This story will not follow Canon's chronological order. For instance, the Quidditch World Cup won't be happening in Harry's Fourth Year… and the Triwizard Tournament will… well, you'll see. I just wanted to let you all know that this is AU. Events will not follow the book!

Also- Harry is a TEEN. A very young teen. He'll experience *character development*. He may not be likable now, but I hope you'll appreciate his character as he grows.

[Chapter Two]

The flashes of light blinded him and the screams nearly deafened him.

Harry stared numbly at the people in front of him, his sweaty hands curled tightly at his sides. Dumbledore's hand encouraged him to stay standing and keep moving. If it weren't for the Headmaster, the starving reporters, who were all looking for a front-page story, would swallow Harry's small frame whole.

He wondered how they knew he had an appointment at the Ministry. As far as Harry knew, this was last minute. As the Hogwarts students packed to go home today, McGonagall had pulled Harry aside. She had primly informed him that the Headmaster wanted to see him in his office. Minutes later, Dumbledore had promptly brought him to the Ministry.

It had something to do with the other Alphas. That was all he knew… it was all Dumbledore told him.

Being thrown into this mess was one thing, but being so alone was another matter entirely. While he was upset with Remus for what happened, Lupin was a familiar face. Since the incident with the Power Alphas, Harry hadn't seen Remus anywhere at Hogwarts.

Ron and Hermione tried their hardest to be supportive. However, Hermione's tears were sometimes a bit too much, and Ron's pinched expression didn't help matters either. The boy tittered between feeling uncomfortable with Hermione's raw grief and the fact that Harry was going through so much tragedy. Having his rat familiar turn out to be Peter Pettigrew had hardly lightened the mood either.

One thing that Hermione and Ron both agreed on was the Power Alphas, Fenrir Greyback specifically. When Harry told them about what happened outside the Hospital Wing, Ron's face had paled and Hermione looked equally as horrified, though she conceded that it had been bound to happen.

"Don't pick Greyback," Ron exclaimed hoarsely.

He looked around the Hospital Wing, as if the Alpha were lurking in the dark corners.

"I don't intend to pick any of them," Harry replied curtly. He stared down at his sheets, picking at the frayed edge and avoiding the breakfast tray. "I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but staying with my aunt and uncle sounds…"

Hermione smiled gently. "Normal?"

Green eyes slowly slid to her and he nodded mutely. She knew what he was trying to say. Through the whirlwind of everything, staying and Privet Drive would be a welcoming return to normalcy. The familiarity would steady Harry's unstable nightmare. They wouldn't treat him with any pity; they wouldn't treat him differently.

"But… if you had to choose, I would choose the rich ones—"

"Andrea and Andrew Marvel. Honestly, Ron, you'll do well to remember them now that Harry is a werewolf. The Marvel twins are incredibly wealthy, even before the Ministry easements. They would take good care of you, Harry. They may not seem very warm and welcoming, but you'll have other pack members with you."

"Think of all the stuff you'd get. You'd be equal with Malfoy." One reproachful look from Hermione quieted Ron on the subject. The redhead bowed his head and studied his shoes. "Anyone would be better than Greyback. The stories I heard growing up…" the boy swallowed. "When I was a child, Fred and George used to scare me with stories about Greyback. They said he used to tear children's throats during the First War and that he could hunt down anyone and slip past their defenses."

"Ronald."

Harry grimaced uneasily at his covers. "Is it true?" he asked Hermione.

She pressed her lips together. "I read about him this year, after we learned about werewolves from Professor Snape's lesson. It's true that Greyback started the rebellion and he certainly didn't hold back on whom he targeted. He was very goal-oriented in achieving rights for werewolves. Apparently, he's a legend among the werewolf community… very respected. Or feared."

In short, Ron hadn't been lying. Hermione just had a more diplomatic way of putting it.

"If you somehow end up with his pack, Harry, I don't think he would ever harm you. Nevertheless, I don't think he's the best fit for you. If you have a choice, try to pick one of the others." Hermione smiled and touched Harry's hand. "Living with a pack will be like attending another school for the summer. In the fall, you'll be able to come back home to Hogwarts with us. We'll always stand by your side."

