If it had been a meeting between different people, there might have been shouting, or at least loud exclamations of disbelief, and impertinent questions over the sanity of certain well known characters. As it was, the group mirror call included Severus Snape, and therefore was never going to descend into hysteria. It also contained all the Grangers, who greeted the news of Albus announcement by Minerva with silence so absolute, that Minerva found herself asking if they were still there.

"Yes," John replied. "We're still here. I'd like to say we're shocked by his behaviour."

"That seems unlikely," Minerva replied drily.

"Yes, exactly."

"It's a bluff," Severus said. "Mr Weasley was attacked, Minerva said the members were getting fractious and questioning things, so he threw them something they wanted to hear. That way he gets more time to fix the problems while looking like he's done the impossible and found you."

"But," Harry protested. "He can't know that I am coming back, that we are coming back."

"He doesn't need to Potter; he's not planning on living past Christmas. His grand finale includes a plot that is meant to drag you back to Britain on a quest for vengeance. He'll be dead. If you do or don't turn up, that's no longer on him," Severus drawled, his tone bored.

"That's," George said. "I mean that's brilliant, but…"

Severus shrugged, then remembered that connected to as many mirrors as they were, the image had stopped working, and they were only able to hear each other. "Albus is no slouch. Why admit he's failed and reduce morale when he can lie? No one will question it, and by the time it's exposed, he won't be able to answer to it."

"Can't we, I don't know, tell them he's lying to them?" Harry asked.

"To what end? Honesty? Since when has honesty served you? They don't want the truth, they want to be told everything is progressing nicely and that it will soon be over," Severus replied.

"By citing your safety as the reason you are not making an appearance, he does seem to have sewn it up nicely," Minerva mused.

"So in real terms, nothing has changed?" Helen asked.

"Correct," Severus replied. "While it is useful to keep you abreast of the happenings here until we have our pieces in place, nothing will change. The Dark Lord is now moving to force Albus out or change the status quo to the point where Albus will be required to do something. In the meantime, Albus needs to hold the Order together until his plan can come to fruition. We still don't know who he is going to hand the Order over to, he's made no mention yet."

"He's handing Hogwarts over to me, at least until the Board of Governors ratifies the decision or appoints someone else. I would not be in a position to take over the Order as well. I also do not think they would follow me. Kingsley would be the next logical leader; Alastair is too controversial," Minerva explained.

"Hypothetically, would Kingsley work with us or continue with the status quo?" Helen asked.

"He is more reasonable than some," Severus said.

"Well that's something," Helen replied.

"Only if he's appointed," Minerva pointed out. "And then he may feel differently. Supposition is as much as we have."

The meeting wound up, and Fred, George, and Hermione promised to put their heads together and fix the multi-connection image problem.

Fred sat back in his chair fiddling with the detritus on the work bench.

"Spit it out," George said. "I'm tired, and I really want to go to bed."

"It's starting again, isn't it. This thing with Bill, it's like the beginning all over again."

"It has been pretty quiet ever since Harry and Hermione left," George pointed out

"I think I started thinking that people might not get hurt, that this war or whatever could be done through politics, and might just end up being a fight between Dumbledore and Tom, and maybe Harry. Because, you know, it's Harry."

"We had twelve months."

"And we should be grateful?" Fred asked sarcastically.

George looked at him. "Yeah, yeah Fred, we should."

They were quiet a moment.

"What about Ron and Ginny?" George said.

"What about them? Minerva's in the castle."

"Yeah, but don't you think we should warn them?"

"Of course, though not so Mum and Dad find out."

"Do you think, should we tell them to start practising?"

"Start the DA up again you mean?"

They paused as the casual comment coalesced between them into an idea.

"Ron?" George suggested.

"Ginny," Fred answered confidently.

"But he's Harry's mate, won't that help?"

"If we give Ron an excuse to slack off and not get his head into his studies for his NEWTs, who do you think Mum will come after when his grades aren't what she expects?" Fred said drily.

"Good point. So Ginny."

"Ginny's doing alright. She's a bit more focused you know, and she can pull the younger students in. The ones that Ron hasn't noticed since he discovered the charms of Lavender. We'll need to get more coins."

"Have you still got yours?" George asked in surprise.

