Disclaimer: I do not own Harry, oh how I wish I did and I could have my way with him and so many other ickle characters. Alas, I am poor and pathetically obsessed with the world of Harry Potter so I only can write about him.

Summary: Harry comes to terms with the death from OotP and has to learn to accept his fate before him. Harry being allowed to join the Order causes tension. Friendships change-some for the better, some for the worst. The Wizarding world becomes the stage for war and Dumbledore maneuvers his chess pieces into position. Harry finds out there's a lot more live for a and a lot more to lose when his heart starts to feel something for someone who's been just a friend for years. It'll be H/Hr. I guarantee Ron won't be pleased about this. In fact, as the year goes on, he just can't figure out why everyone seems to act like the world revolves around Harry. This is my guess to how many of things to come in the 6th and 7th books may play out but I plan to give Harry some more, er…*adult* situations than JKR could allow him to enjoy.

This is my first fic but I won't ask for mercy- correct me if I am wrong and flame me if I suck.

Summary Updated 1-28-04: You may also find chapters posted on my Yahoo Group along with some discussions and other reviews. The website is linked on my bio page. The Yahoo Group name is: HP_AoF. On that site, some of these initial, shorter chapters will be merged into one file for ease of downloading or printing. If you want to know what to expect from me as an author, read my bio page-I make some promises there and even now, six months later, I'm sticking to them.

Chapter 1. Return to Silence

The ride from Kings Cross to Little Whinging was remarkable only in the fact that for the first time it was completely uneventful. Uncle Vernon made no disparaging comments about other motorists, pedestrians, the weather, nor, most notably, Harry. In fact, Uncle Vernon made not a peep of noise despite maintaining the coloring of a Purple Puking Pastille. Aunt Petunia was silent as well and her lips had all but disappeared into her horse-like face as she had them pursed in such a thin line. Dudley, in a most un-Dudley-like display, sat looking out the window looking as if he were actually deep in thought. All the while, the last passenger in the car sat marveling at the fact that he had not yet been made to listen to a litany of horrors he would be subjected to if he were to step out of line during the summer.

Harry had yet to hear a word spoken from any one of his relatives by the time they had arrived back at Number Four Privet Drive. Harry had lugged his trunk and Hedwig up to the smallest bedroom in silence. As he flopped facedown upon his bed, he was only brought back to reality by a low hoot from Hedwig.

"I suppose you want out," he said as he opened the cage and window beside his desk. He watched longingly as Hedwig hopped over to the window, ready to roam for the night. "I don't blame you," he thought as he watched his only friendly companion for the summer fly off for the night.

The atmosphere at Number Four could only be described as tense. It seemed as if Uncle Vernon had had his mouth glued shut and the only noises he could muster were some indistinct grunts and something sounding like, "Flapplegrundymum." Dudley was barely ever home, running with his friends and beating up on ten-year olds, no doubt. And Aunt Petunia only spoke to fuss over her Duddydums and to when announce meals were ready. Meals were silent except for the sound of Vernon's newspaper shuffling and the clink of silverware on dishes. Harry occasionally found Dudley staring at him in a peculiar way. Harry thought he may have been thinking again but really could not believe Dudley would do such a thing. Aunt Petunia, though, seemed determined not to acknowledge the tension in anyway and could be found busying herself doing all manner of odd chores, even those previously relegated to Harry.

Harry was indeterminably grateful for being ignored and for being given the freedom to do nothing but stare at the ceiling in his bedroom. After three days of being home, the only thing he had managed to feel obligated to do was send off a letter his first morning back to Lupin assuring him that Harry had indeed made it home and was not locked away in a cupboard, yet.

Harry was startled back from his thoughts as an unfamiliar owl flew in and landed on his chest. He untied the letter and the owl flew over to Hedwig's cage and after her seeming appraisal, was granted her permission to have a drink. The owl then settled upon the top of her cage, clearly saying it would be waiting for a reply. Harry tore open the letter and read:

Harry,

Thank you for sending a note so promptly. How are you doing? Arabella says she has not seen you in the neighborhood at all. Let's meet at her house for tea on Thursday. I would really like to see you again and see for myself that you are okay. Let me know if you need anything.

Remus

Harry bristled at the idea that he needed to be checked up upon and that this invitation to tea was not really a request but an expectation. "Yet another expectation," he grumbled to himself. "They expect me to be okay, expect me to not blame myself, expect me to live with people who would rather eat worms than speak to me, expect me to clear my mind when the only thought that I can't help but think is that I am, without choice, destined to be murdered or a murderer. Oh and when you have done that; please vanquish the Dark Lord, too. Great Bloody Expectations. My life puts Charles Dickens to shame." Hedwig clicked her beak in indignant agreement.

