Author's note: Hellos all! This is (rather predictably) the revision of my story 'the Weapon', so obviously, read this one! :)

A warning though, I'm going to do my best to make the war against Voldemort be an actual war, so take my warnings seriously (they're in the story's summary). War is not always fun and guns.

Please review me! I do listen to my reviews and I will answer you: it's why I write fanfiction along with my originals!

So, we plunge in:


It didn't seem right that the world hadn't collapsed around him yet. He'd screamed and cried and shattered whatever he could get his hands on but he could still hear the sounds of voices outside the office walls, and the sky outside the window was beginning to lighten, and that didn't make any sense. It seemed impossible that there were people in the world who still desired food, who laughed, and didn't even realize that hell had infected everything to be seen in Dumbledore's office.

He wondered if this was what shock felt like, but he thought shock was supposed to numb out pain, and his body hurt. God grief was physical and he didn't want to feel it anymore. His body ached with the need to cry but his eyes stung and told him he'd already done that, and it hadn't helped at all. He could feel his stomach trying to crawl out from under his ribcage, even when he wrapped his arms around himself to hold it in. He looked out of the window, and everything was unfocused.

Dumbledore was still talking to him about Voldemort and his parents and very important secrets as if the world hadn't just shifted from beneath his feet. He realized he could hate Dumbledore for that. This was not the time to talk, this was a time to go stab himself in the chest until the pain in his stomach went away.

He couldn't think of the name, or the face or the laugh like a bark. Even realizing that he couldn't think about it made him want to wince and run and choke something until it cried and smashed and bled.

He was hyperventilating. He realized that and concentrated on his breath. He didn't remember why hyperventilating was bad but he'd heard about it somewhere, and didn't care to follow the thought any further than that anyway. He focused on making his breath go in for seven seconds, and out for fourteen. He'd heard something about that too. It hurt to breathe out for fourteen seconds straight, but he did it anyway. It made the pain in his stomach lessen a little bit.

He heard the silence left over from when Dumbledore stopped talking. He glanced around from his sightless contemplation of the window and found the headmaster still sitting at his desk, watching him. There was pity in those eyes.

He looked away, back to the window. It was light enough now to make out most of the grounds. He could see a small group of thestrals picking their way out of the forest. They were ugly and reminded him of death. Everything was ugly.

He realized he'd been breathing in for to long, and started breathing out.

"Harry, do you understand what this means?" Dumbledore's voice broke the silence, and he was pretty sure he could hate him for that too.


He realized he hadn't replied quickly enough. The truth was he had heard the long speech. He couldn't remember it, and he couldn't be arsed to care about it at all, but he knew he'd understand it eventually, and that it was supposed to upset him.

"Yes." He answered so Dumbledore would leave him in the silence again. His voice grated terribly along the walls of his skull, but it was worth it. He could ignore everything, if he just had the silence.

"Harry, I will help you in this, you are not alone."

Right. He thought sarcastically, and felt his stomach jerk back and up into his ribs. Having a single real thought broke something inside him and his peace was gone. The first thing he wanted was to clamber back into his blissful silence and never have it go away again. He was Harry, he'd gotten Sirius killed and yes, he understood what Dumbledore had said.

Harry looked at the broken instruments he'd strewn across the room and felt a new emotion join his grief: shame. He'd been such a child! Why had he rushed into the Ministry without a plan? He had to have known a pile of teenagers weren't going to face Voldemort's army with any hope. He could have gotten them all killed. He would have gotten them all killed, if it weren't for Sirius and the Order. He'd trusted Snape to tell them? He'd trusted the 'greasy git'with the lives of all his friends? Even the nickname for Snape made bile run up into his throat. He was such a child, and it was getting people killed.

Why had he refused to learn Occlumency? There didn't seem to be any reason behind that now. How many people had told him it was important? Why hadn't he listened to Dumbledore, or Hermione? Hell even Snape had warned him.

Harry felt his breath catch in his throat and he turned his face back to the window, concentrating on seven and fourteen. Snape's words returned to him with disturbing clarity, now that they only served to hurt.

Then you will find yourself easy prey for the Dark Lord! Fools who wear their hearts on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily—weak people, in other words—they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!

Harry easily remembered the warning now that it was too late, despite the fact that he'd barely been listening to the man back then. He hated the irony in that. But why the hell hadn't he been listening? What could be more important than that warning?

