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*Chapter 1*
The houses in privet drive were filled with an unnatural silence, one which could only compare to the times in the previous year when drought had forced the inhabitants of Little Whinging to stay inside. This summer, however, a cool breeze shook the trees in the abandoned park and clouds floated around happily in the clear blue sky. On a day like this, normally one would expect people to be outside. But no, the start of this summer had started in a peculiar manner that only a teenage boy, sweeping the lawn on Privet Drive nº 4, could explain. The boy wore round glasses, had messy black hair, and wouldn't have looked uncommon if it hadn't been for the crooked scar on his forehead and his bright green eyes. But he was nowhere near ordinary; he was Harry Potter, the wizard chosen to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named. "Boy! Are you done yet?" Aunt Petunia stuck her head out of the living room window, looking suspiciously at Harry as if he couldn't possibly be left alone this long with the broomstick without trying to fly away on it. "Yes, Aunt Petunia," Harry said dully, and waited for his Aunt to open to kitchen door before following her inside. "Eat this!" she said, handing him some butter and a piece of stale toast. After the events of the previous summer Harry's aunt was doing her best to be completely nasty to him again. "What about lunch?" Harry asked, looking down at the minuscule toast and feeling his stomach churn from the work and the hunger. "Dudley's bringing his girlfriend here for lunch, and he doesn't want you here making a bad impression." Harry dropped down onto one the chairs and began buttering his toast, feeling irritated at his cousin. Dudley didn't dare insult Harry to his face anymore after what had happened with the Dementors (he was still convinced Harry had conjured them there) but he still managed to make his parents bully Harry from time to time. Harry sighed, and took a bite from the toast while watching Aunt Petunia bustle around cleaning the kitchen for the umpteenth time. He wondered how someone could be this calm, in light of everything that had happened in the last four weeks. Muggles disappeared all over the place, many were found dead from unexplained causes and dozens of people reported to seeing things no one had ever heard of! Not to mention the huge foot-like gaps that had been found in some mountain villages to the north of France. This was what he could make out from several sources, Muggle news, the Daily Prophet and Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s frantic conversations when they thought he couldn’t hear. He had to admit, if he was anyone else he wouldn’t be pleased having The Boy Who Lived in his house at a time like this. He understood why the Dursleys didn’t care; they didn’t understand the scope of what Voldemort meant as well as he did. They believed in coincidences and in the unreliability of the witnesses (more like insanity). But what about Mrs. Weasley, for example? She’d always been very kind to him, but would she still be willing him to come to their place for the summer now that it was clear that anyone who came close to Harry, like Sirius, died? Harry’s heart sank as he bit more ferociously into his toast. Another month with the Dursleys wasn’t something he thought he could stand…. Sure, they’d been nicer, more careful around him because of Moody’s warning at the end of last year- Harry almost choked on his toast swallowing an overlarge piece- but when Dudley brought some stupid girl home he couldn’t even have a proper meal. The bell rang, and Aunt Petunia scuttled to the front door whilst removing her apron. “Out of sight, boy!” she hissed, and reluctantly Harry stood up to make his way to the stairs. * * * Entering the hall, he curiously cast a sideways look to the girl in the open doorway, wondering who would possibly fall for the bullying hippo that was his cousin. Sure, with all the wrestling and dieting he looked more intimidating than ever (not to mention his recent love for Metal, meaning he had purchased a ridiculous number of chains and spikes) but that was who he was in the end, a cowardly bullying git. “Let’s go in, D, I’m starving,” a high-pitched Umbridge-like voice drawled from behind Dudley. He walked into the hallway, and Harry saw a trashy version of Fleur Delacour following him. Harry rolled his eyes, climbing up the staircase to his bedroom. He could just hear the girl hissing “That’s your delinquent cousin from St. Brutus’s, isn’t it?” before he closed the door behind him. Harry grinned, wondering how anyone in their right mind could think he looked like a delinquent