Ugh I didn't mean to start this story, I was going to keep working on the others but once I started I literally could not stop I hope you enjoy this story, it's put me off schedule a bit though I have been keeping up with the others. Most of them are in fact close to finishing its just that ending part...those of you who are writers would understand that the ending is perhaps the biggest challenge of all some times. At any rate, I hope you enjoy this- oh and I'm posting the whole story at once this time so leave me some big fat REVIEWS! for my efforts and the fact that I have not slept in forty-eight hours...

WARNINGS

torture

death

suicidal thoughts

homosexual relationships:

(THIS MEANS SEXUAL SITUATIONS BETWEEN MALE AND MALE DON'T LIKE? GO AWAY)

some gender bender

war

cursing

happy ending (sort of)

-1-

Harry stood on the pathway shoulders heavy with the burden he knew he had to carry. Ron was demanding that he come back, Ron was behind him shouting, saying that he and Hermione would go with him- and they would, of this he had no doubt. But he had to do this alone and he knew it. He turned slightly and caught sight of Ron whose eyes were pleading with him. Ron looked ready to tackle him and Harry felt his resolve tremble under the weight of that stare. It would be so nice…to turn back, to go back to Ron and Hermione and have them beside him for this just like in every other adventure they'd been dealt so far.

But then his eyes and his mind betrayed him.

Just as he was about to take a step back towards Ron there was a flicker. Ron was Sirius flying back through the veil because Harry wasn't good enough. Harry step faltered. His heart squeezed. He wasn't willing to lose them too. They were too precious.

"I'm sorry Ron." He whispered before apparating away. Harry's first instinct upon landing was to do a mental checklist of his physical self. He'd only every apparated a few times before and he was dead afraid of spilching himself. Fortunately everything seemed to be in place and Harry cursed himself for the few seconds it had taken him to make the change. He immediately reached into his pocket and pulled out the small flask of polyjuice he'd nicked from Moody when they'd come to his house. Biting his lip he prayed that Ginny would forgive him before letting the long strand of red hair drop into the potion. The potion turned yellow and smelled faintly of gooseberries and he swallowed it back in one long gulp wincing at the taste. Within moments he was changing in unpleasant ways his eyes widening slightly in shock as everything changed. He hadn't really thought when he'd snagged one of Ginny's hairs from her hairbrush, he just knew that no one would think to look for a girl if they were looking for him. He bit his lip and felt decidedly awkward as the change settled leaving him…well…a girl.

This was strange…

He shook his head and decided that he would think about all this later. Instead he slipped his cloak on and pulled the hood over his head. He would need supplies if he was going to be on the run. He'd already nicked the tent Hermione had gotten for 'just in case' and had loaded his bag with nearly the entire Black family library as well as a few house hold books he thought might come in handy. But he still didn't feel nearly prepared enough. He scuttled through the empty street keeping close to the shops and darting in every once and a while to pick up more little things that he might need. Maps for one, a compass, a book on warding that he hadn't seen in his stacks and stacks of books. Any book that might help him figure out what the next Horcrux was and where to find it. His hands were shaking by the time he stepped into the last shop an apothecary. His time was nearly up but he had a long list of ingredients that he needed to fill. He'd used Snape's old book despite his hatred of the git, it was helpful after all and he was rotten at making potions. The man he'd handed the list over to had merely raised his eyebrows before nodding and turning to the shelves.

"Seems a lot of folks are stocking up on these types of potions, most people just want to buy the potion its self but these don't have a very long shelf life. You're a clever one asking for the ingredients instead." The man mused as he began slipping jars and vials into a large crate. The bell to the shop door clanged loudly and Harry felt his hand go to his wand when the shop keep paled slightly. "Ah, mister Snape, I was just telling this young lady here that your potions seem to have the most potent responses by far. Longest shelf life too, Hogwarts was blessed to have you eh?" The man said nervously his eyes darting from side to side. Harry had frozen stiff. Familiar rage and confusion burned through him but along with it was fear. If Snape caught him now he wouldn't have much of a chance! Harry glanced at the clock on the far wall and bit his lip. He only had about five minutes left.

"Enough prattling Jeffrey I need these." Snape said sliding a bit of parchment across the table. The shop keep that had just placed the last of the bottles into the crate glanced at the list and paled.

"Of course just let me take care of this sale and I'll get to it." The man said licking his lips nervously. "Thirty six gallons even girl." The man said with a swallow. Harry reached for the purse he'd nicked from Hermione and quickly counted out the money. His face was itching already and his eyes burning. Almost…he just had to get out of here- he could curse Snape when he was better prepared for it-

A hand snatched his hood back suddenly and he gasped flinching away from the long fingered hand. Snape paled almost completely.

"Lily." Harry's heart stuck in his throat at the whispered word. Harry felt his wand buzz and knew he was out of time. He slammed the money onto the counter snatched up his box and made a run for it leaving Snape to stare after him as though he'd seen a ghost. Harry ran down the street expecting the uncomfortable shift to happen at any moment, he had to get to safety before that happened though- "LILY!" He heard the shout from behind him and gasped to see Snape chasing after him. What the hell?! Harry darted around a corner, took a deep breath and apparated just as Snape rounded the corner. No sooner did he land then his body began to make the shift. It hurt. Harry gasped and writhed on the ground. It hadn't been like this the last time!

Suddenly he remembered Hermione coughing up fur balls and wondered if he wasn't supposed to have used Polyjuice to become a girl. Luckily he felt his bits and pieces fall into place and let out a sigh of relief before standing and brushing himself off. He'd decided ahead of time to come to London. His idea was that the death eaters would be less likely to look for him in a street crowded with muggles. He stepped out from the small dank Ally and glanced around suspiciously before pulling off his cloak and pulling on a grey sweatshirt that had once been Dudley's. It was too large on him of course but Harry wasn't really bothered by it. He pulled up the hood and ducked his head as he slipped out into the street. It was cold and drizzling lightly which Harry was partly glad for because it kept everyone's heads down. No one would pay attention to him when they were so intent on getting to wherever they needed to go. Harry glanced at his watch and bit his lip. It seemed to him as though his trip to Diagon Ally would have taken longer than the hour and fifteen minutes it had taken. He sighed and leaned his head back against a wall.

Right, first thing he had to find some place to sleep-

Crack!

Harry jumped at the familiar sound.

"Lily!" Snape came barreling out of the ally Harry had just come out of looking everything like a mad man. Harry's fist tightened around the handle of his wand. He wasn't ready to face Snape! A part of him wanted to kill the man for even thinking he could use Harry's mother's name, another part of him wondered why Snape was calling out for Harry's mum. Snape gazed around wildly and Harry had just enough presence of mind to force himself to turn and walk. He had to act normal; he had to act like any other muggle! He grit his teeth and took a few steps before freezing at the odd sound. "Oh! Merlin no- Lily…" Harry turned slightly in shock and watched as Snape collapsed against a wall and began to cry openly his wand clattering to the ground. Harry felt as if he'd been punched in the gut. What the hell?! It made him angry, Snape made him furious sitting there crying! It didn't make sense! None of it made sense! His eyes landed on the abandoned wand and then flickered up to where Snape had buried his face in his hands. With a subtle flick of his own wand Harry summoned Snape's wand and slipped it into his pocket before turning and continuing to walk as though Snape wasn't sitting on the cold wet concrete behind him changing everything Harry had thought he'd known about the man.

-2-

Harry ended up moving to Leeds. He lived in a small crappy flat that leaked and creaked and had a toilet that Harry didn't dare use. In a fit of paranoia Harry had decided to use Snape's wand to charm the landlord into believing that the room Harry was staying in didn't exist at all. After all if the ministry had a tracker on his once, then they might be able to find him again. He refused to note of course that Snape's wand felt right in the palm of his hand. Harry let his head fall onto the open book with a dull thud.

How the hell was he supposed to do this?!

He let out a frustrated sound. He'd been here in Leeds for three weeks now, just sitting here forcing himself to memorize and practice spells. Oh had quite a mind for them now, after all Hermione had been stomping spells into their brain since-

A flash of pain lit through him briefly.

-since Sirius had died. Harry closed his eyes. This wasn't the first time he'd been locked away with nothing but his books to keep him sane. After Sirius died Harry had gone through a frenzy driven by the ever present 'what ifs' and the loss that came with them. Harry had spent the long summer locked in Dudley's second bedroom tormented by nightmares and determined that he'd never ever lose someone that way again.

Much like he was doing now really.

He let out a frustrated sigh and turned the page to his book, his list of potential Horcruxes had grown and the mocking jeer from R.A.B taunted him. The locket was a bust, Harry acknowledged now that he'd known the moment he'd touched it the feeling was nothing like the one that came from Tom Riddles diary or the ring Dumbledore had destroyed. Harry felt that thought trail off as a new one edged around in his mind.

Maybe…

It would be dangerous but…he closed his eyes anyway and let his mind focus on that feeling. The small tug he hadn't been willing to admit to when his focus had latched onto the ring for the first time. Harry gasped as a flicker rushed past his eyes, a shape, a shadow, like a memory he couldn't quite recall. And then there it was- the locket cradled in Kreacher's greedy hands- and then the dark mark, clear in his mind's eye. Harry felt his eyes snap open as he gasped. Something about that thought was not good at all. Without a thought he was snatching Snape's wand and waving it at the flat his things flying at impossible speeds into his bag. The first crack sounded through the air and Harry felt his heart pound as he glanced out the window and realized what had happened as more and more dark figures appeared.

He'd called the death eaters!

Biting his lip he snatched his bag up threw on a sweater and apparated. Harry landed in front of Number twelve and turned around sharply Snape's wand in his hand only to realize that no one was there except a small boy who was staring at him in shock. Harry winced. He'd apparated in broad daylight. Harry turned and stepped through the wards to number twelve pushing the door open without a thought only to gasp as Dumbledore's ghost swept forward. Harry jumped to the side and his eyes widened as the specter flew straight out the door before a spell crashed into the wood making the door rattle on its hinges. Harry panted and realized belatedly that it had been a trick, a booby trap of some sort. Merlin…He stumbled further into the house and felt a deep ache settle in his chest as he thought first of the headmaster and then of Sirius. He sighed as he crept up the stairs and to the room he usually slept in while here.

"Kreacher." Harry said his heart burning with anger and pain. The elf popped into existence and immediately scowled. Harry sighed- he needed to find out about that locket.

#$%^#$%^#$%^#%^

Hermione stared out the window a grim frown on her lips. There hadn't been any word from Harry yet and she knew it wouldn't be too long before Voldemort learned that Harry was missing and not safely hidden away by the Order. She sighed and closed her eyes tiredly.

"Hermione honey don't you want to go out? Cindy called earlier; she wanted to know if you didn't want to catch a film with her." Her mother said hopefully. Hermione felt her heart squeeze.

"Mum, I need to talk to you and dad." She said softly. This had gone on long enough, it was killing her. Her mother appeared pale and worried but she nodded her head in that same professional way that she treated every unconventional situation that occurred in their lives.

"Of course dear, I'll call him; it's a Thursday so he shouldn't have too many appointments-" Hermione bit her lip to keep the tears at bay.

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The second time Harry had done it was entirely unintentional. He had needed to get out of Grimmauld place; it was too filled with memories of Sirius for him to handle it for long. So he'd charmed his hair a darker shade of red than Ginny's, stuck in some contacts, grabbed one of his books and made his way down to the city to find some lunch and get some fresh air. He'd only just sat down to his meal when he felt it, the tug, like the suction from a vacuum pulling at his scar. There was a flash of light behind his eyes before suddenly it was over and he was staring down at his sandwich wondering what had just happened. He shook his head and turned to his sandwich cracking his book open with his other hand-

CRACK!

Harry's eyes widened and he turned slowly to the window of the Deli where the robed figure was standing. In an instant he grabbed his book and ran for the bar.

CRACK!

CRACK!

CRACK!

"What the bloody hell-?" Harry felt his heart catch in his throat as he stared through the glass case where the meats and cheeses were lined up. "Shite!"

One of the death eaters let out an audible whoop and grabbed a woman by her hair pressing his wand against her head. Harry flinched when it exploded smattering against the window. But…she was innocent…just some lady who was walking by- Screams tore through the air and Harry stared in fear and shock as the death eaters fanned out suddenly and began attacking. Harry couldn't move. He was frozen, useless, and a very big part of him was aware that he was the cause of it. He watched as person after person was murdered right before his eyes. People who had families, loved ones, friends- their lives terminated in a ruthless violent attack. The death eaters were laughing and spreading out. The man behind the counter let out a shout and made a run for it- people were screaming, running- spells were cast left and right-

And Harry understood for the first time why so many people feared Voldemort.

Harry trembled.

He couldn't do anything. He was just a kid, a terrified kid who had no chance against these people.

Harry tugged his sweater tightly around him and pulled up the hood hoping that the death eaters wouldn't see him or recognize him. He pulled out Snape's wand slowly and bit his lip. A part of him was screaming to go out there and be heroic- another part, the part that had sat helplessly by and watched as Dumbledore died knew that it would do him no good. He was just as useless now as he had been back then and these people would pay the price for it.

He swallowed back the tears.

He should stay, he was only a couple blocks from Grimmauld place, if he tried to go back there would be no doubt that he would be caught-

An explosion rocketed through the air knocking him onto his side and for a moment as his ears rang he wondered if it had been the Deli. When he cracked his eyes open though he could see that it had been the two shops across from him which were now a great gaping hole that was smoldering. He heard laughter and shouts amidst the screaming and knew that he wasn't safe in the Deli any more. He cast a disillusionment charm on himself and carefully crawled towards the side door-

He was knocked back violently and flung across the floor hitting the wood paneling clear on the other end of the shop. His head was ringing loudly as he cracked his eyes open and he stared blearily at the missing wall. Slowly the ringing in his ears died down enough for him to hear the sounds of apparation and then the sound of spell casting. He sat up slowly and watched for a long moment as the newly arrived Aurors took on the death eaters. Harry was struck again by how untrained he was, he'd seen Voldemort fight, he'd seen the battle at the Ministry and he understood very well that he was desperately helpless. All the book knowledge in the world wouldn't be able to get him ready for this. He needed training; real training and he couldn't think of a single reason why Dumbledore hadn't offered it to him while he was alive rather than those damned useless Occlumency lessons. One of the Auror's he'd seen battling for several minutes was blasted back and Harry winced as the man hit the wall of the Deli not far from where he was sprawled out in the rubble.

A mad thought hit him as he watched the death eater enter the shop his eyes searching for his prey. A mad thought…but Harry was mad enough for it now. He'd seen too much, he couldn't take it any more, and frankly a part of him was terrified. For the first time in his life he truly wanted that death eater to die.

"Avada Kedavra." He whispered pointing Snape's wand at the man. A cold feeling washed through him, a cold, numb and terrifyingly familiar feeling as he watched the green spell light the tip of his wand and then leave it hitting the death eater square in the chest. There was a brief moment where Harry could see and feel the light leave the man's eyes. Harry watched in awe and fear as the death eater collapsed to the floor.

Harry was suddenly very cold and tingly all over, he was shaking and he knew that he really had to get out of here-

Oh god he'd just killed a man-

He had to get back to Grimmauld place, maybe Kreacher had found Mundungus, maybe he had the locket-

-Dead eyes were staring at him-

Harry forced himself to stand and a jolt of pain shot through his leg. He panted and cautiously moved it around. It wasn't broken, but it was sprained badly he could tell. He let out a curse and glanced up looking for a way out only to find the Auror staring at him in shock.

"Who?" the man said wide-eyed. Harry felt his heart grow cold. The man had seen him kill that death eater! He'd seen Harry cast an unforgivable.

A mad thought entered his mind and he bit his bottom lip as another explosion rocketed through the air sounding father away this time.

"Get up." Harry said calmly, coldly. The Auror frowned but nodded and stood up appearing confused. Harry licked his lips as he looked at the man. He was tall, in his mid thirties and looked as though he knew what he was doing. Harry let his eyes slip closed. "I'm sorry, I really am, but I need training and there isn't anyone to train me right now." And then he stunned the man to keep him still before wrapping his arms around him and apparating praying to whatever deities that might be listening that he didn't spilch either of them.

When he opened his eyes again they were standing only feet away from Grimmauld Place. Harry spun instinctively when he felt something tingle in the back of his mind and let out a curse as a spell whizzed past him and hit the tree behind him. Luckily it was only one death eater; unluckily Harry couldn't let it get out that he was here.

"Avada Kedavra" Harry said grimly. The numb feeling hit him faster this time- everything was faster this time. Suddenly the death eater was dead on the ground and Harry was left with his blood roaring in his ears. Harry couldn't stand to look at the body. "Incendio." He whispered causing a jet of fire to light the death eater up. Harry panted. "Kreacher." He demanded roughly his voice high pitched from the stress of it all. The elf appeared with a crack and Harry let out a sigh. "Take him inside check him for injuries." He said roughly. Kreacher grabbed the Auror by the wrist and with a crack disappeared. Harry glanced at the burning body on the ground and felt his hands begin to shake. His head jerked up as he heard yelling in the distance and he ran as quickly as he could up the steps and into Grimmauld place. Harry collapsed into a heap on the floor and ignored Mrs. Black's shouting and hollering as he folded his hands over his knees and wept.

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"Mum, dad?" Hermione said her voice trembling. She had her wand in her hand and was gripping the handle tightly as her parents looked at her in concern. She should have known, she really should have known the moment that she received her Hogwarts letter that this would have never worked. She was different from them. And now she was a stranger to them.

"Oh darling what is it? What's the matter?" Her mother said in concern. Hermione felt her resolve weaken for just a moment but following that weakness, that urge to run to her mum and cry like a little girl- there was a resolve that hardened in her. The resolve of a woman who had to do what was best for her family. They didn't stand a chance unless she did this.

"I love you." Hermione said tears dripping down her cheeks. "Obliviate."

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It was some time later that Harry managed to crawl to his feet and stumble up stairs. He undressed in the loo intent on checking for injuries only to blanch when he looked in the mirror and realized that no one was there.

The disillusionment charm…

He let out a half sob and released the charm staring at his tear streaked face. A majority of the reason he'd-he'd killed those two death eaters was because he thought they'd seen him. But the charm had held and they hadn't really needed to die.

"Kreacher is locking Auror in room master, Kreacher is filling master's bath too." The wrinkled old elf said wringing his hands. After Harry had talked to kreacher about the locket he'd come to a truce of sorts with the elf- which meant that Kreacher was apparently much more willing to do the house work and cooking around Grimmauld.

"Thanks Kreacher- can you make sure he gets food?" Harry said slowly limping to the bath.

"Yes Master, is master wanting Kreacher to heal his leg?" Kreacher asked with wide doleful eyes. Harry didn't even want to think about the fact that a house elf knew how to heal his leg when he'd only just covered the basics of minor bumps and bruises.

"Yes please." Harry said tiredly. Harry winced when a spell rushed over his leg leaving him with an intense flare of heat before it faded and his leg was left feeling sore but not sprained. "Thanks Kreacher." He said stripping the rest of his clothes and slipping into the bath tub.

"Master is not needing to thank Kreacher, master is a great wizard now, Master mustn't be worrying about nasty prisoners…" Harry vaguely listened to Kreacher prattle on but all too soon he was falling fast asleep.

-3-

"-believe this you don't even have a proper room to duel in kid-!" Harry's eyes flashed as the Auror's words echoed through the house. The man was not amused with being kidnapped and brought here to train Harry but Harry didn't know what else to do! In three quick strides he was facing the wall and pulling out his wand. A spell shot from the end of it feeding on his anger and determination crawling along the edge of the wall to the corner and then across the ceiling and back down the other side before Harry dragged it just above floor level and completed the track. With a vicious kick the wall came crashing down. He turned to the Auror sharply his eyes blazing.

"Look." He said gritting his teeth. "Dumbledore is dead and I have no one to train me, there wasn't anyone ever there to train me yet you lot and the rest of the wizarding world keep expecting me to somehow kill the smartest and most powerful dark lord of our era! I've watched so many people that I care about die already because I was untrained and naive and I hate it!" He shouted desperately. "Do you remember your first year at Hogwarts? Bet it was fun, bet it was peaceful, full of nervous little beginnings where your only troubles were your grades and whether or not people would like you? Mine? Voldemort was attached to the back of my defense professors scull, there was never any peace for me!" He panted. "I need to learn and no one else seems to get that I don't even know how to be the kid they all expect me to be! You saw what it was like out there at that raid? Welcome to my life." He hissed. "Yes, I'm desperate, but I haven't the choice. Every adult in my life has failed me and the only one that even remotely came close to being there for me is dead because of me." He hissed. "Get rid of that fucking mentality you have about me being a kid because that never happened." He ended coldly. The Auror was staring at him pale faced and wide-eyed. Slowly the man nodded.

"Fine." He said shortly. "But you better work your ass of kid." He said crossing his arms. Harry nodded.

"I don't have a choice." He said dryly.

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Mundungus Fletcher wasn't talking. Kreacher had dragged him in that morning and the man had taken one look at Harry before refusing to talk.

Harry had a mad idea.

"Kreacher, tie him to the chair in the other room." Harry said softly. Harry had spent every day training with Auror Kent. The man worked him until he literally passed out day and night. Harry expected that the man was trying to wear him down so that he could convince Harry to go back to the Order or give up on this. Harry wouldn't though; he couldn't give up not after seeing what had happened in the city earlier that week.

"Yes of course Master." Kreacher said with a large grin. Harry steadied himself and turned back to the room he'd been training in where Kent was waiting impatiently.

"I have to take care of something I don't know how long it will take." Harry said gritting his teeth. The Auror narrowed his eyes.

"I thought you wanted to train?" The man said sneering. Harry glared.

"I do, and I will, but I have other things I need to take care of too, the war doesn't just stop because I'm inept." He snapped before turning and striding out of the room slamming the door behind him. He was exhausted and now…now this.

Harry took a deep breath before opening the door to the room where Mundungus was tied to a chair glaring furiously at him. Harry locked the door behind him and readied himself.

"You stole a locket from this house, a locket of grave importance to this war, if you do not tell me where it is I will torture you." Harry said softly, dangerously. Fletcher's glare wavered slightly before intensifying.

"You?" The man sneered. Harry felt his heart squeeze.

"Kreacher. A kettle of boiling water if you will." Harry said hoping that this would be enough to scare the man. He remained impassive as the kettle appeared on the low table beside him.

"I dare you." Fletcher said clearly believing that Harry wouldn't. Harry felt sick in the bottom of his stomach. Uncle Vernon had done this to him once when he was a kid; it was enough to convince him of anything the man wanted to accuse him of. Harry grasped the handle flipped the top and tilted it pouring the boiling water onto Fletcher's tied arm.

"AAAAAHHHHH!" Fletcher howled in shock and pain as he looked at Harry. "I don't know I swear I don't-" Harry poured some on the other arm. "-nononono! I tell you I don't have it I don't!" Harry pulled back.

"Where is it?" He demanded. Fletcher's face was flushed and his eyes watering from the pain.

"I won't tell ya!" He spat furiously. Harry held his breath and lifted the kettle again but Fletcher shook his head vehemently. "You'll never get it outta me I don' know what you're talking about-" Harry poured the water directly over the man's crotch and this time he didn't pull back after a few drops, he kept pouring. Fletcher's screams rang loudly in his ears and Harry felt sick but he didn't stop until the man was babbling. Harry slammed the nearly empty kettle onto the table and snatched Fletcher's hair yanking it back forcibly.

"Tell me where it is or I swear I will hurt you." He ground out. He hated himself, hated what he was becoming, but he couldn't stop. He didn't have time for this! Voldemort was out there gaining power and there were people getting killed every day!

"Umbridge! The bitch at the ministry! She told me she'd arrest me for selling dark objects if I didn' give it ta her!" Fletcher wept. Harry felt his heart sink in his chest.

Great.

Harry knelt down and carefully began to heal the burns ignoring the man's tears. When he was done he forced the man to stand and cut his bindings.

"Obliviate." He said softly before watching the man's eyes go blank. "You were hit in the head from behind and robbed, you didn't see your attacker but you know that it would be better not to find out who they were. You will go about your business as usual but you will never come back to Order headquarters because you are terrified of it." Harry said to the dazed man. "Kreacher, take him and leave him somewhere in Knocturn." Harry said tiredly.

"Of course master!" Kreacher said nastily. Harry waited for the telltale crack before lashing out his spell leaving the chair obliterated and a scorch mark on the floor. Harry swallowed thickly and sighed before moving to the door and opening it.

Kent was standing in the hallway staring at him with wide disbelieving eyes.

Harry felt the nausea sweep over him and turned his head to the side throwing up everything he'd just eaten. He wiped his mouth and trembled before flicking his wand at the mess and cleaning it up. Harry took a deep breath before moving towards the make shift training room.