The next day before having to leave for Mrs. Figg's, Harry took the time to shower for the first time since he had been back at Number Four; he thought they would probably appreciate him not arriving with his own special stench. As Harry attempted to comb his ever-untidy hair, he found himself staring into the mirror. The mirror reminded him of the mirror Sirius had given him. The mirror that did not show Sirius's face since Sirius was now trapped in some veil. The mirror that could have been used to know that Sirius was never actually in danger until Harry allowed himself to be manipulated and tricked to go the Ministry. The mirror that reflected a face nearly identical to the only actual image Harry had ever seen of his father. As Harry thought of his father he began to attack his hair with more vigor, determined to not be the mirror image of his father. At this thought, he felt his eyes prickle and chest burn. He couldn't have been always awful, he thought. Damn Snape! Here I am stuck with this…this…feeling and image of my father and Sirius isn't even here to tell me what my father was other than cruel or arrogant! Snape is probably toasting his pickled frogs in his dungeon, drinking to the fact that his school day tormentors were now both dead. Bloody bastard.

His hair at least looked somewhat neater for the moment and Harry gave in. Now all he had to decide was whether to wear the bluish t-shirt that was too long and too wide with his jeans that were too short and had rips in each pocket or the grayish t-shirt that was only too wide with his jeans that were too short and had a hole in the knee. He tugged on the latter combination, tucked his wand in his belt loop and vacantly recalled as he pulled the shirt over his head that the t-shirt had, at one time been white-ish. Just like Snape's underpants. Harry shuddered with the memory and vigorously shook his head to chase away the image. He noticed his hair was now as untidy as ever as he passed the mirror on his way out the door.

Chapter 2. Tea Talk and Expectations

"Harry, come in, come in." Mrs. Figg ushered Harry in off her porch and Harry was amazed at the rush of emotions upon seeing Remus Lupin sitting on one of Mrs. Figg's doily-covered settees. He felt relief at a familiar face and being reconnected to the wizarding world, grief for the last time he had seen Lupin was when he had just witnessed Sirius fall through that damn veil and shame because he, Harry, was the reason that Lupin and Sirius had gone to the Ministry that night in the first place. His face must have shown his flood of emotions for Lupin got up, and watching Harry's face intently, placed a concerned hand on Harry's shoulder asking, "Are you alright? Let's sit down."

Harry found he could not meet Lupin's eyes and stared at the smoky grey cat sitting in the chair near the empty fire grate licking its paw intently while vaguely hearing Mrs. Figg say tea would ready in a few minutes and that she would be in the kitchen. "Harry?" Lupin was still watching Harry's face and he found it very disconcerting to be scrutinized so intently. Lupin seemed just as uncomfortable with an unresponsive Harry and asked, "Are your relatives behaving like muggles or did Mad-Eye scare them enough?"

"They're fine. Completely ignore me. As good as it gets, really."

"No threats of stuffing you in a cupboard then?" Lupin asked with a hint of dry amusement.

"Not a word."

"Do you have much to occupy your time?" After a brief silence Lupin continued, "I know this summer before you get your O.W.L. results and can sign up for your N.E.W.T. courses you won't have any homework to do. How did your OWLs go?"

"No. Fine. Not really." Harry shook his head. "I mean, no, I haven't done much of anything. Just thinking. OWLs were lousy," Harry finished as he continued to stare at his shoe, watching his sock poke though the hole in the toe.

"Well, they couldn't have been that bad, you are quite bright. I'm sure you aced Defense? Rumor has it you were teaching it this past year, after all?

"Um, yeah, that went well." Harry smiled slightly and snuck a look at Lupin as he added, "The examiner added an extra credit point for my ability to produce a Patronus." He looked back down as he said, "Thanks for that. I taught it to several others last year. Not a real pressure situation, just, learning the charm." He took a deep breath and looked directly at Lupin as he continued, "I reckon it is something everyone should be practicing since the Dementors are out." Lupin sighed as Mrs. Figg brought in and set down a tray with tea, sandwiches and biscuits.

"I've got to run to the market and another errand or two. You two will be fine? I will be back in about six." Lupin nodded, "Thank you Arabella."