He'd been angry, Harry remembered. Too angry to listen or learn anything. Snape had seen it the entire time, had practically prophecised it, and how ironic was that, that he couldn't learn not to control his emotions because he was too angry to listen.

Sirius was dead because he'd been too weak and too ill-prepared to do anything but play into Voldemort's hand, and yet he was the one who had to 'vanquish the Dark Lord'. Yes, Dumbledore, he understood what it meant.

Harry watched the thestrals at play as his thoughts churned.

Dumbledore had known since his parents died that he was the 'one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord', so why was he so ill-prepared?

He would have studied if Dumbledore had told him too, had told him why he had to study at Hogwarts, but Dumbledore had always answered him with more questions. Harry knew he'd never gotten a straight answer from Dumbledore in his life. It hadn't bothered him too much before, he'd never thought he had a right to know anything, but if he was supposed to actually follow the prophesy, he should have been being trained and taught for years now.

Dumbledore didn't even tell him why he had to learn Occlumency. Of all people, he left it to Snape.

Merlin knows I've been calling the man a Death Eater for five years, of course I wouldn't take Snape's word on anything to do with Voldemort. Dumbledore should have known that, and if I'm supposed to take down the 'greatest Legilimens in all of Europe', he should have made sure I knew how to protect myself. I would never have gone anywhere tonight if Dumbledore had answered even that one question I had for him about why I needed to learn Occlumency.

Harry remembered using Fred and George's Extendable Ears to eavesdrop on the Order. Why hadn't he been part of the discussions about protecting 'Harry Potter'? He'd never have run away from the Dursleys in the first place if he'd known why he'd had to live there. He wouldn't have been so hurt by Dumbledore ignoring him if he'd known why that was happening. Why did he have to find out by eavesdropping? Of course Legilimency had never felt real to him, when 'Voldemort possessing him' was just one of Mad-Eye's many rants on Constant Vigilance.

I'm always left eavesdropping, Harry thought angrily. It was the only way he'd learned that Sirius Black was his godfather. No one had been considerate enough, while they were all whispering about the prison escapee, to tell him to his face what was going on. He'd had to find out by hiding under an invisibility cloak listening to his teachers gossip, that a man had betrayed his family and gotten his parents killed.

He'd always had to find everything out for himself, even when the pure luck that meant he was able to find out in time had saved the Philosopher's stone, and even Ginny's life second year. He'd come out as a hero those two years, and still Dumbledore had sheltered information away from him like hiding sharp objects from a child.

No, a tougher part of his brain clamped down on his running pride.

No, I've never been a hero. I've just been lucky before. Eleven years old and running after a mountain troll? How stupid was I? Why didn't I get a teacher? Hell, getting past Fluffy, planning to face off with a fully trained wizard teacher? The wrong teacher no less? Running down into the depths of the castle where no one could find me, to fight a fully grown basilisk? As a twelve year old? Without word to anyone but Lockhart? God foolhardy. Stupid.

Hell, I've just been lucky not to have gotten Ron or Hermione killed before. Harry thought over their 'adventures' at Hogwarts, wincing at the memories. And every time an adult would run in and call him a hero, and Dumbledore would award him points for being brave and loving.

Was I brave and loving today, Headmaster? Harry thought angrily, forcing himself to think about the Department of Mysteries. He'd finally learned what happened when pure blind luck ran out. Why hadn't he been prepared to face Voldemort's trap?

Harry searched Dumbledore's regretful pity-filled face, looking for the wise, all-seeing mentor he'd thought he'd had.

He cares too much. Harry repeated to himself silently, finally understanding the 'great flaw' in Dumbledore's plan.

He wants to make me happy more than anything. More than scolding me, more than telling me to grow the hell up even when I needed him to say it, more than teaching me how to close my mind and think and not get my friends killed.

Harry diverted his eyes back to watching a cloud form in the lightened sky as he let his thoughts settle into his realization.

Of course Dumbledore never told me anything, he knew the truth would hurt. I am marked to be a great weapon against Voldemort, and weapons are made for killing people. Dumbledore should have been training me since first year and he knows it, but it's like he said, I was 'young'. The world needs a soldier and he knows that child soldiers aren't children for very long. And he cared more about my childhood than the lives of the people I could save. He was supposed to make me a soldier and he made me into a liability. I got Cedric killed, I got Sirius killed, how many people needed to die before he decided to make me into a real weapon to end this damn war? How many people have already died because this war isn't over yet?

