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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 Maggie and to those who reviewed the last chapter. I'll not bore you with a long author's note, so read on, and I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 2: The Last Potter
Harry felt a small hand grip his and turned to give Ginny a shy smile. He was not quite sure where they stood with each other. He had asked her to the Yule Ball as a friend, but ever since that night, something had seemed different between them. They had not kissed – not that Harry hadn’t spent a considerable amount of time thinking about it – but lately they had been much more affectionate. They shared hugs on occasion and sat closely in the library. The hand-holding was a relatively new development and still held a certain novelty to it. He was grateful for both the distraction and the comfort.

Somewhere in the dark maze, his brother was fighting through all manner of obstacles trying to reach the Triwizard Cup and win the tournament. Harry thought the whole thing was rather stupid. His brother had not even entered himself into it, though he let many people believe that he had. The fact is that Thomas had tried to enter his name with the Weasley twins and failed rather spectacularly. The three had been blasted back from the goblet sporting long, gray beards resembling Dumbledore’s own. Harry shook his head as he thought of the pitiful attempt – as if the professors wouldn’t have thought to protect against aging potions.

Many people were convinced that the failed attempt was only a ploy to draw suspicion away from him when his name actually came out of the goblet. Thomas never set the record straight, but Harry knew better. He may not know his brother all that well, but he was certain of one thing: Tom was just not that clever. He was a lazy, average student, and, no matter what people expected out of the vaunted Boy-Who-Lived, he had never shown any extraordinary magical abilities. He was good on a broom though; there was no denying that. Harry privately thought he was just as good if not even better, but he never had the chance to find out as Malfoy had bought his way into the role of Slytherin Seeker before Harry had even had the chance to tryout.

Harry refocused his attention on the maze and cursed the idiocy of the people who came up with the tasks. “We can’t even see a bloody thing that’s going on,” Harry growled in frustration.

“It was rather poor planning,” Ginny agreed sympathetically.

A jet of red sparks flew up into the air on the far side of the pitch, and Harry gripped Ginny’s hand tightly. Bagman, the announcer, speculated on what may have befallen the unfortunate champion which did nothing to soothe Harry’s tattered nerves until finally it was revealed that the fallen champion was Fleur Delacour. Harry blew out a relieved sigh as he turned his attention towards a brief flash of light on the near side of the pitch, wondering if the spell was fired by his brother or one of the other two remaining champions.

Another downed champion was revealed to be none other than the famous Viktor Krum, which left only Tom and Cedric Diggory in the tournament. There was a lot of commotion suddenly in the center of the maze. Harry watched intently, looking for any clues that might give him some indication of what was occurring. There were a number of shouts and curses, but Harry could not make out any of the words or even the voice it was coming from. The noise of the crowd picked up and quickly drowned out any sound coming from the hedged labyrinth, but the light from spell-fire could still be seen.

Eventually, more red sparks went up in the core of the maze. After a few minutes it became clear that something was wrong. Professor Dumbledore rushed down the stands and onto the pitch followed by the other judges and Ministry officials. With a single sweep of his wand, an entire section of the maze vanished leaving a clear path and a clear line of sight into the heart of the maze.

Harry was stunned at what he saw. Diggory was bloodied and barely standing, fending off an Acromantula that looked to be missing a couple legs. Harry was unsure which was worse off. With another wand sweep Dumbledore had the spider contained and turned to the Hufflepuff champion. Harry wished he could hear what was being said as the two urgently spoke.

Dumbledore then turned to the other officials and held another heated conversation. Finally, he turned back to the crowd, and his voice boomed over the pitch. “Would the Diggory family, the Rhodes family, and Harry Potter please join me in the center of the maze. All other spectators are asked to please remain in your seats.”

Harry stood rooted to the spot as everyone in the area turned to look at him. He kept his gaze fixed on the headmaster as a pit of fear rose up within him. Diggory was obviously accounted for, as were the other two champions, but where was Tom? Where was his brother?