"Always, mate. We'll even become Animagi and run with you during full moons." Ron easily ignored Hermione's disapproving stare and grinned broadly at Harry.

He could only grin back, his chest feeling lighter than it had in ages.

That comforting feeling he'd felt at the Hospital Wing seemed far from reach. With Dumbledore pulling his shoulder this way and that, and with the press crowding around him, Harry felt disorientated and panicky. Moreover, it certainly didn't help that they were yelling questions at him, asking about the tragic incident with Remus, if he'd press charges, and if he would give a public statement on Sirius Black.

Harry swallowed thickly, breathing past the squeezing of his chest.

"Just a bit further, Harry."

He just wanted to burrow inside the cupboard at Privet Drive and pretend like all this hadn't happened. He wanted to erase Sirius from his memory, but he also wanted to cherish those very few moments of belonging to someone—to have an adult care and express an interest.

He hadn't even come to terms with the fact that he was a werewolf. There was the full moon to think about, the pain and the uncertainty with that, and the other students' fearful and openly disgusted stares he'd witnessed after leaving the Hospital Wing. He was an outsider again, this time not because of the scar on his forehead, but because of what he was.

Dumbledore led him into a lift and the door slammed shut on the observing press.

As they descended at an accelerated pace, Harry blinked into the silence, finally releasing a steadying breath. He certainly didn't feel at ease with Dumbledore. The man hadn't apologized for what happened with Sirius. For how powerful the Headmaster was, he could have done something to save Sirius.

Harry supposed one thing did come out of this whole scenario. He no longer looked at Dumbledore through rose-tinted lenses. The man was not flawless; he was not perfect.

They stopped at another floor of the Ministry. The area was quiet, dark, and cool. The black walls and floors were shiny, reflecting a blurry image of his figure back at him.

"I must speak to Minister Fudge for a moment, Harry. Will you be alright here?" Dumbledore pointed to Fudge, who stood all but a few feet away.

Nodding distractedly, Harry looked at his surroundings. They were standing in an antechamber, a heavy-set door in front of them. Men and women gathered in front of the closed doors, appearing to be waiting for a signal to enter. As his gaze swept the sheer number of people, he came to a halt when he spied Remus among the group of people.

The werewolf remained oblivious to Harry's arrival, but standing next to him was Greyback, and the Alpha readily locked hazes with Harry. Even from such a distance, those blue eyes were ablaze. Harry found himself imagining what Greyback's victims felt facing that stare.

"The press is looking at you, you know. And through the press, the people are watching."

Harry blinked, startled, and turned to look at the man who had slid beside him unknowingly. He hardly had to jog his memory to recognize the man as Caleb, one of the Power Alphas. The man's hair seemed partially tamed today and he wore respectable clothes. It didn't suit him in the least.

"Pardon?" Harry asked dazedly.

Over Harry's head, Caleb flashed Greyback a smug smirk before turning his attention back to the teen. "Everyone is looking to you for reaction. You may think being a werewolf is the most damning thing to have ever happened to you, but you don't need to broadcast it to the public. You have the power to manipulate people's actions through your own reactions."

The Alpha pressed his back into the shiny wall and slouched a bit, at least enough to put his eyes on equal level as Harry. While Harry wasn't knowledgeable in werewolf customs, he didn't think the man's slouched posture was something to execute, especially with his high-ranking position of Alpha.

"If you appear downcast and broken, you'll generate the public's pity and anger. They will damn the werewolf community further for what you're going through. They'll blame us, all of us, for what happened. You see, Harry, one werewolf's actions do not represent the whole of the werewolf community. Though, the innocent Light wizards like to clump us into the same identity."

Caleb smiled grimly. "On the other hand, if you appear resilient and confident, the public will begin to grow more comfortable with us. Seeing you as a werewolf will lighten the discrimination."

Harry frowned at the werewolf, not at all intimidated by meeting and holding the man's amber gaze. "You're wrong. I don't hold that much sway."

"Of course you do, you're Harry Potter." Seeing Harry's sullen and dubious expression, Caleb chuckled. "You may not think you're particularly special, but to countless of other people, you are the Savior. You hold a very great deal of sway, Mr. Potter. Perhaps… you should start to consider the many things you could do with that power. The influence you have at your fingertips is immense. My, if you think about it, you could make it your priority to change the way werewolves are being treated by the public and the Ministry."