Harry looked around Dumbledore's office, beginning to feel truly nauseated. He was always angry, but he'd never done anything about it. He'd never pushed himself, never studied, never trained, he'd been so weak for so long. Just that day he'd barely been able to fight the Death Eaters, he'd hidden behind a damn statue and let Dumbledore fight for him! He'd had no choice, because he wasn't a fighter like Dumbledore, he was a child. Children were allowed to hide.

Could I have prevented it? Harry thought suddenly, dropping his head down into his hands and clutching his hair. If I'd studied and listened and trained to really be an asset in the war, rather than a kid for Sirius and the Order and Dumbledore to run in and protect, if I'd been a soldier for years now, would Sirius have lived through this war? Would he be the one teaching me what next Dark Art I needed to protect myself against?

Harry released his grip on his hair and rubbed his hands over his dry eyes. He wasn't ever going to know the answer to that, it was too late for that. He wondered how many more times he was going to find himself asking that same question, 'if I'd worked harder, would they still have died?'.

Never again. Harry decided instantly. He was never going to have to ask it again, because he was never going to stop working as hard as he could to bring down the Dark Lord. He didn't know exactly what he needed to learn, so he'd learn everything and anything he could, until there wasn't a Death Eater left alive to plead mercy from him.

I will sacrifice anything to end this war.

Harry looked up at Dumbledore, and saw how very old he looked. His anger softened slightly, as he passed his eyes over the deep wrinkles in Dumbledore's arms and face. Dumbledore had been an extremely powerful wizard in his day, Harry had been told that for years and believed it, but looking at Dumbledore now he knew why he'd been left so alone in the fight against Voldemort. Dumbledore was elderly, and tired, and had become too compassionate for any man in war.

"You're right, you should have told me this a long time ago." Harry said softly, his anger dying. Harry looked up from Dumbledore's face to meet his milky, regretful eyes, and found himself glancing away almost immediately. He cared about Dumbledore, despite the mistakes the man had made, and it was hard to see him looking so old.

Harry felt emotions bubbling up in his stomach, and knew it was time to leave. He stood up, gathered the shards of the first glass globe he'd smashed to the floor, fixed them together with a careful 'reparo' and gently returned the instrument to the Headmaster's desk.

"Excuse me, Professor. I have to go cry." Harry said honestly, knowing he was going to explode again and wanting to do it in private this time. He felt something building in his chest, a kind of acceptance of his grief and a desperation to run and scream and punch something into the ground.

He ran, and made it all the way up to into Gryffindor Tower before tears started pouring down his face. He layered silencing spells around the room, and locked the door with every spell he knew. He had a feeling this was going to be the last cry he would allow himself for a very long time, and he wanted to do it alone.

Harry pounded his head against a bedpost as he cried, but there was no anger in it. His anger was gone, though he had a feeling it would come back in time.

He spent the night crying. It came in waves. The worst hit him when he found Sirius's mirror and smashed it and cut himself to bits before he remembered the simple spells that would fix the mirror again. Somehow the dorm stayed empty for him, no one even tried to enter the door he'd locked, and in some remote, thinking part of his brain he realized that Ron must have pulled in a few favors for him from the dorm-mates. He unlocked the door after what he decided was his last wave of tears, and fell asleep still blessedly alone.


"Excuse me, Ma'am?"

Madam Pince emerged calmly from the back of her office carrying a pile of mangled library cards.

"I know this is last minute, but Professor Dumbledore gave me permission to get some books out for the summer." Harry lifted his empty schoolbag up onto his shoulder as if it were heavy. He'd already spelled it to look full, but he didn't want to leave any doubt. Madam Pince placed her cards on a cluttered desk, shaking her head.

"Library texts can not be taken from Hogwarts grounds, Mr. Potter."

"But Dumbledore said I coul-" Harry cut himself off and sighed. "He said I should, actually. Honestly I don't think books are going to help keep my mind off anything." Harry looked up at her, hoping she'd heard something about the Ministry attack. Sympathy shined clearly through her usually strict countenance. Looks like she's an Order member, then, she certainly wouldn't have heard anything from Fudge about it yet.

