Posted 10/18/2013, Edited 11/5/2013

.

Alright, so what is this about? Well, I can't tell you everything, of course –that would be plain boring, right? But since this story will take some time and will end up very well into the six digit word count, some sort of introductory comment is in order.

.

The story consists of two main threads, the first being Harry's preparations for the war and his role in it, the second dealing with his love life, or rather, the lack of such. Depending on your interpretation, it branches off either between the books five and six or during the talk with Dumbledore in his office, but it makes no difference. Troll? Fought and done with. Basilisk and diary? Killed and destroyed. Sirius? Escaped, hidden, lured into the Ministry, killed. Tri-Wizard Tournament? Done and won. You get the idea. And yes, the diary was what it had been in canon. There might be some added events, fitting into hitherto untold time periods in the past, for example, the years at Privet Drive before Hogwarts, but I don't intend to change events that have been described up until the talk with Dumbledore; that being said, I cannot guarantee the same for the interpretation of any incidents from canon.

.

But I digress. So here is what you can expect:

- Clarifications on magic, some important, other not, some in contrast with canon, others not.

You can think of them as explanation attempts for some details here and there, mostly to connect the dots. It is explained in the story and concerns mostly the Mind Arts as well as magic as a whole, mainly how and why it works. Since I dislike the canonical definition of Arithmancy as 'Studying the magical properties of numbers, including predicting the future with numerology', I gave it a slightly different purpose. I mean, come on, up to five years of that in Hogwarts alone? For what reason? I tried an explanation of Runes as well, especially the underlying rules and concepts of the art itself. Also a slight addition to Horcruxes, mainly because it made so much sense.

- Character and story development.

No love on page one, child by the third chapter. No sudden, but unmentioned best friend of the trio who weathered all of their adventures, yet was always just outside the room or frame whenever the books focused on them. No surprise relatives popping up all over the place. No mountains of gold drowning Harry. No sudden Ron the Death Eater either; Luna and the Sorting Hat are a different matter, though. It is meant as a story, telling a journey of sorts; for that reason, characters will develop (hopefully in a reasonable fashion).

There will be Daphne Greengrass, and she will play a bit of an important role. With how little we know about her, I took some liberties with her character; the longer I worked on the story, the more she grew in an unexpected way and gained more background than I intended, and not necessarily the popular Ice Queen personality either, out to break hearts and heads of boys. If that bothers you and you cannot live without that, well, tough luck.

I don't mind harming characters. Why should I? Torturing them is half the fun, and what doesn't kill them, makes them stronger. Or traumatizes them, I guess, but that's also way too much fun to stop me. I'm just saying. I don't want anyone complaining about me not thinking of the children.

Since it is not canon, I allowed myself some small, but important alterations/additions to the wizarding world, marriage contracts being the main one. I explain the rules of those in the story, so just wait for a while.

No harem. Sorry, I know some people like them, but I have another direction to go and already far too much to deal with. Besides, writing more than one relationship will just bloat the story even more.

So there you go.

.

This is a work of fiction, based on the book series by J.K. Rowling. Neither do I claim ownership nor do I intend to.


Chapter One – The Lost Life

.

'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …'

The voice that had echoed in the office just moments ago fell silent, and the silvery figure sank back into the Pensieve. The portraits looked on with baited breaths. Dumbledore watched Harry sitting in front of his desk, waited for a sign, or a reaction. Part of him was tempted – Oh, so tempted to take a peek into the boy's mind –but knew better than to try; everyone who knew the Headmaster could see the temptation lurking behind those eyes, and yet would have known the old man would not give in. Had he not learned his lesson? He could not dare to give in, to follow these selfish notions, his curiosity. His need to prove himself had never led him to any success but instead to ruination. And so he waited, ignoring his exhaustion.

Inside Harry, an all-consuming fire was raging, threatening to burst forth, but held back for the moment. Anger at Dumbledore for his part, for his lack of action and foresight, at his own powerless state and lack of caution, anger at the Ministry for failing at the most rudimentary of tasks –keeping the people save, something they had so shamefully neglected in their stubbornness –mixed with fierce hatred at Bellatrix and her chosen master for ever crossing his path. Fury directed at Snape's... at Snape, merely for existing, for not jumping into action, but just standing by, at Hermione for not stopping him in his foolishness, at Neville for blindly following, at Luna for being far too nice to really hate her for anything, at Ron for being such an idiot to get cursed with whatever had made him lose his mind for a time, at Ginny for getting hurt during their escape... Why had he, Harry, who had been told Voldemort could enter his mind, believed the vision? He had been an idiot, blinded by his fears. He should have realized they were walking into a trap when they hadn't met a single Ministry worker.

