I put this disclaimer up once and it applies to THIS ENTIRE WORK:

The characters, the universe and anything you can obviously recognize DO NOT belong to me and are the property of JK Rowling and whoever owns the copyrights.

There will be large chunks of canon material where I have made minor adjustments and changes to fit with my story as I am rewriting JKR's work to suit my taste, style and preferences. Therefore, that obviously belongs to her.

There is a prequel to this fic entiteld "Years at War, Part 1: Triwizard Warfare." I would suggest reading that fic before reading this one so that you understand fully just what is going on.

This is written with realism. Blood, violence, sex, foul language all of it. If you want to read a kill-the-bad-guys-with-a-happy-grin-superhero-powers fanfic, do not read this. If you read the prequel, enjoyed it then I hope you will enjoy this as much, if not more.

I have ZERO TOLERANCE for flames of any kind. For the record, if you read, do not like and can explain/justify what and why you don't like something, that IS NOT a flame. If you flame, I WILL report you to the site admins.

For the Record: This is a work in progress. I may take it down, rewrite, change things. If you have a problem with that, please see the previous point about flames.

A point of interest was raised by a reviewer, xavierp: In the UK, they have terms, not semesters. Corrected accordingly.

Finally my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Nachtrae for taking the time to read, edit and comment on this Chapter. She does amazing work and I'm lucky to have her as my beta.

Chapter 21

Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum

It was with a heavy heart that Harry packed his trunk up in the dormitory on the night before his return to Privet Drive. He was dreading the Leaving Feast, which was usually a cause for celebration with the announcement of the winner of the Inter-House Championship. He had avoided being in the Great Hall when it was full ever since he had left the hospital wing, preferring to eat when it was nearly empty to avoid the stares of his fellow students.

When he entered, with the other Champions and his retinue, they saw at once that the usual decorations were missing. Normally the colors of the house that won the Inter-House Championship would decorate the Leaving Feast. Tonight, there were black drapes along the walls, and even the four banners over the house tables seemed somehow, muted. Harry knew instantly that they were there as a mark of respect to Cedric and Hermione.

The real Mad-Eye Moody was at the staff table now, his wooden leg and his magical eye back in place. He was extremely twitchy, jumping every time someone spoke to him. Harry could not blame him; Moody's fear of attack was bound to have increased by his ten-month imprisonment in his own trunk.

Madame Maxime was still there. She was sitting next to Hagrid. They were talking quietly together. Further along the table, sitting next to Professor McGonagall, was Snape. His eyes lingered on Harry for a moment as Harry looked at him. His expression was difficult to read. He looked as sour and unpleasant as ever. Harry continued to watch him, long after Snape had looked away. Why… why… was Dumbledore so convinced that Snape was truly on their side? Snape had turned spy against Voldemort, "at great personal risk."

Professor Dumbledore, who stood up at the staff table, ended Harry's musings. The Great Hall, which in any case had been less noisy than it usually was at the Leaving Feast, became very quiet. "The end," said Dumbledore, looking around at them all, "of another year." He paused, and his eyes ran over the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables, both easily the most subdued.

His eyes locked with Harry's for an instant and Harry met the look with a full on glare. The headmaster blinked and nodded every so slight towards Harry. Harry didn't even blink. "There is much that I would like to say to you all tonight," said Dumbledore, "but I must first acknowledge the losses of two young people, both of whom should be sitting here, surrounded by friends," he gestured towards the two tables, "enjoying our feast with us. I would like you all, please, to stand, and raise your glasses, to Hermione Granger and Cedric Diggory."

They did, all of them: The benches scraped as everyone stood, raising their goblets high in to the air. Their voices rumbled out together like a thunderclap, echoing the names of each in turn. Harry's voice caught in his throat but he gutted through, noting distantly that Fleur had done the same over Cedric.

The headmaster's eulogy went unheard by Harry, who was staring down memory lane at something only he could see, "…deaths have affected you all, whether you knew them well or not. I think that you have the right, therefore, to know exactly how it came about." Harry raised his head and stared at Dumbledore, "Hermione Granger was murdered by Lord Voldemort," he paused for an instant and nodded, to them all, "Cedric Diggory was murdered by Lord Voldemort."

