Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat and pulled out his watch yet again. He was waiting in Dumbledore's office for him and Sirius, who had been gone over 6 hours, and he was beginning to worry that something had gone wrong. It had only been a week since Dumbledore had met with Mr. Thurston, who was currently serving as temporary Minister of Magic, to discuss what had really happened between Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew almost 16 years ago.

From what Harry had been told about the meeting, Thurston was less than eager to even consider that Sirius wasn't guilty, but he had too much opposition from other members of the Ministry, mostly due to Arthur Weasley. Arthur had more support than Thurston had expected, and since he is only acting Minister of Magic, he did not have the authority to override them. His few followers, which included Percy Weasley, paled compared to Arthur's.

Harry had been quite surprised to hear this considering the last time he had seen Thurston and Mr. Weasley together, Thurston seemed to have a stronger following. But apparently, the people he brought with him that day, were pretty much the only ones who were behind him. Therefore, he had agreed to see Sirius today, and requested that the body of Pettigrew be brought as well. He had tried to say that a dead body would prove nothing, but was again overridden.

They were lucky they still had Peter's body, which strangely looked the same as it had on the day he died. Harry could only guess that it must be because of the knowledge still held within him. Tytros had apparently done as he said he would, and spoke to Forden about letting them hold onto it until Sirius' name was cleared, and Forden had come to speak with Dumbledore about it. Harry hadn't been told anything about that meeting, except that they could keep Peter until after today. Sirius was grateful for this, though he still didn't trust Tytros and Harry felt much the same. It was too hard to forget how he had tricked Harry, and almost cost him his life, only a few weeks ago.

Harry was stirred out of these thoughts however when he heard a noise behind him. He jumped out of his chair and spun around to see Dumbledore come into the office.

"What happened? You've been gone so long!" he exclaimed. Then he began looking past him anxiously. "Where's Sirius?" He couldn't bare the thought that Sirius may have been found guilty and sent back to prison.

"Calm down Harry, he's alright." Dumbledore said smiling.

"Then.then everything's okay? He's free?" Harry said in excitement.

"I will let him tell you. He wants you to meet him outside."

Harry smiled widely and left the office in a hurry. He ran through the halls at top speed until he came to the school entrance. When he pushed the doors open, he immediately spotted Sirius standing by the lake. It was a beautiful day and the sun was sparkling on the water. A wonderful breeze ruffled through Harry's hair as he trotted over to his godfather.

Sirius turned as he heard Harry approaching and for a moment, the two of them just stood a few feet away, looking at each other. Then Sirius' face broke out in a large smile, he nodded once. Harry's heart leaped with joy! He knew; Sirius was free! There would be no more hiding away from people and no more traveling in his animagus form. Harry couldn't remember the last time he had felt this happy or excited. He ran forward and gave his godfather a fierce hug. When they pulled apart, he noticed that Sirius' eyes were glassy, like he had been crying, but he knew these weren't tears of sadness. Neither of them spoke, they stood in silence for a few minutes looking out over the lake. Sirius broke the silence first.

"I have something I want to ask you."

Harry looked at him, waiting.

"I know I've mentioned this once already, a little over three years ago, but since so much time has passed I want to ask again. Would you consider.coming to live with me?"

"Yes!" Harry answered without hesitation. He had wanted this since Sirius had first asked him all those years ago. It seemed like ages now, but he wanted it just as badly. "I would love to come live with you."

Sirius smiled and it looked like he might cry again, but he didn't, just sat there with a big silly grin on his face.

"We're going to have to get the house.prepared first," Sirius continued. "Similar to how everything was set up for you at the Dursley's. Then when everything is ready we can move you in."

"Will there be another Secret Keeper?" Harry asked nervously, remembering Mrs. Figg. It was impossible for him not to feel guilty when he remembered her, or anyone else that had died because Voldemort was after him.

"Yes," Sirius answered quietly. "I'm afraid it's necessary for your protection."

"Who will it be?" Harry asked.

"Don't worry about that now," Sirius said quickly, then stood up. "I have to start getting everything ready and let Dumbledore know that you will be coming with me. I'll be leaving tonight but I'll be back for you in about a week, okay?"

Harry stood up with him, feeling as if this were the best day of his life. He had never had a place he considered a real home. The Dursley's house felt like a prison, the Burrow was nice to visit, and he loved Hogwart's, but nothing had ever been someplace he could call home. He nodded at Sirius and the two of them walked back to the school together.

When they were inside, Sirius set off for Dumbledore's office, and Harry went to the great hall. As he hadn't eaten all day waiting upstairs, he felt nearly famished. He noticed that some of the Slytherins that had to take their exams over the summer were there, so he quickly grabbed some food from his table and headed back for the door. He felt very uncomfortable being in the same room alone with them, as Malfoy had told them that Harry had been the one who turned them in and they were less than pleased with him.

He glanced over his shoulder once more before stepping through the door, where he crashed head on with Draco Malfoy.

"Why don't you watch where you're going Potter?" Malfoy spat at him standing up quickly and wiping food off his robes. Harry didn't say anything, he just picked up whatever he thought he could still eat and stood up, and was surprised to see Draco still standing there.

"Yes?" he asked impatiently.

"You're in my way," Draco replied icily.

Harry just rolled his eyes. It's not as if there weren't room for him to step around. He moved to the side and walked past Malfoy, heading back to his tower. But he hadn't gotten even five feet when he heard Malfoy speak again. "How did you get away?"

Harry turned to face him, suspiciously.

"What do you mean?" he asked in a low voice.

"I know where they took you.my father and the others. How did you get away?"

"Why do you care?" Harry asked. "You certainly didn't seem to care that they took me in the first place, or you would've gotten help instead of staying quiet so what difference does it make now?"

"I don't care," Malfoy said disgustedly. "Not about you. If you're not gonna answer then fine, just say so. Besides I'd take my father's side any day over yours."

"So I've noticed. You don't care what's right just that it's what your father wants you to do."

"If it was your father you'd do the same."

"No I wouldn't. Not if he wanted me to endanger someone else's life. Besides my father wouldn't have done that," Harry replied.

"How would you even know?" Malfoy sneered. "Your father's dead." Harry just glared at him in hatred.

"Portkey, I got away using a portkey," he said, then turned and stalked off down the hall.

Harry was fuming as he walked back to his tower. How dare Malfoy even speak about his father that way! And why did he want to know how he'd gotten away? Wouldn't his father have told him, as he knew so much already? Then another thought occurred to him. How much did Malfoy really know? Had he been told everything that was going on, or just what his father.or Voldemort wanted him to know. Harry had to consider the possibility that Draco might be being used against him, whether he knew it or not.

When he was in the common room at last, he sat down to have dinner; his thoughts drifted back to a few weeks ago and his recent run in with Voldemort. He had been lucky yet again, but he wondered when the time would come that his luck would run out.

