A/N: This is a bit of a departure from my norm, and I suspect there will be some who are unhappy I've been spending time on this rather than other things, but at the end of the day, this idea took my fancy and demanded it be written. So if you're author-following me, and are disappointed that there's no Shadow of Angmar update, I apologise. It's in the works. It just got delayed a little while I was finishing this story up.
First things first, this is an AU story (as you might have guessed). In this AU, Draco Malfoy was born a girl and as a potential candidate for an altered prophecy. The changes this brought about from that point vary from the obvious to the subtle. I am experimenting with trying to paint these differences purely through the story so there's no prologue explaining everything. It is also from Harry's point of view, and Harry resides in this AU, so elements of difference between canon and the diverged setting are not explicitly called out.
Despite the influence of Lucius Malfoy on the setting, this is not a grimdark one. No death camps or anything like that. This is mostly the world you know, only the battle between Lucius Malfoy and Dumbledore for the Wizarding World's soul has been tilted a little more towards Malfoy than in canon thanks to the additional influence his daughter got him.
I am interested to see how many people give this story a go. I'm fully aware that the concept treads a little too close to some tropes for many people's comfort (Drarry, gender-bending AU, and different kid-who-lived will surely drive a lot of potential readers away), but I hope you'll give it a go. It's 14 chapters long, and about 60k words. I'll be posting a couple of updates a week as I edit and correct them (while returning most of my attention to SoA).
Chapter 1: A Long-Awaited Birthday
"How many are there?" Harry Potter asked as he gazed over a table straining under the weight of dozens of gifts in many different shapes and sizes. He looked at his mother with an expression of concern.
His father, James Potter chuckled and ruffled Harry's hair, much to Harry's dismay. Harry ducked out from under the offending hand. His hair was hard enough to manage as it was without his father's constant attempts to muss it up even more.
The long-suffering sigh Lily Potter breathed was belied by the hint of a smile that pulled at the corners of her mouth. In a vain effort to cover it, his mother shook her head. "Enough, I'm sure. Now do you want them or not?"
At that moment, Harry was tackled by the ever boisterous Sirius Black, his godfather and a man who had apparently reached the mental maturity of a sixteen year-old and decided that that was quite enough for him. He held Harry tight and James took full advantage. When Harry managed to yank himself free, his hair was in no small amount of disarray.
He glared at all three of them, but when his mother could no longer restrain her laughter he couldn't help but join in.
"I hate you all," he said, utterly without fire. "You ruined the joke."
"I think, actually, you three 'ruined it' by telling the same joke every year for six years. The poor boy was eleven at the time," said Lily as her eyes flicked to her unrepentant husband and his best friend. "I wonder what you two were like at that age, hmm?"
"I was a right little terror," said his dad, completely unrepentant. "Why, I remember when I—"
"Oh, be quiet you old windbag," said Sirius, cutting him off before he could launch into some ridiculous and almost entirely fictional story. "That's besides the point. You're meant to be an adult now, Harry. Means you have to come up with your own jokes.
He thought about what he'd said for a moment and then added, "Just because your old dad hasn't come up with a new joke in the last— what? eighteen years? doesn't mean you shouldn't aspire to be better!"
"Hey, that's not fair," said James, adopting a look of outrage. "There was that time during the Christmas of '88?"
"That was out of one of Lily's crackers and you know it."
"Does that not count?"
Ignoring their continued jabs at each other Lily smiled at Harry. "You'd best go and get ready," she said. "Your friends will be arriving soon. You may as well open your presents once they arrive."
Harry nodded, and turned to head through into the hall. When he reached the doorway, he paused.
"Will Remus or Peter be coming around?"
Remus Lupin, one of James' other friends from school, was something of a sore topic at the moment, Harry knew. Even if he hadn't, the rapid darkening of James' and Sirius' expressions would have made that clear.
"You know Remus can't afford to come back here, not so soon after the Ministry ran him out," said James sadly.
Sirius was less sanguine. "When I find out who it was that dobbed him in, I'm gonna—"
"Sorry, honey," said Lily, cutting Sirius off before he could say anything too off colour. "Peter has been really busy at work with something. He did send you a present, though."