"The Ministry has been sending out pamphlets on home security and basic defense to everyone since they have been forced to acknowledge Voldemort's return. They just sent out one this week on the Patronus Charm as the only defense against a dementor."

"They expect people to defend themselves? Against Dementors? When they have never practiced much less practice against a real dementor? Where are the Aurors?" Harry was appalled that the ministry would not understand the time, effort and training involved in becoming capable to fight off a dementor. "What about students? I've helped a few become familiar with the spell, but…I mean, I got dragged in front of the entire Wizengamot last summer because I decided to defend myself and not get my soul sucked out! How… I mean, really, what-"

"Dumbledore is working to convince the Confederation to sponsor a temporary lift on the ban for the restriction on underage magic. To allow magic to be used not just to defend oneself and others but also to allow students to practice outside of school." Lupin set down his teacup as he continued, "Look, Dumbledore is determined to have at least you be allowed to be able to practice and begin tutoring before the summer is out. As a last resort, he would have you move back to Hogwarts early." Harry's eyes got big and he struggled not to shout his agreement. Lupin smiled and added, "But you need to remain here for at least a while. Dumbledore said you would understand why?"

Harry had looked down at this and was biting his lip, "Yeah. Not really, but I know why he says I have to stay here." Harry's stomach gave a hungry growl and he grimaced and reached for a sandwich. Lupin watched as he began to nibble and topped off his tea before he said, "Albus said you've been told about the prophecy."

He watched as Harry's face flush and as he nearly choked on his food; his brow furrowed in concern as Harry had to wash down his food with a large gulp of tea and then grimaced from drinking so much of such a hot liquid, before he could say, "You know? Does everyone know?"

Lupin studied his face as he answered evenly, "It was rather big news when it first came to light some sixteen years ago. Everyone in the order knew."

Harry thought on this as he looked across the room, "Everyone?" Lupin nodded. Harry's heart fell as he realized that people he thought really cared about him: Mr. and Mrs. Weasely, Lupin, and-oh god-Sirius-Sirius had only cared so much because of the prophecy. They were only worried about making sure he was okay so he could fulfill the prophecy. He felt sick and felt that prickling in his eyes again as he looked around the room for a way to get away, "Well, I'm fine so I should just let you get going then." He was standing up and about to step towards the door when Lupin stood up and stopped him.

"Harry! Wait Harry," he was searching Harry's face.

Harry felt that he was about to lose control, curl up right there and howl if he didn't get away now. "Just-let me-you don't need to check on me. I'm FINE," he said, nearly pleading. He really wished Lupin would just let him go as it took all his strength to speak with such conviction and to not let out whatever was trying to burst out of his chest. Lupin lifted his hand from Harry's shoulder and Harry was nearly bolting through the doorway when he stopped-turned around and, with is eyes blazing, asked, "If everyone knew, and Wormtail was in the order then, why didn't Voldemort already know the prophecy?"

Lupin stood staring at Harry for a moment and then stepped towards him, opened his mouth and then shut it. His brow furrowed and he then moved backwards towards the settee and looked concerned as he said, "He did. He does. Harry, I thought Albus explained?"

Harry felt betrayal and anger rise in himself. "WHAT? Then what the hell was the whole Department of Mysteries thing?! A field trip?" He was walking back towards Lupin and sat down, this time in one of the chairs across from him and out the pure necessity to keep from falling to the floor. "Why-WHY-would he want the recording then if he already knew?" Harry demanded to know.

Lupin looked Harry in the eyes as he said, "Harry, the recording had the entire prophecy on it. All anyone knows now is the beginning; the part that led Voldemort to seek you out in the first place. Harry, Voldemort wanted-still wants-to hear the entire thing."

Harry visibly relaxed and shut his eyes as he realized what Lupin had meant. He was holding his head in his hands and was struggling to keep in his emotions that, it seemed, had been temporarily held at bay by his short burst of anger. "Harry?" Lupin was on one knee in front of him and had placed a hand on his head. The gesture, so much like something that Sirius or his own father might have done if they'd have had the chance, broke his last shred of restraint. Tears seeped from his eyes as he choked on a sob that came up from someplace that had long been neglected.

After a few minutes, Lupin pulled out a handkerchief and offered it to Harry as he moved his hand to Harry's shoulder and gave it a squeeze, "Albus did tell you all this, didn't he?"

Harry had refused the handkerchief and was wiping his eyes on the front of his shirt and he nodded as he sniffled. "Yeah. But I thought…nevermind...I understand now."