Then there was the spell he had witnessed, with that horrible red snake-like creature. Voldemort had said that he would become invincible that night, but Harry thought the spell was just to extract his blood from him. He wished he could ask someone about it, but he knew the only person who might be able to answer his question would be a Zlam, and he was in no rush to speak with any of them.

When he finished his dinner, he went upstairs to his dormitory, and was surprised to see a large gray owl on his bed with a letter tied to his leg. He grabbed his moneybag, which was painfully light at this point since he hadn't been to Gringott's in almost a year, and handed him a few knuts before untying the letter. The bird squawked once before jumping up in a flurry of feathers and zooming out the window.

Harry sat down on the edge of his bed and ripped open the letter, he couldn't believe it when he looked down and saw that it was from Hagrid! He hadn't heard from him in over a year and was wondering what had been happening. Dumbledore had assured him several times that Hagrid was okay, but wouldn't say anything else. He scanned the letter quickly and found that Hagrid would be returning to Hogwart's for the year and would be teaching Care of Magical Creatures again. He made no mention of what he had been up to for the past two years, just said he would speak to Harry when he arrived and not to send a response.

Harry sighed happily. For the first time in a while things seemed to be going right and he wanted it to continue. He went over to the window and stared outside at the beautiful pink and gold sunset, wishing his contended feeling would last forever.

That week went by slower than anything for Harry, as he was eager for Sirius to return to get him. He was glad, for the first time in his life, to be leaving Hogwart's. He spent the week mostly in the Gryffindor tower, as he didn't want to be anywhere near the Slytherins and either read books on quidditch or polished his Firebolt. When the weekend came, Harry was fully packed and ready to go by the time Sirius came through the portrait hole. He looked at Harry with all his things in the common room and smiled.

"Anxious to leave are you? I thought you liked it here," he said with a laugh.

"I do," Harry said quickly, "but I've been here for a full year now, and the summers are a bit dull with no one around."

"Well you have all those nice Slytherin boys." Sirius began, playfully. "You try spending time with a group of guys that look at you like they want you dead and tell me how it feels."

"I know how that feels, I got that a lot when I was here. So did your father as I recall. One of those glares was always from Severus Snape too."

"I believe it," Harry said, thinking of how Snape usually looked at him. "So, are we going then?" he asked eagerly. Sirius grinned and nodded at him, they both lifted the trunk with the rest of Harry's things piled on top and headed out into the hall.

"We're going to Dumbledore's office," Sirius said as they walked. "He's having a passage opened for us to use floo powder from his fireplace, like he did to get you here last year."

Harry just nodded at him, when they reached the office after having lugged everything up the stairs; they found Dumbledore waiting for them.

"Everything is ready?" he asked Sirius.

"Yes, it's all set. Just as you told us."

"Very good," Dumbledore replied nodding, then he turned to Harry. "Enjoy the rest of your summer Harry. I look forward to seeing you in September."

"I will. Thank you, for letting me go with Sirius," Harry said sincerely. Dumbledore again just nodded and smiled at the two of them.

Sirius grabbed some floo powder from his jacket pocket and together he and Harry moved to the fire, he threw some of it and they stepped in. Harry felt the spinning sensation as they were whisked away to Sirius' house.

When they landed finally, they both had to catch their balance quickly to keep from toppling forward and spilling all of Harry's belongings. When they were both a few feet from the fireplace, the put down the trunk and Harry looked around. Everything was the same as last year, but somehow it looked, cozier. Much more like a home than a hideout. There were pictures up now, and the kitchen had a full set up, rather than just the rickety table and chair that had been there last time.

"Well," Sirius said, "let's take your things up to your room, then you can explore all you want."

Harry was ecstatic. His own room! Not one that was just a storage space for Dudley's old things, or a cupboard. And while he loved the dorms at Hogwart's, it wasn't his own room. When they got upstairs to where the bedrooms were, he was surprised to see that the few belongings he had that he left at the Dursley's were there. He looked at Sirius questioningly.

"Remus and I stopped by your aunt and uncle's house two days ago and picked these up for you. If there's anything missing tell us as we told them we'd return if they lied to us about what was actually yours," he said smiling, devilishly. Harry was grinning just thinking about how the Dursley's must've reacted, he almost wished he'd been there to see it.

"No, I'm sure nothing's missing. Actually I think you have some stuff here that isn't mine," Harry said, looking around.

"Well, whatever it is they can always get a new one," Sirius said nonchalantly. "We would have taken you with us, but it isn't safe for you to be at that house right now."

"I understand. I wasn't in any rush to see them anyway, as long as they'll be safe. They will be, right?" Harry asked not so sure all of a sudden.

"Voldemort isn't after your relatives, and he knows you don't care for them so using them against you probably isn't something he's planning on," Sirius replied looking at Harry. "Don't worry about it, they'll be fine."

Harry nodded at him, hoping he was right. It was true he didn't like the Dursley's but he didn't want anyone else to be hurt or killed because of him.

"I'm going to head downstairs and make us some lunch while you get settled in up here. Then I'll show you the rest of the house," Sirius said. He walked over to the door and just before he walked out he turned to Harry once more. "Welcome home," he said, smiling, then turned again and left the room.

Harry didn't need to spend any time at all getting used to calling this house his home, it had felt that way since he first arrived. He spent much of his time with Sirius talking about quidditch and school, but most of all, his parents. Harry loved to hear any stories that Sirius would share with him about what his parents were like in school and all the pranks they pulled on Snape. It made him feel closer to them in a way.

They didn't go out much as Sirius was still a bit leery that people wouldn't accept the fact that he wasn't a murderer too quickly. But Harry didn't mind, he just wanted to spend as much time as possible with his godfather and it didn't matter to him where they spent that time.

He really wanted to show his friends the house and asked Sirius if he could invite them over at some point during the summer.

"They're already coming, I've invited them for your birthday," Sirius told him.

"When were you going to tell me?" Harry asked suspiciously.

"I just did, didn't I?" he replied, grinning.

Harry just shook his head and laughed to himself.

On the night before his birthday, he stayed up late as he usually did, he wasn't expecting presents from his friends as he knew they were coming that day, but it was sort of like a tradition for him now. One owl did show up, about ten minutes after he was 17, and it had his school letter. He read over it quickly and decided to take a closer look tomorrow, then went to bed.

Harry woke up much earlier than he intended however, he was jolted out of sleep by a very sudden pain that filled his head. He knew immediately that it wasn't his scar, but couldn't even think of what else might be causing it when it suddenly vanished. Harry raised his head slowly and opened his eyes, which were burning. He tried rubbing at them, but it only made it worse, so he stopped, hoping the feeling would cease.

