Disclaimer: Anything recognisable does not belong to me. Story is based on the books by JKR and inspired by other writers of this genre.

Summary: Summer 1995. Two young people are left alone to drown in helpless anger and fear. How far would the Boy-Who-Lived go to continue living? And what would Hermione Granger sacrifice to fulfil her childhood dreams? AU, OOC, SS/HP, LM/HG, more inside.

Author's Notes: This story is rated for language, graphic violence and explicit sexual content (also underage sex in some countries). No Horcruxes, no Deathly Hallows, Harry's scar is just a curse scar. The story is AU, meaning it's only mildly compatible with canon.

SS/HP slash, LM/HG het, HP/HG deep friendship, mentions of other het and slash relationships along the way. Manipulative!Dumbledore, some calculating!Weasleys, unstable!Sirius, not really any bashing with the exception of Ron though.


SUMMER AT LITTLE WHINING

Harry felt numb. He was empty, unfeeling and strangely calm, lying on the bed and staring up at the ceiling of his dingy bedroom at 4 Privet Drive. It was doubly strange, seeing as only a couple of days ago he had been all but frothing at the mouth in righteous rage.

Thinking about it from his current, emotionally removed position he really did not believe that he had any logical reason to be angry at them. In their eyes he was a child, was he not? And as such he needed to be sheltered and protected, which included withholding certain information and making decisions on his behalf, without asking for his input.

They were the adults here, were they not? Teachers, good friends and close acquaintances of his parents, who had his best interests at heart. He was supposed to trust them to have the knowledge and experience needed to take the best action in any given situation. He was supposed to trust their judgement and obey their orders; to trust that they knew, if not best, then at least better than him.

It would be all good and well, if not for one little problem. He did not trust them. Not with his best interests at least, not anymore.

Honestly, he did not know why he had ever done so in the first place. Ten years of misery and deprivation, both physical and emotional, should have taught him better one would think. If the Dursleys had done him any good at all, that would be implanting many crucial life lessons and universal rules of human nature upon him from a very young age. And yet, when the strange letters started arriving and Hagrid had rescued him from that shack on the small island, he had opened his heart and mind to all but virtual strangers without second thought.

So eager he had been to please his benefactors and to fit into this new world, his world, the world of his parents, that he had forgotten the most important rules of them all. People were selfish and nothing was for free. They all wanted something from him. That was why they all were so eager to be close to him, to lend guidance, advice and a helping hand in his times of need.

That unfortunate lapse of memory was the reason he was in this deep shit now. A deep shit that he very possibly would not make out of alive, he was quite certain of that.

Could sweat broke out on his forehead and he had to take several deep breaths to dispel the remains of the overwhelming fear paralysing him for a moment. He could not allow himself to give in to it, panic would not help matters any.

He closed his eyes and continued breathing in and out in a controlled manner, until his stiffened muscles relaxed again. If he wanted to gain some resemblance of control over his life back, he would need to think about this whole mess coldly and rationally. He would need to find out who wanted what and why, as well as if it benefited him to play along or not. Then he would need to make plans of his own. He had managed to survive for so long, maybe his sheer dumb luck would hold for a bit longer.

A loud bang somewhere downstairs informed him that Dudley was back at home. That would mean that it was almost dinner. Should he go down and fetch his plate to eat it here, as he had been doing since he got back from school for the summer a week ago? He was not very hungry, but got up anyway sighing and stretching his cramped limbs leisurely. His body needed sustenance to grow and develop properly. Even with the enormous growth spurt he had undergone in the last six months, he was still of average height and body mass at best. No reason to jeopardise his chances of another one, hopefully sometime soon.

He opened his door and made his way down to the kitchen. Petunia was just sitting down to her own food, after having served Vernon and Dudley their share of what looked like roast with mashed potatoes and Brussel sprouts swimming in gravy. No plate had been prepared for him. It did not deter him though. He walked past the table to the counter where the various pots and pans had been laid out, took a plate out of the cupboard and served himself a decent helping. No one said a word when he sat the plate aside and began rummaging around for silverware and a glass. Petunia just watched on with a thin-lipped expression and Dudley's eyes were firmly glued to the telly flickering in the background. Vernon however was gripping his fork so hard, his knuckles turned white, face slowly reddening and swelling due to the high blood pressure.

He had behaved himself exceptionally well this past week, still remembering Sirius' short visit the second day of the summer holidays, but watching his despised nephew pour himself his wife's priced homemade lemonade was apparently too much. The usual tirade on his uselessness and ungratefulness in the face of their oh so gracious kindness soon followed, which Harry did not even bother listening to. One phrase caught his attention though, making him turn towards the angrily spluttering man with a furrowed brow.

"...never received even a penny for your care... spending my hard-earned money on your ungrateful hide..."

"Why didn't you apply for child-care allowance?"

