Warnings - This fic will have dark themes and slash.
Disclaimer - I do not own the Harry Potter series
A/N - This picks up after OOtP. Some plot points will remain the same others will change.
Harry Potter was once again lying on his bed staring at his ceiling. This was a habit he had found himself getting into every night since returning to the Dursleys three weeks earlier. He had done it so often that he was able to count exactly how many leaves were on Number Two's tree from the shadow cast by the street lamp and how many layers of paint there were due to the crack Dudley had caused in a tantrum many years ago.
Instead of the usual torment his relatives would subject him to, Harry found himself ignoring them completely. He emerged from the smallest bedroom only for meals and when the need to use the bathroom reached a dangerous climax. His uncle appeared to be enjoying Harry's new-found introverted attitude, but he always got the feeling that Petunia and Dudley wanted to say something to him.
Harry didn't talk to anyone though. His responses to Hermione and Ron's letters were rarely more than a few sentences and anyone else who bothered to write were lucky to get a few words in response, if that. The pain of losing Sirius was still far too raw to contemplate. Every time he closed his eyes for even a second he would see his godfather falling through the ghostly veil all over again, which is why he had fallen into the depressing habit of staring at an empty ceiling.
Every night he willed himself to stay awake, to try and force the inevitable to not happen. It was always the same however. He would fight it until the early hours, up until his mind finally betrayed him and would turn off. A few hours later he always found himself awake, sweating and sometimes even crying. The dreams were always painful and always vivid. He dreamt of graveyards and dead friends. Of a godfather who didn't need to die, of parents he never had the chance to know and of the horrors yet to happen.
Logically he knew it was just his brain playing tricks on him, but that gave him no comfort. Logically he also knew that what he dreamed of had every possibility of happening again. He wished he could have the silly nightmares that his friends had. Ones where he was being chased by purple elephants or forced to tap dance by giant talking spiders. Harry Potter was never destined to be normal.
Tonight was slightly different to the 21 others he had spent in this room since the end of term, tonight, Harry at least had something to focus on. Tonight, he had a letter from Dumbledore. He whittled away the time by rereading the note, trying to figure out what it meant and dreaming up possible outcomes. It made part of him excited, a part of him that still loved Christmas morning and Quidditch, this was the closest he had been to happy since he left Hogwarts.
It was too much to ask for this to end his night time woes however. As the digital clock on the desk clicked over to 3am, Harry's eyes fluttered shut and a small slip of parchment slipped onto the hardwood floors. It read;
If it would not be of too much trouble I would appreciate a meeting with you. I hate to assume, I believe the muggles have an indelicate expression about that, so please let me know an appropriate time to collect you. Hedwig will find me.
Our discussion may drag on a tad so afterwards you are free to stay at Grimmauld Place, the Burrow or if you so wish I can return you to your relatives. I do however feel the latter is rather unlikely.
I eagerly await your response, your servant,
For a brief moment all was silent within the home of Number 4 Privet Drive. All that could be heard were the deep breathing sounds of the four occupants sleeping and the wind coming through a crack in the bathroom window. Harry Potter looked almost peaceful, almost like a normal sixteen-year-old boy. However, the illusion was lost when slowly his face became pale, his breathing slightly erratic and a thin bead of sweat slid over the scar on his forehead. His hand clenched the sheets and he began to shake. No, Harry was not destined to be normal. He was the world's reluctant hero and every hero has a darkness deep within.
Harry woke amongst soaking wet sheets at six thirty the next morning. Last night he dreamt of Cedric again, the memory dreams were the hardest. He would remember the way the air smelled, the feeling of Voldemort cold fingers against his face and the look of emptiness in Cedric's eyes after the green light took his life.
Groaning, Harry rolled over and forced himself to stand and face the day. At least tonight his surroundings would be different. He'd be around people who genuinely loved him and maybe that would help to keep the dreams at bay. The realist in Harry doubted it heavily though. He had scribbled a quick reply to Dumbledore the night before saying that he needed an hour to pack his trunk and would be spending the rest of his holidays at the Burrow, he chose to acknowledge the comment about the Dursleys. Hedwig was waiting on his desk note strapped to her leg, untying it he saw one neatly written sentence.
