HP Year 5: Let the War Begin
Chapter 1


Warnings: Strong Language, Self-harm - these may change at any time.
Sequel to HP Year 4: Voldemort Returns, although this will hopefully make sense even if you haven't read that.


Harry gasped as he landed on the floor, having fallen off – or, rather, been shoved off - the bed.

"What was that for?" he cried indignantly, using the side of his bed to pull himself up.

"You're worse than Sirius," Tonks grinned. She was lying comfortably on his bed now, having jumped on it to wake him up. "And me," she added as an after-thought. "Harry, it's after one in the afternoon! And I haven't seen you in ages," she added, slipping off his bed.

"Yeah, well, some of us are tired," Harry grumbled, waving his wand over himself to change his clothes.

"With how early you went to bed last night? I don't think so," said Tonks as she clucked her tongue and grabbed Harry's wrist to pull him from the room.

"Hey - wait!" Harry managed to reach out and grab Sally before Tonks succeeded in getting him out of his bedroom. "I can walk by myself, you know," he muttered as Tonks pulled him down the stairs with her.

"I know," Tonks said brightly. "I don't trust you, though. If I let you of you you'll just run back up to your bedroom."

"Will not," Harry protested, but by then they'd pretty much reached the kitchen anyway.

"Have a good sleep?" Sirius grinned as he stuck a plate of eggs and sausages on the table for him.

"Hard not to, after the Dreamless Sleep. Who cooked that?" Harry asked warily as he sniffed the food.

"Don't worry, Harry," Remus assured him. "As long as I'm here Sirius will never get to touch your food." Satisfied, Harry sat down and ate a mouthful of egg, grinning at the mock-hurt expression on Sirius' face.

"Is Severus still going to come over for training?" Harry asked, looking up at Remus.

"At weekends, yes," his guardian nodded.

"Okay," Harry smiled slightly. He was glad he'd be able to see his uncle so often this Summer, but he was still dreading the first lesson; he hadn't spoken to Snape since the disastrous third Task and he wasn't sure what his uncle was going to say about it.

"That'll get cold if you don't eat it," Tonks reminded him as she pulled a piece of bacon from his plate and started eating it.

"Oh. Right, yeah," Harry frowned at the plate. He didn't feel especially hungry, but he knew he'd be on the receiving end of a lecture on looking after himself properly if he stopped eating again. He didn't notice the glance shared between Sirius, Remus and Tonks as he reluctantly took another mouthful of egg.

After he'd finally finished eating, Harry was once again dragged away by Tonks, this time to train. He had training every day now; Severus trained him on Saturdays and Sundays, Sirius on Mondays and Wednesday, Remus on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Tonks on Fridays. Last year he would have pulled a face at having to work so much over the holidays, but this time he was grateful for it. He wouldn't stand a chance against Death Eaters if all he knew was what he'd been taught in Hogwarts so far, and he knew that said Death Eaters were bound to target him now that their master was back.

"You would make a good Auror after school," Tonks grinned as Harry dodged yet another spell and sent one back at her, missing by a millimetre.

"So I've been told," said Harry dryly as he threw another disarming spell at her. She blocked it, twirled on the spot, disappeared and reappeared behind Harry. "Cheat," he grumbled, putting up a shield charm, spinning on the spot and managing to hit her with a jelly-legs jinx.

"You got me," Tonks said proudly, pointing her wand at her wobbly legs and cancelling the spell. "Damn it, you're good. You didn't tell me they'd been training you that much!"

"Sorry," Harry grinned and shrugged. "It helps that - according to Sirius, anyway - I'm naturally fast. Seeker reflexes and all that. When are you lot going to teach me to Apparate?"

"I think Sirius wanted to start next week," Tonks said, going back into a duelling stance. "The sooner the better, he said. You never know-"

"-what might happen," Harry finished for her. That phrase had been used rather a lot lately. Tonks grinned guiltily at him.

"Don't let me turn into a broken record, Harry," she warned as she raised her wand. "I'm not going to go as easy on you this time. Ready?"

Harry had already fired a curse at her.