Vernon stopped mid-rant and blinked stupidly, surprised to be interrupted at all. Realising that he probably had not heard the question properly Harry repeated himself.

"If my keep costs you so much, why have you never applied for the governmental child-care money? You are getting it for Dudley still, don't you? So, why not for me?"

The silence held on for several long minutes, interrupted only by the blaring of Dudley's favourite cartoon. All of them were staring at Harry, as if he had grown a second head, instead of asking a normal and very reasonable question.

Vernon finally found his voice. "The freaks just dumped you on our doorstep with a blanket and a letter, boy. We have no identification papers, a birth certificate or guardianship papers for you whatsoever. So, how do you imagine we apply for anything anywhere, hm? You tell me that!"

Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm down his anger, before facing the oaf again. "The normal way."

He sneered at their startled expressions. "The Ministry of Magic works just like any other government, as you, aunt Petunia, should actually know. You write to the Office of Public Records and request all you could possibly need. That's how it's done, isn't it?" he bellowed the last words at them making them jump to his secret satisfaction. "That's what normal people would do. Oh, but forgive me, the two of you are not normal, are you?"

He could see them opening their mouths in indignant protest and cut them short.

"No, you two chose to work a child in your care like a slave, starting age five. You FREAKS!" he hissed at them feeling a deep sense of satisfaction at their blanching faces. "Now, what would the neighbours say, hm?" he simpered at them, before taking a deep breath and addressing Vernon directly, his tone calm and serious.

"So, I'm a lazy, worthless freak you say? You fancy yourself a fine businessman, uncle Vernon, don't you? Then let's talk numbers. Maid service takes about 40 £ once a week. I've been cleaning the house from top to bottom every third day without fail since I turned five. There are 365 days in a year, which means 122 days of service and about 4 880 £ per annum, isn't it so?"

No answer came. Harry took a piece of block paper and a pencil Petunia kept in the kitchen to write grocery lists on, noting the sum on it. This was purely for their convenience, since he had run the numbers in his head countless times and had them memorised by now.

"Next are the gardening services. The minimum wage is about 7 £ per hour. I've been doing outside-work daily and independent from the season for two hours on average, which means 5 110 £ per annum." He wrote it down.

"Next, the cooking services. Usual wage is 12 £ per hour. I've been cooking daily for an hour on average, meaning 4 380 £ per annum."

He looked up again. "And of course let's not forget that I've been doing your son's homework almost all the time. Denying any such thing happening doesn't make it any less true, isn't it so, Dudders?"

No answer came.

"Well, a private tutor takes about 30 £ per hour, but let's get really cheap, since I've not been teaching him anything actually. So, let's say 15 £ per day? That would mean for about 195 school days 2 925 £ per annum."

He planted a cheerful grin on his face. "By the looks of it, I've been making about 17 300 £ a year since I was five. Such a lazy brat I am, could have been making twice as much rather easily, isn't it so, uncle Vernon?" he winked at the man. "Must have been all the times I've passed out from hunger and weakness hindering me. Yes, that must be it."

No one commented on that, though Petunia had the decency to look away.

He adopted a serious tone again. "Now, to the upkeep part you are always so fond of reminding me about.

Room. Price per square metre in such a nice house would be about 25 £ a month. That cupboard under the stairs is how long? 1,5 metres I'd guess?"

He looked up as if to confirm it with Vernon and had to do a double take. The man wore a most peculiar expression on his face. Harry doubted that he had seen anything like it on him before. Was it actually shame? Well, will wonders never cease!

He went on unconcerned. "That would make it 37,5 £ a month and 450 £ a year.

Clothes. Well, seeing as anything I have was handed down from Dudley, clothing me did not cost you anything.

Toiletries and other necessities. Hm, I'm rather low key in that respect, so I suppose it would be no more than 5 £ a month on average, which would make it about 60 £ a year.

School supplies. You have bought them as cheaply as possible, no more than 50 £ a year, though lunch you have indeed paid for, which takes 390 £ per annum, 440 £ in total.

Food."

Petunia got up and all but fled the room. They heard the bedroom door upstairs bang shut a couple of moments later. Harry was taken aback somewhat, not having expected her to react so strongly. He had stopped regarding his relatives as human a long time ago. For him they were the walrus, the baby whale and the mother of all banshees almost as long as he could remember.

He cleared his throat to get Vernon's attention back, deciding that he would finish this anyway. He would say what he had wanted to for so long this once and never bring it up again. He had to do it. He owed that to himself.

"Food. Well, it's difficult to estimate how much feeding me had to cost you. I did not get to eat every day for one and some days, what I got people would not feed to their dogs, much less to their children, just ask your sister."

The uncomfortable silence stretched out between them. Dudley must have switched the telly off some time ago. Harry was surprised that he had not noticed until now, or that Dudley would be interested in anything he had to say.