compared to Dudley. Just when Harry thought he’d take a nap, for there really wasn’t much else to do, he heard a pecking noise on his window and hurried to open it. Pigwidgeon flew in, carrying two letters tied to his minuscule legs. Two was apparently more than he could hold, because the little owl slumped down on Hedwig’s cage, who hooted disapprovingly. Harry tied the first letter from Pig’s leg, recognizing Ron’s handwriting. Dear Harry, How’re you doing? I hope what my dad said at the train station helped, are the muggles treating you okay? Anyway, this is going to be a short letter. I just wanted to say I’m staying at Grimmauld Place for the moment, it’s easier that way because half the family’s in the Order. I’ve asked Hermione to stay already, but she said she’s got to study for her N.E.W.T’S (can you believe her?). Well, write back pronto saying if you can come. Ron. Ps. I’ve sent Pigwidgeon past Hermione because I know she hasn’t got an owl and she might want to write. Harry laughed, putting the letter away and pulling the second one off Pigwidgeon’s leg. It was what he had expected; Hermione’s neat handwriting at the top of the piece of parchment. Dear Harry, I’m glad Ron let me use Pigwidgeon even though he was a bit mad at me. I think he’s insulted that I’d prefer to study for my N.E.W.T’S rather than go stay at Grimmauld Place with him. I’m sure he’ll get over it, but that’s not the point. I told him that because I actually want you to stay at my place for the next couple of weeks. I’ve already written to Dumbledore and he says it’s okay, he doesn’t think anything can happen to you there and besides, he’s keeping my place watched too. I don’t think he reckons it’s safe for you to be hearing all the Order’s discussions with you-know-who listening in. But anyway, that’s not why I want you to stay. I know it’s dreadful at the Dursleys, and at Grimmauld Place you’re only going to be reminded of Sirius. I don’t want you to go through that. But if you don’t mind it, then I’ll write to Ron and say I’ve changed my mind and we’re both coming. Unfortunately I can’t invite Ron to my house because my parents say one boy is more than enough. Love, Hermione Harry looked over the letter again, frowning. He folded it up and dropped down onto his bed, thinking hard of what to do. It was true, Grimmauld Place would make him feel terrible thinking of Sirius, remembering his death over and over again. But Ron would be upset if Harry didn’t come either, he was sure of that. On the other hand…. Ron had a bunch of brothers and a sister there, and Harry had never seen Hermione’s house. Her parents were muggles, but they didn’t seem the Dursley types. It would be nice staying with Hermione for a while, not worrying about the war-torn wizarding world. But could he really be alone with Hermione that long without telling her about the Prophecy? Harry stared at the two letters, wondering what he could do. Then Sirius’ face popped into his mind, that sunken, hollow face which had once been handsome. He imagined Sirius giving his bark-like laugh… Harry stood up resolutely, and grabbed his quill and a parchment. Dear Hermione, he wrote. Alright, I’ll stay at your place. I’m not really looking forward to going to Grimmauld Place after what happened. I hope Ron won’t be too mad. But on the other hand, he did keep me in the dark all last summer so he deserves a little of that too I suppose. So when can I come? Harry Harry folded the letter up and tied it Pigwidgeon’s leg. He decided to send the letter explaining to Ron that he wouldn’t come with Hedwig; he didn’t think the tiny Pig could take another double trip, and besides, Ron wouldn’t be able to murder Hedwig in anger, she was too strong for him. With this in mind, Harry slumped onto his bed again and fell into a long, deep sleep. * * * The next morning Harry was woken up by his uncle, who was thumping on the door with all his might, and yelling: “HOW MANY TIMES BOY, HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU THEY SHOULDN’T CALL??!” Harry sat up in his bed, squinting at the door. What had gotten into uncle Vernon? What was he talking about? Harry got up quickly and ran to open the door. Uncle Vernon stood in the hallway, the face under his huge moustache purple. That was never a good sign. “What is it?” Harry asked, a politely puzzled expression on his face. Uncle Vernon didn’t answer, but instead dragged him across the hall to a table in Vernon and Petunia’s bedroom. Aunt Petunia was sitting up in bed, staring at them wide-eyed and muttering about the noise and what the neighbors must think. Uncle Vernon flung the telephone to Harry, who caught it and picked up the horn, having some inkling of what