"What are you waiting for Kent? An invitation?" He said tiredly as he stepped into the room. A moment later Kent was striding in after him lips pressed into a thin line eyes alight with fire.

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Severus stared into the grate his eyes haunted his heart tormented. Lily…he could swear it had been her…those eyes, those fiery green eyes. Lily had looked just as she had when they were younger. He knew it made no sense, but for a moment he'd been thirteen again having just admitted to her that he liked her-liked her…Merlin had he ever been that innocent?

Was she alive?

Was he mistaken?

But he knew Lily! And he knew more than anyone that she was dead. He'd held her, rocked her cooling body and wept over the loss he felt so acutely.

And she had been real. No one else could have taken his wand without being cursed to oblivion and back. He leaned his head back and felt the tears gather in the corners of his eyes.

Lily…

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Harry stared at the mirror and squinted slightly. He'd charmed his hair red again- not Ginny red but more of the auburn red that he knew his mother had been. He cocked his head to the side in consideration. His hair had gotten long, he hadn't cut it in over a year and a half now- but, he mused with slight glee, the length had apparently weighted down much of the mess and left his hair if not flat, at least flatter and neater. Harry frowned at his appearance before turning to Regulus' drawers and fumbling about for a ribbon. He fumbled with it a bit the edges more slippery and awkward than he'd thought they would be but in the end he had a neat bow holding his hair in place in the back. He'd asked Kreacher to press a set of robes he'd found in the attic, they were slightly faded but had a timeless cut that he knew he wouldn't feel embarrassed wearing and as he looked at himself now all cleaned up and dressed to impress he had to admit…not bad.

He sighed heavily.

What was he thinking? He had deep circles under his eyes and had lost enough weight that he looked positively gaunt. He rubbed his eyes tiredly wincing as the contact lenses shifted slightly before snatching up the gift he'd gotten for Bill and Fleur and heading out of the room. This was dangerous, dead dangerous he knew, but he missed them all so much…to the point that it ached. Some days he wondered if all this training was worth it. When he kept getting knocked to the ground again and again, when he couldn't see progress and when Kreacher admitted that he couldn't kidnap Umbridge and bring her here- he needed to see his friends and family again even if it was just for a little while.

"Oho! Looking handsome." Kent leered slightly. Harry flushed.

"Yeah right." He said rolling his eyes. "I'll be back later, Kreacher will keep an eye on you, don't try anything please?" Harry said wryly. As if that would stop the man.

"Whatever you say wonder boy." The man sneered. Harry rolled his eyes and stepped out onto the stoop. He glanced around to make sure that no one was looking before apparating with a crack.

When Harry landed he could only stand there for a moment and stare.

The burrow was untouched. It looked just as it always had- as though it could be knocked down by a strong wind. It looked like home and Harry suddenly felt incredibly tired. It was still the wee hours of the morning, the sun had only just come up and Harry was sure that no one would be awake yet so he stepped past the ward line and down the stone path eyeing the garden fondly before he came to the door to the kitchen. It was locked but it only took a simple charm to unlock it and for a moment he mused over the pointlessness of the lock, anyone in their second year could get into the house if they really wanted to. Harry shook his head and stepped through the door-

"Protego!" his shield was up before the spell left Molly Weasley's lips. Harry blinked as the wall behind him was scorched black. "Jeeze Mrs. Weasley I guess I know where Ginny gets it." He said blankly before turning back to see her standing there pale faced her eyes welling with tears.

"Oh!" And that was all she got out before she was rushing him and wrapping him into one of her infamous Molly hugs. Harry tensed at first before relaxing feeling at home and comforted. She pulled away and cupped his cheeks her lips trembling. "Oh you horrible, horrible boy Harry Potter! Not one word from you! Not a single word to tell us you were alive!" And then she was crying much to his alarm. "You had me worried sick!" She whispered before pulling him into another hug. Harry flushed in shame his ears turning pink.

"I'm sorry Mrs. Weasley, I couldn't risk contacting you, its dangerous out there." He said returning the embrace. Molly pulled back and looked as though she was struggling with something before she let out a frustrated sound.

"I know Harry. I know." She said lifting her apron and dabbing her eyes with it. "And I'm sorry Harry, I am truly sorry that you have to face it. Ron told me that Headmaster Dumbledore left you with a task; he wouldn't tell me what it was but…oh! Harry I was so worried!" She pat his cheek lightly before frowning. "Oh but you're so thin! You look as if a good wind could knock you over!" And then she was bustling over to the stove pulling this and that out, flickering her wand about and making what Harry knew would be an enormous breakfast. She prattled on about this and that talking about the wedding and the preparations as she laid the tea out for him.

Harry knew then that he'd been forgiven.

He savored his tea and ate his meal slowly. It tasted like the best thing he'd ever eaten and he knew that it was because it was made by Mrs. Weasley. Kreacher was a good enough cook but Molly Weasley- she was as good as family to him. It was quite a while later when Harry had pushed his plate away and was nursing his second cup of tea that a familiar figure stumbled down the stairs and into the seat across from him.

"Good morning dear." Mrs. Weasley said settling a heaping plate before Ron who's attention was immediately captured by the food. Harry smirked slightly at Ron who was still obviously half asleep.

"Good morning Ron." Harry said taking a sip of his tea.

"Mornin' mum, morning' Harry." Ron said around his eggs. Harry waited for Ron's eyes to squint in confusion before widening in shock and understanding and then narrowing in fury- Harry had just enough time to dodge Ron's punch. "YOU BASTARD!" Ron lurched over the table taking Harry by surprise.

"Ronald!" Mrs. Weasley shouted in dismay. Harry's training certainly came in handy then as he started dodging punches and blocking objects as Ron threw them.

"YOU UTTER AND COMPLETE BERK! YOU LEFT ME BEHIND! WHAT THE HELL DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING! AFTER EVERYTHING WE'VE BEEN THROUGH! AFTER THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS? AFTER QUIRREL AND UMBRIDGE AND THE SPIDERS! THE SPIDERS HARRY! DID ALL THAT MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?!" Ron roared at the top of his lungs before yelping when his mother cast a spell and tied him down to one of the chairs her eyes narrowed and her foot tapping.

"I can't Ron!" Harry said panting as he righted a chair. "You don't know what it's like out there- those death eaters? They don't care! They just kill and they don't care at all! They're sick and twisted!" He shouted. "I lost Sirius, Ron. You and Hermione, this family, these people- you are all I have! I have to do this alone! I have to!" He was panting by the end of it his heart squeezing and his eyes burning. Ron wouldn't understand, he would never understand that Harry had killed and had tortured and that Harry would do it again, would do far worse things if it meant keeping Ron and Hermione out of it. Harry's hands were dirty and he knew it, but he'd seen first hand that jelly-legs jinxes and all that stuff they learned in school just wasn't going to cut it! Ron turned his head and glared at the table his body relaxing in the chair.

"Harry?" Harry turned and found that the entire Weasley clan plus Hermione had gathered on the stairs sleepy eyed and staring in wonder. He sighed and sat down heavily in his chair.

"Hi everyone, sorry to cause a fuss so early, I couldn't come later or I'd risk being seen." He said tiredly.

"Oh Harry you idiot." Hermione sobbed rushing forward suddenly and hugging him tightly. "We were so worried." She breathed before breaking down into tears. Harry sighed and submitted himself to the fact that he would be held and cried on quite a lot that day.

"Well Harry-" Fred said grinning.

"-you cut quite the figure don't you?" George said with a grin that made Harry blush. The twins grinned at each other and sauntered down the stairs tugging at his hair.

"Love the hair darling." Fred said with a wink.

"Our little boy's grown to be quite the man hasn't he?" George flirted. Harry flushed brightly and Hermione let out a huff.

"Oh! You leave off! You know he has to do it! He couldn't be seen looking like he usually does could he!" Hermione snapped. Fred and George took a step back and shared wide grins before holding their hands up.

"Why Hermione!" Fred said brightly.

"We thought you were with ickle Ronnikins!"

"But if you're this jealous-"

"We'll back off."

"Though we must admit,"

"You're quite selfish keeping him all to yourself." The twins chorused. Harry feeling drained and quite out of place quietly made his way to the other side of the table and drank his tea. Since when did the twins flirt with him? He shook his head. It must be some new game of theirs. Although…he flushed slightly at the mental image only to blanch at having thought it at all. Merlin! What was that?! He liked girls! He kissed Cho! He dated girls! He shook his head. The stress must be screwing with his mind that was all. He nodded inwardly to himself and set his cup down. He really didn't have time for this. He sighed and leaned back in his seat.

"Hello Harry." Charlie greeted as he sat across from him. "I see you've already started the chaos." He said amused. Harry snorted.

"Welcome to my life." He said toasting Charlie with his cup. Charlie always made him a bit nervous, the older boy was so tall and well- handsome, not that Harry's acknowledging that made him in any way gay. But Charlie had a sort of charisma going for him that Harry found he could admire.

"Harry…that's not you're wand." Hermione said startling him from his thoughts. Harry glanced at Snape's wand and nodded slowly.

"Can't use mine, it has the ministry trace on it remember?" Harry said hoping that she wouldn't ask whose it was. He frowned though when no answer was forthcoming. He glanced around him curiously at all the shocked faces. Shit, had they figured out that it was Snape's wand-?

"Harry…Today is your birthday." Hermione said softly. Harry's hand froze from where it was raising his tea to his lips and his frown deepened.

"Oh." He said blinking rapidly. Hermione bit her bottom lip.

"You forgot your own birthday didn't you Harry?" She said grimly. Harry shrugged; at least they weren't talking about Snape's wand any more.

"S' not important." He said, feeling awkward.

"I don't believe it." Ron said numbly. "It's Harry bleeding Potter's birthday and all around the world people are celebrating it- but you don't care do you? You really don't care about your own birthday." Ron said shaking his head. Harry frowned.

"Hold up- people celebrate my birthday?" Harry said feeling distinctly uncomfortable with that tidbit of information. He shook his head. "That's creepy mate, I mean last year-" he cut himself off. It didn't matter, the Dursley's didn't matter. But still…he could remember waiting for midnight to hit so that he could celebrate alone in the middle of the night. "Ah, it doesn't matter, who needs a birthday." He said with a shrug.

"I think our birthday boy-"

"Is in need of a birthday kiss!"

Harry flushed bright red as Fred and George swooped in and kissed him on both cheeks.

"Fred, George!" Ginny roared before chasing after them but Harry was in a dull state grinning ear to ear without a thought.

"I don't think he minded Gin." Charlie murmured with a grin. Harry flushed under the sudden attention.

"Er…?" He tried only to fail.

"Its alright mate, saw it coming after Cho." Ron mumbled having apparently gotten over his problem with Harry if the plate of pancakes he was devouring was anything to go by. Harry frowned.

"I'm not…well you know."

"A poofter?" Fred said grinning.

"Playin' for the other team?" Said George.

"A fruitcake?" Fred offered.

Harry was bright red.

"Boys you leave Harry alone now!" Molly scolded spatula in hand. Harry wondered briefly how it had all turned into this.

"Point is-" Greg said grinning.

"Harry bats for our team now." Fred said grinning just as widely.

"And we have first dance at the wedding, don't we Harry?" George muttered right into his ear making him shiver. Harry stood abruptly and pulled away from them his expression torn.

"Harry?" Hermione said knowingly. Harry turned away.

"I have a dark lord after me Fred, George; every day becomes another day of just making it through. I'm flattered but the people around me tend to get hurt and I really don't have the energy for this." He said before stepping out the back door and into the back yard. He rubbed his face tiredly. He knew they were just messing around, after all he'd seen himself in the mirror that morning, there was very little to be attracted to. But it had felt too loud, too claustrophobic to suddenly be surrounded by people and then to have that pushed in his face!

"Harry." He jerked at the familiar voice and swallowed slightly when Charlie stepped off the porch. "Mum asked me if she could get you to help me with the clippers." Charlie said nodding at the shed. Harry nodded absently glad for the distraction from earlier. "I'm sorry I outed you earlier." Charlie said as they approached the shed and Charlie fiddled with the lock.

"You didn't-er well." Harry trailed off blushing brightly his eyes dropping to the ground. Charlie smirked and stepped into the shed.

"Harry I'll be honest with you, I remember some of what the war was like, just tidbits, but enough to convince me that you did us all a great service in offing the bastard the first time." Charlie said turning to him lazily. Harry's heart thudded in his chest when Charlie turned and moved closer. "I know you're afraid of it Harry, god I remember that I was terrified but-" Harry felt his breath catch when Charlie suddenly closed the distance in kissed him sending an electric shock through him. It was brief and not even a deep kiss, but when Charlie pulled away Harry was left panting feeling like he could come just from that. "-that aught to help ease the way a bit." Charlie said giving him a dimpled smile. Harry let out a sound that was just as confused as he was and Charlie snorted before darting forward and kissing him again tugging him firmly against a broad chest. Harry couldn't think. Charlie was like a protective wall curled around him and he was kissing Harry. And oh Harry was certainly liking it!

"Charlie?!" Molly's voice came causing Charlie to let out a slightly annoyed sound before pulling away.

"You are very much worth the risk Potter, and I think you'll find that some people like the risk." He said pressing a kiss to Harry's temple before releasing him, snatching up the clippers from the wall and dashing out of the shed while Harry stared after him. When Charlie was long gone and Harry's heart stopped pounding in his ears he glanced down and swallowed to see a growing wet patch in the front of his trousers.

Well.

At least the kiss wasn't wet.

He groaned and buried his face in his hands.

Right well- yeah- soooo…he was gay….

Great.

#$% #$% #$%

Harry winced under the weight of the enormous vase of roses along with Ron who was grimacing in silent communication with him while Molly moved the table cloth just a smidgen over. Apparently it wasn't straight and apparently that mattered, also magic would somehow damage the elaborate flower arrangement which meant he had to stand there, ten minutes before the wedding face to face with a bunch of roses.

"There! That's better!" Molly said nervously. Harry gratefully set down the vase with Ron and moved it carefully so as to keep from messing up the table cloth again. Harry sagged in relief when Mrs. Weasley took off to scold the twins for twisting the streamers the wrong way. Harry shook his head in bemusement. He should have just asked Molly Weasley to train him! He'd done enough work in the last three hours to make Kent's stamina training feel like nothing. He'd learned a lot too- Mrs. Weasley seemed to think that since he was apparently gay that he would need to learn good housekeeping spells. Harry had never been more embarrassed in his life- well, that is until Fred and George had somehow managed to transfigure his suit into a maids outfit. Harry had taken it in stride though, it wasn't as if he had a choice, getting angry would have provoked them. And he hadn't been blind to the fact that while the prank had been pulled on him- seeing him dressed up like that had left Fred and George stuttering until it was obvious that the joke was on them. Harry grinned slightly at the memory before shaking his head as Ron came to stand beside him fiddling with the flower on his suit.

"I'll tell you what mate; there won't be any suit jackets at my wedding, Casual wear for everyone!" He said tugging at the collar of his suit. Harry smirked as he caught Ron's gaze as it followed Hermione.

"Oi, don't talk to me about it, you'll have to see what Hermione thinks, I'm just the best man." Harry said smirking when Ron nodded thoughtfully before turning red to the tips of his ears.

"Oi!" He said wide-eyed. Harry let out a laugh at his expression.

"Soooo, you and Hermione finally got together huh?" Harry teased elbowing Ron.

"Yeah well…you know." Ron said flushing. Harry felt his chest ache

"You're mum told me." Harry said somberly. "Hermione Obliviated her parents…gods that's messed up." He said gritting his teeth. Ron nodded slowly his eyes softening.

"Yeah, well this whole war is messed up. I've heard that their planning to put a taboo on Vold- you-know-who's name. Kingsley said things aren't going well at the ministry either." Ron said tightly. Harry nodded slowly.

"You should take Hermione and go into hiding Ron, I can't risk losing you." Harry said hoping not to set Ron off. Ron tensed his eyes blazing for a moment. "Ron I can't let Hermione give up anything else, she's lost her family and she needs you." Harry said earnestly.

"It's not right Harry; you shouldn't have to do this alone. Why does it always have to be you? It's like this whole stupid world just keeps taking from you- what if one day it just decides to take it all huh? I have nightmares about it Harry- you coming back to us looking like Neville's parents or worse!" Ron said his expression stormy. Harry set his arm on Ron's shoulder.

"I'll keep in touch this time." Harry said softly. "The spiders matter Ron, all of it mattered so much and now I can't face the thought of losing you or Hermione. Take Hermione somewhere safe, I'll see if I can't get a two way mirror or something and we can talk. Listen, I know you want to help and you can help, just gather information, about what's going on, about the Horcruxes the more I know the better." He said firmly. Ron took a deep shuddering breath before letting it out.

"Fine." He said huffing. "But you'd better keep contact with us mate, I don't know what we'll do otherwise." Ron said shaking his head. "Anything else you need you let us know alright?" Ron said turning to him. Harry smiled faintly.

"Actually, some poly juice potion or other disguises would be good, charms that change my hair color are nice and all but they aren't full proof." He said shaking his head. Ron glanced at his hair and grinned slightly.

"I don't know I kind of like the red hair on you, it makes you look more like one of the family. Besides didn't your mum have red hair?" He said grinning. Harry flushed slightly.

"Yeah, I like it, I was thinking about using a muggle hair dye on it to keep it that way." He said absently. Ron stared at him incredulously.

"Was there ever any doubt in your mind that you were gay?" Ron said shaking his head. "Cuz, honestly Harry…I knew from the day I met you and I'm dense." Ron said shaking his head. Harry punched him in the arm only to straighten up as the music began to play signaling that the wedding was beginning. Harry and Ron found their seats and sniggered when the doves Fluer had insist they used were released one of them landing droppings on a guest's hat. Harry watched the wedding procession as though looking at it through a barrier of glass. It all seemed so…distant, the whole day felt that way, as though he had changed so much in the last few weeks that he had become different from these people in some irreparable way. As Bill and Fluer said their vows Harry found himself imagining Ron and Hermione's wedding some day, he had no doubt that they would be together, he'd known since they were twelve. He imagined that by then the war would be over. Ron and Hermione would be safe, live comfortably, have children and lives together.

Where would Harry be?

Would he be an Auror? Would he even be alive? He'd probably be the awkward uncle Harry, the one with no wife or kids, the one who lived alone or rented a room in his friend's house just so that he could live close to them. He felt…sad. Was this what his life had for him? Always the odd man out, darker than the rest, and alone in a crowded room. He might have a lover if he was lucky but he doubted it would last very long with his perchance for trouble. Harry sighed as Bill slid the ring onto his wife's hand and said his vows.

Harry realized belatedly that it didn't really matter if he was funny old uncle Harry. If Ron and Hermione could be happy and at ease after all they'd done for him Harry could care less. He just wanted this war to end.

Suddenly there was a cry from the guests as a shimmering patronus shaped like a lynx bound into the isle and opened its mouth.

"Death eaters have the ministry! All is lost!" Kingsley's voice echoed. Harry let out a gasp when a familiar pull reached through him. No! No-no! Not here!

"Ron, get Hermione and go!" Harry said urgently his hand already reaching for his wand. As a figure came running down the hill towards them.

"Death eaters breaking down the wards arm yourselves!" Came the shout. Ron's jaw clenched and his eyes blazed.

"Ron get out of here!" Harry hissed insistently. "Please! I need you and Hermione safe! I'll contact you when it's over!" Harry urged.

"Like hell I'm running away from a battle!" Ron said through grit teeth.

"And what about Hermione Ron?!" Harry said his heart pounding as people ran amuck trying to apparate and pulling out port keys. "You are all she has now; you can't risk your neck and leave her alone like that!" Harry ground out.

"Harry!" Hermione's eyes were glittering as she rushed towards them struggling with the hem of her dress for a moment before letting out a frustrated sound and dragging her wand across the fabric with a loud tear. Harry stared at Ron and pleaded silently with him.

"Damn it Harry!" Ron cursed before running for Hermione surrounding her with his arms and apparating with a crack. Harry felt something loosen in his chest before he turned and moved to the line of defense that was being made in order to give the others a chance to flee.

"Harry!" Arthur said in surprise. "You should go with the others!" He said his wand out. Harry shook his head.

"I'm done running." Harry said. He wouldn't lose them, not them too, he couldn't just stand by and watch as the Weasley's were hurt because of his messed up scar! The first spells came quickly and Harry grit his teeth as determination and training took over. He turned and cast and ducked he swiveled to the right and blocked and jumped- he was like a well oiled machine and for the first time he was able to see that he had improved a great deal since the day he'd sat immobilized and watched Dumbledore die helplessly. Harry felt a spark of anger at that thought and his spells became brighter and angrier he heard a death eater let out a scream as Harry severed a limb before sending a blasting curse at another.

"Harry!" Arthur cried out in shock.

"No." Harry said coldly as he cast another spell and another after that. "No mercy." He rasped. "No more." He hissed before casting his spells becoming colder, more violent angry like he was.

"RETREAT!" A death eater cried out. Harry let out a curse as popping sounded and he was left panting in fury. His arm ached from the heavy spell casting and Harry let out a curse before turning. He caught several gazes, some shocked, other's awed and a few respectful.

"I can't let Ron and Hermione become like me Mister Weasley." Harry said quietly once the others seemed to shake off the shock of the short battle. "And they will change if they see what it's really like out there, what those death eaters are capable of…they'll change and they'll get hurt. Keep them away from it all; please just keep them safe from this!" He said his voice tinged with self hatred. I know what I am and what I have come to be. People will put a label on it, they'll call me a hero, but I'm just Harry and I'll do whatever it takes to end this." Harry said desperation clear in his voice. Arthur Weasley had tears in his eyes as he nodded and suddenly Harry was being pulled into an embrace.

"My boy! I'm so sorry Harry, so sorry!" He said sobbing quietly. Harry wound his arms around the man awkwardly and relaxed. "You're so young Harry, and I am truly sorry that fate has dealt you this card, please, if you ever need anything Harry, anything at all." Arthur said patting his cheek as he pulled back. Harry smiled weakly.

"I just need information mister Weasley, I already told Ron but the more I know about the people I'm fighting against the better chance I have." Harry said feeling tired all of the sudden. Mister Weasley nodded jerkily his eyes taking in the disaster that had been the wedding.

"Of course Harry." He said grimly. "Now would be the time to disappear my boy, we can handle the rest from here." He said looking worn out. Harry gazed around at the mess and winced.

"You're probably right." He said feeling his shoulders sag when they landed on Molly who was weeping openly. "Tell Mrs. Weasley I'll be in touch." He said tiredly.

"Yes of course Harry." Arthur said sadly. Harry bit his lips sharply and caught Charlie's gaze as he backed away. He offered the older boy a hesitant smile before apparating with a crack.

-4-

Harry bit his lip as he reviewed his plan. Kreacher had followed Umbridge to her home and said that her elves were too terrified of her to allow him entrance. Harry couldn't get the locket from there anyway though; apparently she hardly ever took it off. Harry sighed as he chewed the end of his quill he had it all figured out now but it was still rather risky especially since the ministry had been over run. Kent had been furious when he found out and Harry's training had intensified two fold which Harry hadn't thought was possible until it happened. Harry sighed and began to write his letter careful to make his writing as neat as possible so that Hermione would be able to read it. Since Harry was bullocks at making potions he had begun to send his requests to Hermione. Most of it was healing salves and potions that he knew that he wouldn't need right away but should have on hand anyway. He could almost picture Hermione's scowl because he had them doing busy work but relief that he was thinking ahead. More than once she'd sent extra potions along that he thought he might need.

Harry gasped as he felt a familiar pull on his scar.

His hands fisted tightly as he heard the cracks that filled the air outside Grimmauld place. Because of the Fidelius charm the death eaters couldn't pinpoint Grimmauld place but every time this happened they were called to this area. Harry stood and turned to the window staring out at the already charred and destroyed street while death eaters took the place in storm again. He could hear the screams again, he watched as they were killed again, and he knew that he could do nothing- again.

"They're here again Potter." Kent said striding into his room without knocking. Harry nodded. It was probably worse for Kent knowing that he couldn't do anything. "Do you think they know we're here?" Kent demanded his lips pressed into a thin line. Harry sighed softly and nodded.

"The dark lord knows." He said forcing himself to use the lesser name rather than invoking the taboo. "But we are safe in here. Sirius once told me that this place was built like a fortress. His father was so paranoid that he made this house impervious to all attacks." He said with a sigh. He felt like he was making very little progress. They'd settled on a list of objects that could possibly be Horcruxes and Harry was already working on locating the others but he always felt that it really shouldn't be this hard. And how to destroy them? Sure Harry could go back down to the Chamber of Secrets and retrieve a basilisk fang but School had already started up and he couldn't risk his scar bringing the death eaters to heel at Hogwarts of all places. He sighed as he let the curtain go and returned to his writing desk. "I set up a ward around the area, the Order knows that they are here already and will alert the right people. It's the best that I can do right now." Harry said tiredly.