.

When the two finished an hour later, both were breathing heavily and sweating.

"I think I need to get Sirius to train me," Tonks complained as they walked down to the kitchen for a cool drink. "I can't believe a fourteen year old nearly managed to beat me three times out of four."

"Hey!" Harry cried in mock offence. "And, I'm nearly fifteen!"

"Sorry, Harry," Tonks grinned, chucking him a bottle of cold water. "Come on, though. I'm an Auror. People depend on me to protect them from Death Eaters; it doesn't exactly bode well for me when a fourteen - nearly fifteen," she corrected when Harry opened his mouth, "year old can best me in a fight," she said, shaking her head.

"If it makes you feel better, the Death Eaters I've seen - apart from Severus, I suppose - are pretty pathetic."

"You haven't been able to fight them properly yet, though," Tonks shrugged. "And hopefully you'll never have to."

"Yeah, right," Harry snorted. "I wouldn't be surprised if they showed up at Hogwarts looking for me. Two of them did last year, remember?"

"Not the point," Tonks said with an odd look on her face. Harry frowned. "Oh dear, I'm turning into one of those over-protective mother figures, I think," Tonks said, forcing a grin to make the atmosphere lighter.

"You're worried," Harry stated, sitting down at the table.

"Aren't you?" Tonks asked, joining him.

"I guess," Harry shrugged. "I try not to think about it too much, actually."

"No, I don't suppose you do like thinking about it," Tonks said quietly, taking a sip of her water.

"Aw, come on," Harry said, trying to reassure her. "You said it yourself; I'm good at duelling for a fourteen year old. Imagine what I'll be like at the end of the summer, with all the training I'm getting. You should stop worrying so much… put your energy into pranking Sirius or something."

"Yeah, you're right," Tonks said decidedly, standing up. "I'm too young to be getting grey hair over you; I'm supposed to be the cool older-sister, not the fussy mother hen… d'you think Remus'll help me prank Padfoot?"

"Prank Sirius?" Harry asked with a grin. "Probably. He needs to get him back for a comment Sirius made on his age."

"Great," Tonks clapped her hands together and smiled.

Tonks left after that, leaving Harry in the kitchen with his bottle of water. He waited a minute to make sure she was definitely gone, before sighing and slumping over in his chair, crossing his arms on the table and resting his head on them. Truth was, he worried about everything a lot. Not so much about himself… no, he worried about his friends… his guardians… Voldemort wasn't above using peoples' friends to get to them, and Harry knew there was a good chance Voldemort would try to hurt Harry through his friends and family. And, sure, okay, Sirius, Remus, Tonks and Severus could all hold their own… they were all far better at fighting than Harry, and Harry could certainly hold his own against some Death Eaters… but what about his friends? Cedric was going into Auror training, and according to Tonks he was doing good, but what about the others? Cho, Hermione, Ginny, Luna, Ron, Neville, Fred, George… Fleur would be safe in France, at least. Voldemort, unlike Grindelwald, was sticking to Britain.

"Knut for your thoughts?" a quiet voice asked from behind Harry. It was Sirius, and judging by the cup of coffee he was making he'd been in the kitchen for a few minutes. Harry shrugged, not moving his head from the comfortable position on his arms.

"Tonks said you did pretty good in training," Sirius said after a moment, the clinking of his spoon, which was stirring the coffee, echoing around the room.

"Bet her two times out of four," Harry told him with a slight smile. "Nearly bet her three times, but she kept cheating - Disapparating."

"It's not… cheating exactly… but yeah, she mentioned that," Sirius nodded. He'd finished making his coffee and so brought the mug with him over to the table, where he sat down opposite Harry and gave him a long, piercing gaze.

"D'you want to talk about it?" Sirius asked after a long stretch of silence.

"No."

"Why?"

"Because," he shrugged.

