Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me. The plot came to me while I was spaced out so I'm not sure I should claim that as mine either…

Note: Sorry for the hold up. I don't like author's notes anymore than you do, but I feel I should mention that this is SLASH. I apologize if you were mislead but now you know.

*******

It hardly ever rained in July.

It hardly ever rained for days on end without letting up.

But, it was raining in July. Raining continuously for six days and the sky was inky black with clouds waiting patiently for their turn to pound mercilessly on shingled roofs. They crowded eagerly over the city, suffocating and trapping it within a curtain of whistling wind and sharp cries of thunder.

Not a soul wanted to be caught in such a storm.

*******

Harry gazed over the top of the simmering cauldron to the only curtained window. His unobstructed green eyes scanned the dark sky and he sighed in relief when he realized the storm showed no sign of stopping. He still had at least another day before the Order could contact him. Even Ron and Hermione wouldn't risk sending an owl in this weather.

He smiled sadly as he recalled his last meeting with his best friends. It was on the train back home from their sixth year at Hogwarts. The year had been relatively quiet but the lack of Death Eater activity made the air thick with unease as the train sped back to the unprotected muggle world. Ron and Hermione were arguing over something Lavender had said and Harry sat beside them, staring quietly out the window at the passing landscape. He glanced thoughtfully at his best friends. They were happy to be together. Even in the middle of an argument, it was clear that they wouldn't dream of being anywhere else.

"Harry." Hermione said, suddenly turning her attention away from the still fuming Ron. She lowered her voice and continued at Harry's inquiring expression. "What was it that you needed to tell us? You mentioned something about Dumbledore." Her posture was stiff, as if she expected news that someone dear to her had been caught in a raid - it had been this way all year. Even Ron focused on Harry, momentarily forgetting his anger.

Harry hesitated. How was he supposed to tell his best friends about the Horcruxes? Dumbledore decided it was time they knew about Harry's extracurricular activities but, then again, Dumbledore didn't have the best track record when it came to making the right decisions for children. Harry knew they would demand to join them in the hunt for these pieces of the Dark Lord's soul. They would never leave Harry alone with something as serious as that. But could Harry bring himself to destroy what little happiness they still managed to carry? He couldn't guarantee their safety. No matter how able he became in other forms of combat, he knew he couldn't save everyone.

He stared into Hermione's bright eyes. He knew she would be aware of the lie as soon as he told it. Her eyes would shine with disappointment and hurt that Harry wouldn't want to share something important with them. But he would rather disappoint her now than have to face her dull eyes after letting her witness unspeakable horrors. They still had a chance to be happy and he wouldn't make them choose between their happiness and his destiny.

"I completed my training with Shane." He saw the suspicion in Hermione's face but Ron had already jumped from his seat to congratulate his best friend. She soon joined in with questions about what he learned and he promised to show them more self-defense techniques when they got to the Burrow. They spoke a bit more about the training until Hermione made a comment on how good looking their DADA teacher was and that led to another argument with Ron.

Harry focused long enough to lower the flame beneath the cauldron and smirked lightly as he thought about his latest professor. He certainly was good looking and he really couldn't blame Hermione for noticing. Shane was an incredibly fit man of twenty-five and he was definitely a nice change from their past DADA professors. It was lucky that he needed a job this year and he did earn a bit extra for training Harry after hours.

Harry smiled as he remembered the shocked look on the taller man's perfectly sculpted face when Dumbledore informed him that his best student was Harry Potter and he would have the responsibility of showing Harry the art of fighting without magic. The first lesson went smoothly. Shane was happy to find that Harry was quick on his feet and had amazing reflexes. They became friends rather quickly and Harry spent nearly all his free time with Shane.