A panicked whisper swept the Great Hall. People were staring at Dumbledore in disbelief, in horror. He looked perfectly calm as he watched them mutter themselves into silence. "The Ministry of Magic," Dumbledore continued, "does not wish me to tell you this. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so - either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, or because they think I should not tell you as you are too young to understand. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferable to lies, and that any attempt to pretend that two of Hogwarts finest, of our finest died in an accident or some blunder of their own is an insult to them and their memory."

Stunned and frightened, every face in the Hall was turned toward Dumbledore now… or almost every face. Over at the Slytherin table Harry saw Draco Malfoy muttering something to Crabbe and Goyle. Harry felt a hot, sick swoop of anger in his stomach. He forced himself to look back at Dumbledore. "There is somebody else who must be mentioned in connection with their deaths," Dumbledore went on. "I am talking, of course, about Harry Potter."

A kind of ripple crossed the Great Hall as a few heads turned in Harry's direction before flicking back to face Dumbledore. "Harry Potter managed to escape Lord Voldemort," said Dumbledore. "He risked his own life, returning with the wand of Cedric Diggory for his parents, and with the remains of Hermione Granger for her parents. He showed, in every respect, the sort of bravery, the courage that few wizards have ever shown in facing Lord Voldemort, and for this, I honor him."

Dumbledore turned gravely to Harry and raised his goblet once more. Nearly everyone in the Great Hall followed suit. They murmured his name, as they had murmured the others, and drank to him. This was too much. He needed to get out of the Great Hall. However, Luna took his hand on the left, while Ginny squeezed his shoulder gently on the right. They were not trying to keep him here he realized quickly, there was no strength in their grips, just an offer of quiet support.

Harry saw that Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and many of the other Slytherins had remained defiantly in their seats, their goblets untouched. Dumbledore, who after all possessed no magical eye, did not see them. Harry made a silent note of the faces of those who had remained seated, and those that had toasted not only him, but Cedric and Hermione as well, from all four houses.

When everyone had once again resumed his or her seats, Dumbledore continued, "The Triwizard Tournament's aim was to further and promote magical understanding. In the light of what has happened - of Lord Voldemorts return - such ties are more important than ever before." Harry paused to consider the words of his headmaster, and wondered, whether this had been the point: To prepare the wizarding world for what was to come, and that everything were unintended side effects.

Dumbledore looked from Madame Maxime and Hagrid, to Fleur Delacour and her fellow Beauxbatons students, to Viktor Krum and the Durmstrangs at the Slytherin table. Krum, Harry saw, looked wary, almost frightened, as though he expected Dumbledore to say something harsh. "Every guest in this Hall," said Dumbledore, and his eyes lingered upon the Durmstrang students, "will be welcomed back here at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again - in the light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemorts gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. We are all facing dark and difficult times."

"Remember Cedric. Remember Hermione. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a young man and a woman who were honorable, proud, loyal, kind, and brave. Remember them. Remember Hermione Granger. Remember Cedric Diggory."

Harry's trunk was packed; Hedwig sat upon his shoulder, preening herself. His friends circled around him, sending a clear message to all that disturbances would not be welcome - all of them had their wands in plain sight, sticking out of pockets or in visible wand holsters - as they waited for the carriages that would take them to Hogsmeade station. It was another beautiful summer's day. He supposed that Privet Drive would be hot and leafy; its flower beds a riot of color, when he arrived there that evening. The thought gave him no pleasure at all.

"Harry," he looked around. Fleur Delacour was hurrying up the stone steps into the castle. Across the grounds, Hagrid and Madame Maxine were wrestling two of the giant horses into their harness. The Beauxbatons carriage was about to take off, "We will see each other again, I hope." She bowed slightly, and Harry returned the shallow bow, Champion to Champion. He held out his hand and she tutted, "Such formality does not suit you," She pulled him in to a full hug and Harry was somewhere else for a moment. "I am hoping to get a job to improve my English," she said, her eyes wandering to his hair, yet again.

His friends had noticed and said nothing, because they did not know what they could say. Harry's hair was no longer the midnight black it used to be, there were shots of silver and grey and strangely enough, a long strip of brown hair twisted in to a braid that was long enough to tuck behind his right ear. He had changed his hair sometime after the tournament and before the leaving feast, but nobody was sure exactly when. Like the masses however, he was not sure when he had created that braid of hair.