"Harry…"

"It hurts," Harry told him, looking up at his godfather. "And it… it scares me, I guess. Is that what you wanted to know? I don't want to talk about it because it hurts. Viktor was like… a best friend… a brother… and I very nearly lost Cedric, too. Is this what's going to happen? Will people die because they're close to me? Mum, dad, Viktor… who's going to be next? Don't deny it, Sirius… you know it's true…"

"You shouldn't think like that, Harry," Sirius shook his head. "You'll just make yourself even more depressed. As for Viktor… Harry, I know it hurts. Believe me, kiddo, I really do. I went through it with Lily and James, remember? Trust me when I say talking helps. I know it's a clichéd thing to say, but it's true. Think of all the good times you had together."

"Good times," Harry murmured to himself, a small smile appearing on his lips. "He was good at Quidditch… we won't be able to do that again, this year… without Cedric, Fleur and V-Viktor, it's kind of pointless…"

"You won't need to," Sirius said after a moment. "Quidditch is on again this year. Practices will keep you busy- unless you're going to drop off the team?"

"No," Harry shook his head. "I don't think I could… it's the one thing that never fails to cheer me up."

"I know what you mean," said Sirius with an understanding smile. "Quidditch was a life-saver when I was in school."

"What did - oh, right." He had been going to ask what exactly Sirius needed cheering up for.

"Yeah… my family was horrid. Not as bad as yours, though, I must say."

"I doubt many families could be as bad as the Dursleys," Harry said in a light tone, shrugging his shoulders.

"No, I don't suppose they could be," Sirius agreed in an equally light tone. Silence arose for a moment until Sirius randomly pulled a face at his coffee; "It's cold," he said, sticking his tongue out in disgust. Harry laughed; a rare, proper laugh.

"You're a bigger kid than I am, Sirius," Harry shook his head, still grinning. "What're you doing?" he frowned at Sirius stood up.

"Pouring it away. You don't think I'm going to drink cold coffee, do you?"

"Sirius, you're-" but Harry broke off, smiling as he shook his head again.

"What?" Sirius asked, setting his cup down on the table again.

"You're a wizard, just re-heat it."

"And why does that make you smile so much?" Sirius asked, raising an eyebrow.

"It reminded me of first year," Harry grinned. At Sirius' questioning look, he rolled his eyes. "I guess I skimmed over that part when I told you and Remus… remember when we went after the Stone?"

"Yes…" said Sirius slowly. He wasn't likely to forget that story; his eleven year old godson finding himself face-to-face with Voldemort again.

"After we got caught in the Devils Snare and Hermione figured out she needed fire, she started panicking because she didn't have anything to light a fire with. She'd pretty much forgotten she was a witch… still, I tended to forget that a lot back then, too… especially when I went back to the Dursleys," Harry frowned. "Until Dobby appeared I was convinced it was some elaborate delusion I'd had."

"What would you have done in September, then?"

"Stayed at home," Harry shrugged. "The Durlseys would happily keep me there if I forgot about Hogwarts, and they certainly didn't want me to go to high school; they said it was a waste of perfectly good money. They'd have made me do chores all day…" Harry trailed off, averting his gaze. Sirius' eyes had gone rather dark, a feat that always managed to unnerve Harry… his Uncles eyes had always gone dark before he punished Harry.

Harry, with his thoughts straying once again to his abusive uncle, flinched as he felt something brushing his arm and moved his head to see that Sally had silently crept up on him.

"Hey," Harry said quietly, letting her wrap herself around his wrist as he took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. "How does it feel to be back home?"

"It is good," Sally said in what could only be described as a content voice. "You pay attention to me here."

"I'm sorry," Harry visibly winced, drawing the attention of Sirius, who gave him a concerned look. Harry shook his head slightly to show he was fine. "I got distracted, didn't I? With the Tournament, falling out with my friends… and then after Crouch, I saw you even less…"

"I forgive you," Sally assured him. "There is no Tournament next year, though. Does that mean you will ignore me less?"

"Yeah, Sals," Harry nodded, unable to hide a grin. "I promise. I feel really bad for that."

"Good," Sally gave a tiny nod of her head and her mouth twisted in an odd way that meant she was smiling. "I'm tired now. Can I sleep on you?"