"Let's say I ate for 5 £ a day on average. That would make it 1 825 £ per annum. So, in total my keep would have cost you about 2 780 £ a year."

He wrote that down and slammed the piece of paper on the table in front of his by now ashen-faced uncle, leaning in real close.

"A freak I very well may be, but don't you dare to call me useless again!"

Smirking he straightened up and took himself together with his plate and glass to his room, without glancing back.

Closing his door behind him he let out a sigh of satisfaction. It felt really good to finally push the arseholes off their high horses, even though his dinner was now cold. He consoled himself with the thought that theirs was now cold too.

His good mood did not last nearly as long as he wished for though. After eating and bringing the dirty dishes down to the kitchen, he was back on his bed and staring at the ceiling, watching the last rays of the setting sun make way for the shadows of the night, letting his thoughts drift around uselessly. The solution to his dilemma was not written up there, that much was for sure. He gave himself a mental nudge to get back on track.

Voldemort and his merry band of followers were a very serious threat, but not an immediate one strangely enough. Neither were they responsible for his current situation, no matter how much Dumbledore wanted him to believe that.

Dumbledore, Dumbledore, Dumbledore. It all began and ended with Dumbledore. The man was literally controlling every aspect of his life and had been doing so ever since his parents' deaths.

His parents. Harry balled his fists gripping the duvet under him forcefully. Stupid, naive little minions! Fought a bloody war for every underdog there was, but had not even had the decency to spare a thought towards their son and his future in case of their demise. Had they fancied themselves to be invincible or what?

He tried to fight down the angry tears without much success. Fact remained that neither of them had submitted a will at any point in their lives, leaving him at the mercy of the Ministry, since his godparents were unavailable at the time. At the mercy of the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot to be precise, who had been 'delegated' to secure the safety and wellbeing of the Boy-Who-Lived.

Curiously enough, Dumbledore had taken hold of him and placed him with his muggle relatives in the night between the first and the second of November, almost a whole week before he had been appointed Harry's temporary guardian by the Wizengamot. If that was not telling, then Harry really did not know what was. Therefore, he was exceedingly grateful that the entire Potter estate went into lockdown the moment his father had exhaled his last breath.

He wiped away the wetness on his cheeks. Praised be the wisdom of his ancestors, since his own sire did not seem to have had much of it. Throwing money around like it was going out of fashion, but never even bothering with a trust vault for his heir! The vault he had visited at age eleven had been opened for him by Grimaxe, the blood-bound estate manager of the Potter family, a month before said birthday. He had been raging for hours on end when he had received his estate ledger and an extensive note form the goblin two days before the end of last term, seeing as he would be fifteen soon.

It was a lucky coincidence too that Dumbledore had been absent from the school and thus not in complete control of the wards at the time, or he sincerely doubted he would have received that owl. It had been most informative indeed, too informative for the old bastard's tastes no doubt. But even with all of the man's crafty manipulations at work, there was really no excuse for Harry's own behaviour.

He should have asked himself questions from the very beginning. Questions like why it was Hagrid of all possible school representatives, who had been sent to deliver his Hogwarts letter and introduce him to the wizarding world? As far as he knew, it was Professor McGonagall's duty to visit the homes of the muggleborn and muggle raised children.

One could argue that everyone had assumed that his relatives had informed him of his heritage and Hagrid was allowed to go, because he had been eager to see him again. Well, that may be true for Hagrid, but he sincerely doubted it to be equally true for the dear old Headmaster.

Harry sighed looking over to Hedwig who was preening her feathers perched on her cage. Hagrid was really one of the very few people of his acquaintance, who he could trust to have no ulterior motives whatsoever. The man was just that kind. Too kind for his own good some would say. Unfortunately, he was so deep in Dumbledore's pocket that he doubted even a niffler could ever dig him out. In Hagrid's eyes Albus Dumbledore was a saint and could do no wrong.

He could not be trusted, doubly so because he was absolutely terrible at keeping secrets, Harry could not help grinning wistfully.

The other question he should have asked himself long ago would be why Mrs. Weasley had been going around a muggle train station hollering about secret platforms for everyone to hear? Was it not a blatant breach of the Statute of Secrecy? For that matter, Ron had not shown much interest in him then, but had been eager to join him in his compartment after he had heard Harry Potter was sitting there from the twins. And Ginny, well, he was not sure he even wanted to open that can of worms.

Harry sighed. One did not have to be a genius to see through that. The Weasleys were a Light family firmly inside Dumbledore's immediate sphere of influence. He must have asked Molly to take him under her wing. Arthur was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, certainly not the most ambitious one, and though the woman must have married him for love, Harry doubted that she was entirely happy with her family's station in life. To take in the Boy-Who-Lived, who also happened to be the Heir of House Potter, for summers and Christmases would bring enormous prestige to the Weasley name. To have him emotionally indebted to them and invested in friendship with her children would not hurt either in the long run. And of course, she did have a rather lovely daughter, so... who was to tell... one could always hope.