"It's very good already," Harry said, "But I will always have time, if you need someone to practice with." She smiled and turned away, saying good-bye to the retinue, in particular the three Weaselys. He let himself just absorb her beauty for a few moments, tall, willowy, with a grace and poise that made it seem like she was gliding when she walked. She laughed at something Fred said and her silvery blonde hair shimmered in to the morning sunlight. He could not help as his spirits lifted slightly, watching her hurry across the lawns to a waiting Madame Maxime.

"Wonder how the Durmstrang students are getting back," said Neville, "D' you reckon they can steer that ship without Karkaroff?"

"Karkaroff did not steer," said a gruff voice. "He stayed in his cabin and let us do the work." Krum had come to say good-bye, "Could I have a word?" he asked Harry. With a nod, Krum cast a quick silencing charm around then. Harry added a privacy charm and several others that he had learned, "Impressive."

Harry shrugged, "Wand's taking some getting used to, but I don't think it'll mind me too much." He had put on a neutral expression, and a few subtler charms hid the more obvious signs that he had not been sleeping well, "But wands only focus the magic… and with the tournament over, I'm back to being a regular teenager," he said with snort.

"I liked Diggory," said Krum abruptly to Harry. "He was always polite to me. Even though I was from Durmstrang…" Karkaroff being what he had been, nothing else need be said, "You are no regular teenager, Harry Potter. Hermione," he hesitated, knowing that his poor English could land him in several cauldrons of hot water, "She was a good friend… she loved you. Not "Boy who lived" or "Chosen one" or "Champion." She loved Harry Potter. She will always be with you in your heart, your soul. Treasure those memories, Harry. They will bring you strength, comfort, and…" Viktor hesitated for a moment, "She, will keep you honest, if you let her. I think that is what your headmaster fears the most."

The insightful comments made by the Bulgarian Seeker did not startle him in the slightest. Neville had made the same observation once before. Nevertheless, Harry nodded to show his understanding of what was said without it actually being said, "Have you got a new headmaster yet?" he asked, changing the subject.

Krum shrugged. He held out his hand as Fleur had done, to shake Harry's hand. Harry pulled the Quidditch star in to a hug. Victor froze up, tense and then relaxed and returned the hug, slapping Harry on the back as he did so, "Good bye my friend." said Viktor, "May our paths cross in the future when all is at peace in our world." The Bulgarian strode back to his ship, where he would be the acting captain for his voyage home, "Remember this however," called Viktor, "Ci vis pacem, para bellum!"

"What's that mean?" shouted Harry after him.

"If you desire peace, prepare for war!"

Harry smiled at the Bulgarian's back as he heard the first of the carriages pull up behind him, "If you want peace, prepare for war" Shrinking his trunk with a wave of his wand, he pocketed it and began to walk. Hogsmeade station was not that far. Moreover, he felt like he could use the exercise.

The weather could not have been more different on the journey back to King's Cross than it had been on their way to Hogwarts the previous September. There was not a single cloud in the sky. Harry and his Retinue - or perhaps former retinue would be more appropriate now that the tournament was over - had taken over an entire compartment and with Harry's magic, enlarged it so that they could all fit comfortably. Hedwig was dozing with her arm under her wing; Crookshanks was a giant orange cushion on a spare seat. Conversation was quiet, and subdued and focused on what their next course of action would be. They somehow, felt liberated by Dumbledore's speech at the leaving feast.

The door of the compartment slid open.

"You seem to be missing someone, or two," said Draco Malfoy. Crabbe and Goyle were standing behind him. All three of them looked more pleased with themselves, more arrogant and more menacing, than Harry had ever seen them. "So," said Malfoy slowly, advancing slightly into the compartment and looking slowly around at them, a smirk quivering on his lips. Crabbe and Goyle leered. "Trying not to think about it, are we?" said Malfoy softly, looking around at them. "Trying to pretend it hasn't happened?"

"Get out," said Harry. He had not been this close to Malfoy since he had watched him muttering to Crabbe and Goyle during Dumbledores eulogy. He could feel a kind of ringing in his ears. He flexed his fingers and his knuckles cracked like a string of firecrackers.