It was the fourth week of training when their relationship left the friendship zone. It was almost midnight and Harry still hadn't mastered a complicated set of steps. Shane was forced to move Harry's limbs in the correct motions for the third time and Harry could feel the man's breath on the back of his neck as he held Harry's thigh in a firm grip. He kept still and allowed Shane to continue, all the while wondering why his heart was suddenly pounding in his ears. A sudden silence made him realize Shane had asked a question so he turned his head toward him and found himself a breath away from the older man's lips. He could see a scar beneath intent dark eyes and he suddenly became aware that Shane still had one arm wrapped around his leg and the other gripping his waist. He felt the blood rise to his cheeks but couldn't bring himself to look away.

They remained in that position until Harry's leg became numb and he winced, breaking the eye contact. Shane's eyes widened and he apologized as he helped Harry gently to the floor. Harry was too busy staring at the pink color on Shane's pale skin to notice the other man's apology. Harry's mind raced. Why would Shane be blushing? Why did he feel disappointed that Shane had removed his hand? And why did it feel entirely too hot in the room?

Shane was looking at him again. "Are you alright?" He was kneeling to be eye level with Harry and his hand was resting on Harry's knee.

"Perfect," Harry answered softly. He could feel the warmth of Shane's hand through his thin jeans and it made him blush again. He couldn't remember ever feeling this anxious. He could feel his heart thumping in his chest and he wondered if Shane could hear it, too. He glanced at the older man and was surprised to see him looking very nervous. He muttered something under his breath and made to stand up. Before he knew what he was doing, Harry's arm shot out and grabbed Shane's hand. He didn't know what was going on but Shane leaving didn't seem to be a good idea at the moment.

Apparently, Shane agreed because he settled on his knees beside Harry, facing the wall at Harry's back. He gave Harry another long look that made blood rush to all sorts of places. Shane seemed to be thinking something through, but the next moment one large hand was cupping Harry's face and he was leaning in slowly, giving Harry time to retreat. Harry was lost in the feel of Shane's eyes staring into his and he felt his eyes close as Shane's lips met his in a chaste kiss. Shane's lips were soft and moved slowly over his, just feeling, making no move to go further. It made Harry shiver and shift closer to the warmth of Shane's body.

The movement seemed to awaken Shane from his daze. Harry was suddenly flat on his back with Shane's body hovering over him and Shane's lips beginning to move insistently over his. The change of position made Harry gasp and Shane took the opportunity to slip an agile tongue into Harry's mouth. He explored every corner of Harry's mouth and left Harry whimpering and clutching desperately at his muscled arms. His jeans had long since become too snug and he could feel the burning heat coming from Shane's own pants pressing into his hip. He spread his legs unconsciously and moaned when Shane molded himself in between them. His hips arched at the foreign feeling of another man's erection pressing hard against his own. He could feel Shane's harsh breaths against his mouth as he began to grind in earnest, one hand supporting his weight and the other pulling Harry's hips closer.

This was insane. He was having sex with his male teacher! What would his friends think? What would Ginny think? Harry's thoughts were cut off as Shane reached into his unbuttoned jeans and squeezed the hard flesh. Harry groaned and arched into the hand. He could see through half-lidded eyes that Shane was watching his reaction intently. Harry suddenly needed to feel Shane in his hand. He reached a hand inside Shane's loose pants and was rewarded with a sharp gasp when his hand met the velvety flesh of Shane's arousal. They continued to explore each others' bodies until Harry's hormones got the best of him and he reached up to pull Shane into a heated kiss. He felt Shane's tongue enter his mouth at the same time the coiled heat in his stomach spread to the rest of his body and he came in long spurts, sucking hard on Shane's tongue. He heard Shane moan and felt an answering wetness before Shane collapsed next to him.

"Well, that was certainly not on the lesson plan," Shane said after regaining his breath He glanced at the smiling Harry beside him. He produced his wand and cleaned them both up before pulling Harry to his chest. "You're not freaking out are you?" He asked hesitantly.

Harry frowned. "About me having sex with my teacher or me realizing I'm gay?"

"Both."

"No. I don't think I should be freaking out over either." He glanced up at Shane with a smirk. "I would expect you to have a panic attack over touching a child, though."

