"I'm sorry, Harry," she said to him, "but I'm suddenly realizing how … maybe we should wait. You're only sixteen, and things are so … I just …" She brought her hands up and covered her face.
Something in Harry clicked. Everything in his life came to the realization he'd just had. "I understand, Tonks. You're beautiful, but I can't demand what you offered. It's incredibly dangerous to you. You're an Auror and likely to be fired if word gets out about this. You're a member of the Order, and would be pulled from any possible details regarding me faster than Ron can pile food on his plate. And most importantly, if we made love, my mental barriers would likely drop, giving Voldemort access to, at a bare minimum, the knowledge of who you are, and even more, possibly access to your mind." He brushed his hand across her cheek. "Think fondly of me, at least, okay?" He stood and dressed quietly, and then slipped from the room, leaving the pretty Auror behind, crying. He ran across Ginny and Hermione outside, both looking annoyed.
"Go in and comfort her, okay? Nothing happened, because she suddenly realized how dangerous being with me is. She's crying right now, and I'm the worst person to try to comfort her. Please?" He asked gently.
Their faces softened, but Hermione looked at him before going in. "We are still going to talk later, Harry. It's important."
"Sure. First get her calmed down, okay?" The girls slipped into the room, and Harry headed downstairs.
It's midnight, he thought. August first. Why are they still up? He continued to head down until her reached the kitchen. He heard voices from inside. Ah, perfect. Just the man I need to speak to.
He pushed the door open to the surprised looks from the people inside. "Albus, I need to speak with you," he said. "I came to a realization a few minutes ago, and I need you to help me with it."
"We are in the middle of an Order meeting, Mister Potter," Professor McGonagall said with some asperity. "You can speak to him when we are finished."
"Well, since I'm Order business, we might as well talk about it now, I guess."
"As arrogant as ever, I see," Snape drawled from his dark corner.
"Stuff it, Severus," Harry said calmly. "Albus here knows exactly why I'm Order business, and I think it's time to make the Order aware of it, don't you?" he asked of his headmaster.
"Are you sure about this, Harry?" the aged wizard asked.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …" Harry said simply, lifting his hair to show his scar. "Albus heard it sixteen years ago, and knew, when my parents were killed, that I was the one destined to die, taking Voldemort with me."
"Harry, that's not how it has to be," the headmaster began.
"It clicked to me upstairs, Albus. You knew before I was born that I'd have to fight him someday. Sure, it might have been Neville, but you knew that one of us would have to do it. Neither of us received the training necessary. We are dealing with a wizard fifty years older than me, so steeped in dark magics that I don't stand a chance at this point in my life. It's unfair to wait for me to be ready. How many people have to die to give me some semblance of comfort? No, my job is to die taking out Voldemort."
"And how did you come to this conclusion?" Snape asked mockingly.
"Simple, Severus. Even if it was best that I be raised amongst Muggles, which I was, I don't believe that the blood protections were so important that I was simply abandoned until it was time to come to Hogwarts. This was to teach me not to rely on others for anything, and to teach me that none will truly mourn my death. I have no family. I may be related to Petunia and Dudley, but they'd much rather see me dead." He looked at the horrified looks from the members of the Order. "Oh no, don't worry, I'm not depressed. I'm not going to kill myself needlessly. I'm simply going to locate what I need, and kill Voldemort. Since my survival isn't necessary, that opens quite a few vistas of study."
"Harry, I can't let you …" Albus started to say.
"Then I need to see about transferring to Durmstrang, sir. I need training that I simply can not receive at Hogwarts. A stupid Patronus might deal with the Dementors, and even discommode Moldie for a while, but it can't really affect him. Expelliarmus? Please. Reducio? Reducto? Avada Kedavara? I need something he might not know. If I can't get it from you, then I need to find it somewhere else."
He sighed. "I'm just sorry that it was Tonks who made me realize. Now she'll beat herself up and think that she depressed me to the point where I want to commit suicide, and that's simply not true. My life has been aimed at killing Voldemort, and not allowing emotional attachments along the way. I never learned how to love, so it's not something that's really a big loss. The Dursleys can be invited to the party that Severus will throw when I'm gone, and beyond that, everyone else will basically say 'He was such a nice boy.' They'll throw memorial parties for me, and maybe Ron and Hermione will name a child after me, but lives will go on as they did before I was born, and as they will were I to live a normal life span. People die. I'm just doing mine for a cause."
"There must be another way," Albus said, appearing almost ready to cry.