"You've picked the losing side, Potter! I warned you! I told you - you ought to choose your company more carefully, remember? When we met on the train, first day at Hogwarts? I told you not to hang around with riffraff!" He jerked his head towards an empty seat and then grinned, "Oh… that's right, the Mudblood's already…"

A box of fireworks would have made less noise as no fewer than seven wands unleashed a blistering barrage of magic. Fifteen seconds and some twenty spell chained hexes later; Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were all lying unconscious in the doorway.

"Interesting effect," said Fred, looking down at Crabbe. "Who used the Furnunculus Curse?"

"Me," said Harry.

"Odd," said George lightly. "I used Jelly-Legs. Looks as though those two shouldn't be mixed." He seems to have sprouted little tentacles all over his face, "Well, let's not leave them here, they don't add much to the decor."

Neville, Harry and George kicked, rolled, and pushed the unconscious Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle - each of whom looked distinctly the worse for the jumble of jinxes with which they had been hit - out into the corridor, then came back into the compartment and rolled the door shut.

"Exploding Snap, anyone?" said Luna, pulling out a pack of cards. The rest of the journey passed pleasantly enough; Harry wished it could have gone on all summer and that he would never arrive at King's Cross. However, as he had learned the hard way that time will not slow down when something unpleasant lies ahead, and all too soon, the Hogwarts Express was pulling in at platform nine and three-quarters. The usual confusion and noise filled the corridors as the students began to disembark and after watching Neville struggle over Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, he shrunk everyone's trunks, except for the twins, "Fred - George - wait a moment."

The twins turned. Harry unshrunk his trunk and drew out the small bag with a thousand galleons in winnings from the Triwizard Cup. "Take it," he said, and he thrust the sack into George's hands.

"What?" said Fred, looking flabbergasted.

"Take it," Harry repeated firmly. "I don't want it."

"You're mental," said George, trying to push it back at Harry.

"No, I'm not," said Harry. "You take it, and get inventing. It's for the joke shop."

"He is mental," Fred said, "But how did you know…."

Harry shrugged, "When you're friends with a Goblin Banker, and he finds out you two trying to take out loans by owl, that and you are both the biggest pranksters Hogwarts has seen in the past fifteen or so years..." Harry almost smirked. "If you don't take it, I'm throwing it down the drain or donating it," he added it as an afterthought, "I don't want it, and I don't need it. However, I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I've got a feeling we're going to need them more than usual before long."

"Harry," said George weakly, weighing the money bag in his hands, "there's got to be a thousand Galleons in here."

"Yeah," said Harry, grinning. "Think how many Canary Creams or Bathtub Tidal Waves that is." The twins stared at him. "Just don't tell your mum where you got it… although she might not be so keen for you to join the Ministry anymore, come to think of it…"

"Harry," Fred began, but Harry pulled out his wand.

"Look," he said flatly, "Take it, or I'll hex you. I know some good ones now."

The twins filed out and he took a last look around the compartment and finally walked out, taking great care to step on Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, who were still lying on the floor, covered in hex marks. For the first time in months, Ron stepped up and blocked Harry's path, "Harry… can we… talk?"

He sized up Ron, carefully and noticed the wand sticking out of the side pocket of his jeans. "Not sure what we have to talk about," Harry said bluntly, "but I can think of a few things: Loyalty, for one. Trust, another. Treachery, a third." His voice had dropped in to a growl. "What did you want to talk about?"

Ron hesitated, "I just wanted to… say I'm sorry, for not believing, for abandoning you, and for Hermione…She was my friend…."

Harry's eyes blazed, "Don't you ever say that name!" he snarled, and "I saw you at the Leaving Feast! I saw you refuse to stand and toast because your "friends" in Slytherin didn't!" Harry's finger slammed in to Ronald's chest; hard enough to drive the redhead back a step, "You have not been her friend this past year! Or mine! She didn't need me to prove anything Ron! She believed me, because I am Harry Potter, her friend since first year! Not "Boy-who-lived!" Not "Chosen One!" You never had the courage to stand by your friends!" the last cut like a knife in to Ron, "I will repeat what I told you and your mother, before the third task," Ron wisely kept his mouth shut, "What I told you once before - months ago! I have more money in my vault than I know what to do with! So again, I ask you, why the fuck I would risk life and limb for one thousand galleons? Fame and the spotlight?" he jerked his hand up to his scar, "I am fame's personal plaything! I'm the spotlight's eternal bitch!" It was not a moment of compassion for the Slytherin trio when he waved his Hermione's wand at them, "Enervate Plurios!"

