Stand Tall - The Rise of Harry Potter

Chapter 1


Kamikaze rain hammered incessantly at the pedestrian double glazing of Number 4 Privet drive with about as much hope of getting to the other side of the glass as Harry had doing the same from the inside. He had always seen this house as a prison, right from the point in time where he understood the concept. Initially, it was a prison until he was old enough to escape in his late teens. But then, he received his Hogwarts letter, and everything changed. The judges that seemed to govern his life deemed him worthy of going out on parole, and suddenly as summer ended every year, he departed his cell for the wonder, brilliance and danger of the world outside Privet Drive. Of course, when the school year at Hogwarts ended, he returned to his dreary prison.

This previous year however, things had changed for Harry once more. Harry had met Sirius Black, his rightful Godfather wrongly accused of murder. This was a man who as plain as day loved Harry unconditionally, and outright told him that as soon as circumstances allowed would be taking with him to live together as a family.

As soon as circumstances allowed. That was the kicker, really. Sirius, a falsely accused convict on the run could not take Harry with him. The life that Harry had dreamed of since he was capable of doing so was now being dangled tantalisingly just out of his reach. And because of that, the walls in Privet Drive were closer together than ever before and the bitter atmosphere was ever more suffocating and restrictive.

It was most likely this feeling, that led to Harry's excitable conversations with Sirius by letter, as infrequent by necessity as his letters were. He and Harry had discussed almost every place they could go together besides where they were now. He had always had the urge to escape, and get away - and now that Hogwarts had temporarily allowed him to do that, the desire to get away had morphed slowly into the desire to explore the world.

It was why, he had confided to Sirius, he enjoyed the sneaking around the castle, and the Forbidden Forest that had occurred as part of their escapades the previous years. Exploring places that he had never seen made him feel more alive than just about anything in the world. It was freedom. Freedom from the Dursleys and Privet Drive and freedom from being the Boy-Who-Lived and the constant reminders of the enormous cavern carved into his life the day he was given that moniker. His life's ambition was to be as free from all of the things that held him down.

Sirius had simply told him to name the places, and we'll explore them together one day.

He groaned and pulled himself away from the window in frustration. He had no muggle coats that would keep him even remotely dry in that kind of downpour, so despite the fact that every instinct in him urged him to head outside and wander to a part of Little Whinging he had not explored yet, he reached for a book, trying to prepare himself for the coming year at Hogwarts.

It wouldn't be long now, and he would be headed towards the Burrow, where he could at least distract himself from the wanderlust with friends and good times.

Albus Dumbledore sat at his desk, a rich mahogany affair, carved beautifully without the aid of magic by Helga Hufflepuff - a fact not many left alive knew - and pondered the letter he had received from Remus Lupin a mere moments ago. Written hurriedly, with flecks of dirt and sweat upon the worn and beaten parchment that reminded him oddly of the man himself, it carried the news that Dumbledore had been fearing ever since Lord Voldemort's fall at the hands of Harry Potter all those many years ago.

Remus, with an old ally in the form of Kinglsey Shacklebolt, had set out to Albania two weeks ago in order to investigate rumours of dark magic and supposed sightings of Bertha Jorkins, a Ministry employee who had gone missing several months ago.

The pair had found her broken body in a ritual clearing deep in Albanian wilderness, her very life energies used to the benefit of her captors, her face mutilated almost beyond recognition; and most disturbingly, with a carving etched deeply into the flesh of her stomach.

A skull with a serpent emerging from it's mouth - the dark mark. Voldemort's mark.

Voldemort was one of a very small number of people in Europe with the knowledge to perform a ritual of the kind Remus described in his letter, and most crucially, Remus' enhanced lycanthropic sense of smell had picked up on the significant odour of one Peter Pettigrew, a former servant of the vanquished Dark Lord.

It was not concrete enough to convince anybody of importance at the Ministry, but it was enough for Dumbledore. Voldemort was close to returning to power, and war was once again on the horizon.

And this time, all the aging headmaster could do was try and stem the tide until the only one who could end it was ready for what laid ahead of him.

It was time to call once again on old friends for assistance. Once again, Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix would be forced to stand before the darkness and fight.

