Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling.
Info: After OOtP; not HBP and DH compliant
Warnings: It is rated M for a reason though the more graphic scenes will come later into the story (torture, sex, etc.). Also, it is a slash story, so if you don't like it, don't read it.
AN: The first chapter is not the most interesting one. The story truly begins with the second chapter. However, there are some explanations in the chapter which are important for the plot.
So much for me for the moment. I hope you enjoy it!
1. Chapter – The End of the beginning
‚Books, invisibility cloak, clothes, Firebolt, wand...' A young teenager counted for himself. He was standing in the middle of a room resembling a prison cell. Sure there was a bed on the one side (if you could call the cot such), even an old dresser was on the other side of the room and a small desk stood under a window which was open as far as it went, though this meant that it was open not even half the way. An escape from the room through the window seemed highly impossible not only due to the stopper on the window-opening but because of the narrow bars that were installed on the window. The door was barricaded as well. You couldn't detect anything odd with the door from within the room (except from a cat flap). However, if you were to look from the hallway you could detect many locks.
Harry Potter was an unusual teenager. For one there are not so many 16 year olds who would be residing in a prisonlike room – and there was no doubt that Harry Potter had to have spend some time in that room as he was putting his things as he found them in his trunk. Some clothes were in the wardrobe, some on the floor. Books were scattered around the whole room. Some priced possessions had to be dug up from under a loose floorboard. Everything in the room was placed in the trunk but for the wand, the invisibility cloak, which Harry kept on himself, and an empty owl cage that stood on the desk as Harry had already sent Hedwig, his owl, ahead to his destinations.
The boy was also a wizard. A famous wizard to that. Known in the Wizarding world as The Boy Who Lived, The Chosen One and the like. Famous for something he had done at the age of 15 months. He was the only one to survive the killing curse. Hundreds of witches and wizards, thousands of people succumbed to Avada Kedavra. The baby's mother died protecting him, minutes after his father was murdered by none other than the Dark Lord.
Instead of being happy about the fact that he survived and even caused the Dark Lord's departure for almost 14 years, Harry Potter was cursing this very fact. Why did he have to survive? Why not someone else? Don't get me wrong, he wasn't against the fact of walking and breathing. No, he was very much desperate to live – at least he used to be. The problem was that he wasn't allowed to lead his own life. Serving his muggle relatives from the moment on he could walk, living up to expectations of fellow witches and wizards, fighting for his own skin and the lives of his friends and peers every year and now preparing himself for yet another 'adventure', killing the unkillable Lord Voldemort who managed to get himself a new body in the end of Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts.
Yes, Harry found it very much ironic that he, The Boy Who Lived, for all intent and purposes died as the killing curse hit him. He used to fight this, the feeling of not living but barely surviving. He used to disobey orders others gave him. He used to try to push the boundaries in the world he entered at the age of eleven. He used to. But in the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts his world turned upside down. His godfather, Sirius Black, was killed in a battle between the Light and Dark forces at the Ministry of Magic and Harry was at least partially responsible for his death. Were it not for his rash action as reaction to one of false visions Voldemort had sent him through their link, the infamous lightning-bolt-shaped scar, visions Harry was supposed to learn to block but never really put much effort into, Sirius would not have followed the other Order members to the Department of Mysteries in an attempt to rescue Harry and his friends.
There were only few positive things to be said about the ministry fiasco – all of the wizards fighting for the Light side but Sirius escaped relatively unscarred. The Wizarding world acknowledged at last the resurrection of the so called You Who Must Not Be Named albeit one year too late. Some of the high ranking Death Eaters were captured (notwithstanding the fact they were 'rescued' by their Master from the wizarding prison, Azkaban few months later. As Harry said: "People at least know what scum they are.". And lastly Sirius' name was cleared of the false murder accusations post-humously for which he was sent to Azkaban only to escape and be on the run since Harry's third year. Though all of this couldn't lessen the guilt and sorrow Harry felt for his godfather's death.