"Then you should have thought of it years ago, Albus. Instead, you chose to make me unfit to survive by trying to make me comfortable, and giving me the closest illusion to a normal life that you could, knowing all the while that it would eventually come down to Voldemort and me. By choosing to let me live a life like that, you sealed my fate, knowing the type of person I am. In good conscience, I can't wait ten or fifteen years while thousands of people die at Voldemort's hands. It needs doing now. By not insisting that I at least be raised with a knowledge of the wizarding world, you crippled me. By not teaching me intensively once I was in the wizarding world, you signed my death warrant. It's as simple as that. So, do I learn at your hands what I need to know, or do I go to Durmstrang? Or somewhere else?"
The headmaster looked even older than his actual age. He thought for several moments, but did not speak until Harry moved as if to leave the room. "I am certain that something else can be found. If I have made no headway by September first in finding that other way, then I will agree to teach you what you need, Harry."
"Are you sure this isn't depression speaking?" Minerva McGonagall asked.
"There are five stage of grief, Minerva," Harry said. "Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I've passed through the first four, and Tonks's comments tonight when she realized how dangerous making love to me would be clicked me into acceptance. It's going to happen, Minerva. I just prefer to make it happen on my terms, not his. If I have to die, then he's going with me. End of statement. Since I was never given training to deal with anything like Voldemort – instead, I've been given basic Hogwarts student training – my death is guaranteed. I accept that. If I was depressed … hell, you've all seen me depressed. Do I seem like I'm acting that way? Do I seem oddly cheerful at the news of my impending death? If I do, then you need to listen closer. I want to live. But it won't happen, and I accept that. So I either sit around and deny my fate, with my head up my arse, or I learn what I need." He shrugged calmly. "So, now that I've disrupted enough of your meeting, I'll leave to let Severus spend the next twenty minutes or so bitching about me. Bye!" He turned and left the room.
He walked back upstairs and headed to the library, and began looking through the books. He chuckled as he realized that several of the books were removable now – at least by him. They had done a thorough cleansing of the house – now his, by the terms of Sirius's will – and the books in the library were immovable. He put his hand on the bookcase and said, "Only me. No one else can remove these books. I'll leave the house to someone else when I die, but for now, only I can remove these books from these shelves." He felt a small agreement from the house, and began to scan the shelves. As he did, he heard two pairs of feet walking to the room. He turned to face Ginny and Hermione.
"Ah, here to chew me out for almost having sex with our Auror friend?"
"You're only sixteen, Harry!" Hermione said. "We're too young for that right now!"
"True. I assume that she pointed out that we never actually did anything?" She nodded. "Nothing will happen, have no fear of that. I won't put her in that kind of danger. I won't put any of you in that kind of danger. Besides, it's time for me to get serious in my studies. I'm dropping Potions this upcoming year, which will make Severus happy."
"What about being an Auror?" Ginny asked, getting worried.
He shrugged. "Won't be alive long enough for it, so no sense in studying it." He turned back to the books, searching the titles.
"What do you mean, Harry?" Hermione gasped.
"Simple. It was decided when I was a baby that I would not be trained to fight Voldemort, despite the fact that Dumbledore knew from the moment I received this scar that someday it would be between Tom and me. Either they want Tom to win, or it was decided that my life wasn't important enough. I'm not going to study for five or ten years while thousands die, so I'm studying for spells that will take us both out."
"Harry!" Ginny gasped. "How could you? You're just committing suicide?"
"It's called martyrdom," he laughed.
"How can you joke about this?" Hermione cried, tears starting to flow.
"Simple. Step five – acceptance. I am not meant to be a wand, or a rifle, or a bow and arrow, or any long range weapon. I am a bomb. I am powerful, and I take out everything in the area. If I had been meant to survive, then Dumbledore would have begun my training when I was eleven. Instead, it was decided that I should be given a chance to experience a so-called normal life. I have a 'saving people' thing, Hermione. You told me that yourself. I can't sit by and let thousands die when I should be able to stop it. When I'm dead, along with Voldemort, lives go back to normal. You and Ron can go on to have a lot of fat babies for Molly to spoil, and maybe name one of them after me, although I beg that you avoid Harriet at any cost. The world will go on when I'm dead," he said simply. "They can throw their parades and memorial services, and not worry about me being in the way to correct them when they inflate their own part in it."
"What about love?" Hermione asked softly.
"What about it? I've never been trained to know what it is. The Dursleys never showed me what it was. They detest me with the same fervour that Voldemort hates the rest of the world. What I felt for Cho was a crush – lust. What does real love feel like? I don't know, and I see no reason to learn now." He turned back to the girls. "Please leave me to my studying. The reason you were going to yell at me earlier didn't happen, and I won't allow it to get to that point again."