"The Galleon? Yeah, but Harrys got the master. Think he knows where it is?"

"I don't think it will matter, how many of us will have kept them around?"

"Might be a few, though."

"Better to start from scratch I reckon. This way we can give Ginny the master, and she can hand them out again. Also, if she explains that they are new, there's no way they can link it back to Harry and him being in contact. I'm not fuelling Dumbledore's lies."

"You think Severus is right, that it's a smoke screen to distract from the attacks?"

"Well, he doesn't know where they are, does he? And it worked."


"No, as upset with their choice as he is he wouldn't. Look what happened to Harry's parents, they were all big mates, weren't they. Think he'd betray them the same way?"

"Yeah but if he thinks it's not a betrayal and for their own good?"

George sighed unhappily. "Well yeah, if he did then I can see that. But I don't think he would. I'm not going to be passing along information and messages to or for him just in case, though."

"So, do we ask Hermione?"

"She said it was a Protean charm. We could give it a go ourselves, if we get stuck, she could just show us how."

"Think we should talk to Ginny first? She might not want to."

"After the Diary? And she went to the Ministry. I don't think she's going to say no."

"Yeah, I guess it is personal for her. OK, Owl or mirror?"

"This time of night? Owl. She'll get it in the morning, and she can call us back tomorrow night when she's on her own."

Ginny watched the owls come with the morning post waiting. She'd done the same thing for the last two mornings since the hastily scribbled note from her prankster brothers had arrived the day after she'd found out that Bill was in the hospital.

The mirror call she'd made to them at their demand had been unexpected in its contents. They had been sure that Bill's accident was the start of things and were equally convinced she needed to get the DA back up and running. The defence lessons had gotten more intense with Professor Snape teaching them, and she'd argued that they were learning enough in them, but they hadn't been swayed.

She hadn't taken much persuading if she was honest. Knowing that people were out there fighting while she was stuck in school had been frustrating. Knowing it was her family had only made it worse.

She'd face Tom and his Death Eaters. Harry and Hermione had left. Ron was more interested in Lavender than what was going on. Confidently blasé, telling her that 'it was Harry yeah, he'll come back when we need him, just like always' and that she was 'mental' to be worried about them.

George had told her it would be today and she wanted to get the package out of sight before Ron spotted it. She'd sat away from him to reduce the chances that he would notice, and it was breakfast so it would take a lot to drag his attention from his plate. But it would lead to accusations of favouritism, and since Ron had the subtlety of a brick, the entire castle would know about it before breakfast was over.

An owl swooped towards her carrying a small black pouch. It landed in front of her proffering a leg, she quickly untied the bag and shoved it in her robes pocket before offering a strip of bacon in thanks. Grabbing the proffered treat, it bobbed its head and scoffed the treat, then lifted off back into the maelstrom.

Finishing her breakfast quickly, she stood and crossed to the Ravenclaw table looking for Luna. The girl rose to meet her, and they left the Great Hall and the clamour of breakfast, heading down the corridor for the nearest empty classroom.

"They've arrived?" Luna asked.

"Yes." Ginny dug into her pocket and pulled out the pouch. Carefully, she upended it over one of the desks.

The rush of galleons tumbled in a metallic gold waterfall onto the desk, glinting and glimmering up at them in the weak morning light. The door opened behind them, and they whirled, standing in front of the table to shield its contents.

"Sorry," Neville said as he closed the door. "I didn't want to follow too closely, but I saw them arrive. Are we going to test them?"

"Yes," Ginny said with a smile." Hang on while I find the masters." They stood around the desk putting the coins into small piles checking for the ones that George said would control the others.

"Here," Luna said, holding up one coin. "This one has a female head on one side."

"George said there would be three," Ginny looked up at her friends. "I told them I wanted three, that way we can each have one."

Neville plucked another two galleons from the unsorted piles holding them up. "Female heads on these two as well. Why this design?"

"Muggle money. According to Fred and George, it carries the Muggle Queen of England's head stamped on one side," Ginny explained.

"They sent a lot of coins, are we supposed to hand all these out? The DA last time didn't have this many people in it, and how are we going to keep it a secret? After what Hermione did to Marietta I can't see that people will want to sign a parchment." Neville eyed the piles in some dismay.