But worse than the flames coursing through his veins was perhaps the din in his mind –as if hundreds of voices were sounding in his ears, each one louder than the last. Harry heard what sounded like a Ron stumbling through his best attempts at a laughable consolation, a Hermione, reminding him in a slightly superior tone how she had foreseen the trap and had tried to warn him only to have him not listen to her as he usually did, a Dudley laughing at Harry's misfortune just like he had done in the past, Piers Polkins out of breath hissing cruel taunts and threats far too close to the ear just like he had always done when he had held someone's arms behind their back in the tone that could make the skin crawl, Mrs. Cooper from elementary school brushing off Harry like always, Mr. Baker, bored as he had been each time Harry had heard him, explaining slowly why, exactly, it had been Harry's fault something had happened –even if he hadn't been anywhere near the scene –and a Bellatrix, mocking him for his completely ineffective fury. The soothing of Sirius Harry overheard, fearing the words. Harry knew it had been his fault –who else's could it have been? –and nothing the sound alike said would ever change that simple fact. Mrs. Weasley's voice resounded as if amplified by magic in his mind, mourning the loss only half-heartedly as she would most likely do in real life –Sirius and she had been on less than cordial terms, again a fault of Harry's. And, as always, there was also a Dumbledore who was trying to find comforting words all the while the ever-present Snape murmured his taunts and cruelties that everyone else chose to overhear about Harry, his father and 'the mutt'.

Finally, Harry moved. The fire threatened to consume him, or maybe break free and burn the man in front of him, and Harry couldn't even be angry at the force of nature waiting to be unleashed. And yet he found himself wanting to have even more fuel for his hatred of Dumbledore. It was for that reason he felt himself saying, "This has to do with me, hasn't it? It's me, right?" His voice was calm, measured. "This prophecy? I have to... fight him?"

A good sign, Dumbledore seemed to decide from his expression. Truly, the boy –young man, really –was far more mature than anyone ever gave him credit for. "Yes and no, Harry. The prophecy spoke of a boy 'born as the seventh month dies', a boy whose parents defied Voldemort on three separate occasions. That part could have applied to both you and young Mr. Longbottom, as both sets of parents had done so. And you were both born at the end of July of 1980. Technically, it could have also meant a boy born in late July of any of the following years. However, Voldemort had never heard anything more than the first half of the prophecy, everything after 'born as the seventh month dies' is still only known to the two of us. Based on what had actually reached his... well, him, Voldemort went and tried to eliminate the potential threat to his existence. He chose to go after you, the half-blood. We know what happened, of course. 'The Dark Lord will mark him as his equal', and so he did. So for what it is worth, the prophecy means you, yes, but mainly, because Voldemort made it so by attacking your family. It is true and will be fulfilled, because of Voldemort's decisions. Fate can sometimes be rather peculiar in that manner."

Harry seemed to mull this information over in his head. In truth, however, his mind had long since made the connections, or rather, the Hermione in his mind had and was exasperatedly telling him off for taking so very long to see the conclusion, the one he didn't want to accept, the truth at the centre of these ploys and games surrounding him.

But he needed to know.

"So... I have some unknown power to defeat Voldemort?"

Dumbledore smiled kindly. "A power He knows not, Harry. Either one Voldemort honestly doesn't know because his studies never revealed it to him, or one he doesn't understand. I think it is the latter. You see..."

But Harry interrupted him, longing to hear the words from the Headmaster. "'...and either must die at the hand of the other...'"

"That is the only possible outcome, I think, but only due to your personalities. Neither will Voldemort stop in his quest to eliminate the one threat to his dominance, his one weakness –you –nor will you, I believe and hope, stop opposing him. Think of all he has taken –all the loss he has caused –even just from you! Will you step aside; let others burden the pain, the struggle? Ultimately, you could try to refuse the calling, let others battle Voldemort, but will he respect your wishes?"