“Come on, Harry,” Ginny’s voice finally permeated his panicked thoughts. He turned to look at her, and she seemed to read his intentions. “I’ll stay right with you. I promise.”

Harry nodded woodenly and, still gripping her hand, began the walk down the stands. The crowd parted before them, faces grave. People were talking to him, but Harry couldn’t hear anything they were saying. They were on the pitch and walking towards the center before he was even aware of the fact. By the time they arrived, Diggory’s parents had him in a tearful embrace. Harry’s eyes met Cedric’s briefly, and Harry immediately assumed the worst at the raw emotion expressed in those bloodshot eyes.

Harry continued walking towards the headmaster and realized the Rhodes had beaten him there as well. He had only caught glimpses of the couple who had raised Tom on Platform 9 ¾, but he easily recognized them on sight. Luke was currently in his seventh year, a Hufflepuff, while John had graduated two years ago. All wore anxious and fearful expressions that Harry was sure were mirrored on his own face. As Harry and Ginny came to a stop, the headmaster spoke.

“Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes, John, Luke, Harry,” he addressed them. “There is no easy way to tell you this. Thomas is missing.” Mrs. Rhodes gasped and turned into her husband’s embrace. Harry stared stonily ahead, waiting for the headmaster to continue. “Based on Cedric’s account, we believe the cup was turned into a Portkey designed to kidnap the winner of the tournament. We do not, at this time, know if Mr. Potter was targeted specifically or if the trap was meant for any of the champions. You have my assurance that we are doing all we can to attempt to trace where the Portkey took Mr. Potter. You are welcome to wait here for more news provided you do not interfere with the investigation.”

The headmaster lingered for a moment, sympathy shining in his eyes as he gazed at them. Harry felt a sudden spike of pain in his forehead and stifled a gasp as he reached up to clutch at his scar. Ginny brushed her fingers through his hair as he clung to her hand, gritting his teeth as he bore the pain as its intensity eventually tapered off into a dull, throbbing ache. He noticed the headmaster eyeing him with a disturbed and knowing look before he turned and walked off to the center of the clearing where a group of wizards and witches were congregated around a pedestal that must have not long ago held the Triwizard Cup.

Ginny thankfully said nothing about the pain, already familiar with the strangeness of his scar, as Harry had no idea how long he stood there, unseeingly staring at the activity of the Ministry officials conducting their investigation. The scene was interrupted by a bright flash of green light shooting up into the sky. It formed into the shape of a skull with a snake emerging from its mouth. His eyes darted down beneath the sickly image to see the cup had reappeared on its pedestal amidst the tournament officials. Attached to it was a hand leading down to a body that flopped lifelessly to the ground, and Harry felt as if he’d just been struck in the stomach by a bludger.

“No!”

“Not Thomas!”

A cacophony of voices called out, and Harry barely recognized his own and the Rhodes’ contained in the mix. He rushed towards the scene, falling to his knees at the side of his brother. Mrs. Rhodes threw herself on top of Thomas and sobbed uncontrollably as Harry reached out and grasped his brother’s blood-soaked hand. Harry’s eyes traced the blood up to a gash on his forearm as the other Rhodes all crowded around. The two boys stood at Thomas’ head looking down with tear-stained faces. Mr. Rhodes was barely holding it together as he held his wife and grasped Tom’s other hand.

Harry was barely aware as Ginny came up from behind and wrapped her arms around him, burrowing her face into his shoulder as she shed her own tears. He felt totally and completely numb to the world around him. The only thing he felt was his brother’s still-warm and bloodied hand. His brother. The last of his family. He was gone. And now Harry was once again alone. Harry turned into Ginny’s embrace and wept onto her shoulder. He wept for the parents he never got to know. He wept for the childhood he never got to have. He wept for the brother he didn’t get to grow up with, the life they never got to live. He wept for the loss of the last piece of family he knew. He wept until he had no more tears to shed.

******

“Fizzing Whizzbees,” Harry stated and watched dispassionately as the gargoyle moved aside to reveal the spiral staircase leading to the headmaster’s office. He had visited the office only once before, two years ago around the same time of year. He had hoped to avoid this particular office for the rest of his Hogwarts career. It was not to be.