Caleb pushed off from the wall and suddenly leaned down, his nose almost brushing against Harry's own.

"It seems… like a more feasible burden to carry on your shoulders as opposed to the duty of saving the world, doesn't it?"

Looking into Caleb's eyes, Harry got the sense the Alpha had foreseen something and was trying his hardest to hint at it. The implications of the man's statement could be anything, really. So Voldemort would come back then, wouldn't he? As Harry had defeated him the first time, people expected him to defeat Voldemort a second time.

Could Caleb be insinuating that Harry shouldn't take on that burden?

"In the meantime," Caleb continued once more, his tone turning authoritative. The Alpha straightened and adopted a stern expression. "Alpha's don't take kindly to young pups meeting their gazes." He flicked Harry's forehead before sweeping away.

Completely baffled, Harry touched his forehead and stared after the twiggy figure. As he watched Caleb go, he noticed a few politicians – no doubt human— gaze after the Power Alpha with barely veiled disgust and abhorrence. Caleb suddenly turned around, met Harry's eyes, and winked knowingly.

All the things Caleb had spouted suddenly pieced themselves together. While the werewolves had gained a few rights in the eyes of the Ministry, along with a few pounds of gold each month, they still faced discrimination. Things were nothow they should be. Greyback may have started the process of desegregation for werewolves, but there was still a ways to go.

Someone needed to sway the public's view of werewolves.

Greyback couldn't do it, as he was the lethal force behind the werewolf movement. Something told Harry the man wasn't exactly diplomatic, patient, or a person the public admired. They feared him too much. The other Alphas could probably fill the position, but they didn't hold the necessary influence as… as…

As Harry did.

He bowed his head, staring at his curled fists. He never really thought about having a purpose, having a goal he progressively aimed for. It was new to him and every-bit enlightening.

A few politicians chuckled loudly nearby, breaking Harry from his thoughts. He looked over his shoulder, watching as Dumbledore approached him.

Suddenly, what little hope he possessed gave way to his self-pity and hopelessness. How could he possibly be a spokesperson for werewolves in the condition he was in? He hated what he was turning into, he was angry with Remus, and he feared Greyback.

However, before all this, before Sirius and before the bite, Harry thought it silly that people looked down upon a softhearted person like Remus because of his werewolf status. Back then, he'd been thinking clearly. Right now, he was going through a difficult transition.

Maybe… maybe he still could have that purpose Caleb offered. But first, he had to accept himself, he had to learn to love what he was. He also needed to uncover the true workings behind the scenes of the Ministry and the werewolf community. He had an incredibly far way to go, but he was willing to try it.

He wanted that purpose.

Dumbledore caught his eyes and stood in front of him, blocking out the commotion near the double doors. "Before we go inside, Harry, I want to make sure of your views regarding your summer placement."

Harry glanced at the people beginning to file inside the room and his stomach plummeted. "Are all those people in there for me?" Whatever small bit of encouragement he felt from his conversation with Caleb promptly vanished. He suddenly felt very small. "But—but why?"

The Headmaster smiled faintly. "Your placement is very important to a great number of people. The Wizengamot will vote on it today—"

"Isn't Greyback part of the Wizengamot?" Harry interrupted.

"He is. As are the other Power Alphas, though, Mr. and Ms. Marvel are oddly absent today. They will not be vying over custody for you." Dumbledore reached over and cupped Harry's shoulder. "Look at me, Harry."

The Headmaster's tone was deep, hypnotizing.

Harry could do nothing but stare at the old professor, unable to look away from those penetrating eyes.

"You want to stay with your aunt and uncle this summer, don't you?"

Did he? Harry had preferred it this morning and all last week. The very thought of living with one of the Power Alphas, Greyback especially, had terrified him. And yet, after speaking with Caleb, Harry had begun to see things differently. The uncertainty living with someone new, so many new people, still unnerved him. Moreover, with the Marvel twins' odd absent, and Caleb bowing out of the custody battle, that left Greyback.

The man scared the bloody hell out of Harry.