"Since when d'you need permission?" Harry asked, shaking his head as his grin widened. "Sure, go ahead."

"You have no idea how strange it is to hear you talking like that," Sirius said with a smile after a couple of minutes of silence.

"Does it bother you?" Harry asked nervously, looking up at Sirius with uncertain eyes.

"Of course not," Sirius quickly assured him. "It's just strange. I'm almost jealous."

"You wouldn't be if you'd been in my place in second year," Harry muttered darkly. Sirius only grinned, patting his shoulder sympathetically. The Animagus knew all about Harry's second year, as Harry had been talked into explaining everything to Sirius and Remus last year.

.

Some time later Harry warned Sirius that Tonks and Remus were planning to prank him before exiting the kitchen, wanting a shower. He left Sally with Sirius; just because they didn't talk didn't mean they didn't like each other. Harry knew for a fact that Sally liked being with Sirius so she could smell his hair - though he hadn't told Sirius that fact. Harry smiled to himself as he undressed and slipped into the shower, making the water cool but not cold. The water was comforting as he let himself get lost in his thoughts.

Everyone was so worried about him lately. They commented on his skinny frame, his duller-than-usual eyes, his quieter personality. It got to him; he'd really been trying to act normal… he'd been trying to hard to act normal… forcing himself to smile at things, to laugh; though, really, he supposed, people could probably tell it was all fake. He could only use the 'you don't understand' excuse with so many people. It worked fine with his friends, aside from Cedric, who'd been there too, and felt even more guilty having been the one to pull Harry to the cup (under the Imperius Curse). It didn't work with his guardians or Severus, either, who'd all lost people they loved…. Suddenly feeling far too cold, Harry turned the water up, trying to get rid of the goose-bumps on his skin.

He missed Viktor so much. It would be different if the Bulgarian was merely back in his own country; they could still meet up every now and again, could still write letters. It just hurt so damn much to know he would never see his face again, never hear him laugh again, never receive Quidditch tips from him again, never play against him in Quidditch again… Harry turned the water up some more; he was still shivering.

It was his fault, really. If he'd paid more attention, he wouldn't have been caught out. 'Never turn your back on someone you can't predict the actions of'. If he'd just paid attention to that one phrase Severus had been drilling into his head for months, he wouldn't have been taken to the graveyard… or, when they arrived, if he'd acted instead of freezing up in shock, he might've been able to push Viktor out the way… unbidden, the memory of Viktor's body came to mind; the unnatural angle at which he lay, his mouth half-open in surprise, his wide eyes lifeless; empty and unseeing…

Harry sighed and turned off the water; the shower wasn't doing him any good. It was making him think too much, and thinking was something he didn't especially want to do. No, doing was far better than thinking… he should go practice some new spells… yes, practice more spells, that would keep his mind occupied…

Harry barely noticed the angry blotches of red on his skin as he redressed, oblivious to the pain. He strapped his wand holster back on, but he kept his wand out. What was the point in stowing it away when he was just about to use it? That done, Harry quietly headed towards the spare room that was used for his training. Thankfully, there was still a pile of books in the corner that he flicked through, searching for anything that looked even remotely useful.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

He was still in the room hours later, throwing random hexes at the wall, when Kreacher appeared.

"Master Black tells Kreacher to tell Harry Potter sir that it is time for dinner."

"You could've just told me it was dinnertime, you know," Harry smiled slightly. He would never understand why house-elves felt the need to over-complicate simple sentences. "I'll be down in a minute."

As soon as Kreacher disappeared Harry re-holstered his wand and sank to the floor, leaning his back against the wall as he let out a long, low sigh. In an odd way, he almost missed the Dursleys… they didn't try to make him talk about school… they kept him working hard; constant chores all day, which would keep his mind distracted… he'd even put up with the beatings, if it would take his mind off of Viktor and the upcoming gloomy future…

Harry stood abruptly as he felt his skin tingle uncomfortably in a very familiar way, his eyes darting around the room frantically. He had to cut himself… he had to… he was desperate… but he couldn't… he'd promised his guardians… biting his lip nervously, Harry sat down with his hands beneath him, preventing himself from doing anything. He couldn't scratch himself, pick anything up, use his wand to transfigure something… the itching just wouldn't go away… his heart was thumping, he could feel himself sweating slightly… if he could only make one, small cut…

"Harry?" Sirius's voice asked from the door. Harry didn't look up at his godfather, choosing to continue staring at the floor with unfocused eyes. He couldn't believe how fast the desperation had come. "What's wrong?" Sirius asked, entering the room and kneeling down in front of Harry.