"So we will fight until one of us is dead," Harry concluded in the same calm tone. The noise in his head was nearly overwhelming, growing louder each moment, and the fire burned hotter than ever. How long until it would burst forth? Would his magic react, perhaps by causing accidental magic like it had done in third year when he had blown up his aunt? But then, why hadn't it already done so? His skin prickled, perhaps as a reaction to the boiling magic waiting to wreak havoc.

"Don't forget the prophecy, Harry! The battle will continue until one of you is dead, yes. But then, you also have 'the power the Dark Lord knows not', and unless you consider yourself said Dark Lord," here the Headmaster smiled again, despite the gravity of the situation, „then you have an advantage. He has experience and knowledge, both of which are not infallible and, more importantly, not unique. In due time, you too will gain both, but still keep 'the power the Dark Lord knows not'. With each passing day the scales tip more and more in your favour."

Harry had trouble hearing the words. „And you've known this for almost sixteen years." It was a statement, not a question.

"Harry, I did what I could to avert harm from you. I tried to shield you from the truth, like I said, until you were ready to bear the burden. The prophecy stopped offering useful information the night your parents died."

"You used it for your reasoning just moments ago. That I'd have a special power. How can it be useless then, if it told you that?" His tone had gained a definite edge. The lack of proper address wasn't lost on Dumbledore, but he apparently chose to overlook it. At the moment, he had far more important business to deal with. And wouldn't it seem hypocritical to scold Harry for lack of proper address when he very rarely showed Harry that respect?

"And it still offered no knowledge I didn't already have. Harry, the power is not a hidden talent, no special skill that I or anyone else can teach. It is simply love. Your love for Sirius led you into the Ministry, your love for your friends drove you to learn powerful defensive spells to protect them, because of your love for your fellow man you step forward, you face the danger, you face evils others flee from in blind terror and even your worst fears, you shoulder the burdens, willingly, so others are safe. Also, why do you want to be an Auror? You will understand it one day. That, Harry, is your power. You care for others and want to protect the innocent, something Voldemort literally can't understand. He gathers followers to achieve his goals; he corrupts, tortures and murders, sometimes without any gain at all apart from his sick pleasure. He gathers those around him who are of the same kind. I have never heard of a Death Eater who could produce a Patronus. Why should they want to? They have no interest in protection and certainly don't need it. Dementors are their natural allies, both revelling in the pain they cause.

"It is for that special part of you, something Voldemort will not understand, that the prophecy offered no valuable information after your parents' death because the power you have is one you have because of who you are, not some secret magic. And as I have already explained, you will fight him until one of you dies, simply because no other outcome is possible in the battle of two stubborn wills. Your final confrontation is inevitable. Voldemort won't stop until he has bested you or died trying, and you will stop him from harming others, because you love too much to let him go unhindered."

Harry felt the scream build in his throat. The raging fire had become too much, it needed to escape, and Dumbledore deserved every insult and curse Harry longed to throw at him. He opened his mouth to shout, to call the Headmaster an idiot, to demand more information or whether this was some sick joke (the voices of Hermione and Snape agreeing enthusiastically, albeit for completely different reasons), but no sound left him. Instead, in the blink of an eye, an eerie calm washed over him, his mind deafeningly silent and clear as the starry, cloudless night sky in midwinter. Harry let his eye wander through the room. The many instruments were puffing just like before, but he didn't really pay their appearance much attention. A tingling sensation distracted him, a feeling that he associated with the presence of something out of the ordinary and yet different. It was familiar, as if it had been with him for as long as he could remember, as if something was calling to it. His eyes found Dumbledore again.

"Now that you know," the Headmaster began, "you may trash the room or, if you want to, direct your anger at me."

Harry looked at the man in front of him. He had wanted to rage just moments ago, but found he had no interest in doing so. The fire was still there, but he had it under control. He had nothing to gain by giving in to his wishes and desires. Why should he vent? Dumbledore wouldn't suffer any permanent harm, it would be detrimental if he did, and his interference really wouldn't vanish if Harry did lash out.

"No," Harry found himself say, "I don't want to." Had he always been so calm? It didn't matter. He had to defeat Voldemort, or be crushed by him. A ruthless wizard with over fifty years of experience against a barely talented and inadequately trained boy. Why hadn't Dumbledore arranged some private lessons? Duelling with Professor Flitwick. Advanced Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall. Anything to prepare the hope of the wizarding world for the task ahead.

