Disclaimer: All you fan-fic readers know the drill by now. I'm not J.K so I obviously don't own Harry Potter (much as I'd like to), BUT I do own this plot. Well, the bits of it that the voices in my head aren't dictating....
Harry Potter woke up with a start, soaked in sweat, his bright green eyes open wide. His jaw ached with the tension of not crying out and he had to consciously relax it before he was able to open his mouth to gulp in desperately needed air. The nightmare had been one of the worst yet. Unwillingly, he watched it flash through his mind.
He was back at the Ministry of Magic, but this time there was a crucial difference: he was possessed by Voldemort from the start. It was he, Harry, who used the strange slashing wand movement that took down Hermione. It was he who kicked Neville in the face, breaking his nose and wand with one swift move. It was he who incapacitated Ron with the intoxicating hex and it was he who grabbed Ginny in the planet room and blew up Pluto, breaking her ankle in the process. It was he who sent Luna crashing into a desk. It was he who sent the brain flying to Ron, directing it to take hold of his friend's arms. It was he who subjected Neville to the Cruciatus Curse. But the worst thing about the situation was that none of them seemed to notice that it was Harry attacking them, that there was no one else there. One by one they all fell, still trying to fight off their invisible assailants; still trying to help Harry. The rescue team from the Order arrived, just as they had only a few weeks ago, bursting into the room with flair, joining the battle against a foe that wasn't there and although he tried to stop himself, he turned on them at Voldemort's command. Harry quickly felled Mad-Eye Moody and Tonks before he heard his godfather taunting his cousin, addressing his jeers to the empty space before him as though Bellatrix were present. Sirius didn't see Harry raise his wand to point it at him. He didn't hear Harry's clear recitation of the incantation. He completely missed the beam of light streaking towards him. But unlike the others he felt the impact, and the direction the curse had come from. As he fell through the veil in slow motion he turned to look at Harry, disappointment dominating his expression, until he was gone from sight. All Harry could hear was Voldemort laughing inside his mind...
It was only in his dreams that Harry was unable to control his fear of possession. The brief minutes of his possession in the Ministry of Magic just weeks ago, had been the worst in his entire life. Worse even, than watching Sirius fall only moments before. Trembling from the strain, Harry managed to push the memory of this latest dream to the far reaches of his mind. Enough was enough. He didn't think he could take much more of this. What with his grief and the constant tiredness brought on by sleep that did not bring rest, as well as the constant worry that he might involuntarily cry out and give Dudley more ammunition to use against him, he was physically and mentally wreaked. It was time to try Occlumency again. If his Potions OWL had taught him anything, it was that trying something taught by that professor, when not in the same room as him, was infinitely easier than with Snape breathing down his neck.
A week passed without much success. No matter how he tried, memories and thoughts kept slipping past his efforts to clear his mind. His dreams had lost some of their energy-draining impact, but not enough for Harry to get a proper night's rest. Still, he was determined not to give up, and so he kept on trying, sure that if he tried hard enough, he would succeed.
He could hear the Dursleys moving around, getting ready for bed. Finally they quieted down, and a low rumbling started. It could have been easily interpreted as the sound of the continental plates grinding against one another, but was, in fact, his elephantine cousin Dudley, snoring in the next room. Sure that he would not be disturbed anymore that night, Harry once again sat on his bed and tried to empty his mind. He had actually managed to push nearly every image out of his head when it occurred to him how morbidly funny it was that his memory of events associated with Sirius falling through the veil, had been the only thing capable of making him work at Occlumency. Unable to control himself he began to laugh. It was not a happy sound, but it somehow relieved much of the tension within him. When Harry finally managed to stop - helped along by some loud thumps and angry comments sent his way by his irritated uncle - he found it much easier to empty his mind before he allowed himself to lie down and sleep.
Harry's success repeated itself and he was once again able to find some refuge in sleep. He was even surprised to find that his waking moments had some improvement brought to them as well. When Harry had first arrived back at number four Privet Drive, he had thought that he would never get over the terrible events and revelations of the previous year. His grief for Sirius had throbbed within his mind, regardless of how he tried to ignore it. Not only this, but the new insight into his parents' lives had Harry questioning all that he had ever been told about them. Disappointment and disillusionment, especially in his father, had caused him to begin doubting everything and given him a new understanding of Snape... even if it didn't make him like him any better. But the thing that really bothered Harry was Dumbledore. Dumbledore who claimed that his love for Harry had made him abandon him, lock him away in a place he hated without any explanation, and hide the truth. That Dumbledore knew the reason why Harry's life was as it was, yet had waited so long before letting Harry know about it - about the nightmare destiny that awaited him.