"We could open the windows and start throwing curses out." Kent said his eyes ablaze. It was rankling him to be stuck in Grimmauld place unable to help people or fight death eaters.

"Then they would be able to pinpoint where we are hiding, it's not worth the risk. If you really want to go out there and fight them ask Kreacher to apparate you into one of the other buildings, just make sure you make it back alive. I still need you to train me." He said as he finished up his letter.

"Selfish little prick people are dying out there!" Kent hissed. Harry turned to him sharply his eyes burning brightly.

"You don't think I know that? You don't think I know that it's my fault people are dying right now?! What can I do about it?! I've done all that I can and I can't stop what's happening! Even if I went out there to fight, even if I compromised my position what use would it be?!" He said slamming his fist against the desk and nearly upsetting his inkwell. Kent gave him a nasty sneer.

"You keep demanding that I train you Potter, you spend day in and day out training and doing whatever it is you do up here in your cozy little room while out there people are dying! What use is your training if you aren't doing any fighting!? I'm running out of things to teach you Potter, you're nearly as good as I am now but if you don't use it then kidnapping me and bringing me here was pointless! I could be out there saving lives! Instead I'm in here babysitting you-!" Harry stood abruptly.

"You have no idea." Harry said coldly. "No idea what it does to me to have to sit here and listen to that!" He said pointing towards the window. "I do the best I can when I can and yes the training is part of that! If Dumbledore had given me the training before hand I wouldn't be here now but I know better you see, I understand that I'm just a kid and that I don't know what the hell I'm doing! Do you know what it took for me to get to that understanding? To get to that point where I won't just rush out there into the fight like I want to? It took my godfather's life! It took me watching my friends nearly die and knowing that I would have led them to their deaths because I was too brave and too stupid and naïve to understand that I was nothing compared to those fully trained witches and wizards." He panted. "It took Dumbledore immobilizing me so that I was helpless to do anything more than watch as he was killed." He said his voice rough. "If I go out there it isn't just my life that is at stake. There are others who are relying on me to do what I need to do to end this fucking war. I don't need some self righteous Auror telling me that it's not enough! You aren't my father or my mother or my godfather or my mentor. They were the only ones that had any right to demand that I do anything and guess what, they're all dead so I had to settle with you an Auror that a just happened to pick out of the rubble in a Deli during a raid because I couldn't even get a decent cold cut sandwich without causing havoc!" Harry stormed. Kent looked startled and half alarmed.

"Been holding that in for a while yeah?" Kent said after a moment. Harry felt his shoulders fall and scrubbed his face with his hands.

"Yeah you could say that." Harry said tiredly.

"Feel better?" Kent said raising his eyebrows as Harry sank into his seat. Harry let out a choked laugh.

"No, not really." He said shaking his head.

"How was the sandwich?" Kent said his lips twitching slightly. Harry let out a laugh though it sounded more like a sob.

"I didn't get to taste it." He said shaking his head. Kent made an affirmative sound before turning his gaze back to the window. Harry poured black sealing wax over the envelope before pressing his seal into it and peeling the seal back slowly. "I'll be out tomorrow be ready to run just in case." Harry said mildly as he blew on the seal. "Kreacher!" He said holding out the letter.

The image of a black spider climbing its web glistened in the low light of the room as screams rang through the air outside.

#$% #$% #$% #$%

Ron shivered as he took the letter from Kreacher. "Thinks he's funny he does." Ron said wrinkling his nose as he handed the note to Hermione.

"Not really." Hermione said cutting the seal. "I think he's trying to make a point, only you and I would know what the seal means after all, it's a symbol of our friendship." She said reading the parchment eagerly. Ron pushed the heavy book he'd been forced into reading to the side.

"Why couldn't he choose a chocolate frog card or something?" Ron said huffing. Hermione snorted.

"Because he's not eleven years old any more Ron." She said rolling her eyes.

"You know they're starting to call him that now? The Order? Harry's code name has officially become The Black Spider…how come he gets a cool code name?" Ron said shaking his head.

"Because it's dangerous to be talking about Harry Potter in the streets you dolt." Hermione said. "Besides we needed an emblem that we could trust and this one is specially made to react to the magic of the person it was intended for specifically. If someone else tries to open it the ink fades and the wax becomes a poison." Hermione said her gaze thoughtful.

"That's just creepy; it sounds like something a Slytherin would do, where did he get an idea like that?" Ron said wrinkling his nose.

"He found it in one of the books that belonged to the Sirius' family." Hermione said. Ron's eyes widened and he nodded.

"Yeah that sounds like them alright." He said though it was obvious Hermione wasn't listening any more. Rather she was trying to figure out through the letter what Harry was planning.

"So what about us? Shouldn't we have a seal too?" Ron said picking at the remnants of the seal with the sharp end of a quill.

"We do." Hermione said holding out a small bronze seal of a phoenix. "Haven't you been paying attention? They gave us one at the last order meeting; remember I brewed all that potion for the wax." She said already moving to the make shift potions lab that had taken place in the middle of the safe house living room.

"Yeah well I knew that, but what about one for just us? I mean we're his best friends after all." Ron said morosely dragging the book back in front of him. Hermione glanced up and frowned.

"Ron-" She started her tone telling him that he'd gone and said something 'immature' or 'stupid' but she cut herself off and shook her head. "Go on then whatever you want!" She said throwing up her hands. Ron didn't care if it was childish. He picked at the pages of the books and a small smile crossed his lips.

It would be the best seal ever.

Way better than some icky spider.

#$%^#$%^#$%^#$%^# %$^

Harry sighed as Kreacher blindfolded the sleeping woman in case she woke up while he was gone. He was wearing a dress…he truly hoped Fred and George never heard about this. He'd given her a sleeping drought after Kreacher had kidnapped her and had taken a few strands of hair. "Why is it always a woman?" He questioned aloud as he turned and left the room trusting Kreacher to lock it behind him and look after their impromptu prisoner. He dropped the ginger colored hair into the polyjuice and waited for the clock to strike the right time before knocking back the potion and immediately tossing floo powder into the grate. By the time he was stepping into the ministry the change had been made and he was left looking like a tall thin middle aged woman. He brushed his skirts primly keeping to his character and strode importantly through the ministry hall. He refused to act as nervous as he felt as he climbed into the lift and rode it to the floor where Umbridge worked. As he strode into the office he felt his heart sink at the sight of the blue glass eye that swiveled around. He wasn't sure if it wouldn't see right through the poly juice. He lifted his hand and coughed lightly.

"Kreacher!" He said wrinkling his nose up and sneezing lightly. There was a soft crack behind a potted plant and Harry wrinkled his nose again as though waiting for another sneeze. "Get the eye." Harry muttered before letting out a soft sneeze and pulling out his handkerchief.

"Are you well Madam Vance?" One of the men greeted his face twisted in mock concern. Harry dabbed his nose lightly and smiled tightly.

"A bit of floo powder they really should fix that floo, I always end up going through the same one and it always sends the powder right up my nose!" He said doing a proper impression of the woman he'd kidnapped. The man chuckled lightly and Harry glanced at the door to Umbridge's office noting that the eyeball was gone from it's place.

"Ah yes I think I know which one you're talking about, I'll have a talk with Dawson about that. Good day Lady Vance." The man said seeming just as distracted as Harry was. Harry said a casual farewell and tried not to appear impatient as he made his way to Umbridge's office glancing at Kreacher who nodded sharply at him. Harry knocked briskly on the door.

"Come in!" Umbridge sing-songed. Harry winced at the familiar and grating tone before slipping into the room.

"Dolores!" He hissed furtively as he slipped in and closed the door behind him pretending to be cautious. "I have something you really must see!" He said rushing towards her and holding out the small onyx statue he'd found at Grimmauld Place.

"Aretha?" The woman greeted already holding out her hand. Harry placed the statue in her hand and smirked.

"Centaur." He said activating the portkey. Unfortunately he'd only been able to get the one. He straightened his back before slipping out of the office acting as though nothing had happened. He made it to the lifts before a familiar twinge greeted his scar. "No!" He hissed. "Not here!" He bit his bottom lip and subtly checked the time. He only had ten more minutes! He grit his teeth and took a deep breath. He had an extra vial- he couldn't take it unless he absolutely had to though, Hermione had already warned him that changing genders was dangerous, taking the potion for to consecutive hours could leave him with some rather uncomfortable days of recovery. He waited impatiently for the lift to reach the ground floor before taking a deep breath and stepping into the floo room his breath catching as he saw death eaters filter out of the floo.

"This way! The signal came from the third floor!" One of them shouted. Harry remained still and pale. The third floor? His eyes widened in understanding. Of course! He'd been on the lifts! Harry glanced at the time again. Five more minutes. He bit his lip without thinking about it as the last of the death eaters rushed by taking most of the crowd with them. Harry strode towards the floo his heart hammering in his chest. He was nearly there- four minutes. He could already feel his eyes burning and the faint wrinkles lifting on his skin-

The floo in front of him flared to life and Harry gasped as none other than Severus Snape strode out. The man's pupils dilated and his breath caught audibly in his throat as he paled.

"Lily." The man breathed. Harry made a dash to the other floo and Snape let out a shout reaching out to catch him but Harry was already whirling away. Harry spilled out of the floo his heart hammering as he stumbled for Snape's wand and closed off the floo with a few violent strokes leaving the air around the tip of Snape's wand to crackle.

"Care to tell your resident Auror why it is you have two kidnapped women tied up in the other room?" Kent said eyeing him warily. "Though I think I've already figured out the answers to one of those questions." He said noting the dress. Harry rolled his eyes and stood reaching for the zipper as he walked.

"Don't think about it or I'll have to Obliviate you. Just go upstairs and pretend the screaming is just another raid." Harry said grimly. Kent paled slightly.

"You're just a kid Potter you shouldn't have to do these things-" He halted when Harry sent him a glare. Kent let out a huff. "Right, not a kid I get it, I'll just be upstairs then, twiddling my thumbs." He said shaking his head. Harry sighed and slipped out of the dress handing it to Kreacher who appeared eagerly.

"Wash this please Kreacher." He said tiredly as he pulled on one of Regulus' shirts and slipped into the room where Umbridge was tied up glaring fiercely at him. Harry rose his eyebrows as he noticed the neat pile of pink clothing folded up on the side table. The locket sat atop of the pile and for a moment Harry could only stare at it feeling a pull…a different kind of pull than he was used to but a pull never the less. He shook his head and turned back to Umbridge. Kreacher had left her in nothing but a dressing gown that was too small and stretched at the seams telling Harry that Kreacher had pulled it from one of the trunks in the attic.

"Here is what is going to happen Umbridge." Harry said picking up the vial of Veritaserum. "You are going to tell me everything you know about the dark lord and his plans." He said smiling slowly as he pulled out a stack of parchment and a familiar black quill. "And you must not tell lies." Harry said viciously.

#$% #$% #$% #$%

Harry panted as he stared down at Kent who was giving him a pointed expression his wand half way across the room. "That had to be a fluke." Harry said frowning.

"You've cleaned the floor with my arse three times Harry I somehow doubt that was a fluke." Kent said dryly. "I told you yesterday, I've taught you everything I can. You've worked tirelessly and the results are clear now, you'll have to find someone else if you want to get better than you already are." The man said with a shrug. Harry scowled but climbed off the man his shoulders rigid. Somehow it just wasn't enough, he felt like he was still severely lacking. He sighed and tilted his head back just breathing for a moment as he decided his next plan of action. He had the locket and Hermione had figured out through the extensive ears they had grown that Bellatrix had Hufflepuffs cup in her vault at Gringotts. They knew there was very little chance of getting Nagini yet and Hermione had a lead on Rowna Ravenclaw's diadem.

He also needed to get into Hogwarts.

Harry gnawed his lower lip. Snape was at Hogwarts, and Harry wasn't sure how to feel about that. He had an odd feeling, as though there was something he was missing.

"Fine, as head of the ancient and noble house of Black I bid you to forget everything you have seen and heard while in the house of Black. I also bid you to forget that you ever met a boy named Harry Potter, if anyone should ask where you have been since the raid you are to tell them that you hit your head in an explosion, fell unconscious and were taken to a muggle hospital where you have been in a coma ever since." Harry watched as Kent's eyes glazed over as the magic in the house wound around him until it overwhelmed him causing him to feint. "Kreacher take him to the park near by." Harry said absently. When he returned to his room he felt a familiar tug towards the locket and his jaw set firmly.

He didn't want to think about what that tug meant.

He didn't want to think about the visions he got, and how he was able to see through Nagini's eyes, he didn't want to think of how his scar burned and he could tell when Voldemort was happy or angry.

He didn't want to think about what any of it meant.

He reached for his cloak and pulled it on sharply and looked himself over in the mirror. After that last batch of polyjuice his hair had stayed auburn the way his mothers had been and it hung down below his shoulder blades now. With contacts he looked more like her than he ever had looked like his bully of a father. Still just in case he slipped a portkey into his pocket. A lingering glance at the locket made him shiver and he strode to the door pulling his invisibility cloak on as he stepped off the stoop and apparated.

First he landed in the same field where the Quidditch world cup had been held. Without the stadium it was just wide empty space where he could set up several all of the nasty ingenious traps the twins had come up with for him recently. Up until now they had just been sitting gathering dust in his attic, but with them all laid out far away from any muggles or anyone the death eaters might cause harm to, Harry concentrated on the dark mark and felt the magic flare to life. He apparated before the first crack could be heard activating the wards that would allow for thirty seconds before snapping anti apparation wards up around the entire area. Harry landed in the spot not too far from the shrieking shack and quickly made his way to the old building.

His heart gave a painful twist as he thought of the last time he'd been there with Sirius and Remus. He looked up at the sky which was slowly beginning to grow dark and stared at the crescent moon for a moment before slipping into the shack and down into the tunnels. It felt nostalgic despite the circumstances, to be rushing through those tunnels again though he felt a brief pang that Ron and Hermione weren't with him. It seemed almost too easy to creep across the lawn and through the hallways, but then he supposed he'd had a lot of practice over the years. He made it to the stone gargoyle without incident and pressed Snape's wand to it causing it to spring open. Harry glanced down at the Maurder's map to make certain that no one was around before he raced up the stairs and with bated breath opened the headmaster's door to the headmaster's office.

There was a marked difference in the room that he entered from the room as he'd last seen it. The portraits for one were gone, the trinkets removed and the books on the shelves different from the ones that used to sit on them. The drapes and the rug and all of the chairs were deep greens and grays though as he looked closer he noticed that there wasn't a single snake in sight. As he stepped further into the room something caught his eye that made his heart stop.

"Harry? Is that you?" The headmaster looked as Harry had always remembered him to be only he was a painting and not the man himself. There were so many things that he wanted to say to Dumbledore, to ask him, he wanted to cry and yell and laugh all at the same time.

"I need Gryffindors sword." He said instead. Dumbledore's expression showed shock before softening.

"Oh Harry you know it isn't that easy. The sword only shows its hiding place when a great show of courage or loyalty is shown." The headmaster said shaking his head slowly. Harry let out a sigh. He supposed that was a good thing, if only someone with Gryffindor qualities could find the sword then Voldemort and his death eaters had very little chance of getting it.

"I need the sword so that I can destroy the Horcrux isn't that courageous enough?" Harry said impatiently. Dumbledore merely looked at him over the rims of his half moon glasses and smiled at him.

"No Harry, we both know that for someone like you that feat no longer requires courage but rather determination. No, what you need is to face a fear, a great and terrible fear. Do you remember the Mirror of Erised Harry?" The headmaster said calmly. Harry nodded slowly. He had a sinking feeling that he knew where this was headed.

"It showed you your greatest desire." Harry said quietly.

"Yes, but this time you need to see your greatest fear for what it is and to accept it." The headmaster said sadly. Harry stared at the portrait for a long moment and thought very hard about his greatest fear. Unfortunately the answer came to him too quickly and too painfully.

"I…" His voice broke as he clutched his chest. "I'm a horcrux aren't I?" Harry said softly. It was his greatest fear and it haunted him every moment of every hour of every day. To have a shard of that thing lodged in his scar. Dumbledore gave him a grim small smile before suddenly swinging open to reveal a long slot where sure enough the sword was lying. Harry stared at it for a long moment before reaching forward and grasping it. Somehow it felt heavier than he remembered. A bitter feeling spread through him when the portrait swung shut again. "Kreacher." He said softly before waiting for the elf to appear. "Take this back go Grimmauld place, I'll be back in a while." Harry said feeling vaguely sick to his stomach. He glanced up at Dumbledore and felt sudden anger and resentment. Unable to look at the man again he turned his gaze away only to have it land on the bookshelf where Dumbledore used to keep his little trinkets. They were all Snape's books now, books whose margins were probably filled with little scribbles like the Half-blood Prince's text book had. Harry's eyes widened. "Kreacher- take all of these books too." Harry said pressing his lips into a thin line.

"Harry!" Dumbledore said shocked. Harry reeled on him eyes sharp.

"You have no right!" He snapped. "You were leading me to my death all this time weren't you?! That's why you didn't train me! Why train me when the point was to send me out there to die in the end anyway!" He said feeling himself begin to shake. Kreacher popped in and out of the office a dark grin on his lips as he collected the books by the crate load and apparated away with them. Harry noticed that eventually Dobby helped him shooting Harry adoring looks as he quickly helped to pack. The Dumbledore in the portrait lifted a hand and smoothed down his beard the motion catching his attention. Harry stared at the flawless hand for a long moment before a niggling doubt just wouldn't sit still in his head. "What happened Dumbledore? What really happened? Because I…I have doubts now about how you died. I looked up that potion you drank in the cave- it would have killed you and you knew it would have." He said shaking his head slowly. "But you still drank it." He whispered. Dumbledore took a deep breath and sighed before telling his part of the tale.

"I wasn't as cautious as I should have been when retrieving the Gaunt ring Harry. It had a curse on it, a very lethal curse on it that would eventually spread up my arm and to my chest killing me." The headmaster said gravely. "Severus was able to keep the curse at bay for a while but it was too strong and eventually he declared that the potions he was creating to stop the curse would kill me before the curse did. So I asked of him a great and terrible favor." The headmaster said looking older than his time. Harry stared at the headmaster in shock and horror.

"You…" He breathed. "You asked him to kill you." Harry said coming to the realization with such a force that he stumbled back and fell into one of the chairs. Harry stared at the man in the portrait in a new light. "I-I looked up to you, I admired you! How could you do that? How could you ask that of anyone? My god he didn't want to do it! That night on the tower you had to beg him to do it! And I chased him- I hated him called him a coward but he-" Harry felt his voice crack. "He was the most courageous of us all." He all but sobbed. "While I've been hiding away refusing to see what Voldemort has done he's been faced with it every day- he lives it every day!" Harry buried his face in his hands. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to stand in front of someone he admired and be the cause of their death- no-no wait…he could imagine it. He had lived it. He'd been the reason that Sirius died. He might as well have pointed his wand and said the curse.

Harry thought back to the very beginning and for the first time he listened to that niggling thought in the back of his head that always seemed to point out the obvious fact that while Snape was a bastard he'd gone out of his way to keep Harry safe. Harry could remember that night at the tower, Snape had seen him had known that he was there and hadn't told the other death eaters a word. He'd been tied up and immobilized, a pig on a platter but Snape hadn't offered him up at all! He'd kept Harry safe and even when Bella came after him Snape held her back, even after having to do that even after Harry had called him a coward. But Snape wasn't the coward- he was. Kent was right. He was just sitting in Grimmauld place hoping for the answers to somehow land themselves in his lap.

"Harry I'm sorry." The headmaster said softly. Harry stared up at him in a daze having forgotten that he was sitting in the headmaster's office staring at his hands.

"I'm not the one you need to apologize to." Harry said wearily.

Suddenly the door to the office slammed open and Harry stared at Snape in complete shock.

"Lily." Snape said his expression twisting. Harry buried his face in his hands.

"And then there is that." Harry said tiredly. It felt as though his brain was being crammed full of shocking information and he wasn't sure he could take it.

"Potter?!" Snape sneered his expression changing to one of fury.

"I can't handle this right now." Harry said with a sigh. "Not this, not on top of everything else, Snape I'm sorry I took your books-er and your wand, and I'm sorry if I confused you with my glamours and such. I'll get your books back to you as soon as I can but I really do actually need them right now. Oh and…" He looked away ignoring Snape's growing fury as he took in the state of his office. "I'm sorry for calling you a coward, Dumbledore should have never asked you to do that it was…cruel, possibly the cruelest thing I've ever heard of and given the hell I've been living through the last few months, that's saying something." He said glancing up. Snape looked as though he had been slapped but he also looked to be seconds away from killing him. Harry swallowed thickly. "Right- I really am sorry and if it makes you feel any better then I guess I owe it to you to tell you that I have to die which- wow that isn't easy to think about." Harry said a sudden pain gripping his chest. "Yeah and that kind of sucks because it makes everything kind of pointless I mean-" He let out a broken sob before he could help himself. Oh no Merlin not here- not in front of Snape. "My god I never should have been born…" He whispered in horror. "I-Their deaths are pointless now aren't they? Mum, dad, Sirius- they all sacrificed themselves to save me and even-even you've been trying to keep me alive all this time…Merlin I really can't do this!" He sobbed before reaching for his portkey. "Centaur." He said in a half whisper before disappearing in a whirl.

Harry landed in an ungraceful heap on the rug in Grimmauld place before the tears really started and he lost himself to the stress and the anger and the sorrow. He just lost himself to it rocking back and forth crying until he was sick as his magic whirled around him and caused chaos in the room splintering chairs and shattering glass In a sudden fit of rage he stood and stormed to his room where the locket sat on his dresser. The sword of Gryffindor lay across his bed and he dragged it up with all the fear and rage of a young man who'd simply had enough! He swung it at the locket in disgust and watched as sparks flew and the locket was cut cleanly through the sword continuing until it was halfway through the dresser before stopping. For a moment the only sounds in the room were the sounds of Harry panting and whimpering. Then, with a great rushing sound a terrible sickening scream spilled from the locket and the metal twisted and warped clattering around on the dresser for a moment before curling into its self and falling silent. Harry panted as he heard the silence and stared down at the destroyed Horcrux. As he looked around the room he knew he couldn't stay. Snape would have figured out where he was and even if Snape hadn't betrayed his location the man would be hell bent on finding his precious books.

Harry snatched up the bag Hermione had sent him.

"Kreacher put all of Snape's books into this bag please." He said dropping it onto his bed. "Dobby, I know you're there, can you help me get my things together? I need to make a quick escape." Harry said setting Hermione's purse down beside the other bed. He heard twin cracks and rushed down the stairs moving to the kitchen to spell some tins and food stuffs into a few crates before slipping them into yet another bag that Hermione had sent him along with a few other things he thought he might need.

"Master your bags is ready." Kreacher said holding out Harry's bag for him while Dobby hopped from one foot to the other.

"Thank you Kreacher, Dobby; I'll call for you if I need anything." He said before closing up the last bag and moving to the living room to retrieve his invisibility cloak which was surprisingly not in tatters like the rest of the room.

"Dobby is finding scabbard for Gryffindore's sword Harry Potter sir!" Dobby said proudly holding out the sword along with the belt that would wrap around his waist. Harry quickly buckled it into place.

"Thanks Dobby." He said before pulling the cloak over his shoulders and slipping out the front door. He apparated with a sharp crack and stumbled slightly when he landed a few feet from the ward line at the Burrow. Quickly he made his way towards the house checking behind him every so often until he got to the kitchen door which he unlocked cautiously before slipping inside. "Protego!" Harry said almost immediately.

"Hmph! As if anyone else comes through the kitchen door Harry." Mrs. Weasley scolded fondly her wand falling to her side. Harry sheepishly pulled his cloak off and waved to the family of three.

"Sorry, I don't have much time, firstly, Snape isn't an enemy Dumbledore asked him to kill him because he was already dying- remember that curse on his hand? Yeah- I know shocker but I don't really have time. Secondly, you are under no circumstances to ever tell me where Ron and Hermione are hiding. Thirdly I might not be able to contact anyone for a while so if you could pass along the message that would be grand." He said taking a deep breath. Oh, and tell them another one down, they'll understand. I'm sorry I have to come and go but really I don't want to lead them here and there is a very big possibility of that happening. Stay safe, I'll contact you when I can." He said before pulling his cloak up and slipping back out of the house and down to the ward lines.