"Still don't understand how he can stomach working for that slimeball Malfoy," Sirius muttered.
"Oh," said Harry. He tried to hide his disappointment, but he was pretty sure his parents could see through it. Remus was a bit of a stick in the mud, but Peter always had an amusing story to tell. "Well, I guess I'll go get ready, then."
As he left the room, his mother called to him: "And see if your sister is up yet!"
That drew a groan. A proud Gryffindor he might be, like his father before him, but even he knew that there were no real upsides to being the person responsible for waking Effie. He was honestly amazed that she seemed to make it in time for all her classes at Hogwarts considering that it took nothing less than a natural disaster to rouse her when she was at home.
Grumbling only slightly, he crossed the top floor landing to her door, and tapped on it quietly. "You awake?"
Surprisingly, his answer was not some incomprehensible mumbling, an angry squawk, or even a snapped "Yes!". Instead, the door was pulled open almost instantly.
In what was quite possibly a world-first, Effie was not only fully dressed, but her hair had clearly been carefully styled, and it was obvious even to Harry that a judicious quantity of make-up had been applied.
"Well, are they here yet?" she snapped as her eyes darted towards the top of the stairs just in case Harry was being followed.
"No?" said Harry, thoroughly wrongfooted. "Soon though. Mum asked me to make sure you're up."
She deflated very slightly. "Oh." At last she seemed to actually recognise Harry's presence. "Your hair is a mess. You should probably brush it or something, you know?"
"Yeah, yeah," Harry grumbled as he turned in the direction of his own bedroom.
Despite living with her for more than fifteen years, he still had very little insight into how her brain actually worked. He'd once asked his friend Ron if he had any real understanding of how his own sister's mind worked and had been gratified to learn that he didn't either.
The answer had been "girls are mental" and the truth of that statement had only become more clear over time.
It only took a minute or two to bring some level of order to his hair once more, and soon he was descending back down the stairs. He heard familiar voices coming from the living room.
"Harry will just be down in a moment," said his mother's voice.
"He's not doing his hair again, is he?" asked another voice. Harry easily recognised it as belonging to Seamus Finnegan, one of Harry's dorm-mates at Hogwarts. "How many is that so far today?"
"Oi!" Harry called as he entered the room. "You're one to talk."
More had arrived than just Seamus. Just next to him was Dean Thomas, and still surrounded by a slowly settling cloud of soot was a bedraggled looking Ronald Weasley. Effie was loitering somewhat conspicuously in a corner.
"Harry!" said Dean with much enthusiasm. "Happy Birthday, mate!"
"Yeah, Happy Birthday!" said Ron. He clapped Harry on the back, which sent up a cloud of soot.
"All grown up at last," said Seamus as he brushed an imaginary tear from his eye.
Harry eyed Seamus. "Aren't you only a couple of weeks older than me?"
"It's not about the length of the years," said Seamus, grinning. "It's about the"—suddenly he realised that Harry's mum was still present—"um… Maturity?"
"Well said, Seamus," said Lily, her smile leaving Harry in no doubt that she knew exactly what Seamus had been about to say. "In that case, I guess I'll leave you responsible for keeping this lot under control. If you boys need anything, we'll be through in the other room, okay?"
"Thanks, Mum," said Harry as she left, followed somewhat reluctantly by Effie.
When the door clicked closed, there was a short pause before Dean spoke. "So, uh, what are we doing?"
Harry cast a silencing charm at the door, grateful that he could finally cast magic at home without the risk of being told off by his parents. He looked at Seamus who pulled out a shrunken bag filled, hopefully with every kind of alcohol the other boy had been able to loot from his dad's liquor cabinet.
"Nice," said Ron, looking very pleased indeed.
"No, but hear me out here. Effie is at least an 8," said Dean with the kind of confidence that can only be borne of significant alcohol consumption.
They were sat in something approximating a circle on some conjured beanbags, surrounded by the detritus of their day. Plates with cold chips, remnants of pumpkin pasties, and the last few crumbs of a cake had been scattered over nearly every surface, and one whole corner of the room had been surrendered to empty boxes and torn wrapping paper.
