Authors Rant (feel free to skip this part)

HBP was a good story. But I was unhappy with it right from the beginning. What happened to all that angst from OotP? We were supposed to buy that: Harry accepted Sirius's death in record time; his stay at the Burrow was beyond perfect; and after successfully manipulating Harry, Voldemort suddenly decides instead to block Harry (at least until the plot dictates otherwise in DH!). If Harry's summer hadn't been so perfect, would the people around him have made the same choices? I think not. So, here's what could have happened if the first half of HBP had been less "perfect".

I will try to keep the 'hard facts' as we knew them through HBP, but how people deal with those facts will change. For example, Draco's mission being to kill Dumbledore is a hard fact, and will not change. (That won't be the case when we get to the DH events, but I'll cover that when we get there.)

My rules are simple. Grief happens!, Harry's a teen - he will have trouble coping. Teenage hormones will also happen, but I want my daughter to be able to read, so nothing too explicit. Harry will get the girl, and yes I do mean Ginny. There are no 'deathly hallows' as I found that storyline distracting. I'm in the USA, so any time, weight, and distance references are 'American', not 'British'. Sorry, but that's life. And finally, I'm jumping ahead a bit, but am I the only person who was more upset at Hedwig's death than Moody's? Who lives and who dies will change.

Legal speagal: As another fanfic author pointed out, if you recognize it, I don't own it. Thanks to our dear Jo for writing the five awesome (and 2 OK) books that I used as a backdrop for my story. (Actually, 3 more, cause I find myself using Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them quite a bit, too.)

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1. Prologue: Setting the Stage

Dear Ginny,

Thanks for the letter. I've been doing well. You were right, with no homework this summer, I don't know what to do with myself. I've been working on my tan. I know, it sounds more like something Parvati would do than me, but with Mum and Dad working during the day, I don't know what else to do with myself. Professor Dumbledore sent a letter to my parents and asked that I stay close to home when I am by myself. He didn't say, but I got the feeling he had some protective wards placed around our home. I certainly hope the same was done for the Burrow. It's better than the alternative. I do not want to go back there. It would seem so empty now.

About him, I know just what you mean. How can someone die just by falling through an archway? It doesn't seem real. At least the ministry was forced to acknowledge that he was fighting against the Death Eaters, not with them. I doubt that makes Harry feel any better. I wonder if he even knows. Do you or Ron know if he is getting the Prophet this summer? I know he got it last summer, but after the way they treated him this past year, I don't know if he would bother with it. It might be for the best if he isn't. The Chosen One, indeed.

I'm worried about him, too. Harry hasn't been himself since that night. I don't agree with you about Ron though, I think he did notice, he just didn't know what to do or say, so he pretended not to. Harry never did say what happened when he got back to the school. We were all stuck in the infirmary, but Seamus told Ron that Harry didn't come back to their dorm room until just before breakfast. I've been so worried about him.

I got a book from the library near my house about the 7 stages of grief. Neville did say that Professor Lupin had to hold Harry back so he didn't follow Sirius through, which is definitely 'shock', the first stage. And then chasing Bellatrix. It's pretty safe to say that Harry has anger covered. Luna told me on the train that she heard the Fat Friar and Sir Nicholas talking, and that Harry had asked Sir Nicholas if Sirius could come back as a ghost, which sounds like 'bargaining' to me. Then Ron said that when he was packing, he had to get into Harry's trunk for something, and he found a broken mirror with a note from Sirius. I don't know what to think of that. I'm afraid that Harry is feeling guilty over his death. I mean, this is Harry. How could he not? It's like Cedric all over again, only this time it wasn't just a someone he knew, it was someone he loved. How could I lecture him about his 'saving people thing'? He wouldn't be Harry without it. The guilt and depression must be eating away at him.

I think it's a great idea for you to write to him. And yes, I do think he will answer. The two of you have gotten to know each other much better this year, what with the DA, and what was that I heard about an Easter egg in the library? I have been writing to him, but I don't think he will talk to me about this. Sometimes I come across as a bit bossy. I know, hard to believe, but it's true. He would reject anything I wrote about this, I think. But you, you could get away with it. If you are sly about it, and do it in just the right way, he may not even realize what you are doing. He needs a friend who can understand some of the guilt he is feeling, and I'm sorry to say you do understand much better than Ron or I ever could. Will you write him? Reach out to him? It may be painful for you, reliving your own guilt, but isn't Harry worth it? I don't want to lose one of my best friends.

