AN: In response to a review I got about Melanie: That's done on purpose. With adults and people she already knows don't like her - she doesn't give a shit. But with people her own age that she's never really talked to - if adults and the people she already know don't like her why would anyone else? At least that's her way of thinking. Now that that's over with - on with the chapter.

Ron was not pleased to learn that Malfoy was going to teach Harry how to 'act like a git' as he so charmingly put it. He shut up when Melanie gave her opinion on the matter.

"No, he has you for those lessons, though, thankfully, he's ignored them." She drawled. His face turned red with anger, but she held up a hand to silence him before he started. "Ronald, I have apologized for offending you at the beginning of the summer several times – however, I refuse to apologize for what I said, because it was nothing that wasn't true. Harry needs to learn about his station, how to use it, and how to behave. Taking the Potter Lordship could be a great asset not only at his trial, but in the war. It's an advantage he needs to take – and one that you and Hermione are holding him back from!"

Hermione looked offended.

"We aren't holding him back from anything!"

Melanie sneered at her, but said nothing. Instead she looked nervously to Harry, who had been standing in the doorway throughout the conversation. He smiled reassuringly at her.

"Go ahead and say it, Mel. It's going to eat at you if you don't."

She bit her lip.

"Are you sure?"

He nodded. She shot him an apologetic look before turning back to Hermione, sneer back in place. The Gryffindor recoiled from the other girl.

"You aren't holding him back? You're not holding him back?" she jeered, "Did you know that if he actually applied himself, he could beat you as the top of our year? But he's so afraid that you'll abandon him that he keeps himself at Ron's level. He doesn't study, he doesn't try! He just does what's expected of him!"

Hermione turned to Harry, tears in her eyes.

"Is that true?" she demanded. Expressionless, Harry nodded. She bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from crying. She wanted to launch herself at him, but sensed that it would be unwelcome at the moment. And Melanie, it appeared, wasn't done.

"When I first proposed the idea of accepting his Lordship he rejected it because he was afraid last year would repeat itself."

Harry chuckled.

"Do you remember what you told me?"

She turned from his friends to look him in the eye.

"If they can't accept what you were born to be, they aren't your friends. You are the Potter heir, Harry. If they can't accept that, they have no business calling themselves your friends."

He smirked.

"Word-for-word verbatim. I'm impressed."

She rolled her eyes before facing Ron and Hermione again.

"You second guess him, you're no better than the rest of the sheep of the Wizarding World. You hold him to the same standard. Harry Potter must be humble and meek. Harry Potter must be top in DADA and average in all his other classes. Harry Potter must be the epitome of all things Gryffindor and hate all Slytherins and anything related to them. Harry Potter is to be ignorant of his fortune and his parents' will. His only friends are to be any member of the Weasley family and Hermione Granger. To be friends with Hermione Granger, Harry must not get better grades than Miss Granger or do better in any class other than Defense Against the Dark Arts than her. To be friends with Ronald Weasley Harry is not allowed to gain more attention than Mr. Weasley or bring attention to the fact that he has more money than Mr. Weasley's family. Oh, and I forgot one – Harry Potter must be beholden to Albus Dumbledore. You're more loyal to Dumbledore than you are to Harry! You report everything he says or does to the old goat and anything Dumbledore doesn't like, you talk him out of doing!"

"The Headmaster only does what's best for Harry!" Hermione protested.

"IF HE THINKS ABUSIVE MUGGLES ARE BEST THEN HE HAS NO BUSINESS RUNNING A SCHOOL FULL OF CHILDREN!" Melanie roared. Harry crossed the room and pulled the trembling brunette into his arms, pressing his lips to the top of her head and rubbing her back soothingly.

"Shh, luv. I'm not going back no matter what the old coot says. Calm down."

Melanie said nothing, merely fisted her hands in his shirt and buried her face in the crook of his neck. Ron and Hermione were staring at the pair in horror.

"Mate… why didn't you say anything?" Ron asked, looking lost. Harry snorted.

"Ron, you rescued me from my relatives in second year. Remember the bars on my window? My first Hogwarts letter was addressed to 'the cupboard under the stairs'. If Dumbledore doesn't know about the Dursleys then he's more naïve than he pretends to be and shouldn't be running a school or waging a war."

Hermione looked scandalized.

"Harry! I can't believe you would –" what, exactly, she couldn't believe, the other three never found out, because at that moment, Harry collapsed, nearly dragging Melanie with him to the floor. Melanie managed to slow Harry's fall and lower him gently to the floor before calling,


An elf in a blue dress with the Proctor coat of arms on the left shoulder appeared in the room with a load 'crack!' She curtsied.

"Yes, Mistress Melanie?"

"Take Harry to his room, then fetch Sirius Black and my father and get me damp rag and a bowl of cold water."

Misty curtsied again.