"Hey, that's my sister you're talking about," said Harry frowning as he leaned back. He took another swig from the large bottle of cider he'd been working diligently away at. "And you wouldn't be saying that if you'd seen her first thing in the morning."
Ron leaned forwards a little unsteadily "Yeah, but that's the case for all the girls, isn't it? Look at Ginny."
"Mate, I swear, if you're about to rate your own sister…"
"Eww." Ron's face crinkled up in disgust. "No. I'm just saying she looks a right fright first thing. I reckon it's some of that— what was it again? The muggle thing with the micclescopes?"
"Science?" Harry supplied.
"Yeah, that." He leaned back looking very pleased with himself.
"Might also have something to do with cosmetic charms too," said Neville Longbottom, his voice dry. He hadn't arrived until a little later and was in the unenviable situation of being a bit less drunk than everyone else.
"Nah, that's just what they want you to think," said Ron.
"You been spending too much time with Loony, mate?" asked Dean as he reached over to slap Ron on the back.
"Bet he wants to catch a look at her lovegood," Seamus cackled.
"Seriously, Seamus, you had 'Lovegood' to work with and that's all you managed?" said Harry, shaking his head in disappointment.
Seamus had the good grace to look ashamed, but only for a moment. "Wait, wait, wait. I know!" he nearly shouted. "I bet he wants to love her good!" He toppled over laughing while everyone else shared a glance.
"Seamus, I say this from the bottom of my heart," said Dean solemnly. "That was actual shit. Why are we friends with you again?"
Perhaps sobered was not the right word, but Seamus stopped laughing for long enough to reply. "I bring the booze."
"He's got a point," said Ron with a shrug.
"Alright, so, where were we?" said Dean. "Oh, yeah. Effie's definitely gotta be on the list. She's pretty good now, but if your mum is anything to go by… phew. They'll need to add some bigger numbers." He whistled appreciatively.
"Can we not talk about how hot Dean thinks my mum and sister are on my birthday?" Harry asked. "Unless you want me to throw up, that is."
"You gotta admit that your Da's a lucky bastard," said Seamus, backing up his friend. "I mean, I totally would."
Harry's head dropped into his hands. "Kill me now," he mumbled much to the amusement of everyone else.
"Alright, as it's your birthday, we'll move away from your mum's shaggability," said Dean charitably.
"Shaggability? Really?" said Neville as he shook his head.
Dean shrugged, unconcerned. "For that, we can instead talk about Neville's mum's shaggability."
"Wouldn't shaggability mean something more like how good they are at sex?" asked Ron. "Don't you mean… I dunno… uhh…" He trailed off.
"Yeah, so, like I was saying. Neville's mum is a pretty solid 7 in my book," said Dean.
"Eight," said Ron firmly.
Harry, grateful that the target had changed weighed in too. "Seven sounds about right."
"I hate you all," said Neville.
That prompted much laughter from everyone. It was maybe a minute before they stopped.
"No, but real talk now. Who's the hottest in the school?" asked Seamus in the manner of someone asking the really important questions in life.
"You've got issues, mate," said Neville. "You ever think of anything other than girls?"
Seamus looked affronted. "Quidditch!"
"Hey, did you hear that Furley might be moving to the Cannons?" Ron asked. As usual, he pounced any opportunity to talk about his beloved Cannons. "Heard it from George."
"And you believed him?" asked Dean. "Furley's been at the Wasps for years. He's not gonna pack it in there to join the losing team."
"We stand a real chance this year!"
"We're six games in and you've only got fifty points," Harry pointed out.
"Exactly!" said Ron. "Much better than last year."
"You only got those because the Magpies all got dragonpox and had to forfeit," said Seamus.
As always, Ron was unperturbed. "Worried we might have a chance of going all the way this year?"
"All the way?" said Seamus. "The only place you're going is the same place as every year. Right to the bottom."
Knowing full well where that conversation was likely to end, Harry decided to change the topic back to something safer. "Lavender's got to be a contender, right?"
Ron and Seamus were just about nose to nose, but paused when Harry spoke. They both looked at Harry, then at each other, then back at Harry again. They both grinned a little sheepishly and relaxed.