He snorted considering that Bill or Charlie would have far better chances to land in his pants than dear sweet Gin. But that was a secret he intended to keep for as long as possible. Homosexuals in the wizarding world were not discriminated against per se, but they were not looked at indifferently either, especially if they were firstborn and had the obligation to procreate to continue the family line.

The Weasleys were decent enough people he supposed, they could be trusted to a point. The point being Dumbledore and his directives of course. They had too much trust and respect for the man to go against any decisions he made for Harry, unless it entailed something dangerous or amoral. The only thing he could be absolutely sure of was that they would never involve themselves in anything that would cause him harm, not only because they were decent people, but also because of the Life Debt they owed him on Ginny's behalf.

His window was wide open to let in the balmy summer night breeze, allowing him to hear the sharp crack outside on the street loud and clear. His body and mind went into fighting mode almost instantly. He knew that sound all too well.

Grabbing his wand from under the pillow he rolled out of bed, landing easily on his feet and crept towards the window to take a careful peek outside, very glad that he had not bothered with lights tonight.

At the first glance there was nothing out of ordinary down there. If you don't count the constantly flickering street lamp directly across his relatives' meticulously trimmed lawn that is. Street lamps did not flicker in this part of neighbourhood for long and that particular one had been flickering since he had arrived here, if he remembered correctly. Surely, someone would have called the municipal utilities by now?

Something made click in the back of his mind. Muggle technology did not work well with magic around, did it? Squinting hard he could suddenly see the tale-tell rippling a moving figure under Disillusionment Charm caused nearing the street post and coming to a halt under it, turning completely invisible. Distorted snippets of a hushed conversation reached his ears, carried up to him through the stillness of the night. A moment later a second, visibly taller, disillusioned figure started making its way where the first one had come from, quickly disappearing from view. A couple of moments more and a sharp crack from somewhere down the street followed. Down below his window the street lamp continued flickering.

Harry turned away from the window and slid down the wall next to it, landing on his bum, completely and utterly shocked by what he had just witnessed. Dumbledore had people watching him! There was not the slightest doubt in his mind that they were Dumbledore's. Most likely from that 'old crowd' Sirius had mentioned he was staying with the last time he had spoken to him. Fuck!

He shook his head, got up and resumed his position on the bed. He really did not know why he was that surprised. Dumbledore had shown him extraordinary amounts of personal attention in the past, so why not now, especially with what had happened less than two months ago in mind.

What did Dumbledore really want with him? Why would he go to such length to 'protect' him? What would warrant such profound investment on the man's side? Thinking about it for some time and not finding any adequate answers, he decided he would make them his first priority. Because one thing was for sure, out of the goodness of his heart it was not.

xxxoooxxx

He had always known he could trust Hermione, but after receiving post from her this morning, muggle post, he now knew for sure that she was his one and only true friend. And he now also knew for sure that his owl post was watched and carefully censored.

The fucking bastards! He had a great desire to walk out there and curse whomever was 'on duty' right now bloody and good.

Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He would find a way around it, but only if he kept his head on his shoulders. Throwing a temper tantrum would simply not do, no matter how satisfying it might be. He was almost fifteen. Almost fifteen. Less than three weeks left until his birthday. He had been patient all his life. Surely, he could hold it out until then? But man, it was hard!

Fifteen meant he would be the age of consent, it also meant that as the last of his House he could claim Lordship, which again meant partial emancipation by the Ministry. A small smirk tugged at his lips, he sincerely doubted that Dumbledore would have ever told him any of that. Partial emancipation meant full wand rights, the right to make one's own living arrangements and the best of it all, no adult supervision anymore.

He would be still watched and 'protected' afterwards he was quite certain, but no longer controlled to such an extent that he could not even fart without Dumbledore knowing and approving of first.

He sighed sorting through the paper clippings Hermione had sent him together with her letter. One-upping the old man had just taken a second row seat. Fudge had all but declared war on him. Stupid fucker! He had to be taught a lesson he would not forget. He may push the goody two-shoes Golden Boy around, but the Harry, who-would-do-well-in-Slytherin, had finally found his way back and he was not to be messed with. The rest of the wizarding world would learn that the hard way before too long.

xxxoooxxx

Lunch came and went. Sitting down and thinking about the best course of action for a couple of hours he had finally come up with a brilliant plan, if he may say so himself.

He took out the fine stationery he had got himself last summer, just because it had caught his eye, now very glad that he had followed that whim, and began writing in his most neat hand, which unfortunately was not saying much.

To Lady Amelia Bones,

Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,

The Ministry of Magic

Dear Madam,

I am writing to you to respectfully bring to your attention several cases of covered up murder, miscarriage of justice and severe abuse of office by none other than the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge.