Shane smiled softly and kissed Harry's damp forehead. "You've never been a child, so that's not a problem."

Harry shook his head to focus on the potion that still needed brewing. It was pointless to think about Shane when he had more important things to do. Like finish this blasted potion.

Ok, only one more ingredient and it would be complete. He checked the battered potions book and read over the directions for the third time. No more wasting time, this was it.

Harry took a deep breath and reached for the glittering object sitting harmlessly on the edge of the table. He gripped the handle of the dagger and brought it to the palm of his left hand. Outside, the storm picked up and he could hear the rage in the thunder as clearly as if he were standing out there. The sound echoed on pale walls, mocking Harry as it made obvious the fact that Harry was the only occupant of the house. He smiled grimly as his sole companion sank into his flesh. He moved his hand over the cauldron and allowed the blood to drip into the hungry depths, the whistling of the wind burning in his ears.

He watched, fascinated, as the blade moved over a too thin wrist and cut steadily deeper as it glided over a shaking forearm. Blood seeped slowly out of the deep wound, staining chalk white skin and following the lazy path of the shimmering blade. A little deeper. Just a little deeper and destiny would mean nothing. This is what power felt like, Harry realized. To hold the fate of something bigger in your hands. To have the world's future directly tied to your decisions.

He sighed. Not today.

He removed the blade and wiped the blood off his arm with a dish towel. A few stirs later and the potion was finished. He bottled a few dozen vials and cleared the table of everything except the flowery placemat he couldn't bring himself to throw away. It was her aunt's favorite and she never even let Dudley use it.

He stopped at the doorway and looked back at the dinner table. A sudden strike of lightning illuminated the room and Harry was struck with a strong feeling of nostalgia. He hated this place more than he could ever describe but it had been his home for years. This is where his cousin would bully him and his aunt would make him cook breakfast and his uncle would yell at him to hurry up with the food. This is where he could have stayed instead of going to Hogwarts. He could have gone to an awful prep school and attempted to be some type of normal. He would eventually leave and start his own life as a doctor or a lawyer and he would have a family and a white picket fence with a giant dog bounding after his children while his pretty wife yelled for everyone to wash up for dinner.

Harry suddenly realized that would have been the best choice in the long run. He would be standing in this doorway looking at a happy family instead of a cold, dark kitchen. He would not be holding a case filled with vials of an illegal tracking spell. He would not be planning to look for Horcruxes on his own and he would not feel the heavy weight of acceptance that only those destined for death know. The most he would ever have to worry about would be a car accident or a scraped knee. He would not be worrying about the people dying because he wasn't ready to face an evil that decided he shouldn't get a normal life.

Harry stared hard at the kitchen door. His aunt and uncle had stood there, looking old and scared. He had put that look in their eyes. He had forced his existence on them and they were forced to go into hiding to protect themselves from something they should never have known about. Dudley had waddled in and stood next to Harry, staring at him for a moment. Harry's expression must have spoken pretty loudly if Dudley could hear it.

"It isn't your fault." Harry's head had shot up so quickly, he was sure he had given himself whiplash. Dudley looked awkward, shifting from one foot to another, waiting for Harry to say something. Harry had glanced at his aunt's shocked face and then at his uncle's confused frown before gazing at his cousin.

"That doesn't make me any less sorry," he had responded lowly. He heard his uncles steps moving toward him on the tiled floor and he flinched out of habit. His uncle slowed as he walked past him to the front door and Harry caught the nod directed at him. He nodded back, a bit shocked he was getting any sort of good-bye.

"It won't be the same without you." He turned back to see Dudley's thick hand extended toward him. He took it and looked intently at his cousin, trying to express how much he shared Dudley's feelings. He wouldn't miss the bulling or the fights but he would hate not having the consistent presence of this family when all the world started spiraling down to hell. As he watched Dudley carry his heavy body out the front door, he knew his cousin understood.