"Yes, Mistress." She disappeared just as she appeared with another loud 'crack!' Harry with her. Hermione began screeching.

"You have an elf?!" she demanded in disbelief, "I thought you believed in equal rights for creatures!"

Melanie rolled her eyes as she dashed out of the room and down the stairs to the room Harry shared with Ron, Ron and Hermione hot on her heels.

"I do, Granger, but house elves have always been servants and always will be. They enjoy it. Besides, being bound is where they get their magic from. Not all elves are abused." She added stiffly, failing to see the horrified look on Hermione's face as they entered the bedroom, the bowl and rag already on a table beside Harry's bed. Melanie grabbed the rag, wringing it out before she began to bath Harry's forehead with it. Sitting beside him, she clutched his hand with her free one as he began to toss and turn. When he began to scream with pain, she began to sing.

"Some glad morning when this life is o'er

I'll fly away;

To a home on God's celestial shore

I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory

I'll fly away; (in the morning)

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,

I'll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone,

I'll fly away;

Like a bird from prison bars has flown,

I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory

I'll fly away; (in the morning)

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,

I'll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then,

I'll fly away;

To a land where joy shall never end,

I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory

I'll fly away; (in the morning)

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,

I'll fly away"

By the time the song was finished, her father and Sirius had arrived. Hermione was staring at the other girl in shock. She hadn't thought a witch would know a muggle song. Sirius and Mr. Proctor entered the room. None of them spoke for a moment, then –

"Misty." Melanie called softly, still tending to the still thrashing Harry. Misty reappeared quietly.

"Yes, Mistress?"

"Summon Severus Snape. Tell him it's urgent."

Misty disappeared quickly. There was no time for curtsies when Mistress's Harry was ill.

"What happened?" Sirius demanded. Mr. Proctor put a hand on the animagus' arm.

"Clam down and think for a moment, Padfoot. It's obvious they don't know or Mel wouldn't have sent for Snape. Be patient."

Sirius snarled.

"I don't want to be patient, Samuel, I want to know what the hell is wrong with my godson!"

"Sirius! Calm down, you'll only stress him further. As for what's wrong with him – I have a theory, but Merlin help Dumbledore if I'm right." Melanie growled. Sirius looked at the girl sharply, but stayed silent until Snape arrived.

Severus Snape arrived at Headquarters in a heap on Harry Potter's bedroom floor. He shot to his feet immediately, his eyes darting apprehensively around the room. He didn't relax when he saw who was in the room until his eyes rested on Melanie Proctor, who appeared to be playing nurse for Potter. Melanie met his gaze without flinching.

"Has the Dark Lord decided to do as I suggested?"

Severus nodded.

"Yes. He began an hour ago. What's wrong with Potter?"

Melanie's eyes darkened.

"I want you to scan his scar."

Severus' eyes widened when he realized what she wanted him to scan it for.

"You don't honestly believe Potter is a –"

"Do the damn scan and find out!" she snapped. Pulling out his wand, he did so while Hermione Granger screeched.

"He's a teacher! You can't just go ordering him about –"

"I'll order anyone I damn well want around so long as Harry is in this state!" Melanie interrupted the girl. "Professor Snape understands the urgency of the situation I'm sure! You need to learn when to stand up and back down, Granger, and right now is the time for you to back down!"

Granger fell silent, probably glaring at the abrasive girl in silence. Severus ended the spell, swearing vehemently when the scan proved the girl correct. He shoved the parchment towards her, not wishing to look at it any longer. How had Albus missed this? Surely he should have known if his weapon was one of the objects keeping his enemy alive. Melanie took one glance at it before passing it to her father with a snarl. Black leaned over Samuel's shoulder to read it with him, letting out a feral growl when he saw the results. Melanie sat back down on the bed, once again grabbing Potter's hand in her, running her free one through her hair in agitation.

"I'm going to murder Dumbledore." She stated. Black gave a bark of dark laughter.

"Get in line, poppet. I call first shot at the goat as his godfather."

Melanie smirked.

"Or we can give him to a werewolf on a full moon." She suggested. Black's eyes glinted at the suggestion, however, they were interrupted when Granger decided now was the time to speak.

"You will do no such thing! Now what is wrong with Harry?" she demanded. Melanie sneered at her.

"He's a Horcrux, you bint. The only thing to do for him now is to let him ride it out. I'll stay with him." She added to the adults. The three men nodded. Samuel rounded on the other two.

"Go gather your siblings and parents, Granger, you'll help him." He turned back to Black to Severus.

"Severus, summon Albus and Minerva. Sirius, alert the rest of the order. I'll fetch my sons. Mel, I'll send Tiffy and the girls up here to help you shortly."

Melanie nodded curtly, having already gone back to tending to the Golden Boy. Granger and Weasley left the room reluctantly. Black and Severus both swept from the room to complete their respective tasks.