Lupin watched Harry for a moment and then asked, "Harry, did you hear any of the prophecy when it broke?" Lupin watched carefully as Harry looked up with eyes still red and a bit puffy and behind his glasses.

Harry's eyes searched Lupin's for something; some answer or maybe some question. No, Harry thought, if Dumbledore felt it was necessary to lie to the Order about what was known about the prophecy, then I shouldn't tell. "No. I-No." Harry studied Lupin's weathered and worn face carefully and said, "Sorry, for a minute I thought you were saying that everyone else knew the entire thing and I had been lied to." Again. You didn't know I was the only one who could kill him. "Do you know who overheard the prophecy?" And who do you think heard it in the first place?

Lupin pulled back from Harry and sat on the floor in front of Harry as he paused before saying, "Snape." Harry's eyes widened as he went on, "Snape heard it when he was a Death Eater- they all knew because they were being used to help decipher whom it could mean. That's when Snape came to Dumbledore and informed him of the prophecy and we were able to decipher it the best we could. We had it narrowed down to you or Neville Longbottom-your birthdays are only a day apart. We only found out who heard it after the fact. Albus told me when I came to Hogwarts to teach. He told the Order when it reconvened a year ago that Snape was the reason we had found out about the prophecy and had been shown trustworthy because he was the one who informed the Order that Voldemort had identified you and Neville as being the candidates for the prophecy. That was what allowed your parents and the Longbottom's to go into hiding under Fidelius." Lupin appeared to age years as he sighed and went on, "It didn't help your parents though, did it."

Harry's jaw had dropped. It didn't make sense! Dumbledore had heard it! Snape-?!-If this was why the Order trusted Snape, why-WHY-did Dumbledore trust him? "Don't you know who gave the prophecy or who heard it to begin with?" Harry asked.

Lupin shook his head. "Not all prophecies are given conveniently it would seem. Whomever Voldemort's informant was, they only heard the first few lines."

As Lupin stood up to walk Harry home, he informed Harry to practice censoring his OWL post. "An order member will be around to see you in person at least twice a week-whether at Arabella's or… something. I'm free to do it for the first few weeks."

Harry asked, "You don't have to go on any missions?"

Lupin took a deep breath and said, "Albus has given me time off. To grieve."

They both stopped walking and Harry felt that incredible sorrow for his own loss and the shame of causing Lupin to feel grief as well. "I'm sorry," he said. "I should not have gone-I should have used the mirror-he gave me a mirror to use in case I needed to contact him and I just never even opened it!"

Lupin looked confused, "What mirror?"

"The two-way mirror Sirius said he and my dad used to use. He had given it to me wrapped up as a gift just before I left after Christmas Holidays and said to use it to contact him if I ever needed him. I thought…I-I thought if I complained to him every time something went wrong at school, he would be reckless and risk his own safety to help me so I stuffed the package at the bottom of my trunk and forgot about it. I could have used it! Avoided Umbridge's office and avoided Kreacher!" The self-loathing that'd been eating away at Harry was back again in full force.

Lupin stood in front of Harry and put both hands on his shoulders. "Harry, listen to me. Don't blame yourself. It is not your fault. You were right to think Sirius would have risked himself to help you. He would have and he did."

Harry cut in, "And he is dead because of it!"

Lupin looked fiercely into his eyes. "No-he could not have lived with himself if he hadn't. You acted to save someone you cared about to the best of your knowledge. You were deliberately misled and lied to. Harry-you are not to blame!"

Harry hung his head as he mumbled, "I could have mastered Occlumency and not have been tricked. I could have used the mirror."

Lupin sighed. "Harry, it's a losing game to play 'I could have' or 'what if'. I can play it too and does no one any good. We can't change the past and we have to forgive ourselves to get on with our own futures. Now as the last true Marauder, I am ordering you forgive yourself because it is the Marauder creed-'One for all and all for one' and your father would have done no less to attempt to save one of us he thought was in danger. Nor Sirius. Nor I, for that matter. It gets lonely being the last Marauder-I did it for thirteen years. I just may have to make you an honorary inductee." Harry smiled at this and they began the walk back to Privet Drive. "Is there anything you need? Stuff to keep you busy? Books?"

Harry thought about this and said, "Books would be good. I imagine we won't get book lists until later this year but whatever they have in the department of, 'So There's a Dark Lord After You and You're Not Quite Ready to Die Yet' would be helpful."