Nine years condemned to the treatment at the hands of the Dursleys, to keep them safe. Nine years of punishments, of bruises and insults, of hours of work and withheld food, to protect them from a very unlikely danger they were in only because he had been with them in the first place. Whatever the motivation, his placement with his relatives hadn't prepared him for the final confrontation, had it? And then? Five years. Five additional years Harry had been kept in the dark. Five years, wasted because the Headmaster had wanted to shield Harry from his destiny. Why hadn't Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall or, really, anyone taken the time to steer Harry, advised him on his path? Divination? Care of Magical Creatures? What good would those classes do in a fight against a dark wizard five decades his senior?

But no matter. The prophecy was effectively Harry's death penalty either way. In a way, it was strangely comforting; unlike most, Harry now knew how he would die –at the hands of Voldemort, condemning the world and leaving it at the nonexistent mercy of the current Dark Lord.

As if someone had used a switch, Harry woke up. That dream again about the talk in Dumbledore's office. Or should it be called a memory? He wasn't sure, as they had started to blend together, his real experiences and the worst possible assumptions his mind could come up with. Either way, Harry's eyes snapped open. The room was a blurry darkness, which told him that it was still very early. But Harry couldn't sleep anymore. He would surely end up returning to that memory, to that morning over a month ago. No, sleep was not an option. If he had had his Firebolt with him, it wouldn't have been a problem. He could have passed the time until everyone else rose, rested and ready for a new day, by servicing his trusted broom with his kit. But Mrs. Weasley had insisted that it had to be locked up like all the other brooms, to be fair to Ron, who hadn't been allowed to keep his with him either. Harry idly wondered whether the broom-servicing kit Hermione had given him had been meant as an inside joke and innuendo, from Muggleborn to Muggle-raised, but ultimately returned to his original train of thought of what to occupy himself with for the next –he glanced out of the window –three hours, he guessed until sunrise.

He could look through his books from past years. Hermione would be thrilled and Ron shocked if they ever learned about him reading his books in the middle of the night. But how would that be useful? He was already fairly advanced in Defence and would need practical training most of all. Transfiguration and Charms required the practical application as well –and Harry was better at using the spells than reading about the theory behind them anyway. It just felt wrong to break the Decree, not with his track record, even if Dumbledore had confided in him that the Ministry couldn't identify the caster and only went by the location of the spell to track under-age magic, so spellcasting was not an option. Herbology was the most practical class he knew apart from Care of Magical Creatures –because Hagrid disliked reading lengthy essays –only rivalled by Potions as taught by Snape. Hermione would of course disagree, pointing out the numerous assignments they had had to write for the greasy git, and in a way she was right. But in Harry's case, doing the assignments had rarely been worth the effort. Snape would sooner start a sensational singing career as the Lead of a Boy Band than grade the son of his childhood enemy fairly. And as useful as Potions knowledge was to Harry, he simply couldn't forget the acquired dislike for that course. Astronomy? Divination? History? None of these would be of significance to Harry.

His classmates would begin their own lives in a few short years, but it wasn't meant to be, not for him, at least. He, Harry, would continue his course towards his ultimate destiny and end. The only question was how he would meet it: Cowering at the feet of a megalomaniac, too weak to cause any change, or standing upright, fighting, and taking as many Death Eaters with him as he could? It had taken over a day until Harry had realized the truth he had said in the broom shed with Dumbledore. Life was too short –his, at least –and when his time would come, he would fight until his dying breath, maybe even taking Voldemort with him.

The last subject to consider for that goal, Care of Magical Creatures, certainly wasn't boring. In fact, with Hagrid teaching, it was anything but boring. Yet Harry was already decently familiar with a lot of creatures, and with the sheer number of possible beasts in Voldemort's service, that class wouldn't prepare him efficiently and be more of a stab in the dark.

In the end, he picked up one of the books from Practical Defensive Magic and its Use Against the Dark Arts, the joint gift from Lupin and Sirius from previous Christmas. Even if he couldn't actually use the spells, watching the movements being performed in the pictures and reading about the spells itself would hopefully teach him a bit. As soon as he would be at Hogwarts, he would have to try to learn them properly, of course. Why did the Ministry have to prohibit underage magic in the first place? Didn't they know how important continuous training was?

Great, now he sounded like Hermione, he mused. But still, she had a point. If he wasn't able to fly over the summer at the Weasley's, his skills on the pitch and broom would surely suffer severely, and the same had to apply to his other abilities as well.