this was about. “Hello?” he asked hesitantly. Hermione’s anxious voice answered him at the other end. “Harry, are you alright? I’m sorry, I just didn’t want to send Pigwidgeon back again and this seemed easier. Is your uncle very mad?” Harry looked up to see Uncle Vernon fuming, towering over him and looking as if about to strike. “No, it’s okay. So you got my letter?” he realized it was a stupid question, but this was really the first time he’d had a proper conversation over the phone so he wasn’t used to it. “Yes, Harry, I can’t wait to see you! I’m coming by around noon to pick you up, is that alright?” Harry grinned widely. “Yeah, that’s more than alright.” Uncle Vernon cleared his throat impatiently, and Aunt Petunia’s muttering got louder. “I’ve got to go now,” Harry said in a hurry, “I’ll see you later!” He waited for Hermione to say good-bye and hung up, feeling happier than he had in weeks. * * * Harry explained in detail to his aunt and uncle that the Grangers were muggles, dentists and that they certainly didn’t carry wands. This wasn’t enough for Dudley, however, who left in a great hurry to meet up with his girlfriend just before noon. Harry didn’t care, in fact; the less Dursleys the better. “Are you sure it’s not that dreadful man with the blue eye and that rebellious pink-haired woman?” Aunt Petunia interrogated him nervously. Harry shook his head at that amusing description of Moody and Tonks, tired of all the questions and just hoping Hermione would come soon. Just as he thought this, a car honked on road outside and the Dursleys sped to the window as one to see who it was. Harry sighed, dragging his previously packed trunks and broomstick outside with him. He was glad to see the Granger’s car was an ordinary purple Volvo, and even gladder to see a girl with bushy brown hair leaning against it, waving. Harry smiled, and carried his trunks to the car. He dropped them on the sidewalk, and caught Hermione who had lunged forward to hug him. “Harry! Harry, I’m so happy to see you!” Harry smiled into the mass of bushy hair, and loosened Hermione’s grip to take some air. She looked him over from head to foot, smiling warmly. “Wow, Harry, you’ve grown at least a foot since I last saw you! I shudder to think of how large Ron’s gotten.” She picked up one of his trunks and they walked to the back of the Granger’s car, where Mr. Granger opened the trunk. “Hello Harry, I believe we’ve met before?” Harry nodded, and helped lift his belongings into the car. Then they all sat down inside, Harry missing a shrieking Crookshanks by a few inches. “Oops- sorry Harry, didn’t know she was still in here.” Hermione scooted over to make room for Harry, who closed the door behind them. “Shouldn’t I go inside to meet your aunt and uncle?” Mr. Granger asked, looking into the rear view mirror. “Um… That’s okay, they’re… rather busy at the moment,” Harry said awkwardly, looking at the Dursley’s faces pressed up against the living room window. “Alright then,” Mr. Granger said amicably, and started the car. Hermione’s place was about an hour away, and Harry did plenty of catching up with Hermione on the way there. “So, what’ve you done so far this summer?” he asked her, noticing she seemed rather pale as opposed to tanned which one usually was in the summer. He remembered how brown Hermione had been after her trip to France. Perhaps she’d been skiing again? “I-“ Hermione hesitated. “Go on, I won’t laugh,” Harry said. Hermione’s father answered for her. “Didn’t you know? Hermione went to visit her friend Victoria in Bulgaria up until last week.” Harry snorted, but fell quiet at a threatening look from Hermione. “Really? Victoria?” He said, highly amused. “They wouldn’t let me go if they knew it was a boy,” Hermione said in an undertone. “What about all those times you’ve stayed with Ron?” Harry whispered. “That was different, my parents met the Weasleys. Victor’s in a whole different country and they don’t know his parents. Plus he’s older…” Mr. Granger looked into the rear view mirror again curiously, to see what they were doing. “So, how old is this Victoria anyway?” Harry asked, loudly so her father could hear. “Twenty. Mature friends I have, don’t I?” Hermione replied with a grin. Harry imagined the look on Ron’s face when they told him Hermione had spent three weeks in Bulgaria with the twenty-year old Viktor Krum. “You know Harry, I don’t think we should tell Ron yet,” Hermione added, guessing his thoughts. “You know how much he likes Victoria. He’d probably just go rambling on and on about how smart and pretty she is..” Harry smirked. * * * Upon arriving at Hermione’s house, Harry, Hermione and Mr. Granger got out of the purple Volvo and unloaded the