Staring into Dumbledore's eyes, Harry's uncertainties vanished. He didn't know why he was even contemplating it. Of course his aunt and uncle were his preferred guardians, no matter how they treated him.

"Of course, Headmaster," Harry responded dully.

It was the only thing he could respond with, his mind was too foggy to form any sort of reservations.

Dumbledore nodded happily and turned away, breaking eye contact. Harry blinked, his mind still foggy, but lighter. He found himself following Dumbledore to the mysterious room, almost flabbergasted and overwhelmed when he walked inside. Several, upon several of faces turned to look at him, the casual mood in the antechamber now replaced by somber professionalism.

There was about fifty of them all sitting in a balcony above Harry. Most of them had plum or black robes on, though some of them had ordinary cloaks. Over on the side, on the main level, were benches for overseers or visitors. Remus was the lone guest, probably needing special approval to attend. There were three noticeably empty seats next to a lounging Caleb, one for each missing twin and Greyback.

Harry spied Greyback leaning against a pillar near the middle of the courtroom, his posture lazy with one ankle crossed over the other. His muscular arms folded over his expansive chest as he watched Dumbledore. Unlike the other Wizengamot members, he wore jeans and a pale leather jacket over a simple black t-shirt.

At least Harry didn't feel too out of place with his scuffed up trainers and worn jeans. Even so, underneath the fifty plus observers, Harry felt like a tiny insect, delivered for their unbridled curiosity.

Just as he was about to sit near Remus, Dumbledore nudged him further into a nervous breakdown.

"Please sit over there, Harry. We will need your direct cooperation."

With dread, Harry followed where the Headmaster pointed. A single, uncomfortable-looking chair sat in the center of the courtroom. Harry stood motionless for a moment, extremely unsettled. He wanted nothing more than to hide next to Remus or behind Dumbledore. He hadn't known he would need to cooperate with this…

What was this, anyway?

Trying to make a conscious effort to keep his shoulders proud, but thinking he failed miserably, Harry shuffled over to the chair. On his way there, he passed Greyback's lounging position and tried not to look in the Alpha's direction. He had never been this physically close to the man before, and he had to admit, one could not ignore Greyback's presence voluntarily.

There was something about Greyback and the aura he carried. Harry just couldn't put his finger on it.

He supposed it felt something akin to the first time he'd seen Dumbledore. There was almost a tangible power coming from the man, one that suppressed Harry and made the small hairs on his body stand at end. He wasn't looking at Greyback, but the man's stare weighed a ton.

Unable to ignore it any longer, Harry turned and caught Greyback's eyes for only a second, yet that second felt like an inappropriately long time. Hooded, blue eyes watched him lazily, appearing both mocking and fiercely observant at the same time. Quite frankly, Harry felt like his worn slacks and even his holey boxers had suddenly disappeared, leaving him vulnerable and exposed for this leering predator.

Harry quickly looked away and slumped into the chair. He supposed Caleb was a declared Alpha, but Greyback was born to be an Alpha. Holding eye contact with Greyback was entirely impossible.

"Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister for Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. Court Scribe, Percy Ignatius Weasley —"

Harry looked over at Percy, seeing the redhead near the outskirts of the group, a quill hovering over the scroll of parchment. The older boy refused to meet his eyes and instead focused on organizing his papers and items. Rather uncomfortably, Harry turned his head away, forced to incline it at an awkward angle. His feet didn't even touch the ground, only his toes skimmed the tiles below.

As his hands braced themselves on the arms of the chair, the chains used for more threatening criminals clicked together eagerly but fell motionless a second later. He stared at them, the sound of the metal clinking together grating on his wired nerves. Had Sirius sat here once, twelve years ago? He wondered what his godfather would have felt sitting there, accused with the crime of betraying his best friends and killing dozens of Muggles.

Then again, Sirius never had a trial, did he? He was treated unjustly. This Ministry was a bunch of bigots and Harry found his anger mounting.

Dumbledore was to blame, yes, as was Snape and Remus, but the Ministry also had a very large part in Sirius' hell.

