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Free Life Posted on 8/16/2014 1:03:46 AM
Chapter 7: 4000 words and counting
Hero Posted on 3/25/2012 7:32:33 PM
Chapter 6 Chance and Choice: 3,600 words and counting
Long Lost Brother Posted on 4/21/2010 2:57:30 PM
Chapter 5: 0 words and counting.

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Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I in no way claim ownership of any rights to the Harry Potter Universe.

Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who has reviewed, and thank you to Maggie for all her help.

Chapter 3: The Dog Days of Summer
Harry heard a distant bark and stilled, waiting. It was followed by two quick barks, another pause, and a final bark. Nodding to himself, he sidled up to the window and slowly, silently leveraged himself onto the sill. The small tree mocked him just beyond his reach as he eyed the ground below. It was not getting down that was the problem but getting back up. He reached back into the house and grabbed the rope he had already attached to the bed which was buttressed up against the wall beneath the window. Giving it another sharp tug to verify the sturdiness of his setup, Harry lowered the rope out the window.

It began to coil up on the ground until he finally ran out of slack. Foregoing the rope for the sake of both expediency and a cheap thrill, he leapt off the windowsill and crouched down into a roll to absorb the impact of his descent. If there was one thing growing up with the Dursleys had taught him, it was how to take a fall. Standing up, he brushed the grass off his shoulder as he crouched in the shadow of the tree. He looked around to ensure no one was present as he donned his Invisibility Cloak. It made sense to him now why Dumbledore had given the cloak to him rather than Thomas – and urged him to keep it secret. Bloody manipulative bastard!

Invisible to the world around him, Harry walked out of the tree’s shadow and right down the walkway with a quiet confidence. When he arrived at the park, he scanned the area but could not find his quarry. He walked slowly towards the playground and lightly brushed one of the swings. A casual observer could have attributed it to the wind were it not the only swing affected. A large but emaciated dog emerged from some nearby bushes, sniffing the air repeatedly. Harry smiled to himself.

“Over here, Snuffles,” he whispered.

The dog’s head perked up and trotted over to him, no longer affected by his seeming disembodiment. Harry removed the cloak as his godfather reverted to his proper form. Before he even had time to take in his appearance, Harry was swept up in a crushing embrace. No words were said until after his godfather released him, but the man grasped his shoulder as Harry stepped away.

“How are you?” Sirius asked, his tone conveying exactly how loaded that question was.

“All right,” he replied with a shrug. Sirius did not look at all impressed with the response. “Honestly. I’m sad and angry about what happened to Thomas, but you have to understand, he was more like a distant relative than a brother. I already lost him as a brother years ago.”

He could see the emotion swirling through his godfather’s eyes and reciprocated. “How are you holding up?”

“I’m bloody furious,” Sirius bit out, and Harry could hear his struggle to keep his voice down to barely more than a whisper. “Not only at Voldemort either. I didn’t even get to see him – all because…” he trailed off, cursing viciously.

“Dumbledore,” Harry supplied tersely, knowing that anger all too well.

Sirius nodded. “He said it was too dangerous to approach Tom or the Rhodes, said they were likely to hex me on sight. He bloody refused to try to explain to them the truth saying he was unsure how they would take it and was unwilling to risk either of their positions should the Rhodes react poorly. And now – now I’ll never get the chance…”

Harry grimaced, unsure how to comfort this man he barely knew but was so intimately connected to. He clapped a hand on his shoulder and waited as Sirius struggled to regain control over his frayed emotions. It was clear that his twelve years in Azkaban still had a tremendous effect on him.

“I’ll never forgive him for splitting the two of you up,” Sirius spat. “That man is so convinced of his own cleverness that it never occurs to him how wrong his ideas might be.”

“You have no idea,” Harry agreed with a short, hollow chuckle.

Sirius looked at him sharply. “What do you mean?”

Harry sobered immediately. “He called me into his office after – er – the day before the leaving feast ostensibly to see how I was coping.” Harry shook his head. “It’s still rather unbelievable just how much he’s fucked with my life. He told me that Thomas wasn’t the one to survive the Killing Curse.”

Sirius’ eyes widened. “That fucking bastard!” Harry watched as he began to pace back and forth. He could pick out various muttered words that were none-too-flattering directed at his esteemed headmaster.

It was several minutes before he began to wind down, and Harry continued, telling Sirius the pathetic justifications Dumbledore had fed to him to defend his decision. When he had finally finished his monologue, Sirius gave him a level stare. “Did he tell you anything else?”

