Longer summary: After the events of the Department of Mysteries at the end of his fifth year, Harry is left back at the Dursleys to deal with the aftermath, as well as his newly discovered role in the war effort. However, unlike last summer, this time he is not going to be alone. Follow Harry and his friends as they try to not only survive the coming war, but live in spite of it.

The story will feature a more grown up Harry, but not necessarily a super!Harry or an independent!Harry. I wanted to make this as canon compliant as possible in an AU story. There will be a lot of help and support from all the usual favourites, and the Weasleys will play a large part in Harry's story, but the focus will be on Dumbledore and Harry's relationship. The only ships that will be included will be canon ones but that won't happen immediately and it won't be the focus of the story. They'll be lots of angst and drama before Harry can have a chance to be happy with Ginny. Also, this story is rated 'T' because of the violence and language, not because of sexual situations. I don't think anything of that nature will ever be explicit in this story because: 1) I don't want it to take over the plot, and 2) I also don't think I'd be very good at writing it.

This might start off as a family/friendship fic that focuses on the development of the relationships between characters, but since Voldemort isn't just going to magically disappear you can expect plenty of action and drama as well. There are a lot of clich├ęs (no magical trunk thankfully), but hopefully I've added a new spin on old ideas. I didn't write this because I hated what JK wrote- I actually adore the books! This is simply a different way of doing things.

Warnings: Some mentions of physical abuse and general violence. Also the occasional naughty word, since Harry is a teenager in this story.

Disclaimer: Anything you recognise probably doesn't belong to me. Harry Potter and his world belong to J.K. Rowling. The song lyrics belong to the people who wrote them.


Chapter 1: Nothing Left


I wake up, it's a bad dream, no one on my side.

I was fighting but I just feel too tired to be fighting.

Guess I'm not the fighting kind.

'A Bad Dream,' Keane


Heavy rain pounded mercilessly on the window of the smallest bedroom at Number Four Privet Drive, a product of one of the wettest and coldest summers that Britain had seen in recent times. However, even though he was wide awake, the room's current occupant paid no attention to it. At the moment, Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the teenager who as a baby defeated the most evil wizard of all time, was lying on his bed staring at the cracks on the ceiling and alternating between rapid periods of extreme anger, followed just as quickly by periods of lethargy so complete that his mind was blank.

On the verge of his sixteenth birthday, Harry Potter was showing all the physical signs of a boy who was leaving childhood behind. He still had a mop of messy black hair on his head but this was now accompanied by a dash of uneven stubble on his chin and above his lip. His frame, which in the past had always been small and slight, was now lanky as though he had recently undergone a growth spurt but had not yet adjusted to it.

However his face, once childlike, no longer held the expression of one who had any of that childlike innocence left. The simple fact was that Harry Potter had seen too much. If you looked closely, beyond the physical attributes, it was clear that Harry Potter had already left childhood far behind. His eyes, green like those of his mother and hidden behind glasses like those of his father, held no laughter and no joy; they were lifeless. At present they were glazed over, caught in a moment of reliving horrific memories that had come to pass but still felt all too real to him.

He saw his parents' last moments, aided by the words he heard every time a Dementor came close to him. "Lily, it's him! Run, take Harry, I'll hold him off". His father's last words before Voldemort had mercilessly ripped the life from him. "Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead!" His mother's plea; her final sacrifice, ready to die to protect her child.

Dead.

He saw the graveyard, a location that for many represented a peaceful resting place for their beloved friends and relatives who had since moved on. Not for Harry though. This particular graveyard held only horrific memories; the unbearable pain of the Cruciatus curse, the humiliation of being ridiculed in front of the Death Eaters, the utter powerlessness that he had felt when facing Voldemort with only a disarming spell to protect himself from certain death. But most of all, he saw the deadened eyes of Cedric Diggory, cruelly taken from the world before he had ever really had the chance to live in it. "Kill the Spare". Only fourteen at the time, Harry had survived the horrific ordeal but Cedric, who had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, had not.