Should he give up Quidditch? Refuse the captaincy? As much fun as the sport was, wouldn't his time be better used on Defence? But then, being Captain brought certain privileges. He would have a ready-made excuse to go out, leave the common room, supposedly to devise new plays. Or get a bit of alone time to hone his combat-skills. And Quidditch would keep him physically in shape. So no, he would stay on the team.

At shortly after half past eight, Harry put down the book and stuffed the notes he had made about one spell or the other in one of his envelopes from his past letters from Hogwarts. Those, he had decided, were the least interesting of his possessions and therefore the least likely to be searched by Mrs. Weasley. She certainly wouldn't approve of Harry, or really any of the children, to be learning any defensive magic outside of the curriculum. Dressing quickly and pocketing the letter he had written, he slipped down to breakfast.

Ron naturally wasn't up, his bed being at the very top meant little disturbance by the other occupants of the house. Harry had seen Ginny working in the chicken coop. Hermione sat opposite Harry, apart from a quick greeting reading a book about Arithmancy she had found somewhere in the house. He was happy for the silence. His thoughts were on the coming day. Would the Headmaster try to stop him at the last moment? Possible. All in the name of safety, even if Harry had already proven to be not only responsible, but had also made a decent enough plan, even if Dumbledore had his doubts.

And he wasn't the only one. Mrs. Weasley bustling around the kitchen was nothing unusual, but the many glances she threw Harry when she believed herself to be unobserved, certainly were. Even Hermione looked troubled, although for a slightly different reason. She had agreed with Harry's intentions, believed it to be 'a definite sign of maturity' and 'courage befitting the son of his parents and godson of Sirius's'. But she still felt for him, a sentiment Harry much preferred to Mrs. Weasley's mollycoddling.

He absentmindedly nibbled on his piece of toast when she made another attempt. "Harry, dear," she began, for perhaps the dozenth time in the past three days, while wringing her hands, "I don't think you should go. We vacated the house for a reason. It's not safe. And I don't think you are ready to face it yet. Wait a bit. Give it a bit of time, come to terms with it. If you push yourself too hard, you will only get hurt."

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Harry replied evenly, "It was a case of questionable inheritance. I have proven myself to be the rightful owner, meaning it is safe. It is mine to do with as I please, even visit it for a short while. I want to visit it. I won't be long, and don't intend to dawdle anyway. I promise. It's just something I have to face, and it will bother me until I have done so. It will be a block, keeping me from moving forward. I need to confront it –the sooner, the better. The Headmaster has already agreed." And probably regrets it by now, Harry thought dryly.

"I know, I know. I just don't like you anywhere near that dreadful ruin he called a house." Out of the corner of his eye, Harry noticed Hermione tensing slightly. Good, so he wasn't the only one disapproving of Mrs. Weasley's comment. Grimmauld Place, for all its history, was still Harry's property and Sirius' legacy that had kept them out of harm's way for the last year. While not being a proper home in his opinion, it was still not nice to talk bad about it just because it was in poor condition.

"With all due respect," Harry began, but before he could figure out what he wanted to say, a soft knock on the door stopped him. Immediately Mrs. Weasley whipped around, wand in hand. Harry guessed it had to do with her being the mother of six sons, but she was awfully quick to the draw as if always expecting some trouble. She would have made a formidable duellist, Harry mused, if she would have had the right mentality to actually fight someone to the bitter end and wouldn't present such a huge target. As for the latter, every one of her children seemed to follow Mr. Weasley. Under the table, Harry slipped his own wand in his hand. If today were the day, he wouldn't be caught unprepared.

A second knock. Mrs. Weasley commanded, "Who is it? State your purpose." Bill's voice sounded through the door. "It's me, William Weasley, who you called your Wily Willy, partly for my strong dislike for pants first witnessed during your weekly tea circle with your friends. Ask the question, please."

"Who was your favourite player in your fifth year?"

"Anne Brunswick, Gobstone champion, because of her cunning plays. Also, she had the cutest dimple on her..."

„Yes," Mrs. Weasley interrupted hastily, and opened the door.

In came the eldest of her sons, looking as rebellious as ever, still sporting his dragon fang earring. He took a quick glance around, taking account of the occupants of the room. "Morning, Hermione. Good read?"