Harry, finally knew why Voldemort was so anxious to kill him. He finally understood why his parents had died. In a way he could even understand why Dumbledore was so anxious to protect him, to hide him away from harm (not that he seemed to be able to get away from it) because, or so the prophecy said, the fate of the world rested firmly on Harry's shoulders... quite literally. If Harry died, the world's hope died with him, not because Harry was the Boy Who Lived, but because Harry, and Harry alone, could defeat Voldemort.
The problem with the prophecy was that there was only really enough stated to make it undeniable that Harry and Voldemort were the two spoken of and the two possible outcomes. It said nothing of how Harry would die or defeat Voldemort, not even a clue. All in all, Harry found it frustrating to the extreme.
Still, Harry did not want to die, both for his own sake and because of what his death would mean for the wizarding world at large. And for this reason he decided one morning, not long after his initial success with Occlumency, that it was time to make a new resolution for his next year. He thought back over the past year. He had spent so much of it angry, angry at his friends, angry at people unwilling to listen to the truth, angry at Dumbledore, angry at the world. He had lost his temper, blown up at his friends, and had lashed out with both words and his fists: and what had it gained him? Nothing. Nothing but trouble. Getting frustrated at Umbridge because she refused to listen to the truth had led to detentions, pain, a new scar, and irritating his Quidditch Captain, Angelina Johnson. Attacking Malfoy after the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match had led to a lifetime Quidditch ban and the internment of his prized Firebolt. The pattern repeated over and over again throughout the year.
It was his ill-fated rescue mission that bothered him the most about his actions in the past year. So many chances had gone by where the events that unfolded could have been prevented. If he had not been so worried about leading Sirius into danger he might have opened the package he had been given at the end of the Christmas holidays. If he hadn't been caught up in events at school he might have remembered the package sooner when he had needed to contact his godfather. If he had not believed the lying traitor Kreacher, if he had listened to some of the advice of Hermione (although not all, her nearly disastrous plan to escape Umbridge did seem to be proof that Hermione wasn't always right). He needed to become more informed, to have a better grasp of the situation and a better ability to protect himself and others. Harry knew what he had to do: it was time to get in touch with Professor McGonagall. He needed to be prepared, and McGonagall had sworn that she would aid him in becoming an Auror. He knew she would be able to help him in his preparations.
Hedwig had come back that night with a strange owl, and between them, there had been what amounted to a mound of parchment. When he took it off them and put it on his bed for review Harry felt as though McGonagall had outdone herself. There were essays to help him prepare for the sixth year classes he hoped to get into as well as book lists with a Flourish and Blotts Owl Order form so he could buy the books he wanted without several trips to Diagon Alley. She had somehow even convinced Snape to assign him some work for Potions, a fact which had surprised Harry, as he had not thought that Snape would have anything to do with him after the pensive incident. Harry was glad of the book list after seeing his potion essay; Snape had set a particularly long essay on some of the most obscure potions Harry had ever heard of, as well as four others that he hadn't. As a new Defence against the Dark Arts Professor hadn't been hired yet, the list for that subject covered a wide spectrum, including books on defensive and offensive spells, charms and hexes.
Professor McGonagall also sent something Harry hadn't asked for - a copy of the official retraction of his Quidditch Ban. Harry was unsure how he felt about it, so he stuffed it down in the bottom of his trunk and did his best to forget about it. Luckily the work he had been sent helped.
The work was hard, but Harry welcomed it. It allowed him to take his mind off everything that had been bothering him. It made his time at Privet Drive bearable. And most importantly it gave him direction, a sense of knowing where he was, where he was going and how he was going to get there... something that had been missing ever since he had learnt of the prophecy.
"Boy," Uncle Vernon started, his face inches from Harry's own. "We are going out. And this house had better be in one piece when we return." Giving Harry one last suspicious look from his small eyes, he turned away and ushered Aunt Petunia and Dudley out of the house, closing the door firmly behind him. Harry waited, half expecting to hear the key turn in the lock, but all that he heard was the group walking toward Uncle Vernon's new Japanese car. He sighed in relief and headed back up the hall to the kitchen.