Dead.

Finally he saw the moment that had been plaguing him more than any other this summer. The moment that had been the subject of constant nightmares since the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts; the death of Sirius Black, his Godfather. He watched with intense sadness mingled with overwhelming guilt as Sirius fell through the veil in the Department of Mysteries, his face a mixture of surprise and regret.

Dead.

When thinking of this event, Harry's mind was caught between anger, guilt and regret. Anger at himself, at Bellatrix, at Kreacher; even at Sirius himself. His anger was all consuming at times, leaving no room for rationality. He wanted to shout and scream at the world for how unfair it all was. He wanted to get revenge for Sirius; to get retribution. He wanted to hurt those who had hurt Sirius; who had in turn hurt him.

At other times, he could feel nothing other than regret when he thought of his Godfather. After spending twelve unjust years in Azkaban, Sirius had escaped in order to protect Harry and get revenge on Wormtail. When the truth had finally been unearthed, Sirius had rapidly become something that Harry had never had before. He was a mixture between a father and a brother; he was family. Harry had decided, since then, that he could not, and would not, open himself up to that again, for fear that the pain of loss would destroy him.

For years, whilst at the Dursley's, he had had no one to care for him. When he'd left for Hogwarts he had found best friends in Ron and Hermione and a surrogate family in the Weasleys. But they were not his family, not really. Harry had always wanted someone who would care for him and him only, as selfish as that thought was. He had craved his own family, someone who could be there for him, and with Sirius he had finally found it. Now that Sirius was gone, the pain of the loss hurt Harry so deeply that he almost wished that he had never entered the Wizarding World at all.

Some would say that 'It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all' but Harry now disagreed. He had experienced far too much in his life for it to ever be as black and white as that. Now Harry found that he almost longed to go back to the lonely days of his childhood before Hogwarts where he had had no one to care for him, and therefore no one to lose. He felt as if he had nothing left, and it hurt all the more because he had once had it. He now knew exactly what it was that he was missing, and had been missing all these years.

The loss of that, above all else, was what now haunted Harry the most.


"Boy! Get down here!"

The voice of his Uncle crept into Harry's consciousness like an unwelcome guest. He blinked and instinctively hid his turbulent emotions behind a well practiced mask. He could hide his emotions from his relatives if he wanted to, but as much as he tried, he could not prevent himself from feeling them. He hated feeling weak, but at the moment his grief and guilt just wouldn't leave him. He wasn't even sure if he really wanted them to.

"BOY!" his Uncle yelled from downstairs. "If you don't get down here within the next three seconds you will be in serious trouble!"

Harry knew that it was likely that this was an empty threat. The talk that the Order members had had with the Dursleys at Kings Cross seemed to have worked; the Dursleys, and his Uncle in particular, had left him well enough alone.

Up until now, it seemed.

Harry moved off his bed and smoothed out the hand-me-down t-shirt and oversized jeans that he was wearing before slowly making his way downstairs, his emotionless mask firmly in place.

"Yes?" Harry said as he walked into the living room to face his Uncle. Since he knew that his Aunt and cousin weren't in the house, he had expected to find Uncle Vernon alone. However, to his surprise not only did he find his Uncle there but also a face that was instantly more friendly and welcoming to Harry, but that also brought with it an uncomfortable sense of dread.

"Professor Dumbledore, sir..." Harry stuttered, "What are you doing here?"

He realised as soon as the words had left his mouth that this may seem rude to the Professor, but Harry's shock at having a wizard such as Dumbledore in this house had left his brain temporarily stunned into stupidity. From Dumbledore's extremely long white beard, to the lavish purple robes that he wore with dignity, the Hogwarts Headmaster couldn't have looked more out of place in the Dursley's very ordinary, boring, muggle house if he had suddenly spouted wings.