HP, I will see you at 10am, AD.
Two and a half hours and he would be back to where he truly belonged. He was self-aware enough to know that he may be suffering from depression and night terrors, but he wasn't so far gone that he wasn't capable of appreciating life in the magical world.
After a long shower to remove the smell of sweat, he set about packing his trunk. It would never cease to amaze him how far his belongings could travel when he never actually left his room. After grabbing a shoe from above the cupboard and sending Hedwig off to wait for him at the Burrow, Harry closed his trunk and carried that, his broom and Hedwig's cage to the bottom of the stairs. He had half an hour to eat breakfast before Dumbledore was due to arrive.
Harry walked through the kitchen door and saw his aunt and cousin sitting at the table, Vernon having already left for the day. It suddenly hit Harry that this was only the second time that he actually had to tell them that their time together was getting cut short. The memory of Dudley's growing tongue the last time he left with warning still brought a smile to his face.
After preparing a simple breakfast of jam toast and coffee, Harry sat and let his relatives watch him eat. This was a sensation Harry never could become accustomed to. Even at Hogwarts when the stares from fans and doubters were common, it still managed to bring a flush to his neck.
"I'm leaving today." Harry said after finishing his toast, leaning back to enjoy his coffee. "Dumbledore should be here any minute."
"Oh" was all Petunia had to say on that subject. Harry assumed she was already planning a family trip the three of them could take before Dudley left for school as well. The three sat in silence listening to the seconds tick by. This was torture, Harry decided. He should have spent longer in the shower.
After 9 minutes and 35 seconds, yes, he counted, the doorbell finally rang. They had been sitting in silence for so long that Dudley actually startled in surprise, almost falling out of his chair. Harry jumped up, not able to leave the awkward silence fast enough, to answer the door. Dumbledore stood on the front porch looking every bit the wizard Harry so admired, smiling down at him the twinkle in his eyes ever present.
"Harry my boy, it is as wonderful to see you as ever."
Smiling at the thought of finally going back to the wizarding world where he belonged, Harry said "Good morning professor. Come in, I'm all packed."
Petunia looked mortified, the idea of someone so obviously magical walking into her house in broad daylight seemed too much for her delicate sensibilities to handle.
"Well Harry, seeing as you are all packed up and ready to go I see no reason to dally." Dumbledore vanished Harry's belongings with a flick of his wand, Harry assumed to the burrow. "We have much to discuss."
"Absolutely sir, where are we going? Hogwarts?" Harry was anxious to leave.
"No, to Grimmauld place. I realise that it will be difficult for you, but it is still head quarters therefore most convenient." Dumbledore gave him a sad smile. "I must warn you that apparition is not pleasant the first time. Best hold on tight."
Harry reached out for Dumbledore's offered arm but before he could grab hold Dudley rushed forward and held out his hand. "Goodbye Harry, I'll see you during the summer yeah?"
Harry openly gawked at him. It was the first time Dudley had said even one word to him since the incident with the Dementors last year. He grabbed the offered hand awkwardly and nodded, mumbling something that sounded like 'goodbye' before firmly placing his hand on Dumbledore's arm.
There was a sudden blackness before he and Dumbledore appeared in an alley across the way from number 12. Harry had to congratulate himself for not immediately throwing up all over Dumbledore's shoes and was very glad that he had such a small breakfast.
Dumbledore chuckled. "As I said, it is not pleasant, but I promise you'll get used to it."
"I'll have to take your word for it." Harry took a few deep breaths and vowed to fly more than apparate.