“He said something about a connection,” Harry answered. He lifted the fringe covering his forehead and explained about the lightning-bolt-shaped scar he received from the Killing Curse.

Sirius looked disturbed at this revelation but seemed to take the information in stride. As soon as Harry finished, Sirius queried, “He didn’t tell you about why you were targeted? Why Voldemort came after you?”

“You mean why he was after my parents?” Harry retorted.

Sirius shook his head sharply. “He wasn’t after your parents. They went into hiding to protect you and Tommy.”

Harry stared blankly at his godfather as his mind caught up with that statement. “What do you mean? Why would he be after us? We were only babies…”

“There was a prophecy,” Sirius interjected, halting Harry’s speech and thoughts. “I never heard it, but I know the gist. Said either you, Tommy, or the Longbottom boy would be the one to defeat Voldemort. Dumbledore convinced both your parents and the Longbottoms to go into hiding. James and Lily…” he choked on their names and rubbed harshly at his eyes. “Well, you know what happened there. The Longbottoms aren’t any better off. In St. Mungo’s from what I hear, driven mad by the Cruciatus.”

Harry’s mind whirled as he processed this new information. He had never taken Divination, but he understood the basics of how prophecies worked. They hardly ever meant what you thought, and the more you tried to manipulate events away from a prophesized event, the more you ended up playing directly into the prophecy. They tended to be self-fulfilling in that way, leaving you to wonder if the prophecy would have even played out had the concerned parties not been aware of it in the first place.

It was too late to avoid that, though. Voldemort apparently knew it already, as did Dumbledore. That left him at a significant disadvantage. “Do you think the prophecy was already fulfilled?” he asked suddenly. “I mean, he was defeated. Not permanently, it seems, but…”

“I don’t know, Harry,” Sirius admitted. “As I said, I don’t know the wording, just the basic message.”

“Is there any way you could find out?” Harry asked, though he held little hope.

“I don’t expect Dumbledore would share it,” Sirius scoffed.

“No,” Harry agreed. “If he had any plans to tell me the prophecy, it would have been when he had me in his office. Is there any other way we can find out what it said?”

“They keep records of prophecies in the Department of Mysteries,” Sirius replied but quickly shook his head when Harry was about to respond. “You can’t just waltz right in there, and we need to make sure neither Voldemort nor Dumbledore are aware you’re even looking. This needs careful planning.”

Harry nodded his head begrudgingly. He knew his godfather was right, but he did not like it. Sometimes the best course of action was inaction. Sirius could not even go near the Ministry without getting tossed back into Azkaban or worse. If Harry paid the Ministry a visit asking to see a prophecy, it would set off red flags to both Voldemort and Dumbledore. He would need to learn more about the Department of Mysteries and the Ministry in general to have any hopes of getting at that prophecy.

“I suppose that means I’ll have to continue to lie low this summer,” Harry stated.

“Isn’t that what they train you in Slytherin?” Sirius teased. “To appear innocent in public while you plan and scheme in private?”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Harry retorted.

Sirius chuckled. “No, I reckon it’s exactly what you need right now.”

“What will you do?” Harry inquired.

“We all have our parts to play,” his godfather said furtively. “Dumbledore is reforming the Order of the Phoenix, a group created in the first war to oppose Voldemort. Being a former member, I will, of course, be expected to join up.”

“I don’t suppose you can keep me informed of what’s going on?”

Sirius sighed. “We don’t have any secure lines of communication…”

“So anything valuable would be too risky to send in post,” Harry finished, nodding.

“I’ll do what I can,” he promised.

“Thank you,” Harry said.

“You’re my godson, Harry,” Sirius choked out. “You and Moony are the only family I have left. I will do anything for you.” He stepped forward and pulled Harry into a tight embrace. Harry returned the hug and stepped back a moment later. With a nod, Sirius returned to his canine form, and Harry covered himself in his invisibility cloak. Godfather and godson went their separate ways.

******

“Thank you for having me, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry stated as the woman attempted to squeeze the life out of him.

“Nonsense, dear,” she admonished. “You are always welcome in this house. Now,” she said, pulling back but holding his shoulders at arms’ length, “let me get a look at you.” She tutted disapprovingly. “You are far too skinny! Don’t those Muggles feed you? I swear, I will never understand why you didn’t grow up with…” she trailed off, sympathy and self-recrimination shining in her eyes. “Well, lunch should be ready shortly. I’m sure you and Ginny will want to catch up. Oh, and you’ll be sharing with Ron, dear. Top of the stairs. He can help you with your trunk.”