He turned to see his aunt smoothing the curtain over the kitchen window. She faced him when she was satisfied and Harry was surprised to see her dark eyes glistening with unshed tears. He looked away, not knowing how to feel at that moment.

"I always hated you," she said softly. He didn't move or say anything. After all, he already knew that she couldn't stand him. "I hated how much you reminded me of her."

Harry's breath caught in his throat. He couldn't have said a word if he wanted to.

"I couldn't stand that you were alive and she was gone." She paused. "She must have died thinking I still hated her when all I ever felt was abandoned by my older sister. She went off to a fantastic new world and left me behind to this one." Her voice was hoarse with bitterness and her hands were shaking at her sides.

She walked to Harry and stopped in front of him. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small emerald pendant attached to a thin silver chain.

"She gave this to me after her third year at that school. She put a return to owner charm after I tried to throw it out." She stared at a spot somewhere over Harry's shoulder, her eyes unfocused. "The charm was broken when she died but I could never bring myself to throw it away." She looked at the chain and reached out to take Harry's hand. He let her put the chain in his open palm, amazed that this was the only time he could remember her touching him with a gentle, almost motherly care. She closed his hand over the object and released him.

"Aunt Petunia, I can't. She gave this to you," he pleaded with his eyes for his aunt to not throw away the only good memory she had of her sister.

She seemed to realize what he was thinking because she smiled sadly, another first. "And now I'm giving it to you." She smoothed his unruly hair over his infamous scar and then made her way out the front door.

Another burst of light shined on the emerald pendant around Harry's neck. He didn't realize it at the time, but his aunt wasn't losing a memory of her sister, she was giving Harry a memory of his mother. She had plenty of happy memories of Lily but Harry only had glimpses of red hair and pale skin that disappeared in black robes and cackling laughter. His aunt gave him something that he needed all his life: solid proof that his mother once existed, that she once walked the same earth Harry was now forced to.

Harry set the potions down on the table and pulled the curtains shut over the window. He picked the vials back up and walked slowly up the stairs. He had a strange feeling that he wouldn't be seeing the Dursleys or this house again. He took hold of the carefully shined banister as he walked. The wind continued to roar outside and the lightning was the only thing guiding him to the landing.

He reached his bedroom and glanced around. Hedwig's cage was empty. She was still with the Weasleys. Good. His trunk was under his bed with his newly stocked wardrobe, courtesy of Hermione and Tonks. He set the vials on his bare desk and settled on the mattress. The room was empty except for the few things he would be taking with him to Grimmauld Place.

He grimaced as he realized he would have to return to the place that still reminded him so much of his godfather.

Sirius.

There was another sore spot. His reckless godfather that couldn't keep himself alive for Harry's sake. Harry knew he was an idiot and everyone else did too. But adults were supposed to have some control over their decisions that didn't involve jumping into action that would obviously lead to one's death.

But Sirius wasn't an adult. He was put in Azkaban when he was just figuring out how to make the transition from playful goofball to a semi acceptable adult. Then he lost the only brother he ever cared for and was betrayed by everyone. He didn't know what careful was because he had nothing left to lose. Nothing that would be worth living for. Not with James gone.

Harry clutched at the simple bed sheet angrily. If it wasn't already a harsh blow that Harry lost the closest thing to a father and brother he could ever hope for, said person only thought of him as a replica of his father. Sirius died believing he was once again fighting side by side with James. That was a great way to go but what about Harry? He was left alone. Again. Abandoned by the person he gave all of his love and trust to.

He wiped tiredly at his eyes with his sleeve. The rain drops pelted the glass of the window, trying to break through it. The sound was like bullets meeting concrete but it was drowned out by the loud cries of thunder in the sky.

The rain should hold for another day. Just one more day would be enough to get started. No one would risk being out in this weather so he could easily travel without worrying about Death Eaters and Order members. No one would suspect he was anywhere other than safely in his bed.

After all, not a soul wanted to be caught in such a storm.