As if this was not enough, Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, revealed to the last living Potter a prophecy that in fact led to Voldemort's hunt after Harry when he was a baby and so indirectly caused the death of James and Lily Potter.
From the night Sirius died and the prophecy was showed to Harry, he had to live with the knowledge of being the one with the power to "vanquish" the Dark Lord. That he had to either be murdered or become a murderer as "... either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... ".
When Harry later thought about his life up to that night and about the prophecy, he came to the conclusion that he was not supposed to live but barely to survive and serve as the perfect weapon of the Wizarding world. He thought about his non-existent childhood when he worked hard in the household of his only living relatives, the Dursleys, and was beat up for every little mishap that happened to his aunt, uncle or cousin. The worse the mood of his relatives, the worse the 'punishments'. He got only so much food so that his body could function and he was not a stranger to long periods of time with no food whatsoever. Until the age of eleven he lived in a small cupboard full of spiders. After getting his Hogwart's letter he was allowed to use his cousin's second bedroom, room which became during the summers he couldn't spend at his boarding school his own little prison where he was locked when he wasn't cooking, cleaning gardening or maintaining the house.
He thought about every little adventure he went on during his last five years at Hogwarts. Wasn't it strange for the headmaster, a man always so aware of happenings inside and outside the castle to allow a man possessed by Voldemort himself to teach at the school? Why was the Sorcerer's Stone in Harry's first year protected by charms and obstacles easily overcome by eleven year olds? Barely a coincidence? Why had Harry with the help of his friends had to figure what the Slytherin' Monster was and go after Tom Riddle, the teenage version of Lord Voldemort, himself? Why didn't Dumbledore intercept Ginny Weasley as she was acting on Riddle's command? And how is it possible that Dumbledore, the leader of the Order of the Phoenix, wasn't aware of Sirius Black being innocent? How come Harry was forced to participate in the Triwizard Tournament in his fourth year? Sure his name was entered by the impersonated Moody, a Death Eater Barty Crouch, but what reasons were there for him to struggle without any adult guidance in the tasks which in the past caused many a death? And last but not least why didn't he get some individual training in the knowledge that he was to one day fight the most evil dark wizard of modern age?
There were many more questions but you could only speculate as for the answers. However Harry was sure more than ever that Dumbledore was aware of his 'home' life. That he knew when placing Harry as a baby on the doorstep of number 4 Privet Drive in Surrey that Harry was condemned to years of being hated and frowned upon. With the knowledge that the baby would grow up into a very unsure, self-conscious child which could be easily manipulated (or led as Dumbledore would say) to the 'right' pass. That he would have very low self-esteem but would be very independent. Such neglected and abused child would be starved for any kind of affection and recognition and fairly easy to form into anything even the perfect weapon to use against enemies by the first person to offer some kindness.
Why did Harry go after Quirell, Riddle or Sirius Black? Had he as Hermione commented some "saving people thing"? Sure he was after Riddle to save Ginny because she was dear to him as a sister. He went to the Department of Mysteries because he thought Sirius was there being tortured by Voldemort. He went to save them because he couldn't face people he cared about, people who cared about him dying. But why didn't he ask any teachers at his school for help? Was he really so much self-absorbed and arrogant as Snape always said? On the other hand did he really have any reason to trust their help when he was hurt and denied by them time and time again?
With the knowledge of the prophecy and his impending doom he started to understand his life up until now. He had to suffer as a child and adolescent with the Dursleys because he had to be as a blank page when he entered the Wizarding World. Every year at Hogwarts he had to face some kind of test so that Dumbledore could ascertain his power and abilities.
One of the things he didn't really understand was the lack of training in defence. Harry was sure as hell that he, a mere teenager, wouldn't be able to kill Voldemort with the harmless spells he learned at Hogwarts. While he was able to face him on his own and escape three times, who was he to think he would be lucky for the fourth time? If he were to save the Wizarding world at large he had to be more skilful, right?