"Books are fragile, Mr. Potter. I can not-"

"Oh I know!" He rushed to explain. "Nothing from the restricted section, and Dumbledore said nothing over-" Harry hesitated, thinking quickly. "two or three hundred years old."
The old woman sighed, and looked him over.

"Professor Dumbledore, Mr. Potter, and get them quickly. You're not leaving with more than five books, so chose carefully." She warned as she crossed around the counter with a stack of returned books to be shelved.

Harry felt his body relax at his success, and noted her maneuvering to watch him. She followed him out into the main area of the library and began the horrendously slow process of returning books to their shelves by hand. She taught all the Hogwarts students the spell to re-shelve books in their first year, and Harry still remembered her warning never to re-shelve books by hand, as it tended to damage them.

Harry decided to wander around the library where she could see him for awhile, hoping she'd get too bored or too worried about damaging her books to bother pestering him for long. He pretended to ponder over volumes in front of her, before spelling them carefully back to their shelves, only to chose another at random. In his head he was trying to create a list of the kinds of books he would focus his search on. By the time he'd decided not to bother learning about arithmancy, herbology, runes, or potions, Madam Pomfrey had disappeared back into her office.

Harry started in the Magical Theory section, and worked his way around the library by subject matter. He shrank entire volumes of books at a time. He knew how small they could go before being damaged, and he filled his bag with the tiny books on occlumency, magical theory and methodology, spell creation, transfiguration, charms and the few dark magic guides that had survived outside the Restricted Section.

Sneaking into the Restricted Section was easier than ever during the day. It wasn't even locked, but he still didn't dare linger. Nor could he open or shrink these books; he'd learned the hard way that they would scream if disturbed at all, and shrinking books protected against tampering (which these almost certainly were) could damage them terribly. Unable to open the books nor linger over each volume, Harry picked up the largest books he could find on highly powerful offensive magics, and fit them in his bag, packed around the miniatures. He snuck out of the Restricted Section with his bag legitimately heavy, though it didn't look any more stuffed than when he'd entered. He picked out four obviously innocuous textbooks to carry in his arms past the front desk.

Madam Pince nodded at him as he left, clearly unaware that he was walking down to breakfast with over thirty of her books.


"Harry, you've got to eat something." Hermione sounded worried. He'd been thinking about Sirius, and the books in his bag that were too late to save him. Harry looked down at his plate. He'd taken a bite out of his sausage and left it; an uncommon occurrence. He never wasted food, but it was different this morning; Breakfast tasted like corpses. Most of the students chattered noisily around them. They didn't know what had happened, Harry remembered, but their laughter still sounded obscene. He ignored them.

"Harry, are you going to get through this summer all right?"

Harry looked up, realizing that he'd never answered Hermione's comment, and that she was holding his hand from across the table. She knows about the Dursleys. Some alive part of his mind realized. Harry looked up, and saw it in her eyes.

"I will survive the summer with them." He responded, a few seconds late. She looked startled about something, then hurt, then worried, then determined. Are we all so easy to read? He wondered dully. 'Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves' Harry remembered with a wince, and promised himself he'd learn to keep a blank face. He struggled to lift his frown into a straight line now, and keep it there.

"I'll miss you Harry." She said it like it was exceedingly important information to impart to him. "We all will. We love you." She tightened her hold on his hand and managed to elbow Ron with the other arm.

"Yeah, Harry." Ron added awkwardly. Hermione glared at him. "Hey man, are you alright?" Ron managed to say it sincerely this time, despite still getting elbowed in the ribs. Hermione stopped suddenly and looked apologetically at Harry as if realizing that the motion looked too happy and teasing to be around him. Harry silently agreed with her, but couldn't get himself to react to the sympathy he saw in her eyes. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to appreciate it or be annoyed by it. Harry looked at Ron, and saw that same concern there.

He smothered his reaction to snap about how obviously not alright he was, or to explain that the only thing he wanted was to be left alone in the silence so he could study. It was surprisingly easy not to react; he was too tired to get angry, but then he wasn't sure what he was supposed to say. He decided to go with the truth, and hope they didn't ask him any questions that would make him speak again.

"I feel...hollow."

It was true. He'd gotten out all of his rage and tears the night before, and he'd found the terrifying truth that there was nothing left to him. He felt as if, were Hermione to press her hand into his any harder, his skin would crack and crumble into itself, revealing nothing more inside him than a little bit of dust, maybe. As soon as he'd thought it, Hermione tightened her hold for a second, as if testing him. Harry wondered if the only thing that kept him in one piece was the question that kept repeating in his head. He'd woken up to it. I will sacrifice anything, right?