"Potter!" He heard Snape growl. Harry didn't chance it, he apparated with a crack his heart in his throat. He couldn't face Snape right now, he just couldn't. He appeared of course in the last place he ever wanted to be in.

Number four Private Drive- Dudley's second bedroom. The one place Snape would never think to find him. Of course the house was empty, the Dursleys had taken off at the beginning of the summer and it looked as if they weren't coming back. Harry could see a For Sale sign in the front yard and felt the urge to sigh. Quickly he crept down the stairs and silently checked outside to make sure that no one was looking before quietly pulling out a wand he'd nicked from the Vance lady. It wasn't as welcome in his hand as Snape had been which bothered Harry quite a bit but he ignored it as he began setting the wards. The complex magic was something he'd taken an interest in while he'd been training with Kent. Once he knew the arithmetic equations and the runes involved warding came to him as easily as flying had. Harry could ignore everything he'd just found out as he set up the intense wards around the house. His focus was taken entirely by his need to create the best and strongest wards possible. His bones ached long before he finished and he knew by the end of it that he was risking magical exhaustion but with the last of his strength he cast the Fidelius charm on the house leaving himself as the secret keeper.

As Harry fell back onto the front porch too tired to even bother moving he watched as the first touch of light crawled across the sky. Harry's eyes closed heavily and the turmoil and exhaustion of everything simply dragged him down into a deep dreamless slumber.

-5-

Harry didn't really know why he did it-no that was a lie, he knew very well why he'd locked himself away from the world. He was scared. Terrified because he knew he had to die and a larger part of him wondered if it wouldn't have been better for him to never have been born at all. Every night he turned on the wireless to listen to the reports for the day, how many raids? Who was killed? Who had been caught by the snatchers? By the end of it he felt sick when the callout turned to him wishing him well.

Wishing him well.

They shouldn't bother; it only made him feel guiltier. He was as cursed as the diadem or the locket or Huffelpuff's cup. He was disgusting and a freak more so than ever before. And he had to die, which was partly a relief and partly terrifying. Harry let out a huff and rolled away from Snape's books. He'd been reading for hours- days, two weeks at least. Hiding away and reading, that's all he was good at it seemed. Harry rubbed his eyes. It was time to take a break.

He turned to the last letter Hermione had written before Harry had gone to Hogwarts. Hermione had written that there was a woman who might know where Ravenclaw's diadem had gone. Harry searched for the name and location- Bathilda Bagshot! He pressed his lips together in a thin line. He had a duty no matter how scared he was. He had to end this, even if he didn't get a happy ending like everyone else. He tied Gryffindors sword around his waist determinedly. He pressed his lips into a thin line and nodded to himself before pulling out his broom and tying his hair back. He glanced at himself in the mirror and scowled slightly at his black hair. He had liked it red but after his visit to Hogwarts he had promptly used one of the dyes Hermione had sent him. They were the wizarding kind, so he didn't have to worry about them fading, and the dye had an added charm that caused any hair that fell to simply disintegrate so that no one could steal his hair and use it for polyjuice. Harry wondered idly why no one else seemed to use it. Half of this war was being won through polyjuice after all.

Harry shook his head and slipped out of number four sliding his father's cloak over his shoulders and casting a disillusionment charm over himself shivering at the cool wet slide as his body faded from view. He cast the spell on his broom as an afterthought, who knows who might come looking if there was a random racing broom flying through the sky. With a quick glance around he kicked off and flew through the air. For the first time in a very, very long time it seemed Harry flew as fast as he could. He barely managed to keep from letting out a whoop of joy as he spun through the air. The weight on his shoulders felt nearly weightless in the air, he was free of it all up here. He flew at high speeds his broom racing through the chilly air in a flash. After a while he simply glided through the air still moving quickly but without the loops and twists. He stared down at the villages below and wondered how it must feel to be a muggle unknowing of the dangers the media covered up. He bet it was peaceful at least, he could imagine going to school and coming come as if those were the only problems he had to worry about in his life. No one trying to kill him, no sick shard of someone else's soul in his head, friends, family and normality…he sighed. If he ever survived this- but no even if he did survive this he knew he couldn't live like that, he'd be to restless and his knack for causing trouble wouldn't be able to sit still, no he'd be an Auror, or someone that lived a life of adventure in all likelihood.

Just then as he crested a hill he felt a familiar pull. A horcrux? Here? He frowned as he came to the small town which had already been his intended destination.

Godric's Hallow.

The town where he had once lived with his mum and dad.

He followed the pull his hand already on the hilt of the sword as he dropped off in the shadowed edge of a church and shrank his broom sticking it in his pocket for safekeeping. He scurried silently along the edge of the building and felt the pull get closer. He pulled off his father's invisibility cloak and put it in his bag drawing his coat over the length of Gryffindors sword before creeping towards the small row of houses where the pull seemed to be leading. Closer…closer…he came to the stoop of a particular house and paled slightly. This was the house of Bathilda Bagshot- but Hermione had said that the woman was a Dumbledore supporter, or rather that she'd known him best when he was a child. What would she be doing with a Horcrux in her possession. He turned suddenly when the tug intensified and stared open mouthed at the woman for a moment. The Horcrux was there…on her person? A piece of jewelry like the locket that Umbridge had worn?

"Er sorry um well I'm Harry, I had some questions about the book Skeeter wrote? The one about Dumbledore?" He said keeping his sword in hand. The woman nodded slowly her eyes squinting as though to see him better before she climbed the stairs and simply pushed the door open. Alarm bells went off in his head. Who left their door unlocked like that? No one. Feeling more cautious than before he stepped in after her and was assaulted by a funny smell. He glanced at the kitchen which he could see from where he was standing and felt more alarm bells go off in his head at the sight of the rotted molding fruit in the basket on the counter. His eyes turned back to Bathilda and his hand tightened around the sword when he noticed that her eyes weren't natural- they were dead. So why was her body moving?

In a split second decision he lashed out.

It was a good thing he had too. In that same split second Bathilda's mouth had been torn open forcefully and none other than Nagini slipped out. Harry watched the snake's eyes widen in shock as the sword sliced cleanly through the sinewy tissue. Harry didn't wait though; he couldn't trust that one blow would have been enough. He struck again as the human flesh Nagini had been wearing slid down with a rancid smelling squelch. Harry cut the snake again and again his eyes wild with the stress and pent up rage of the last week.

A miserable scream suddenly spilled from Nagini's gaping mouth and Harry watched as the bits and pieces of her twitched and jerked before falling still. Harry stared at the mess before turning his head to the side and throwing up from the horrid smell of the half rotten body of Bathilda Bagshot. In a fit of vindictive glee he reached down cut Nagini's head free. After sliding Griffendor's sword back into its sheath he pulled out a jar from his bag, slipped the head into and screwed the top on tightly. He took a moment to admire his work before placing everything back into his bag only to pause when his hand met with something that was glowing hot. Harry frowned and set the jar aside grasping the item his eyes widening as he realized what it was- a Gallon, one of the ones they'd used in the DA. He'd told Hermione to use it for emergencies only!

Harry let out a curse and turned on his heel running out of the house. He apparated with a crack and gasped when he landed.

The Burrow was on fire.

He could hear shouts in the distance but for a moment he was struck dumb by the sight of the Burrow up in flames. The death eaters had gone after his family. Rage swept through him and he pulled out his wand before taking off running.

"Harry!" Ginny called out with a relieved sob. Harry was already moving. He didn't stop for anything he just started killing. Spells escaped him in a litany one spell sliding into another. He didn't waste his time trying to block spells with shields instead he dodged and jumped and rolled attacking again and again and again.

"Damn it what the hell!" Someone shouted behind him. Harry let out a spell and severed the man's hand from his wrist with a wicked twist Harry was moving again before the detached hand could hit the grass.

"Hello Harry." Kingsley said as they bumped shoulders.

"Kingsley." Harry said before both of them were spinning off.

Harry saw Tonks and Remus fighting together a bit further and his heart squeezed awkwardly to see them holding hands. He didn't know why but that bothered him.

Harry nodded at a few of the others absently and cast a blasting at the figure that was about to attack Molly Weasley causing the robed figure to let out a scream before falling to the ground.

"Oh, thank you Harry dear." Mrs. Weasley said before tying up another death eater. Harry made a mental note to ask her for them later for interrogation.

"RETREAT!" Someone cried above the screaming of spells. Harry panted as he chased after them fruitlessly only to watch them apparate away. Harry frowned when the coin in his pocket suddenly registered in the back of his mind as still burning. He looked around frantically and caught Arthur Weasley's gaze.

"Where are Ron and Hermione?! They called me I came here because I thought you might know but then with the battle I thought this was where they needed me!" He looked around frantically.

"Harry we don't know! You told us to make sure that you never found out! The only way to do that was to put them under a Fidelius charm!" Mister Weasley said paling suddenly. Harry felt his heart drop into his feet.

"Shit-shit-shitshitshitshitSHIT!" He cursed viscously his nostrils flaring. Focus, he needed to plan! He looked up and realized that they were all looking at him, waiting for him to make the call. Oh Merlin he couldn't do this! He couldn't- but he had to! It was Ron and Hermione! He swallowed thickly and forced the panic to subside. "Right take the injured to headquarters, Kreacher knows where the healing droughts and potions are and if you call for Dobby I'm sure he'll help. Kingsley I need whoever isn't injured with me I think I have a way to find them but well it won't be safe to go alone." He said already closing his eyes. Carefully he followed that part of him digging deeper and deeper until he could feel where the mark was. In an instant he could feel and see it- tall, enormous mansion, white…enormous lawn…albino peacocks? His mind flashed back to the Quidditch World Cup where he'd seen some strutting around in front of an enormous tent.

"Harry?" Came a distant voice. Harry came back to himself with a jolt and Kingsley jerked back. Harry blinked at him before shaking his head.

"They're at Malfoys' Mansion." Harry said wincing as something warm trickled down his forehead. He brushed away the blood noticing the way Kingsley was staring at his scar.

"Harry…why didn't you want Arthur and Molly to tell you where they'd hidden Ron and Hermione." Kingsley said tightly. Harry grit his teeth.

"For the same reason I wouldn't let them come with me. It's not safe, I'm not safe." He admitted. Kingsley frowned at him but nodded slowly.

"We need a plan." He said glancing at the others who came to stand around them after having helped everyone to Grimmauld place. Harry nodded.

"I can get the death eaters away from Malfoy mansion but I'll need you to get Hermione and Ron to safety before coming to Diagon Ally." He said biting his lower lip. He wondered if he could ever forgive himself for this once it was over but he'd already gone over all the options he had and couldn't find any other way. Hermione and Ron were his priority even if he came to hate himself for what he was about to do.

"Harry." Kingsley said his jaw tensing.

"I can keep them distracted but not for long, you need to get Ron and Hermione Kingsley or so help me I'll go there and get them myself!" He said his heart in his throat. Kingsley stared at him for a moment longer before nodding.

"Alright Harry, Dennis I need you on the wards." Kingsley said.

"Wards around the Malfoy Mansion? They'll know the moment we bring them down." A man with thick curling blonde hair said his brown eyes serious.

"How long do you think it will take you?" Harry asked sharply.

"Anywhere from ten minutes to twenty." The man said with a nod. "It depends on how strong the wards are." Harry nodded slowly and reached into his pocket pulling out two extra gallons that Hermione had charmed. He handed one to the man with a grim smirk.

"Congratulations you are now a member of the DA, press your wand to this gallon when you know that you only have a few moments before the wards fall. If I don't hear anything within the hour I will assume the worst and come after you with reinforcements." He said with a nod. The man took a look at the coin and grinned slightly.

"Fancy, will do." He said with a nod before slipping the coin away.

"Once you have Hermione and Ron, get them to safety and come to Diagon Ally where I will have assembled the death eaters, one of you, or all of you I don't care but someone needs to tell me that the King and Queen are safe that is how I will know that they are safe. Oh and if you get the chance to fight Bellatrix Le Strange try to get some of her hair for me and a warning too, if anyone here decides to try and betray me, I will find you and it won't be pretty." He said his eyes flashing. Solemn nods went around the circle and Harry nodded. "Good luck everyone, try to come out of this alive." He said with a weary smile.

"Good luck Harry." Kingsley said with a meaningful look. Harry nodded, pulled on his invisibility cloak and apparated with a sharp crack.

Diagon Ally was deserted; the normally busy shops were all but empty of people. Harry hugged the cloak to him and rushed down the street towards the Wizarding Wheezes. He glanced around quickly to make sure no one was watching before slipping into the shop cursing when a loud clanging noise sounded.

"Customers!" He heard the twins shout from above. Harry grinned slightly his cheeks flushing as he remembered the last time he'd seen the twins. He stepped out of view of the window and pulled his cloak off as Fred And George came running out of the door above and rushing down the stairs. George saw him first and halted on the steps causing Fred to run into him with a loud oomph!

"Harry!" George greeted happily. Harry held up a hand and glanced towards the door.

"I don't have time; the death eaters have Ron and Hermione. I'm going to draw them into Diagon Ally so that Kingsley and the old crowd can rescue them but we need to set up as many traps as we possibly can to distract the death eaters when they get here." He said in a rush. He watched the twins pale before nodding. "If we can evacuate people without alerting anyone that would be best." Harry said glancing at the window again. "The less people that get hurt the better." He said with a nod.

"I'll call Jordan and the Corcoran's to help set up the traps." Fred said with a nod before already taking off up the stairs.

"Diagon Ally has already been attacked twice, after the first time we set up secret an emergency evacuation system." George said pulling a necklace from around his neck and pressing his wand to it. "Oi, listen up, the black spider just alerted us that there is an impending raid, if you don't want to get caught up in it I suggest you make a run for it." George said into the small bell at the end of his necklace. Harry heard the floo flare to life above them and moments later the sound of foot falls.

"Right we need as many traps as we can possibly put out." Harry said with a nod. "I'm going to do what I can to keep the death eaters distracted here and hopefully take them down. Whatever you use from your shop Fred, George I will pay you back for it once we're through so don't be shy with it."

"Harry!" Jordan said grinning as he came down the stairs. Harry offered the other boy a smile before continuing.

"I'm going to bring them here but they won't come willingly and they'll be pissed as hell to see me- we have approximately ten to twenty minutes to do this." He said before reaching out and snatching a hair from Fred who let out a yelp. "Sorry but no one will think twice if they saw two of you." He said with a grin before dropping the hair into a glass of Polyjuice and watching it turn green.

"Three?" George said with a slow grin.

"Of us?" Fred said mirroring his brother's grin.

"Oh Harry you have no idea-"

"-what naughty thoughts-"

"-are going through our heads."

Harry grinned and knocked back the potion. "I think I have some idea." He said as the change was made. He stretched slightly to make all the kinks go away. "Right using Polyjuice to become a woman is a lot more uncomfortable." Harry admitted aloud. He looked up and winked at Fred and George's glazed expressions. "Right every one get to it!" He said clapping his hands. "And remember- CONSTANT VIGILENCE!"

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"Just a minute more." Dennis said sweat drenching his forehead as he glanced at Kingsley who nodded and pressed his wand to the gallon as the wards flickered visibly. Moments later they watched as Death Eaters rushed out of the mansion holding their arms and wincing in agony.

"What if it's another trap?!" one of them shouted.

"Can't be, only the dark lord holds it for this long!" Someone replied pain audible in his voice. The death eaters crossed the wards and immediately cracked away. Kingsley watched in awe as the wards gave a shudder before crashing down. Sending Dennis flying into a tree.

"Wheew!" Dennis said grinning. "Them leaving all at the same time confused what was left of the wards! I was just going to give us time to get in and out, we won't have to worry about stealth now though those wards are out and if their strength says anything my guess is that they probably knocked old Lucius Malfoy out too." Dennis said grinning.

"Then let's go! Ron and Hermione are in there!" Arthur Weasley said his face ashen. The others nodded and in an instant they were running. Kingsley helped Dennis to stand and gazed at Malfoy mansion for a moment wondering with a shiver of fear what might happen if they didn't get Ron and Hermione out. His mind wouldn't let him forget that flash of crimson in young Harry Potter's gaze earlier.

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Harry felt the gallon heat up in his pocket. "Positions!" He hollered before focusing on calling the death eaters keeping the connection for several long moments before letting it go. A split second later death eaters were apparating their wands drawn.

"Hello boys!" Harry said brightly still playing his part as Fred.

"Ello!" George said brightly from where he was standing on the head of the lamp post.

"Oi!" The real Fred saluted from where he was leaning against the building.

"Guess what?" Harry said grinning. Someone sent a spell at him and he twirled out of the way. "You boys get to play a game-"

"A game called-"George finished for him.

"Which one of us is Harry Potter-"

"In disguise!" Harry finished with a grin.

"Tag!" George shouted.

"You're-" Fred said.

"It!" Harry shouted before all three of them tossed down a handful of Peruvian instant darkness powder. Inside various locations around Diagon Ally Jordan, and the four Corcoran brothers tossed back a vial of poly juice and took their places.

The hunt was on.

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Getting into the mansion wasn't particularly hard to do however almost the moment they stepped through they realized that not all of the death eaters had gone.

"Snape!" Kingsley snarled. Pale faced and dark eyed Snape spun his wand drawn along with the Carrows ready for a fight.

"They took down the wards!" Narcissa Malfoy called out before sending the first curse.

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"Oi..oi Hermione do you hear that?" Ron said prodding his girlfriend gently.

"Not talking to you right now Ronald." Hermione said sounding pained, frightened and angry. Ron winced. Well he supposed he deserved whatever Hermione dished out, he was the reason they were here in the first place.

"You two be quiet in there!" Pettigrew snapped his eyes darting around as he gripped his arm.

"But Mione' I think Harry's here, listen, I can hear them fighting up there." He said softly. Hermione rolled over slowly her eyes slightly glazed from the pain and Ron felt that pain reach down and touch something ugly in him. Bellatrix had tortured Hermione in hopes of getting answers from them. Ron doubted he would ever stop hearing the screams that echoed in his mind.

"Ron when this is over I'm going to punch you." Hermione rasped as her body twitched painfully.

"I said be quiet in there!" Peter snapped.

"Oh shut it you great coward!" Ron roared having had enough already. "I was there that night remember?! I was there when Sirius came after you! Don't you fucking talk to me Pettigrew! Harry saved your life that night even knowing that you as good as killed his parents! You're just a coward that hid like the great stupid rat that you are! Look at you! Harry saved your life and how do you repay him?! By standing back and watching his best friends get tortured! By sitting there all smug and content while we're trapped in this cell? Let me tell you Pettigrew, Harry isn't the same boy you met back then! He tries to hide it but I've heard stories and I'm sure you have to- Harry Potter has run out of mercy. Where the fuck do you think that leaves you as the person who stood by and watched his friends scream?! You don't think he'll come after you?!" Ron hollered furiously. He turned back to Hermione who had her eyes closed in pain and brushed her hair back gently.

"I-If-If I let you o-out- Not saying I will mind you! But if I did! If I did let you o-out! Would you keep him from c-coming after me?!" Pettigrew asked suspiciously. Hermione's eyes snapped open and she glanced at Ron with glinting eyes.

"Yes." She rasped. Pettigrew scooted forward and glanced over his shoulder at the increasing noises. Ron wanted to argue, he wanted to say that help was on it's way anyway, but then he saw it- the blood pooling under her. He paled and his eyes widened as they lifted them to her steely gaze.

#%$^#$%^#$%^#$%^

"Oh itty bitty Potter!" Harry grinned as he found his target. His polyjuice was already starting to wear off and he didn't know how much longer they could keep the death eaters playing this game. The death eaters were becoming increasingly violent and one of the Corcoran brothers had already had to be portkeyed out to receive medical attention. Harry pulled his wand out and dragged his invisibility cloak over his head before dropping down behind Bellatrix. He didn't wait for her to turn around in a split second he had her knocked unconscious and tied up at his feet. He dragged her towards one of the empty buildings and poured a sleeping draft down her throat before stripping her of her clothes and gleefully yanking a hunk of hair (and part of her scalp) out. He ran a scan to check for portkeys or any other sort of nasty surprises before calling for Dobby.

"Do you remember where I used to live Dobby? With the muggles?" He asked shortly. Dobby nodded excitedly before sending a gleeful grin towards Bella's fallen form. "I've put it under the Fidelius charm. I need you to take Bellatrix and lock her in the bedroom my aunt and uncle used to share. Make sure that she can't get loose, in fact make sure she can't talk or see and chain her to the wall so she can't move either. If I'm not back in the next four hours there are more sleeping droughts in the bathroom cabinet. I want to keep her unconscious for as long as I can." He said seriously. Dobby nodded solemnly.

"Dobby is grateful for the chance to help Harry Potter sir! Harry Potter is Dobby's hero- even when Harry Potter is wearing lady's clothes." Dobby said sheepishly as Harry pulled on the dress. Harry flushed and rolled his eyes.

"Thanks Dobby I'll get to her as soon as possible." He said stashing the extra hair in a vial and taking the strand with a small hunk of skin and dropping it into the vial of polyjuice. He retrieved Bellatrix's vault key from his pocket and strapped the sword around his waist again casting a charm on it to keep it hidden. He pulled his invisibility cloak around him and darted out of the room rushing towards Gringotts. Bella's shoes were especially hard to hobble around in, Harry had never worn high heels before and these were the wrong size for him to boot. He sighed when he finally reached the bank before tossing back the polyjuice. Ugh! Awkward! He shivered as his body changed and morphed in weird ways before settling. He pulled his cloak off and slipped it into his bag before straightening his shoulders and back out before striding forward. The heels oddly enough helped him to keep that awkward jerking step that Bellatrix generally boasted as he stepped through the doors and down towards the goblin at the end feeling slightly nervous that he was suddenly being scrutinized by at least a hundred or so goblins.

"I need to retrieve something from my vault." He said hoping that he pulled off Bella's drawl as he slammed the key onto the podium. "Quickly." He demanded. The goblin glared at her before taking the key and clearing its throat before nodding.

"Very well madam Lestrange." The goblin said sneering largely as he hopped down from the stool. "Right this way." He said crisply. Harry followed the goblin down the long hall and hoped and prayed for the safety of his friends. He climbed into the cart awkwardly and adjusted his skirts swearing never to polyjuice himself as a woman again before gripping the sides of the cart as it took off flying at high speeds through the cavernous bank. It went on for a few moments and just when Harry started to think that he would throw up the polyjuice their cart came to an abrupt halt. The goblin climbed out of the cart unaffected.

"Lamp please." It said with a scowl. Harry sneered visibly knowing that Bellatrix would have done so before handing the lamp over and climbing out wary of his heels. The goblin quickly made his way to the large door and pulled out the key unlocking it with a click. "Your key madam." The goblin said handing him the key. Harry grabbed it and watched as the door to the vault swung open revealing the enormous interior of the vault. It would take too long to look for it, his polyjuice would wear off and he'd be caught! Besides he had to get back to the battle, it was risky enough to have left the game to visit Gringotts. But after so many months of trying to figure out how he was going to get hair from Bellatrix when the opportunity had presented its self Harry hadn't been able to stop himself. He loved Ron and Hermione to death, and Fred and George, but it would all be for nothing if in the end he got himself killed before he could destroy all the other Horcruxes. It made him sick just to think about it.

"I need a goblet, it's gold and has badgers on the side." He said remembering the description Hermione had given him. Surprisingly the goblin nodded and held out his hand causing several goblets to fly towards him.

"We placed the Gemino curse over the items as requested madam." The goblin said waving his hand and causing a table to screech over to where they were standing. "Tell me which one of these it is that you would like and I will remove the curse for you." The goblin said as at least ten goblets appeared on the table with a similar description to the one Harry had requested. Bella must have put more than one in here to confuse anyone who might try to steal it. Unfortunately Harry could feel the tug, the dark taint. He hovered his hand over them before pointing at the one with the greatest pull.

"That one. Quickly." Harry hissed. The goblin nodded and grabbed the cup Harry pointed to grimacing visibly in disgust before casting an enchantment over it.

"It is ready madam." The goblin said holding it out. Harry took a step back when the pull became nearly intoxicating.

"No put it on the floor and step back." He said swallowing thickly. He could feel it, another shard another dirty soul calling him with a siren's call. It was far too dangerous to touch it. The goblin gave him a curious look before setting the goblet down and taking a step back. "You are not to tell anyone of what I'm about to do." Harry demanded coldly before taking a step back. The goblin gasped as Harry pulled out Gryffindor's sword.

"Of course madam." The goblin said taking another few steps back as Harry lifted the sword above his head and brought it crashing down on the goblet. He felt it vibrate up his arms, watched as the metal twisted and warped in a familiar way before the anticipated scream exploded out causing the goblin to fall to the floor in horror. Harry panted when he felt the darkness fade completely. He withdrew the sword and slid it back into its scabbard.