Harry tried to see it from Dumbledore perspective: If Harry wasn't taught any kind of defence, he would be either forced to work on his own, memorising some defence and fighting spells, and become even more independent, or go in a duel with Voldemort blindly with a high risk of failure and death.
Dumbledore had already made sure that Harry would do anything to bring Voldemort down even if it meant his own death but the question is why would Dumbledore want Harry not to survive the war? Harry wasn't really sure about the answer and he wasn't even certain he wanted to know because if he believed the headmaster wanted his death than every hope in Dumbledore as his mentor and the figurehead of the Light side would be shattered.
Thinking back on his years at Hogwarts couldn't deny the fact that Dumbledore was indeed a master manipulator. The only thing Harry could do was to think about his possibilities. He knew he had to face Voldemort at least once more – be it because of being 'guided' once again or on his own terms. He knew himself well and so the possibility of committing suicide (if it even worked) or leaving the Wizarding world at large didn't come in question.
After the horrendous fifth year and especially everything leading up to Sirius' death, Harry didn't wish to stay the perfect pawn but to start fighting the dark forces on his own terms. Although theoretical knowledge could help only so much in a real battle or duel, the young wizard decided not to allow his Gryffindor' side to get kill him.
During the annual visit to Diagon Alley for school supplies in the end of the summer before Harry's sixth year Harry bought much more books in Flourish & Blotts than he needed to. He bought some books on the Mind Arts, Defence against the dark arts and the Dark Arts themselves.
To Harry's utter amazement he managed to get an Outstanding in Potions and so he could continue with all courses necessary for future Auror career (although he wasn't really sure anymore if this was what he really wanted). Beside his NEWT-level courses Harry spent many hours reading his new books and other books in the library on defence. Apart from that he tried to gain some knowledge on the Dark Arts in order to be able to assess his opponents.
He did everything he could to close his mind. In the books on Occlumency Harry found some helpful advice as to how he was supposed to "clear his mind". He lacked the attacks against his mind from a Legilimence to make sure his walls were as strong and unyielding as ever but he was sure that in the end he mastered the final art of Occlumency.
After applying the suggested technics his mind became more ordered. Harry could concentrate better and his control of his emotions as well as reactions improved. The final and most important proof of his new found skill was the fact that his nearly nightly visions of Voldemort torturing innocent or Death Eater meetings became infrequent and after a while even the strongest of Voldemort's emotions could not force his mind open.
Most of his extra-curricular studies he hid from his friends. He wasn't sure why but he thought that it may be better if his new found hunger for knowledge was kept secret as long as possible. For one he didn't think Dumbledore would approve. Beside that Ron wouldn't understand his lack of interest in Quidditch and both he and Hermione would suspect some dark purpose behind him reading on the Dark Arts or some more powerful defence spells and other curses in the death of night and practicing every now and then when he couldn't sleep in the Room of Requirement.
However he couldn't hide his growing effort as he improved in his classes and spent more time studying than ever before. While Ron accused him of becoming a new Hermione Granger, she herself was very proud of him thinking he was growing up.
Up until Christmas that year Harry 'indulged' in playing Quidditch on the Gryffindor team. Ron was the new Captain and he forced his teammates to train every day at least for two hours regardless of the weather conditions. But then things changed.
When Harry was woken up on the Boxing Day he unwrapped his presents, and joined the other students and professors staying at Hogwarts during dinner. Before dinner arrived the usual evening post arrived and Harry was very much surprised when he found a large hawk carrying a big parcel wrapped in green paper heading for him. Nearly every other occupant of the castle was paying attention to the evening issue of The Daily Prophet or their letters, so he cast some revealing charms on his present checking for curses without anyone noticing. Founding none he stood up, opened the box and all his appetite disappeared.
In the box there was a very big head of a half-giant. The eyes were still staring unblinkingly ahead. The expression of pain, fear and pure agony easily recognisable. Harry paled and as the horror of what he was seeing registered he looked up only to see everyone staring at him.
"What is it?" the headmaster asked calmly.
Harry looked at him unseeingly and tried to form words: "I... H... The... It..."