Harry waited until she turned around before allowing his face to reflect his feelings about sharing a room with Ron. He turned to Ginny, and she rolled her eyes at him. “Come on, I’ll help you with your trunk,” she said, grabbing one end as he hurried to pick up the other and follow. When they arrived at the top of the stairs and entered the single door, Harry had to stop and blink at the sight that greeted him. “Ron’s a big fan of the Cannons and has absolutely no sense for décor.”

Harry gave her a long-suffering look that stated clearly his feelings on the matter. “Buck up, it’s only for a few days and then we’re back at Hogwarts. You can retreat to your dank, dirty dungeon and I to my nice, plush tower.”

Harry rolled his eyes and found her tongue sticking out at him in reply. “I can think of better uses for that, thank you,” he said, grabbing her hand and tugging her close.

Ginny blushed scarlet but was only too happy to turn her head up as he lowered his lips to hers.

“Get your bloody hands off my sister!” a voice roared from the open doorway.

Ginny broke off the kiss, and Harry turned as Ron stomped threateningly into the room. Ron made to push his shoulder, but Harry caught his hand and merely raised an eyebrow at the overprotective display. If Ron thought he was intimidated by his height, he would find himself sorely mistaken. Harry might not be tall or particularly built, but he had a wiry strength that most underestimated. Plus, wizards were notorious for their lack of physical exercise – particularly purebloods. Harry was confident any physical altercations would come out in his favor – not that he expected to come to blows with the boy.

Harry let the hand go as Ginny stepped between him and Ron. “My boyfriend was giving me a kiss hello considering we haven’t seen each other since school ended. Perhaps if any girl was desperate or stupid enough to want anything to do with you, you might know how these types of relationships work. If you try that again, you will have bat-bogeys flapping in your face for a week. Got it?”

Then again, maybe they would come to blows. Ron’s face practically glowed at the insult, and he took a menacing step towards his sister.

“What is going on up here?” Mrs. Weasley demanded as she made her way into the overcrowded room.

Ron quickly backed away and turned to his mother while Ginny continued to glare. “I caught them snogging up here in my bedroom.”

Mrs. Weasley turned to them as Ginny leapt to their defense. “We were not snogging, Ronald. Harry just gave me a kiss. He is my boyfriend.”

Her mum studied Ginny and then turned her gaze on him. He knew better than to try to adopt an innocent face and kept his face neutral as he nodded his agreement to Ginny’s statement.

“Very well,” Mrs. Weasley stated.

“Mum!”

“Hush, Ronald,” she rebuked.

“But Mum…”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she interrupted, hands on her hips. “Now why don’t you go downstairs while I have a talk with Ginny and Harry.”

Ron glared at Harry before stomping out of the room.

When Ron’s footsteps began to fade as he descended the stairs, Mrs. Weasley began. “Ginny, Harry, I do not doubt you wanted a chance to say a proper hello in private; however, I do not want to find the two of you spending time alone in Ronald’s bedroom or your own, Ginevra. If you want some time alone, you may go outside or downstairs. No one is in the lounge at this time. And I better not find the two of you alone behind closed doors, is that clear?”

“Yes, Mum,” Ginny replied.

“Yes, Mrs. Weasley.”

“Good,” she responded. “Now, lunch is ready, so let’s see you down to the kitchen.”

Harry visited the loo on the way down and entered the kitchen to find Ron already eating. Ginny was seated with a full, untouched plate in front of her and looked up as he entered. He gave her a smile as he claimed the seat beside hers.

The twins entered from outdoors moments later and halted their conversation as they took in his presence. “Harry, you slimy old Slytherin, how are you?”

“They let you out of the dungeons for a few days to visit us surface dwellers, mate?”

“Oh, you know, being the heir and all,” he responded with a quick glance at Ginny who smiled unaffected at his comment, “I practically have the run of the place. Minions bowing at my feet all day. It gets tiring, so I do enjoy the occasional trip to the surface to see the common folk.”

Ron glowered into his food and grumbled something unintelligible as his brothers took seats on either side of him. “Oh ho, what’s this I hear?”

“Is our dear brother not paying such a prominent figure the proper respect?”

“You see it often in the commoners,” Harry inserted off-handedly. “Of course yourselves and the lovely lady at my side managed to rise above such limitations, but not all are as gifted.”

“Hear hear,” they called in unison.

“Settle down, settle down,” Mrs. Weasley admonished as she entered from the yard, presumably from calling in her sons.