They made their way through the park where a few muggle children were playing, their mothers openly gawking at Dumbledore's violet robes. As they drew closer Harry thought the words 'number 12 Grimmauld Place'. Slowly, the town house began to appear and the muggles around them were none the wiser. When Dumbledore said that it would be difficult, he wasn't lying. It took every ounce of Gryffindor courage to climb those steps and not run in the other direction. Sirius hated being back here. He went from being locked up in Azkaban to locked up in a very different sort of Prison, one that was every bit as torturous and traumatic. He never tasted free air and for Harry that was the hardest part to accept. He took a deep breath and pushed the thoughts and emotions down. His nights were plagued by darkness, he didn't need it during the day as well.
As he walked through the entrance hall, Harry saw that everything was just as gloomy and depressing as before, if not more so. The trolls leg hat stand was on the ground, Tonks must have been here recently, the horrid portrait was still hidden beneath thick curtains and there was still a permanent smell of dust in the air. As he walked into the kitchen the memory of confessing his fears of wanting to kill Dumbledore hit him like a punch to the stomach. His breath shuddered as he tried to stop the tears from welling up.
Dumbledore placed a hand on his shoulder to steady him "If this is too difficult,"
"No." Harry took a deep breath and sat down at the table. "I can't avoid this forever. What is this meeting about? I already know about Sirius' will and Hermione told me about Snape and Slughorn, she didn't want me to be surprised on the welcome feast, though I'll never understand why you did that." Harry's hatred of the slimy git ran deep.
"This is about none of that." Dumbledore answered choosing to ignore the jab at Snape. "this is about you deserving to know what is happening around you. You have proven yourself time and time again to be strong and loyal. I can not induct you into the order as you are not yet of age. I, however, can keep you informed of what is happening within our ranks. I would like you to think of it as an advisory role."
Harry was floored. He found it amazing that just last year Dumbledore was doing his best to keep Harry as far away from the Order as possible. Now he seemed to trust Harry beyond the required student teacher relationship required. "Wow professor, thank you."
"You are more than welcome. There are some who were a part of the Order during the last war that have sacrificed less than you. While a few people disagree, I believe this is the least that we can do. If there is one regret that I will always have, it is of how much of your childhood you have lost. You should be busy chasing skirts, not dark lords."
Harry flushed at the thought. "Honestly sir, over the past few weeks I've realised that there is so many more important things than kissing girls and wasting time. Once Voldemort is dead I'll give the normal life a shot but for now, I need to accept the hand I was dealt and go all in. It may not be fair but if life was fair I would still have my parents. I'd still have Sirius." Harry looked at Dumbledore, not as an almost 16-year-old boy but as the man he was forced to become. "Please don't pity me, help me. As you said, Voldemort chose me and I'm going to need all the help I can get to take him down."
"Harry you are wise beyond your years." Dumbledore smiled at him and the pride in his eyes was unmistakeable. "Now to the help that I can offer. Today you and I will go over everything I currently know and suspect in regard to Voldemort's plans and the location of him and his death eaters. This will be an open forum, please feel free to ask any questions that you feel appropriate. I will only not answer if I truly do not know or have a very good reason to deny a response."
Harry nodded and with that Dumbledore conjured a stack of parchments marked with obvious signs of wear, these were perused often. Harry listened intently as Dumbledore explained each and every paper detailing everything the Order was currently working on. Around lunch time Dumbledore conjured sandwiches and pumpkin juice and they continued to talk for hours until Harry felt that if he took in any more information his brain may just start to leak out of his ears.
"Well Harry I believe you are as caught up as I can reasonably get you within a day." Dumbledore leaned back in his chair looking just as exhausted as Harry felt. "I feel that it is past time that we get a decent meal into you. Arthur said this morning that Molly is, and forgive me here, 'having kittens' worried sick about how thin you must be by now."
Harry smiled at this, Molly's cooking was second only to the house elves at Hogwarts. "That sounds amazing sir."