“Enter, please, Mr. Potter,” the headmaster’s voice rang before Harry even raised his hand to knock.

He pushed open the door and strode into the room. His eyes were immediately drawn to the phoenix perched beside the headmaster’s desk. He had a special fondness for that bird; having saved his life, he would dare say the bird had earned it. Fawkes met his gaze and trilled a greeting. Harry nodded with the barest upturn of his lips before turning his attention to the headmaster with a stony expression.

“You wished to see me?” he asked.

“Indeed,” the wizened wizard replied. “Please have a seat.” He gestured grandly to the over-stuffed armchair opposite his desk, and Harry seated himself in the comfortable chair. “How are you holding up, my dear boy?”

Harry rankled at the assumed familiarity in the appellation but let it slide. One does not idly tickle a sleeping dragon. “As well as can be expected,” he replied neutrally.

“The loss of a loved one is never easy, particularly in one so young,” the headmaster counseled.

“I appreciate your concern, Headmaster,” Harry stated, his patience quickly departing, “but I am not unfamiliar with loss. I will miss Thomas, and I will grieve for him and the family we could have had were things different much as I have my entire life.”

“He was your brother, yes, and the last of your immediate family, but you have family yet,” the headmaster corrected. “Your aunt and uncle raised you into a fine young man, and I do believe you have a cousin your age whom you grew up with.”

“You know very well the relationship I have with my so-called family,” Harry bit out between gritted teeth. “They do not bear discussing.”

The headmaster eyed him carefully for a long moment before finally nodding wearily. “My apologies. Just know that should you ever desire the opportunity to talk – about Thomas, your parents, your relatives, or anything else going on in your life – my door will always be open to you.”

Harry studied the old man carefully and could detect only honest sincerity. Slowly, he nodded his head and wondered if that was the sole purpose of this meeting.

“You have no doubt wondered why I called you here today,” Dumbledore spoke, seemingly reading Harry’s thoughts. “While I did wish to ensure you were coping adequately with your loss, I confess I have much more grave reasons for requesting your presence.”

Harry frowned as the headmaster sighed deeply and seemed to shrink in on himself. “I have done you and your family and most especially your brother a great disservice.” The old man paused, and Harry sat up straight in his seat, his eyes focused sharply on the headmaster’s face. He had the distinct feeling he would not like what he was about to hear. “As you are no doubt aware, Voldemort was winning the war before his defeat. It was a dark time until suddenly, miraculously, it all ended one night. Voldemort met his defeat at the hands of a baby. As you might imagine, this was a chaotic time, and important decisions needed to be made quickly. You and your brother were parentless, and the Ministry was quite insistent that their newly dubbed Boy-Who-Lived remain in the Wizarding World rather than go to his Muggle relatives.”

Harry had a feeling he knew exactly where this was going. He had learned three years ago that Dumbledore was the man responsible for sending him to the Dursleys, for splitting him up from his brother. If there was one thing he actually trusted his relatives on, it was the fact that he was thrust into their care and had always been an unwelcome presence. They had not wanted him, and Dumbledore could and should have sent him to live with Thomas and the Rhodes – or, if they did not want to take care of two more kids, he should have found another willing family. With his brother being the Boy-Who-Lived, Harry was sure most families would have leapt at the opportunity. Instead, Dumbledore had gone out of his way to split him from Thomas and dump him with the Dursleys. If Dumbledore was hoping for his forgiveness for splitting them up, he was in for a rude awakening.

“I made a difficult decision,” the man admitted after a short pause. “To this day I still debate whether or not it was the right decision.” Dumbledore heaved another heavy sigh and his shoulders slumped as he continued, “I have gone through countless scenarios of how this conversation would play out ever since that decision was made. This situation is far worse than any I could have imagined, but you need to know the truth now before it is too late.”

The headmaster met his steely gaze with eyes full of regret. “Thomas was not the one to survive the Killing Curse cast by Voldemort; you were.”