"Well they're going to have to," Ginny said firmly. "At least this time they will know what the consequences are. They weren't mucking about last time, and we aren't this time."

"Alright," Neville held up his hands in mock defeat. "One more question. Are we turning people away? If we let in the ones that want to come, we might get a bit more of a heads up if trouble comes our way." He looked nervously at his two companions.

"I don't have a problem with anyone specifically," Luna said understanding the unspoken question.

"We're not inviting the ferret," Ginny said. "Or that cow Parkinson, or any that spout Tom's bile. Some of the others, the younger ones might be alright, I guess. I don't really have any problems with the others. They are a pretty tight group, though. They might not come because it's us."

"At the risk of sounding like Hermione, do either of you two know what we are meant to be teaching, and where we are supposed to find this information? Professor Snape is dragging us through the curriculum, so it seems that practising that before his lessons would be a good idea. But then we're just running a study group," Neville said, wanting to get off the sticky subject of House politics. His idea hadn't been met with outright refusal, and he wanted to leave it there.

"Fred and George have sent me some weirdly precise details," Ginny said. "They reference a couple of books from the library here and some other stuff. I don't know who they are talking to, but it looks like they are talking to someone with combat or Auror training. The stuff they've sent is shielding and hexes. How to cast and shield with a partner, that sort of thing. I think we might need to practice before we try and teach it to others, and we can always see what everyone else wants to learn."

They heard the sound of feet moving past the door. Grabbing three more regular coins, Ginny thrust one at Luna and Neville both. "Here, take these we can each send a message today and see how they work. Shall we meet in the Room of Requirements tonight after dinner? We can plan a bit more what we are going to do, and how soon we'll put the word out?"

They both nodded their acceptance and helped shovel the rest of the coins back into the small pouch. Ginny thrust it into her pocket, and Neville lead them all from the room.

"This is fun," he said as they paused before parting. "Doing something again. A bit like when we went to the Ministry."

"Let's hope it goes better than that," Ginny said wryly. "I'm not sure it's a shining moment for any of us."

"I think it was," Luna said smiling softly. "We went together and left together, so it was a complete success in that respect."

"Yeah," Ginny said cheerfully as they set off down the corridor. "And we'll just ignore the broken wrist, broken nose, a hefty number of stunning spells taken, a brief bout of Cruciatas and the fact it made front page news, shall we? And that was just us three!"

They shared a grin, the terror of the night had faded allowing them to marvel on what they had dared to do, rather than how utterly terrified they had been.

"I'll see you after dinner," Neville said with a smile as they separated. The two girls smiled their goodbyes and waved as they ascended the stairs to their shared lessons. Neville continued down the corridor to join the milling ranks outside his defence classroom. He didn't enjoy the class but was filled with new resolve. If he was going to help lead the new DA with Ginny and Luna the least he would have to do, would be managing to be in the dark, brooding presence of Professor Snape without trembling in fear. Something that in seven years of being taught by the Professor, he had yet to accomplish. Chin raised, resolve hardened within him, he entered the classroom with his classmates and took his seat.

Having formalised their agreement that they would take anyone who wanted to come, and only exclude those who supported Voldemort, they then agreed that everyone would have to sign the charmed parchment. That would ensure that their secret would be kept. Since what happened to Marietta was widely known about the castle, reportedly because she pissed off Hermione Granger, they were confident anyone who signed would seriously think twice before they said anything that might activate the charm. Coins would be given out to those who signed, and they would be able to replace those that were lost from the surplus that George and Fred had supplied.

They laid out what they were going to do for the first few sessions, including covering what was done in class and things that members might want discuss. Armed with a plan they sent word to the former DA members and told them to pass on the message to anyone who was interested.

Word got out.

The first meeting which was held on the Saturday of the same week Ginny had received the coins found over thirty students coming in small groups into the room of requirements at the allotted time.

Ginny, Neville, and Luna watched in growing sick fascination as the numbers grew until ten minutes after the time stated, the door to the room vanished.

The three exchanged glances and Ginny climbed to her feet from the sofa she was sitting on. The room had been furnished with comfortable seating, groups of chairs and sofas clustered around low tables. Students were wearing their weekend clothes and not school robes, House colours were notably absent.