As the only witness to the murder of Cedric Diggory I have fully expected to, if not be taken into custody, then at least be questioned by the officers of the Law Enforcement right after my release from the hospital wing at Hogwarts following the last task of the Triwizard Tournament. Imagine my bewilderment when no such thing happened. The only ones who had inquired after what had happened were the Headmaster Dumbledore and Mr. and Mrs. Diggory, none of them doing so in official capacity.

The murder was presented to the press as an unfortunate accident caused by a rampant running escaped Death Eater. But even if that were indeed the case, what evidence does the Minister have indicating it? Was the location of the 'accident' secured and gone through by the authorities? Was Cedric Diggory's body examined by the Ministry coroner or even a Healer at St. Mungo's? Were all the possible witnesses questioned? Was the 'escaped Death Eater' taken into custody and interrogated? No, nothing of the above was done!

Instead, all evidence was destroyed, the 'culprit' Kissed by direct order of the Minister, which he had no business issuing without a Wizengamot verdict and thus has made himself guilty of murder in cold blood, and all possible witnesses were discredited even before they had a chance to give a proper statement!

Madam, I respectfully demand justice to be done on behalf of the entire Diggory family! I demand to be questioned by the authorities, as absurd as that may sound, to bring all the heinous crimes committed that night to light!

Enclosed you will find the permission to use Pensive Memories and Veritaserum signed by my legal guardian.

In the hope of seeing you soon,

Yours sincerely,

Harry James Potter, Heir of House Potter

Cackling evilly to himself he wrote out a formal permission for Petunia to sign and took it to her immediately. She signed without even asking what he needed it for.

Now, he had to get the letter to the Ministry without a certain old coot's interference. Nothing easier than that, he grinned stepping into the guest room, the windows of which were conveniently showing into the backyard.

"Dobby!"

A popping sound and he had a very excited elf wound around his legs.

"Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is so happy you is calling! What can Dobby do for Harry Potter, sir?"

"Hallo Dobby, could you do me a favour and deliver this letter to Madam Amelia Bones at the Ministry of Magic? I'm paying you a Sickle."

"Of course, of course! But a Sickle is too much, Harry Potter, sir!" The house-elf was jumping up and down like a wound up toy rabbit.

"No, it's not, Dobby. It's a special delivery and must be handed to her in person. She may not have time for you immediately and you will have to wait."

After a bit of more convincing the letter was on its way. Harry entered his bedroom whistling to himself and dug around his trunk for some decent robes, expecting visitors soon.

He was not disappointed. Barely an hour later he was led into a full to the brim conference room adjoining Madam Bones' office by his Auror escort, wearing an appropriately solemn face and a gleeful grin inside. They would not know what hit them!

Many hundred miles away Dedalus Diggle, out of breath and sans top hat, was pounding on the stone gargoyle blocking the way to the Headmaster's office.

"Albus, let me in! The Aurors showed up and took him! Do you hear me?"

xxxoooxxx

The Ministry was a toppled anthill! People were running around like headless chicken. Arrest warrants were flying through the air, literally, one after another, issued by the hastily assembled minimum required composition of the High Court. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement was up in arms, literally, the entire level sealed off, every Auror and DMLE officer on duty. With Minister Fudge taken out of office, Amelia Bones was next in line to take over as the acting Minister and she was purging her house with an iron fist. The holding cells and interrogation chambers were filling up nicely, but the good thing about having magic was of course that more room could always be made with a flick of a wand.

Harry Potter was sitting in a corner of Minister Bones' office and munching on his tea and biscuits, happily watching the chaos around him like one would a good TV show. He was THE witness number one and had been put under protection order by the Minister herself. To his knowledge the Professors McGonagall and Snape, Madam Pomfrey and the Diggory parents among others had been brought in as additional witnesses to support the Pensive Memories he had shown the Aurors, and not only concerning the case of Cedric Diggory, but also the case of Sirius Black. Giving them undisputable evidence of Voldemort's return when he was at it had not been planned at all of course.

Dumbledore had come by to give his own statements, but unlike the others, who had been put into the witness protection quarters, he did not stay being a very busy man and needed elsewhere, and all that. No one insisted to hold him back.

The man had smiled at him with his customary twinkle, but Harry could tell that it was not quite genuine. Had his little stunt interfered with some carefully laid out plans of his? Oops! Harry all but giggled into his teacup.

xxxoooxxx

Two weeks later Harry was back in his bedroom at the Dursleys (Dumbledore must have convinced Minister Bones that he would be safer there) and the wizarding world far more prepared to face the threat of Voldemort than it would have been otherwise. Well, prepared would be a strong word, but they were at least aware that there was a threat to begin with. Fudge would have never allowed even that much, until it literally leaped them all in the face. However, Fudge was now nothing more than a disgraceful stain of history.