"Remember, tell no one." He said as he lifted the twisted chunk of metal and slipped it into his bag. "Close the vault and take me back, I'm done here." He said feeling oddly dizzy sick to his stomach. It took him a moment to realize that it wasn't him that was feeling it. His breath caught in his throat and he closed his eyes reflexively as the vision hit him full force.

Storming through the halls of Malfoy manor only to curl into himself when agony rippled through him. Confusion…what? Why? Some curse? Phantom pain- but why? It felt off but he didn't know what it was-

"My lord!" Draco Malfoy stands beside him pale as a sheet his eyes bulging out. He cannot afford weakness!

"Potter's friends where are they?" He demands coldly.

"Th-the dungeon my lord!" Draco stutters. He ignores the pain and continues with long sure strides, he can examine the moment of weakness later-

Harry gasped as he came back to himself leaning dizzily against a pillar.

"Lady Lestrange do you need me to call for medical assistance?!" the goblin asks with wide eyes. Harry shook his head slowly and nearly gave himself away by asking the goblin where he was and why the goblin was calling him Lestrange. He stumbled towards the cart and sat down heavily.

"I need to return quickly." Harry rasped casting a quick tempus. Sweet Merlin he only had ten minutes left before the polyjuice would wear off. The goblin climbed into the cart quickly and pulled the leaver making Harry's stomach jump into his throat. He was almost worried that he wouldn't make it out. The cart pulled to a halt and Harry all but jumped out striding down the hall just as an explosion rocketed outside the side of the building. Harry ran as fast as he could wearing Bellatrix's shoes and dodged into one of the empty buildings tearing the clothes off frantically and pulling his back on as the change began making him cramp violently enough to have to curl into himself. Was it his this time? He gasped as he was pulled into another vision.

Peter Pettigrew choked to death by his own silver hand, Ron and Hermione gone from their cell. He's angry, furious and he whirls on the youngest Malfoy only to see Narcissa rush down the stairs.

"My lord they've fled-!" Narcissa freezes in the doorway her face going pale as she stares at the cell. He looks back at the cell and narrows his eyes at the pool of blood he could see there. Quickly he flicks his wand and casts a spell his eyes widening at the color and what it means.

"The girl was with child, she will be lucky if she survives." He hisses feeling a small bit of triumph.

"My lord!" Severus strode through the door gripping his arm which was bleeding. He halted at the sight of the empty cell.

"Severus, return to Hogwarts and heal yourself, Draco give me your arm, we must attack the hospitals we will hurt Potter one way or another!" He demanded. Draco held out his arm with a grimace the dark mark writhing eagerly-

Harry's eyes snapped open in horror. Suddenly the battle outside didn't matter one bit. He apparated with a crack swaying slightly as he landed outside of Grimmauld place. He staggered up the steps and through the door.

"Don't take her to the hospital!" he called out through the house. Mrs. Weasley looked up at him as he staggered through the hall and he could tell by the expression on her face that she knew. He staggered into the room and stared dizzily at Hermione's pale sweat covered face. "He's going to attack the hospitals; he knows she lost the baby." He panted falling to his knees.

"Harry! Oh dear Harry!" Molly fretted. Harry was blind to her though his gaze landed on Ron who was sitting on the floor pale faced and covered in blood.

"I told you to keep her safe!" Harry roared feeling sick and scared. He turned his head and threw up violently.

"Harry! Oh Harry I don't know what to do! I can heal only minor bumps and bruises but not this Harry!" Mrs. Weasley said looking pale and scared. Harry stared at Hermione's pale face and nodded.

"Right, I think I know someone who can help." He panted.

"No Harry you're sick!" Ron managed looking pale and lost. Harry grit his teeth and stood.

"It doesn't matter. I'll get help." Harry said before turning back to the front door. He reached into his bag and scrambled around for a pepper-up potion. He knocked it back in one swallow and waited for the immediate buzz to wash over him before stepping out and apparating. He swayed slightly as he landed by the shrieking shack but the pepper up had given him enough strength to rush in and down to the secret entrance. He panted heavily as he ran feeling the exhaustion of the day wearing him down.

To think, he'd been sitting around doing nothing for the last month only to have all this drop on his shoulders in a single day! He huffed at the insanity of it all and let out a slightly mad sort of half laugh-half sob as he reached the stairs that led up to the Whomping Willow and his wand light revealed none other than the dour son-of-a-bitch he wanted to see.

"Snape." He rasped. "Hermione's-I-I- need to get to her I can't take her to a hospital because of the dark lord-"

"Potter you're rambling." Snape said in a harsh whisper. "Take me to her." Snape said brushing past him. Harry made an odd sort of sound and followed Snape back down the darkened path.

"How did you know I was here?" Harry asked as they made their way.

"I placed a charm on this entrance to alert me should you decide to come back and steal more of my possessions." Snape snapped. Harry nodded slowly ignoring the bite to the man's tone.

"Actually this time I came to kidnap you." Harry said his voice rough. "I thought about getting Pomfrey but then I remember one of the guys talking about how Pomfrey had to send his girlfriend to Saint Mungos when she went into early labor- he didn't even know she was pregnant." Harry rambled.

"Potter." Snape snapped. Harry looked up and the man glowered. "Shut up." He demanded. Harry felt his mouth snap shut and he sighed slightly.

"Don't know if I can…everything is- if I don't keep talking I don't know that I won't go mad." He said shaking his head only to let out a hoarse laugh causing Snape to glance back at him with narrowed eyes. "Its just that- well when I was in first year Hagrid told me that you'd have to be mad to try to rob Gringotts, and well, amongst everything else I did today guess where I was!" He said shaking his head wryly.

"Robbing Gringotts?" Snape guessed dryly. Harry let out a laugh.

"Yup. After months of doing nothing and just hiding away-"

"Potter!" Snape snapped. "Shut up and tell me where your friend is if you want her to live!" Snape growled. Harry blinked around him and realized that they'd just climbed into the shrieking shack.

"Oh, Order headquarters." He said turning serious again. Snape nodded sharply and Harry pulled on his invisibility cloak as they stepped out of the shack. Harry apparated the moment they were outside and then promptly leaned to the side and retched though nothing came out. A second crack sounded but Harry was a bit busy panting and retching again.

"Potter?" Snape said through grit teeth. Harry winced as some stomach acid spilled past his lips though it made him feel slightly better. He straightened up and wiped his mouth.

"Go ahead I'll be there in a second." Harry said swallowing thickly. Snape frowned.

"Potter if I go in there without you vouching for me I doubt I'll survive for very long." Snape said stepping up onto the stoop with a scowl. Harry winced and nodded before forcing himself to stand and step ahead of Snape.

"Had to make sure you were you actually, I've used enough polyjuice today to know that it's damn easy to fool people into thinking you are who you aren't." Harry said pushing the door open.

"You waited until I stepped up to the stoop." Snape guessed with a frown. Harry nodded and pushed open the door.

"Snape!" Remus growled.

"He's here to help Hermione." Harry defended his eyes flashing. Remus pursed his lips before nodding slowly.

"If you say so Harry." He said glowering darkly. Harry felt a bit offended at that but Remus let Snape pass so Harry ignored it.

"The others?" Harry said stepping into the room where Snape was kneeling next to Hermione.

"Harry!" Ron said his voice strained as he stared at Snape in shock.

"Shut it Ron he's here to help, Remus? Where are the others? Fred and George?" He said gritting his teeth. Remus sighed heavily.

"Kingsley took the ones that could fight to Saint Mungos to defend it. Arthur is up stairs with Fred and we had to sedate George." Remus said casting suspicious looks at Snape. Harry tensed.

"What do you mean they had to sedate George?" Harry demanded. Remus stiffened slightly.

"Fred was hit with a curse-" Remus started but Harry didn't wait to hear the rest he was already rushing up the stairs and to the far door which was cracked open the light shining slightly. Harry pushed open the door paling at the sight of the twins curled around each other bandages wrapped around Fred's head.

"Harry!" Arthur said in shock.

"Fred?" Harry said feeling frightened and small.

"He's fine for the most part; they got him in the side of the head with a cutting curse. His left ear is gone but the rest of him is alright for the most part." Arthur said alarmed. "Harry are you alright?" Harry swayed slightly and stared down at the twins.

His fault.

He'd left them all to deal with the death eaters so that he could go to Gringotts. He swallowed back the sob that wanted to rip through him and nodded slowly before stumbling forward slightly. He had to touch them, to see that they were there, that they were alright. He reached out his hand and brushed a bit of hair away from George's face. Immediately relief washed through him.

"I should have-" He choked and shook his head unaware that tears were welling up in his eyes as he pulled away. "I need to look after Hermione." He said backing away without meeting Mr. Weasley's eyes and all but fleeing down the hall.

"Harry?" Remus said following behind him. Harry shook his head and climbed the stairs brushing the tears away. There was a muffled shout down stairs and Harry ran towards the room where Snape had been working on Hermione.

"-you touch her you slimy git!" Ron was yelling punching Snape square in the jaw.

"Stupify!" Harry hissed causing Ron to topple over. "Ron you great idiot he's trying to help!" Harry all but shouted. He was tired, so tired and frustrated and so done with it all! He dragged Ron to the room he used for interrogations and poured a sleeping drought down Ron's throat.

"Bastard-" Ron tried futilely when Harry released the spell.

"Yeah I know Ron, I know." Harry said watching as Ron was forced into a deep slumber. Harry dragged him to the bed and levitated him onto it slipping the covers around him before falling back into the chair for a moment just to catch his breath. He wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed and fall asleep himself but he couldn't and he knew it. He stood with a groan and slipped out of the room and down the hall.

"Master is needing food!" Kreacher appeared suddenly. "Elf Dobby is telling Kreacher that young master is taking the polyjuice without eating anything all day!" The elf said his eyes large and doleful. Harry stared down at Kreacher for a moment before nodding numbly.

"Yeah, could you make some for everyone Kreacher? Some tea too please?" He asked before stepping into the room.

"Harry?" Mr. Weasley said cautiously. Harry shook his head.

"How is she?" He said asking Snape who looked up and scowled darkly at him. "Sorry about Ron." Harry offered sheepishly.

"She will survive." Snape said shortly. "The child was lost though. I was removing the fetus when Mister Weasley attacked me." He said crisply before holding out a bowl of blood with bits of flesh floating about in it. Harry felt ill. "I don't know if you will want to bury it, she was only five and a half weeks along by my estimate." Harry blinked at Snape in shock.

"It's not mine I'm gay!" He said in shock before realizing what he'd just admitted. He flushed and looked at Mr. Weasley who looked so sad and pale all of the sudden.

"Severus really." He said gruffly before accepting the bowl. "He's just a boy, a boy who's seen and done more today than most men have to deal with in his life." He said knowingly. Harry blinked slowly unable to tear his eyes away from the bowl despite how disturbing it was.

"I'm sorry mister Weasley." Harry rasped understanding suddenly that the bowl of blood and muck was going to be the man's grandchild. "I-" He felt the tears well up in his eyes. "Damn it!" He said turning his gaze away finally.

"I know Harry, you told them to hide, you even went so far as to ask them to keep their whereabouts hidden even from you. I've only glimpsed some of the hell you've seen Harry and I thank you for trying to keep my son's safe." The man said softly. Harry shook his head.

"I failed. I was the one that dragged Fred and George into this- if I'd only gone to the Malfoys-"

"Harry!" Arthur said sharply shocking Harry into silence. Harry didn't think he could ever recall a time when the man had raised his voice. "That is quite enough of that Harry." The man snapped. "If it weren't for you Ron would be dead." Arthur said trembling. Harry could only duck his head.

"Blaming yourself achieves nothing Potter." Snape said standing. Harry glanced at Hermione who had some of her color back though not much. Harry stood and made his way to her side tucking the blankets around her and touching his trembling hand to her cheek.

"Thank-you Snape." He rasped before grabbing Hermione's hand and curling up on the floor beside the couch. He heard Snape gasp and followed the man's gaze to Gryffindors sword.

"You said you were in Gringotts earlier?" The man said his eyes glittering. Harry nodded slowly before reaching for his bag and reaching inside.

"I have something for you mister Weasley." Harry said grabbing a hold of the jar and pulling it out causing all three men to gasp. Harry sent a weary look to Snape. "Like I said, busy day." He said glancing at Nagini's head.

"I'll say!" Mister Weasley said startled. Harry handed it to Snape who smirked as he examined it. Harry reached into his bag again and felt around for the twisted hunk of metal before pulling it out and handing it to Snape who's mouth went slack.

"The diary, the ring, the locket, the cup, Nagini- just two more Snape." He said tiredly. Dark eyes flashed towards him.

"He made seven of them?" He said pale faced. Harry snorted.

"What did you think I was doing all this time? Aside from stealing your books that is." He said cheekily. He was feeling oddly light and tired now though he knew there wasn't anything on this earth that could pull him away from Hermione's side at that moment.

"Sulking, stealing wands- traipsing around the country in women's clothing." Snape said relentlessly. Harry winced.

"Yeah well I did that too." He said dryly. "Though in my defense there was a great deal of Polyjuice involved." Snape lowered the hunk of metal he'd been examining.

"Potter you do know you aren't supposed to polyjuice into the opposing gender?" The man said with narrowed eyes. Harry winced.

"Yeah well see I wasn't born to be a girl and as fate would have it Bellatrix Lestrange is a woman and so were all of Umbridge's friends- she's a lesbian by the way did you know that?" Harry asked curiously. Snape made a face that Remus mirrored.

"I could have lived without that information Potter." Snape said dryly. Harry snorted. Potter I need to run a diagnostic scan on you." Snape said with a sigh. Harry frowned.

"Why?" He said suspiciously. "I checked after I turned back you know, all my bits and pieces are right where they should be." He said lifting his chin despite the flush on his cheeks.

"Because you just described to me my worst fears, I saw you poly juiced as a woman at least twice, add to that today's little adventure and I'm frankly amazed that you haven't permanently damaged yourself somehow." Snape said crossing his arms. Harry frowned.

"Er, well, I was Fred earlier today too, that has to count for something right?" He said cocking his head to the side. Snape twitched.

"You used Polyjuice twice in a single day?" He said through his teeth.

"Barty-Crouch-Moody used to drink it constantly!" Harry defended. Snape sighed and flicked his wand making Harry flinch as the warm feeling spilled over him.

"And the man was mad by the end of it, do you know that three of his toes never grew back and he was permanently scarred in some places?" Harry felt a flash of fear at that pronouncement.

"Oh Merlin tell me I don't look like Bellatrix!" He said his eyes widening.

"No." Snape said with a slight sneer as he flicked his wand briefly. "Congratulations, you're still a boy." He said dryly. "Though your hips are wider and you most certainly have more estrogen than is normal. You're hair is longer than I remember it being but it has been a while since I've seen you. You are pale and underweight as well." Snape listed carelessly before slipping his wand away. "I seriously don't recommend using polyjuice to become a woman again unless you want to become a woman permanently." Snape said dryly before shaking his head. "I can't believe I just said that." He said rubbing his eyes tiredly. "Now if you don't mind I must return to Hogwarts before my absence is noted, I've given your elf the potions Miss Granger is to take." Snape said snapping his bag shut. Harry nodded blankly.

"Thank you again." Harry said dropping his eyes. He felt like there was a great gulf of madness between them and didn't really know what to do with it. Snape let out a sigh and surprised him by patting him on the head.

"Well done Potter, I'll tell Dumbledore of your development on the task he's set you." He said tiredly. Harry stared up at him in shock before watching him slip out of the room and then the house.

"Did he just compliment me?" Harry asked confused. Remus looked suspicious.

"Did you check to make sure it was him before letting him in?" He asked.

"Yeah." Harry said nodding. Mister Weasley chuckled.

"No wonder he never says anything nice if this is how people react." He said shaking his head. Thank you for this Harry." He said lifting the jar. "No one's ever given me a head as a gift before." He said causing Harry to flush.

"Either way this place is compromised if Snape knows about it." Remus said scowling deeply. Harry frowned.

"But Snape is on our side, I sent out the message that-"

"-that Dumbledore was already dieing I know Harry but I don't trust him." Remus said coldly. Harry felt rage build up inside him.

"Why? He didn't have to come here tonight you know? I didn't even have to beg him like I thought I would have to! He was already waiting for me when I got to Hogwarts! He could have knocked me down! He could have taken me to Voldemort so many times already but instead he's been protecting me!" Harry said just as coldly. Remus looked at him as though he had two heads.

"He's a Snape Harry what's gotten into you? It's his fault Sirius is dead!" Remus said angrily. Harry felt as though he'd been slapped.

"No." He said his voice going small. "It's mine." He said softly. "Snape- I didn't trust him but he sent for help when I asked him to, he almost broke his cover to try to save Sirius but I didn't believe him, didn't trust him and I went to the ministry anyway. Sirius found out and came after me." Harry said. "Snape warned me about the visions, he was a bastard, but he was right and I wouldn't listen because I wanted to hate him." Harry said softly. "And now Sirius is dead. Because I wouldn't listen." Harry said softly his heart squeezing with guilt.

"Harry-" Remus started only to be cut off when the front door slammed open and Kingsley came stumbling through beside Tonks.

"Good god woman can't you do anything quietly?" Kingsley said shutting the door behind them. Harry noted that Remus had forgotten whatever he was going to say to Harry and was rushing for Tonks his eyes filled with worry. Harry felt an odd sort of ache at that. Kreacher appeared beside Harry and settled a tray over his legs which was heavy laden with food stuffs distracting him for a moment.

"Master must eat!" Kreacher pleaded. Harry nodded slowly.

"Thanks Kreacher" he said before digging in to his meal.

"He's seemed to have a change of heart." Mister Weasley said sounding vaguely amused as he climbed down onto the floor next to him. Harry grinned slightly before digging in to his meal surprised when Mr. Weasley started to look slightly nervous. "Em, Harry." He said tugging at his collar lightly. "You've done a great deal for us already today, and I know I really shouldn't ask for more but, well the burrow is gone Harry." Mr. Weasley said with a sigh. "And we have no where to go at the moment." He said his eyes lowering in pain and shame. Harry felt his fork halt half way to his mouth. To see the man he respected and admired a great deal humbled like this angered him on a deep and primal level.

"You'll stay here for now I'll arrange for something better as soon as possible." Harry said before biting into his food. Mr. Weasley's shoulders sagged and Harry was alarmed to see tears in the man's eyes.

"Thank you Harry." The man said seeming so very tired and broken. Harry nodded and Kreacher appeared with a chagrined look as he set another tray across Mr. Weasley's lap.

"Is Kreacher having to look after nasty blood traitors?" Kreacher said wrinkling his nose slightly in disgust. Harry snorted.

"I could ask Dobby to come over if you don't want to Kreacher, I'm sure he could do an excellent job regardless." Harry teased slightly. Kreacher narrowed his eyes and slammed the tray down slightly forcefully.

"Kreacher is doing better than insane free elf Dobby!" Kreacher snarled. "Kreacher is being best house elf you is seeing young master! You is seeing!" He said before cracking away. Harry snorted.

"Some things never change." He said shaking his head.

"Thank you Harry." Mr. Weasley said seriously. Harry frowned.

"Mister Weasley you've taken me into your home more times than I can count, you don't have to thank me, anything you need, if I can get it for you I will." Harry said flushing slightly. He thought of the burrow and felt suddenly very sad, it was as though he'd lost his own home. He sighed-

And then a mad idea came to mind.

Harry smirked slightly.

-6-

Harry woke slowly and groaned slightly feeling as though he'd been hit by a wrecking ball.

"Harry?" A hoarse voice asked. Harry was turning around so fast that he didn't even feel his body protest until he was already facing Hermione. He let out a low groan and his head fell slightly.

"I am never taking two Polyjuice potions in one day ever again." He groaned softly. Hermione let out a weak chuckle and Harry was promptly distracted from the pain. "How are you?" He asked his gaze serious. He wasn't a girl and frankly all of this was new and weird and more than just a bit scary but he knew that it must be bad.

"Fine." Hermione said her eyes turning away from him. "I mean it wasn't planned and really, I'm only seventeen and there's the war and-" Harry placed a finger on her lips and realized that it must be bad for her to be over analyzing it this way.

"No Hermione, how are you." He said holding her hand tightly. He watched Hermione's eyes fill with tears that fell fast.

"My baby!" She half whispered before breaking down into tears. Great heaving sobs wracked her body as she wept and Harry held her tightly when she rolled to her side and pressed her face into his shirt. He wasn't great at this sort of thing but he knew it must hurt a lot and he knew that even he had a pang for what could have been. That was what he was fighting for after all, Hermione and Ron's future. He held her tighter as he saw the image of them getting married, having children, a life a family of their own.

But there was no Harry.

Not at the wedding.

No uncle Harry.

He would just be a memory. Someone who died to end the war, a hero that broke their hearts, he wondered for a moment if anyone would know the truth. That he was twisted, tainted, and had been since that night when Voldemort had attacked his family.

"I'm sorry Hermione, I'm so sorry." Harry gasped hardly noticing the tears in his own eyes as they fell.

#$%^#$%^#$%^#

Ron woke slowly. He realized immediately that there was something important something very important and something very wrong. It took a moment for him to realize what though.

Hermione.

And in that same instant the memories of the last time he'd been awake assaulted him. Ron stumbled out of bed knocking over a chair before rushing for the door nearly tripping on his feet in his haste. He tilted into the wall with a loud thud and struggled with the doorknob before in his anger simply lashing out and kicking through it.

"Hermione!" He said stumbling towards the room with the couch where he'd last seen her. He prayed, prayed that Snape hadn't killed her, that the miscarriage hadn't killed her- oh god the baby! They were going to have a baby and he never knew about it! He stumbled into the room huffing and puffing to see both Hermione and Harry pull apart eyes red rimmed and still wet. In his mind though there was only Hermione and he needed Hermione, it had always been Hermione since they were kids and she needed him too!

Harry gasped as he was suddenly bodily thrown to the side crashing painfully into the book case as Ron enveloped Hermione in his arms and began crying. Harry stared at them and felt a sense of finality fall over him. There was no place for him now; he was like a walking ghost, as good as dead but not quite gone yet. He grit his teeth and stood on unsteady legs. Bellatrix was waiting for him after all, and so was the war, and about a million other things he had to get to today. There was no more time for self pity, no more time for hiding away and pretending that the real world wouldn't find him. Harry pulled on his cloak and without another word stepped out of the house and down the steps apparating with a sharp crack.

Number four was quiet when he entered. To Harry if felt like years since the last time he'd stepped through that door. A crack sounded and Dobby jumped from one foot to the next excitedly.

"Headmaster Snape is saying Dobby should be staying with Harry Potter sir! Dobby is most grateful for this opportunity!" Dobby said brightly. Harry felt a bitter smile cross his lips.

"He's still looking out for me isn't he?" He said shaking his head. "God that stings." He added as he pulled the sword off and his cloak letting them fall to the side. "Thank you Dobby I think they might need you at Grimmauld Place for now though, it's quite dirty there and Kreacher has several guests to tend to. Could you go over there and watch over them for a while?" He asked fondly. "You can take any cleaning supplies that you need from here or buy some." Dobby lit up like a Christmas tree and nodded brightly as Harry handed him a pouch of gold.

"Dobby is being glad to help with anything Harry Potter wishes!" Dobby said before disappearing with a crack. Harry smiled faintly and climbed the stairs. Surprisingly it didn't take very long to convince himself of what he was about to do. Hermione had told him what had happened. Ron had gotten restless and was convinced that Harry was just hogging all the glory for himself.

Harry knew better though.

Ron had never been one for sitting down and researching. Ron had probably started to feel useless and restless, he'd probably begun to think that Hermione had a greater part in all of this then he did which was bullocks because Ron did most of the tactical planning. Without Ron Harry wouldn't have gotten into the ministry or Gringotts. Harry was good thinking on his feet but Ron was the one that could think and plan ahead.

But not this time.

Hermione had chased after him once she realized he had left the safe house. Ron was persistent though. He wanted to get a bit of Bellatrix's hair and send it along with the next letter to show that he was capable of being a hero too. Harry felt his fists ball as he climbed the landing. He didn't give a damn if Ron thought he was a hero, Ron's carelessness had nearly killed the both of them and several of their allies. Harry rubbed his face tiredly, in the end they'd gotten captured and Bellatrix had tortured Hermione to try to gain information about his whereabouts.

He pushed open the door to the bedroom and watched a slow grin spread across Bellatrix's face. "Ickle Potter?" Bella sneered. Harry felt something cold and hard settle in the pit of his stomach as he set silencing charms on the walls and floor.