The Order gathered in Number 12's kitchen, Samuel Proctor heading the meeting. Albus sat, stunned, in the chair beside him.

"I've summoned you all here to inform you of a great travesty: Harry Potter is a Horcrux."

The Aurors and a few others began muttering angrily amongst themselves. The children, and Weasleys, all stared in confusion. Albus blanched. How had they found out?

"What is a Horcrux?" Hermione Granger demanded. Samuel smirked coldly.

"A Horcrux is a Dark object made by placing a piece of a Dark wizard's soul, which is split through the heinous act of murder."

Those who hadn't known before stared at the man in horror. Then Ronald Weasley burst out,

"Harry's not Dark!"

Samuel, and several others, rolled their eyes at the teen. He looked at Arthur and Molly drolly.

"You need to teach your son the difference between being Dark and being affected by something Dark." He told them dryly. Arthur flushed with shame. Molly swelled.

"How dare you! You just said yourself that the boy is Dark!"

Samuel snorted.

"No, I said he was a Dark object. The reason we know this, is because, shortly after Harry collapsed during the middle of a heated argument with his friends, Severus Snape was summoned and scanned the boy. Apparently Voldemort has decided, instead of allowing his Horcuxes to be destroyed, he will call the pieces of his soul back to himself. Until the soul fragment is gone from his scar, Harry will be in pain. My wife and daughters are tending to him now, so sit down, Molly. You won't be welcome. That, however, is not all."

"What next?" Molly asked, throwing her hands up in exasperation. Sirius snarled at her.

"I've put up with a lot from you Molly, but I'm nearing the end of my patience! This is my home, not the other way around! You are guest here and I can quite easily kick you out!"

Molly fell silent, suddenly realizing that she had been behaving rudely towards her host. Albus stepped in.

"Sirius, surely that won't be necessary."

"Not necessary my ass, Albus! You knew Harry was a Horcrux! You fully intended to have him die to end this blasted war! Didn't you?" he demanded. More angry muttering was heard at this.

"Sirius, my boy –"

"I'm not your boy, Albus! I never have been. You will be replaced as Secret Keeper."

Dumbledore's eyes widened.

"With who?"

"Me." Sirius answered, "I already control the wards as the current Lord Black. A short ritual, with or without your participation, and I'll be the Secret Keeper as well. This meeting is over." He added to the room at large. "Anyone wishing to check on Harry may remain, but you will not go near my godson until he wakes. The rest of you will leave. No one is to enter Harry's room." He added warningly to Hermione, Ron, and Ginny, all of whom looked mutinous. The Order disbanded, Albus going back to his office, wondering when exactly he had lost so much influence.

Harry woke to low murmurs in a dark room. His head was pounding. He groaned, opening his eyes slowly. They voices stopped and cool rag dabbed at his forehead, a soft voice saying,

"Melanie, Harry has a headache, go get him a glass of water and a headache potion."

The sound of door opening and closing and feet walking down the stairs had Harry's eyes snapping open to find himself staring a beautiful, blonde woman with kind, sapphire blue eyes. She smiled at him.

"Hello, Harry. I'm Tiffany."

"Melanie's stepmum."

She nodded, looking a bit disappointed. Harry smiled at her.

"It's not that she doesn't like you – she's just afraid of replacing her mum."

Tiffany's eyes widened.

"But I'm not trying to –"

Harry chuckled.

"Intellectually, she knows that, but think about it. She's the youngest of six that remembers their mum. The youngest two don't remember anything and her brothers don't talk about her. Talk to her about it and you might get somewhere."

Tiffany smiled at him.

"We'll talk to her as soon as you're well again. I don't think she'll be willing to listen to anyone until then."

"Listen to anyone about what?" Melanie asked softly as she made her way to the bed. She smiled at Harry.

"How are you feeling?"

He sat up, grimacing as the movement caused his head to pound.

"Like I just got run over by the Knight Bus."

She laughed quietly.

"Yeah, having a Horcrux removed from your head will do that to you." She nodded sagely. He stared at her.

"Having a what removed from my head?" he demanded. She winced and quickly explained what a Horcrux was. When she finished, Harry had paled and his green eyes were filled with rage.

"Did Dumbledore know?" he demanded. She bit her lip.

"We think so, but you'll never get him to admit it."

Sighing, he leaned back against the headboard, gratefully taking the potion she placed in his hand and knocking it back. Then he took the glass of water and drained it. He smiled at the women before him.

"I think I'll go back to sleep. Thank you for taking care of me."

They both smiled and kissed a cheek each, then looked at each other and laughed.

"It was no problem, Harry. If you need anything, call Misty." Melanie commanded. He grinned and nodded.

"Yes ma'am."

Tiffany giggled and led her stepdaughter from the room. Harry sank into his mattress and surrendered to sleep.