Lupin smiled as he left Harry at the front of Number Four. "I'll see what I can find."

Chapter 3. Books, News, and Letters

Two days later, the sudden apparition of Fawkes startled Harry out of practicing different ways to draw his wand. So far his favorite was where he imitated a television show he had seen Dudley staring at where a muggle drew a gun and twirled it around, pointed it and said, "Do you feel lucky, punk?" He could just imagine the look on Draco Malfoy's ferret face if he did that with his wand.

Fawkes dropped a brown paper-wrapped package with a note atop Harry's desk and flew over to land on his shoulder. Fawkes always gave Harry an incredible feeling of comfort and hope-something that he was desperately lacking right now. Harry went to his desk and sat down to remove and open the note as Fawkes flew over to discuss whatever it is he would discuss with Hedwig. Harry was glad his Uncle was still at work and his Aunt was somewhere other than here because he was sure that the intermingled hooting and trilling of the two birds would test the color range of his Uncle's face.

Harry-

Remus mentioned your request for some reading material so I have sent along some of my own books for you to help in passing the time during your stay with your relatives. You may keep them as long as you need.

I hope this letter finds you well. You will not need stay at your relative's for too long. A few weeks are all you are required to be there. I hope to be retrieving you personally and will let you know shortly in advance of when you may expect to be leaving.

Fawkes is a most reliable and secure messenger and will wait for your reply. Please, let me know if there is anything else you need. Ms. Granger has requested I forward a letter of her own with a package for you.

Take Care,

Albus Dumbledore

So that explained why Fawkes was still trilling patiently at Hedwig; he wanted a reply. Only about a million questions leapt to mind that Harry wanted Dumbledore to answer. …A most reliable and secure messenger… Harry took that to mean there was no chance of interception. Well, it made sense that Phoenixes could disappear and reappear at will so intercepting them in flight or however it is they travel would be rather difficult. Not to mention, Harry could well remember that Fawkes could defend himself and others quite adequately. There's a carcass of a dead and blinded basilisk that can testify to that.

Harry wondered momentarily what to write. Should I ask him? Would he even tell me? Harry wondered if Dumbledore might finally let the reason Snape was to be trusted be known. He has to tell me something; I already know he has lied to the order.

Harry's feelings towards Professor Dumbledore varied greatly during the course of each day. Often he felt anger towards the man for being the cause of his incarceration with his anything-but-loving muggle relations and for never quite answering all of Harry's questions. Sometimes he felt he had let Dumbledore down by acting recklessly and endangering several of his fellow students and the lives of several Order members, not to mention causing the death of Sirius that night at the Ministry. Lupin said not to blame yourself. He has to say that, you prat, they need you to do what no one else can. And at rare moments Harry thought perhaps he would like to make Dumbledore proud by living up to the high expectations he had for Harry. But this thought was usually chased away by a bitter voice in Harry's head that screamed with indignation, "Why should I, a teenager, a child not even allowed into the Order committed to fight Voldemort, have to accept this burden?! Why my narrow shoulders?!" He knew in his heart that whether it was known to be his burden or not, he would have committed himself to fighting anyway but the fact that the burden was his and his alone made him feel more than a little indignant that he had not been told sooner nor had he been given more than one decent year with a DADA teacher who knew their stuff to help him prepare to fight, oh, only the biggest dark wizard of the century or so.

"Prepare. How in Merlin's name am I to prepare for this?" Harry asked out loud to Hedwig and Fawkes. It was then that Fawkes flew over to perch upon the box from Dumbledore still sitting on his desk and still unopened. Harry wondered briefly what Sirius would say if he had known the details of the prophecy as he tore off the wrapping. Inside the box, there were several well-worn books. There was: A Wizard and his Wand, Dueling with Wizards Who Play Dirty, Magic of the Mind: Occlumency and Legilimency, Defensive Magic to Avoid Death, Auror Training: Level 1, Spells for Stealth and Precaution, and the last few books each had a note taped to its cover.

The note on The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts: A History of Dark Lords and their Ascensions to Power said, "It may be helpful to understand the motivation of what inspired the rise of previous dark lords and the history behind them."

The note, "It is important to understand what one may be facing to properly prepare a defense." was attached to Art Caligo: An Illuminating Primer to the Dark Arts. .