He grinned and crossed out the man's name on his mental list of enemies. Stupid bastard had only himself to blame. No one had forced that money into his hand after all.

He wondered briefly just how furious Voldemort was right now. Snape must be doubly glad that he had refused Dumbledore's request to resume his position as a spy after the Triwizard Tournament. But even if it might not have been Harry's most clever move to give those memories to the Head of the DMLE and make so many enemies all at once, he consoled himself with the thought that they were his enemies either way and it was better to have them out in the open, instead of hidden in the shadows, ready to stab him in the back at the first best opportunity.

Most of the followers Voldemort had called to him that night had never been caught the first time around and were currently awaiting their trials, undoubtedly to join their comrades in Azkaban soon, except Avery, Crabbe, Goyle and Malfoy, who had been set free after the initial questioning. Seeing as they had been cleared of all charges back then, they could not be charged for anything dating prior to November 1981 now and had apparently made more or less of an effort to stay out of trouble since.

Malfoy's release had surprised him the most. Clearly, the man was so bloody slippery that nothing stuck to him, Veritaserum or not, yet Harry had to wonder. Madam Bones would have hardly let him go, if he had been found guilty of anything beyond bribing corrupt politicians, which would be worth but a fine or two. Had all the rumours he had heard about him being the evil incarnate, Vodemort's right hand man and what not, been nothing more than exaggerated rumblings fuelled by envy and spite? Guilty much or not, Malfoy was a snob, a bigot and a first rate arsehole, both father and son. People like that were not exactly in the business of making friends, though it did not make them evil by default.

Thinking about it, he had heard mostly the same rumours about Sirius too. Apparently, they were worth just about the breath they took to tell them, if not less. Not that it would make him like any of the Malfoys anytime soon, but he could at least admit to himself that he had probably misjudged them on that one front.

He had received several letters from Ron indicating that he and his family, among other people, were staying at some secret organisation's headquarters. Hermione told him in her last owl that she had been invited to stay there for the rest of the summer, but had declined on the grounds of wanting to spend more time with her own family. Through muggle post she explained that she had made plans to ensure her parents' safety in the upcoming war and was now too busy implementing them to indulge Ron's desire for company. Ouch! Poor Ron. And he had been trying so hard too.

She had brewed a strong Suggestion Potion during the last month of school, put it into her parents' morning tea the first day back and suggested they pack up shop and move to Australia as soon as possible. Absolutely brilliant! But well, that's Hermione for you.

Muggles have no resistance against that kind of potions whatsoever and thus it was exactly what they were doing now. Hermione told him that they had been lucky with being able to sell their surgery to an old friend of her father's straight away, but all the papers, migration permit, employment permit and such, would take months to obtain, even though it was easier with them being quite wealthy. In the meantime they would purchase a house and find a possible location for a new surgery, pack their things and sell everything they would not want or be able to take with them.

Hermione had also suggested that she would be just fine continuing to go to school here in Britain, since a boarding school was a boarding school and it would make no difference, if it were in the country they resided in or outside of it, and Hogwarts was one of the best as it was. The Doctors Granger had no reason to object to that, even if they could.

Honestly, Harry was beginning to have his doubts that Hogwarts was one of the best around after visiting it for four years now, and so was Hermione. But that was a discussion for another day.

Dumbledore had informed him that he would be able to leave his relatives on his birthday and spend the rest of the summer with the Weasleys, aka wherever that 'old crowd' had opened up shop, as he understood. Sirius' trial was scheduled at the end of August. His solicitor had managed to arrange for house arrest conditions until then, thus Harry did not know if he would be able to see him there or not. Either way, he was planning to join the good people a bit later than they wanted him to. He had urgent business at Gringotts that just could not wait. Sorry. He winced imagining the volume of Mrs. Weasley's voice when she would get hold of him at last.

The real difficulty would be to leave the house without his guard noticing shortly after midnight on the 31th, and there was only one solution to it.

"Dobby!"

"Harry Potter, sir! You is calling again! Dobby is happy to serve you!"

"Yes, about that. You are currently employed at Hogwarts, right?"

The house-elf nodded vigorously, his bat-like ears flapping.

"Would you like to work for me instead? I'll pay the same, plus a bonus of five Sickles for working on Sundays and all official holidays."

Dobby's lips trembled with suppressed emotion for just a moment, before he threw himself at him, wrapping his arms and legs around his own.

"Oh, Master Harry Potter, sir!" the creature bawled happily, "So noble, so generous, Dobby is very honoured to serve you!"

There was a flash of white light surrounding them for a moment and disappearing almost instantly. The surge of power made him stumble and nearly fall with Dobby still clinging to his legs. He caught himself on the wall behind him blinking in surprise.

"What was that?"