"Now before you floo off to the Burrow for what I am sure will be a spectacular night and forget all that we discussed today," Dumbledore pulled out a small satchel of floo powder and walked to the fire place. "I do have one more thing of note. My plan is to have these catch ups once a month. Once more here and the rest back at Hogwarts. In saying that however, there is a situation that I believe is scheduled to come to its climax tonight. As such I would appreciate it if you came back tomorrow."
Harry nodded grabbing a small hand full of powder from Dumbledore. Before throwing it in the fire place he asked, "Sir, can I tell Ron and Hermione any of this?"
"Yes, in fact I believe that Ron and Hermione should join you tomorrow, they may find some things difficult to believe elsewise. But I implore you to tell no one else. You can imagine the stir it would cause if anything should slip." Dumbledore said.
"Of course, well I'll see you tomorrow after breakfast." With that he threw the powder and clearly said 'the Burrow' watching Dumbledore spin out of existence. As soon as he set one foot out of the Burrow's fire place the first thing he felt was a complete sense of belonging. This house had a way of welcoming all who entered. The second thing he felt was the wind being knocked out of him, Hermione had appeared from no where apparently trying to squeeze him until she cracked a few ribs.
"Harry! It is so good to see you! Dumbledore said you'd be coming today but didn't say when!" She let go beaming at him.
"Hi Hermione, where's the Weasleys?" Harry looked around the living room. Crookshanks was curled on the rug and a book was lying open on the ground. She had obviously thrown it aside in her haste to murder him.
"They're all outside getting dinner sorted. Mr Weasley wanted me to wait so you didn't come into an empty house, but I think he was sick of me asking when you would turn up. Were you with Dumbledore all day?" Hermione paused for breath. "What did he want? He wouldn't tell us anything!"
"I'll fill you and Ron in later, right now I'm starving." Together they walked through the house and outside through the kitchen. The view he was met with forced a smile that he had no control over. Mr Weasley was adding more chairs to the extended table. Mrs Weasley was carefully hovering a cauldron full of stew. Fred and George were laughing at the end of the table with Ron and Ginny. Bill was lost in conversation with Fleur and standing off to the side was a man Harry hadn't realised how much he missed until seeing him. "Remus!" He ran and hugged the werewolf with almost as much force has Hermione used on him. Almost.
"Harry it is bloody wonderful to see you." Remus hugged him back. "I am so sorry I haven't written, I've wanted to I just didn't,"
"Know what to say" Harry finished for him "It's ok I get it." Here was the one other person in the world who felt the loss of Sirius as much as himself.
Harry's sudden appearance caused a stir among the Weasleys and he found himself being pulled every which way for hugs and handshakes. Eventually he was firmly place into a chair with a bowl of steaming hot stew in front of him, Harry couldn't help but notice that Mrs Weasley served him the largest helping. Sometimes it was nice to be completely cared for. After dinner was over He found himself completely exhausted, it is amazing how tiring talking and listening is. He excused himself after Mrs Weasley explained that he was set up in Percy's old room.
His belongings were waiting for him at the end of the single bed and Hedwig was sitting on the sill, obviously waiting for his return before going hunting. With a hoot and a gentle nip to his ear, she flew out the window and disappeared into the blackness. Harry set about getting ready for bed and unpacking what he thought he would need for a month at the Burrow. He didn't bother trying to get to sleep, knowing that Ron and Hermione would be in to question him any minute.
True to form less than 10 minutes after him, the pair walked in and sat on the plush rug on the floor. With a friendship as deep as theirs, they needed no preamble when something needed to be discussed. There was no point to small talk. Harry sat with them and gave a very condensed version of all that he had learned. Hermione was rather taken aback when Harry told them that Dumbledore wanted them both there the next day, Ron however was over the moon.
After talking for almost two hours, Harry was finally able to lie in bed and close his eyes. He hoped that he was exhausted enough to fall asleep and not be plagued by nightmares. Of course, that was not going to be the case, it never was.
Somewhere in a very different part of the country Draco Malfoy was plagued with his own nightmares. His weren't memories of fears for the future however. His were very much real and happening while wide awake.