Gaunt eyes gazed across the table's flickering candlelight at haggard ones in their dimly lit corner of the Danish pub closest to Sirius Black's current place of refuge. Sirius imagined the shadows that his face cast after 12 years of Azkaban and several months on the run were thoroughly unflattering, but for once, Sirius couldn't summon even an ounce of self pity. Remus Lupin's entire stature had an edge to it, a tenseness that Sirius would have recognised even had he spent another decade with the dementors.

"So, He's back then." He scowled even as he said the words - the lives of James and Lily were worth more than a meagre decade of peace.

"Not yet," Remus sighed as he spoke, slumping back into his chair. "But he's close to it. Dumbledore suspects he's even returned to Britain, to prepare for whatever final piece of magic he needs to perform to recover his body."

"And the Rat is with him."

Sirius hadn't been aware his remaining friend's expression could grow any darker, but it did, the deep lines on his faces becoming gulleys carved by time that a man his age couldn't technically have experienced. The last Black knew the feeling.

"He'll be gunning for the kid, Remus. Dumbledore gave me the heads up. Whatever crazy shit James and Lily pulled in Godric's Hollow means he'll have to use Harry for whatever it is he'll do to come back. Dumbledore says to leave it to him - stay off the grid." Sirius left that to hang in the air, despite the anger he felt at the idea. Azkaban had taken it's toll on him emotionally. The humour he remembered being the crux of his personality was frighteningly difficult to conjure now, and plain happiness was almost impossible outside of the brief time he'd spent with his Godson.

Fury ran in his blood though, and that came to him easier than ever. He wondered what the years had done to his friend - how much of the remaining Marauders had been eroded away by their lives.

Remus fiddled unconsciously with strands of his beards, even as his face remained placid as ever and Sirius felt a twinge of triumph. Moony had been doing that to distract himself from anger since he had been old enough to grow facial hair. Triumph was replaced swiftly by bitterness as it occurred to him that he was probably the only person left alive that knew that.

He was fed up with wallowing. The old him had been a man of action - it was time he proved that Sirius Black surviving Azkaban hadn't been at the expense of Padfoot the Maruader.

"I have a plan." Well, loosely speaking anyway.

"Boy! Down here, now!" Petunia's high pitched screech managed to tear his eyes away from The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection. He rather thought a suitable response to his aunt's summons was the Curse of the Bogies he knew was contained within it's pages - Vernon on the other hand, deserved something considerably worse. Perhaps a (brief - he didn't quite think the Dursleys deserved death after all) confrontation with a Red Cap?

"Boy!" Against all odds, Petunia's voice had increased in pitch, and Harry was starting to get concerned for the lenses in his glasses.

"Coming Aunt Petunia!" He shouted back, trying to feign as much respect as possible - no need to make whatever ordeal awaited him worse - as he begun to descend the stairs.

Petunia was standing stiffly by the front door, radiating floral patterned anger, and it only took Harry a moment to realise why.

"Professor Lupin?" Harry tried and failed to keep the surprise out of his voice.

"Ah, Harry!" The former professor responded, with a touch more enthusiasm and warmth than his previous position permitted. "Your aunt has very kindly allowed me to take you for a spot of lunch - provided you wish to, of course."

Harry didn't dare speak - his aunt was capricious enough to retract her permission, and he didn't want to chance a thing, so he instead nodded enthusiastically as he walked to the door to join Lupin. The werewolf shot him a smile before turning to Petunia once more. "Thank you again, Mrs Dursley." Harry had no idea how Lupin managed to stay as calm and polite as he did, even as the door shut in their faces as a response. "Charming as James and Lily described her." Remus stated sardonically, giving Harry a sly smile, causing him to snigger quietly as they walked away from Privet Drive.

"How have you been, Professor?"

"That's Remus now, Harry - or Moony if you'd rather. I'm not your professor any longer." Remus responded softly, and Harry wondered if losing his job was still a sore point with the man.

"I'm not sure I'll ever be able to think of you as anything else - you're certainly the best defense professor I've ever had."

"Considering what I have heard, that's not exactly praise Harry, but I'll take it as I think it was intended." Remus paused, considering what to say, and continued quietly. "I've spent much of the summer caring for Padfoot. He's needed the company I think, but is doing as well as can be expected. Physically, he's close to a full recovery. Mentally... Well, that much time in Azkaban will always take a toll."

"Is he going to be okay?" Harry asked cautiously.

"Of course. It will just take time, Harry. You've felt the effect dementors can have - you know what it is they can do just by being close."

