We followed Professor McGonagall past the silent figures of Neville, and Seamus, out of the dormitory, and off along the Fat Lady's moonlit corridor. In a few minutes we had reached the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to Dumbledore's office.
"Fizzing Whizbee," said Professor McGonagall.
The gargoyle sprang to life and leapt aside; the wall behind it split in two to reveal a stone staircase that was moving continuously upward like a spiral escalator. We were moving upward in tight circles until they reached the highly polished oak door with the brass knocker shaped like a griffin. Professor McGonagall rapped three times with the griffin knocker, and the voices ceased abruptly as though someone had switched them all off. The door opened of its own accord and we were allowed to move inside.
The portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses covering the walls were all snoozing in their frames. Behind the door, a magnificent red-and-gold bird the size of a swan dozed on its perch with its head under its wing.
Dumbledore was sitting in a high-backed chair behind his desk; he leaned forward into the pool of candlelight illuminating the papers laid out before him. He seemed wide awake, his penetrating light-blue eyes fixed intently upon Professor McGonagall.
"Professor Dumbledore, Potter has had a . . . well, a nightmare," said Professor McGonagall.
"I . . . well, I was asleep. . . ." said Harry. "But it wasn't an ordinary dream . . . it was real. . . . I saw it happen. . . ." He took a deep breath, "Ron's dad — Mr. Weasley — has been attacked by a giant snake."
There was a pause in which Dumbledore stood up from his chair and stared meditatively at the wall, giving his back to us.
"How did you see this?" Dumbledore asked quietly.
"Well . . . I don't know," said Harry, getting rather angry. "Inside my head, I suppose —"
"You misunderstand me," said Dumbledore, still in the same calm tone. "I mean . . . can you remember — er — where you were positioned as you watched this attack happen? Were you perhaps standing beside the victim, or else looking down on the scene from above?"
"Neither—Professor, what's happening to me?" Harry asked in a somewhat distressed tone.
"I need you to visit your other portrait again, Phineas," said Dumbledore completely ignoring Harry and talking to the portrait of Phineas Black, who happened to be an ancestor of mine. "I've got another message."
"Visit my other portrait?" said Phineas in a reedy voice, giving a long, fake yawn. "Oh no, Dumbledore, I am too tired tonight. . . ."
"Insubordination, sir. Dereliction of duty! We are honour-bound to give service to the present Headmaster of Hogwarts!" said another former headmaster.
"Shall I persuade him, Dumbledore?" called a gimlet-eyed witch, raising an unusually thick wand that looked not unlike a birch rod.
"Oh, very well," said the wizard called Phineas, eyeing this wand slightly apprehensively, making me smile a little "though he may well have destroyed my picture by now, he's done most of the family —"
"Sirius knows not to destroy your portrait," said Dumbledore and told him the message. Phineas recited it again with a bored tone before leaving. When he returned he informed us that Mr. Weasley had been found by the right people and had been taken to St. Mungo's
Fred, George, and Ginny were ushered inside by Professor McGonagall, all three of them looking dishevelled and shocked, still in their night things. The Headmaster gave them the information about their father status.
"The six of you will be going back to Sirius's house" Dumbledore explained them.
"How're we going?" asked Fred, looking shaken. "Floo powder?"
"No," said Dumbledore, "Floo powder is not safe at the moment, the Network is being watched. You will be taking a Portkey."
There was a flash of flame in the very middle of the office, leaving behind a single golden feather that floated gently to the floor
"It is Fawkes's warning," said Dumbledore, catching the feather as it fell. "She must know you're out of your beds. . . . Minerva, go and head her off — tell her any story — And now come on quickly children, before anyone else joins us . . ."
We all gathered around the portkey.
"Good. On the count of three then . . . one . . . two . . . three,"
I felt a powerful jerk behind my navel, the ground vanished from beneath his feet, his hand was glued to the kettle; he was banging into the others as all sped forward in a swirl of colours and a rush of wind, the kettle pulling them onward and then I was laying on the kitchen floor of my house.
"Back again, the blood traitor brats, is it true their father's dying . . . ?" I recognized Kreacher's voice.
"OUT!" roared my father who came into the kitchen. He wasn't looking too good. He hadn't shaved in a few days, he was still wearing his day clothes at two in the morning, and he had a smell that resembled alcohol. Still, it was good to see him.
"What's going on?" he said, stretching out a hand to help Ginny up. "Phineas Nigellus said Arthur's been badly injured —"
"Ask Harry," said Fred.
We all turned to look at Harry and he gulped before he began to tell my dad what happened. Dad nodded along to Harry's story, but didn't say anything.