"You know Bella; usually I have a hard time even contemplating torture. Usually I have to talk myself through it, not this time though." He said pulling the wand he'd snatched from her out of his bag and rolling up his sleeves.

"You don't have it in you Potter!" She sneered. Harry smiled thinly.

"I think you'll find that this time, I do." He said grimly.

#$%^ #$%^ %^ $56#$%

Severus strode into his office only to halt pulling his wand out sharply his eyes scanning the room for enemies. Cautiously he moved forward snorting as he caught sight of the pile of books beside the large glass bottle. He picked up the card on top of the books.

Snape,

You know I learned more about potions reading these than I ever did in class? Guess you're a bit distracting. Hope you'll forgive me for forcibly borrowing your books, you probably won't but hey a bloke could try. The bottle is a small token of my gratitude for all that you've done for us, our mutual lady friend has admitted under some prodding that it is your favorite. I'll see if I can't prod her some more since I still owe you a great deal, she seems to be a very knowledgeable woman indeed.

Cheers!

"…forcibly borrowed." Severus shook his head and snorted before lifting the bottle and looking at the label carefully. "Ah…this is nice." He said in surprise. He turned to his books and checked them over carefully letting out a sigh of relief to find that they were in the same condition they'd been in when Potter had taken them. Now if only he'd send the rest. He sighed and shook his head. The boy would be the death of him.

#$% #$^ $%^% #$% #$%

Harry read through the enormous sheaf of parchments with a critical eye. There was no way Bellatrix could have lied about any of it of course, Harry had found while working with Umbridge that if he gave her a constant dose of Veritaserum along with a very specific quill, that it would ensure that everything she wrote would be the truth. It was dead expensive and Umbridge probably hadn't been worth it but he supposed it was worth figuring it out. He set the papers down, they were the first of three more stacks of papers he was going to have to go through, and none of them had anything to do with the diadem. He let out a frustrated sigh before nodding to himself. He'd gotten all that he could out of Bellatrix and the extensive use of Veritaserum had left her with less of a mind than she'd started with. He pulled out her wand and flicked it at her, the wand hesitated a bit the way it always seemed to when he used it, but gave in after a moment.

He levitated her towards the bathroom and sneered when he realized she would have to be naked and that was something he did not want to see.

"Dobby." He called wrinkling his nose slightly. Dobby appeared with a crack and his eyes widened at the sight of Bella's beaten and tattered form. "Could you give her a bath Dobby? There are some healing potions in the cabinet, blindfold her and give her a sleeping drought when you're done please." Harry said with a sigh. He had to find the diadem!

"Yes of course Mister Harry Potter sir!" Dobby said nodding quickly his ears flapping against his head as he did so. Harry smiled tiredly and turned back to the room collecting the stacks of paperwork and heading downstairs. He had a way of finding the diadem of course, the same way he'd found the locket but…it was dangerous, incredibly so. He sighed as he began to sort through the parchment. It felt as though he was back to square one.

#$% #^$% ^ #$%^ #

Harry was careful as he crept into Gringotts. There death eaters everywhere it seemed and he'd been watching the entrance all day to make sure that he had the best chance possible. Harry depended on the fact that the wanted posters for him showed a scrawny sixteen year old boy wearing baggy clothes. He was far from that now. He wasn't tall by any means and he was still rather thin but he'd grown pale in the last year and his hair had grown until it was dipping into his lower back- though part of that was due to polyjuiceing into Bellatrix. He didn't wear glasses any more if he could help it, he'd learned in the past that they were far too easy to lose in battle and wizarding contacts were frankly put far better. He tried to tell himself that he looked almost nothing like he had the year previous. He waited for an opportune moment before casually stepping into the bank and slipping over to one of the goblins showing just his face and startling the goblin.

"Sorry, can't be seen right now, can I get into the Black family Vault?" he said handing over the key. Sirius had left him with everything including the title to the Black family if he wanted it. Sirius had once said that his family had a vault filled with gold but that he hated to touch it, he only used it the one time as far as Harry knew, and that was to get Harry a racing broom.

Now perhaps Harry could do some good with it.

The goblin scowled at him but accepted the key examining it for a moment before nodding and slipping off his stool. "Right this way mister Potter." The goblin said dryly. Harry followed the creature down the long hallways only removing his cloak once they were settled in one of the carts.

"I have a very big purchase I wanted to make." Harry said before the cart started taking the breath right out of him. "Ahem, is there any way I could make this purchase without having to carry a load of gold with me all the time?" Harry asked. He had a never ending bag with him just in case but he'd really rather not carry all that gold.

"Yes mister Potter of course we do." The Goblin said reaching to pull something off the hook in the cart as the cart came to a screeching halt. A low rumble caused fear and dread to sink into the pit of his stomach. Slowly he turned to see a dragon staring down at him with large yellow eyes. A clanking sound filled the air and the dragon took a few quick steps back in fear letting out a huff of smoke. Harry frowned. Of course he'd heard that they had dragons guarding the vaults at Gringotts but he hadn't thought about how they were kept. Harry could see torture marks, burns and whip marks, he could see where the manacles around the dragon had dug their way into the flesh making it bleed and blister. "May I ask what you are considering purchasing?" The goblin said distracting him from the sight of the dragon. Harry snapped to attention and made a mental note to write to Charlie soon.

"My friend's house was just burned down in a raid, I was thinking of building them a new one." He said following the goblin to the large stone doors.

"Ah, yes I see, Gringotts has connections to several of the best building companies in the world mister Potter, as per your request we would be able to handle the necessary transactions." Harry felt his breath catch as the door to the vault swung open. Harry had seen some pretty impressive vaults in his life time but this…yeah this should cover it…

#$% #%^ %^ $%^$%

Harry stepped into Grimmauld Place and grinned at all the noise. Now that Fred and George were up it seemed the Weasley family was back to its usual madness. He stepped into the kitchen and his smile fell a bit as he caught sight of Hermione and Ron who both looked pale and withdrawn.

"Er…I brought flowers?" He said holding up the bouquet.

"Oh Harry dear!" Mrs. Weasley said brightly as she bustled out from the kitchen and pulled him into a tight hug. Harry smiled slightly. "I've just started lunch dear have a seat here I'll take those- oh aren't they lovely!" Mrs. Weasley said taking the bundle from a frankly grateful Harry. Hermione gave him a small faded smile and Harry moved to where she was sitting.

"Come on you." He said pulling her into a tight hug. Hermione gave him a strangled laugh as he set her back down and turned to Ron. "And you." He said cutting the tension easily. He didn't know how much longer he had to live, he'd be damned if he spent that time mad at his best friend. Ron leaned into the hug half heartedly and Harry pulled away before sitting down.

"Harry!" Harry jumped as Fred and George suddenly pummeled into him one twin on each side.

"Heard you were all cut up over my ear Harry." Fred said grinning his eyelids dropping.

"He recons you owe him a kiss for his loss." George said with a wide grin. Harry blushed and his eyes turned to the bandage.

"I suppose I do don't I?" He said surprising both twins. George leaned closer.

"But what about me Harry, I'll get jealous." He said grinning.

"Then I suppose I'll have to kiss you both won't I?" He said. His face was flushed bright red and a part of him couldn't believe that he'd just said that but- well he wasn't about to let himself die without having a little fun first was he?

"Harry!" Ron said appearing slightly green.

"Er right, maybe a bit later then?" Harry said feeling shy all the sudden.

"Oh no-" George said.

"We want our kisses-" Fred said.

"Now!" George finished before startling Harry by bending him back and kissing him deeply. Harry though he might have let out a strangled sort of sound but it faded almost immediately in the rush of the moment and before he realized it he was kissing back for all he was worth.

"My turn!" Fred said startling him. Harry gasped as his wrist was captured an arm sliding around his waist as Fred bodily pushed him against the wall and kissed him as though he would suck Harry's soul out. Harry let out a whimper his mind fogged and unable to think outside of those lips.

"FREDRICK!" Fred pulled away with a grin and Harry stared at him slightly dazed.

"Now that was a hero's kiss!" Fred said.

"Huh?" Harry said dazedly. George pecked him on the cheek lightly.

"Gotta run mum! Shop won't run its self you know!" He said before grabbing Fred's wrist and tearing off down the hall. Harry blinked slowly.

"Well I never!" Molly said hands on her hips as she stared after her sons. Harry flushed bright red. Oh Merlin… "Sit down Harry, I'll see to it those boys get a whopping for that!" Mrs. Weasley said as she set down a plate of hearty chicken sandwiches. Harry stumbled into his seat.

"Harry mate, you're grinning like a loon." Ron said with a wince. Harry continued to grin.

"Ah Harry, how are you today?" Mr. Weasley said stepping into the room. Harry's grin fell slightly.

"I'm alright sir." He said licking his lips nervously. "If you have moment after lunch I'd like to talk to you in private if I can." He said carefully keeping his eyes on the table in front of him. Mr. Weasley was quiet for a moment.

"Yes of course Harry no problem at all." He said offering Harry a smile. Harry nodded and picked a sandwich off of the pile ignoring Hermione's shrewd look and the dull glassiness in Ron's eyes.

The silence in the room was deafening and Harry felt distinctly uncomfortable as he ate his sandwich.

"Did you hear the wireless last night Harry?" Arthur said eventually when the silence became too painful to bear. "Bellatrix Lestrange was found in the lower levels of Azkaban- dead." Arthur said softly. Harry winced slightly.

"Yeah, imagine that." He said glancing up at Hermione who was staring at him white faced and eyes shining.

"They said that by the looks of it she'd been tortured extensively." Arthur said a small faint smile on his lips.

"Well she did have a great deal of enemies." Harry said leaning back in his chair carefully keeping his gaze away from Hermione and Ron. "And she was one of his greatest supporters, which meant that she had a great deal of information on her as well." Arthur shook his head slowly.

"She must have pissed off the wrong person this time." He said tightly.

"This is a war mister Weasley and in war, I have come to find that people die. It doesn't justify whoever did this, not in the least, but it is a hard cold fact." Harry said poking around at his food.

"I think we should have that talk now Harry." Mr. Weasley said grimly. Harry nodded.

"Thank you for lunch Mrs. Weasley." Harry said drinking the last of his cold tea before standing and fallowing Mr. Weasley down the hallway and into the room they usually used for order meetings. Harry cast several silencing charms around the room and made a quick scan for listening devices before nodding his head satisfied.

"That's an interesting wand you have there Harry." Mister Weasley said. Harry turned his gaze to Bellatrix's wand and nodded briefly before slipping it away.

"That isn't what I wanted to talk to you about." Harry said smiling briefly. Mr. Weasley sat down comfortably and offered Harry a patient smile. Harry felt his chest squeeze and turned his gaze to the fire that sprung up in the fireplace.

"I'm going to die mister Weasley." He said solidly. "You saw when I came back the last time that I had Nagini's head and what was left of Huffelpuff's cup?" He said smiling faintly as he looked at the man who's smile had fallen away.

"Yes." He said after a moment.

"The dark lord dabbled all sorts of magic mister Weasley. You see there is one thing he fears most of all and that is death." He said staring at his hands. "So he wanted to find a way to become immortal- and he did, sort of." Harry took a deep breath. "I'm telling you this in the utmost confidence mister Weasley, I'm telling you because I trust you not to tell anyone." Harry said turning his gaze to the man. Mr. Weasley nodded slowly.

"Yes of course Harry, I'd swear an oath to you if you'd like." He said offering his hand. Harry felt his chest squeeze and shook his head slowly.

"No, I trust you, in fact that is part of the reason I'm here." He said pulling out the envelope and the small pouch that contained a copy of his memory. "The dark lord split his soul seven times and placed each bit into a different object. Just before Dumbledore died he asked me to find and destroy those objects. So far I have destroyed five of them but there are two left." He said taking a deep breath. "One is a diadem that Rowena Ravenclaw created, the other- the other he doesn't know he made." He said lifting his hand and touching his scar pointedly. He turned to Mr. Weasley and watched his face pale in comprehension.

"Oh Harry…" He trailed off with wide eyes. Harry smiled bitterly.

"Ron and Hermione don't know, no one does except Dumbledore, Snape, me and now you. In order to win this war, in order to be sure that he dies-" His voice cracked a bit. "I have to die too." He said biting his lip sharply to keep from the terror and rage and sorrow he felt. "You and Mrs. Weasley have been the closest thing I have had to family, you've taken me in and treated me like one of your own even knowing what I have to do to win this war, even knowing that it puts your family in danger." He said shaking his head slowly. "I needed you to know how much that meant to me." He said ignoring the tear that slid down his cheek. "When I came to this world I thought I was just a nothing, a nobody who couldn't be loved. But you opened your hearts and your home to me." He said wryly.

"Of course Harry!" Arthur said almost reflexively. Harry smiled at him.

"I have a few favors to ask of you." Harry said smiling faintly before handing over the thick envelope and the small pouch. "Snape has saved my life more times than I'm willing to admit. When this war is over they'll be out for his head and I won't be here to defend him. This envelope includes a letter from Dumbledore stating his intention to die and the request he made of Snape. The memories in that pouch are of the many times I know he's saved my life and tried his best to save the lives of others around him. I might not have to like it, but he's a hero in his own way." Harry said smiling sadly. "I have copies if you need them one in Gringotts, one in Godrics Hallow and another hidden at my parents' graves. Instructions on how to find them will be given to you after I- after I die." He said swallowing thickly.

"Harry…is this why you didn't want us to tell you where Hermione and Ron were?" He asked softly. Harry nodded.

"They have to go back into hiding until it's safe, he hasn't tried to take over and what's in me isn't strong enough to do too much damage, but there are times when he can see through my eyes and it's dangerous." He said with a nod. He was surprised to see Mr. Weasley begin to cry and felt slightly nervous and unsure of himself suddenly.

"Oh Harry…you're so young! So young!" The man said shaking his head sadly. Harry looked away. It was best to get through this he decided. He had to return to number four and get everything ready.

"There is one last thing." Harry said reaching into his pocket and pulling out a set of keys. He smiled faintly. "When I die all the money I inherited will go to Ron and Hermione, I've already spoken to the goblins and they know what to do with it, but there was something I wanted to do for you and Mrs. Weasley. He said holding out the keys. "You gave me a home when I didn't have one, and I'd like to return the favor." Harry said watching the man's expression turn from shock into awe and disbelief. "It's under the Fidelius charm for now; Home is found where the Burrow once stood." He said watching as Arthur's expression seemed to stay frozen where it was.

"Harry…" Mr. Weasley shook his head slowly but Harry slipped his hands over the mans and pressed the keys into his hands.

"It's what I want, it's the very least I could give considering how many times Ron's risked his neck for me, Fred and George too come to think of it. I just want you to have it, I want you all to be happy once this is over, to live and have lives where you don't have to worry about death eaters and the dark lord. That's what I'm fighting for now." He said unable to stop the tears in his own eyes from falling. Arthur let out a strangled sob and Harry found that he had to leave. He stood quickly and released the locking spells before rushing down the hall and out of the house apparating before the door had time to close.

Mrs. Weasley frowned as she heard the front door close. "Harry?" She called wiping her hands on her apron as she stepped out into the hall. The door to the living room as cracked open and she crept towards it. "Arthur?" She said softly only to gasp at the sight of her husband weeping softly.

"Oh Molly!" He said clinging to his wife as she rushed to him. "That poor, poor boy!" He wept clinging to her tightly.

#$% #$% %^ $%^#$% #$

Severus snorted as he stepped into his office and caught sight of a familiar stack of books on his desk. Beside it there was an assortment of rare potions ingredients and a box of his favorite chocolates which he knew her hard to get. He frowned when there was no card to go along with it. The last few times this had happened there had been a note to go with it cryptically keeping him updated.

"I needed to talk to you in person." Severus jumped his wand in his hand and a curse on his lips before he recognized the voice. Potter was sitting in front of the fire a curious look on his face. "Sorry I thought you knew I was here." He said appearing chagrined. Severus sneered and snatched up the box of chocolates.

"Have you any idea how dangerous it is for you to be here?" he demanded setting the box on the small table before reaching for the cabinet (which was well stocked with his favored liquors thanks to Potter).

"Snape your office is armed with some of the most complicated wards I've seen, and I've seen some pretty complicated wards." He said mildly.

"Yes I had assumed it was you that was going around and breaking into death eater homes, no one else would be so foolhardy." Snape said dryly as he poured himself a few fingers before after a moment of thought summoning a glass and pouring a single finger into it handing it to Potter who smiled faintly.

"Thanks, I'll have you know that it'll be your fault if I become an alcoholic, I've been drinking most of the stuff I got for you just to try it." He said taking a sip. "And to wallow in self pity." He said smirking knowingly. Severus closed his mouth with a click his retort already taken from him.

"Yes well." Severus said before putting the bottle away and sinking gratefully into his chair.

"I was looking for the diadem." Harry said turning his gaze back to the fireplace. "I wanted to look before I tried my other method, Ron and Hermione are hidden away again, they've been trying to find it but…no luck so far." He said taking a sip of his drink.

"And so you've been searching through every death eater home and vault I assume trying to find the diadem." Severus said nodding slowly. "If you live through this you could set yourself up as a world class thief." He said dryly as he pulled the lid from the chocolates. Harry snorted.

"Or a ward master, I can't tell you how many houses I've warded just this week what with the snatchers crawling around." He said shaking his head.

"And yet I assume you aren't here to talk about any of that am I correct?" Severus said taking a bit of his chocolate and savoring the flavors as they burst over his tongue. Harry nodded.

"If called by their marks would the death eaters still come?" Harry said tracing his bottom lip in thought. Dark eyes caught his.

"So that was you." He drawled softly. Harry winced.

"Not intentionally really, though I can direct the call if I want to, it seems to have settled down after I destroyed the cup though." Severus took a sip and let it linger for a moment before swallowing.

"The dark lord has been trying to figure out why the mark has been reacting but he hasn't made any direct orders and he still uses the mark to call though he holds it a great deal longer than you did." Snape said with a wince. "Most of us can tell the difference." He said dryly. "Usually only the new death eaters go when you call." He said with a nod. Harry frowned and looked away.

"I don't have much time though. He's sick since I destroyed the cup, it won't be long before he realizes what triggered it." Harry said taking another sip.

"He has seemed a bit…preoccupied as of late." Severus said delicately. Potter smiled wryly and pointed to his scar.

"Yeah, I know I've seen all of his little temper tantrums, felt them too." He said with a slight shiver. Severus frowned. Just how deep did the link go?

"You felt them?" He said curiously. Potter nodded.

"Yeah, sometimes I'm him and sometimes I'm the one he's cursing. I think he's going mad- well madder than usual anyway. Whenever I'm pulled into a vision I notice that nothings, stable you know? It's just anger and the need to hurt, and pain and me of course- it's a bit disturbing how much he thinks about me." Harry said wrinkling his nose. Severus snorted.

"I thought you'd be flattered." He teased. Potter turned slightly green and looked vaguely ill.

"No, not really, it's like having a creepy stalker in your head." He said shivering slightly.

"Or a young man who seems to think that he can buy me off with sweets and good liquor?" Severus said smirking slightly. Harry snorted.

"Is it working?" Harry said cheekily. "Besides, I owe you a great deal like it or not and I don't really have much time to make up for it, after I get the diadem…" He trailed off his smile fading. Severus frowned.

"Pity here I was half worried they were courting gifts." He said dryly before popping another chocolate into his mouth. Harry flushed brightly and let out a nervous laugh.

"As if I'd have a chance!" He said shaking his head before drinking what was left in his glass. "I need to go, I can't tell you why exactly but I do need to go. Thanks for the drink." He said with a nod as he stood.

"Potter." Severus said softly. Green eyes turned towards him. "I will do what I can to find another way." Snape said softly. Harry's expression softened slightly and the light in his eyes grew dim.

"If you want to, I've already accepted it though. Just a little while longer Snape and this will all be over." He said. The look in his eyes stopped Severus, froze him to the core. "Merry Christmas Snape." Potter said before he disappeared and the door slipped closed but Severus hardly noticed any of it.

Those eyes…

For the first time Severus had looked into that face, looked into those eyes and hadn't found a trace of Lily or Potter. The young man was a person of his own now, jaded, cold, cruel when he needed to be, and willing to do whatever it took to end this war for good. Severus stared into the fire for a long time wondering when the boy had become a man and wondering when a small part of him had begun to respect Harry Potter and why it seemed so sad to see him walk away tonight. He smiled wryly as he stared into the flames. Harry Potter had inherited a precious gift from his mother…he'd inherited her ability to worm herself into even the coldest of hearts.

-7-

Harry stared out the window and watched as the frost began to melt under the warm sun. Another two months had passed them by and still- nothing. Harry had searched the death eaters, had searched the ministry and every place he could think of. They'd run out of ideas and now Harry was locked inside number four with nothing but Snape's books to keep him company. Harry knew that he could find the diadem if he used his scar but every time he thought about doing it he felt something cold in his chest, something that told him that maybe he shouldn't.

Was he just being a coward?

Was he scared to die?

Yes.

Oh gods yes he was terrified.

But he had to and he knew he had to and he'd come to terms with it but still…He sighed and lifted the snitch in front of his face. Dumbledore had left it to him, Ron and Hermione told him that He'd left them stuff too and that they hadn't made very much sense either. Harry eyed the snitch. It felt as though all the answers to his questions were in the small sphere, but he couldn't seem to open it. Dumbledore had left him something, something to help him but as ever the headmaster was cryptic.

I open at the close.

That the hell was that supposed to mean?

Harry sighed and turned around. There was a large pile of books that he was going to need to return to Snape- he hadn't had much else to do otherwise. But he almost didn't want to go back, he had nothing to show for these last two months and he felt rather useless for it. Still- there was no place for pride any more, if the war was going to take everything he had it might as well take what was left of his pride. Harry gathered up the books and the box with the finely cut robes he managed to order before heading to the door.

He supposed it wouldn't be the first time he'd had to beg the man.

# #$% $% % ^ #$%

"I hear the Ministry is having a hard time keeping their prisoners." Snape said as he poured them both a glass. Harry winced slightly and nodded.

"Kingsley doesn't trust me any more, I had to mention my link and well- it didn't go over to well with him. I understand I guess, I taught Kingsley how to do the Fidelius charm though it seems to take a lot out of him. My job is to make an appearance and get them out, Kingsley takes over from there, I'm not supposed to know where they are just in case-" He smirked slightly. "But I know any way, just in case." He said accepting his glass and taking a sip. Something was a bit different about Snape tonight; he didn't seem as cold as he had before. Harry had already tested him though to make sure it was in fact Snape which the man had merely snorted at and waved him off. Still, he supposed it was a change for the better considering how their conversations used to end up.

"That's almost Slytherin of you Potter." Snape said with a slight huff. Harry raised his eyebrows.

"And that's almost a compliment from you Snape." He said raising his glass to the man. Snape snorted.

"Don't get used to it." He said taking a sip from his glass. Harry relaxed slightly.

"Wouldn't dream of it." He said mildly.

"Did you really read all those books?" Snape said glancing at the books that were steadily filling his shelves. Harry smiled wryly.

"When there is no Ron to play chess with, no classes to attend to and no leads to what I need to find, the only thing I can do is read. It pains me to say that you're the best teacher I've had- through reading that is." Harry said taking a sip.

"I thought you said you had a way to find the diadem." Snape said a bit sharply. Harry's smile fell away.

"Something tells me that it wouldn't be a good idea to use that method, something tells me that if I do…it could be a very, very bad thing." Harry said frowning. "I don't know what it is whether the shard just doesn't want me to destroy this one or…or if I'm just that afraid of what I know I'll have to face once I destroy it. But I can't do it." He said softly.

"Walk me through it Potter." Snape said softly his gaze thoughtful. Harry tilted his head back.

"If I do…when I destroyed the cup he felt it, we both felt it and it hurt. I could hardly walk afterwards, could hardly string a sentence together, you saw me. I think his soul realizes that something is wrong; it's making him sick, during my vision last night he could hardly keep the crucio going for more than a minute. If I use the link to find the diadem I know somehow that he will figure out what I've been doing. But it's more then that…" He trailed off looking down at his glass as he swirled the liquid around in it. He took a deep breath. "The first time I did it I accidentally called the death eaters, after that the link kept calling them. I had no control over it, every time I accidentally called them people died. I was untrained at the time, I had no way of stopping them, no way of warning any one and I could hear them…" He cut himself off. "I could hear them screaming and I couldn't do anything, because if I did I wouldn't be there when it counted." He rasped. He lifted his glass and drank what was left in it. For a moment there was just silence and the sound of the fire crackling away.

"Those raids…the ones by headquarters you were there the whole time weren't you?" Snape said softly. Harry nodded.