She nodded. "Very. I'm just reading ahead for the upcoming N.E.W.T.-years; now that I know for certain which O.W.L.s I got, I can finally start preparing in earnest."

Harry kept himself from grinning. "And you haven't done so already? Before you knew about the results? If I remember Ron's complaints correctly..."

"Very funny. No, despite what Ronald might think, I didn't."

Bill smiled slightly as he took a seat. "Hello, Harry. Doing okay?"

"I'm fine, thanks." Feeling slightly mischievous, not to mention intrigued, Harry couldn't resist it. "Now, Bill, care to finish the sentence? She's got a dimple...?"

It was funny how both women were suddenly throwing glares around: Mrs. Weasley sent her son a nonverbal warning not to finish while Hermione seemed to fight down the urge to lecture Harry about decency. It was downright hilarious how the targets of said fierce looks failed to be troubled about it at all. In fact, Harry wondered more whether Hermione acted more like a sister or a mother to him. He had no reason to feel sorry, confident in Bill's judgement, or else he wouldn't have brought it up.

The redhead grabbed a piece of toast from the table. "On her left cheek, next to her eye. Vanishes when she smiles, which was quite rare when I knew her. Slytherin, you know?" After a moment, just enough for Mrs. Weasley to relax, he added with a shrug, "And a widow's peak on her butt."

Harry had trouble keeping from laughing. Hermione had switched her glare to Bill who still wasn't disturbed. Harry could understand why the goblins employed him. To keep his cool while faced by two furious witches certainly wasn't easy. Then he noticed, somewhat belatedly, the meaning of what Bill had said.

"Wait, you dated a Slytherin?" Somehow, that shocked Harry more than he would have expected. But then, the Weasley's had always been rather clear about their opinion of the House of Cunning. Ron hated them on principle, Ginny held quite a bit of contempt for them as well. Fred and George categorized them as idiotic and notorious cheaters –not without good reason, though. Mrs. Weasley usually took a bit of time each summer to take the children aside and reminded them about staying cautious around the Slytherins. Even Mr. Weasley had been overheard making disparaging comments about some of his co-workers, calling them 'Slytherins to the bone' with 'not a shred of humanity'. Learning that the very well liked Bill had actually dated one...

"Err, we didn't date, Harry," he replied, and for the first time that morning, he looked a bit uncomfortable. Understandable, Harry reasoned, since it didn't take three years of Divination to predict the reaction. Hermione blushed furiously. Mrs. Weasley jumped about a foot.

"William Weasley," screeched his mother and continued, louder than before, "I... we raised you better than that! Never in my life would I have expected you to... Don't you have any shame? What did you do to the poor girl? Of all the..."

If he hadn't seen it, Harry wouldn't have believed it. With nothing more than a glare of his own and a raised hand, Bill stopped his mother in her tracks. Not that he could fault Mrs. Weasley because her son did look quite impressive and commanding. Yes, Harry could understand why his siblings looked up to him, even the straight-laced Percy. While he could joke like every other, he now radiated a power that would shock everyone into silence.

"You did raise me better, yes. I did what I had to do –reluctantly, mind you –and informed her Head of House when I found her during my patrol. That was when I saw her in a state of undress. She was actually pretty decent about it, joked about it later even and took it in stride. So, yes, you did raise me better than that, but you also raised each of your children with the exception of one to have a sense of humour. Not to mention that I have already told you not to jump to conclusions so fast. I didn't sleep with Anne, but even if had, it wouldn't be any business of yours. And I also remember distinctly to have asked you not to butt into my talks with my brothers and to trust my judgment."

Harry had a feeling he knew the underlying issue the man had alluded to: Fleur, whom every female in the house seemed to hate for no reason. Well, not exactly no reason, since the French witch had a tendency to be tactless unintentionally. But while the irrational fear of losing her eldest might cause Mrs. Weasley to resent the girl, it still left Hermione and Ginny. The latter was actually pretty similar to the part-Veela, now that he compared the two, but with a small difference: Ginny was intentionally rude and downright nasty to the other witch. The first morning at the Burrow, Harry had associated it to her temper when she had cruelly imitated Fleur. Even the most reasonable of people could be incensed, after all, and it would have been highly hypocritical of him to hold it against her. Harry had spent a bit of time around the French witch since the first morning and could understand them a little: She had a talent for saying just the wrong thing from time to time. But just the day before, Harry had overheard the youngest Weasley make insinuations about Fleur's love life he quite doubted. Unless he was very much mistaken, Harry couldn't really see the witch in question leading Bill on or 'lust after every piece of meat that crosses her way' or 'sink her claws into every guy around'. The only one Harry had seen Fleur with apart from Bill had been Roger Davies at the Yule Ball. That had been over a year before she had started dating Bill. Two guys over the course of eighteen months was hardly a lot. And that was counting Davies who had been her date for exactly one evening.