The Dursleys were off shopping for some new boxing equipment for Dudley, a present to congratulate him on his excellent performance at a recent inter-school competition, in where he had won first place for his division. As Harry fixed himself a sandwich, he reflected, with a small amount of amusement, that this had to be the first time that his Aunt and Uncle were justifiably proud of his cousin. Taking advantage of the peace and quiet of having a Dursley-free house, Harry wandered into the lounge room to see if there was anything on the television while leisurely eating his lunch. As he settled onto the sofa and reached for the remote, he heard the doorbell ring. With a small sigh, he put the remains of his sandwich aside, pushed himself out of the comfort of the seat and headed to the front hall to answer the door.
As he approached the door he could hear voices talking on the other side.
"Are you sure this is his house?" a familiar voice asked in a doubtful tone.
"Of course I am," a second familiar voice behind the door indignantly answered. "Remember I came here with the twins just before second year. Don't you remember how angry Mum was that we took the car, Dad?"
Ron, Harry realised. Ron and his father were here. Mr Weasley had been over to his house before, but he had come via the Floo network and never actually set foot out of the lounge room, so he didn't know what the house looked like. His ignorance also meant that he had never been part of the watch on Harry during both the previous and current summer holidays. Harry quickened his pace and was about to fling open the door, before he remembered his lessons from last year. He drew his wand and opened the door with some caution.
"Harry!" Ron greeted him with a cheery grin. "We're here to rescue you!"
Harry was almost completely satisfied that these people were Ron Weasley, one of his best friends, and Ron's father, Arthur Weasley. But to be on the safe side he decided to remain cautious until he was absolutely sure. Careful to keep his wand at the ready he tried to think of a way to identify Ron for sure. "Ron?" he asked after a few seconds, "why were you in the hospital wing on the night Hermione, Neville and I got detention and lost one hundred and fifty house points in first year?"
Ron's grin faltered before he gave Harry a canny look and with a sideways glance at his father, answered the question. "I had that infection in my hand from being bitten by Norbert."
Harry relaxed his grip on his wand and put it away before opening the door completely and greeting Ron properly. "Rescue me? Does that mean I can go now? Where are we going?" It hadn't been too bad this summer, with Uncle Vernon even putting up with the regular owls going through the house. Not that he'd had much choice in the matter, after the threats the Order had piled on him at Kings Cross. But the Dursleys couldn't disguise the innate dislike they had for Harry and all who were like him. He just hoped he wasn't going to be Grimmauld Place again. Harry didn't think that even the workload he had shouldered for the holidays would be enough to get him through a stay at the Black house without Sirius.
As Ron and Mr Weasley came in Harry took a precautionary look around the street and front yard. Near the garden wall he noticed something. The grass was flattened in an odd pattern as though it were under something, yet there was nothing there to be seen. He continued to scan the garden as though he had not noticed anything before turning back towards his visitors.
"Who's on duty today?" Harry asked Mr Weasley quietly.
"I think Moody is at the moment, Harry."
Harry nodded. "Thought so," he acknowledged before reaching behind the door, grabbing a small balloon filled with flour and hurling it toward where he knew his watcher to be. It impacted with a dull thud and exploded, filling the air with a fine white powder that revealed the shape of Moody under his invisibility cloak. "Better luck next time!" he called to the shape before allowing himself a small smile as he closed the door behind him.
Ron, who had watched the whole event, clapped him of the back. "Good throw, Harry. How did you know he was there?"
"Started looking a few days into the holidays," Harry led the way back to the lounge room as he explained. "Figured that as they had been here last year they'd be back again this year. It's not that hard if you know they're there somewhere." He shrugged, "anyway, I figure it's good practice... spot the invisible enemy and all that. I've been keeping a supply of flour bombs near both doors, my bedroom window and in my bag. But back to the important stuff," he took a breath - this was after all the crux of the point. "You're here to rescue me?"
Shall I shut up now?
A/N: OotP stuff from chapter 35, Beyond the Veil. Norbert is from PS Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback. My tag line for this, and every later chapter (which you may recognise is linked to my author name - that's a clue), has been nicked from a really good book, which I challenge any reader to name - title, author, and the character it is irrevocably associated with. Being poor (another reason I suspect I don't own Harry Potter), I'm willing to offer my respect as a prize. ;)