******

“Why aren’t you more shocked by this?” Harry demanded, his voice ringing in the abandoned classroom.

Ginny shrugged her shoulders from her perch on the desk and gave him a reserved smile. “I always knew there was something special about you. After all, it was you who battled a bloody basilisk to save my life in the Chamber. It was you who conjured a Patronus and saved your godfather from getting the Dementor’s Kiss – and probably me as well. You’re a brilliant wizard. With all due respect to Tom, he was nothing like you, Harry. I think I’ve always known, in a way, ever since the Chamber.”

Harry kept a tight rein on his emotions as he studied her carefully before finally determining her sincerity. She was truly unsurprised that he was the so-called Boy-Who-Lived rather than his brother.

“Is that why you – you know,” Harry started only to stop as Ginny leapt off the desk and punched him.

“No, and I can’t believe you would even think that,” she scolded, glaring heatedly at him.

Harry rubbed his aching shoulder and ducked his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t really think that. I just – I don’t know – it feels like everything in my life has been turned on its head. I don’t know what I’d do if things with you had as well.”

When he glanced back up, her face had softened, and Harry sighed in relief. The last thing he needed to do right now was bugger up the one good thing he had going in his life. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him, and Harry returned the gesture. “I forgive you,” she whispered.

Harry held her tighter and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. He basked in her embrace for a long moment before they finally separated.

“What happened next?” she asked.

“I yelled at him,” Harry admitted frankly. “Might have smashed a few things in his office.”

Ginny smiled at him. “How did that feel?”

He shrugged. “I was too angry to really notice. Bloody bastard as good as killed Tom with his stupid, manipulative games. Not to mention everything else…” He trailed off as she raised a questioning eyebrow at him.

“You never talk about your relatives, you know,” she commented in a carefully casual tone. “I gather they’re not the nicest folks.”

Harry snorted. “That’s putting it mildly. They hate magic or anything they consider abnormal, really – and that covers a lot of things. They didn’t want me and were happy to let me know it.” He studied her closely as he talked, fearing he would find her beginning to pity him, but her expression remained mostly neutral, though he could sense the anger beginning to simmer beneath the surface. “I don’t talk about them because they’re not important. In a few years, if not sooner, I’ll be free of them and hopefully never have to see any of their faces again.”

“Funny thing is, Dumbledore knew they hated magic when he left me there,” Harry spat.

“Then why…”

“Apparently,” Harry interrupted her question, “my mother, in sacrificing herself, gave me some kind of protection that was activated when Voldemort tried to kill me. Dumbledore used that protection to create some kind of blood wards tied to my aunt, so as long as I live there, I’m protected – or some such rubbish. I’m not sure how much I buy into that. I think he just wanted me out of the Wizarding World so that people would forget I even existed.”

Harry watched Ginny who stood silently for a long moment as she seemingly digested all that he had told her. She was the first person he had ever willingly told anything resembling the truth about his life at the Dursleys. Anytime they came up, he avoided the topic or gave some vague response that did not actually reveal anything.

“But why tell you all this now?” Ginny queried quietly. “It doesn’t really make sense.”

Harry chuckled darkly. “I wasn’t left completely unscathed that night.” Her eyes unfocused for a moment before he noticed them lock in above his eyes. She really was a clever witch. “It’s a curse scar,” he revealed. “And it seems that through it I’m connected to Voldemort. I had wondered…” he trailed off contemplatively. “Well, you’re aware that it bothered me off and on throughout the year.” She nodded her head. “It was also a problem my first year. Seems Voldemort was possessing the DADA professor that year, right under the old man’s nose. It was his proximity then,” Harry explained. “And this year, Dumbledore thinks it’s because he was getting stronger. That night…” Harry winced. “It was bloody painful that night, when Thomas was gone.”

Harry shook his head and forced his thoughts away from his brother. “Dumbledore reckons he’s back – that Voldemort’s got his body back – and that he’ll continue to grow in strength.”

