Complete summary: Its Harry's fourth year as a Slytherin, and the Triwizard Tournament is returning after an absence of nearly two hundred years. The deception of the champions and the corruption of the games aren't the only things that are intriguing the Hogwarts students: a new professor has been hired for the position of Dark Arts teacher, the strange Alaster "Mad-Eye" Moody. Events will take a bad turn when Harry is chosen as one of the Hogwarts champions, against the rules and against his will. At the end of the final task, Harry will have to choose a side, but which will it be? Will he be swayed towards good or evil? Perhaps there was good reason for wanting to leave the Triwizard games in the past because the dangerous and death-defying challenges will test Harry in a way he's never experienced before.

How will Harry's years at Hogwarts turn out, now that he's a Slytherin? Will he turn to the Dark Arts and be a follower of Voldemort? Or will he kill Voldemort, or die trying, after he learns of the prophecy? Will Harry's choices lead him down a different road? Follow and you will see...

"Neither situations nor people can be altered by the interference of an outsider. If they are to be altered, that alteration must come from within."

-Anonymous

A/N: WELCOME BACK, GUYS! Year 4 has now begun! Let me restate (if it isn't already obvious) that you NEED to read the first three stories to understand what's going on. I can guarantee you'll be really confused if you don't. And the warnings are there for a reason! There will be a number of scenes with violence and quite possibly with some language. You Have Been Warned! Anyway, enjoy the fourth installment of the "A Different Road" Series! I promise this story will leave you at the edge of your seat and have some really surprising twists! Without further ado, the story you've been waiting for…

Disclaimer: Most characters, places, and plot events were created by the brilliant J.K. Rowling!

"The jury, passing on the prisoner's life, may in the sworn twelve have a thief or two guiltier than him they try."

-William Shakespeare

1

Guilty Conscious

Harry Potter wiped away the sweat that was beading at his forehead with the back of his hand. Despite two small fans (the Dursley's got the larger, new, and better-working ones) and an open window, his room felt like a sauna. He had decided it was best to keep the fluorescent lights off.

Why, oh why did the air conditioning have to break now? he thought, lounging on his bed, wearing a plain t-shirt and shorts. But he knew the answer, or at least he knew what it should be: the universe had something against him. That had to be it because he didn't know anyone else with so many misfortunes.

Luckily, the Dursley's were out for the day, attending an outing from Uncle Vernon's workplace. It was quiet, and he liked that. He really liked that.

Harry got up and opened his trunk in search of something to do, besides play with Hedwig again. In his trunk, he unearthed a medium-sized blue box. Not remembering what it was or where it had come from, he opened it up and found that it was the Illusion-Making Power that Hermione Granger had given him for his birthday last year. It felt somehow strange using it when they weren't friends anymore, but if he didn't do something, he was sure that he would soon die of boredom.

He took the small glass jar from the box and read the directions.

1. Take a handful of the powder in one hand.

2. Sprinkle the powder around you. It will disappear after a couple of seconds.

3. Close your eyes.

4. Count to five.

5. Relax.

Remember: The Illusion-Making Powder lasts half of an hour. Make sure you have the time before doing it! Once you go in, you won't leave until a half an hour is over. But when your times up, you won't want to leave!

The Dursley's wouldn't be back for hours, so he definitely had time. And he had never been to France, so why not?

Harry opened the jar and grabbed a handful of the powder. It was soft and weightless like fluffy snow and looked almost like it. He scattered it around him as he stood, and immediately it began to fade away before it touched the floor. With one last glance around his dim bedroom, he closed his eyes and counted to five in his head.

1…2…3…4…

A breeze brushed past him, tousling his clothes, and Harry opened his eyes, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. It looked so real that he felt as if he had Apparated there. Standing, gloriously, in front of him was the Eiffel Tower. A lofty arched structure of criss-crossed metal beams that made his mouth drop. It didn't seem to reflect the sunlight but instead absorbed it, glowing from within.