"I- uh- I kidnapped an Auror." He said snorting. "The first time it happened accidentally I was in the city, I just needed to get out for a bit, away from Sirius' memory. I went to this crummy little deli and my scar just, called them. Like it wanted me to be found. I was trapped in the middle of a raid and I had no clue what to do. I was scared and I hid under my invisibility cloak. I knew that they couldn't find me, that if they found me it would be all over. An explosion went off and- I think it knocked me out for a few minutes, when I woke up the Aurors were fighting them. There was this one, Kent, he was fighting outside the Deli and got blown through the window. The death eater was going to kill him and I- I was just sitting there, perfectly capable of doing something- anything." He took a deep breath. "I killed the death eater and took Kent back to Grimmauld. I made him train me, we used to fight about it-he couldn't stand it either, staying in the house while people were being killed outside but even he could agree that I needed to be trained." Harry said biting his lip.

"And Kent?" Snape said quietly. There was no condemnation there, no accusations, only acceptance.

"I obliviated him, made him think that he'd spent those few months in a coma in a muggle hospital." Harry said softly.

"Why? Surely if he wanted to he could have run and told the nearest person where you were hiding." Snape said softly. Harry looked away.

"It was driving him mad being locked up in there; I don't think he would have been ok if I had just let him go in the end. And I knew that I was the one to do that to him, he'd been so strong and so brave but towards the end he'd given up. It was my fault that he was like that and I knew the only way to return him to the way he was and to prevent anyone from figuring out where I was was to modify his memory." Harry said softly.

"Playing with other people's memories is no joke Potter." Snape said softly. Harry scowled at him pointedly and Snape winced. "I supposed I could have been…kinder in training you. You obviously have the aptitude to learn." Snape conceded. Harry felt his lips twitch upwards slightly.

"That must have hurt to say." He said smirking. Snape scowled at him and Harry's smile softened. "I think I needed to tell someone that Snape…the others I don't think they would understand so much. Maybe Mister Weasley but even he sees me as a kid some times, but- Merlin I've seen a woman's brains blown out of her head! You don't stay a kid after seeing something like that." He said shaking his head. "And some of the things I've done…I'm no better then they are." He said shaking his head. "I think I needed some one to know that." He said smiling faintly. Severus stood and poured them both another glass.

"For some people it is hard to see that death changes a person utterly and completely. See enough of it and it can drive you mad. You and I have seen a great deal of death Potter and some of the blood is on our hands. That changes things, makes us different and not in a good way." Snape said before settling back into his seat. "I will see what I can find on the diadem, there may be information regarding it somewhere in the castle, though I'll have to tread carefully. Assuming it was one of the dark lord's first attempts it might even be somewhere in the castle it's self. But you are right about one thing, no matter how frustrated you are you must not seek it using the link. For the time being we have the element of surprise on our side, time however is not on our side. However mad he may be becoming the dark lord is still a genius and there is no telling when he will be alerted as to what is happening." Snape said with a nod. Harry agreed privately and took another sip of his drink.

"Thank you. I know I probably sound like a broken record player at this point but seriously, thank you." Harry said with a sigh.

"Potter you've sacrificed enough at this point that I think we can safely say that we're even." Snape said dryly. Harry snorted slightly and glanced up at the man. It was funny how so much could change in such a small amount of time. He'd hated Snape for years, yet there he was finding comfort in the man. Maybe he did understand a bit better now. Snape wasn't just an 'evil git' that had it out for him. Snape had reasons for being who he was. There was no doubt that the man had treated him unfairly but considering the fact that Harry had stolen his books, watched a private memory that he wasn't supposed to, disrespected the man at every turn, thrown himself into danger time and time again- and probably a load of other stuff that he couldn't think about properly after two strong drinks, yeah he guessed he owed Snape a lot. Harry's eyes drifted towards the books on the desk. That's where it had started after all, Snape's old potions book.

"The half-blood Prince." He said lazily a small smile on his lips.

"Tell me Potter will I ever get that particular book back from you?" Snape said slightly amused. Harry huffed.

"I don't know I might just keep it." He said with a cheeky grin. "For sentimental reasons." He said drinking what was left in his glass.

"What could you possibly find sentimental about my old potions manual?" Snape asked as he retrieved the bottle and motioned for his glass giving him a slight sneer as he poured more than was probably necessary. Harry rose both eyebrows at the amount before sniggering slightly.

"Think you can get me drunk enough to tell you where it is?" He said taking a sip anyway.

"Would it work?" Snape said dryly as he poured some more in his own glass. Harry smiled. He felt light airy, he'd had a few glasses already after all.

"I don't know- I really admired the Prince." He said lazily. He'd probably regret saying this later but he'd already admitted to killing a man so he supposed that this couldn't be any worse than that. "Ron teased me endlessly and Hermione was jealous that I was doing better than she was in class but I think it just unnerved them a bit." Harry said with a sigh.

"Unnerved them?" Snape said his voice oddly still. Harry smiled faintly.

"I had never shown another person as much interest as I did the Prince, Hermione was worried that I would fall for someone dark I think- we were just kids back then. I didn't care though, come to think of it I had quite the crush on him a mind like that- it's hard not to admire." Harry said watching the liquid in his glass move in lazy swirls. Snape was silent for a long time, so long that it caused Harry in his slightly buzzed state to look up and catch sight of the blush staining the man's cheeks. Harry flushed as well when he realized what he'd just admitted. Oh Merlin! But he couldn't stop staring at Snape, knowing that this man had once been the half blood Prince. Snape was the one that wrote in all those margins, he was the one that Harry admired when he allowed himself to get sucked into the pages of the books he'd taken from this very office. Harry felt his heart squeezed as he realized that he'd come to Snape now when he needed someone to talk to the most. He felt as though he'd been talking to the man for years when really he'd just been reading what Snape thought.

And he had been fascinated.

Subjects that would never have appealed to him before were made appealing through Snape's brilliant mind. And he admired that. He admired the man before him, as though the man had snuck up on him and was suddenly an incredibly important facet in his life.

"Potter-Harry?" Harry started realizing belatedly that he'd stood and crossed the distance between them. He stared at his hand as though it was some foreign thing that had somehow settled it's self on the thin yet sharp cheek. He took a step back and looked away.

"Sorry. Too much to drink." Harry said slowly he lifted his hands and rubbed his eyes tiredly only to startle when Snape's hands caught his wrists and pulled his hands away.

"I think-" The man said his voice thick with something Harry felt himself respond to without question. "-that we have both had too much to drink." And then Snape was leaning forward hesitating briefly as though giving him the chance to back away but Harry really didn't want to so instead he closed the distance. Snapes lips were warm and he tasted like the alcohol and bitter tea that he'd been drinking. Harry whimpered and pressed himself closer still his body fitting against the taller leaner body like it belonged there. Snape let out a low rumbling moan and one of his hands released Harry's wrist to slip around his waist fingers long and splayed out against the small of his back.

Harry let go.

When Snape kissed him he wasn't some hero who had to die at the end of all this, he was Harry and Snape was kissing him their mouths urgent and demanding before Snape bit down on his lip and Harry felt himself give in responding but not fighting. Snape let out a pleased sound and Harry gasped when their arousals brushed against each other.

"I'm-I'm!" He gasped but Snape kept their hips aligned and pushed against him the force of it nearly bruising though Harry knew he was too far gone to feel any pain.

"Let go." Snape whispered into his ear. "Let go." He repeated. And then he kissed Harry and Harry could feel all of it come to a full stop as the world spun out of control. When he came back to himself Snape was panting, still hard against his thigh dark eyes hooded and never ending. Harry let his hand slide down the man's front holding his gaze until he reached the waistband of his trousers. Snape's breath caught in his throat and his eyes closed as Harry slid further his other hand loosing the buttons and zip. He wound his hand around the length and felt his own breath catch to hear the usually stoic man let out a strangled sound. This was…amazing. He trailed his fingers across the shaft just feeling for a while. The heated skin was like velvet against his fingers and the soft curls ticked his fingertips making them tingle. At last he wrapped his hand around the length giving it a slow tug and shivering when Snape's arms came up and wound around his shoulders pulling him until their foreheads were pressed together.

Harry leaned up slightly and shyly kissed the man's lips causing a small smile to twitch along the corners. Harry twisted and pulled on the length gaining confidence when the man's mouth dropped open slightly and his eyes tightened at the brow. Harry stroked and explored curiously trying to find what the man liked and wanted. Eventually one of Snape's hands came down and wound around his keeping it still while he rocked forward their entwined hands making a ring as he thrust. Harry watched mesmerized as it happened his eyes darting down to where he could see the thick length poking out and up to where Snape was watching him with dark eyes that glittered with something that made Harry's heart stop in his chest. What was this? What were they? Harry leaned forward and kissed Snape wishing that the world could just go away and let him have this one thing.

"I want this, please, please I need it." He pleaded against the man's lips. Snape lifted his hand and wound both hands into his hair kissing him deeply before lowering them again and grasping him behind the thighs lifting him off the floor. Harry's legs moved automatically around the man's waist and he let out a strangled whimper when his newly interested arousal brushed along side Snapes. The man groaned and Harry found himself promptly carried to a small door on the side of the room which Snape pushed through before slamming it behind him locking it with a flick of his wrist.

"You're sure?" The man said his voice tight with restraint. Harry nodded and gasped as he was settled down onto a bed Snape's fingers making fast work of his clothes. Harry helped where he could fumbling over buttons only to go stiff when Snape's mouth latched onto a patch of skin like a brand that seemed to be linked directly to his lower half. Harry gasped when something brushed his entrance and Snape stilled pulling back slightly.

"Don't stop, please it just startled me." Harry breathed amazed that he could even string together a coherent sentence. All at once the finger slid in and Harry arched his back at the slight burn that he almost found pleasant.

"You've never done this before have you?" Snape said his eyes flickering in the dim lighting. Harry gasped as the finger withdrew and shook his head.

"Going to die- no point." Harry managed before inhaling sharply as a second finger slipped in.

"You won't not if I have any say in it." Snape vowed his voice carrying a deep dark heat that made Harry shiver before a kiss distracted him. He couldn't keep himself from making small sounds of encouragement as he felt his body slowly give in the natural resistance breaking down under the guidance of the slim coaxing fingers. Harry was close to the edge again when Snape pulled his fingers away chuckling slight at Harry's immediate reaction. Harry gasped though when something more pressed against him. It hurt and for a moment he felt as though he wouldn't be able to take the pressure but at that same moment Snape slid in not stopping until he was in completely. Harry let out a soundless shout that the pain and Snape bent forward with a shudder kissing the tears away as they leaked from his eyes. Harry felt full though and it wasn't just the pain that made the tears come. Snape was cradled around him a shield from the rest of the world that felt so safe and so complete that it made it hard to breathe.

This was the man.

Behind the sneering visage, behind the insults and cold shoulders, the shouting and belittling- he could see it, the half-blood Prince. The man who wrote in the margins of his books, that was the real man. Harry wrapped his arms around the man and let out a soft sound as he leaned up and kissed him. When Snape moved the pain was there but the ache and the drag and pull was so very worth it to see the look in his eyes. Open, completely wide open and watching him in wonder as he watched Snape in wonder. Harry gasped as something good was brushed inside of him sending his already swimming head for a swan dive. Pleasure flickered and grew and Harry was vaguely aware that Snape was mirroring the sounds he couldn't keep hidden.

"Harry-" Harry felt himself clamp down as he came for the second time the pleasure doubled by the heat that filled him. His ears were ringing as he twitched and Snape leaned forward kissing him deeply even as he panted his body ridged before slowly melting. Harry felt his vision double as his body seemed to simply fall into a puddle of goo. Snape fell onto him as he slid out and Harry gasped slightly at the lingering pain before sighing when Snape's arms pulled him closer.

"Dangerous." Harry managed at some point.

"Sleep Harry." Snape said seeming far, far away. Harry smiled and curled into the warmth at his side not caring for once that he hadn't found the stupid diadem.

#$% #$% #$% #$% #$%

-subject will find themselves with a lack of apatite, increasing melancholia-" He slammed the book closed in frustration and let out a roar as he shoved the other books away. Useless! All of it was useless! He'd been at this for months and there was no answer! He stared down at his hand where a great chunk of skin had peeled away leaving red sensitive flesh below. His nails had grown in black and yellow, they too were flaking and peeling away bleeding in some places and letting of a disturbing odor.

"My lord-"Lucius said hesitantly.

"Crucio!" He cast the spell and Lucius crumpled to the floor almost reflexively. He however was staring at his wand in horror.

The spell hadn't worked.

His magic…

He tilted back his head and the scream spilled from him before he could stop it. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!"

"Harry!" Harry snapped his eyes open panting and still terrified. "Harry you were screaming." Snape said staring down at him in shock. Harry trembled for a moment before a hesitant smile crossed his lips.

"He's lost his magic." Harry breathed. "He was going to curse Malfoy but it wouldn't work!" He said grinning slightly before wincing as a shock of pain split down his spine. Harry blinked in surprise at the pain before flushing when he realized why it was there and why he was in bed with Snape. The man was gazing at him long and hard his eyes showing how quickly his mind was working.

"You're eyes, they turned red for a moment, right now when you woke up." Snape said softly. Harry felt his heart thud to a halt.

"No." He breathed. "That means…" That meant that Voldemort could have seen Snape.

"Shit." Snape said before suddenly standing. Harry stood as well and quickly picked up his clothes.

"You have to come with me, if he saw you-" He said shaking his head. "Merlin I'm so sorry-"

"I was the one that woke you up Potter now gather your things while I check the wards." Snape said reverting back to his usual self faster than Harry would have thought possible. Harry, despite the fear and drama felt himself smile at that before standing and tying his shoes with a flick of his wand. He swayed slightly and blinked against the light his head aching a bit when Snape opened the door with a snap and immediately groaned at the bright light. "Shit fuck!" Snape let out startling Harry. "Damn it I'm never drinking again!" Snape muttered. Harry followed him out casting a few cleansing charms on himself and wincing as he limped into the room. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pain potion while Snape stared hard at what looked like a half of a crystal ball. Snape prodded it for a moment with a frown.

"Anything?" Harry asked as he knocked the potion back. And sighed slightly. Snape glanced at him and for the briefest of moments Harry saw the Prince peek out a small smile on the edges of Snape's lips while his eyes burned.

"No, not yet but I don't think we can risk sending you out there right now. Where you're staying, is it attached to the floo system at all?" Harry snorted.

"Uh no, that would be ridiculously stupid considering that the ministry has been monitoring all floo calls." Harry said settling his hand over the warm spot on his back which was aching pleasantly.

"This isn't a joke Harry you need to hide." Snape snapped. Harry sighed and felt his eyes drifted towards the books missing the Prince already. Maybe he could get the old potions book from the room of requirements-

Harry felt his eyes widened.

"The diadem." He breathed. "I know where it is!" he gasped. "Dobby get my sword please!" He said aloud before rushing towards Snape and kissing him soundly. "The place where everything is hidden!" Harry said.

"Harry Potter sir!" Dobby said appearing with a sharp crack nearly teetering over with the weight of the sword. Harry snatched it from Dobby's arms and buckled it around his waist while pulling his invisibility cloak out of his bag only to halt when a small tinkling sound filled the room. Snape paled completely as he turned slowly and caught sight of the sphere he'd been looking at. There was a single crack running through the thing. Harry felt his heart stop.

"Keep the students safe, keep yourself safe. It will be over soon." Harry said fear gripping his heart.

"Harry no we'll find a better way!" Harry could see the Prince again, he could see him and his heart was gripped with fear and pain.

"I can't." He breathed his heart tugging. "You- Even for you, and believe me I wish I could now, I wish I could have gotten to know you better, this side of you that you keep hidden, I've only seen it for a little while and I can't let go but I have to. Please! Please, this is the last thing I think I can ask of you, stay safe, stay out of harms way." He begged before turning and fleeing.

"Harry!" Snape called out after him as he slipped down the stairs and ran as fast as his legs could carry him.

"Dobby, tell everyone that there is an attack on Hogwarts!" Harry hissed hoping that the elf had heard him. Harry rounded the corner and let out a gasp when he smacked right into his old head of house. "Sorry professor! Alert the others attack on Hogwarts!" He said before taking off again.

"Well I never in all my years-!" he heard the woman mutter making him grin slightly. He leapt onto a staircase and took the steps two at a time only managing to slip once banging his shin hard against the stone. Still he drove on even when tears burned in his eyes and his leg ached viciously. He arrived in the proper corridor just as the first explosion rang through the air. Harry let out a soft sound of distress before turning to the wall and thinking hard as he crossed in front of it a few times. When he opened his eyes he let out a small cheer to see the door standing in front of him.

"Potter!" Harry spun in shock to see Draco Malfoy fast approaching. But Harry didn't have time. He pushed through the door and ran again slipping and tripping at times. There was a loud crash behind him and Harry frantically struggled to remember where in the piles and piles of things he had left the potions book only to gasp when he felt a familiar tug. A spell barely missed him when he suddenly took off running and Harry let out a curse before pointing his wand behind him and causing a pile of crates to topple over. He turned and ran as quickly as he could towards the tug ignoring the shouts behind him as he rounded another corner only to halt.

There it was, sitting right in front of him after all that searching!

He scrambled forward and let out a hiss when a curse cut his arm deeply. "Damn it Malfoy don't you want this fucking war to be over already!" He snarled sending a spell at the pile of ropes that came crashing down on Malfoy and his cronies. Harry reached out and his hand burned when he touched the diadem. He hissed and dropped it to the floor before struggling with the sword dragging it out of its scabbard. He cried out when a spell hit him in the back but lifted the sword anyway bringing it crashing down slicing the diadem in half. There was an eerie sort of silence this time, a sort of finality in the act that Harry couldn't even begin to describe- as though his actions had summoned death its self. A pool of inky black sludge seeped out from the diadem and seemed to float in the air. Dimly Harry registered that he'd been hit with another spell but he didn't care, the black was hovering in the air as though it had to take a deep breath-

"EEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

The sludge exploded out in a hiss and a scream that was so loud that Harry felt his ears pop from the pressure of it. Harry felt something release, something powerful and foreboding and suddenly he curled into himself in agony. Somehow he knew it wasn't his pain though, it was Voldemort' pain. He felt it though, the tug, the release and then there was an ache-

His death eaters were staring at him as he stood in the silence of the forest. He could feel it again…thrumming through his veins like an almighty wave- his magic! It had returned to him! He smiled a slow wide smile. He was greatness again! He let out a long cackle.

Harry returned to himself with a jerk, the first thing he saw was the diadem split into half. His horror at the thought of Voldemort regaining his magic faded because he knew, he knew that Voldemort had seen it too.

"Merlin he really has gone nutters!" Draco sneered from behind him. It was only then that Harry registered the pain in his own body. He was…cut…bleeding. His back ached and when he turned his head to look at it he recognized the long gaping wounds. "Crabb get him up, let's take him to Uncle Sev." Draco said sneering. Harry let out a scream as the other boy picked him up before the world whirled to an abrupt darkness.

#$% #$% #$%

Severus stared down at the three boys and he felt his heart stop. He'd been arranging evacuation, getting the younger years to safety and trying desperately not to think of what had happened the night before. What he had done, who he had done- Potter was so young and yet Severus knew that there was too much between them to be ignored now. If the opportunity arose, he'd thought to himself, he would do it all over again. But now, here, with Draco his godson standing proudly before him the bloodied form of Harry Potter carried between the two hulking teens-

"You idiot!" He snarled causing Draco to frown at him in confusion. Severus lifted Harry from their arms and carefully laid him on the floor tearing Harry's robes away swiftly so that he could check him over.

"What? Uncle Sev I caught Harry Potter!" Draco said stomping his foot like a child.

"Where was he? What was he doing? How did he end up this way?" Severus demanded as he poured a blood replenishing potion down Harry's throat.

"He was in the room of requirements running around like a loon swinging his sword around. He must have hit something cursed though it all but exploded on him and then he started screaming." Draco said with a sneer. "The hexes are ours though, I don't know why you're bothering to heal him, the dark lord is just going to kill him right?" Draco said crossing his arms. Severus felt his heart stop as he recognized for the first time why the cuts weren't healing.

"You cast the sectumsempra curse on him?" He said softly feeling bile rise up in his throat. Draco took a step back at the glare he leveled at the boy.

"Y-Yeah what of it?" Draco said defensively.

"You will never grow up will you?" Severus breathed in disgust. "You will keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again and there is nothing that can be done to fix it because you are just a spoilt brat that won't learn from his own mistakes." Severus snarled. Draco recoiled as though he'd been struck but Severus didn't have time for him. He leaned down and quickly began chanting the proper counter curse his wand dragging slowly across the split flesh. He could hear the sounds of fighting now, he could hear the Order rushing through the halls though he had no idea how they might have gotten in without alerting him- unless of course Harry disabled the ward he'd put up by the whomping willow. It certainly sounded like something he would do, he thought fondly.

Severus sighed as the last of the gashes faded into pink lines. He pulled Harry up into his arms and sneered down at Draco.

"It's time for you to decide which side of this war you want to be on Draco, the side that has dragged your family name through the mud, that pillages your home and tortures your family, or the side that leaves you well enough alone, where the only discomforts you feel are the preconceived injustices that the ministry offers you because the majority of the wizarding word understands that you can't simply eradicate everything you don't like about the world." He said softly. "I hope you survive this Draco." He said softly before turning and striding towards the hall. He needed to get Harry to a safe place and he knew Poppy had been assigned to watch over the injured in the great hall.

"Wha-?" Harry questioned softly. Severus felt his heart jerk when he met green eyes.

"Hush you were injured, you must rest." Severus said quietly. Harry blinked up at him in confusion.

"Malfoy…" He said quietly before suddenly jerking awake.

"He has his magic back!" Harry said startling him. Severus frowned slightly a shiver of fear in his chest.

"Minerva and the others are defending the castle. Rest Harry, you lost too much blood don't make me sedate you." Severus urged even as he pushed through the doors to the great hall.

"You-!" Suddenly several wands were pointing at him.

"No!" Harry rasped holding out an arm. "He's on our side!" He assured.

"Harry? Oh Harry what's happened to you!?" Molly Weasley rushed forward.

"Take him, keep him here I must defend the castle." Severus said shortly.

"No please!" Harry said fear reaching through him.

"I am headmaster here Harry, I will protect my school." Severus said his eyes flashing with determination. "And I will protect you." He added his voice rasping at the end. Harry felt his breath catch in his throat. Severus turned sharply and strode out of the hall leaving Harry to struggle in Mrs. Weasley's arms.

"No-no! I have to go-not him I have to-!" Pomfrey came up behind him and Harry gasped as he was hit with a strange blue spell.

"Sleep Potter." Was the last thing he heard as the world faded away.

#$% #$% #$% #$%

Severus pulled out his wand and strode forward back straight and eyes ablaze as he proudly took his place on the light side of the war.

"Minerva." He greeted his wand lifting and pointing to the wards pouring a steady heady stream of magic into them.

"Severus, good to have you back." She said with a slight smirk.

"The students?" He said gritting his teeth as an explosion rocketed against the wards.

"On their way out, I have Seamus taking care of the bridge." She said with a slight smile. Severus felt himself wince.

"Three hundred years of history." He said tightly.

"Boom." Minerva agreed.

"Harry was injured; I took him to the great hall." Severus said trying to ignore the thought of the historical bridge which was undoubtedly going to be destroyed.

"Harry?" Minerva said shocked. Severus felt himself blushed.

"Is in the great hall yes." He said clearing his throat.

"Oh I gathered that part. Is there something you'd like to share with me old friend?" She said smirking at him. Severus glowered at her.

"This is hardly the time woman." He said shortly causing her to chuckle mildly.

"Anyone need a hand?!" Severus startled at the sight of Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin who came forward hand in hand.

"Gracious be woman what are you doing here!" Severus said furiously. Oh dear Harry was not going to like this.

"She has just as much a right as you do Snape." Lupin snarled.

"Last I heard she was with child, so forgive me for wondering what she is doing on a battlefield Lupin!" Severus sneered.

"Had the baby already!" Tonks said. "Teddy Lupin, Harry's the godfather though he doesn't quite know it yet-" She said wincing. Severus stared at her in shock.

"Does he know you're married?" He asked feeling indignation on Harry's part.

"Well…" Tonks said wincing again. "We didn't see him much and then well it just got put off- wait a second why do you care?" She demanded. Severus felt himself twitch and another explosion rocketed through the air hitting the wards and making them all grunt their focus drawn back to the wards. Suddenly everything was silent and still.

"What the…" Kingsley muttered behind them.

"HARRY POTTER…DO YOU NOT WISH FOR THIS TO END PEACEFULLY? THIS IS A SCHOOL HARRY I DO NOT WISH TO HARM HER STUDENTS…COME TO ME HARRY…SURRENDER YOURSELF TO ME AND NO ONE WILL HAVE TO DIE…"

Severus felt his heart grow cold.