The last book was Mysteries and Cultural Perspectives on Death and Dying in the Wizarding World to which the longest note was attached:

"Harry, The wizarding world has some very different customs and beliefs about death and dying than the muggle world. This book should help you better understand those differences and the beliefs of our world. I recommend reading the section on "End of Life Celebrations and Memorials" so you can know what to expect when we arrange for a Celebration for Sirius. I would like your help and input for the planning of this event which I hope we can arrange to occur before the start of next term. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in the meantime. Remember that Sirius loved you and would be furious if he thought you were blaming yourself for his death. This is the beginning of dangerous times for all of us and we must remain united and learn to rely on our friends and loved ones to help each other through difficult times. -AD"

Well, that certainly adds a few questions, Harry thought. What in the world is a "Celebration" and why would anyone think that he-Harry- would want to celebrate a death? "I guess those answers are in the book, huh." Harry noticed as he said this that Fawkes seemed in no hurry for a reply. He and Hedwig seemed to be getting quite cozy, as their chatter was now more of a soft cooing to each other. Odd, Harry thought as he reached for a small book-shaped parcel that was wrapped in muggle tissue paper and removed the note that had his name written on it in Hermione's neat script. "Let me guess," he started as he was tearing open the envelope. In a high voice he mimicked, "Oh Harry, I hope your fine and I can't say much, don't be mad at me. It's all for your own good. Don't blame yourself." But as he removed a rather thick bunch of stationary, he began to think it was awfully long for a letter that only said she couldn't say anything.

Dear Harry,

Professor McGonagall is currently visiting my home and helping my parents make arrangements to go on an extended leave. McGonagall explained the impending "climate" in the wizarding world and I thought my parents were nearly about to forbid me from returning to Hogwarts. But, Thank God, McGonagall explained that Hogwarts is the safest place to be and that her visit was due to concern for the families of "prominent muggleborns" (in other words-anyone who has slapped Ferret Boy). Anyway, she has suggested my parents take a well-timed long vacation out of the country to volunteer for a year abroad in another country offering their skills and abilities as dentists in lesser-privileged communities. I agreed with her suggestion and now my parents are with her downstairs working out the details. I have yet to find out when they will leave or where I will be staying the remainder of Holiday when they do leave. Anyway, Professor McGonagall asked me if I would like to write a letter to be forwarded to you for her to take back to Hogwarts. She emphasized that Dumbledore would be using a "secure" means of getting it to you. I know how frustrated you were last year without any news so here it is!

The Daily Prophet has been raving up the "brilliance" of Fudge because he delayed in sending any of the Death Eaters that were caught the night at the Ministry directly to Azkaban so that when the dementors abandoned the island, there were no Death Eater prisoners there to be freed. The whereabouts of the prisoners is currently unknown and being treated as "top secret". (I, personally, assume this is all in thanks to Professor Dumbledore-there is no way Fudge is capable of independent thought at this level.) Several people now write in everyday about how they saw Voldemort walking down the street or shopping in Diagon Alley. (Honestly...)

Anyway, the paper loves you and Dumbledore again and a few students wrote in the other day bearing witness to your "displays of persevering conviction" in our first DADA class last year with She-Who-I-Cannot-Stand-to-Name. (Guess who wrote in- Colin and Dennis Creevey-the fact that they were not actually there did not seem to stop them from telling the tale.) Lee Jordon was quoted in an interview on the street telling how he was made to write lines with a quill using his own blood and now the Ministry has "expressed concern and shock" at HER behavior and has officially opened an inquiry to investigate That Evil Woman, however, IT has apparently disappeared and no one has seen IT since IT was chased out of Hogwarts by Peeves. (My blood is still boiling at the things that "Woman" got away with!) Also, the Ministry repealed each and every one of those bogus Educational Decrees beginning with the one where the Ministry could appoint people to vacant teaching positions. Thank God! I am drafting a note for Professor Dumbledore requesting a formal investigation into the behavior of Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson because of their abuse of authority last year. From what I read in the Prefects' Handbook, they should both be losing their badges. At this rate, next year promises to be a definite improvement.

Ok, I think that is all the news I have. On a more personal note, how are you doing? I know losing Sirius must be incredibly painful for you. I miss him too. It was you and I who helped save him in third year and it keeps going through my mind how we might have saved him this time, too. I am so sorry for your loss, Harry. I could tell you were still rather in shock when we were leaving Hogwarts. Harry, you must not think it was your fault; Voldemort has tricked and manipulated older and wiser wizards than you and we all did what we thought was the right thing. I know you will blame yourself no matter what I say but know this- no one else blames you. I wish there was more I could say to help you believe this. Please write back and let me know how you are doing and if you need anything at all. Send Hedwig but remember to speak guardedly when writing.