Dobby let him go grinning from ear to ear. "Binding employment contract, Master Harry Potter, sir. Wes, the house-elves, cannot do much magic alone. Wes must be bound to wizard masters and through them wes have connection to Mother Earth and can take power from Her to do our magic."

Harry blinked in surprise. "Huh, I've never heard anything like that before. And call me Harry."

Dobby hung his head in sadness. "Wizards used to know these things, Master Harry, sir, but they have forgotten."

"That's rather stupid of them, isn't it?" He had every intention to look into what else the little elf might know. "What's the difference between what you just did and the usual bond house-elves and wizards have?"

"The conditions, Master Harry, sir!" Dobby was all but dancing around him now. "The usual bond is servitude until death or when clothes are given. It is anchored to blood, house-elf blood and wizard blood together. My bond is anchored to your magic alone, Mater Harry, sir, and is broken with death or if you do not pay, or do me harm on purpose."

He grinned when a sudden idea entered his mind. "Tell me, Dobby, is Winky still drinking herself into stupor?"

Dobby stopped his antics and hung his head again. "Yes, Master Harry, sir. Winky is bound to Hogwarts, but it is not good enough for her. Winky is not happy."

"Would you go and ask her, if she wants to be bound to me and my bloodline?"

The elf's eyes grew wide at that and his legs were under siege again. "Oh, Master Harry, sir! How good and selfless you are! Such a great and generous wizard!"

Harry was feeling distinctly uncomfortable, hearing that and had to clear his throat as a distraction.

"Well, ah, you'd better go and tell her the good news now, would you."

Dobby disappeared immediately and Harry let out a sigh of relief. There was only so much praise, deserved or not, he could take. Guilty conscience aside, the opportunity was just too good to not take advantage of, even if Hermione was going to have his head.

A couple of minutes later there was a resounding pop and no less than nine new elves of various age and gender were standing before him, wearing very hopeful expressions on their faces. Dobby was grinning and bouncing on the spot, looking rather pleased with himself.

"Master Harry, sir, there is more elves wanting to be bound, sir."

Harry pushed down the manic laughter bubbling in his chest.

"Oh, well, I don't mind."

xxxoooxxx

Time was money and because of that simple truth goblins did not have such a thing as business hours. They did not care for the age of their clients either. If you had gold in your hand, then you were old enough to make a transaction.

Dobby had delivered him to the white marble stairs leading up to the bank entrance at one o'clock on the 31th of July. House-elves may be able to bypass most wizard wards, but goblin wards were a different matter entirely.

Harry walked past the row of counters, not minding the pair of vampires haggling over some precious stones, and asked the young goblin standing at the end to lead him to Grimaxe's office. He was rather nervous all things considered. If everything went well tonight, he would leave the building an adult. Well, an adult in all questions concerning wand usage and heritage at least. He would still have to wait until the age of seventeen to have his shot of Firewhisky at a bar. There were also certain places that had an age line at the entrance and for good reason, though Harry doubted he would have the need to visit any of those anytime soon.

The goblin elder was expecting him, sneering menacingly.

"Mr. Potter, sit down there, the signet ring will be brought in shortly."

He handed the younger goblin some sort of medallion giving instructions in rapid Gobbledegook. The youngster scurried away in short order. Apparently, goblins had not much use for polite manners. Harry found that he did not mind. The young goblin brought in a small stone box of what looked like obsidian, placed it on the desk and returned the medallion before leaving them alone. Grimaxe took a simple silver dagger out of a drawer and put it next to the box.

"Place a drop of blood in that circle."

He made a small cut on his finger and let a drop fall on top of the lid. The stone cracked and melted away revealing a rather gaudy golden monstrosity that was the Potter Lordship ring. The square cut ruby set into it was etched with the family crest, a Griffin holding a rather familiar sword in its claw. Did that mean what he thought it meant?

He put it on the ring finger of his right hand before he lost his nerve and opened his mouth in a silent scream when ancient and powerful magic took hold of him, sweeping through him from head to toe. Just as soon as it began, it was already over and he fell out of his chair onto the floor breathing heavily.

Grimaxe sneered down his nose peering at him over the edge of his desk.

"Well, you have survived," he sounded almost disappointed. "The magic of the Potter family has recognised and accepted you as the Head of House. Congratulations."

"Why, thank you, Grimaxe," he could not help snapping back, picking himself up from the floor and sitting down again. Honestly, he could have warned him at least. Apparently, goblins had not much use for decency either.

The old goblin gave him a rather sharp grin.

In the following hours they went through his estate ledger, the investments part mostly, and decided which business stocks were no longer yielding enough profit and should be sold and what new investments looked promising enough to put money in. What he definitely wanted to do was to go into business with the Weasley twins and had the goblin draft a contract naming him a silent partner with 20 % of their venue in exchange for the starting money they would need.