In the great hall bright green eyes snapped open.

"ARE YOU NOT TIRED OF SEEING PEOPLE DIE HARRY? DO YOU NOT WISH FOR THIS TO END?...I WILL KILL THEM ALL IF YOU DO NOT COME, I WILL KILL YOUR PRECIOUS FRIENDS ONE BY ONE UNTIL THERE IS NO ONE LEFT SAVE YOURSELF…COME TO ME, I WILL WAIT FOR YOU IN THE FORBIDDEN FOREST YOU HAVE ONE HOUR…"

"Harry!" Severus breathed his eyes wide.

Molly Weasley spun on her heel eyes wide and heart stopping in her throat-

Harry Potter's bed was empty.

-9-

Harry shivered slightly as he stumbled across the lawn and towards the forbidden forest.

It was time.

He felt numb, cold and tired. He wanted nothing more than to curl up somewhere and sleep for the rest of his life. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the snitch Dumbledore had given him.

I open at the close.

This certainly felt like the 'close,' He'd arranged everything with the goblins, said his goodbyes or what he could of them at any rate, and he'd had a few precious moments with Snape that had truly surprised him. He could go now couldn't he? No more killing or watching people get killed, no more fearing for his friends' lives. Ron and Hermione…they could get married, have children, forget the war and the pain it brought with it. That's what he was fighting for after all wasn't he? He let his eyes fall shut and a tear slipped from his eye.

"I'm ready to die." He said softly. He opened his eyes as a small click sounded and the snitch shifted in his hands revealing a familiar stone. Frowning curiosity he pulled it out and turned it around a few times.

"Harry" He nearly jumped at the faded sound of the voice.

"Mum?" He breathed in shock. His mother smiled at him sadly.

"Hey pup." Sirius greeted sheepishly. Harry stared at him in shock.

"What-"

"Harry." James said softly. Harry turned to his father and felt his heart squeeze.

"I don't understand…" he said the tears rolling down his cheeks.

"We are here to walk with you Harry, to help you take those final few steps." Lily said softly her voice sad. Harry felt fear grip his heart again.

"Will it hurt?" He whispered.

"It'll happen quicker than you can blink Harry." Sirius said reassuringly. Harry nodded and clutched the stone in his hand.

"But really Harry I gotta say- Snivillus?" His father said with a sneer.

"James!" his mother snapped slapping him on the arm. Harry was beet red as his mother turned back to him her glare silencing his father. "Ignore your father Harry we love you no matter who you love." She said with a smile. "And Severus is a great man." She added glaring at James. Harry watched his father grumble and wondered at the irrationality of it all.

"Right- walking to my death remember?" Harry said his voice edging on panic.

"Yes of course, we're here Harry go on." His mother encouraged. Harry nodded and walked with them. It was nice to have them with him he decided. Once his father stopped grumbling it felt almost peaceful- like he didn't have to go alone. Just as he was getting used to it though he tensed at the sound of voices.

"-think he will come the little coward-" Someone hissed. There was a low mumble of assent and Harry straightened his shoulders before stepping through the clearing and pulling off his cloak.

Silence surrounded him.

"Harry Potter." Voldemort said gleefully. Harry stepped forward until he was directly in front of Voldemort. He glanced at Sirius and his parents who nodded at him before fading silently away.

"I'm here, you didn't have to be so dramatic in calling me you know." He said glancing around for the one face he secretly hoped would be there for him. "Why am I here by the way?" He asked trying to sound less nervous than he was. Voldemort barred his teeth at him and Harry winced back in disgust.

"I am going to kill you Harry Potter!" Voldemort hissed. Harry's heart skipped a beat and he swallowed silently. Just a few more words- that's all it would take to goad him.

"Oh yeah because that worked so well the last few times you tried." Harry said feeling a lump rise in his throat.

"You little- Avada Kedavra!" It happened fast, just a flash of light and Harry fighting to keep from casting a shield-

"HARRY!" Snape's voice echoed in his mind before the world went black and eternity lay before him.

There was a shivery feeling, a feeling of confusion before a bright, bright white light until he realized it wasn't a light at all but- a place. Kings Cross station, the place where it had all begun- except it was far cleaner than Kings Cross, and it was all white.

"Harry." Dumbledore seemed to appear from nowhere startling him and Harry jumped back.

"You're dead!" Was Harry's first thought. Dumbledore smiled faintly at him.

"Yes Harry, and so are you." Dumbledore said softly. Harry frowned and looked down at himself. He was clean, and didn't hurt anywhere but-

"I don't feel dead." He said frowning. Dumbledore let out a chuckle.

"And what is death supposed to feel like Harry?" He asked merrily. Harry frowned.

"I don't know I've never exactly been dead before." He said pinching his arm and wincing at the resulting pain. Dumbledore chuckled again and Harry looked around himself frowning when he caught sight of something that wasn't clean and white. He moved towards it cautiously and let out a gasp. The thing was small and grey and humanoid in appearance but it was most definitely not human. It seemed to be whimpering softly a sad sort of fearsome cry.

"Leave it alone Harry, he isn't complete just yet." Dumbledore urged softly. Harry frowned before understanding. He recoiled abruptly.

"That's- that's him isn't it? That's what was in my head!" He looked around him expecting more to jump out at him. "Why are we in Kings Cross station?" He asked suddenly. It didn't make any sense at all. Dumbledore glanced around himself curiously.

"Is that where we are?" He said curiously. "I believe your mind sees this as a place of transition, if I was to take a guess I would say that it reminds you of the day you went from being 'just Harry' to Harry Potter, a wizard." The man said glancing at him over his glasses in a familiar way. Harry's frown deepened.

"Transition?" He said feeling a bit overwhelmed. He'd thought death was supposed to be peaceful!

"Quite my dear boy, you see, you have a choice now. You have done your part for the world; it has taken and taken from you until you were led to this point, until you chose death to rid the world of a great evil. You can die now, happily fade into peace and let the world take care of its self. After all you've done more than your fair share of suffering. Or…you could go back. You can live life until you die at a ripe old age." Harry felt himself grow dizzy. For so long it had been such a sure thing, that he would die and end the world and that would be it for him. All those things that he hadn't dared to hope for…

"Voldemort is still out there isn't he?" Harry said suddenly. He was the last Horcrux but Voldemort was still there.

"Yes, I'm afraid so Harry, but not for long. Someone will kill him eventually; it doesn't have to be you." Harry stared at the man and had the feeling that Dumbledore was doing that thing again, the one where he knew what Harry was going to chose and was just waiting for Harry's mind to hash it out.

HARRY!

He felt his breath catch. Snape had come after him, had broken his cover to try to keep him safe…again. And suddenly Harry knew. He could see a reason to live.

His Half-Blood Prince.

Dumbledore smiled at him and Harry glanced at the whimpering creature on the ground before turning abruptly and running.

#$% #$% #$% #$% #$%

Severus stared down at Harry as Voldemort lifted his wand to his throat.

"HARRY POTTER…IS DEAD." Voldemort said gleefully. "GIVE UP AND I WILL SPARE YOU, FIGHT ME AND I WILL KILL YOU ALL, I AM A MERCIFUL LORD AFTER ALL." And then the death eaters were letting out cheers and laughing.

"Severus you disappoint me." Voldemort said with a sneer. "I will kill you when this is all over, for now you will have the honor of carrying your little whore to the castle for all to see." Voldemort said grinning widely. Severus was kicked and prodded until he lifted the lax frail form into his arms and began to walk.

When had this boy come to mean so much to him? He supposed that having spent a better part of the last seven years saving Harry's arse might have had something to do with it- but he knew it was more than just that. Harry had changed, had proven to Severus before Severus even knew that it was happening that he was more than James Potter, that he was more than Lily, and that he was a greater man then all of them. Harry had done unspeakable things, just like he had and bore the guilt of it the way he did every single day. Was it their long talks into the night? Harry's extravagant gifts piled up and waiting for him, sometimes he himself sitting there drilling him on something or another that he'd written in his books. Discussing theories he'd once thought the boy too dense to get a grasp of.

And now Harry was dead.

That brilliant mind that had just needed polishing and ambition, that brazen spirit that accomplished frighteningly impossible things smothered. Severus had done everything to ignore the boy he realized, and perhaps that was his downfall. One gives a lot of attention to the person they're trying to ignore the most. He blinked surprised to feel wetness dripping down his cheeks. The others sneered at him and laughed loudly at his perceived weakness, but he couldn't help it, and he wasn't about to. Not when Harry was in his arms his body cooling-

But hold on- He glanced down with wide eyes and noted that the color had come back into Harry's skin.

"Tear down the wards." Voldemort said carelessly not even sparing them a glance. Severus held Harry close to him heart thundering in his ears with hope and then- his breath caught- green eyes opened, winked at him and then closed again. Severus looked up his eyes darting around to see if anyone had noticed but the attention was on the wards. Severus stared at the bridge ahead of them.

Three hundred years of history. Boom!

He watched the wards begin to crack and in that instant made a decision. As the sound of the wards shattering filled the air and the eager army rushed forward he apparated hidden in the sound and the chaos.

Harry inhaled sharply as they arrived in Hogsmede green eyes shot open.

"Snape what the hell! We should be-" But Severus had heard enough. He dragged Harry into his arms and kissed him for all he was worth until he knew Harry wouldn't be capable of arguing. Only then did he pull back.

"The bridge was going to explode; we can go back but not that way." Severus breathed. "And if you ever even think about doing that to me again I will tie you to my bed and keep you there for the rest of your life." He whispered his voice rasped and broken. Harry smiled against his cheek and Severus could feel the way the skin heated.

"Is that a promise?" Harry said cheekily. Severus snorted.

"Come on Potter, we have a war to end." He said shaking his head in amusement. Just then an explosion rang through the air followed by a familiar holler.

"Neville?" Harry said curiously. Severus grasped his hand.

"Come on!" He urged.

#$% #$% #$%

Hermione knew Harry would kill them for being there, but there was nothing in the world that would keep her from being right here where she needed to be. Explosions were going off left and right, giants were swinging their clubs and taking towers down- death eaters had spilled into the halls and were attacking with vindictive glee-

Mercy indeed.

Hermione lashed out with a spell of her own and sent a death eater flying through the air hitting the opposing wall with a sickening crunch while Ron tackled another down and pounded his scull into the ground.

"He isn't dead Hermione, don't believe it." Ron said a ferocious look in his eyes as he stood. Hermione nodded jerkily despite the tears that had gathered in her eyes.

"He can't be!" She agreed though a part of her, a sinking part of her knew that he had walked out there and had sacrificed himself. A part of her knew that Harry's scar wasn't just a cursed scar.

"Come on Mione!" Ron said lashing out with his wand. Hermione nodded shortly and followed Ron hoping for the best as another explosion rang through the air.

#$% #$% #$% #$%

Luna ducked and dodged casting flawlessly and brutally. Beside her Nevelle couldn't quite stop watching her even though he had his own death eaters to kill. Luna thought that this was quite funny and let out a giggle as she cast another spell causing a death eater's ribcage to burst open. Then she cast another at the death eater that was advancing on Neville because he was too busy grinning at her.

"Yes!" She said brightly over the din. "I'll marry you!" She said grinning broadly as Neville tripped over his own feet narrowly avoiding getting hit by a rather nasty curse. Luna giggled again and helped Neville to stand.

#$% #$% #$% #$% #$%

"Lost without your brothers little Weaslett?" Malfoy sneered as he and his goons cornered Ginny. Ginny scowled at them and turned sharply her wand pointed at them-

Crash!

She fell to the floor as rubble rained down on her and chalky dust filled the air. She coughed a bit and cracked her eyes open only to catch sight of a grinning face.

"Seamus?" She said blearily. The tall Irish boy grinned even more widely.

"McGonagall gave me permission to blow stuff up!" The other boy said brightly. Ginny glanced over Seamus' shoulder as she stood and stared at the pile of rubble she was pretty sure Malfoy and his goons had been standing on.

"Wow." She said feeling a bit unsteady on her feet. Seamus held up what could only be an explosive and tilted his head slightly.

"Wanna come?" he said his eyes glittering. Ginny felt herself grin.

"Hell yeah!" She said taking his hand as they ran.

#$% #$% #$% #$% #$%

"We really need to consider putting a more direct rout into Hogwarts." Harry said as they raced through the tunnel only to be knocked against a wall when an explosion went off.

"We?" Severus scoffed. "As if I'll have any say in this once this is all over." He said shaking his head.

"If you wanted to you could, I already talked to all of the important people." Harry said with a grin.

"You what?" Severus demanded as they continued to rush through the passageway.

"Well I wasn't going to die and just leave you to rot in Azkaban!" Harry said brightly. "I had you cleared weeks ago." Harry said panting slightly.

"Dear Merlin you impossible man what have you done now?" Severus said shaking his head as he stumbled along.

"I swear I didn't torture anyone this time- well, maybe a little bit, but I covered my tracks and the ministry has already signed a pardon for you, I left it with the Unspeakables, I figured if anyone realized what it actually was they would just think that you were being paranoid." Harry said grinning widely.

"Is that why Minerva didn't seem very surprised to see me?" Severus asked wearily. Harry glanced back and frowned.

"No, she wasn't an active member of the Order as far as I know but she might have figured it out, or Dumbledore told her, either way she won't give you problems if you decide to stay." Harry said shrugging.

"And what about you mister Potter? What will you be doing?" Severus said hardly daring himself to ask. Green eyes glanced back at him and danced.

"Well, there is this bloke I've been courting for a while; I was hoping to settle down with him somewhere if he'll have me."

Severus felt his heart jump into his throat.

"Oh?" He managed though it was strangled.

"Mmm, I was thinking I might become a professional thief too." He said grinning.

"No, no, no Potter you don't get to brush me off now!" Severus said with a sneer. Harry laughed brightly as they pushed past the witch with the hump back.

"In the middle of a war?" Harry said grinning ear to ear. Severus growled slightly in annoyance as Harry took off running.

"POTTER!" He hollered.

"Hello Harry!" Luna said brightly.

"Hi Harry- Snape." Neville said sending Snape a curious look.

"Hi guys!" Harry greeted as they moved in formation taking out death eaters as they went.

"I'm still waiting Potter!" Snape called over the din.

"Well see the problem is Snape I'm not sure he'll have me! See I have this perchance for trouble-"

BANG!

Harry cried out as the explosion knocked him off his feet and a weight landed on him rolling them until they came to a halt and Harry realized that it was Severus glaring balefully down at him pinning his wrists to the floor.

"I think after this many years he might be able to handle it." Snape said dryly.

"HARRY!" Severus let out a oomph! As he was pushed to the side by a grinning Seamus and Ginny.

"Sorry about the boom Harry! McGonagall gave Seamus permission to blow things up!" Ginny said brightly.

"That was one bridge!" Severus said staring at the hole in the wall in horror. "Hundreds of years of history lost…"

"Um, Snape, death eaters." Harry said distracting him with the battle.

"Anyone seen Voldemort around?" Harry called out as he dueled a death eater wincing when a curse slipped by him and sliced across his arm.

"Avada Kedavra." Severus hissed at the death eater causing him to fall flat. "I believe we were having a discussion mister Potter." He said his eyes glittering.

"Oh yeah, well see this bloke and I have a bit of history-"

"There's a bloke?" Neville said shocked.

"Really Harry that's great!" Luna said happily.

"Is he good in bed?" Seamus asked.

"Yes." Harry said much to Severus' mortification.

"Seamus!" Ginny said punching him in the arm. Seamus looked down at her and then his sore arm.

"I think I'm in love." He said grinning as they continued to run down to the first floor.

"Yeah but-" Harry cursed a death eater and cast a shield spell before he could get hit from behind. "-he and I have history, didn't really get along very well up until recently." Harry said dodging a spell and casting a cutting curse at the death eater that was trying to attack Snape from behind.

"War changes people Potter; you might find that he's changed his mind." Severus said pulling out his blade and attacking with it expertly.

"That was what I was thinking." Harry said as they started to run again. "But I don't want to go back to what we were once the war ends." He said seriously meeting his eye. Severus nearly stumbled at that.

"It won't." He said softly. "Not after seeing you die." He whispered. "It can't." Harry offered him a small smile.

"Oi MATE!" Ron hollared

"Oh for the love of-"

"HARRY!" Hermione cried out the two rushing towards him and wrapping him into a hug. Harry let out a strangled sound.

"What the hell are you doing here? I sent you to a safe house for a reason!" Harry shouted pulling away from Hermione.

"Yeah but Harry." Hermione said firmly. "We're your friends and this is our school too!" She said stomping her heel.

"Right I don't have time for this, has anyone seen Voldemort?" Harry said glancing around at the other fighters.

"I think someone said he went to the great hall." Hermione said softly. "That's where we were headed." She said with a shrug. Harry twitched slightly.

"Right." He said pushing her away slightly. "I'm not even going to try to get you to go this time." He said shaking his head. "Lets go I need to finish this!" He said over his shoulder. Their group which had grown quite a bit let out a cheer as he led them down the final staircase.

"Potter." Severus drawled dangerously.

"Seriously you want to have this conversation now?" Harry said as they strode through the atrium.

"You started this conversation!" Snape snapped pushing through the doors with them. "NOW ARE YOU GOING TO MARRY ME OR NOT"!" Severus roared in frustration. Silence filled the air around him and he realized to his own horror that he'd just shouted that in a room full of death eaters and Order members alike.

"Oh my." Minerva said delicately.

"Why Severus I thought you'd never ask." Harry said grinning brilliantly. "Just let me take care of Voldemort hmm?" he said darting up and stealing a kiss.

Severus twitched.

"Was that a yes then?" He asked pinching his nose.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah that was a yes." Harry said grinning cheekily. Severus despite himself felt his mouth turn upwards.

"Brat." He said softly.

"Lies! I killed Harry Potter he is dead!" Voldemort said distracting them. He looked pale and horrified by the very sight of Harry and Harry grinned slightly.

"Let's see Voldemort do any of these things ring a bell to you…a ring perhaps? A cup? Nagini…or say the diadem? How about you're diary, or ohhh I have it, the locket." Harry said his voice darkening his teasing tone fading away and into the voice of the cold hard killer he'd been forced to become. "They're all gone Voldemort every single one of them including-" He lifted his fringe. "-the one you destroyed yourself." Harry said coldly. "You didn't kill me Voldemort and you never will kill me." Harry said coldly as he watched the fear and horror set in.

"Ada-"

"Expelliarmus!" Harry reached out and snatched the wand as it flew from Voldemort's fingers and into his. The wand warmed curiously as it settled in his palm and Voldemort dropped to his knees eyes wide.

"No-No please-"

"Avada Kedavra." The spell exploded from not just his wand but the wand he'd captured as well hitting Voldemort in a silent jet of bright vicious green light that enveloped him before fading his body simply falling to ashes where he stood. Harry stood there for a long moment as the cold numb feeling reached through him like a yawn. Firm strong hands settled on his shoulders and Harry fell back against Snape as the cheer rang through the air.

"Harry?" Severus said quietly from behind him. Harry shook his head and turned pressing his face into Severus' chest.

"Th-That's Tonks and Remus isn't it?" Harry asked softly. Severus glanced up and looked towards where the smoking pile of ashes was and then beyond it where two still bodies were laying side-by-side.

"They had a child." Severus breathed in shock. "Teddy Lupin…you were named as his godfather." Harry shook in his arms.

"How the hell-I didn't even know they were married." He said sinking further into him.

"Harry! Oh Harry you're alive!" Mister Weasley said sidling up to where they stood. Harry pulled away and brushed his tears away.

"Yeah I died, but then I came back." He said accepting a shocked embrace from the man.

"Yes seven minutes later." Severus said his voice tight. Mister Weasley glanced at Severus and eyed him up and down suspiciously.

"The longest Seven minutes of your life weren't they?" He said lifting his chin. Severus shivered slightly his face going grey.

"Yes." He breathed.

"And you'll be coming over to Sunday dinner to properly propose to our Harry won't you?" Arthur said pointedly. Harry flushed bright red.

"Oh Merlin what have I gotten myself into." Severus said rubbing his eyes tiredly. "Yes, Sunday dinner." He said shaking his head. Harry stared at him in shock.

"Really?" Harry said shocked. Severus snorted and pulled Harry close to him.

"I wasn't about to let that little show count for a proper proposal, no matter how devious and Slytherin it turning out to be." He said smirking.

"I can't tell if that was a compliment or an insult." Harry said blankly.

"A compliment." Severus said rolling his eyes. Harry grinned.

"High praise." Harry said pecking his cheek lightly. "I learned from the best after all." He smirked.

"Oh and who would that be?" Severus asked curiously.

"Well see there is this bloke…" Harry trailed off.

"Cheeky." Severus said pressing a kiss to the smooth forehead.

#$%^#$%^#$^$%^

Harry Potter stood at his best friend's wedding as best man and happily watched his friends commit to marriage the way he knew they would since he was twelve years old. The next day Ron and Hermione stood beside Harry as he married Severus Snape managing to surprise the whole of wizarding Britain who had been convinced that the proposal was an elaborate prank. Harry and Severus moved into a large town home where Severus would spend the rest of his life creating and brewing potions or saving his younger husband from sure peril at every turn. Severus made several notable advancements in his lifetime one of which a particular charm to keep ones spouse from stealing one's books.

Harry Potter moved on to become one of the greatest Auror's the Ministry of Magic had ever seen- until he announced that he was to retire at the age of thirty three. He then became defense professor at Hogwarts much to chagrin of the ministry who immediately after his retirement was struck by a series of thefts the culprit of which was never found. Harry Potter was said to have lived a surprisingly peaceful life to the end of his days, his hobbies in spell crafting and ward making keeping him quite content. It is said that Harry Potter's most notable creation was a counter-curst to Severus Snape's charm to keep one's spouse from stealing one's books.

Ron Weasley would live to become one of the greatest beaters in the history of the Chudly Cannons. He would later report that his greatest achievement in life was to have collected every Chocolate Frog card in existence, when asked which cards were his favorite he would point to the three he had framed and hung on his wall, one of Harry Potter, Hermione Weasley nee Granger and he himself. When asked why Severus Snape wasn't up there as one of the great heroes of their time he would say that it was because the man was a 'great greasy git' to which his wife would firmly punch him.

Hermione Granger became the first muggle Minister of Magic, in her lifetime she would prove to change the course of history and make radical movements to improve the treatment of Magical Creatures and muggles in the wizarding world. Unfortunately SPEW never advanced and Hermione was urged quite sternly to stop promoting it when her campaigning nearly led to a house elf war.

Neville would in fact marry Luna Lovegood and would in fact take on her name as his own for reasons that no one but the pair could understand. Neville would later become a world renowned expert in Herbology, his greatest achievements being in the salvation of several rare plants that were reaching the point of extinction. Luna took over her father's business at the Quibbler and lived a relatively comfortable life raising her two children and chasing after creatures that only she and her father could see or fathom.

Ginny and Seamus would marry in the end, though their relationship was to be rather an explosive one. The two would eventually work together in the ministry on demolition projects and would raise six children of their own.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would live to a ripe old age in the house that was deemed 'The new Burrow.' It is said that by the time they died their 'house' had been extended to hold sixty eight more rooms for all the children and grand children and of course, Severus, Harry and well…

#$% #$% #$% #$%

Severus sighed quietly as Harry slipped into the lab.

"Severus…" Harry said quietly. Severus was immediately suspicious. "I love you Severus." Harry said grinning in that god awful cheeky way that made Severus forget that he was annoyed.

"What did you do you impossible man?" Severus said exasperated.

"Well to be fair you had a hand in it." Harry said tugging on his shirt nervously. Severus set down his knife and sighed. He'd seen this coming, Harry had been sick for the past few days- though he wouldn't let Severus run a diagnostic scan.

"Did you ingest one of my experimental potions again?" Severus said pinching the bridge of his nose.

"No." Harry said shaking his head sheepishly. Severus narrowed his eyes.

"A curse then?" He demanded. Harry shook his head.

"I don't think so." Harry said cheerfully. Something told Severus that he might need to sit down for this one but he thought he knew Potter well enough not to be too surprised.

"What did you do?" He demanded. He watched as Harry lifted his shirt to reveal a bulge in his stomach.

"Something impossible." Harry said sheepishly.

"You were playing with polyjuice again weren't you?" Severus rasped warningly. Harry winced.

"I had to, there was a suspect and the only way to get to him was to be his wife and we don't have any girls on the team so it was kind of an emergency." Harry rambled ducking his head.

"So that is what I am assuming it to be?" Severus said his voice tight.

"It's a boy." Harry said smiling slightly.

Severus promptly fainted.