When it finally faded, he blinked a few times before looking around the room. He noticed it was almost quarter after five in the morning, too early to get up. For a moment he was tempted to wake Sirius and tell him what had happened, but decided against it. I can't just run to him every time I get a headache, he thought. He laid back down again, pushing the covers down, as he was very hot now, and closed his eyes. If it happened again, he decided, then he would tell Sirius.

It was only a few minutes before he was sleeping soundly, as if nothing had happened.

Later on that morning, Harry felt himself being shaken awake, lightly. He rolled over onto his back and saw Sirius standing over him.

"Happy Birthday!" he said excitedly. Harry smiled; his godfather's expression was similar to that of a small child on Christmas morning. He supposed it was for the same reason he himself was excited, Sirius had never been able to see Harry on his birthdays until this one.

"Hey," Harry replied, "thanks!" He glanced down and saw that Sirius had a large tray with him. It was filled with all of Harry's favorite breakfast foods and the wonderful aroma was making his mouth water. Sirius held up the tray and moved it towards Harry. "I thought breakfast in bed would be nice, since I don't think you've ever had the pleasure before," he said gently placing the tray down.

"No, not unless you count the few days when the Dursley's gave me cold soup once a day and wouldn't let me leave the room." Harry laughed at the memory now, though at the time he had been pretty scared.

"I certainly do not count that, horrid muggles," Sirius muttered. "Well are you going to eat, or let it get cold?" he asked.

"Want some?" Harry asked seeing the overwhelming amount of food in front of him. It would've been enough for three of him. Sirius grabbed a piece of bacon and the two of them ate together, chatting about what they would do when everyone arrived.

When he was finished, Harry got out of bed to get ready and Sirius took the tray downstairs. When he had just finished getting dressed, he went to the door and went down. No sooner had he stepped into the living room then the fire in the fireplace turned a bright emerald green, and Ron half stepped, half fell forward out of the hearth.

"Ron!" Harry said smiling.

"Oy! Harry! Happy Birthday!" Ron said, then quickly jumped out of the way as the fire had turned green again, Hermione stepped gracefully into the room. Soon all of the Weasleys had arrived and they all were carrying a package of some sort.

"I'm so excited you guys could come," Harry said after saying hello to all of them, I can't wait to show you the house!" He was about to pull his friends upstairs and let Sirius entertain Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, when there was another flash of green in the fireplace. Harry's jaw dropped in surprise when Cho stepped into the room.

"Harry!" she exclaimed happily spotting him immediately and walking over.

"I didn't know you were coming!" he said, amazed, then looked to Sirius, who was grinning. "You didn't think I'd ask your girlfriend to come?" he asked. Harry just smiled at him, then turned back to Cho. The two of them embraced for a moment, but Harry felt a little uncomfortable doing anything else in front of everyone.

"I'm glad you're here," he said. "C'mon upstairs with us, I'll show you around!"

Harry, Cho, Ron, Hermione and Ginny left the adults to talk and headed up to see the rest of the house.

Harry took his friends around upstairs. He showed them the guestrooms and where the girls would be staying, then told Ron they'd be moving another bed into his room for him to sleep in. He showed them his own room, which still didn't have much in it besides what he took to Hogwart's with him, as he and Sirius hadn't gone out much. He did have the few things, that used to be Dudley's, which Sirius and Remus had grabbed accidentally, but they were mostly just some of his old broken games. Ron thought they were the weirdest things he had ever seen, and was particularly intrigued by one of them. He picked it up and started turning it over in his hands, looking at it intently.

"What is it, what does it do?" he asked finally, looking at Harry in confusion. Harry held in a laugh, as he didn't want to make Ron feel bad.

"It's called a Rubik's Cube," he said. "And it doesn't do anything. You mix up the squares so the colors don't match anymore, then you try and put them back in order."

"That's it? Nothing comes out of it, it doesn't open or anything?" Ron asked.

"That's it. Though I don't know if that one would be any good anymore," Harry said looking skeptically at the battered cube. Dudley had gotten completely frustrated with it some time ago and decided to just rip the colors off and paste them on again so they matched. Most of them were now ripped, peeling or completely gone.

After they had gone through the upstairs, they headed back down to the kitchen.

"Harry, let's go into the den," Sirius said getting up from his seat, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley stood up as well.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"I though we should open your presents now, before dinner."

Harry smiled at him and turned back towards the den. When everyone was sitting down and Harry had a pile of packages in front of him, he started to go through them. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had given him a sweater that she knitted, and they also had brought a cake for later. Harry laughed at the thought that he could probably open a sweater shop with all the old ones that didn't fit him anymore. They would all be the same color and style, as Mrs. Weasley didn't ever change what she used for each of them, but he still loved the fact that she cared enough to do this for him. He thanked both of them, and went to the next package.

Harry opened the next gift and saw a long, bright yellow box, with no markings on it. He glanced around the room, not knowing who this was from, then slowly lifted the lid of the box. Inside there was a note.

Dear Harry,

Happy Birthday! We're both very busy right now and we couldn't make it there today, but we'll see you soon. Bring this box with you to Diagon Alley when you come for your school supplies. Ron will show you where to go.

Fred and George

Harry looked at Ron questioningly, and he just smiled back. He decided not to ask anything now, though, as Mrs. Weasley appeared to be frowning at the box. He just set it aside and picked up the next package. He knew immediately it was from Ron because, like his mother, the present was usually the same each year. But that was okay because Harry loved Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and Chocolate Frogs. He knew Ron loved to give him these because Harry always shared them with him too.

The next gift was from Hermione. Harry opened a very meticulously wrapped box and slid the lid off. Inside was a large, leather bound book with Strategies written on the front in block letters. When he opened it he saw the first page was labeled Chasers, and it was filled with people in quidditch robes, of all different heights and weights. This went on for three pages, then there were two pages of beaters and a page of seekers. The next few pages contained different quidditch maneuvers and explanations for each of them. When he got to the end, there was a quidditch field spread out over two pages, but it was completely empty of players. There were two bludgers, a quaffle and a snitch off to the side. He looked up at Hermione, not wanting to insult her, but not quite sure what how to use the book.

She looked at him in amusement, as if she had expected this and moved closer to him, pulling out her wand.

"Watch," she said. She took her wand and quickly touched the tip of it to three of the chasers, two beaters, and a seeker. Then did the same thing all over again. When she flipped to the last page, it was now showing two full quidditch teams on their brooms in the air. The bottom of the left page said Team A and the right said Team B.

"Now, touch your wand to Team A, then pick out a maneuver you want to use, then give it to Ron," she said, "You do the same for team B," she continued, looking at Ron. Harry and Ron did as they were told, then flipped to the back of the book again. An actual game was playing out and the teams were performing the moves both of them had chosen.