"She's got pretty nice jugs," Seamus allowed, "but I'd be worried she might kill me with those legs of hers. That Bond chick… Onatopp would be proud."
"Eh?" said Ron.
"Who?" Neville asked.
"I dunno, I happen to like that particular feature," said Dean with a grin. "More to grab onto. Susan, though? Now that's a figure."
"You just like redheads," said Harry shaking his head.
Dean looked puzzled by Harry's dismissal. "What's not to like?"
"Try living with one."
"You offering a mumswap?" Dean wiggled his eyebrows.
"I prefer my women able to stand up on their own in a stiff breeze," said Neville, much to Harry's relief. "And hold a conversation on more than one topic. Hermione's pretty hot when she makes an effort."
Ron scoffed. "I know she's a Slytherin, but Daphne Greengrass doesn't need to make an effort to be hot."
"Let's be honest here," said Seamus as he shook his head. "We all know who the real stunner of the year is."
Harry groaned. It had only been a matter of time.
"Iana Malfoy." Seamus leaned back with the attitude of one who believed they had found the one true answer.
"Well, she's hot, yeah," said Harry shaking his head, "but she's also a hateful bitch. She'd probably snip your head off like one of those black widow spiders just as soon as you'd blown your load."
Seamus shrugged as if that was only a small concern. "But what a way to go, am I right?"
"Didn't she use a switching spell to swap your ears with your tackle that time in fifth year when you tried to hit on her?" asked Dean, clearly unconvinced.
"I thought it kinda worked for you." Neville grinned. "You are a bit of a dickhead, after all."
"Oh, har, har," said Seamus sarcastically. "That was Harry's fault anyway. He thought it would be a good idea to switch Malfoy's knickers with Goyle's."
"I'll think you'll find that it was a brilliant idea," said Harry as he crossed his arms.
"Well, maybe it would have been," said Seamus, "but you bloody missed, didn't you?"
Harry felt he needed to defend himself. "She's quick on the draw."
"Well she is the bloody Girl-Who-Lived," Neville pointed out. "You don't think she isn't getting every kind of special training her dad can afford?"
"And Malfoy can afford a lot of training," said Ron.
Crossing his arms, Harry said, "Yeah, well, I still got her good with that Buzzing Boils Hex last year."
"How did that work out for you?" asked Neville. "What was it, two weeks of being locked inside?"
"Worth it." Harry could still remember the look of horror on her face when the first of the boils had burst and released three or four bees which had immediately started stinging her and her cronies.
"For you maybe," said Seamus. "I can still wank myself off by stroking my ears."
It was at that moment that the door creaked open, and Effie poked her head in.
"I imagine that's a useful skill," she said, surprising Harry with her boldness. "Especially for you Seamus."
Neville, Ron and Dean all broke out in laughter, with Dean actually toppling over backwards. Harry was less amused.
"What do you want?"
"Mum sent me to get you," she said. She was frowning as if that fact annoyed her, but Harry could tell she wasn't really. If she'd really been annoyed, she wouldn't have done it in the first place. "Professor Dumbledore is here, and wants to talk to you."
That brought Harry up short. The other boys also stopped laughing pretty quickly.
"Dumbledore?" asked Ron, looking worried. "Did he find out about the—"
A firm punch from Dean shut him up. "Don't you say a thing!"
"I don't know what it's about," said Effie, shaking her head, "but Mum and Dad didn't look too happy."
That wasn't good. "Bollocks," said Harry succinctly.
"Just how badly did you mess up your exams?" asked Neville.
Harry pushed himself up and started moving towards the door. For some reason he felt like he was walking to his own execution. He turned back to see his friends looking up at him, all with similar worried expressions. "I'll be back soon," he said, before adding, "Hopefully."
"Good luck, Harry," Ron called as Harry followed Effie out of the room. While it didn't really help the sense of impending doom, the effort was appreciated.
Effie turned to head up the stairs.
"Are you not going to stick around to watch?" Harry asked. He knew there were few things Effie enjoyed more than seeing Harry get a good stern telling off for being, as she liked to say, 'a stupid prat'.
"Dad told me to go up to my room after I fetched you," she said, sounding disappointed. "He looked like he was being serious."