Well, enough with the depressing stuff! Let's talk about something else. Like what you were thinking when you told Ron about Dean. I thought you had decided not to say anything until you knew if anything was going to come of it. Aren't you and Dean just testing the waters by agreeing to write this summer? You left Ron with the distinct impression that you two are already dating. That was your point, wasn't it? You know that thought is driving Ron crazy. I swear you can be as devious as the twins. All I'll say is good luck. I hope you know what you are doing.

Which reminds me, you asked if I heard about Malfoy and Parkinson? I'm not usually one to gossip, but since you asked so nicely, I'll tell you what I heard. Apparently, she walked in on him and a Hufflepuff third-year in the prefect's compartment, and they weren't exactly talking, if you get my meaning. So Pansy kicked him quite hard in 'that spot'. No wonder he never did his rounds, he probably couldn't walk! Obviously, that was before our little, confrontation, shall we say. Can you believe Malfoy with a Hufflepuff? He was probably just using her. There are days when I wish I had decked the little ferret harder when I had the chance.

I'll end this now. I'm sure Ron is waiting on Pig to return, and Mum said she would be home early so we can go to the library. I want to check out a few more books, see if I can find anything else to help Harry. If I find anything I'll pass it along. I do hope his family is treating him well for a change. I'll let you know if I hear anything if you promise to do the same.

Love, Hermione

Ginny set down the letter she had been reading, a smile on her face. She looked up at the fluffy clouds in the sky as she sat under the biggest tree in the back yard. She had her answer. Of course Hermione thought it was a good idea for her to write to Harry. How could she have been worried about that?

Hermione was right about one thing. Ginny was the best person to help Harry. Sure the details were different, but she knew the guilt. The could have's and should have's that went through the mind. Yes, she was able to move past it. But she had two of the most loving parents that existed; that took her on a dream trip to Egypt to get away from her troubles and heal. She had spent countless nights crying on Bill's shoulder – the brother that was old enough to understand what she needed and still young enough to relate to her. She had had the twins, who made it their job to make her laugh whenever it looked like she was about to cry again. Even if it was at Percy's expense. Scratch that, especially if it was at Percy's expense.

What did Harry have? Well, an owl that would fly to hell itself for him. OK, but what else? The Dursley's didn't love him; they barely tolerated him. And if Ron was to be believed, they were even worse than that. Wasn't there something about bars on his window that one summer? 'Back on track, Ginny!' So Harry had a great owl, a lousy family, and orders not to go anywhere "unsafe", which as best as she could tell was pretty much everywhere. Hermione's concerns were certainly justified. Harry would never heal in his current situation. And as the old saying goes "nothing remains the same". If Harry wasn't getting better, he could only get worse.

Could she really do this? Yes. Not only could she, but she had to. This was the boy that slayed a basilisk for her. 'It just needed to be done', he had told her once. It would be hard to bring up those old memories, but she would do it for him. She realized then that she had never really had a choice. Over the last year, Harry had become more that just her brother's friend. He had become her friend. And, she thought with a smile, the mysterious financial backer to two other brothers, if her suspicions were correct. 'That's it', she practically said out loud. 'I'll write to him about the twins. He won't be suspicious of that. Maybe even hint at my suspicions. That will get him to write back.'

She got up and headed to her room to get some parchment. In her mind, she was already composing how she would open her letter. Maybe something about the ferret 'getting his kicks'!

-000-

"Ah, there you are Albus," the voice of Minerva McGonagall called out. She had paused in the doorway as she spoke, but then moved carefully to stand behind her friend. Although she was still using her cane, it was more to catch herself than support herself now, and she was looking forward to getting rid of the dumb thing next week. "I hadn't seen you all morning, and was beginning to wonder. Pray tell, what has brought you to the top of the astronomy tower in the middle of the morning? It's a bit bright for stargazing."