They are almost finished downstairs and I need to send this off. I am including my birthday gift for you early because I think it might help you now. Take care and I hope to see you soon.

With Love From,

Hermione

Harry's jaw had dropped when he realized the letter was a recap of all the news to date. Harry had not continued his subscription to The Daily Prophet due to the fact that the paper seemed to only like to print lies, untruths, and especially slander on 15-year-old boys-with occasional Quidditch scores, too. Hermione's gift of a personal diary mystified Harry for the most part and he could not imagine how a blank book was something that might help him now. At least the package of books sent from Professor Dumbledore offered him reading material.

Fawkes flew over to the desk and Harry was reminded that Dumbledore was expecting a reply. Harry stared at Fawkes as he said, "Oh, I'll write a reply."

Chapter 4. Celebrations of Life

Professor Dumbledore,

Thank you very much for lending me your books. They will indeed help to pass my sentence here. Exactly how long must I remain here, when I can leave and where will I be going?

Professor Lupin mentioned that I may be getting training or tutoring before the summer is up-what king of training and from whom? He also mentioned that you had told him that I now knew the prophecy-which caused me quite a bit of confusion. I gather from speaking with him that what the Order knows is not the same as what I was told? Is there anyone else besides you and myself who know? Isn't it a possibility that Voldemort may be able to glean this knowledge from my own mind? Also, I asked Professor Lupin whether he knew who had heard it and he told me about Snape bringing the information to the Order-he claimed this deed was why the Order now knows that Snape is trustworthy. Is there anything else I should be aware that the Order believes?

Is there anyone I may tell or do you believe it should remain secret? I have been thinking, the prophecy really does not say that much- if Voldemort found out, I daresay he would be disappointed that it is so vague and, for the most part, after the fact. Why should this remain so secret? I am not anxious to have neither everyone nor anyone knows but I do not understand why absolute secrecy is required and an explanation would be much appreciated.

You asked me if there is anything else I need, well I severely doubt I should hope for such freedom, but it has been nearly three years since I have been able to go to Diagon Alley. I sorely need several things besides just my books for next year including making a trip to Gringotts. Is there anyway at all I could arrange to go sometime before school begins?

Also, I know this may seem trivial, but I was wondering if anyone knew if my Firebolt was still at school? Last I heard it was in a dungeon guarded by a security troll.

Thank you again for the books, I shall take good care of them.

Harry

P.S. I assume it was you who arranged for Professor McGonagall to help the Grangers relocate to safety for the time being; thank you very much. I know Hermione appreciates it and I do as well.

Albus Dumbledore looked up from reading the letter to stroke his long white beard and to watch Fawkes who had settled onto his perch. "I think this calls for a visit."

Ireland is home to the birth of the custom of a "Wake". Lead cups were once used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock a drinker out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake".

Respect for the dead has always been a prominent feature of Irish culture. Indeed, the bean síspirit is often rumored to have announced, by her wailing, the impending death of a member of a family. The death and burial and, in former times, the waking of the dead is an important social occasion.

Family and friends had hoped to "wake" the dead by telling stories of fond memories, singing songs, and even playing games. This was considered the proper way to pay tribute to the deceased person. This custom of not mourning, but celebration was carried forth to sculpt modern wizarding memorial services.

Ok, so that explained where the idea of a celebration came from. Harry couldn't help wondering, though, what would this be like without a body to wake-much less celebrate? Harry had been to a funeral once when he was seven. An elderly neighbor had passed away and at that time and Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia insisted that they always attend services at St. Catherine's off Sussex Gardens. The entire family-plus Harry-had been dragged to mass every Sunday morning to ensure that the Dursleys were seen as upstanding, perfectly normal citizens and Harry was a token of their Christian kindness and generosity. Aunt Petunia would pretend to make a fuss over Harry having refused to wear the clothes his Aunt had suggested when in reality; he had no choice at all. Harry was even sent to attend classes each summer that Dudley never had to go to. So, when well-liked Mr. Neighbor from Number Six had passed away, nearly the entire congregation attended the funeral-including the Dursleys and Harry. Harry now suspected that his Aunt and Uncle had hoped to have the Catholic Church help "stomp the magic out of him" because they all stopped going and Harry was forbidden to go near St. Catherine's after an incident when Harry was nine. He had been chosen to play the church organ for the choir practices after Father Moran found him once trying rather successfully to play music by ear. Father Moran had called upon the Dursleys them to tell this wonderful news about their nephew and that of course the Dursleys must be so proud. But Harry was never allowed back and none of the Dursleys ever bothered to go anyone on Sunday mornings after that. Harry was quite sure that the Dursleys were probably most irate that he might have been enjoying his time away from Dudley and out of his cupboard.