"You really don't know what it's about?"
She shrugged, clearly attempting to make it look like it didn't matter. "All I knew is that Professor Dumbledore turned up, and they were arguing about telling you something. Guess they've decided to do it."
Well, that didn't sound ominous at all. "I'm sure you'll find out soon enough," he said.
"I guess." She trudged away up the stairs. The single glance back when she reached the top betrayed just how interested she really was.
Once she was gone, Harry walked as slowly as he could manage towards the lounge. He paused outside the door, but his plan to delay just a little more was thwarted when Professor Dumbledore's voice rang out from within.
"Come in, Harry. No need to be shy."
Harry pushed the door open, and found not only Professor Dumbledore and his parents, but Sirius too. None of them looked happy. Even after an exchange of spells with Malfoy which had resulted in more than one botched transfiguration he hadn't seen the Headmaster looking so grave.
"What's this about?" Harry asked warily. He definitely hadn't done anything which warranted this level of solemnity. The pleasant fuzziness that alcohol tended to lend the world was fading rapidly.
"Harry," said James, shifting uncomfortably. "As you're now seventeen… well there's something we need to tell you."
A quick glance, and the way his mum was clutching at his dad's arm told him it wasn't anything to do with their marriage. So… "What is it?"
"You should probably sit down," said Lily, her voice tight.
Harry did so, and turned to his parents for answers. He'd never before seen them looking so serious. Even Sirius wasn't cracking his usual bad jokes. There was not even the ghost of a smile. The unease he had felt when Effie had told him to come through twisted into fear in his gut. Just what was this about? Dumbledore cleared his throat.
"You are aware, of course, of how the dark wizard Lord Voldemort was defeated nearly 16 years ago?" he asked.
Didn't everyone? Harry nodded hesitantly. What did Voldemort have to do with him?. "He found out that Lucius Malfoy was working against him from inside the Death Eaters, and went to his Manor to kill him, along with his whole family," he said, pausing when Sirius scoffed quietly before he was silenced by a look from Lily. "When he tried to kill Iana, something happened, and his Killing Curse backfired somehow. What does that have to do with me?" He glanced at his parents. They still looked very serious indeed.
"That is certainly the story most of the world knows." Dumbledore steepled his hands and leaned forward. "There are a few understandable inaccuracies, some gross fabrication, and a little pure fantasy. The true story of what happened that night is wholly more strange, I think.
"As I believe Sirius wishes to explain, Lucius was never, to my knowledge, working directly against Voldemort."
Still not really understanding what connection this all had to him, Harry frowned. "Then why did Voldemort go after him?"
"Why, indeed?" Dumbledore asked. "Some have asked if it was because Malfoy's influence among Voldemort's followers was too great, but that was certainly not the cause. Tell me, have you heard of the phenomenon of true prophecy?"
Whilst Harry had briefly toyed with the idea of taking Divination, the thought of the look on his mother's face when he told her had stopped him. Despite that, he'd picked up a bit from Ron's periodic complaints.
"I think so?" he said a little unsurely.
"Perhaps it would be best if I started from the beginning," said Dumbledore, tapping his chin. "Very well. The story begins, I think, in the Hog's Head, on a cold night seventeen years ago. I was interviewing a young witch for the post of Divination Teacher, a post I confess I had previously been resolved to leaving unfilled."
"Professor Trelawney?" Harry asked, connecting the dots.
"Just so," said Dumbledore with a nod. "The interview was nothing if not disappointing, and I was about to take my leave when a most peculiar spell took her, and she said:
"One with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…
born to the flower of nobility, born of the fifth, one month from the seventh of Diana…
The Dark Lord will seek him as his equal, but he will mark the unnamed in his folly…
and when he grants her the sign that was lost, the Dark Lord will fall by his hand, her heart…
the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…"
As the Headmaster lapsed into silence Harry glanced around the room to take in the grave expressions on both his parents' and Sirius' faces. He felt like his head had just been dunked in icy water. The happy sensation of mild inebriation quickly became a distant memory.
"What is that meant to mean?" he asked.