trunks, broomstick, and Hedwig’s empty cage. Harry hoped Hedwig would have the sense to come here instead of to the Dursleys. She always had in the past. “Nice place you’ve got, Hermione!” Harry said, staring up at the large, square house in front of him. It was proper enough for the Dursleys to have felt comfortable in, but lacked the cold orderliness of privet drive. The Granger’s house was detached, painted a cool blue color and had several verandas and tall, open windows. The yard in front of it looked inviting, with many trees, garden-gnomes (the Muggle ones that Ron would have laughed at) and swings. Hermione smiled shyly and took over Hedwig’s cage to carry inside. “So where am I sleeping?” Harry asked, thinking this would probably not be as simple as staying at the Weasleys. “In the guest bedroom,” Hermione replied, as they stood waiting for the front door to be opened. “Hello, nice to see you again Harry!” Mrs. Granger said, taking some of his trunks from him. She and Mr. Granger carried them away to a back room. Now Hermione and Harry were left alone in the hallway, and for the first time in his life it felt a bit odd to be standing there like that, just the two of them. Suddenly Harry wished Ron could have come as well. “Er… Have you had lunch yet?” Hermione asked, and Harry smiled thankfully. “Yesterday I had a bit of toast, and half an orange this morning, so yeah I’m hungry,” Harry admitted. Hermione looked shocked, as if it dawned on her for the first time that the Dursleys might actually treat him badly. “Come into the kitchen! I’ve got sandwiches and milk. It’s no pumpkin juice, but my parents… Dentists you know, very healthy people. Can’t even bring soda into the house without them complaining.” Hermione looked anxious, as if determined to prove Harry’s family wasn’t the only horrible one. It didn’t really help, though. Harry would’ve given anything for some over-worried parents. * * * The days passed by, and Harry got worried when Hedwig didn’t return. Grimmauld Place wasn’t that far away, after all. When she finally did come back, there was no answer, and Harry’s fears of Ron being upset were confirmed. He tried not to worry, though, and rather spent his time with Hermione watching television, using the computer (devices which Harry wasn’t allowed to touch or come near to at the Dursleys), playing Exploding Snap, going out to the city or to restaurant’s with Hermione’s parents or playing football with her neighbours. Harry had never interacted with Muggle boys and girls in Little Whinging; those that weren’t part of Dudley’s gang were afraid that they might beat them up for hanging out with him, or simply thought he was a mad delinquent. Therefore Harry wasn’t exactly the amazing athlete he was in the Quidditch field, but he did alright. Keeping was what he was best at; unsurprising since it also meant grabbing a flying ball. Hermione didn’t participate in the football matches, she preferred to read thick volumes or scribble long letters that Harry presumed were to Krum. All the while, Hermione helped Harry every night when he got to bed to clear his mind, empty it of all thought as Snape had taught him so he could get to sleep without seeing images or feeling that searing pain in his scar. * * * One night when Harry was lying in bed and Hermione was kneeling next to him on the floor, he felt it was hard feeling drowsy again after what had happened. Earlier that day the Daily Prophet had arrived, reporting another huge Muggle killing not far from where Hermione lived. Harry wondered what would happen if a giant were to step on Privet Drive nº four, squashing the Dursleys as they slept. Not that he would mind too much. He would have given anything for their lives to be traded in with Sirius… “Harry, you’re not concentrating!” Hermione said annoyedly. “I know when you’re thinking of something, your eyebrows get into a frown.” Harry heaved a sigh and sat up, leaning against the wall. He heard Hermione sigh exasperatedly through the darkness. “Well, I’m sorry, but you try doing Occlumency when there’s a million things going on inside your head!” He saw Hermione’s expression change in the moonlight, and she held his hand sympathetically. “I know it’s not easy. Being you when all this is happening… And after last year, with what happened in the department of mysteries… But you can’t keep feeling guilty about Sirius’s death and going over it again and again.” “I’m not feeling guilty!” Harry snapped, pulling away his hand. He hated it when people felt sorry for him, especially Hermione. “I blame that stupid slimy git Kreacher, you know I do. And don’t start defending him!” he threatened, raising his voice slightly. The last thing he