"You can use it to see what the plays will look like ahead of time, and see what defenses work best," Harry said, figuring it out. This was fantastic! He looked up at Hermione smiling largely.

"Thank you!" he said happily. She smiled back at him.

"Glad you like it."

"Like it? I love it! Do you know how much this will help when we're practicing this year? It's great!" Harry said excitedly. He didn't mention the fact that he had no idea if there was going to be quidditch this year, after what happened last year. He gingerly placed the book on the table next to his seat and picked up the last package.

He picked up the last package, and turned it over in his hands, before tearing the paper off. He pulled the lid off the tiny box and peered inside, suddenly a flash of gold flew out of the box, and hovered in front of him. Harry gasped as he saw it was a golden snitch. He stared at it in amazement until suddenly it zoomed across the room Harry stood up to go after it but before he could take a step, Cho snatched it from the air, and handed it to him.

"Look at that, I finally beat you to the snitch," she said playfully. He just beamed at her. This was so wonderful. He wouldn't have to practice with apples or rocks any longer; he had his own snitch. She handed it back to him and he grasped her hand as she did so, he didn't care who was around this time. He pulled her close to him and kissed her. When they finally separated, Harry noticed that Sirius had a lopsided grin on his face, and Cho was glowing.

"Thank you, I love it," he whispered to her. Before she could answer there was a noise near the hearth, everyone looked to see the flames had turned green, and not five seconds later, Lupin stepped out.

"Am I in time?" he said looking quickly to Sirius.

"Just," he replied. Lupin smiled then looked around the room. He said hello to everyone and then turned to Harry.

"Happy birthday Harry. Sorry I couldn't be here earlier but I had a few things to take care of."

"That's okay Remus, glad you could come. I didn't even know you were gonna be here." "Well I had to see your face when we gave you OUR present," Lupin answered. He looked at Sirius who nodded, then turned and headed for the stairs.

Harry looked after Sirius, then questioningly at Lupin. "Should I be scared?" he asked, knowing the two of them had a very high tendency to pull pranks. They were like older versions of Fred and George. Lupin just shook his head at Harry, grinning.

When Sirius came back downstairs, Harry instantly recognized the shape of the package.

"You see now why I couldn't leave it lying there with the others? Much too obvious." He walked over to Harry and handed it to him. "Happy birthday from Remus and I."

Harry ripped the paper away to reveal a brand new racing broom; the handle read 'Moontrimmer 800'

"Moontrimmer?" Ron asked. "I didn't think the made those anymore."

"It's true they stopped for a while," Remus began, "but they've started producing them again and this is the latest model. It can reach speeds that match the Firebolt, and is just as easy, if not easier, to maneuver. But it can reach incredible heights faster than any broom out there. The diving capabilities are amazing as well. The best part is, these aren't even on the market yet."

"How did you get it then?" Harry asked, still staring at the amazing broom. Remus smirked.

"I ran into Ludo Bagman at the ministry. It just so happens he owes me from something that happened between us a long time ago, something that we won't get into now. He offered me a chance to get one of these before they go on sale in a few weeks, at a discounted price."

"All of the professional leagues are already after these, it's going to take the place of the Firebolt as the International Standard," Sirius said.

"Thank you, both of you," Harry said. "I don't know what else to say, I can't believe all of this!" He looked back and forth from Sirius to Remus, then to everyone in the room. This was without a doubt, the best birthday he'd ever had.

"You don't have to say anything, just seeing your face is enough thanks for me," Sirius said. "Now, who wants dinner?"

When dinner was over, and they all had had some cake, Harry wanted to go try out his new broom, and practice with the snitch. Since there was a nice open area behind the house, which was far from muggle eyes, Sirius was fine with that idea. He also told them it would be okay if they wanted to use his broom. Harry ran upstairs, grabbed his Firebolt, then into Sirius' room to grab his Tinderblast, then back downstairs.

The five of them headed for the back, and stepped out into the cool summer breeze. It was still early evening so they had a couple hours of daylight left and Harry didn't want to waste any of it. He handed his Firebolt to Ron, who was looking at it eagerly, and Cho said Ginny could use the Tinderblast first as Hermione seemed utterly uninterested in participating. The two girls sat down in the lush grass as the other three mounted their brooms.

When Harry kicked off, he felt the familiar exhilaration that he got every time he flew, rushing back to him. The Moontrimmer was magnificent; he glided through the air and made a few laps around the area. Ron and Ginny were doing the same, Ron clearly enjoying the way the Firebolt handled.

Cho let the snitch out after a few minutes and the three of them began searching for it. Harry was the one to catch it every time, though, and after a while he went back down to the ground. Cho and Hermione took turns as well, and everyone kept switching brooms so they all got a chance on the Moontrimmer. When it finally began to get dark, the five friends headed back inside.

"You looked good out there," Sirius said.

"Watching us, were you?" Harry asked, smiling.

"Of course, I had to see how that broom handled," Sirius replied. He left out that he didn't like for Harry to be out of his sight right now, no matter how many people he was with.

"Harry, dear," Mrs. Weasley began stepping forward. "I wish we could stay longer but it's time Arthur and I headed home." She came up to him and pulled him into a strong hug, he hugged her back. "Happy Birthday dear," she said as she pulled away from him.

Harry looked at her and was shocked when he saw tears in her eyes, he couldn't think of anything that might have happened to make her cry.

"Thank you, both of you, for everything," he said looking back and forth between the two of them. Mrs. Weasley wiped her eyes quickly, then moved towards Ron and Ginny.

"The two of you behave yourselves and do whatever Mr. Black tell you too, got it?" she said sternly.

"Mum, c'mon, you know we will," Ron said rolling his eyes. She looked like she might reprimand him, but instead turned and headed back to Mr. Weasley. The two of them took floo powder back to the Burrow.

"Well, I better be going too," Remus said after the Weasleys left. "I have a few things I need to do, but I'm so glad I made it in time today," he said smiling. "Happy Birthday, Harry! Don't get into too much trouble before school starts, got it?"

"I don't plan on it, though with Sirius around." Harry trailed off grinning. Sirius looked at him, seeming insulted, but knowing Harry was only joking.

Remus said goodbye to everyone and told Sirius he would speak with him soon, then took out some floo powder and stepped into the fireplace. Sirius then turned to Harry and his friends.

"I'm sure you want to spend more time with your friends, and you can see me everyday, so I don't mind if you want to go upstairs now."

Harry smiled at Sirius, he did actually want to hang out with the others right now, but he wanted to talk with his godfather first.

"Guys, I'll meet you upstairs, in my room, okay?" he asked looking at them. They nodded and said goodnight to Sirius, before heading up. Harry then turned back around.

"What was wrong with Mrs. Weasley? She looked very upset just before she left."

Sirius looked at him for a moment before answering.

"Percy has left home, on some bad terms. She's very worried about him, as is Arthur."