"Mr. Harry James Potter, age thirteen, student of Hogwarts Academy… is here for determining placement of residence until the age of seventeen…" Minister Fudge read from his parchments, as if he hadn't already known why they had gathered there today. "The Power Alphas have expressed an interest in obtaining custody of Mr. Potter—"

"Let's cut to the proceedings, shall we, Minister Fudge?" Greyback pushed off from his position and took a few steps closer to Harry. "Unfortunately, the Marvel siblings won't be able to attend today, denying them their legal right to petition for Harry Potter's custody. Caleb White has also withdrawn his claim, leaving just one Power Alpha to appeal for the boy's custody. Me."

Murmurs swept around the Wizengamot court and Harry couldn't blame them.

The way Greyback grinned at the mention of the Marvel twins' absence made it very clear he had a hand in their nonattendance. The sheer darkness surrounding Greyback made Harry wonder how the Alpha had remained out of prison. With all the people he had bitten and attacked during the First War, he hadn't been given time behind bars, but special treatment.

It was something to look into.

"And Albus—"

Dumbledore interrupted Fudge and came to a stop on the other side of Harry. "I will be appealing for Harry's right to stay with his aunt and uncle during the summers." He smiled with polite interest and his eyes twinkled. "I only think it's best for Harry to maintain a degree of normalcy, considering the circumstances that transpired this year."

Fudge muttered something beneath his breath and adjusted his glasses. He accepted a scroll from the square-jawed woman next to him and peered at the writing. "Ah, Mister Vernon and Petunia Dursley are Mr. Potter's current legal guardians. Muggles, of course, don't hold much ground in Wizengamot, therefore they can't defend their positions." Fudge looked up at Greyback. "Mr. Greyback, I don't understand why you insist of transferring guardianship of Mr. Harry Potter—"

"Only for the same reason you've transferred guardianship over the several other children years before, Minister," Greyback responded, a growl undertone. "He's a werewolf." Blue eyes looked down at Harry. "He does not belong in a Muggle household where he may be prone to outbursts of the worst sort."

"He is ingesting Wolfsbane, correct?" a woman inquired from the balcony.

"He is," Dumbledore confirmed. "Mr. Potter will be taking full doses a week before the full moon and diluted doses every other day to keep his—"

Greyback swung his head around and lifted his lip. "Diluted doses," he mocked darkly with a distinct Scottish accent. "I'm sure you think you're keeping him on a chain, but I can assure you that you are only harming him further."

"Wolfsbane is a necessary precaution we need to establish, Mr. Greyback." The woman from earlier looked down at the three wizards. "Being a student at Hogwarts will only reinforce the issue. He needs to be—"

"Tamed and drugged?"

Greyback did not interrupted this time, but Caleb.

Harry clutched the armrests, feeling awkward and isolated. They were talking about him, arguing about things that were personal to him, yet they weren't speaking to him. He wasn't too knowledgeable in the area of Wolfsbane, he only knew it was supposed to keep a human's mentality intact when they transformed each month. He'd been taking it every other day since the attack, and he hadn't thought much about it.

Caleb peered at his fellow colleagues. "Wolfsbane may be convenient in the eyes of humans, but it is oppressive to werewolves, especially taken more than the required doses. It's a complex potion to brew and just one marginal error during brewing will result in fatal side effects for the drinker. Harry can live with Fenrir without needing to take Wolfsbane, he alone has the power to tame Harry's wolf without the use of drugs or chains."

The spindly Alpha shook his head once, his wild hair breaking from their restraints and falling madly around his face. "Just think of what the public would say if Harry Potter would die of Wolfsbane poisoning when he could have lived Wolfsbane-free with Fenrir Greyback. I believe the Wizengamot would be under scrutiny for their decision making."

Dumbledore stepped forward. "And that is a provision we have taken note of, Mr. White. Severus Snape is a Potions Master who excels at every potion he brews, from simple Pepper-Up to Wolfsbane."

"And he also happens to hate Potter," Greyback barked back, his temper obviously beginning to get the better of him. "Snape's hand may just slip, and under the laws protecting certified potion masters, he'd only get a slap on the wrist. I'd say it's a very convenient way to kill the son of a dead enemy."