"Right," she said loudly. The chatter died down in a circle around her, but the wider room continued to chat quietly. Huffing she climbed onto the low coffee table. "OI! You lot!" she shouted.

The silence was total as all the faces in the room turned to focus on her. "Right, good. Now you're all listening," she said rolling her eyes. "We're here because we want to start up the DA again. The first time it was set up by my brother, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger was as you might know because that Umbridge cow couldn't teach. This time it's not because we don't have a decent teacher. It's because the stuff they want us to know to pass our exams isn't going to keep us safe out there." She waved her hand towards the wall where the door had vanished. "Out there, there's a war brewing. Whatever you think, whatever you read in the paper, it's started. It's not going to care if you're a first or seventh year, it's going to swallow you up, and you're either going to survive or not. We want to learn how to survive it. Anyone who doesn't, who isn't going to take this seriously can leave right now." She looked around at the assembled faces. No one made a move. "Fair enough then. Everyone who stays writes their name on this piece of parchment." She held up the rolled parchment and waved it at the room. "If you don't know the story someone will be able to fill you in," she said glancing at the younger students huddled in small groups in between the older ones. "The short version is this is charmed. When you sign your name, you agree to keep this group, its meetings, and its means of communication a secret. Failure to do so will be met with retribution."

There was a murmuring at that as some of the younger students asked the older ones and they quickly explained. Some faces went pale.

"It's non-negotiable," Ginny said a gimlet glint in her eye, daring anyone to argue with her.

"So you want to fight?" a voice came in the pause. No one Ginny recognised.

"I don't want to fight," Ginny explained. "But I'm not stupid enough to think I won't have to. And I'm not naive enough to think what I learnt at school for an exam is going to be sufficient."

"What makes you think you can teach us anything?" another voice called out.

Neville stood up and climbed on the table next to Ginny. "When Harry called the DA in his fifth year, we answered." He gestured to Ginny and Luna. Former members of the DA looked around guiltily, shifting uncomfortably. "We went with him; we went up against the Death Eaters to keep our friend safe while he tried to save someone from Voldemort. We not saying we're the best teachers, we're not saying that what we do teach you, you will find useful or ever have to use. But we are the only ones offering." Neville looked around the group. "We know what it's like up against those people. We've had a decent defence teacher for two years, two years out of seven. It's not going to be enough, so anything we can do now is only going to help." Neville looked around the room letting the mutters grow then die away. "Any other questions?" Neville asked.

There were a few general ones that he, Ginny and Luna fielded between them. Questioning their teaching plan and how much time would be spent going over things taught in the defence lessons. Luna took notes of things they thought they would have to change or add in so they could work it into their plans.

Finally, no one had any more questions, so Neville stepped down from the table and held a hand out for Ginny. She grinned batted it away and jumped off the table, landing lightly next to him. Neville took the parchment from her hand. Laying it on the table, he placed a bottle of ink and quill next to them and stood back. Waiting.

They came forward. Whether it was what he and Ginny had said, curiosity or something else, everyone in the room signed the parchment. Satisfied he rolled it back up and slipped it into his bag pulling out the pouch of coins Ginny had put in there.

"You may have seen these before," Neville said pulling a coin from the pouch holding it up. "They are new, if you've got your DA coin from last time, it won't work anymore. These new ones work the same way, though. The meetings will always be in here as before, and we'll send out the meetings times and dates. If you've got a club, or Quidditch training, or anything that is a regular slot that clashes, let one of us know and we'll work around it as best as we can. We're looking at once a week which will naturally fall off once exams get closer. We'll send out the first meeting time by the end of the day." He stood by the door handing out the coins to every person as they left. Once they had, he willed the door away and returned to the sofa with Ginny and Luna.

"I think that went well," he offered.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Yeah considering we've just agreed to teach some thirty people extracurricular defence."

"Come on, Harry managed it," Neville said protesting.

"He had Hermione Granger helping him. She of the infinite knowledge and colour coded notes. I'm suddenly beginning to see why she had them," Ginny said throwing herself back on the sofa and covering her face with her hands.

"Well, we've got your brothers and the same library she had so how hard can it be?" Neville said a grin on his face

"You might eat those words yet," Ginny said from under her hands.