"What do you mean? Did they say why he left?" Harry asked anxiously, remembering how uncomfortable he felt last time he was with Percy. Sirius sighed.

"Percy has graduated, and has a job that will allow him to provide for himself, but he still has a lot to learn. He's making rash decisions and basing them only on what his superiors at the ministry will think of him for it. It seems his position there now comes before his family, and Arthur confronted him about it a short while ago. I don't know all the details of what happened, and I didn't feel it was my place to ask, but Percy ended up moving out. They still don't know where he is, he hasn't sent any word."

"Wow," Harry said in shock. "I had no idea it was that bad."

"Well, as I said, Percy is old enough to take care of himself, and to decide which path to take. I only wish he hadn't chosen this one. I'm not very fond of the Ministry of Magic, and the ministers he seems to have aligned himself with, are the stubborn, old-fashioned ones. People like that being in charge makes it very hard to get anything useful accomplished." He glanced at Harry who still looked a bit surprised. "Don't worry yourself over it, he will be fine. And Arthur will be able to keep up on him, if only through work. Hopefully he'll come around and start speaking with his parents again."

"I hope so, I can't understand why anyone would want to leave their home, or their parents. It doesn't make any sense to me," Harry said, shaking his head.

"I'm sure to you it doesn't," Sirius replied. "But let's not talk about that now. I want you to enjoy the rest of your birthday and your friends are upstairs waiting for you." Harry nodded, he said goodnight to Sirius and thanked him again for the whole day. It had really been a wonderful day for him. He turned around and headed upstairs.

"So, what was up?" Ron asked as Harry walked in.

"Oh nothing, just wanted to check with him on some things we had planned to do tomorrow, since I probably won't see him for the rest of tonight," Harry lied. He wanted to talk to Ron about Percy, but not with everyone there.

"Plans?" Cho asked. "I thought Sirius wasn't too anxious to leave the house yet."

"Well, he doesn't like to but some things can't be helped. I mean, we need to eat, don't we?" Harry said, plopping down on his bed next to her. Ron, Hermione and Ginny were on the other bed that Sirius and Remus must have moved in there while they were out.

"Have you heard anything from your aunt and uncle?" Hermione asked.

"Nope," Harry said casually, "not that I mind. This has been the first summer that I haven't seen them at all, and so far it's been the best one. I'm so glad this worked out the way it did, I love Hogwart's and all, but I didn't want to spend another summer there."

"Yeah, especially with the Slytherins there for their exams," Ginny said, laughing.

"Exactly, just the few weeks I was there were a little tense. I didn't really see them except for at mealtimes, but I wouldn't stay in the same room with a group of them and no one else. I basically lived in the tower. Though I did run into Malfoy once," Harry said. He looked around and saw they were all looking at him expectantly, waiting for him to continue. So he told them about the conversation between the two of them.

"That slimy git!" Ron exclaimed.

"He knew where you were the whole time, and didn't tell anyone?" Hermione asked incredulously.

"This surprises you?" Harry asked them. "You know he's probably a death eater in training."

"Harry, you have to stay far from him this year, he must be working with them to try to get you," Ginny spoke up. Harry actually laughed out loud at that.

"Did I give any of you the impression I would be hanging out with him? When do I ever not try to avoid Malfoy? Whenever I see him at school it's usually with a swarm of people around anyway, I doubt he'd try anything then."

"Well he got to you last year, didn't he?" Hermione asked pointedly.

"That's just it though, I don't think he knew originally about what his father was planning."

"What makes you say that?" Cho asked. Harry thought for a moment before answering, remembering back to the night of their duel.

"The look on his face," he answered at last. "If you had seen him when Lucius used the Cruciatus Curse on me.Malfoy just looked, well.shocked. That's the only way to describe it, really. Like he had no idea that was going to happen." They were all silent for a few moments, considering this. Finally Hermione broke the silence.

"What you have to realize though, is that no matter what he thought was going to happen, he still didn't help you when he knew you were in danger. He never went to Dumbledore, or anyone else. He ignored it."

Harry stared at her; he had been thinking the same thing just then. He just hadn't wanted to say it. He leaned back on the bed and sighed.

"Let's not talk about this now, please?" he said quietly.

"Of course," Cho said quickly.

"We're sorry Harry, it's just." Hermione began. But she stopped after seeing Cho give her a very pointed look.

"What shall we do, then?" Ginny asked, trying to sound cheerful.

"Exploding Snap?" Ron suggested, grinning. Harry sat back up.

"Definitely. Haven't played that in a while," he said, smiling again. Ron nodded, and stood up to get the deck.

After several games they realized it was now very late. Ginny had started yawning first and it quickly spread around the room.

"Well, I guess I'm gonna head to bed," Hermione said finally. Ginny and Cho nodded in agreement. Ginny hurried out of the room while Harry and Ron said goodnight to their girlfriends. When the girls had all gone to their room, the two boys got changed.

"So," Harry said casually. "What's new with your family?"

"What do you mean?" Ron asked, stiffly. Harry could tell by the tone in his voice Ron knew what he was referring to.

"Are you okay?" he asked his friend.

"Never been better," Ron answered too quickly. "Percy was always whining or complaining about one thing or another. It's actually quite peaceful now that he isn't there."

Harry looked at him, and decided not to push the matter.

"Well, if you ever need to talk about it, or anything for that matter, I'll always listen."

Ron laughed a little at that. Harry wasn't sure what it meant, so he just waited.

"I really don't miss him. I miss the old Percy, the one who lived there when he was still in school. Minister Percy is a completely different person, and I can't understand how his job could've changed him so much. My dad's worked there for years and he's still the same."

"Your dad and your brother have very different ideas for what makes a person successful," Harry said, gently.

"I know. Believe me I know," Ron said, looking down. "But Percy has always been that way. Only recently he was not only stuffy and obnoxious, but also downright mean. He would get into terrible arguments with my parents, which was a huge shock because he was always the one to show the most respect to them. I'm not saying the rest of us were always breaking rules, but Percy was the one to tell on us when we did. He always wanted to impress them, and now nothing could be further from the truth." He raised his head and Harry could see he looked confused and hurt.

"There must be a good reason for his behavior," Harry said after a moment, "but I don't know what it is."

"I don't either, only that it started around Christmas time last year, from what Charlie would tell me. He and Bill are the only ones I can find out anything from while I'm at Hogwart's because mum and dad don't want me to know. It's so aggravating when I'm home though, they go around pretending that nothing is wrong, when it's so obvious there's a problem."

"At least your dad might be able to find out what he's up to at work, since they're both at the ministry," Harry said, trying to sound reassuring.