The woman with the stern-looking face straightened. "Doubtless of his summer residence, Mr. Potter will be taking Wolfsbane when he attends Hogwarts. The children will not be put in danger—"

"Why must he even attend Hogwarts?" A high-pitched, feminine voice broke through the arguing. She smiled thinly down at Harry, her face rivaling that of a bullfrog. "Putting the children in danger shouldn't even be a consideration, Ms. Bones. We can eliminate the risk by granting Greyback custody of Harry Potter. Homeschooling can be a good alternative, my, even special training—"

Greyback shifted. "And what would be the purpose behind special training, Dolores?"

Harry bowed his head, feeling lightheaded. The very idea of never going back to Hogwarts made him sick. They wouldn't really consider banning him from Hogwarts, would they? Hogwarts was the one and only place Harry felt at home. It was his only home.

"While it is a good idea, Madame Umbridge, I don't think Harry will need to be restricted from attending Hogwarts." Dumbledore stepped forward and spread his arms out in a calming, convincing manner. "In the past, I've had a couple of students who were werewolves attend Hogwarts. Never once did we have an incident occur. There are precautions to take, of course, for the safety of both Harry and the students."

Minister Fudge scoffed loudly. Whatever private conversation he had with Dumbledore beforehand didn't seem to sway his opinions. "I think you are gravely misinformed, Headmaster Dumbledore. Why, I would even say you are due for a review by the Board of School Governors. An incident did occur this year, quite a few times actually. Not only did you employ a professor that was a danger to his students, but you failed to keep up with those necessary precautions you are inclined to perform with Mr. Potter. On top of the werewolf attack, you were unaware of the true danger Sirius Black was to your school and students—"

Harry snapped his neck up so fast, it startled Fudge from his tirade. The Minister stared at him with wide eyes.

"The only one who put the school in danger was you," Harry growled, feeling something shift inside him. It was warm, almost searing in its intensity. His heart mourned for Sirius and his anger was directed at Fudge for the man's sheer stupidity.

"I beg your pardon?" Fudge spluttered out.

"Harry," Dumbledore warned lightly.

Drilling Fudge with glare, Harry lifted his chin. "Sirius Black was innocent and Peter Pettigrew is alive. He's the true culprit behind the attack twelve years ago." An eerie, disbelieving silence met his statement. "You put Dementors around the school and endangered the students, but you also used them to kill an innocent man."

Fudge stared and then blinked multiple of times as he turned to Dumbledore. "I don't know what lies you're feeding the boy, Albus, but I'm not amused."

Lies. He called them lies. Harry frowned at the Minister, hating him, the Ministry, its politics, and everything about it. They held too much sway, too much power over their citizens. One day, Harry vowed he would clear Sirius' name.

"I think we've lost our initial reason for adjourning today, gentlemen," the woman, Ms. Bones, interrupted softly. "Mr. Potter will be attending Hogwarts; there will be no question about it. He will take the Wolfsbane potion a week prior to the full moons and stay with a professor on those nights. What we haven't clearly discussed is your place of residence for the summer." Here, she looked at Harry and addressed him personally. "I would like to hear what you would prefer, Mr. Potter."

Harry reached up and rubbed his temples, his head becoming foggy again. He could clearly hear Dumbledore's voice from earlier. "My aunt… and uncle," Harry responded after dropping his hands. He didn't elaborate, simply because he couldn't. He was just so tired from all of this.

"And Mr. Greyback, you have expressed your concern over the Muggles—"

"A common misconception, Ms. Bones," Greyback responded icily. He moved gracefully into the center of the room. "I did state that it is possible Harry Potter could lose his temper and attack the Muggles, but I wasn't concerned about their safety, per say. You see, not only would I be able to properly support and protect Harry, but I have reason to believe his current guardians are abusive."

There was an outrage from everyone present. Harry's chest constricted from shock and he found it difficult to breathe under the weight of so many stares of disbelief and pity. His hands trembled and his knees were jelly. So many things… I can't handle this.

"A very serious accusation, Mr. Greyback…"

Harry stood up shakily, his vision tunneled and turning fuzzy. Somehow, he stumbled from the chair, his nausea reaching its peak. Before Harry collapsed, Remus was there, grabbing him around the waist and all but carrying him out of the room. Harry hid his face in the man's robes, his face crumbling.