"I… I n-need to…" Harry winced slightly at how pathetic he sounded.

"Cut," Sirius finished quietly, looking at Harry with concern in his eyes. "Were you like this when Kreacher came? If he saw you like this and didn't say anything-"

"I was throwing hexes at the wall when Kreacher came," Harry quickly defended the house-elf. As if to prove this, he nodded slightly at the wall where several burn marks were visible. "Honest. I was just about to come down when…" Harry broke off, chewing on his lip again. It took him a moment to realize blood was actually trickling down from his lip. Harry pulled a face at himself and slowly raised one of his hands, trailing his finger softly along his bottom lip, letting the red stain it. Why doesn't it hurt? Harry barely noticed as Sirius gently pulled his finger away from his lip.

"Come on," Sirius said a moment later, and Harry realized his godfather had healed his lip and Scourgify'd his blood-stained finger. Sirius stood up quietly before offering his hand to Harry, who slowly accepted it.

The two were silent as they made their way down to the kitchen. Remus and Tonks looked up at them questioningly as they entered but, after Sirius gave a discreet shake of his head, wisely kept their mouths shut. Kreacher had made mashed potatoes and steak for dinner but Harry, who wasn't particularly hungry, just poked it around his plate, forcing a smile onto his face as Tonks transformed her face. She'd obviously cottoned on that he wasn't in the best of moods and was trying to cheer him up. He eventually left after eating only half of his dinner, feeling rather surprised that Sirius wasn't trying to force the food down his throat again.

He'd barely reached the door, however, when a blinding pain in his scar forced him onto his knees. Voldemort was happy about something… very happy. The pain subsided after half a minute, leaving Harry blinking rapidly as he tried to regain his vision. When he did, he realized Remus's hand was on his shoulder, Sirius and Tonks standing behind him with concerned looks on their faces.

"Are you all right, Harry?" Remus asked him softly as he helped pull the teen to his feet.

"Yeah," Harry nodded slightly, moving slightly so he could lean against the wall. "Voldemort's happy, though… I don't know why…"

"We'll probably find out in the Daily Prophet tomorrow," Tonks told him sympathetically. "You want to go lie down? You look kinda peaky."

"I'll be fine," Harry said, shaking his head. "I'm going to go practice those hexes again, I think." Somehow, he didn't feel quite as depressed as before. It was as though Voldemort's emotion coursing through his head had erased it.

.

At four in the morning Harry woke up panting. His eyes were stinging slightly and his heart beating wildly as he swung his legs over the edge of his bed, pushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes.

"Where are you going?" came a low hiss, making him jump, and Harry held out his shaking hand for Sally to slither onto.

"Kitchen," Harry told his snake softly, waving his wand over himself to get rid of the sweat. "I doubt I'll be able to get back to sleep now."

"Because this is your first night since the third Task without a Sleeping Potion?"

"Something like that, yeah."

The house was eerily quiet as Harry crept silently down the stairs, careful to skip the squeaky step.

"What are you making?" Sally asked as Harry sat her down on the kitchen table and moved over to the cupboards. He pulled out a mug and set the kettle boiling before turning around with an oddly weary expression on his face.

"Hot chocolate," Harry said after a moment. " Dudley," here, Harry flinched; his uncle had been in the nightmare he'd just had, "used to get it whenever he had nightmares. It worked for him, it might work for me."

"What is hot chocolate?" Sally asked. Harry smiled to himself slightly.

"It's… well… you boil water, okay? Then you add chocolate-flavoured powder- you've tasted chocolate before- and mix it all up until you have chocolate-flavoured water. After that you add some milk to improve the taste of it."