"Is Mum here?" said Fred, turning to Sirius.
"She probably doesn't even know what's happened yet," Dad responded. "The important thing was to get you away before Umbridge could interfere. I expect Dumbledore's letting Molly know now."
"We've got to go to St. Mungo's," said Ginny urgently. "Sirius, can you lend us cloaks or anything —?"
"Hang on, you can't go tearing off to St. Mungo's!" said dad.
"'Course we can go to St. Mungo's if we want," said Fred, with a mulish expression, "he's our dad!"
"And how are you going to explain how you knew Arthur was attacked before the hospital even let his wife know?" my dad retorted.
My dad gave me a look and I caught on immediately. This wasn't a matter of explaining things to the Hospital. Mr. Weasley was part of the Order and must have been on watch tonight, and the fact that we knew before them what had happened could put Harry in danger.
"What does that matter?" said George sharply.
"It matters because we don't want to draw attention to the fact that Harry is having visions of things that are happening hundreds of miles away. Have you any idea what the Ministry would make of that information?" I chimed in, stepping between them.
Fred and George looked at me as if they couldn't care less while Ron remained was still white-faced and silent.
"Somebody else could have told us. . . . We could have heard it somewhere other than Harry. . . ." Ginny said.
"Like who?" said Sirius impatiently. "Listen, your dad's been hurt while on duty for the Order and the circumstances are fishy enough without his children knowing about it seconds after it happened, you could seriously damage the Order's —"
"We don't care about the dumb Order!" shouted Fred.
"It's our dad dying we're talking about!" George continued.
"Your father knew what he was getting into, and he won't thank you for messing things up for the Order!" said Sirius angrily in his turn. "This is how it is — this is why you're not in the Order — you don't understand — there are things worth dying for!"
"Dad, calm down, please. It doesn't have to be this way" I said calmly.
"Easy for you to say, stuck here!" bellowed Fred. "I don't see you risking your neck!"
I couldn't believe what I just heard. All the colour lefts my father's face, and for a moment it looked as though he would quite like to hit Fred. "I know it's hard, but we've all got to act as though we don't know anything yet. We've got to stay put, at least until we hear from your mother, all right?"
The twins looked angry but decided to join Ginny and Ron at the table.
"That's right," said Sirius encouragingly, "come on, let's all . . . let's all have a drink while we're waiting. Accio Butterbeer!"
Seven bottles came flying toward them out of the pantry, skidded along the table, and stopped neatly in front of the seven of us. We all drank, as we sat there for a little while until Fawkes showed up with a letter.
If I had ever sat through a longer night than this one, I could not remember it. I keep thinking about what Fred said, about my father being stuck in here. I know it's been a long stressful night, but I don't think he and George fully understand my father's situation. My father can't leave this house. He is wanted in both, muggle and wizard world. He only gets to leave now and then as a dog. Who knows what could happen to Uncle Remus, or Dumbledore, or to the Weasleys, or even me if they figured out where he was. I am his son, Umbridge has been looking for any reason to bust me. If they found out where he was hiding him they could throw me into Azkaban. Actually, they could put the whole Order in it. The only thing my father wants it to leave and help, he wants it so badly. He would anything to change places with any one from the Order, but he can't. I understand that Fred and George are a little anxious but they should cut him some slack. I can't imagine what it would be like to be prisoner of your own home.
A burst of fire in mid-air bring me out of my thoughts. It illuminated the dirty plates in front of us and a scroll of parchment fell with a thud onto the table. "Fawkes!" said Sirius at once, snatching up the parchment. "That's not Dumbledore's writing — it must be a message from your mother — here —" He thrust the letter into George's hand.
"Dad is still alive. I am setting out for St. Mungo's now. Stay where you are. I will send news as soon as I can. Mum."
"Still alive . . . But that makes it sound . . ."
He made it sound like as though Mr. Weasley was hovering somewhere between life and death.
Again we sat there in silence until dad suggested we go get some sleep but the twins gave him a disgusted look so he decided not to ask again. Harry, dad, and I would give occasional looks every now and then and by the looks we gave each other we were all thinking the same thing. That we were intruding on the families issues.
Then Mrs. Weasley arrived.
"He's going to be all right," she said, her voice weak with tiredness. "He's sleeping. We can all go and see him later. Bill's sitting with him now, he's going to take the morning off work."
The Weasleys all began to hug each other and talk while Harry, dad and I made breakfast. Then Mrs. Weasley came up and hugged Harry.
"I don't know what would have happened if it hadn't been for you, Harry," she said in a muffled voice. "They might not have found Arthur for hours, and then it would have been too late, but thanks to you he's alive and Dumbledore's been able to think up a good cover story for Arthur being where he was, you've no idea what trouble he would have been in otherwise, look at poor Sturgis. . . ."