Dumbledore peered at the teenager in front of him over the top of his half moon spectacles and frowned as he took in everything from the huge bruise-like bags under the young man's eyes to the unhealthy white pallor of his skin.

"I am simply here to see how you are holding up, Harry my dear boy," he said kindly, but with his light blue eyes missing their usual twinkle.

At this, Harry's own eyes dropped to the floor. He knew that if he looked Professor Dumbledore in the face then he would not be able to lie to him. Dumbledore would see straight through his mask of indifference and would know that he was almost certainly not holding up well. In truth, Harry was barely keeping it together at all. However, he had no intention of letting his Headmaster know that; he didn't want to appear weak in front of the man he had always greatly admired. So instead, Harry lied.

"I'm fine, Sir" Harry replied dully, his gazed firmly fixed on the disgusting patterns on his Aunt's carpet. He didn't want to talk about it. Not with anyone. Before Dumbledore could effectively refute this claim, Harry asked his previous question again, unsatisfied with the answer that Dumbledore had provided.

"Sir, why are you here?" Harry repeated. However even as he had begun speaking, a terrible thought crawled into Harry's mind, something that had been worrying him since the events of the Department of Mysteries.

"Is something wrong, Sir? Is it Voldemort-?" At this, Harry's eyes rapidly rose to meet those of Dumbledore's, but the Headmaster quickly eased his panic.

"Harry, I'm simply here to find out if everything is alright. You seem to have forgotten to write to a member of the Order since you returned home, and I have had so many requests as to your well being that I thought I might pay a visit and see how you're doing for myself." Harry blanched at this, but was saved from making a response when his Uncle spoke.

"As you can see the boy is fine. There'll be no need for any visits from any of your kind," Uncle Vernon interjected quickly, gesturing a meaty hand towards his nephew. It seemed that Uncle Vernon was making an inhuman effort to remain casual and calm in front of the intimidating company, but Harry, well trained to his Uncle's moods, definitely noticed a trace of anger and fear in his voice. Harry supposed that his uncle was still tense over the threat made by Moody and the others when he had been picked up at the train station at the start of the summer. However, Dumbledore paid no attention to the panic that Uncle Vernon was now displaying, nor to the rapidly changing colour of his face. Dumbledore simply raised an eyebrow to him, ignoring him otherwise, as the Headmaster continued to speak once again.

"Harry, it's been four days since term ended, and yet none of the guard have seen you leave the house. Judging by your appearance, I'd go so far as to suggest that you have barely even left your room." Harry's cheeks turned red at this; he had indeed not left his room for the last few days, not even to eat (his aunt had reverted back to using the cat flap on his door), and hygiene had certainly not been foremost on his mind.

"I've been doing homework, Sir. I wanted to get a head start," Harry murmured, hoping that Dumbledore would accept the lie, "In fact I'd like to get back to it now-"

"Harry", Dumbledore gently interrupted, "Forgive me, but I think your homework may wait a moment. We are all worried about you, and I think even Professor Snape would not begrudge you a break from your schoolwork."

Harry just scoffed, not bothering to censor his thoughts on the matter from his Headmaster.

"On second thoughts," conceded Dumbledore with a slight twinkle in his eyes, "perhaps not."

But Harry was in no mood for Dumbledore's games, nor his cheerfulness. He had always greatly respected the Headmaster, and still trusted his judgement despite the mistakes that Dumbledore had made with regards to his life, but Harry's present emotional state left no room for the jovial attitude that Dumbledore so often displayed in order to put someone else at ease. It seemed, however, that Dumbledore was also aware of this, because the twinkle left his eyes and he became serious once more.

"Harry, there is no shame in admitting that you are finding it hard to cope. You not only lost someone close to you, but you were also made aware of a heavy burden-"

"I'm fine, Sir." Harry interrupted almost at once, "I'll remember to write to the Order next time so that no one else's time is wasted. I'm sorry if I've caused any trouble." And without waiting for a response, Harry made a swift exit from the room. He did not want to see the look of worry or disappointment that would surely be found on Professor Dumbledore's face but he just couldn't talk about the Prophecy. Not yet. He didn't even want to think about that.