"We shall come to that question a little later, if you would humour me for but a brief time," said Dumbledore. At Harry's reluctant nod, he continued, "Thank you. Prophecies are a tricky business, and I caution you not to ascribe inherent power to those words. However, the reason I believed it was necessary to tell you was that a young Death Eater also heard at least some of the Prophecy."
"Snape!" Sirius' lame attempt to cover it with a cough convinced absolutely no-one.
Pretending not to have heard it, Dumbledore went on. "That Death Eater immediately took what he heard to his master. The wording can be interpreted in a number of ways, but I believe that Voldemort only learned of the first two lines."
"I'm sorry, sir," said Harry, still struggling to understand where the story was going, "but I still don't see what this has to do with me. Or even with Malfoy. I was born on the thirty-first of July."
The Headmaster nodded. "Your perplexity is understandable, but consider that Iana Malfoy's birthday was on the 5th of June."
It took a long moment before understanding dawned. "The fifth day of the sixth month… so she's the one in the prophecy?"
"Alas! Were it so simple." Dumbledore shook his head, his long beard following behind in slow waves. "It is an understandable conclusion to reach. Her mother, Narcissa was a young woman of undoubtedly noble blood, and bearing the name of a flower, after all. But no, the last line, part of the Prophecy which Voldemort never learned, clearly does not identify Iana. 'Born as the seventh month dies'. July."
A million questions warred for supremacy in Harry's mind, and a roaring sound filled his ears. His mother said something, but he couldn't make out the words above the din. He felt her squeeze him, and some semblance of order returned to his world.
"But how does—" Harry began before another question overtook it. "How can you—" And another. "Isn't Voldemort dead already? How can I be the one in the prophecy if Malfoy has already done it?" His gaze flitted across to his parents once more, and their expressions were transparent. "He's not dead, is he?"
"He is not," said Dumbledore with uncharacteristic bluntness. "Not truly. It is my belief that he has managed to persist somehow. A wraith, weaker than any ghost, yet alive, still."
"How is that possible?" Magic could perform wonders, Harry knew, but this was beyond anything he could imagine, even for someone like Albus Dumbledore.
"There is much we do not know," said Dumbledore. "Voldemort is a master of magics I have no desire to ever learn, and long claimed he had delved further into the mysteries of the deep magic than any before him. All I know is that he made an attempt some time ago to gain possession of an artefact that might have had the power to return him to true life. He failed in that plot, but it cost me one of my oldest friends to deny him his return."
Harry looked at his parents for guidance. "What do we do?"
"You don't have to do anything," said James firmly. "You're only seventeen, and there's no way we're going to let some hokum spouted by that old fraud put you into the middle of a war. If we can keep him from regaining a body, he might never threaten you."
"But you're seventeen now, Harry," Lily added. "We'd hoped that all the nonsense with the prophecy could be forgotten when Voldemort fell. There is nothing I want more than to be able to shelter you from this, but you're of age now. We couldn't keep this hidden from you forever. You deserve to know the danger you might be in."
"If Voldemort does return, and he wants to get to you," said Sirius. "He'll have to go through all of us first."
"Fortunately," Dumbledore interjected, "that will hopefully be unnecessary. Prophecies are strange things, and governed not so much by magic, as by our own actions and choices. Had my brother found the young Death Eater just a little earlier, it is quite possible that none of the events of it would ever have come to pass. It was only by Voldemort's choice to pursue it that the first part of it was brought about. If we can keep him from realising that the one in the prophecy is not Iana Malfoy, then it may be that you will never need to concern yourself."
While he might only be seventeen, Harry could tell when his parents were trying to put on a brave face. The way his mother and father kept meeting each-other's eyes, Sirius' loud confidence. They didn't know what was coming either.
"But it's still Voldemort, right?" Harry asked. "He's still going to be out for me and my friends because of who we are."
"Then it's our job to protect you," said James with an ironclad certainty that Harry hoped was not misplaced. "If you ever feel you have to fight then we're doing our job wrong."
Harry would never admit it, but hearing his father say that, and the accompanying little squeeze on his arm from his Mum made a world of difference. They didn't know what the future held, really, any more than he did, but at least they were still there. He still had so many questions, though.
"I still don't understand how the first part of the prophecy can apply to me?"
