him.
On the twenty ninth, the day before he was due to be collected, Harry was seated at the dinner table with his relatives.
"Er, Uncle Vernon," he said hesitantly. One never knew how Vernon would react to being spoken to by Harry, especially during a meal.
Vernon merely grunted.
"My friend – Ron Weasley – invited me over for the rest of the summer," Harry said quickly. "Someone will be here to get me tomorrow at five."
Harry expected Vernon to merely give some sign that he had heard and then turn his attention back to the television. He was therefore surprised when his uncle turned to Petunia, and nodded towards the door.
Harry watched bemusedly as Petunia left her half eaten dinner and exited the room. Her soft footsteps could be heard going up the stairs. What on earth could she be doing?
"These friends of yours..." Vernon said pulling Harry's attention away from his aunt's doings. "They'll make sure you get to school will they?"
Harry frowned. "Yes, just like they always do."
"And they shan't be wanting anything for keeping you?"
"No," Harry said. Where was all this coming from? Usually Vernon was just glad to be rid of him.
"Good," Vernon said smartly, sitting back and crossing his arms. "Because they won't get a penny from me."
"Fine then," Harry said, starting to get a little irritated now.
"And they'd better not destroy the fireplace again," Vernon went on as if Harry hadn't spoken.
That was a point. Ron hadn't mentioned how his rescuers would be arriving. "Er..."
"I won't have it, boy, I won't," Vernon said, shaking one podgy finger.
"I'm sure they won't," Harry said, praying he was right.
"Yes, well," before Vernon could finish whatever it was he was going to say Petunia walked back in and nodded slightly to Vernon. Harry looked between the two suspiciously.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"If you've finished eating you may leave the table," Petunia said stiffly, re-taking her seat.
"What did you do?" Harry demanded. He had a really bad feeling about this.
"Go to your room," Vernon growled.
Harry pushed his plate away and stormed out of the room in disgust. Were they planning another way to make him miserable?
Once back in his room he noticed that Hedwig was gone again. That wasn't odd as he usually left the window open so she could come and go as she pleased, but she'd only arrived back from Hermione's an hour ago. Harry hadn't even had a chance to read her letter yet.
To distract himself from his irritation with the Dursleys he pulled the letter towards himself and opened it.
My parents and I only arrived home last night. I can't wait to tell you and Ron all about it. Spain has an amazing history, both muggle and magical. You won't believe all the things I've seen. I'll wait to tell you all about it in person when we see each other at Ron's.
Our OWL results are supposed to arrive tomorrow, but I think I'll wait until the three of us are together before I open them, will you wait too? It's only a few hours and then we can open them at the same time. Won't that be exciting? I'm so nervous. I really hope I did well, but I think I probably lost marks on the Runes exam for mixing up ehwaz with eiwaz. I really hope we don't lose points on Astronomy because that was clearly unfair, with all that disturbance going on while we were tryingto concentrate. I've a good mind to ask to take it again and you should too.
I'll leave it there because I'll be seeing you tomorrow. I don't know if I can sleep tonight for excitement. Our OWL's are really important; they determine what classes we're eligible for next year.
Anyway, see you soon.
P.S. Have you thought about what classes you want to take yet? You really should you know. Even if you don't get in to all of them it's a good idea to be prepared.
Harry couldn't help but smile. Sometimes Hermione was so predictable. He hadn't given much thought to his OWL results, but now he was faced with the probability of receiving them he was filled with nerves. Would he fail everything? He wasn't sure about opening them anywhere near Hermione or if he wanted her to know what he got at all.
The next day Harry woke up early to pack and repack his things. He was so eager to get away from the Dursleys and go to the Burrow where people actually liked him. After that he spent the rest of the day watching the time, silently willing the hours to go by faster.
Eventually the time came and Harry dragged his trunk downstairs so that when the Order came he could leave right away. Unlike when the Weasleys had collected him two years before the Dursleys were apparently unconcerned with the impending arrival of wizards into their home. Petunia was cooking in the kitchen while Vernon and Dudley watched TV in the living room. Every so often Dudley would turn around and smirk at him though for the life of him Harry couldn't figure out why. Usually Dudley would be waddling around in horror at the mere thought of a wizard.
Five o 'clock came and the clock on the mantel chimed the hour. Harry stared at the door, waiting for the knock, but keeping half an eye on the fireplace just in case.
He stayed that way for about ten minutes before he felt someone looking at him. It was Vernon.
"They're late," he said needlessly.
Harry glared at him balefully before returning his attention to the door.
About an hour later Petunia called Vernon and Dudley for dinner telling Harry rather pointedly that as she had expected him to be gone by now she hadn't prepared him anything. Harry didn't care. He was sure the Order had just been delayed. They'd be here any second.
For the first time that summer Harry spent an entire evening in the presence of the Dursleys. For the most part he was ignored although Dudley did seem to find it hilarious that no one had come to collect him. Harry was just growing more and more anxious as time went by.
At ten Vernon and Petunia headed upstairs to bed and Dudley muttered some excuse about wanting to play his Playstation in his room though Harry suspected he just didn't want to be left alone with him.
Now he had the living room to himself Harry picked himself up from the floor and stretched out on the couch. They were over five hours late now. Surely they would have told him if they weren't coming. He'd give it ten more minutes and then give up. Maybe Hedwig would be back by morning and he could write and ask them what had happened.
Come to think of it, where was Hedwig? He hadn't seen her since the day before. She was never gone so long unless she was delivering a letter, but he hadn't sent anything. She'd disappeared right after he told the Dursleys he was leaving. And what had Petunia been doing while Vernon was questioning him anyway? A dreadful suspicion began to form in his mind.
A/N: As always my Yahoo! group is a chapter ahead so if you really can't wait to find out what happens next just click on the link on my profile.