"So you're just going to shut her out of your life?" Ginny asked.
"If that's what it takes. She's in too much danger if she becomes my lover. She's an Auror, and I'm still a child, as Hermione pointed out." As she opened her mouth to protest, he spoke before she could. "'We're too young for that right now!' translates out that way. Either I'm an adult, and old enough to take control of my sex life, or a child, and too young for a sex life. Can't have it both ways. Anyway," he said, bulling on before she could protest, "with my still legally being a child and her being an Auror, she could end up in Azkaban for underage sex. Having sex with Harry Potter could ruin her career anyway. If she has sex with me, the Order will also pull her from having any duties that involve me, thereby ending the relationship, and don't think they wouldn't – it goes back to them training me to be a bomb to use against Voldemort. Most importantly, my mental defences will drop when I'm with her in the throes of passion, thereby either opening her up to attack by Tom, or at the very least telling him that she's important to me – more important than anyone else. So the relationship stops now."
"She has no say in the matter?" Ginny asked hotly.
"No. You need two to have a relationship, and I refuse to put her in danger by having one with her." Ginny's answer was to walk over to him and punch him in the jaw, knocking him back against the bookcase. He stood back up and faced her. "You get one free one, Ginny. I defend myself next time."
She reared back to throw another punch, and Harry immediately dropped into a defensive crouch. "I'd think about it, Ginny. I won't hesitate to make them take you to St. Mungo's if you insist on throwing that punch." She stopped, and stood straighter, anger blazing in her eyes.
"Watch your back, Mister Potter," she said. "If you're going to knife your friends, one of them might return the favour." She stalked from the room.
"She cares for you, Harry. We all do. None of us want you to die."
"You think I do? I've just accepted that it's the only way to save thousands of lives! You think I'm happy knowing that I can never get married and have children to carry on the Potter name? It dies with me, Hermione! It's that 'saving people' thing. Do you really think I can sit by and let all those people die while I wait for the Order to get off their damned asses and decide I'm old enough to learn what I need to learn, and then the years it'll take to learn enough to defeat him and survive the experience? 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.' That's my attitude. I'd love to be at your wedding to Ron, but that can't happen."
"You keep saying that. Why Ron?"
He snorted. "The smartest girl at Hogwarts, clueless about something. It's understandable with me, but you? Look at the way he reacts around you. The boy's in love with you, or at least seriously crushing on you. Give him a chance, and I think you'll find all those arguments will stop." He walked over and gave her a quick hug. "Go get some sleep. I think if you think seriously about what I've said, you'll see the logic behind it." He led her carefully from the library, escorting her to the room she still shared with Ginny. "Calm her down, too, if you can. Good night." He turned around before she could say anything, and he heard the door close behind him. He looked over the railing to the floor below. "Hear anything interesting from the conversation in there?" he asked the assembled group below.
The month leading to Hogwarts was tense, to say the least. Harry's simple acceptance of his upcoming demise unnerved Ron and continued to anger Ginny. He was cold to Tonks, letting her assume that he was angry at her for pulling out of her 'birthday present' to him at the last second. This finally caused Ginny to jump at him, throwing several excellent punches that drove Harry back and onto his back. She came closer, only to discover that Harry was serious about what he had told her in the library. His feet came up, impacting with her stomach and sending her flying into the wall, where everyone who had come in to see what he commotion was heard a loud crack, and she fell to the ground gasping in pain. Ron came at him for attacking his sister, and Harry broke his knee. When both were down and not attacking, Harry turned as if to get someone, and had been surprised and pleased that they were there to get the Weasley children to St. Mungo's. Everyone left him alone for the remainder of the summer.
Dumbledore agreed on the thirty-first to train him.
During the summer, Harry had discovered a volume in the library that truly pleased him. Apparently someone had bought a rather interesting book – it was a copy that allowed him to call up every single book in the Black family library. He sneaked that one into his bag for the trip to Hogwarts, and when he reached the Express, quickly found a compartment, and opened the book to the most recent one he'd been perusing. He glossed past almost every spell he came across, because so many of them required an unwilling sacrifice, or a massive build-up to the spell. Harry was quite sure that he simply would not have the time for the casting that some of these spells required.
The door opened to show Hermione looking in, concern on her face. "Willing to sit with the crazy Harry Potter?" he asked with a smile. "Might want to warn Luna and Neville, by the way."