Once he reached the relative safety of his room, Harry heard his Uncle demanding that the Headmaster leave at once, followed by sound of the door slamming. As he was preparing himself for another long night of nightmares, Harry was unpleasantly surprised when his Uncle called him back down.

"BOY! Get down here right now!" The tone in his voice suggested trouble to Harry's well practiced ears.

What have I done now? Harry thought, sighing. All I want is to just be left alone.

When he re-entered the living room, it was clear to Harry that his Uncle was furious, his face rapidly turning a dangerous shade of purple.

"What was the meaning of that? Why the hell is one of your lot making a visit here?" They aren't welcome here!" His Uncle yelled, his spit spraying over the floor. Uncle Vernon grabbed Harry's arm and yanked Harry towards him.

"I forgot to write to let them know I was alright", replied Harry wincing, trying to free himself from his Uncle's painful grip. "It won't happen again!" Harry meant every word as well. He had as much reason to prevent any impromptu visits to Privet Drive as his Uncle had. He didn't want to see or speak to anyone. He wanted to be left alone.

Uncle Vernon, however, didn't seem to be placated. In fact, if anything, he became even more angry.

"You're damn right it won't! I am not having those good-for-nothing freaks coming and going as they please!" Uncle Vernon replied furiously, tightening his grip on his nephew, but Harry, who had more than enough on his mind, was no longer willing to take his Uncle's behaviour without a fight. The emotional state that had filled the last few days had finally taken its toll. He snapped.

"They are not freaks," Harry said fearlessly, trying to rile up his Uncle. "They are ten times the people you will ever be! I've had enough! You hate me, and I hate you, but you will tolerate anything I tell you to, and you will treat me with some respect because I AM THE ONLY THING KEEPING YOU AND YOUR FUCKING FAMILY ALIVE-!

SMACK!

Harry fell heavily to the floor from his Uncle's blow, his face stinging from the contact.

"HOW DARE YOU!" his Uncle roared. "AFTER EVERYTHING WE'VE DONE FOR YOU, YOU UNGRATEFUL-"

Harry didn't care anymore; he just laughed humourlessly at his uncle, mocking his words.

"GET UP TO YOUR ROOM RIGHT THIS INSTANT BEFORE I KNOCK THE STUFFING OUT OF YOU! AND DON'T YOU DARE EXPECT ANY FOOD TONIGHT-"

But Harry was far too used to threats such as this from his so-called family for it to have any real effect. He just calmly picked himself up from the floor and left the room without even looking back at his Uncle, his fists clenched so hard that his knuckles had turned white. As he made his way back to his bedroom, he picked up a cloth from the bathroom and gingerly applied it to his bleeding lip.

On entering his haven, he made his way to his bed and lay back down on it fully clothed. As he tended to his lip, his anger at his Uncle immediately evaporated and despair filled him once again. The visit from Dumbledore had only succeeded in further reminding Harry of the events of the end of last year, in particular the contents of the Prophecy that the Headmaster had finally revealed to him; 'The one with the power to defeat the Dark Lord approaches...'

But he refused to allow himself to dwell on this, scared that his fear would overtake him and he would lose whatever grip on reality that he had left.

However, now as he stared at the ceiling once again, instead of horrific memories his vision was filled with all the faceless, nameless strangers who would lose their lives if Harry could not do what the Prophecy demanded of him. All those people and families that Harry feared would be lost when he inevitably failed.

Dead.


A/N- Thanks for reading! Reviews would be appreciated, because this is the first time I've ever posted anything here and I really could do with some feedback. More chapters will follow soon, if people want them to...

Coming up... Chapter 2: Options and Choices