Harry's feet felt warm and comfortable on the bright green grass. He sat down on the grass, feeling its prickly blades against his legs. For a long time, he just stared at the large, marvelous structure, relishing the cool breezes around him, and later he lay down, spreading his arms out to his sides as he stared up at the brilliant blue sky.

After a half-hour, the vision began to fade with Harry laying on the floor of his bedroom. The stifling air returned to him and he felt as if he were suffocating. He got up, went downstairs to get a cold glass of water, and sat in front of the large square fan in the sitting room, waiting for the Dursley's to end his passive happiness.

* * *

"Clean the dishes, boy!" Uncle Vernon exclaimed from his comfortable cushion on the couch in front of the television. Dudley was sitting beside him, a piece of candy between his pudgy fingers. Aunt Petunia was putting whatever-was-left leftovers into separate containers and into the refrigerator.

Face flushed from the heat, Harry grabbed the plates and glasses from the table and carefully brought them to the sink, turning on the tap to cold. He scrubbed at the crumbs and bits on the plates while his "family" enjoyed an episode of Drop the Dead Donkey. They laughed at a joke; Harry pulled the tap forward, blocking out the noise.

For weeks, as the summer progressed, getting more humid, Harry stayed in his room or walked aimlessly around the neighborhood. Dudley seemed to be out a lot with his mates, which pleased Aunt Petunia ("Isn't it nice that my Dudley-kins has lots of little friends?" she asked Uncle Vernon.), as well as Harry since his cousin wasn't around to bother him.

Harry counted down the days until he would be able to stay at Malfoy Manor, which was undoubtedly much cooler, despite not using modern technology, than 4 Privet Drive. And he would be able to have real conversations with Draco, instead of making small talk with Hedwig, who just turned her head at Harry's questions.

Only a few days before his birthday, he found himself sitting on the slide in the park, despite the sunlight beating down his back. He would have taken Hedwig outside with him, but she was prohibited from leaving her cage; Uncle Vernon's orders.

"When will I leave? When will I finally be able to leave?" Harry asked himself.

In his hands was a blank piece of lined paper and Ballpoint pen. He wanted to write a letter to Sirius, but he didn't know what to say. Obviously, Sirius would be happy with anything, even a simple hello, but Harry wanted it to be important, special even. It was ridiculous, he knew that, but he couldn't shake the feeling of wanting to please his godfather, of not wanting to let him down. But perhaps it was only because he felt responsible for his current situation.

S,

I'm sitting down on the slide where we met last summer, though you probably don't remember. It must have been a day or two after you had gotten out of Azkaban. It seems like a million years ago. I wish I was living with you, my godfather, instead of with relatives who despise me and who feel no familial connection to me whatsoever. I've known for almost my entire life what it feels like to live in a cell. I must admit, and I know you won't believe me, but I'm the reason you were brought back to Azkaban. I'm the one to blame. I'll explain it all to you when you're out of Azkaban, when the wrongs have been righted. Don't think too fondly of the outside world; it's really not that much better.

Your friend,

H.

He folded the envelope, and then got up, going into the house and into his room. Despite Uncle Vernon's orders, Hedwig was released from her cage and given the letter, before she flew off towards Azkaban prison.

* * *

Harry was awoken three nights later by a tapping at his window. Even in the dead of night, his room was muggy and it was hard enough to get to sleep without being woken up by Dudley's heavy limbs pounding against the floor of the hallway to get something to drink. He climbed out of bed and opened the window further to allow Hedwig entry. After undoing the twine tied to her leg, he gave Hedwig a small piece of bread, stolen earlier from dinner, and opened the letter.

H,

It saddens me to hear that we've both been imprisoned for nearly thirteen years, though in different ways. I wish Dumbledore had thought to put you with a family that would love and cherish you, but I'm convinced he had his reasons. I'm sure he believed that they would eventually warm to you, seeing as you're blood, but perhaps blood means nothing to them. I suppose it's not as important in the Muggle world as it is in the Wizarding one.

There's no way that my capture was your fault, I will not accept that under any circumstances, and you know that. It was Snape who caught me because he happened to be at the right place at the right time (unfortunately), and he therefore is the one to blame, not you.