"Water, powder and milk," Sally repeated, and Harry could hear a definite amused tone in her voice. "Humans are very strange sometimes."

"Yeah," Harry agreed, turning back around as the water finished boiling. "I think you're right."

Hot chocolate was rather good, Harry decided. It was warming him up, fighting away the chill and, dare he say it, slightly feeling of fear that had been inside him ever since he woke up. Sally liked it, too; he'd poured a little onto a saucer for her to try.

"Someone's coming," Sally said suddenly, and Harry glanced towards the door. Sure enough, Tonks entered a moment later.

"Ugh, Harry," Tonks moaned, rubbing her eyes tiredly. "What're you doing up at this hour?"

"Couldn't sleep," Harry shrugged, not meeting her gaze. "I think the better question is why are you up? Remus and I risk our lives every time we try to wake you up earlier than eleven!"

"I'm hungry," Tonks grinned.

"You… you woke up because… you were hungry?" Harry couldn't help but snort disbelievingly.

"Being an Auror uses up a lot of energy, I'll have you know," Tonks retorted as she waved her wand over some bread, turning it into toast.

"If you say so," Harry said lightly, earning a roll of the eyes from Tonks.

Once she had the toast ready, Tonks brought the plate of food over to the table and sat down opposite Harry, gazing at him in an oddly serious way.

"So, Harry," Tonks started in a light tone. "What's the real reason you're up so early? Don't give me that 'couldn't sleep' crap; you looked knackered when you went to bed."

"Is she always this nosy?" Sally asked, and Harry snorted. Feeling Tonks's gaze on him, though, he quickly sobered.

"It was my first night sleeping without a Dreamless Sleep potion," Harry explained quietly. He flinched back when Tonks reached over to grasp his hand comfortingly, but other than a brief flash of concern on her face she ignored this.

"You really miss him, don't you?" Tonks asked gently.

"Yeah," Harry replied with bright eyes. Blinking, he abruptly pulled his hand back and, after gathering Sally into his hands, stood up. "I think I'll see if I can get some more sleep. You're right; I'm knackered. Night."

"G'night, Harry," was Tonks's quiet reply.

Needless to say, Harry did not get any more sleep that night. He lay, tossing and turning, in bed until he heard Remus getting up before admitting defeat with a frustrated groan. He hadn't been lying when he'd said Tonks was right; he was absolutely knackered… and Severus would be here at noon, too. A quick glance at his snake told Harry that Sally was still sound asleep, so he made as little noise as possible as he dressed before heading back down to the kitchen he'd vacated only hours earlier.

"Morning, Moony," Harry said croakily as he slipped into a chair. He frowned and cleared his throat. "There- that's better," he said, voice back to normal.

"How was your sleep?" Remus asked, handing him a cup of coffee. A second later he joined Harry at the table, a similar mug held firmly in his own grasp.

"I woke up at four," Harry admitted, taking a sip of the hot liquid. "Tonks came down for awhile, too. Said she was hungry."

"That happens rather a lot," Remus nodded amiably. "What woke you?"

"A nightmare, what else?" Harry asked, a little too harshly. "Sorry."

"Do you want me to tell Severus the training is cancelled for today?" Remus asked, a hint of concern colouring his voice.

"No," Harry protested almost instantly. "I'll be fine… I can't afford to miss training, not now… not with… not with Him back."

"It was only a suggestion," Remus relented, putting his hands up in the air in a surrendering sign. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not much to talk about," Harry shrugged, sipping his coffee again. Ah, that's good. "I basically just re-lived that night, and then had… someone…" Harry trailed off, unable to finish. Besides, how do I say I had a nightmare about an uncle that my guardian hates? It's bound to piss people off, and I can really be doing without that right now…

"Which means there's plenty to talk about."

"Is there?" Harry asked, gazing into Remus's eyes. "You already know what happened. What's the point in me talking about it?"

"Because talking helps," was Remus's simple reply, and Harry snorted.