He had found out that being Lord Potter made him the Heir of Gryffindor indeed, even though it meant nothing more than a hereditary seat on the Hogwarts Board of Governors and ownership over the Gryffindor family heirlooms, namely the Sword and the Sorting Hat. Anything else was part of the Potter estate already or had been lost over the centuries. He tried to be not too disappointed. Really, what did he expect, a quarter of Hogwarts?

With the promise to stay in contact they bid each other goodbye.

xxxoooxxx

When he finally left the bank it was almost seven in the morning. He had made a detour to a counter on his way out and had ordered himself a blood bound money bag linked directly to one of his vaults. For a 'small' fee of course. No need to refill it manually anymore.

The first thing he did was to take out his wand and shrink the ledger in his hand to fit comfortably in his pocket. He took a deep breath feeling like the king of the world, only to nearly choke on it when he saw an owl heading towards him with a screech. Impossible! There should be no Trace on him anymore!

Oh. Just his Hogwarts letter. His knees nearly gave away in relief.

Getting a grip on himself he took it off the owl's leg, thinking that it was rather neat to have received it today. He could do all of his school shopping, since he was in these parts already. He should probably hurry though. There was no telling how fast Dumbledore's men would be able to find him after all, but first things first.

He stepped into a nearby lane and summoned all of his new elves to assign them to his properties in Britain. The house in Godric's Hollow was a national museum now, though the Ministry had never compensated him for it. Something he had given Grimaxe instructions to correct immediately. He had plenty of others of course, albeit he shuddered to think what state they were in after so many years of neglect. As far as he knew, his grandparents had owned only a pair of house-elves that had died protecting their masters during an attack on Potter manor. His grandparents had survived, but had not lived long enough afterwards to acquire new ones. The rest of the Potter properties had been standing empty for decades even before that. His elves should be very, very happy for many years to come.

It was still rather early and most shopkeepers were just beginning to open their shutters and lay out their wares in the windows. He was also rather hungry after the long, productive night, thus had decided to make himself comfortable in the quaint café across the street with tea and sandwiches. He would have preferred a good English fry-up, but to go to the Leaky Cauldron meant asking to be found.

Half an hour later he stepped into Twilfit & Tattings to spend a fortune on an entire wardrobe. Needless to say, the assistants were all but kissing his feet in the end, considering the commission they would get that day. He went through his Hogwarts supplies list without encountering anyone and had even stepped into the optician's shop that had opened only recently. He had been looking to replace his glasses with something less ugly, but was pleasantly surprised to find magical contact lenses. The man's wife turned out to be a muggleborn.

It was only when he was leaving Scribbulus that they finally got him. They being Professor Lupin and a young woman with flashy, spiked, bubblegum-pink hair, who had introduced herself as 'just Tonks, first names should be forbidden'. Lupin, or Remus as he insisted, made an excellent effort to hold conversation as if they were not running around the country in search of him, but had just happened to meet him doing a bit of shopping themselves. Harry even managed to drag them into the Quality Quidditch Supplies and purchase new pads and a bottle of broom polish before the rest of the crew showed up.

They were eight more people, all very eager to introduce themselves. Harry carefully catalogued their names and faces, smiling pleasantly and shaking hands with everyone. Moody however was in no mood for pleasantries.

"Potter, I hope you had a nice enough birthday outing today. It'll be some time until you get to see the sun again."

Harry raised his eyebrow at him smirking. "Is that so? We shall see."

Turning his back on him with the full knowledge that it would irritate him, Harry addressed the others. "Has someone of you, wannabe guards, bothered to bring my trunk?"

And just like that all the gushing and happy smiles went out of the window.

"Wannabe guards?" the Jones woman spluttered.

"Oh, please," he sneered at them. "You have done the job so shitty, I could literally smell you some days."

Jaws dropped, eyes popped out, Lupin was staring at him as if he had never seen him before, Moody on the other hand barked a laugh and patted him on the shoulder, like an uncle would a favourite nephew.

"Someone should have told Dung to take a bath before his turn," Tonks snickered good-naturedly. "Shouldn't we get going? And yes, we do have your trunk with us," she winked at him shoving her neighbours in to motion.

The group spilled out into the backyard of the Leaky Cauldron ready to apparate away. Moody took him side-along to wherever they were going. It looked like somewhere still in London. A piece of paper with an address on it was shoved under his nose.

Ah, a Fidelius secured property! Very prudent. Number 12 Grimmauld Place appeared before his eyes a moment later.

The house seemed to be indisputably Dark, representing everything that term entailed to a T. Harry had to seriously wonder why on earth these people, this Order of the Phoenix, have chosen it their headquarters? It was clear as day, at least to him, that this house and everything in it would fight them tooth and claw at every turn. Sabotage was all but bound to be an expected occurrence. Were they insane?

"Harry! There you are, pup," Sirius swept him into a bone crushing embrace.

Well, that explained everything.