He looked down and was surprised to find Ginny holding his hand. He could not remember her taking a hold of it nor could he remember when she had moved so close. He squeezed her hand. “The only reason the bloody git even told me the truth is because he thinks it’s only a matter of time before Voldemort notices this connection and realizes what it means.”

Ginny’s eyes were wide as she stared into his. “He thinks that Voldemort will…”

Harry nodded. “He says the blood wards should keep me safe during the summer and that Voldemort wouldn’t dare attack me here while he’s still around – never mind the fact that he got to Thomas here and possessed a professor here for a full year before anyone realized.”

“Is he going to train you?”

Harry snorted. “Of course not. The best thing I can do is continue my normal education,” Harry stated in a mocking exaggeration of the headmaster’s grandfatherly tone. “After I have graduated, perhaps, we can arrange additional training.”

Harry scoffed. “Hogwarts is a bloody joke. I taught myself half the spells we covered this year in my second year. I could probably scrape through the OWLs right now if they’d let me.”

“Not everyone can be as brilliant as you, Harry,” Ginny soothed, caressing the back of his hand with her thumb. “Ron is barely passing half his classes, and Fred and George only got three OWLs each last year.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Oh please, Fred and George are bloody geniuses and you know it. That just goes to prove my point that the professors don’t see it. And no offense, but Ron’s a bit of an idiot.”

She smiled widely at both his proclamations. “I’ll be sure to tell Fred and George you feel that way.”

******

“Here goes nothing,” Harry muttered under his breath.

“You’ll write, won’t you?” Ginny asked from his side.

Harry turned and raised an eyebrow. “What else am I going to do over the summer? I’ve got no one to talk to and my own owl with no one else to write to.”

Ginny smiled though it was tinged with sadness. “Maybe you can come visit over the summer. You know my mum adores you; she’ll be more than happy to have you.”

“I don’t want to impose,” Harry started, only to be cut off as she cuffed him on the shoulder.

“You’re not a bloody imposition, you twit,” she responded with a touch of heat in her tone. “It’s rather expected that one’s boyfriend would want to visit his girlfriend over the summer holidays.”

Harry could not help the smile that crept onto his lips at her statement. It was still new, this official status change in their relationship, but it was already showing its perks which he gladly took advantage of again as he leaned down to claim a brief kiss. “Yes ma’am.”

“That’s better,” she stated in a self-satisfied tone. He heard a soft sigh escape her before she straightened her shoulders. “We better go.”

Harry nodded, and they gathered their trunks and departed the train. Her family was easy to spot, and he walked Ginny over and smiled as her mother descended on Ginny. He was unprepared for when Mrs. Weasley moved onto him, gathering him in her arms and giving him a fierce hug. “It’s good to see you again, dear. I’m so sorry for your loss.” Harry nodded woodenly into her shoulder, taking a moment to regain his hold on his emotions.

As she let him go, he and Ginny naturally seemed to gravitate to each other’s side and clasped hands. Her mum looked pointedly at their hands with a huge smile and winked at them as they both blushed at her scrutiny. “I couldn’t be happier for you two.”

Her brothers, on the other hand, were a mixed bag. Ron had never liked him, and Harry had grown accustomed to ignoring him. He thought the twins liked him – or at least they never pranked him, so Harry took that as a good sign - and they were always nice enough. None of her other brothers were there, for which Harry was thankful. He had met Bill briefly once, and Percy had been at Hogwarts until recently. He never had problems with either in the past, but Ginny mentioned that Bill and Charlie, the latter of whom he had not met, were both very overprotective and tended to still see her as a little girl. Percy, on the other hand, tended to disapprove of just about anything, so Harry was not concerned with her overly-serious brother.

Eventually, it came time to say goodbye. Harry wrapped Ginny in his arms and pressed a kiss into her hair, not willing to do anything more with her family standing around them. They shared a short, meaningful look as he backed away, and then they were off. He watched her walk away until she was out of sight, and then set his shoulders, grabbed his trunk, and hauled it towards the barrier leading to the Muggle platforms where his relatives should be waiting. As Harry spotted the sour-looking bunch, he knew he was in for a long summer.

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