"I think I've got the message by now," Harry said finally. "Talking helps. I know it does. It's how to talk that's the problem… how do you voice something when it hurts to simply think about it?"

A loud thump on the stairs prevented Remus from replying and a moment later Tonks stumbled into the kitchen looking extremely tired.

"I thought you had today off," Remus said, frowning slightly as he watched her bustle around the kitchen, preparing a quick breakfast for herself.

"Boss just floo'd me," Tonks said through a mouthful of toast. Her bedroom was one of the few that had a fireplace installed; she needed it for her work. "Says he got some important information about a planned attack."

"Attack?" Harry asked, slightly alarmed.

"Some Death Eaters are going after a couple of Muggles that live out in the countryside," Tonks explained. "We're hoping to stop them."

"Good luck," Harry murmured quietly, a disgusted look on his face as he thought back to some of the things he'd read about Voldemort's followers during the last war.

.

Harry went straight back to practicing hexes after breakfast, as it had proved to be oddly stress-relieving yesterday. It helped to distract him… both from thinking about that night and from the sudden urges he kept getting to start cutting himself again. He was so absorbed in what he was doing that he didn't realize anyone else was in the room until he felt his wand fly out his hand. Startled, Harry whirled around with slightly wide eyes, relaxing when he found Severus standing by the door.

"I don't think I have ever seen you concentrate so hard on one task," Severus mused as he handed Harry his wand back. Harry just shrugged, not meeting his uncle's gaze. Severus watched him silently for a moment, seemingly trying to figure something out. "If you would rather take the day off-" he started, in an unusually gentle voice.

"No!" Harry protested instantly, shocking even himself with the sharpness in his voice.

"Harry-"

"I'll tell you what I told Moony earlier," Harry said, a fierce glint in his eye. "Voldemort's back - as you very well know, having the Dark Mark and all - and he's after me. I'm a thorn in his path, or whatever that old saying is… and I fought him in the graveyard… without those… those ghosts appearing, I'd be dead right now. I need to train, Sev! If I don't…" Harry trailed off, surprised at how hysterical he sounded.

"Harry," Severus said in a soft voice, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Slow down and take deep breaths before you give yourself a panic attack. You're putting far too much pressure on yourself. Is this your way of coping with what happened?"

"Maybe," Harry shrugged helplessly. "But maybe not… even if it is, what I'm saying is true. If I don't train, I won't stand a chance- ever- against Voldemort… I can't afford to skip training because of depression or whatever else people are calling it these days. Please," he added when Severus didn't reply. "I need to keep training."

"All right," Severus finally relented, though he didn't look especially happy about the situation. "I think we'll make a start on advanced Charms today."

.

Severus kept Harry working until dinnertime- or, rather, Harry kept pleading to Severus for 'ten more minutes'. If he had to stop, he had to think. He didn't want to think, not right now… not when practicing charm-work made him feel so much better…

"You're definitely improving," Severus commented after Kreacher disappeared from the room with a deafening Crack!

"Do you have to leave now?" Harry asked, glancing up at him.

"Yes, Harry," Severus replied patiently. "I have work to do for the Order. You know I'll be back tomorrow."

"Yeah, I know," Harry said, trying to look nonchalant.

"Harry… you know if you ever want to talk, I'll listen."

"You and fifty other people," Harry said, a hint of bitterness in his voice. "I'm fine. You better go before Sirius comes up asking what's taking so long."

After Severus had floo'd away, Harry headed tiredly to the kitchen. Although he never realized it whilst practicing, doing so much spell-work really zapped a person's energy. Apparently it was obvious, too.

"Merlin, Harry, you look beat!" was the first thing out of Tonks's voice as Harry joined them at the table.

"Why thank you," he said sarcastically. "Why don't you take a look in the mirror? You're looking rather worn-down yourself. How'd work go?"

"We stopped them," Tonks said through a mouthful of beans. She really did have terrible table manners. "Only just, though. There were more of them than we thought there would be."

"How was training?" Sirius asked, turning the conversation back to Harry.

"Good," Harry replied, waving his hand around airily.