She then turned to my dad and thanked him for letting everyone stay at our house. He said that he was very pleased to have been able to help, and hoped they would all stay with him as long as Mr. Weasley was in hospital.
"Oh, Sirius, I'm so grateful. . . . They think he'll be there a little while and it would be wonderful to be nearer . . . Of course, that might mean we're here for Christmas. . . ."
"The more the merrier!" said Sirius with such obvious hapiness that Mrs. Weasley beamed at him.
After breakfast I began heading up to my room to go to sleep. After all we have been through, there is nothing more than I would to do.
When everyone was awake and changed into muggle clothes, we headed into the kitchen and were greeted by Mad-Eye and Tonks.
"Anthony, could I speak to you before you go?" asked my dad. I got up from the table and followed him into the study.
"How are your classes going?" he asked.
"They are good. Hagrid is back which is good. Potions . . . well, Snape is the same as always. Defence Against the Dark Magic is a joke, though. We have never taken out our wands, not even once. And I keep trying my best not to land on Umbridges bad side." I told him, but I had the feeling that wasn't the real reason he wanted to talk to me.
"That's good . . . good, try to keep it that way. However, we need to talk about Harry" he said. I nodded. Of course Harry it's what had been on his mind. He continued, "You know that these visions mean, don't you?"
"Well, the only logical explanation is that Harry and Voldemort are somehow connected." I explained.
"Yes. Dumbledore and I are sure that this is what it is. He also thinks that Voldermort can show Harry what he wants at times. I need you to keep an eye on him. Try to make sure he doesn't get in too much trouble, especially with Umbridge. You know what that could do." He said.
"Don't worry, I will try to make sure nothing too bad happens to him, but you know how these things go. He end ups in the middle anyway" I said with a shrug.
"Be careful, please"
Mad-Eye Moody and Tonks then escorted everyone, except my dad, to the hospital.
"Not far from here," grunted Moody as we stepped out into the wintry air on a broad store-lined street packed with Christmas shoppers. "Wasn't easy to find a good location for a hospital. Nowhere in Diagon Alley was big enough and we couldn't have it underground like the Ministry — unhealthy. In the end they managed to get hold of a building up here. Theory was sick wizards could come and go and just blend in with the crowd. . . ." he finished saying.
We then arrived outside a large, old-fashioned, red brick department store called Purge and Dowse Ltd. The place had a shabby, miserable air; the window displays consisted of a few chipped dummies with their wigs askew, standing at random and modelling fashions at least ten years out of date.
"Right. Everybody ready?" said Tonks, beckoning them forward to a window displaying nothing but a particularly ugly female dummy whose false eyelashes were hanging off and who was modelling a green nylon pinafore dress. We all nodded and gathered around Tonks, who then looked at the dummy and said. "Wotcher . . . We're here to see Arthur Weasley"
The dummy nodded and one by one we each stepped into the glass and vanished.
In seconds we had arrived in what seemed to be a crowded reception area where rows of witches and wizards in lime-green robes were walking up and down the rows, asking questions and making notes on clipboards like Umbridge's.
"Are they doctors?" Harry asked.
"Doctors? What's a doctor?" said Ron, looking startled.
"Are they those Muggle that cut people up? If so then no. They're Healers." I told him.
"Over here!" called Mrs. Weasley over the renewed clanging of the warlock in the corner. Mrs. Weasley moved forward to the desk. "Hello," she said. "My husband, Arthur Weasley, was supposed to be moved to a different ward this morning, could you tell us —?"
"Arthur Weasley?" said the witch, running her finger down a long list in front of her. "Yes, first floor, second door on the right, Dai Llewellyn ward."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Weasley. "Come on, you lot."
They followed through the double doors and along the narrow corridor beyond, which was lined with portraits of famous Healers. We climbed a flight of stairs and entered the "Creature-Induced Injuries" corridor, where the second door on the right bore the words "dangerous".
"We'll wait outside, Molly," Tonks said. "Arthur won't want too many visitors at once. . . . It ought to be just the family first."
Mad-Eye, Tonks, Harry and I moved off to the side to let the Weasley's visit.
"Don't be silly, Harry, Arthur wants to thank you. . . ."
While we were waiting, Tonks inched her way over to me.
"Have you talked to your Uncle Remus lately?" she asked in a conversational tone.
"I haven't see him just yet, but we have written a few letters to each other. With the Ministry interfering in the mail it hasn't been easy. Have you talked to him?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.
Her face began to blush and her hair turned a bubble gum pink. "Not a ton, no" she stammered in an embarrassed manor. Why is she so nervous?