"How the Sorting Hat cast you in Gryffindor, I'll never know!" roared Harry as weeks of bottled anger and fury erupted, "You did worse than stand idly by and do nothing! You joined the very people that made three years of your, mine and Hermione's life hell whenever they could!" The hexed threesome was stirring slightly, "And I heard about you and Daphne Greengrass! And Cho Chang! You made your bed in Slytherin House!" his voice dropped, "I could have forgiven that. My Hermione, could have forgiven that too. But what I cannot forgive, is that you went along like another one of Malfoy's thugs the night of the leaving feast, when you refused to stand and toast the fallen. You went along and made your bed amongst my enemies!" Harry took a deep breath, "I call you friend no more! I rescind the friendship between us! I break all bonds and ties with you! You made your bed! Sleep in it! Oath Breaker!"

Though Harry had shouted, rained accusations and even had solid proof to convict Ron, it was the last insult the rammed it home to Ron, that this friendship was shattered. The second youngest Weasely stared at his former best mate, whose voice had dropped, wand grasped in a white-knuckle grip. The threatening growl of Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody had nothing on Harry as his wand rose and he stabbed Rob in the chest with the dragon heartstring and vine wood wand he had claimed as his own, "Tell your slithering friends that next year, the gloves are off. They step a millimeter out of line and what I will do them, let's just say magic won't be able to undo or grow back!"

Left to his thoughts for a long moment, Ron Weasely felt his feet go damp and looked down with a snarl of aggravation. Crookshanks had taken a moment to relieve himself, directly on Ron's boots. He snarled and kicked out. The cat leapt aside with a hiss and a flash of its claws slashed a long scratch wound across the boys left ankle, "Crookshanks! Come!" barked Harry.

The cat gave Ron a last long, baleful glare, then trotted out after its new master, and then broke in to a run to catch up. Harry had stormed off the train and barely noticed the crowds of students as they parted around him the way the Red Sea had parted for Moses. Parents stared at him, some in awe, some in shock, and others in fear. He nodded curtly to his friends and passed through the barrier. There was nothing to explain. "Ah…" said George with a sage nod, "That confirms the cause of Harry's sudden ill temper…" Ron had appeared, supporting Draco who looked, slightly worse for wear with the footprints all over his robes.

Beyond the barrier, Uncle Vernon waited with Aunt Petunia and Dudley. They did not notice he was not pushing a trolley, or carrying a cage or that Hedwig was nowhere in sight. But then again, he doubted that they had even noticed him standing less than teen feet away. Harry eyed his relatives, and for the first time, wondered why he was going back to Privet Drive. There was nothing for him at No. 4, and in his current mood, he was more of a threat to them than anyone else…was. "Si vis Pacem, para Bellum," he said aloud, "If you want peace: Prepare for war."

Harry stalked up to his relatives, without so much as a hello, "Got things to take care of." That left all three Durselys staring at him in shock, "Stay out of my way, and hopefully, I will not be around much during the summer."

Vernon Dursley gave Harry a once over and realized that the boy was different. Taller, stronger, filled out with muscle and a glint in his eyes that made him nervous. Petunia was fanning herself with one hand, and using the other to restrain her husband for doing or saying anything unseemly. Harry Potter turned away from them, "I'll make my own way to Privet Drive – if I bother to drop by." Without waiting for an answer, he turned and plunged in to the crowd of emerging students and parents that had just stepped through the barrier. Cutting through that crowd, he slipped in to a group of muggles heading in the opposite direction.

Harry looked down at the cat alongside him, "Up!" The cat leapt in to Harry's arms, met his gaze and purred for a moment, "I miss her too," he whispered softly and he rubbed his head against Harry's chin.

Hedwig hooted gently and flapped her way down, sitting herself on Harry's opposite shoulder as far from Crookshanks as possible. Cat and owl eyed each other for a long moment, and came to some sort of agreement, "You two think you can get along?" Hedwig hooted. Crookshanks meowed, "I'll take that as yes."

They were not human. They were not exactly friends. Where Harry had adopted the former, the later had adopted him. Familiars could be as close to their chosen wizard or witch as family. Even closer.

Fuck his relatives.

They could look after themselves.