"I know, and that's good. I just want to know what made him act like this in the first place," Ron said looking at his hands. The two of them sat there in silence for a few minutes. Harry wasn't sure what else he could say; he didn't feel it would be right to bring up how Percy had acted towards him last year, it surely wouldn't help anything at this moment. So he just waited, ready to listen to anything his friend wanted to tell him. Finally Ron looked up.

"Let's not talk about this anymore," he said quietly. Harry nodded.

"Sure, anything you want," he replied, he smiled at Ron, who grinned back.

"Well, I guess we should try and get some sleep before the sun comes up," he said looking towards the window. "Happy Birthday Harry."

"Thanks Ron," Harry said, wishing he had more to say to him, but he didn't so he stayed silent. Harry laid awake for a short while listening to Ron tossing restlessly in the other bed, before he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer, and drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, while everyone was eating breakfast, Harry, Ron and Hermione decided they would meet in Diagon Alley on August 31st to get all their school supplies. When they finished, Ron, Ginny and Hermione got their things together, said goodbye to Harry, Sirius and Cho, and headed back to the Burrow using floo powder.

Cho stayed a while longer as she hadn't spent any time alone with Harry since she arrived. Sirius left them alone, as long as they stayed in the den.

"So," Harry started, "what have you been up to all summer?"

"Well, I found a wonderful job that I'll be starting next week."

"That's great!" Harry said excitedly. "What will you be doing?"

"Working in the department of Magical Games and Sports for the Ministry of Magic."

Harry was a bit taken back by this.

"For the ministry? You never told me you wanted to work there. I would've thought if you wanted to do something to stay with sports it would be to go professional."

"I thought about it. But you can only do that for so long before you have to retire. This way I have a job that is working with a sport I love and starting when I'm young. I'll be able to move up as a gain experience, rather than wait twenty years and have to start at this point."

"Who says you'd have to work for the ministry after you retire? If you were successful in the professional leagues you might never have to work again. And if you wanted to you could do something a bit more.relaxing," Harry said. Cho just stared at him with a confused expression on her face.

"Harry, this is what I want to do. I'm sorry for not mentioning it to you sooner but we never really talked about this kind of thing. Let's face it, a lot of our discussions last year were about the Zlam, I didn't feel it was the right time to tell you my after school ambitions."

"Oh, so it's my fault?" Harry asked, heatedly.

"I didn't say that!" Cho said looking hurt. "I only meant that it never really came up in our conversations and you weren't too anxious to talk about anything past the end of the school year. I never minded for a second that we didn't though, because what we were forced to discuss was more important to me." She sat back, huffily and her cheeks were all flushed.

Harry leaned towards her, and took her hand in his.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you upset, it was wrong of me to say that," he said quietly, looking into her eyes. She stared back at him in silence and Harry thought for a moment she was going to turn away, but then she leaned forwards and kissed him softly. When they separated, she looked at him again.

"Why are you so upset about this, anyway? I was pretty excited that I was able to get a position there, I was hoping you would be too," she looked imploringly into his eyes, willing him to be happy for her.

"I'm not upset, I was just surprised because I didn't expect it. I am very happy for you, and wish you all the luck in the world." He gazed into her eyes, and any remnants of anger melted away in that second. He wasn't even sure why he had been angry in the first place; after all, the dept. of Magical Games and Sports couldn't be too bad. He supposed it was just the fact that it was still for the Ministry of Magic, which made him uneasy. He pushed these thoughts from his head though as Cho started to get up.

"I really have to go now, there's so much I need to get done before next week. I'll send you an owl at Hogwart's to let you know how I'm doing, and please send them to me every so often too."

"Absolutely," he said, smiling. "You'll hear everything that happens, I promise."

"That's all I ask," she replied, returning the smile. He carried her bag to the fireplace for her and kissed her again, before she threw the floo powder, and stepped in.

The rest of the summer was mostly uneventful. The two of them mostly had fun together and there was only one low point. Harry had talked Sirius into coming out with him on one particularly beautiful day, and visit Hogsmeade. Sirius hadn't been anyplace really besides out for food, and the idea of a very crowded marketplace sounded very unappealing to him. But Harry's persistence finally paid off and Sirius gave in, but only if they went to the Shrieking Shack first, that way they didn't arrive in the middle of a crowded store. Harry didn't care as long as they went.

When they arrived, Sirius peered cautiously out the windows, checking out all the people. Not too many were in view as most tried to stay far from the Shrieking Shack. Finally, Harry pulled him outside and the two of them began walking towards the main street. But as soon as they neared the Three Broomsticks, a woman nearby let out an ear-splitting scream.

"SIRIUS BLACK!" she screeched then fell, in a dead faint, into the arms of the man beside her.

"She apparently doesn't read the papers," Harry said loudly. He was furious at the woman's ignorance, nevertheless nothing could be done about it now. Everyone on the streets had started moving towards the sound of the scream, to see what was going on. Sirius didn't wait to see what was going to happen, he grabbed Harry's arm and started pulling him back to the Shrieking Shack. Harry didn't fight him; he knew the day would be ruined now.

As they passed a few people Harry would hear bits of their conversations.

"Isn't that Sirius Black?"

"What's he doing here? And who has he got with him?"

"That's Harry Potter! Where is he taking him?"

"Should we get help?"

"I heard he works for You-Know Who! Someone needs to inform the ministry!"

Harry was beyond furious by the time they got back to the Shrieking Shack. He wanted to scream at every person they had passed but Sirius obviously didn't want to be here even a moment longer. They quickly took the floo powder back to their house, and Sirius went up to his room without a word. Harry just stood in the den, not sure what to do. He decided not to bother his godfather right now, and busied himself with starting dinner.

When the last day of August finally arrived, Harry could do nothing at all to persuade Sirius to come with him to Diagon Alley. He had asked Mrs. Weasley if she wouldn't mind watching out for him during the day and she, of course, was more than happy to. Harry tried numerous times to get Sirius to go out again but it wasn't happening, he didn't want a repeat of Hogsmeade. He assured Harry he wasn't upset with him at all, because he felt guilty for making Sirius come out, but he just didn't want to be out in public right now.

So that morning Harry grabbed his money sack and the box Fred and George had told him to bring, and took floo powder to Diagon Alley. He arrived at the Leaky Cauldron to find the Weasleys and Hermione already there. They once again took the nauseating cart ride through the tunnels of Gringott's before emerging back into the wonderful fresh air. Money sacks full, they began the rounds.

Harry and Hermione's robes still fit them fine from the year before as neither of them had grown enough to need adjustments, but Ron had grown just enough over the summer to not be able to get away with it, so they sat in Madam Malkin's while he got the hem taken down.

From there they went to stock up on supplies, parchment, ink, potion ingredients and to get their books. When they were fully bogged down with bags and packages, they stopped at Florean Fortescue's for sundaes. They sat in the radiant sunlight, spooning and then later sipping, the ice cream from their cups. When they were done there, Harry suggested they go over to Zonko's but Ron shook his head.