He wanted nothing but to be strong, but at every turn, an undefeatable obstacle stood in his way.

The treatment of his relatives was an extremely private thing. The last thing he wanted was the public to know about his childhood. If he was only a bit stronger, he could have stayed in that room and defused Greyback's statement. If only he were stronger, he could have laughed it off. If he was stronger, he could have stopped Remus that night, he could have prevented Sirius' downfall.

A hand rubbed his back and Harry stared at the vomit on the ground, not realizing he had thrown up. He'd had soup this morning, and somehow, the smell was still so vile. It made his stomach turn again.

"It's alright, Harry." Remus banished the vomit with his wand and ran a soothing hand down the young child's back. "Everything will be alright." The older man led Harry through the corridor maze, finally stopping at a dark alcove. "You didn't need to be in there in the first place. A child your age should not be concerned with matters like that."

Numbly, Harry sat on the bench. "I… I should be stronger," he whispered hoarsely. "Why can't I be stronger?"

Remus took him by the chin and turned his attention. "You are only thirteen-years-old, Harry. A grown man would find it difficult being bitten by a werewolf, let alone lose a godfather unjustly, be in the middle of a custody battle, and face the allegations of abuse. Moreover, you have to go through everything under the sharp eye of the public. I am proud of you for doing so wonderful. Don't criticize yourself so harshly."

Harry swallowed thickly, forcing away the tears. "I wasn't abused… I don't want the public knowing… Remus, I don't want anyone knowing…"

The older werewolf frowned deeply and reached out to hug Harry. Whatever qualms Harry had with Remus promptly vanished. He leaned into the embrace, his own arms going up to hug the other man desperately. Closing his eyes, he buried his face into Remus' shoulder, grateful for the other man's presence and comfort.

Somehow, he felt as if all his insecurities and his fears were being absorbed away, or at least hardened.

"I really wasn't abused, Remus," Harry convinced. "What is Greyback playing at?"

Remus sighed and pulled away, his amber eyes searching Harry's expression. "Fenrir has ways to get information, Harry. He learned you had bars on your windows and that they forced you to work outside during heat waves, even as a small child. When pressed for answers, your uncle even unknowingly slipped out information. Do you think him calling you a freak is not mental and verbal abuse, Harry? You blew up Vernon's sister last year… that could only indicate you felt threatened. Is that not abuse?"

Harry stood up from the bench, staring stonily at the wall. "They were misunderstandings. I just lost my temper."

"Living in the cupboard under the stairs for eleven years is not abuse? Would you think it abuse if Hermione or Ron had to live in a small cupboard for eleven years, Harry?"

Frustrated, Harry shook his head. "It's different for me." Seeing Remus' perturbed expression, he tried to elaborate. "My aunt and uncle feared me because of my magic. They never abused me, they might have neglected me at times, but they never abused me. I'm not worried about it, they shouldn't either." Harry motioned toward the general direction of the courtroom.

"And what will happen if the Dursleys find out you're a werewolf as well as a wizard?"

Harry laughed bitterly and shrugged profoundly. "They'd leave me alone. I'd have the whole house to myself maybe. They'd wet their pants… I don't know. I don't think it's something to be so worried about, Remus."

"You already said that," the werewolf pointed out sadly. "Clearly, if it wasn't something to be worried about, you wouldn't have reacted so negatively to Fenrir bringing it up." Remus' face morphed into extreme sadness. "I understand now why it was so difficult for you to lose Sirius," he croaked, his throat thick with emotion. "You only wanted someone to love you like a parent would a child. You were neglected of that love growing up. And I am so very sorry you never experienced it. James, Lily, and Sirius would be devastated to know your aunt treated you in such a way."

Shoving his hands into his pockets, Harry scuffed the toe of his shoe against the tiles. "I don't need Greyback telling my whole life story to strangers." He wanted to change the subject, he had to, or he'd lose it.

"All the men and women inside that room are professionals, Harry. I hardly think they would allow such confidential information to leak to the press." Remus patted the bench next to him, an invitation for Harry to sit. "I will try to convince Fenrir not to press the topic further, for your own emotional wellbeing."

For a moment longer, Harry stayed standing, finding it doubtful someone like Remus could persuade Greyback.

