Author's Note: First, I want to say that I'm *SO* *SORRY* for not having written anything on this since September. I had the student teaching semester from Hell, and when I wasn't at the high school teaching, I was calling parents, grading papers, preparing lessons, writing lesson plans, doing work for my college course, and, occasionally sleeping. I just had no time. Then I didn't have my computer for a few weeks, *then* a Winterim class.... *sighs* Well, I'm sorry I've kept those of you who were following this story waiting, and I hope that this part makes up for at least a bit of the wait.

Just so y'all know, I've decided that I've given up setting deadlines for myself about this story, except for one. I want to have this finished by graduation, May 24th. Beyond that, I want to make my last semester a good one, so school will come first and foremost.

One last thing before this part starts. I'd like to give public thanks to three people who helped me keep my sanity during this past semester. One I know does read this fic, another might, and the third probably never will, but I want to make my gratitude know.

First, to Jackie. You helped keep me sane in that school, girl, and I ma forever grateful. You remembered what it was like and convinced me that it *would* end one day. Thank you.

Second, to April. I can't begin to tell you what you mean to me. Jackie might've kept me sane at the high school, but you kept me sane when I needed it most. I'm sorry if I ever scared you, I really am. You are my best friend, and my sister in everything except blood.

Last, but definitely not least, to Tea. You weren't here in body, but you were in spirit. Your emails gave me a much-needed dose of humor, and I knew that I could always talk to you if I needed to. I can't wait until you get home and we can terrorize Baltimore together :-p Yes, CoS *did* rock, Snape *was* hot, and I'm sure we're both holding our breaths until June 21st :)

Ladies, this part is dedicated to you.

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A week after Harry's abrupt return, Draco was beginning to get frustrated with he love's silence. He *knew* that something had to have happened at the Weasley's, but Harry was being extremely close-mouthed on the subject. Asking Harry had gotten Draco absolutely nowhere, and he had given up beating his head against that particular brick wall and instead reverted to studying Harry whenever he got the chance, trying to figure out the mystery.

It was during one such evening, when Harry was reading and Draco was ostensibly reading, when Remus made the announcement that both teens had forgotten about: "So, you head back to Hogwarts in a week."

Harry dropped his book upon hearing Remus' words. "Are you sure?" he questioned. He remembered receiving the letter on his birthday, same as every year, but surely almost a month couldn't have passed since then.

Remus grabbed a calendar off his desk and tossed it to Harry. "Look for yourself."

Harry studied the calendar. Sure enough, it was right there in front of him. "Hogwarts...it is that time," he said quietly. Suddenly, the calendar fell from nerveless fingers. "I don't think I can do this." Harry's mind flashed to a view of the Gryffindor common room with everyone there...with Ginny there. "I'm not sure about this at all."

Draco moved to the couch where Harry was sitting and put an arm around his trembling boyfriend. "What is it, Harry?" he questioned softly. "You've been doing so well...when we got the letters, you seemed excited to head back."

"I...was." Harry leaned his head on Draco's shoulder. "But, now I'll have to see...."

"See who, Harry?"

"Ginny." Harry blinked, and a tear fell from his eye. "I broke her heart, and I don't know if I can see her again, not so soon."

"Is that why you left Ron's the way you did?" Draco asked, holing Harry close. The mystery had finally been solved.

"Yes...I hurt her, badly, and I didn't intend to. I...I don't love her, I love *you*, but, for a minute...I felt like I had betrayed someone."

"Who?"

"I don't know. Ginny, maybe, for not having told her the truth. The Weasleys'; they've been so kind to me, maybe falling for their daughter was the least I could've done. Even, in a way...you."

"Me?"

"Yes, you!" Harry pulled away from Draco and stood, beginning to pace around the room. "It's you I love, yet Ginny thought I could have feelings for her. What did I do, to encourage her like that? I must've dome *something*...I had to have."

"Oh, Harry." Draco stood as well, but wisely didn't try to approach Harry in his agitated state. "She's had a crush on you from the moment she first walked into Hogwarts-we all saw that. Maybe she's had it for longer, I don't know. And, unless you were engaging in questionable activities in Gryffindor Tower, I've only seen you treat her like your best friend's little sister-no more, no less."

Harry moved to the window and stared out at the forest, as if the trees had the answers he sought. "It's so confusing," he said quietly after a brief silence. "I don't understand what she sees in me...what you see in me. I'm nothing special, just another teenager."

"You're *not* 'just another teenager,' and I don't mean all that 'Boy Who Lived' stuff either," Draco countered. "You're intelligent, funny, sensitive, talented...you have so many gifts, and you don't even realize it! That just makes you more attractive-you aren't cocky."

"Unlike some blondes I know?" Harry asked slyly, the beginnings of a smile pulling on his lips.

Draco laughed. "I deserve that," he readily admitted. Expression softening, he neared Harry and cupped his hand around Harry's cheek. "You're so beautiful," he whispered. "And I don't mean beautiful in that 'girly' sense, either. There's something about you that just makes you seem...almost unreal. Sometimes you remind me of one of those Greek statues-a beauty that cannot be described or contained."

Harry blushed and leaned into Draco's touch. "You...really see that when you look at me?" he asked, unsure and timid.

"How could I not?" Draco was filled with an overwhelming urge to kiss his love, but he restrained himself. 'Wait until *he's* ready,' he reminded himself.