"Wait a minute, what is this? You are blushing and your hair, you remind me of a giggling school girl. . . . Nymphadora Tonks, could you be crushing in Mr. Remus John Lupin?"
"Shut up, and don't call me Nymphadora!" she said, punching me hard on the arm. "We have gotten close over the years and think I might like him" she told me.
"Have you talked about it with him?" I asked.
"No, I don't know what I would even say nor how he would react. Don't say anything until I figure my feeling out, understood?" she said strictly.
"Fine, alright" I said putting my arms up in surrender with a big goofy grin on my face.
"Speaking of love, how is everything between you and Hermione?" she asked.
"Everything is doing well. Our first anniversary is coming. . ." I trail off unsure as I pass a hand through my hair.
"How exciting! What do you have planned?"
"She is sort of going skiing so I am not going to be able to be together" I said miserably.
She was just about to answer when Fred, George, Ginny and Harry come out of the room.
"How is he?" I said getting off the ground.
"He is doing okay. Nice to see him sitting up and moving so he is obviously healing." Ginny answered and I hugged her reassuringly.
When we got back to Grimmauld Place, my dad had gotten a bunch of boxes out.
"What's with all this?" I asked as I looked around the boxes.
"Christmas decorations, my dear child. We are going to decorate this dreadful place." My dad smiled for the first time in a while.
The rest of the afternoon everyone, except for Harry, decorated Grimmauld Place. Seriously, I don't know what has gotten into him, but does he have to be so damn melodramatic? What is he waiting for? I try to figure out my friend's behaviour until the doorbell rang and it was Hermione.
"What are you doing here? I thought you were skiing?" I said hugging her and placing a kiss on top of her head.
"Don't tell Ron, but skiing really isn't my thing. So I thought I might come here and spend Christmas with my boyfriend's incredible family and the Weasley's. I also didn't want to spend our one year anniversary away from you" she said with a bright smile and giving me a quick peck on the lips before looking around. "Where is Harry, anyways?"
At the mention of our anniversary I froze on my spot. I didn't plan anything. She was supposed to be some other country, not here. Oh Lord, I am in deep trouble. Shops are closed by now and I can't buy her a last minute gift. What should I do now?
I must have been standing there like an idiot because she starts to look at me weirdly. I clear my throat and decide to worry about that in just a second.
"Harry . . . yeah right. He has been upstairs ever since we got back from the hospital. He hasn't really talked to anyone. I will take you up there, he might want to talk you." I said and took her hand before heading to the room and Harry and Ron were sharing while they stayed here.
Without even bothering to knock we entered the room and found him sitting on the bed.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"My parents let me come here. It's not important. We need to talk" she said briskly.
"I will leave you two alone. I need to go do some stuff. I will see you later" I said. I hurried down the stairs, almost tripping over myself several times before my feet landed on the first floor and I crashed into someone.
I realised the person I bumped was my uncle Remus. "Hey! Sorry! What are you doing here?" I asked while I hugged him. "I haven't see you since the summer" I said, finally letting go of him.
"I am here for holidays" he told me. "Why are you in such a hurry?"
"I have to send an owl and plan out a date in less than three hours" I informed him as I began to walk backwards.
"Carry on then!"
I rushed into the kitchen and found Ginny talking to Mrs. Weasley about Lord-knows-what before I interrupted them. I asked for their help because I was bad at these types of thing let alone with such a short time range. For Mrs. Weasley and Ginny though, this was no problem. I was told in broad terms what they were going to do, what should I dress, where I would take her and at what time I should pick her up. Seriously, girls pay attention to every single detail you can think of, at one point I feel like I am going to screw up. Well, let's hope my clumsiness doesn't ruin everything.
So, a few hours later I was dressed up in a semi-formal attire. Once I am satisfied with the results I go over to Hermione's room and knock the door. In an instant she open the door. She is surprised to see me like this and she doubt to ask me what the heck is going on.
"What . . .?" she trails off.
"I was wondering if you would join me tonight for dinner. Just the two of us." I told her with a soft smile. She looked at me with wide eyes before a wide grin broke into her face and she nodded.
"Give me ten minutes"
As I stood outside her room I heard a lot of noises coming from inside, I could only imagine things being thrown around, Hermione running all around the place huffing in frustration when she couldn't find what she wanted and sighing in relief when she finally discovered its location. The mental image made me laugh to myself quietly.
Ten minutes later she came up dressed in a simple, but still beautiful way.
"Well?" said Hermione after she realised I wasn't going to say anything. "Do I really look that bad?"