"There's someplace else we have to check out this year," he said, smiling.

"Really? Where?" Harry asked. He didn't know of another joke shop in the area. Ron beckoned for everyone to follow him, and Mrs. Weasley decided suddenly that she needed new knitting needles, and would meet up with them soon. Ron shook his head in disgust and started walking again. When he stopped in front of a very old building, which Harry had always thought was abandoned, he pointed up above the door. Harry and Hermione looked up to see a sign that read: 'Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.'

"They did it?" Harry asked in amazement, looking at Ron and Ginny.

"Isn't it wicked?" Ron asked excitedly. "C'mon, let's go in."

When they stepped inside, Harry was in awe of the rows upon rows of practical jokes and pranks, and even more so of the number or people inside. The Weasley Twin's were doing something right because business was booming. The four of them pushed their way to the front of the store, where they saw two cashiers ringing customers up. Ron waved to them as he walked past the counter and through a doorway labeled 'Employees.' Fred and George were in a very large room going through piles of boxes. When they noticed their visitors, they stopped what they were doing.

"Oy, Ron! You would have to pick our busiest day to bring Harry, wouldn't you?" Fred said, pretending to be angry, but smiling anyway.

"Hey, you never gave me a date NOT to come," Ron replied.

"I can't believe you two are doing so well!" Harry exclaimed. "It's amazing out there!"

"Thanks to you," George said, and Fred nodded. "Did you bring the box?"

Harry pulled the long box out of one of his bags and held it up.

"You can fill that with anything you want, it's yours free," Fred said.

"But, that's too much!" Harry said, thinking of all the little prank toys that would fit in the very deep box.

"Harry, you're the reason we have this store, 1000 Galleons was too much to accept, but because of it we've made that back many times over. You fill that up till nothing else will fit, whatever you want, it's yours," Fred said.

Harry was speechless. Not only because of how much that would actually come out to, but because he could never remember seeing Fred and George acting so serious.

"Thank you guys, so much," he said.

"Don't mention it, but please let us get back to work, we have so much to do and we're one person short today."

Harry and the others left the twins to their work, feeling a bit awkward seeing them act so mature. When they were back in the store, Harry looked around, feeling a bit overwhelmed looking at everything.

"I could be here all day." he said quietly.

"Well we don't have all day," Hermione spoke up, finally.

"We could help you pick the stuff out if you like," Ron said. "Ginny and I know the store pretty well by now, we could each take a corner and work our way in. If you trust us to get things you'll like."

"That sounds like the best way," Harry said, looking around again. "And of course I trust you, I'm sure I'd like anything in here."

The four of them grabbed baskets and each went to a different corner. As Harry worked his way through, he found he probably could have filled up the box in his corner alone, so he tried to take the stuff that looked best. It was also a little hard to move around, as the store was so full. At one point he took a step back just as someone was walking behind him, resulting in that person's basket spilling to the floor. Harry turned around quickly, very embarrassed and began to apologize.

The woman never even looked at him, but she was looking around his general direction, appearing confused.

"I said I'm sorry," Harry said louder, bending down to help the woman. There was no need to ignore him. He picked up a few items and threw them into the basket before noticing her looking at them in shock and even fear. Now it was Harry's turn to look confused.

"What's the matter, are you okay?" he asked her. She didn't answer, but instead picked up the basket quickly and ran up to the front of the store, leaving anything she hadn't gotten on the floor. Harry just stared after her, having no idea what just happened. He picked up the things, threw them in his basket and turned around to continue but came to a dead stop before he could take another step.

Tytros was standing right in front of him.

Harry stared at him, unsure if he should go for his wand or not.

"I'm not here to hurt you," Tytros said quickly, "or to try to take you anywhere. I had to come though. I wouldn't have used this charm on you if there weren't so many people in here, but I can't let them see me, and it would've looked strange if I only let you see me. It would've seemed like you were talking to no one."

"Why did you come here then?" Harry asked calmly, keeping eye contact. "You could have waited until we left the store, or until I was out of Diagon Alley even."

"Because this was the only time I had. Voldemort knows now that I am no longer helping him, and as a result he will try to attack the Zlam. Forden wants us to move, to run basically. Some agree with him, while others think it is foolish. We can defeat him, so why act cowardly? Forden does not want to do this because it would seem as though we were siding with you. He is very adamant about interfering with anything humans do; we are not to help you."

"So you came here to tell me this?" Harry asked.

"I felt you should know that no matter what he decides, I will still help you. For the time being I do not want to make my intentions known to him, so this was the only time I had to get away for a while, to find you. But if the final decision of my people is to run, I will not run with them."

Harry looked at Tytros, completely unsure if he should trust him or not. This was the second time he seemed to be telling him this, and both times it started as if he was intending to harm Harry, rather than help him. He decided that it didn't make a difference right now; as long as he could get Tytros to lift the charm he was under.

"Thank you, I appreciate it," he said trying not to sound stiff.

"But you don't believe me." Tytros said. It was not a question. Harry didn't respond, just kept his eyes locked on Tytros'.

"I can understand that. I don't know what I can do at this time to make you believe me, but I assure you I am telling the truth. I will leave you now, your friends will be able to see you as soon as I am out of sight." He started to turn away, when Harry called after him.

"Yes?" he asked.

"I wanted to ask you. That night, at the Riddle house, Voldemort said I would watch him become invincible. I thought the spell he had Wormtail use was just to extract my blood from him, but how would that make him invincible? Was there something else to that spell?"

"The only person who can know that right now is the one with the knowledge. If there is something in the spell that could do that I don't know how he could've found out. The only Zlam who would ever know the answer to that is the one holding the knowledge, and Voldemort didn't speak to our keeper before Corfay got to him, and took the knowledge."

"So how can I find out then? The person with the knowledge right now can't exactly talk to me, seeing as he's dead."

"You will have to wait until our next keeper is ready, and the knowledge is given to him. That is the only way."

Harry sighed to himself. That was something that had been bothering him since that night and it would have been nice to just know the answer. But obviously that wasn't going to happen today. He glanced back up to see Tytros was still looking at him, as if waiting to see if there were anything else.

"Thanks," he said quickly. Tytros nodded, then quickly turned and left the store. Harry looked after him for a moment, before setting off through the crowd to find his friends.

Harry decided not to say anything to his friends about Tytros yet. They hadn't noticed he had been 'missing' since the store was so crowded and they had been in different parts of it anyway, so he pretended like nothing happened for the time being.

After the box was completely full, they walked out to find Mrs. Weasley waiting for them, somewhat impatiently. As they walked back to the Leaky Cauldron, Ron explained to Harry and Hermione how his mother thought the twins' store was a waste of time. No matter how successful they seemed to be, she refused to see it that way. This didn't surprise either of them; they remembered how Mrs. Weasley would act when Fred and George were only talking about the store. The fact that they proved her wrong, and became successful, must've been even harder for her. But she would come around, after enough time passed, Ron assured them.