Applying these standards, Ginny had had three boys in the same time: Neville, Michael Corner and Dean. And around the house, apart from Ron, no one fell for Fleur's allure, meaning, she certainly didn't sink her claws into every guy around. Now that Harry thought about it, he wasn't even sure whether he actually had to fight against the allure. He was aware of it, yes, but at the same time, he could still think clearly. It was as if he was constantly resisting a mild compulsion or the whisper of an Imperius curse. Maybe there was some similarity between the two influences?

While Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were somewhat understandable if irrational, Hermione was a curious case. She and Fleur shared a love for reading and learning, both were female intruders on the predominantly male family, both loved Weasley men. What's more, Hermione was capable of logical thinking. And hadn't she claimed to know the ways of love just the year before during Harry's debacle with Cho? But it seemed like Hermione had chosen to side with Ginny instead of reason. Perhaps she simply wanted to be the loyal friend to the youngest Weasley –who still lacked a compelling reason to hate Fleur as well, aside from her having an easier time with boys without much evidence to prove it and the fear of losing her brother.

Then again, Hermione might just be jealous, a thought Harry found hilarious. If she were, then she would also be a hypocrite: Hadn't she treated Ron's jealousy of Krum as childish? Hadn't she shown exasperation just last year when Ron's feelings of jealousy had flared as soon as Krum had been mentioned? And Ron's jealousy did have at least a bit of a reason –there had been something between Krum and Hermione, whatever it was; they had gone to the Yule Ball together and had spent quite a bit of time away from attention and watchful eyes. Ron however had no chance at all with Fleur; he was merely weak to the allure of the Veela and repeatedly looked like a fool. If Hermione was jealous, then, yes, she would be a hypocrite. And human, of course.

Harry's attention was drawn to the talk in front of him again. Doing her best to come up with a counter to her eldest son's statement, Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips. "Harry isn't your brother, William, and you know it."

"'He's not your son, Molly.' 'He's as good as!' Do you remember?" Bill held her gaze for a moment. "If you can claim him as good as yours, then so can I." Harry felt a sudden rush of blood to his face. He hadn't thought the red-haired man would see it that way. He really was a brilliant older brother, even if he wasn't Harry's.

Mrs. Weasley didn't seem to know a good reply. After wringing her hands, she changed tactics. "It's still disrespectful to speak about the girl like that."

"She'd be quite angry if I didn't. Humanizing Slytherins? Yeah, that'd be something she'd get behind. We joked about it, Gallows Humour, in a way. The whole school learned about the story, unfortunately. My patrol partner said she didn't tell on them, I didn't either. Neither of them would. That leaves either one of her housemates or Snape. I heard he was furious; with her getting caught, and, well..." He frowned. Ah, Harry realized, that had been the cause of his discomfort.

"Severus would not betray someone's secrets," Mrs. Weasley shrugged off.

Harry coughed. "He did tell on Lupin out of an ill-advised notion, just to get back at him for opposing him and Sirius escaping the git."

"But he is still an adult, he would not intentionally hurt a student," Mrs. Weasley replied with an air of finality.

Harry shrugged. "Well, he has repeatedly sabotaged Neville's potions, reprimanded him for nonexistent infractions, terrorized him, for example trying to poison Neville's toad, shown disrespect towards the dead, insulted my parents as well as Sirius, insulted me, Hermione, Ron, Neville, the entirety of Gryffindor, with special mention of the Weasleys. Oh, yeah, and there was that time when Malfoy's curse hit Hermione in the face, making her teeth grow abnormally large. Snape brushed it off as not seeing any difference. Let's see, what else?"

"We know you don't like him, Harry," Mrs. Weasley said, smiling soothingly. "But he is still a teacher; he would never do such extreme..."