"It will be fine," Luna said. "No one seemed to be overly concerned about anything we said," she shrugged. "I think after the first meeting we'll have a better idea and the DA was fun. As long as people are learning and having fun, I think they'll forgive us the occasional wrackspurts infestation."

Ginny and Neville exchanged an amused glance. "Good to know Luna," Neville said keeping the amusement out of his voice.

Severus stalked down the corridors his robes billowing out behind him. His face was set in his habitual scowl, he was in rather a good mood. Not that the students who weren't quick enough to get out of his way would be able to testify to that. On the journey from the dungeons the corridor Dumbledore's office was on, he had deducted points from all three houses. The Slytherins had melted quickly back into the shadows at the sound of his steps, and those that hadn't managed it had made sure they had presented a polite, deferent, front to ensure he would be unable to find fault. It was a Saturday, so he'd been unable to deduct points for being late for classes. However, slovenly dress, inappropriate behaviour, running, and loitering had all featured so far.

Mentally smiling to himself he approached the gargoyle guarding the door. It paused only for a moment before leaping aside, the password only half out of his mouth. Severus inclined his head in thanks and ascended the winding stairs, he didn't knock on the door but pushed it open and walked in.

Albus was sat at his desk looking over some papers. He raised his head as Severus entered the room. "Severus, how delightful." He removed his glasses, tossing them on top of the papers, briefly rubbing his eyes.

"Albus," Severus returned, settling himself in a comfy chair in front of the desk. He stretched his legs out in front of him and regarded the elder wizard.

"Tea?" Albus offered, replacing his glasses and tidying the papers to one side.

"To celebrate your triumph?" Severus said mildly. "I'm sure we could push the boat out a little further."

Albus raised a quizzical eyebrow at him, leaning back in his chair. "I'm not sure I follow Severus, to what are you referring?"

Severus gave Albus a pitying look. "Come now, don't be bashful. I'm not even upset I'm the last to be told and not by you no less. I had obviously noticed you'd stopped travelling, but I assumed the duties of the school were more pressing."

Albus' expression cleared, the confused lines drawn on his forehead smoothing away as he caught on to what Severus was referring to. "Ahh," he said then called for an elf. "Whisky then?" he said questioningly.

"Certainly," Severus replied genially.

The elf brought the drinks, and Severus accepted his leaning back in his chair watching Albus closely, pretending not to.

"I have to say I'm surprised the information has been distributed outside the meeting," Albus said faint disapproval in his tone.

"Really?" Severus drawled. "Then you shouldn't have told that motley collection of fishwives and gossip mongers you call the Order. I'm only surprised it hasn't reached the front page of the Prophet by now."

Albus drew up short at his words and tried to hide the motion by taking up his glass and leaning back in his chair. "Come, Severus, they are not as bad as that."

"As you say," Severus allowed, his tone stark in its disbelief.

Albus frowned at him in a kindly manner. "You must cease your relentless suspicion of everyone and everything. They are good, loyal people and act only for the best."

Severus didn't try to stop his eyes rolling and changed the subject before Albus could start waxing lyrical about the innate goodness of his precious Order. "So, the owl?"

"Come now, Severus," Albus said smiling indulgently. "You can't expect me to reveal my methods. A wizard needs a little air of mystery."

"I'm not a sycophant Albus," Severus said narrowing his eyes at the wizard. "I have little interest in where the boy is, I merely need to know if the Dark Lord will be crowing his own triumph."

Albus relaxed slightly, waving a negligent hand. "You need not worry Severus, Voldemort will not find him. I have offered my own services in aiding his presence remaining hidden. With the escalating tensions, it is perhaps, convenient, that he is out the line of direct scrutiny."

Severus grunted his acknowledgement and settled further into his chair. Privately he was marvelling at Albus' gall, not only was the man spinning the lie, he was embellishing it. "Does the werewolf know?" he asked offhand. "I would imagine he's all but slavering to be reunited."

"No," Albus shook his head a little sadly. "I thought it best that Remus not be informed. He would, as you say, be eager to reunite with Harry and potentially put him in danger. I do not wish for him to be told of any contact with Harry." Albus features hardened. "I will have to ensure that the Order members are not tempted to tell him."