I shake my head to bring myself to Earth. "No, it's not that. How do you look so beautiful all the time? I could stare at you forever and I'd still feel like I haven't had enough of you"
That made her blush. "I dress myself especially for you" she admitted, which made me feel a little proud. "So, where are we going in this special occasion?"
"It's a secret" I smirked. "Close your eyes"
"Really?" she said, placing her hands on her hips.
"I am not moving until you do so" I warned with a shrug. She looked at me sceptically but reluctantly agreed to close her eyes.
I let my hand slip into hers and pull her forward so she follows me. We walk for a while through floors and hallways and make sure to tell Hermione where to step when we make turns and heap upstairs so she doesn't trip or anything. We walked and half jogged in silence.
"How long are you going to lead me around in the dark?" she asks at one point. "Will you tell me where you are taking me?"
"No, that ruins the surprise" I say with a scoff. "But, uhm . . . I have admit. I got a little bit lost. . ."
"What?! In your own house?!" Hermione exclaims and I clamp a hand over her mouth before any more words could come out.
"I am just kidding" I whisper. "And be quiet. We don't want to wake anybody. Come on, we are almost there."
"Wake anybody? We didn't left the building, did we?"
"Women sometimes make too much questions, you know?" I say with a hint of a joking tone, but it was serious at the same time. I could only picture her rolling her eyes in her mind.
A few more twists and turns and we arrive our destination.
"Open your eyes" I tell her softly.
Coming up so high in the building you expect it to be dark, but it wasn't. Instead, we were illuminated with natural light surrounding us. As we walk into the clearing, the moon shines above us in open air.
"Where are we?" Hermione asks breathlessly.
"In the roof," I say as we take everything. "I found this one hot summer day when I was exploring the house. It's a nice place to go if you want to be alone."
"You want to be alone now?" Hermione murmurs sadly.
"No," I say as I turn to face her. I come forward and stoke the side of her face. "I want to be with you"
"Tony . . ." she breathed.
"This will be our secret. A place where we can go to escape reality and join together to escape to a better" I whisper, our foreheads touching. "We can do anything we want."
"Anything" I confirm.
"This place is ours and no one else's. It's our place, okay?" Hermione says smiling and I nod.
"You get yourself a deal"
"So this being our place and only ours, what should we do?" Hermione asks, taking in the beautiful scene. "Or should I say what can we do? The look is beautiful and calming, but wouldn't it get boring with just sitting here and looking up at the sky?"
"I have better things to look at," I told her seriously and took her hand. "And as for what to do, I have a pretty good idea. If only you allowed me to . . ." I bring my hand up and pull a stray of her hair and push it behind her ear. "Kiss you?"
Swallowing, she nods. I lean down and press my lips onto her own very gently as if she would crumble if I pressed two hard. Hermione closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around my neck, pulling me down further into a warm embrace as we lock our lips together in unison.
"Tony," Hermione growled in frustration—itching to know why I had suddenly pulled apart.
"Hush, come on" I replied, taking her hand as I lead her to the centre of the roof. Hermione was confused for a moment as she watched me sit down, pulling her down with me.
"We are sitting on the floor?"
"Look up" I replied with a laugh, ignoring her question. Hermione did as I told her and grinned.
"That's lots of stars," Hermione said in a low voice as if not to disturb the quietness.
"Mhm, tons of them." I responded with a smile as Hermione sidled closer to me until her back was pressed against my chest.
The sky was clear and starry. I was checking out the constellations my aunt Andromeda had taught me— Sagittarius, Cancer, Hercules, Corona Borealis, Canis Major, Orion, Cygnus and many, many more. One by one, I pointed them out to Hermione. I know she probably knew this already, as we had been taking Astronomy for the last five years, but I found she was listening far more closely my words than our teacher's.
At the end my 'lesson', we spend a little time in silence before I sigh.
"What is it?" She asks worriedly.
"Nothing, it's just that I was looking at the stars and matched each star with a reason why I love you. It was going great until I ran out of stars."
She blushed right away. "You know, every time you say something like that, I fall in love with you all over again. If I had a star for every minute you crossed my mind, I would own a galaxy." Now it was my turn to blush as a warm fuzzy feeling spread across my chest. She smiled because she knew the effect her words had on me.
She paused for couple of seconds before continuing. "I want to make time stand still when I'm with you but time always finds a way to fly past."
"Yeah, I wish life had a pause button. I would pause every moment we spend together and live in it forever" I murmur as I hide my face in the crook of her neck.
"That would be nice, so very nice"
And for a moment nothing else existed, it was just me and her in the world.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter, I really do. I am sorry for the delay but it couldnt be helped. I will explain myself later on. And again, I am sorry.