To Harry and the rest of the crew residing at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, the rest of the summer seemed to fly by with uncanny quickness. And, for the most part, it was rather enjoyable. Once the portrait of Mrs. Black had been so effortlessly destroyed, the feeling of gloom and foreboding that had clung to the walls of the house smothering everyone like an oppressive blanket seemed to lift almost completely. The house was still filthy, and numerous nameless creatures still resided within its walls, but the atmosphere now seemed to be one of anticipation and hope rather than anger and hatred. The change in the house had affected everyone in a positive manner.
Everyone but a certain Ronald Weasley.
He still went out of his way to avoid Harry and Hermione. Whenever they would come in to the same room, he would send them nasty glares and make excuses to be elsewhere as quickly as he could. Harry had the feeling, mostly gleaned from Ron's unguarded feelings, that only the remembrance of how effortlessly Harry had manhandled him on the day that they had arrived kept him from forcing a confrontation. This bothered Harry, but not as much as it would have in the past. He had known Ron was not mature enough to get past his jealousy, and it was better that this fact was out in the open now rather than at a critical time. Also, Ron had constantly managed to talk Harry out of studying in the past which had certainly had a negative impact on his grades.
All of his free time had brought on a startling revelation for Harry. Without Ron constantly after him to play chess, Exploding Snap, or study Quidditch books, all of which he enjoyed, he actually enjoyed learning. And here, living in the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black, he now had many things to study.
Professor Dumbledore had personally brought over the book lists for the six students who would be going back to Hogwarts on September 1. Harry was elated to find enclosed with his book list a gleaming Prefect's Badge, as well as being a little surprised. He had never imagined that Dumbledore would consider him for a prefect, not with all of the rules he had broken over his four years at Hogwarts.
It turned out that he was not the only person at Grimmauld Place who received a prefect's badge. Hermione, too, had been made a prefect. Needless to say, once he had heard of the other two being made prefect's, Ron's jealousy had flared up again. He had even gone so far as to shout at Dumbledore, who was still there, demanding to know why he had not been made a prefect. After receiving yet another lecture from his mother, as well as a stinging cheek, Dumbledore had pulled Ron aside and explained that the badge was initially going to go to him until his outburst on the night of their arrival at Sirius's house. That had shut Ron up more effectively than any slap would have been able to.
Other than this miner dispute, things continued to go well as the school year drew nearer. When he retired at night, Harry continued to be transported to the meeting spot where Obi-Wan would demonstrate new uses of the Force for Harry to practice when he was awake. However, this happened only every third or fourth night. Kenobi had not been wrong when he had told Harry that they would not be able to meet as often. Harry was still unsure as to the reason why that would be. Nevertheless, he consoled himself with the fact that he had not lost touch with his mentor totally. Also, he had learned how to meditate to restore his energy, vastly decreasing the amount of sleep he required. This also left him free to study the books that were in great supply in the Black family library.
Only a couple of events interrupted the monotony of life at Grimmauld Place. The first one happened about a week after they initially arrived. Dumbledore was again visiting the house, and Harry was wondering exactly why he came so often. This time, however, he was pleased when Dumbledore called him down to the kitchen shortly after lunch.
"Harry, my boy," the old man began pleasantly. "I realize that you are learning all of these new powers and that you may feel that you do not need a wand. However, I must insist that you obtain one before you return to school. Therefore, if you want, I have a couple of free hours and would be delighted to take you to Diagon Alley if you would like."
Not surprisingly, it turned out that Harry did. He knew that there were many things that the Force would be able to do for him, some of which might not be possible with a wand. However, he was intelligent enough to realize that the reverse was also true. Therefore, it was with a feeling of anticipation that he followed the headmaster through the Floo network, emerging covered in soot in the Leaky Cauldron. Luckily, there were not many patrons and thus the pair of them were able to exit in to the back alley and make their way in to Diagon Alley without being stopped.
After a quick visit to Gringotts for Harry to refill his money bag, they went immediately to Mr. Ollivanders. There, Harry repeated the process of finding a wand that he had undertaken in his first year. This time, however, the process was quicker. Ten minutes after entering, he left the store with his new wand, eleven inches, holly with a dragon hair core, safely tucked away in his pocket. Dumbledore had immediately ushered him back to the Leaky Cauldron and from there back to the house. Once back in the kitchen from which they had left, Dumbledore explained that someone else would obtain their school books for them within the week.
Once upstairs in his room (luckily, the house was big enough that he was able to have his own room, which happened to be right next to Sirius's and across from Hermione's), Harry repeated the process on his wand that he had used earlier in the summer to disable the Ministry of Magic's Tracking Charm. He had already done the same for Hermione.