"You took a long time," Remus said after a moment.

"I… I didn't want to stop," Harry shrugged, dropping his gaze to his plate. "It's a good distraction, and I was enjoying it… I learned a lot of new spells, too…"

"You don't have to look so guilty," Sirius told him softly. Harry shrugged. With his gaze on his plate, he missed the meaningful glance shared between Sirius and Remus, each with a look of determination on their faces.

Tonks had to leave again after dinner; she had to write down reports on what had happened.

"Wait a minute, Harry," Sirius called out as Harry started to head back up to the 'training room' as he now called it. Frowning a little, Harry doubled back.

"Sit down," Remus told him in a firm yet gentle voice. The voice that, when used by Remus, you didn't argue with. Chewing his bottom lip a little nervously, Harry did so, and a moment later one of his guardians was sitting on either side of him.

"We don't like pressuring you into things, kiddo," Sirius started softly. "But this has gone on for long enough. If we don't do something now, you're going to end up as one seriously depressed teenager."

"You can't make me talk," Harry protested stubbornly.

"No, we can't," Remus agreed amiably. "We can, however, keep you in this room until you do."

Harry really didn't doubt Remus's sincerity.

"Fine," Harry relented bitterly after a few minutes of silence. "What am I supposed to say?"

"Anything," was Sirius's reply. Yeah, thanks, Sirius. That's really helpful, Harry thought bitterly. "The third Task, Voldemort, Viktor; whatever's bothering you."

"Oh, there's plenty of things bothering me," Harry told him darkly. "You two not leaving me alone, for starters."

"That's one reason," Remus nodded encouragingly. "What are the others?"

Harry rolled his eyes, sat back in his chair, closed his eyes and let out a long sigh. Maybe it is time to talk… maybe it will help… and, hey, it'll be worth it just to get them off my back… but how do I say it? It hurts to bloody think about it, never mind talk about it!

Harry groaned, sticking his head in his hands. He felt a comforting hand on his shoulder and for once, he didn't try to shrug it off. "It's - bloody hell, it's everything. Viktor… he was like a best friend… we spent so much time together… god, he taught me half the bloody broomstick tricks I know now! And now he's gone, because of that crazy hypocrite who calls himself Voldemort! I had to watch him die… I watched the light- the spell- fly towards him… I froze up… I could have- I don't know- pushed him out of the way, jumped in front of him… anything! I could have saved him, but instead I froze up! Cedric nearly died, too, and that would've been my fault, and then I let myself get trapped by Death Eaters- I mean, how stupid can you get? And they tied me up… made me watch Him return… and I underestimated Him… I took too long to get away… and then… then none of that seems to matter when I think about the future, because I know more people are going to die! More people that I love; they'll die because Voldemort likes to get to you through your loved ones… I want to distance myself from them, to save them, but I know they won't let me… God, I could've saved Viktor… I could have saved him… it's all my fault… and V-Vernon, that git, he keeps getting into my head and making it worse… always talking about Viktor and saying-" Harry abruptly stopped and found his throat swelling up, found his mind turning empty bar for one word; Viktor. And then, to his shame, he felt his eyes tearing up… and the salty water was escaping his eyes… 'Why are your eyes leaking?' Sally had once asked, not understanding what 'crying' was. Harry found himself pulled into a soft embrace; strong arms wrapped around him and constant, soothing words being whispered to him, but he didn't pay attention. All he could concentrate on was letting the tears fall, emptying himself of his grief… Viktor


And here's chapter 1! I'm not convinced I like it; I feel I could have done a much better job, but I guess it'll do. I've went over it a couple of times, and I'm not sure what else to add/change.

As always, your opinions are greatly appreciated, so please review and let me know what you think!

/edited on 25th Dec 07/ Merry Christmas! Anyhoo, I just wanted to let you know I've sort-of fixed the spacing between new paragaphs, I hope. I did have to add little symbols, though... so I'd like it if someone can let me know how it looks. The symbols look daft, but yeah... I also e-mailed asking about that; why the html breaks don't seem to work. Let's hope they can answer: )