"And a good morning to you as well. What did you need me for, Minerva?", Albus said as he turned slowly away from his view of Hagrid's hut, and toward his friend. Only those that knew him well would notice how tired he looked. Many would think it was simply age catching up to him, but after all these years, she knew better. Albus Dumbledore was worried. Perhaps he should be. That fiasco at the Ministry had been a close call. If he hadn't arrived to stop You-know-who, well, lets just say that Hogwarts would start next year one Sixth Year short. At least he didn't have to worry about the Minister any longer. Harry and You-know-who were quite enough to worry about.

"I wondered if you wanted to have lunch together," she replied. "You know I am leaving this afternoon for my sister's house, so I won't be seeing you, except during Order meetings, for the rest of the month. And you did not answer my question."

Albus looked skyward briefly, while he collected his thoughts, then looked back to Minerva, and motioned her to join him on a bench. "I am simply thinking over this past school year. Or more precisely, Harry's school year." He turned to look at her as he spoke, "Minerva, you are the only person to whom I have ever confided my true feelings for Harry, excepting Harry himself. At what point did I fail him? Was it when I had Severus teach him Occlumency instead of doing it myself? When I let Delores assign all those detentions because he insisted in telling the truth? Was it at his trial? Letting him be forced to participate in the tournament? When, Minerva?"

"Albus, please don't do this to yourself. You may have made mistakes where Harry is concerned, but regrettably, we all have." She placed her hand lightly on his arm in a comforting way. "We did what we thought was the best, which is really all any of us can do. Let me ask you a question. Why did you let him participate in the Tri-wizard? ... Was it because you wanted to see if he could win? Or was it because you knew that his refusal to participate fully would trigger a curse which would have left him unable to control his magic?" She didn't give him a chance to answer. "You didn't have any choice. And yes, Severus, Harry and Occlumency was a recipe for failure. But it made sense for Harry to learn it, and your reasons for not teaching him yourself were quite valid."

Albus looked his dear friend in the eye. "But can he ever forgive me? My failure cost him the only father-figure he has ever had. You did not see him, did not hear him that night."

"Maybe not, but I certainly saw the destruction he left behind." Her faced clouded for a moment as she recalled the mess Harry had made, before softening as she recalled why he'd snapped. "He is a teenage boy, Albus," she continued, as if he needed reminded of that. "Give him time. Show him, tell him, that you still care. He needs to know that someone does. Those muggles he lives with certainly don't. I am sure I need not remind you of my feelings regarding his current living arrangements." Her face turned sour at the memory of those horrid people. "Why can't you take him away from there? Get him around people who love him and will care for him? Give him a chance to heal."

"You well know the protection afforded to Harry by living with his mother's blood. After what happened at the Ministry, it seems more important than ever that he be kept as safe as possible when he cannot be here at Hogwarts. And I am sorry to confess I am no longer certain he is all that safe here."

"Very well, Albus. I know that there is a reason that you have not told me that explains why You-Know-Who wants Harry so badly. No," she held up her hand, ", you do not have to say anything. You know I understand that. I will let it go." The two friends sat in comfortable silence for a time, then Minerva spoke again. "Are you still planning on taking your little trip this month? What was it you called it? A fact-finding mission?"

"I am undecided. Perhaps I shall delay it until I have made sure that Harry is doing well. I can always make the trip later this summer, as it should only take a few days. Are you still planning to come to Sarag's Glen in August?"

"Yes, depending on Helena's health," she said, and Minerva shook her head in disbelief, "Really, dragon riding at her age. What could she have been thinking? She is lucky they were able to re-grow all of the skin. For an older sister, she has never been very mature."

The professors rose from the bench, and started their walk to the Great Hall. "Will anyone be joining us for lunch today?"

"The only other professors still here are Sprout and Trelawney." She paused, sure she had forgotten someone. "Oh, and Hagrid, of course. Pomona will most likely not leave her greenhouse until she is done harvesting, which will take about two more days. Sibyll hasn't been seen out of her tower for six days now, and Hagrid prefers to eat at his hut."

"In that case, why don't we have the elves pack the food and enjoy a picnic by the lake. It will, after all, be the last time we see each other for several weeks."

**end chapter**

Note: The first two chapters are probably the shortest, they get longer later on. These two are meant to just give some background info, so I hope you don't give up on the story just based on this chapter. I suggest you hang on until at least Chapter 5 before you decide to abandon it. Scratch that - you should read through Chapter 38 before you decide whether you like it or not.