"Ron, could you take Hedwig this summer?" Harry asked suddenly, remembering how angry she made Vernon, and how much time it took to keep her cage clean.

"Uh, sure, Harry." Ron answered hesitantly, though his eyes looked hopeful.

"You can send messages with her whenever you want." Harry added. Ron grinned at him. Harry knew Ron would usually make a joke from that, bowing down and professing how thrilled he'd be to help a friend in need, and silently thanked Ron for not trying to make him smile. Harry didn't want to fake it.

"But, err..guys, I've gotta go." Harry pulled his hand from Hermione's soft grip and stood up.

"Where do you have to go? There's nothing left to do but eat and leave." Ron asked him.

"I'll see you guys in the train, okay?" Harry left.

He had to run up to the Tower to have time to pack. He had to return all the books to their exact natural size, else the text would be unreadable, and the gentlest spells took finesse. He would have preferred to spend more time on the difficult project, but he'd be restricted from using any magic as soon as he left Hogwarts, and most of his dorm-mates were probably ready for the train already. For the first time Harry was grateful that he'd never had enough possessions to even properly line the bottom of his trunk, for now he found himself struggling to fit the books and his spare clothing in at the same time. By the time he'd managed, his wingardium leviosa barely lifted the trunk above the ground, and it shook terribly, but that would have to do.

He finished just in time; the minute he snapped the final latch on his trunk closed, a popping sound heralded the arrival of a house-elf coming to bring the student's possessions down to the train

"Young Master better hurry, sir, the rest of students are all gathering to be going now." The house-elf warned after a bow.

"Thank you." Harry responded, sparking another set of low bows. Harry was glad it wasn't Dobby, he didn't think he could handle the elf's gratitude right then, or noise in general really. He'd have given up his fortune for the chance to lock himself away and ignore the world for a little longer before the train ride 'home'. His nerves were so on-end he was almost vibrating with the need for a good fist fight with someone, and he felt far from able to control his temper, a skill he'd need to be able to handle the Dursleys without hexing any of them.

Harry walked down to the Great Hall, not caring if he was a few minutes late. Someone would almost certainly be later than he anyway. He was right; three girls came careening down the hall to the Main Entrance right after he'd arrived. They were first years, and had come dragging their trunks the entire way. Harry got out of their path, and looked around for Ron and Hermione.

"Potter." A smooth voice called to him before he'd found his friends. Harry pulled his wand into his hand before he looked over to see Malfoy leaning casually against the front entrance door. The blond pushed himself off from the door and stalked toward Harry, followed quickly by Crabbe and Goyle.

Maybe I'll get my fight in after all.

"Don't mess with me Malfoy." Harry was surprised at how angry his voice sounded. He didn't think he was that angry…Still, he had to work on that. Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions… Suddenly Harry found himself respecting Draco's blank face and casual slouch; he had no idea if the boy was about to hex him or ask what the Potion's summer homework was. Not that Harry doubted Malfoy's aggressive motives for a minute, but he respected Malfoy's ability to maintain the ambiguity.

"You're dead, Potter." Malfoy pronounced in a low voice.

So much for ambiguity.

Harry raised his eyebrows, but didn't bother responding. Hermione usually waited beside the entrance doors, and Harry returned to looking for her. He was surrounded by teachers and students, Malfoy woudn't be stupid enough to hex him here.

"You're going to pay," said Malfoy in a voice barely louder than a whisper. "I'm going to make you pay for what you've done to my father. . ."

"Well, I'm terrified now," said Harry sarcastically, glancing back at the boy. "I suppose Lord Voldemort's really just a warm-up compared to you-what's the matter?" He said, for Malfoy looked stricken at the name. "He's your dad's mate, isn't he? Not scared of him are you?" Harry pulled his eyes off the blond to scan the crowd again.

"You think you're such a big man, Potter." Malfoy sneered as he advanced with Crabbe and Goyle flanking him. "You wait, I'll have you. You can't land my father in prison-"

"I'll take your word on that, Malfoy." Said Harry idly, still not bothering to look at his so-called 'rival'. The whole idea of a Hogwarts rivalry seemed childish now, and he certainly wasn't scared by the blond, especially when Draco was in a terrible place to start sparking off hexes. The boy was still a coward, he hadn't changed at all since the night before.