"Potter, did you use the ability to speak? Well, at least we don't need to listen to your harebrained excuses for total lack of intelligence," Snape interrupted from beside Dumbledore.
"Severus," Dumbledore admonished him mildly and prodded Harry once more. "Harry? What is wrong?"
Harry looked for a moment between the headmaster and the Potions Master although he didn't react any other way to the fact that his potions professor had spoken or that he had just been insulted.
After a while he looked straight into the eyes of the headmaster and holding back tears said: "Hagrid."
Dumbledore frowned a little, stood up and went around the table to look into the box. Every other expression was of confusion but when the headmaster finally looked into the box and his ever present twinkle in the eye vanished, the expressions of everyone present looked scared.
The headmaster ordered not to worry but to celebrate and exited the Great hall levitating Harry's 'Christmas present' being closely followed by Harry and professor Snape.
They went into the headmaster's office where the men inspected closely the box and its contents. Harry sat just staring into nothing in a chair in front of Dumbledor's desk thinking 'Another of my friends dead. Why doesn't he kill me instead of those close to me?' Oh yes, he was certain who had given him such a 'gift'. He didn't need the note in the box Dumbledore gave him to read which said: MERRY CHRISTMAS! L.V.
The headmaster made them drink a tea containing a high dosage of Calming Draught but neither Harry nor Snape complained. Harry knew Hagrid had been making a new attempt on gaining the support of the giants that haven't already joined Voldemort. However he couldn't shake the feeling of guilt.
It took only a day 'til Harry woke up from his lethargy and threw himself even more into both his curricular and extra-curricular studies. He had a row with Ron because of Quidditch. He refused to spend over ten hours a week on "messing around". Ron didn't understand that there were more important things than some games. The only thing he seemed to be interested in was winning the Quidditch Cup.
It ended with Harry actually resigning the team, Ron not speaking with him for nearly two months and Hermione throwing Harry worried looks now and then. However with his new found control and incentive, Harry improved his mask of the not-so-troubled Gryffindor Golden Boy and could fool even Hermione. She was a good friend. Very loyal, kind and intelligent but there were things she better not be aware of. Knowledge that could put her in even more risk than she already was. She was good to talk to but Harry didn't want to broach the subject of Dumbledore's manipulations and his own decisions. Even his best friends didn't know about his home-life or about the prophecy.
And so ended Harry's sixth year. He didn't even dread his six weeks long stay at his aunt and uncles because it was to be his last. On the 31th July he was turning 17 which meant he was becoming legally adult in the Wizarding world. With his adulthood the protection placed on Nr. 4 Privet Drive would lose its effect and so Harry was to be moved few days before to the Order headquarters at Nr. 12 Grimmauld Place in London. An unplottable house he inherited from his deceased godfather.
There was something liberating knowing he was to leave and so he endured his aunt and uncle's ridicule as well as the beatings, thrashings that were sure to leave scars. But he didn't worry much about it. It wasn't as if he didn't know how to make them 'disappear' without breaking the decree of underage sorcery. He covered all of his scars and remaining bruises each year before he rejoined the Wizarding world after all. For a long time he hadn't known how he put such glamour on himself wandlessly but he did it. And there was nothing more to it. He was at least glad that after his acceptance to Hogwarts he did no longer have to deal with broken bones. Those were much harder to heal.
And so now Harry stood in his room thinking about everything he might have forgotten (which couldn't have been much) trying not to move much as not to disturb any lingering marks of his punishments for being a "freak". He controlled once more that every bruise, scar or other mark left by the belt uncle Vernon loved so much to use on him was covered. He hid the dark circles under his eyes as he didn't sleep very much. Occlumency helped him with the visions and even lessened the frequency of his nightmares. Harry, however, pushed himself very hard even during his stay at the Dursleys. Working during the days around the house, being beaten in the evening and studying or doing his homework by night. There was not much time left for anything else.
With everything at the ready the Boy Who Lived waited for Lupin who was to pick him up and side-apparate with him to London.