"It is often the case that prophecies make little or less sense until after they have been brought about," said Dumbledore. The way he was calmly explaining things was another thing keeping Harry from having a full-blown breakdown. "Remember what the line was, one month from the seventh of Diana. The Roman goddess Diana has long been associated with the Moon, and you were born on the fifth day of the eighth lunar month.
"Indeed, were it not for that, it is possible that the prophecy could have applied to either you or Mr. Longbottom. His mother is Alice, which means noble, and his birth was scant hours before your own. But he was born on the fourth day of the eighth lunar month. Had the year of your birth not been a leap year, it would be he to whom I would be talking now, instead of you."
With every word of Dumbledore's answer, Harry could feel his chances of escaping dwindle further and further. If it was as he said— and really, who was he to doubt Albus Dumbledore? —then it was certain. He'd have to be the one to defeat Voldemort. Most of his friends couldn't even say his name, and Harry might have to fight him? The whole world seemed to be collapsing in on him. Everything he'd ever known, his entire life, was gone. Destroyed before he'd even been born.
He felt his mother's arm reach around him to hold him closer, but even as she did so, Harry had never felt more distant from her. She'd kept something like this from him?
"How long have you known about this?" he asked them, his voice rising along with his temper.
"Since you were born," Lily admitted. Harry could see the tears in her eyes, but the words drove any thought of trying to comfort her from his mind. "We couldn't bear to put something like that upon your shoulders."
"So instead I find out now that I have to fight the most powerful dark wizard in the world?" Harry snapped. "Maybe I can hit him with a Stupefy. Or maybe a Disarming Charm? I'm sure that will work on him!"
"Harry!" said James, cutting across the tirade which was only just getting started. "You do not have to fight him. You don't have to do anything. If you do not act on the prophecy, and Voldemort doesn't know about it, then it will not come to pass, do you understand? He may never even be able to return! We— me, your mother, Sirius, Albus— we won't just let that happen, do you understand?"
Harry angrily rubbed the gathering tears from his eyes. "How can you say that?" he asked, nearly shouting. "He's Lord Voldemort!"
"And I am James Potter," said James. He pointed at Harry's mum. "That is Lily Potter, and that sorry excuse for a wizard over there is Sirius Black." Then he pointed at the headmaster. "And that is Albus Dumbledore. The only man Voldemort ever feared. We're all going to be doing every damned thing we can to ensure you and Effie, and all of your friends, don't have to experience what we did when we were growing up. Voldemort might be powerful, but right now he's weak. He still needs to regain his body, and his followers are divided. Lucius Malfoy might be a bastard and a bigot, but a lot of Voldemort's most influential followers are well and truly in his pocket. Even if he did manage to come back, without his old followers he'll find it a lot more difficult to wage his war than he did last time."
"I have already reconvened some other like-minded individuals," said Dumbledore. "And whilst there is little Lucius and I see eye to eye on, he can at least be relied upon to act in his own self-interest. He will do everything in his power to ensure Voldemort is not able to return."
"Okay," said Harry, his voice dull. All the anger had been sapped out of him, and he found he just felt tired. Hadn't he been having fun with his friends just minutes ago? Now he was being told that his parents were going to fight, and probably die, in a war that he was fated to finish. "I— I think I need time to think this over," he said finally. "I'm going to go to bed."
With that, and without waiting for a response, he pulled the door open and darted up the stairs as quickly as he could manage. At the top he found Effie. She started to stand up, but Harry blew right past her. Just before he slammed his bedroom door shut he heard her call out behind him.
"Harry! What was—"
The spell cut off all sound from outside his bedroom, and Harry threw himself into his bed. In the silence that followed, the true enormity of it really hit him.
He'd been Harry Potter. The best seeker Hogwarts had seen in decades. He'd had dozens of friends, and girls had just about been lining up to date him. Now what was he?
Before Iana Malfoy, no-one had survived Voldemort deciding to kill them. His parents didn't talk about that time much, but he'd have to be blind to fail to see how much it had clearly influenced them. Was that all going to start again? Was he going to have to be the one to take a stand? He might as well be dead already.
A/N: So what do you think? Are you willing to take a punt on this? I do hope so!