When they were inside they all said goodbye to one another, before taking floo powder back to their homes. Harry told Sirius about everything he had done, and about the twins' birthday present to him, but again left out his meeting with Tytros. He didn't see the reason to get his godfather worked up over something he could do nothing about. Harry wasn't even sure anything needed to be done. So far Tytros hadn't tried anything to hurt him, and he was the reason they were able to keep Wormtail until Sirius had been freed. He decided he would tell Ron and Hermione tomorrow, they would take the news better than Sirius, who thought Tytros should be gutted.

The next morning, Harry got up early and double-checked everything in his trunk to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything. He ate breakfast with Sirius who spent their time together asking if Harry had remembered everything. Harry didn't mind though, he'd never had anyone doing that for him before.

Sirius had to leave that day as well, but he was going to meet Remus, who had asked for his help with something before he had to get to the school that night. Harry was taking floo powder to the Burrow and from there they would take ministry cars to the train station. He said goodbye to Sirius who assured him they would be seeing each other during the year at some point, and left.

Chaos was ensuing as was usual on September 1st at the Weasley house. But Harry didn't mind, he helped with whatever he could and soon enough they were at the train station and through the barrier. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny found an empty compartment near the back of the train and settled in for the long ride.

About an hour into the ride, after talking about classes and quidditch, Harry brought up what had happened yesterday. "I have something to tell you guys," he said to them. "Something happened yesterday while we were in Fred and George's store."

"You mean besides us almost getting trampled by the heard of people in there? Getting out of the path of stampeding hippogriffs would've been easier than trying to get through that store." Ron joked. But stopped when he realized Harry was being serious.

"Tytros was there yesterday. I talked with him for a few minutes."

"What?" Hermione exclaimed almost jumping out of her seat. "Are you okay? What happened?" she asked anxiously.

Harry told them everything from when the woman he had knocked into couldn't see him until Tytros left.

"So does this mean you trust him?" Ron asked sounding wary.

"I don't know what to think. But if I trusted him I don't believe it would feel like this. Though I don't think I entirely distrust him either."

"Why didn't you tell us before?" Hermione asked, sounding upset.

"Because nothing happened. He came, we talked, he left."

"But he could have done anything to you, even taken you with him, and we never would have known," she continued.

"And he didn't, did he?" Harry asked. "That's why I'm confused. He always seems like he's up to something, but then it never seems that way when he's leaving. That's the way it's been the last couple of times anyway."

"Harry, please don't wait to tell us these things, you should have told us right away! Does Sirius know?"

"No he doesn't. He would have completely freaked and so would've Mrs. Weasley, which is why I didn't mention it to either of them."

Hermione threw him one of her infamous disapproving glares and Harry just rolled his eyes and turned to look out the window. He watched the land fly past him, the further away it was, the better he could see it. But the ground right in front of his face was a giant blur. He kept his gaze out the window, and felt the stares of his friends on him, none of them wanting to be the first to speak. Finally he turned back to them.

"Listen, I know that you're worried, but I did tell you guys. I waited a little longer than normal and I told you why. I'm even planning on telling Dumbledore because there's something I want to ask him anyway. So please don't be upset with me for this."

Ron and Ginny grinned at him.

"Not upset with you," Ginny said. "Just worried for you."

Harry looked to Ron who was nodding at what Ginny said, then at Hermione who, of course, was looking at him skeptically.

"Please just be smart Harry, that's all I'm asking you," she said.

"So you think I'm normally dumb?" he asked, jokingly.

"You know I don't, just stubborn sometimes."

He smiled at her and nodded.

"Okay. I promise you, I'll be smart. Better?" he asked.

"Much," she replied, shaking her head and grinning. They spent the rest of the ride chatting about more pleasant topics and thankfully, by the time they arrived; Malfoy had not stopped in to bother them once. Harry was glad to see Hagrid was once again out there calling for the first years, and started to head over to him. But Hagrid simply waved at them and shook his head as if to say not now, before going back to calling for the first years. Harry didn't know what was up, but figured Hagrid would tell him later. They took the carriages to the school and went, together, into the great hall. Soon enough, the doors opened, and McGonagall walked in with the first years.

As they watched the first years nervously follow McGonagall to the front Harry felt Ron elbowing him in the ribs. He turned to see him pointing at an empty chair at the teacher's table. It was Snape's.

"Where do you think he is?" Ron asked.

"I don't have any idea," Harry replied. He scanned the rest of the table and saw everyone else was there, including Hagrid who had just taken his seat a moment before McGonagall came in. Then the door at the back of the room opened again.

Snape walked in accompanied by a man Harry had never seen before. He was very young, maybe five years older than Harry, with the same height as Snape but with a lanky build and light brown hair. His eyes were dark, almost black, and he looked as angry as Snape usually did. Harry had a strong feeling of dislike towards him immediately.

The two of them went up to the table together. Snape whispered something to Dumbledore briefly, while the other man grabbed a chair for himself. They both took their seats near Snape's end of the table, before the sorting began.

Harry barely paid attention to the sorting, he clapped when the rest of his table did but his attention was on this new person. He didn't know if he was being paranoid, but every time Harry looked up at him, he seemed to be looking away quickly. He just got a bad feeling from this person.

When Dumbledore gave his normal announcements after the sorting, he introduced the person as Mr. Gridman. Gridman would be helping Snape out during at least the beginning of the year with potions lessons; he was something of a student teacher.

When Dumbledore finished, and the food finally appeared, Harry had almost no appetite; he barely even touched his food. This was just ridiculous, he thought. He had never spoken a word to this man and just thinking about him was making him feel ill.

Ron kept shooting him questioning looks and obviously wanted Harry to explain, but Harry just waved them off. He didn't know how to explain the feeling, or what to base it on, just that it was there.

He was immediately distracted from his thoughts when both Snape and Gridman got up from their seats. Snape nodded at Dumbledore, who nodded back, and the two of them started towards the door. Harry couldn't explain it, but as he saw the two men coming closer and closer he began to feel nervous, his hands were shaking and he was very cold.

He glanced around at his friends who were all chatting and eating; none of them seemed to think anything was wrong. He looked back at the two men, who were now less than five steps from him, and was horrified to see Gridman reach into his robe and pull out a wand. Harry had no time to react as Gridman stopped walking and turned to face him, wand outstretched. He shoved his hands into his robes but it was too late, Gridman had already spoken the curse.

"Avada Kedavra!" he whispered fiercely.

A blast of green light flew from the wand tip and hit Harry full force, knocking him away from the table and slamming him to the floor, motionless.