Of course he hasn't.

It was odd to think as anything being the same as before the Ministry.. Harry felt the thought punch him in the stomach and cut off the thought before it started haunting him further.

"The Dementors have left Azkaban, my Dad and the others'll be out in no time. . ."

"Yeah, I expect they will," said Harry truthfully, finally spotting Ron and Hermione running towards the crowd together. "Enjoy your summer, Malfoy." Harry added, glancing at the boy.

Malfoy's hand flew toward his wand, but Harry was too quick for him. He had drawn his own wand before Malfoy's fingers had even entered the pocket of his robes. Crabbe and Goyle hadn't even thought to move yet.

"Potter!" Snape's voice rang across the entrance hall; the man had emerged from a staircase leading up from the dungeons, and at the sight of him Harry felt a rush of anger beyond anything he felt towards Malfoy...So the man was supposedly loyal to Dumbledore; that would be almost worse. That would mean he'd failed at teaching Occlumency not due to malicious motives, but because he was too childish to get past his own Hogwarts rivalry that should have died so many years before.

'Fools who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and themselves to be provoked, Harry wanted to snarl, but held his tongue. It was his own idiocy that had led to Sirius's death, Harry reminded himself. He had to study, had to improve, had to get a handle on his own damn temper. Snape had told him to practice, and he hadn't. Snape had warned him. It was his own fault.

"What are you doing, Potter?" said Snape coldly as ever, as he strode over to the four of them.

"I was defending myself, Professor, now I am walking away." Harry answered, before turning to where Ron and Hermione were approaching. He heard Snape's voice call something after him, and McGonagall get in a word, but Harry was soon too far into the crowd to hear the teacher's exchange. It didn't matter to him, and it was time to get to the train.


"This sucks, mate." Ron stood, looking at Harry, though it didn't seem like he expected a response. Harry appreciated that. There wasn't much more to say.

They were saying goodbye before they crossed over Platform 9 ¾ to the Muggle world. It was always far too crowded to say goodbye in the Muggle side of the train station; they'd learned that second year.

They stood in silence for a moment as swarms of students rushed ignorantly by them. Hermione looked ready to cry. Harry nodded when the silence began to feel forced, and braced himself as Hermione rushed forward for another hug. He hugged her quickly and passed her to Ron, who grinned at him shyly. The two said goodbye again, and left together. Harry turned away to levitate his heavy trunk onto a waiting pushcart and hoped the process wouldn't draw too much attention to himself. Glancing around he realized he was the last on the platform, and he turned quietly to his challenge.

The trunk seemed to lift itself easily onto the cart, almost on its own. Harry blinked, then saw Fred and George approaching him, seemingly appearing from no where, and with their wands no where in sight. Harry wasn't fooled, and nodded in thanks for their help with his trunk.

Non Hogwarts students weren't allowed onto platform 9 ¾ on leaving day. Harry had been told no one else could get past the barrier, but obviously the twins had found a way. Harry hoped he would know a way to do that by the end of the summer, surely two months of studying would give him something to work with.

"Heavy trunk, Harry?" Fred or George asked him, though for once there wasn't a hint of humor in the normally-light voice.

They lost Sirius too.

Harry found himself mourning that humor though, before he even realized what they'd said.

They spelled it to look inside, he realized, and raised wary eyes to them, cursing himself for being so constantly vulnerable.

A liability. A cruelly incessant bit of thought reminded him. Harry focused his wary gaze on the twins, quietly imparting the message that he knew what they'd done and that he didn't like it.

"Don't worry Harry, no one will see through it now." The other added confidently. Harry was about to hush them before he remembered the platform was empty. Harry shook his head.

Trust Fred and George to know how to hide things. Stolen books especially, I guess. He tried to smile at them, though he feared the expression had failed terribly. One of them sighed slowly, and for once the somber sound didn't seem sarcastic at all.

"Harry, we were having a thought about your home situation." Harry wondered why they looked as grim as he about mentioning the Dursleys, then remembered his second year summer. They'd seen the bars on his windows, Vernon's rage, the locked door, the cat-flap. Harry rolled his head back to stare at the train station ceiling, hoping for a bit of privacy while he forced his face out of a grimace.

Damn, does everybody know? He thought he'd hidden the truth so well, but apparently it had slipped out over the years.