Harry did know. It was a sad fact of his life that dementors causing him to hear the worst moments he had ever experienced meant that he heard his mother's voice for the very first time. The dread and hopelessness they instilled was more than Harry had ever felt - even being bitten by a basilisk hadn't had that effect - and yet, he strangely associated them with the sound of his mother.

The conversation went quiet after that, and Harry wondered if he had upset Lupin in some way by bringing up the condition of the man's remaining best friend. For the moment at least, the werewolf seemed to be wrangling with something in his mind.

The meal itself went better. Harry managed to not wolf down the sandwich Lupin had bought him immediately, and had nursed a coke for the whole of the time as they made friendly small talk back and forth. This kind of chat wasn't really within Harry's realm of experience - particularly with adults - but he found himself enjoying it anyway. To spend time with somebody who gave a damn without any of the pressure's of it being a professor or a Dursley was nice, and Remus' interest in even the stupid stuff that he'd been doing and thinking with his time felt... good. The man would have made a good Uncle.

It wasn't until they had both finished eating that he felt Remus' demeanor shift slightly, and Harry became aware that they were coming to the crux of why the man had come all the way to Little Whinging to see him from wherever he had been hiding with Sirius.

"During the war," Remus began softly, "Professor Dumbledore created a group. It worked outside of the Ministry and official channels to combat You-Know-Who and his forces. It was called the Order of the Phoenix."

Harry's breath caught in his throat - he had not been expecting this, and it had caught him rather flat footed.

"Your parents, myself and Sirius were all members - it's how we chose to fight against what You-Know-Who stood for." Lupin took a deep breath. "At the start of the summer, Dumbledore made a call to some of the former members who were still around in order to reform the Order."

"But why would he do that now, not unless-" Harry stopped dead, cold dread preventing the next words from forming in his mouth.

"That's right. Dumbledore thinks he's making his final move soon. You-Know-Who is not far away from regaining his body and former powers, thus starting the war anew."

Harry's mind raced. He supposed he had always known that this would happen. How could he not, with everything that had happened in his First and Second years? He knew full well the man was out there somewhere, less than human, but ever plotting a way to come back to his body. He also knew that Voldemort wanted him dead, and nothing that he had done since becoming a wizard could have changed that. Rejecting an alliance and killing the man Voldemort was possessing would naturally sour an opinion - and that was just his first year at school.

But why was Lupin telling him this - surely this was something for Dumbledore, not a thirteen year old school boy - how could he possibly make a diff- without warning, the pieces fell into place.

"He's going to be coming after me, isn't he?" Harry didn't really want an answer if he was being totally honest.

"You are too sharp for your own good Harry." Remus said with a touch too much sympathy for Harry's liking. "But yes, Dumbledore believes that whatever magic You-Know-Who will attempt to use to regain his body, he will try and involve you in some way."

The cafe he and Remus were in suddenly felt very quiet as he absorbed that news, and found he wasn't really as shell shocked as he ought to have been. For some reason, the idea of Voldemort targeting him felt right. As if that was how it should be.

At the same time of course, Harry was quietly aware that as much as he had faced in his short life, a fully powered Lord Voldemort would be far too much.

Lupin used the quiet to press on. "Dumbledore would have preferred to keep you in the dark regarding this - to stop you from worrying, and to allow you to enjoy the year. Myself and Padfoot felt differently. You deserve to understand what is happening in your life Harry, and you deserve to have some support in dealing with it. Padfoot and I intend to be that support. Once you are back at school, I am going to find a way to meet with you and we can start to look out for you as we should have been doing from the start." Remus fixed him with a peculiar look, and Harry all too slowly realised it was the look of a person that genuinely cared for him.

"You've faced too much already alone and completely unprepared. It's not going to be the case again. Sirius and I will see to that."

Dumbledore watched the copper instrument in front of him shift slightly in his hands and ring softly in a manner not unlike a doorbell indicating Remus Lupin's magical signature had just left Little Whinging. Remus was of course unaware that Albus had placed detection wards that covered the whole of the small town in which Harry Potter lived - only of the intent based blood wards that protected Harry from any who would do him harm.

He leant back in his chair, ignoring the murmurings of the portraits that surrounded him, quietly contemplating how he would respond to this development.

The fate of Harry Potter was too important to leave to chance alone.