"He wasn't there?" Severus asked feigning surprise.

"No," Albus said. "He is currently infiltrating the packs. Greyback has been concentrating his attentions away from some of the fringe packs and thus giving us a window of opportunity."

"In light of your fortuitous discovery has your plan changed?" Severus asked bluntly.

Albus' face showed a moment of dawning understanding before he schooled it back to his grandfatherly persona. "No Severus, the wand must pass to Harry."

Severus frowned at Albus. "And the Order? Who are you passing that along to?"

"Severus you need not worry it's all in hand," Albus reassured him.

"So your chosen successor is aware of my role?" he asked pointedly. "I am to continue reporting into them? To do so would necessitate them being aware of your plans."

Albus sighed. "You must understand that these things take time to arrange."

"I am aware they take time to arrange, I simply wish to know that it has been done before we continue with this scheme of yours."

"It will happen, Severus, however, unwilling you think you are, you must see to it."

"I must see to it? You are relying on external factors you have no control over and risking everything on chance. How am I to see to it? What if the boy doesn't come? Are you going to tell me where he is so I can at least seek him out?"

"No Severus; that is information I cannot risk falling into the hands of Voldemort. Harry will come."

"So you have discussed this with him? He understands his role?" Severus asked a disbelieving look on his face.

"Harry is still a student Severus it wouldn't do to overburden him. Have no fear he is aware of his role."

"What of the Order? Do they understand his part? Are you going to leave any instruction or are we to bumble around guessing what you think should be happening?" Severus snapped at him.

Albus held up a hand his eyes flashing. "You need not concern yourself, instructions will be left, and I have every faith that they will be followed."

Severus growled under his breath, his good mood evaporating. His incredulity at Albus pushing his lie morphing into concern. It seemed that if Albus had his way, the Order would be left rudderless, reeling from his unexpected death, and with no cohesive plan to move forward, or how to bring the Dark Lord down.

"It is not enough Albus, your death will remove one of the biggest factors that is keeping the Dark Lord from more open action. Once you have removed yourself, at my hand no less, you will be by all appearances strengthening his position and weakening the Order."

"You go too far Severus," Albus said placing his glass down on his desk with a thump, leaning forward, his face hard.

"I don't go far enough. Do you think they will believe your death is anything but murder without forewarning?" Severus put his own glass down standing and pacing in front of the fire. "What of Potter? Who in the Order will be taking over his training? Or are you hoping that an unbeatable wand will be enough? What training is he undertaking? Do you expect him to face the Dark Lord with no more than his education behind him? Is the Order to stand by and let him?"

"Harry is prophesied to defeat the Dark Lord, Severus. He will when the time comes know what it is he is to do. You cannot interfere, by doing so you endanger the fulfilment of the prophecy."

Severus whirled staring in shock at Dumbledore. Albus raised a hand to stop him speaking. "No more, Severus. Once I am gone the Order will be handed over to Kingsley to lead. That is as much as I am willing to discuss with you. As to the method and means of Harry defeating Voldemort, you must see it is not information that can be shared with yourself. Your position within the Death Eaters means that the risk of Voldemort getting it from you is too great."

Severus stared at him, drawing himself up to his full height, pasting a sneer on his face. "Then excuse me, I shall take up no more of your time." He whirled striding to the door, his robes flaring out with his movements. The door closed smartly behind him, and he marched down the stairs then the hall, anger bubbling within him, fear building around the edges. Kingsley taking over the Order was as good as they could have hoped for, but Albus' woolly planning, the way he defended and embellished the lie about being in contact with Potter was worrying.

If he were planning on leaving the Order without proper plans in place, they would lose cohesion in the days following his death. That lack of cohesion would open the field up to the Dark Lord, and if the Order couldn't pull itself back together, without Potter to rally around, they risked simply fading away while the Dark Lord took over.

Everything they had worked for, everything they had done would be lost. Everything they had suffered would be meaningless, the Dark Lord could not be allowed to win. He strode on, robes billowing behind him, students scattering before him. Damn Albus. Severus headed down a flight of stairs turning into a quiet corridor. He stopped before a closed door, he rapped sharply on it before turning the knob and pushing it open. "We have a problem!" he announced as he entered the room.