"I can't believe he's doing all this just to obtain the prestige of having Harry Potter."

Remus scoffed lightly. "I don't think that's his reason, Harry. Greyback isn't very politically motivated." The man looked up at Harry. "He is a very difficult man to get along with, an even harder man to interact with, but I believe he generally wants to protect you."

Harry didn't believe it. From all the stories about Greyback, the prospect of the Alpha wanting to protect a thirteen-year-old boy was ludicrous.

Nonetheless, Harry found himself relenting and sitting next to Remus, grateful for the silence and nonjudgmental company.

As he forced himself to relax, he finally took note of his tingling scar. He frowned, rubbing it and wondering why it was acting up. The other day it had burned, barely, but just enough to notice. He hadn't told anyone, mostly because of everything else that had transpired, but he needed to keep an eye on it.

Surely Voldemort hadn't come up with a way to return already.

He didn't know how long he sat there, struggling not to fall asleep. Eventually, though, the doors opened down the hall and a crowd escaped the courtroom confinements. Harry stiffened, becoming fully alert as the footsteps grew closer to their current location.

"Relax," Remus soothed quietly. He patted Harry's knee. "No one will see us back here."

Doubtless of his reassurances, Harry pressed his back against the wall and used Remus' body as a shield. It was embarrassing… how he had reacted in there. Remus tried to reassure Harry that he was still a young child, but still, he could have had a little bit more tact than that. To know that fifty people had witnessed his breakdown made Harry unsettled.

What kind of Savior needed someone to drag him from a courtroom over false accusations of abuse?

As silent as a shadow, someone entered the alcove. Much to Harry's displeasure, it was Greyback.

Remus abruptly stood in the man's presence, his head bowed in submission. Harry was too surprised to move, or perhaps too fearful. Greyback completely disregarded Remus and rounded on Harry. His steps were smooth, quiet, and completed with purpose. Harry could do nothing but look at a point just inches away from Greyback's face.

Greyback took hold of his chin, forcing direct eye contact.

"You will be sent back to your… relatives," the man informed gruffly. He watched as slight relief eased Harry's expression before continuing. "You will wait there until this evening when the paperwork gets cleared. Be ready and expect me to pick you up around five o'clock."

Shock paralyzed Harry's system at the revelation.

"Welcome to my pack, pup." Greyback's rough thumb pressed against Harry's bottom lip and swiped it possessively.

With one last appraisal of Harry, Greyback released him and turned to leave.

Harry hardly paid much attention to Remus as the other man bid him farewell. His mind was too preoccupied with Greyback and the hold the Alpha had over him, over everyone. Caleb was an admirable man, but if Harry ever wanted to model himself after another werewolf, it would be Greyback. Perhaps not the man's threatening aura and dark history, but he wanted to possess that same dominance and authority.

He could never imagine being a werewolf like Remus or the others who had to bend their necks for another.

Once Greyback's presence wore off, Harry began to realize the implications of the Alpha's victory. The court had voted for Greyback, the man's story had swayed them.

They had believed his words about Vernon and Petunia's abuse.

Ashes

Harry sat on his trunk in the foyer of Number Four Privet Drive. The Dursleys were in the living room, the television volume at its highest to drown out Harry and the 'other freak' that would pick him up. When Harry had arrived at Privet Drive, Dumbledore had taken Petunia aside. They spoke privately, and from what Harry could gather, he had quietly reprimanded her over the things he had heard in court today.

Dumbledore had truly seemed angry with the Dursleys. Before he departed, Dumbledore had also apologized to Harry for the treatment he received growing up. The old professor had expressed true remorse and reassured Harry that he would keep the events that transpired in the Wizengamot private. He also promised he would try his hardest to prevent Greyback from taking custody of him.

After the old Headmaster had left, Vernon and Petunia had taken Dudley into the living room and promptly hid away.

And Harry stayed in the foyer to wait for Greyback.

And waited.

As the clock struck six o'clock, an hour after Greyback's indicated time, Harry still waited, but the man never showed up that night.

It wasn't until the next evening when Harry realized Dumbledore had kept his promise about finding a way to prevent Greyback taking custody of him.

In all honesty, Harry didn't know what the felt about that.