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Harry was tired.

Years of fighting Voldemort and his followers had stretched the sixteen-year-old to undeniable lengths, despite the help from his two best friends, Hermione and Ron. On top of the so-called "Dark Lord," Harry also had to contend with his fat-ass cousin Dudley and his abusive aunt and uncle Petunia and Vernon. Each summer he was sent to suffer with them.

Not this summer.

Harry had found a release; a new hobby, if you will. He had taken to riding the underground, visiting places around London that he had never had a chance to visit before. The Dursleys didn't care; as long as he was out of their hair, he could fly to the moon. He knew Dumbledore wouldn't be happy, him taking these risks, but who cared anymore? He was sick of being protected like some sort of secret weapon.

One summer night in August, just after his birthday, Harry found himself sitting in a small café by the railroad tracks. He was reading the Daily Prophet, which still detailed his and his friends' experiences in the Ministry of Magic the spring before. Because his attention was on the story inside the front cover, he jumped when a voice asked, "Who's Harry Potter?"

"W-what?" Harry looked up to look into a pair of beautiful, coffee-colored eyes that were twinkling with curiosity and humor at his nervousness. Shit. Why did I bring this magical newspaper here with me? Come on, Potter…think!

"Harry Potter. On the front page of your paper. Must be a big deal. He kinda looks like…"

"Me? Oh, well. This paper is more of a joke, really. We print it up at the school I go to…fake stories and all. I just haven't had a chance to actually look at the last one." Harry smiled at the waitress, who couldn't be more than a year older than he, if that old.

She smiled. "Ah. Ok. And what school is this? I attend the local public school, and I would have remembered a face like yours."

Harry turned red. Blast it all. I've really got to get more comfortable with girls! "It's a small private school in Scotland. Been there since I was eleven."

A voice carried from the back. "Maria! Come count the till! It's almost closing time!" Maria (pretty name) looked back at Harry and smiled.

"Guess I'll see you later?"

"What time..?"


Damn him. Damn Dumbledore straight to….

Why does he have to be standing there? Why tonight, of all nights? No, I'm not going out. I'm not leaving until I say goodnight to Maria. I can't just blow her off like that.


Harry looked up to see his Headmaster standing in front of him. The sixteen-year-old had walked out to get some air and had seen the old man across the rails, waiting…on him.

"Professor. Tonight? I have to leave tonight?" Harry didn't think he would ever be sorry to leave the Durselys', but at the moment, he just needed ten more minutes.

"I'm sorry, Harry." Dumbledore had the nerve to actually look apologetic. "We have to go visit an old colleague of mine."

"Can't it wait ten more minutes? Actually, hold on…" Harry turned around to go back into the café, but the door was locked. He banged on it until Maria came and unlocked it.

"Antsy, are we? Never thought I'd have such a handsome bloke threatening to…" She stopped when she saw Harry's expression. "What's wrong?"

Harry frowned. "I have to leave tonight. I probably won't be back until at least Christmas. Here…" Harry wrote down a phone number. He had bought the cell phone at the beginning of the summer in order to talk to Hermione, who was the only one he knew with a phone. "This is my number. I really was looking forward to talking to you more, but an emergency came up. Call me." He gave a sad smirk as he said this.

Maria took the slip of paper, stuck it in her pocket, and nodded. "Thanks for not leaving without telling me goodbye. I really enjoyed meeting you. There's just something about you I want to figure out." With that, she reached over and kissed his cheek. " 'Night. Be safe."

"You too." And after Maria closed the door, he turned to see Dumbledore again and took his arm, sighing at how his night had changed.