She came in and sat across from him, sadness on her face. "It's just so wrong that you aren't sadder about this," she said.
"You're still in denial. Ginny apparently jumped straight into anger. It's been staring me in the face for all these years. Eventually you come to accept the eventual outcome." He looked back down into his book.
A head popped in, and a very familiar voice said, "Come on down to the next car, Hermione. We've got people who actually care about other people over there. Leave the asshole to himself."
"Ginny!" Hermione barked.
"Fuck off and die, Weasley," Harry snarled as he got up and stalked to the door. "Part of your anger is the fact that you could never get me into your knickers. It's always been about you, hasn't it? You've wanted the famous Harry Potter since before you knew who I was. You lied about Dean just to get on Ron's nerves, and probably to see how I'd react. Have you ever bothered to actually look at me as me and think about how I grew up?" He leaned down until his face was barely inches from her now frightened face. "Know this, little girl – if by some bizarre happenstance I survive this ordeal I'm training for, any friendship we may have had is over. I will acknowledge you as a sister of my real friends, but you have destroyed any chance that I could ever trust you again. Now get lost and find your fun and happy car, Weasley." He closed the door to the car in her shocked face.
"Harry, was that really necessary?" Hermione asked, concerned.
"She has been attacking me either verbally or physically since the first of August. I am sick of it, and the attacks have continued. I was willing to try to stay friendly with her, but I'm sick of it. She made her decision, and now she has to deal with it."
"Will you ever be friends with her again?"
"Well, I didn't make it an oath, so I'm free to go back on it if she ever grows up." He smiled. "Go on. I think you'd be happier in the other car. I'm just going to be reading – not really good company." She stood with a frown and leaned over to kiss his cheek before leaving the compartment.
He had been sitting there for a while when he heard the door open, and a familiar drawl spoke to him. "Oh look, the Potty has no friends anymore. He's even managed to drive away his Mudblood girlfriend." Harry continued to read, as if Malfoy wasn't in the room. "I'm talking to you, Potter!" Still Harry continued to read. He smiled inwardly as he saw Malfoy's hand come out to take the book from him. The blue-white flash that jumped from the book to the blonde boy's hand made him actually smile for just a moment.
"Oh, hi Draco! Didn't hear you come in. What's up?" he asked conversationally.
"Where are all your little hangers-on? Finally realize what a fraud you are?"
"Possibly. They're all the next car that way," he said, pointing in the direction that Hermione and Ginny had gone. "Maybe you can pick a fight over there. Now run along. I have studying to do, and no time to waste with you."
"And how do you propose to make me leave?" Draco smirked, sitting down.
"I don't. Eventually one of two things happen. Either you get bored with failing to get a rise out of me and leave, or you pull your wand on me to jinx the hell out of me, getting caught. I'm alone in the compartment. Do you really think that I'm really alone?" Malfoy and his omnipresent goons looked around suddenly, and left the cabin. As they headed down the hall, Harry called after them, "Hermione and the others are in the other direction, guys!"
Harry got to school and began training intensively immediately. He dropped most classes, preferring to study his books and those things that Dumbledore was teaching him, taking only N.E.W.T. Transformation, N.E.W.T. Charms, and N.E.W.T. Care of Magical Creatures, the last only because he still enjoyed being around Hagrid, often staying behind after class to help him clean up, just so they could talk.
It was on October thirteenth when he reached a point that made him sit up and take notice. He had found a seldom used spell, often used to force oneself into an astral projection. It was truly dangerous, however, when aimed at another being. And it was precisely what Harry needed.
Down in the dungeons, he waited until the most recent Potions class was over, and then entered the Potions Master's demesne. "Professor," he said simply.
"Ah, Potter. I wondered when you would arrive here. What are you here for?"
Harry spun and cast a strong Imperturbable Charm on the door to the lab. "I need to know where Voldemort is. I found what I need."
"And that is?" Snape drawled.
"I don't dare tell you, because I don't know how good Tom is at Legilimency. You have some contact with him, so it's safer not to give him any other chance than me to know what I'm doing. But it will work. I need to know where he's staying so that the Aurors can swoop in after I surprise him, and pick up the remaining Death Eaters."
"You really think it'll be that easy?"Snape sneered.
"If you tell me where he is so that I can sneak there, yeah."
"Let us just say that you have been in the area before, Mister Potter. Somewhat more than a year ago."
"Excellent. Plenty of places to hide where I can see him. Perfect."
On the twenty-eighth of October, at dinner in the Great Hall, Harry walked up to Professor Dumbledore and handed him and envelope, and left.