There were no more words between the two.

**********

Two days later found the three men in the barely controlled chaos that called itself Diagon Alley.

Harry was tense, but his discomfort was only apparent to Draco and Remus. In unspoken agreement, the two kept Harry between them, supporting him in this first foray amongst strangers.

They went about their business, purchasing robes, supplies, and books. Harry had purposely combed his hair over to try and hide the scar, but, of course, the wind conspired to make sure that it never stayed hidden.

Harry stopped in the middle of the street, arms full of packages, and wished for a third hand as he tried to rearrange his hair. "All the Gods curse it," he practically snarled, causing Draco to break out in giggles. "Why can't my hair do what I want it to do, just *once*?" He whirled on his boyfriend, now in hysterics. "And who asked you for commentary?"

He was about to stalk off, all dignity, when it happened. The one thing he had been dreading the whole time he had been out in public. "Look! It's him! Harry Potter!"

"Oh, Lord," Remus groaned, as he and Draco rushed to run interference. The two men managed to form a rather effective wall around Harry as they ushered him back to the Leaky Cauldron and the waiting fireplace, the whole way having to bat off admirers and ill-wishers alike.

"They're worse than mosquitoes," was the first thing out of Remus' mouth as they landed back in his study. "Honestly, can't a person do a little shopping without being mobbed these day?"

Harry, who had moved to sit on the couch, looked up, a sober expression on his face. "It's just the beginning," he said. "I mean, they know I'm alive and walking around the world. They might not be able to find me here, but eventually, they're all going to realize that I'm going back to Hogwarts. And as good as the Headmaster's security is, there are always...loopholes."

"Like unregistered Animagi. Harry, have I ever apologized for setting her loose on you like that?"

Harry shook his head. "What's done is done. I know *you* won't do that again, but I don't know what my reception will really be like once I go back. Someone might be perfectly willing to pry into my life story."

"I won't let that happen. Not to you." Draco's jaw was set, and his fists were clenched as if his sheer force of will could prevent the possibility.

"Draco, be reasonable. It's a big castle; you can't be everywhere, and you can't influence everyone."

Remus raised his eyebrow at Harry's tone. "You have something else in mind?"

"Just an idea that I've been toying with."

"Well? We're waiting."

"You see, it's like this." Harry cleared his throat, and stared at a portion of wall as if it were the most fascinating thing in the universe. "I'm not really thrilled with this option, but if I have a press conference or something like that and lay everything out for all to see, then there will be nothing to hang over my head. And it will be *my* words, too, not someone else's."

Draco was doubtful. "But you know journalists-they never use the exact story they get."

"But it's better than nothing." Harry crossed his arms and stuck out his lower lip in stubborn defiance.

Draco threw his arms up into the air. "Remy, *you* talk to him!"

"I don't know." Remus stroked his chin thoughtfully. "You both have good points. Harry might have the right idea, though I'd caution you to wait until *after* you get back to school, and if anything happens. That way, anything you say you sound like a rationalized response to irrational people rather than a preemptive strike."

Harry raised an eyebrow. "You know, I like the sound of that. It would be nice, I think, to be the rational one."

Remus raised a hand in warning. "Just as long as you know, Harry, that it won't be easy, no matter how you do it. People are still people, and their words *could* still be used against you."

"But they'll be attacking with *my* words...and I'll know how to defend."

"You're really dead set on this, aren't you?"

"Yes, Draco, I am now. I think...I think that it would really be for the best."

Before Draco could offer up another argument, Remus jumped in with a topic change. "So, now that you've got your supplies, how are you getting back to school?"

Draco blinked. "There's an option besides the Hogwarts Express?"

"Yeah, flying cars." Harry smiled softly, the picture of innocence.

"Don't even go there, young man," Remus warned. "What I meant was, yes, you can rake the train if you so desire. I've been talking to Albus, though, and he has offered to find you an alternate means of transportation if you so desire."

Both boys looked thoughtful. "It would be nice to see some of my other friends again," Draco mused, "though don't get me wrong-I've enjoyed being with you immensely, Harry, you know that. What it really boils down to is-what are *you* ready for, Harry?"

Harry sighed. "It would just raise more questions and speculation if I *didn't* take the train, really. And, besides, those compartments are easy to close off. I...I think I should do it."

"Harry, are you sure?" questioned Remus. "No one who cares about you would think less of you. And we both know it will be hard enough to face the Great Hall. I'm not trying to dissuade you, mind, I just want you to know that there are options."

"No," Harry said slowly, "I think I'm sure. If we get there right before the train leaves, and I owl Ron to save us a compartment, it won't be too bad. You know Ron-he won't let anyone near if he thinks they might hurt me."

"All right, it's settled, then. I'll just be letting Albus know. Why don't you write Ron and let him know what's going on?"

"Sounds like a plan." Harry was about to leave the room when a touch on his arm stopped him.

"I want you to know, Harry, I think you're being very brave for doing this. I'm not sure I could've, if I was in your position." Draco looked at the floor, feeling slightly embarrassed at his words.

"Draco, look at me," Harry said softly. When Draco looked up, he continued. "The fact that you can tell me that is the best thing I think I could've heard. Maybe...maybe I am getting better, after all."

He hugged Draco, then pulled away, flashing a quick smile. "Come on, then. Let's go back to Hogwarts."

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