I look forward to being on the outside, despite what you say, so that I can see you. When I get out, when all this is in the past, you can come live with me. You'll never have to see those people you live with again, I promise you.

I can't believe I almost forgot: Happy 14th Birthday! I wish I were there in person to congratulate you, H. I wish I had a present to give you.

Your godfather,

S.

Harry looked at the calendar on the wall: 31st of July, 1994. "Thanks, Sirius," he said to himself. He wasn't much looking forward to this birthday because he was still at the Dursley's, but at least he was another year older. Once he was finished with Hogwarts, once he was seventeen years old, he will leave the Dursley's and never look back.

He grabbed his quill and inkbottle, and sat down at the foot of his bed, placing the paper against his thigh.

S,

Thanks. To be honest, I didn't even realize it was my birthday. I appreciate you saying it wasn't my fault, but when I explain it all to you later, you'll know what I mean. I know you were initially captured my Snape, but I'm talking about afterwards.

First time Snape was at the right place at the right time! Ha-ha! I know exactly what you mean. I'm always getting in trouble because of him. You are giving me a present just by writing letters back. That's really all I want. So, thanks.

H.

He sent away the letter in the morning, wanting to give Hedwig a break from flying.

Harry wasn't expecting much for his birthday, at least not as much as he had gotten last summer now that Granger and Weasley were no longer his friends. But he had never really cared about presents; it was just the idea that someone was thinking of him that made him smile. Despite traveling in Europe, Draco managed to get his gift to him via a large, black owl. Opening the box, he discovered a black leather-bound book entitled Making Your Own Spells; there was no name written on the cover or inside. He also found a bag of "gum that lets you breath fire for your friends as long as you're chewing it!"

Harry,

Happy Birthday, mate! Hope you're well. Traveling is exhausting but exciting! I thought you would enjoy the book. No one's ever really made their own spells because it's exceptionally difficult – you have to find the right words to obey the outcome. And they would most likely have to be approved by the Ministry, too. The gum is truly entertaining! See you soon,

Draco.

PS—My father and mother wish a happy birthday.

Harry put the book underneath his pillow, promising to read it at night when Uncle Vernon wasn't watching his every move. He then opened the bag of gum and popped on into his mouth. It tasted of cinnamon and faintly of pepper and foreign spices. After chewing for a while, he blew out and a stream of fiery red flames blasted from between his lips, licking his face warmly. Harry smiled cheerfully.

The next much smaller package was from Blaise. It contained a pair of green Quidditch goggles, which the pamphlet said are impermeable to rain and allow him to see clearer, even on a clear day. Blaise's note said: Busy with preparations for my mum's wedding, but I hope you have a great birthday, Harry!

The oddest thing was the solitary letter with no package. At first he thought it was from Sirius – maybe he had sent an additional letter? But upon opening it, Harry saw a scratchy handwriting that was strangely familiar, and then he realized that it was Hagrid's.

Happy Birthday, Harry.

On a separate piece of paper, Harry wrote: iThanks, Hagrid. It's good to hear from you. I miss talking to you.

The letter, of course, would have to wait until Hedwig got back from visiting Sirius. Harry was just about to put Hagrid's note on his nightstand when there was a forceful knock on his door. "Harry! Harry, get out of your room!" Dudley yelled from the other side. "My dad says that he wants you to help make dinner!"

To himself, Harry grumbled, "Why can't you help make dinner? I hardly get to eat any of it anyway."

"Harry, open the door!"

"I'll be there in a second!" Harry yelled back.

He heard Dudley say, "Yeah, you better."

* * *

On August 3rd, after receiving a letter from Draco saying that they were back at the manor, Harry packed up his trunk, the thing that contained everything he owned in this world, and took out his Conglomerate Stone. He had told the Dursley's he would be leaving, but had no intention of saying goodbye, so he pressed the gray stone and was instantly transported in front of the already open front door of Malfoy Manor.

Draco was waiting for him, his shoulder leaning casually against the doorframe. "Welcome back!"

"It's been too long," said Harry, smiling. "How was your trip?"