Harry filled his plate and dug into the meal, quickly coming to the conclusion that Ginny had not lied. Her mother really was good in the kitchen. Much better than he was, not that that said much. It was too soon to tell, but he thought her cooking might compare favorably to the fare offered at Hogwarts, and considering their staff of house elves, that was saying something.

After the meal he and Ginny took her mum’s advice and went outdoors to gain some privacy. She led him in a mock-tour around the property, and he happily listened as she shared stories from her childhood. They came upon a stream and decided to sit in the shade on the bank.

“It feeds into a pond just around the bend, there,” Ginny explained, pointing. “We used to go swimming there all the time – still do when it gets really hot, but we don’t use it nearly as much anymore.”

“I’ve never been swimming,” Harry commented idly and felt Ginny start at his side.

“Really?” she asked, arching her eyebrows incredulously.

He shrugged. “My relatives never took me to a pool or the beach, and they certainly weren’t going to go out of their way to teach me to swim. Why take away one more way they could be rid of me?”

“I hate when you talk like that,” she admonished.

Harry turned and studied her with a half-smile. “If you can’t develop a sense of humor about your life, you’ll end up miserable.”

“See, that, right there,” she pointed out. “I hate that. I hate that your life has been so terrible that you think that way.”

Harry smiled at her. “And I like that your life has been so good that you can’t imagine why I would think that way.”

“It hasn’t been all good,” she reminded him darkly, and Harry nodded in agreement.

“Yes, I know, but you have this to come home to,” he replied, gesturing grandly around him. “And a family that adores you. If you didn’t have at least a bit of misery in your life I’m afraid I wouldn’t know how to even talk to you.”

“Are you saying you’re glad I went through that?” she retorted, fire shining in her eyes.

“Of course not,” he assured her, reaching out to caress her hand. “I’m just happy for the person you are, shaped by all your experiences – the good and the bad.”

She smiled at him, and he leaned in for a kiss. As he pulled away a long moment later, she commented, “You’re too good at that.”

“Oh?” Harry remarked smugly.

“Not that,” she exclaimed, slapping his arm. “I didn’t mean kissing, though you are very good at that too – not that I have anything to compare it to. No, you just always know exactly what to say. Not just with me either.”

He raised an eyebrow, silently asking her to elaborate. “Like with the twins. They prank everybody under the sun. No one is safe, but they’ve never touched you, even after you took me to the Yule Ball. The only other person spared from their wrath is Lee Jordan, and he’s their best friend. And why? I think they see you as some sort of kindred spirit or something, and your little show at lunch is exactly the reason why. You play to their humor perfectly.”

Harry studied her for a long moment considering how to reply. “I guess I’ve always had to be careful how I act around different people. Living with my relatives is a given, but even at Hogwarts. Slytherin isn’t the safest place for the brother to the – to the Boy-Who-Lived,” he explained, stumbling over his brother’s appellation. “I needed to know how to handle different people to make them like me enough not to pick on me. I’ll always be an outcast, but people like me and respect me enough to not go out of their way to cause trouble for me.”

“Why couldn’t that stupid hat put you somewhere else,” Ginny muttered. “Like Gryffindor.”

“I think you’re a little biased,” Harry teased. “It actually gave me the choice between Slytherin and Hufflepuff.”

“And you chose Slytherin?” she questioned. He nodded. “Why?”

“It told me that in Slytherin I could prove myself to be my parents’ son,” he replied.

Ginny stared at him uncomprehendingly. “But that’s – your parents were Gryffindors!”

Harry nodded. “I wondered about it for a long time too, especially after being told by your brother that my parents would be ashamed of me being sorted into Slytherin.” He laughed as Ginny scowled at her brother’s tactless comment. “I thought the hat had tricked me, but I think now the hat meant that Slytherin is where I’d learn the most, become the strongest. Makes me wonder now if the hat knew the truth about me and Thomas.”

Ginny said nothing in response, and Harry took the quiet moment to study her and their surroundings. This was exactly the kind of thing he had dreamed of growing up – a friend, he was not so interested in girls at that time, to share the quiet moments with. Someone who understood him and accepted him for who he was. Maybe Hufflepuff would have given him several friends to spend his days with, but with Ginny there by his side, Harry could not bring himself to regret his decision. He had never dreamt of having a hundred friends, after all – only one.

Ginny shifted by his side, bringing his attention back to her. “Maybe tomorrow I could teach you to swim,” she suggested, her gaze directed in the direction of the pond.

Harry reached clasped her hand and intertwined their fingers, bringing her focus back to him. “I’d like that.”

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