"Err, he does, actually," Hermione threw in. "Harry has also failed to mention the point deductions for breathing, smiling, cheating while heating water, hindering classmates while delivering his sample, actively destroying Harry's samples, threatening Harry and Neville with poison..."

"And Veritaserum," Harry added.

"Yes, that too, not to mention awarding points for excellent application of hexes and jinxes on Gryffindors to Slytherin house and in turn deducting points from Gryffindors for glaring at members of his house. There was also the time when Nott pushed one of the Hufflepuff first-years aside, and she hit a wall. True, it didn't take long to heal, and it wasn't his intended result, but he still did it. Nott got a detention, the Hufflepuff too for 'provoking it' and besmirching the hallowed halls with her blood. Granted, the girl did tell him he blocked the way."

"Remember when he gave Cho Chang a detention on the eve of the game just so she'd be too tired to play well?"

"Ah, and he confiscated Dean's dangerous weapon –his potions knife –only to deduct points for not coming to class prepared, in this case, without a knife. Then there was the detention for Parvati for speaking out of turn when she accidentally burned her hand, or the ten points from Lavender for needing treatment when one of the Slytherins tipped her cauldron. Oh, and Colin told me about the detention for disturbing the peace and quiet by raising his hand to ask a question," Hermione continued.

"Points from you for being 'an insufferable know-it-all', Ron for scaring people with his face, you for trying to force yourself into the spotlight when you arrived early..."

Bill whistled. "Not bad. He seems to come up with ever more creative explanations and transgressions of common decency."

Mrs. Weasley shook her head. "No, I don't believe it. He wouldn't be at school if he wouldn't do his job properly."

Harry, recognizing a lost case when he saw one, swallowed his last piece of toast, causing Bill to nod.

"Well then, to business. To my knowledge, you wanted to visit the house to... leave a letter, right?"

"A letter to Sirius, yes," Harry confirmed. "I heard it might help with... you know." The grieving process, he finished in his mind, but kept from voicing it. He got enough pity as it was already, and he had enough to worry about without them trying to counsel him on his mourning.

Bill nodded. "It's worth a try. Now, I was asked to escort you and act as your bodyguard, Harry, and I will do so only on a few conditions; I have to think of your safety first, alright?" He ignored his mother's stern look. "You will do as I say. I don't want any trouble, you see, and you running off would count as such. We will go in, you do what you wanted to, and we leave. No sightseeing, no getting side-tracked." Harry nodded. He hadn't planned to anyway. "right. The Headmaster hoped you would reconsider your plan, as he is not convinced it is a good one..."

"See?" Mrs. Weasley broke in. "If Dumbledore does not want you to, then you shouldn't! Oh, Harry listen to me... listen to us."

Bill continued. "He also wished for me to inform you to follow my instructions and hoped you find what you are looking for during your visit since he cannot convince you to change your mind. Well then. Ready to go?"

Harry sighed. He had planned for the day for the last two weeks, ever since he had woken up from a nightmare seeing Sirius at the Ministry, but still felt dreadfully unprepared. Still, he locked eyes with Bill. "As ready as I ever will be. Thanks for doing this."

"Don't worry about it," the man said, "as long as we don't dawdle, it's fine."

And so, they left the comfortable kitchen with its food. Mrs. Weasley hugged both of them, and promised a nice meal for their return. Hermione stood to the side and bit her lip.

"You... you'll be all right, Harry?"

He fought down the smile he felt growing. He could see where she was going with this, or why she had stayed in the kitchen instead of going to the living room to read.

"You don't have to come with us. Yes, I will be all right; that's the whole reason for this, isn't it? We'll be back before you know it. Although, if you want to do something for me or to just occupy your time..."

"Yes?"

"My Herbology essay. It looks like a lot of work, so..."

He easily evaded her half-hearted swipe. Yelling "See you later!" he grabbed Bill's arm, and with the feeling of being pressed through a tube far too tight for a human, much less two, he travelled to London.


First chapter done. I guess congratulations are in order for everyone who stuck with me so far. The next chapter will be posted in about a week, just as a heads-up.

.

I changed the dialog between Harry and Bill slightly to clarify both the reason for the visit to Grimmauld Place -leaving a letter as part of his mourning process for Sirius -and make it abundantly clear Bill is to act as Harry's bodyguard, not his confidante or friend, and that he does so under the conditions he mentioned, mainly to stay focused on what they want to do -leave the letter.