"It was fantastic! I should ask my dad to take you with us the next time we go somewhere." Draco helped him bring his trunk in by grabbing the other end. And then the door was closed by Dobby, who smiled happily at Harry. It was cool in the manor, as if an air conditioner was going, but it was obviously only a spell. "My father's at work and my mother's shopping, so I thought we should practice transforming into our Animagus forms in the garden."

"Sure. My Animagus form could use some exercise anyway," Harry joked, laughing.

The two of them placed Harry's trunk on the floor of the entrance hall, leaving Dobby to take it up, and ran out to the back, transforming easily as the cool air from the manor became the warm air of the breezy outside. It was relaxing to not be human anymore, to not have to worry about rules and common courtesies and everyday things. To be an animal meant freedom; it meant not having to follow the rules placed for you by others, or the even the ones placed in your subconscious by yourself.

Harry and Draco darted among the warm grass, chasing each other, trying to catch the other, as the sun beat down on their furry backs. Harry's dark fur looked warmer, browner in the sunlight, while Draco's pale white hair looked pure and bright. Among the trees, they barked at birds, attempting to catch them when they flew low and Draco even tried climbing up a tree, which failed horribly. They drank from the glistening lake with the wooden bridge that hung over it and splashed each other with their paws.

After many hours, when the light was starting to fade and temperatures were beginning to drop, the two teenage boys changed back into humans and sat in the grass, their backs against a small boulder, as they stared out at the water.

"Did you have fun in Europe?" Harry asked calmly.

"Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I saw many interesting things and some unusual people. But most of the time I was with my mom. Not that that was bad or anything, but my father was always Apparating or Disapparating or using Portkey's to get to the Ministry so that he could fix something or go to an emergency meeting. It was supposed to be a family vacation, but he was always gone," explained Draco, his eyes on the grass at his feet.

"Merlin, I sound like a little kid, prattling on, whining. I mean, I know my father's not the best buy in the world, and he's always better when you're around for some reason, so I shouldn't really want him to be around…" Draco sighed quietly. "But I do. He's my dad."

"You don't sound like a whiney little kid, you sound like a guy who just wants his father to be around."

"You probably think I'm a twat by complaining about my father when you don't even have one." Draco looked up at Harry. "You can call me a wanker, if you want," he joked slightly.

"Maybe another time," Harry said, a half-smile on his face. Draco nodded.

"So…er, what did you did at your uncle's house? Did you get around to punching him?"

"No, not yet. You could say I'm just waiting for the right moment," Harry responded. "But mostly I just lounged around the house, or cleaned the dishes. The air conditioner broke – er, it's a big box that chills the house – so it was stifling hot. At one point, I thought of standing in the shower to cool down it was that bad."

"Too bad we can't use our magic in the summer yet, you could've just cooled down your room only and leave your family to suffer."

"They would've loved that!" Harry and Draco laughed, and soon after they went inside to get something to eat.

* * *

A reply came from Sirius midmorning the next day. It was another balmy day, but luckily, Harry was comfortably inside. He was in the kitchen, grabbing a cold glass of water for himself and Draco. It was then that Hedwig tapped on the window, which Harry opened, excited to read what his godfather had to say.

However, the reply he got was both unexpected and curious.

Maybe I can give you a present: a better way to communicate to me, and I to you. But you'll have to get it in secret. When are you going back to the Wizarding world?

He couldn't help but wonder what he meant, and couldn't send a reply back fast enough, saying that he was already back in the world of magic and mischief.

-------

A/N: If you're wondering how Sirius is writing letters in a cell, it's because the guards give him a quill and ink, though they probably would look over the letter first to see what's written and to make sure it doesn't contain anything that he could use to get out.

I'm sorry if the next chapters feels rushed or aren't up to the par you're used to. Usually I look over each chapter about three times, but I haven't had much time to edit. Enjoy them nonetheless and be nice about mistakes!


Preview of Chapter 2--A Better Way to Communicate:

Harry receives another letter from Sirius, finally revealing what he meant about a better way to communicate; and after nearly a year, he goes to see Hagrid…