"We thought of something, you know, if things get…fired up out there, and you needed a bit of..umm…what's the word, Fred?" George started, the humorous glint in his eyes returning slowly.
Fred looked around the platform, held out a fist, and opened his hand. Harry flinched as a cylinder of fire rushed out of Fred's palm for a second with a heavy whoosh. The flames died instantly as he closed his hand.

"Persuasion." Fred supplied.

For the first time in what felt like months, Harry felt his face work itself into a grin of his own, though somehow it felt malicious.

Harry saw Fred catch George's eyes, and George blinked once, as if in answer.

"Show me." Harry ordered, hoping they were not rethinking their offer of "persuasion". Fred opened his hand again, and revealed a handful of gray stone-like chips that looked like broken slate. He carefully dropped the remains and kicked them down into the Hogwarts Express tracks. George pulled a small jar out of nowhere and opened it for Harry. Inside were what looked like red pebbles. George selected three and handed the jar to Harry.

"Prototypes, you see." George explained.

"Fred's Fabulous Firestones" George supplied, holding the three out on his palm for Harry to examine. "He thought of them first. They are supposed to disintegrate into a powder, and we're hoping to work on the flame's shape, and the sound effect, but for now they're all we've got."

"And right now you've got to use three to get any impressive reaction at all. That'll probably change too." Fred added. "So, for now at least, take at least three."

"Then, just crush them in a closed fist, and open." George closed his fist quickly, and opened his hand sideways. The flame burst onto the stationary train as the chips fell from his palm.

"The flame will stop after three seconds, so if you count right, you can close your fist and make it look like you're controlling it." Fred explained. "The fire won't burn anything, of course, but I'm sure you're muggles will be..thrilled." Suddenly his light voice went serious, and the humor in his eyes died out.

"Convincing." Harry complimented, trying to get his dead voice to express his thanks. "This will help, I'll find a way."

Fred and George grinned back at him, though there was something intensely serious about their expressions.

"Well we do find that work gets done best in a peaceful, quiet place. Hopefully fake fire will help." Fred supplied.

"Take care of yourself, Harry." George advised as they walked together toward the brick wall separating Platform 9 ¾ from the muggle world.

"I will." Harry returned, his voice carrying a thousand angry words. Fred looked back and searched Harry's face with his eyes, before nodding once, and following his brother across the wall.

Harry found his trolley deceptively light when he went to push it. He wished he'd thanked the twins for their help, especially upon learning that they'd used some kind of permanent weight-lessening charm. Harry hadn't even known that such a thing existed. He'd have to learn that one, he noted.

As Harry crossed into the muggle world, he looked warily for his uncle, always half-expecting to find the platform empty. Instead he found a grouping he'd never have expected. Mr. Weasley, Lupin, and Mad-Eye of all people were gathered in front of his now clearly enraged uncle and ridiculously cowed-looking cousin. Harry approached, wondering what on earth the group would have to talk about.

"Are you threatening me, Sir?" Vernon was saying so loudly that a passerby actually turned to stare.

"Yes, I am." Said Mad-Eye, who seemed rather pleased that Vernon had grasped this fact so quickly.

"And do I look like the kind of man who can be intimidated?" Barked Vernon, though Harry could see his hands were shaking, and his eyebrows had arched like they did when he was scared.

"Well.." Said Moody, pushing back his bowler hat to reveal his sinisterly revolving magical eye. Vernon leapt backwards in horror and collided painfully with a luggage trolley. "Yes, I have to say you do, Dursley." Mad-Eye turned away from Vernon to survey Harry. "So Potter…give us a shout if you need us. If we don't hear from you for three days in a row, we'll send someone along…"

Aunt Petunia whimpered piteously. It could not have been plainer that she was thinking of what the neighbors would say if they caught sight of these people marching up the garden path.

"Oh, I'm sure there'll be no need of that." Harry remarked, carefully keeping his hand away from the jar in his pocket. Moody turned both eyes on him, a silent 'you're sure?'.

"The muggles will not make trouble, I have no fear of that." Harry left that hanging, and turned to say goodbye to his clearly worried friends. He'd need them not to worry, and to stay out of his way, until the war's end.

So he forced a smile, raised a hand in farewell, turned his trolley, and led the way out of the station toward the sunlit street, with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley hurrying along in his wake.