wanted now was to hear Hermione’s SPEW ramblings, saying he wasn’t right in his mind, that it was Sirius’ fault for mistreating him. “It’s okay, I won’t defend him,” Hermione said quietly. Harry sunk down onto his pillow again, and fidgeted with his glasses. Finally he took them off and put them on his nightstand. He could still feel Hermione’s eyes on him, observing him. “Is there something else on your mind, Harry?” she asked carefully. Harry wanted to shake his head, but turned it into a half-nod. “D’you want to tell me about it?” Hermione went on tentatively. “No,” Harry said, rather briskly. Hermione grabbed his hand again. “Please, Harry, I might be able to help! We need to get it out of the way to clear your mind properly.” Harry let out a short laugh, which reminded him unpleasantly of Sirius’ bark-like laugh. “You can’t help.” He said, and added miserably, “No one can help.” “Just tell me, Harry, I promise I’ll keep it to myself,” she pleaded. That was really the least of Harry’s worries. But maybe he really would feel better telling her about the prophecy? She’d find out in the end, anyway. “I…” Harry hesitated. Hermione looked up expectantly, but said nothing. “Last year’s prophecy… I never told anyone, but Dumbledore had heard it before and he told me what was said.” Hermione gripped into his hands so hard it was almost painful. “What did it say, Harry?” “It said… It said…” there really was no way to make it sound better than it was, so Harry decided to just be straightforward about it. “It said I was the only one with the power to destroy Voldemort-“ Hermione gasped “-and that he would.. mark me as an equal.. I reckon that’s what the scar’s for… and-“ Harry didn’t want to make Hermione look anymore worried than she already did. But suddenly he felt overwhelmed with the burden of his secret, and it was as if it spilled out of him: “and one of us would ultimately have to die for the other to live.” Harry’s words echoed in the long silence that followed. It was only broken by Hermione’s distressed gasps and sobs, which Harry took closing his tired eyes and waiting for her to finish. “Oh, Harry!” to his bewilderment, Hermione crawled into the bed next to him and put her arms around him tightly, pressing him close and sobbing into his shoulder. Harry looked down at the bushy head in astonishment, and patted her back somewhat awkwardly. “I’m.. I’m fine, Hermione,” he said, but Hermione just lifted her tear soaked face at Harry and cried harder. “How- how are you ever going to kill V-v-voldemort?” “I dunno, I s’pect it’ll be the other way round,” Harry said dully. To his surprise, Hermione stopped crying and stroked Harry’s face carefully. “No,” she said in an oddly calm voice. “I know you’ll win in the end, you always do.” She kissed him on the cheek and curled up next to him, falling asleep quickly. Harry watched her, not able to do the same. His heart sunk when he thought of letting her down and how much it would hurt her if he was gone… * * * Harry woke up in a very comfortable position. He was lying under Hermione’s soft weight, her bushy hair fluttering up every time he took a breath. Without moving, Harry cast a sideways glance on the clock on his bedside table. It was almost seven o’clock. Suddenly Harry realized it probably wasn’t a good idea for Hermione’s parents to barge in right now and find them like this. He moved Hermione carefully, and she rolled off him. “Wha-?” Hermione looked up groggily. Harry laughed. Her hair was even bigger in the morning, apparently. How she combed it was a mystery. Footsteps echoed outside in the hallway, and Hermione stood up in a flash, looking horrified. “My parents!” she cried, still managing to keep her voice down. Harry grinned as Hermione made a strange maneuver and climbed out the window. Luckily the guest bedroom was on the first floor. Hermione’s parents didn’t seem to have noticed anything. Although Mrs. Granger looked at him in a rather odd way at breakfast… Nevertheless, nothing more was said and another week passed smoothly without any events. Harry found it a bit strange being around Hermione, however. It was as if what had happened that night would never go away. Harry cared about Hermione very much, and he couldn’t stand her being so worried about him. Now whenever she saw him she’d be reminded of what was still to come… After a long football match Harry returned to the house, sweating profusely and panting. He went straight up to Hermione’s room, wondering why she hadn’t come to watch. Maybe she didn’t even stand the sight of him anymore? Harry went into her room, and his mouth opened wide when he saw who was sitting on the bed…

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