Harry flipped another few pages in the book Mysteries and Cultural Perspectives on Death and Dying in the Wizarding World. He found a section on the rituals of Wizarding Life Celebrations.

Celebrations are hosted by the closest kin of the deceased. The timing of a Celebration is intended to signify the end of the grieving or mourning period and the acceptance of the death. Depending upon the time it takes for the surviving kin to complete mourning, Celebrations are often not held until weeks, months or even a year after a person's death.

The Celebration is meant to bring together all those whom share fond memories of the deceased and share the joy of those memories with the passing of the fey rod. The custom of the fey rod began with Welsh wizards and witches who would create an aspen rod or wand with the magical core of a hair from the deceased. The rod or wand was passed around to be held as each person spoke of their fondest memory of the deceased. The core of the wand was thought to direct the joy to comfort the departed soul beyond the veil. Today's Wizarding society knows that no magic can reach beyond the veil and that comfort will only help the living.

Current custom is to pass around either a phoenix feather or a wand made of the wood from a Holly tree-the Tree of Life. However, both are rare to come by and many wand makers may keep a special holly wand reserved to be lent out for use at Celebrations while Phoenix feathers are customarily passed forth and reused. The original tradition held that a freshly rendered phoenix feather would ignite upon being touched with a holly wand of the closest kin who had sufficiently grieved enough to be able to feel pure joy in the memory of knowing the deceased. The ignited feather was then used to light the Life Light that signified the beginning of the Celebration. Today the Celebration Light is usually lit prior to the gathering.

A shout from Aunt Petunia downstairs, "Harry!" yanked Harry away from reading. "There is someone here to see you! Hurry Up!" Harry wondered who in the world had ever come here to see him. It must be an Order member, he figured as he opened his door and turned to walk down the stairs.

"Hello Harry," Lupin greeted as he watched Harry come downstairs. "I was wondering if you might visit for tea. Like last time." Lupin had a soft smile as he watched Harry check him over, obviously wondering if there had been an emergency and then quickly shifting the look on his face from apprehension to a cooler look of mistrust. Lupin held up his hand and said, "Did you get the package from Fawkes? Albus told me he sent it his morning."

Harry nodded and came all the way down to the landing. "I'm ready."

Outside Number Four, Lupin explained that Professor Dumbledore was at Mrs. Figg's house and had wanted to have tea with Harry. Harry felt a rush of hope that he might be able to leave Privet Drive even sooner than he had expected or maybe that he would be able to go to Diagon Alley today to finally refill his money bag and pick up new robes, cloak, and broomstick polish. The Firebolt was the first gift from Sirius and he had been worried about its safety and condition ever since he realized he was here in Surrey and the broom was up at Hogwarts. He knew it would need a thorough cleaning after who had had their dirty hands on it.

As they arrived on the porch of Mrs. Figg's house, Mrs. Figg herself opened the door and stepped out saying, "Remus are you ready? Harry, go on in, Albus is already eating."

"Where are you both going?" Harry questioned searchingly.

"Arabella wanted help with an errand. You'll be alright?" Lupin continued, "I'll be back to walk you home."

Harry walked in and through the hall to the parlor where there, in an house that looked like the epitome of muggleness, sat Professor Dumbledore in a bright purple robe and hat with twinkling gold stars and moons on the doily-covered settee with a cat eating ham out of his outstretched palm. "Hello Sir."

"Harry-" his attention was momentarily drawn back to the cat who had given up trying to nibble and grabbed the entire piece of meat, "-how are you?" As Dumbledore peered over his half-moon glasses with his twinkling blue eyes and searched the depths oh Harry's own eyes, he could not help but feel like a child who had just been caught being naughty red-handed. He thought that perhaps he had been a little too tetchy in his reply to the headmaster yesterday.

"Er…" -no wait- he was not sorry. He deserved the answers he had asked for and to know who knew what and to whom he could talk to and why. He couldn't be expected to handle all this without ever telling anyone, could he? Hermione for one would know for sure that he was keeping something secret. " I'm fine. And you sir?" Harry was standing straight up as he said it and felt he would not be leaving until got some answers.