With their wands, they continued to work tirelessly along with the Weasleys to make Grimmauld Place a more cheerful and inhabitable place. Harry had lost count of the number of doxies and other questionable creatures he had already flushed from their hiding places while cleaning dusty drapes, ancient cabinets, and dark dusty corners. Now that he had his new wand, he would enter a room, discretely make sure no one was watching, and use the Banishing Charm that he had learned from Sirius to get rid of any creatures he found. Vaguely, he wondered what happened to the critters once they were gone, but decided as long as they were no longer infesting his godfather's house, it really didn't matter.
The greatest change was not in the appearance of the house, however. It was in the house's owner. Since the destruction of the portrait of Mrs. Black, Sirius Black seemed to become a different man. Perhaps some of it had to do with the oppressive portrait that had reigned over the House of Black for many years being gone, but Harry thought that most of it was the fact that he, Sirius, was surrounded by friends for the first time in many years. Harry also liked to think that a large part of Sirius's happiness was also derived from knowing that his godson, whom he had promised to protect, was living with him. Harry knew that for his part living with Sirius was a dream come true. Ever since the end of his third year when Sirius had to flee from Hogwarts on the wanted hippogriff Buckbeak, Harry had constantly wondered what life would be like living with the man. For the briefest time back in his third year, he had thought he was going to find out. Then, after Pettigrew's escape and the subsequent actions of the idiot Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, Harry had despaired of his dream of leaving the Dursleys ever coming true. Now, it appeared he was getting his wish though certainly not in the manner he had expected.
Scott and Haylee Granger, other than learning to adjust to living in a magical house, were perfectly content to be there. Both of them agreed that it was high time for a vacation, and though neither of them would have planned something like this for the ideal trip, they both agreed that it would be educational at the least. The morning after they arrived at Grimmauld Place, Professor McGonagall had gone with Scott Granger to the Granger dental practice and made the necessary arrangements to temporarily close the business. The official reason was given as sick relatives in America.
Strangely enough, the Grangers and Sirius seemed to get along very well. He seemed to delight in showing them the house and answering questions about the wizarding world. This, in itself, made Harry smile everytime he saw his enthusiastic godfather strolling through the halls followed by the two fascinated Muggles as they listened to the Animagus tell stories either of the history of the house or of his adventures at Hogwarts.
Six days before they were to return to Hogwarts, the second big event took place. It was then that Harry finally learned the reason for the many visits Dumbledore had continued to make to Grimmauld Place.
They had just finished another one of Mrs. Weasley's enormous suppers and Harry was thinking of retiring upstairs to his room to sleep when Dumbledore entered the room again. This time, however, he was not alone. He was accompanied by several people whom Harry knew. There was his Transfiguration teacher, Minerva McGonagall. Also, there was tiny Professor Flitwick, the Charms instructor. And, trailing behind the enormous form of Hagrid was the sallow greasy Potions master, Severus Snape.
Harry turned to Sirius to ask him why Snape was present in his house, but he never got the chance. The door opened again and several more people entered the room. Three, in particular, caught Harry's eye. Firstly was a young woman with bright pink hair. Her clothing looked like that worn by some of the women in some of Dudley's sporting magazines which Harry had snuck peaks at. And, Harry noticed with a blush, she appeared to be well gifted in the region of the chest. He would learn later that her name was Nymphadora Tonks. He would also learn that, despite her clumsiness, calling her Nymphadora was inviting trouble.
Next came a hulking black man who appeared to be nearly seven feet tall. Muscles could be seen through the tight shirt the man was wearing, and Harry knew immediately that this was no one to cross. His name, it turned out, was Kingsley Shacklebolt. Also, it appeared that both Tonks and Shacklebolt were Aurors, Dark Wizard fighters.
Finally, his eyes went to the third figure who entered, and the feeling of familiarity that had been plaguing him was finally put to rest as the man's face came in to the light.
"Wood?" Harry asked in amazement. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, you'll find out shortly, Potter," Oliver Wood, his former Quidditch captain at Hogwarts, answered as he came over to enthusiastically shake Harry's hand.
"I'll tell you this much, though," Wood continued, beaming widely. "Madam Hooch is retiring and I'll be taking her place as flight instructor and Quidditch referee at Hogwarts."
Harry grinned at Wood who looked as happy as a kid in a candy store. However, he was distracted by the sight of Mrs. Weasley embracing two other men. With great surprise, he realized it was Bill and Charlie Weasley, her two eldest sons. Bill was a curse breaker for Gringotts Wizarding Bank and worked in Egypt. Charlie, the second oldest, was currently residing in Romania and had a solid career working with dragons.
Once again, the kitchen door opened and a group of six people made their way in to the kitchen. This time, however, Harry didn't recognize anyone.
The sound of a throat clearing made Harry look up to the front of the long table. Dumbledore had stood up and cleared his throat. At once, conversations began tapering off and the newcomers began conjuring up chairs for themselves. Harry did a rapid count around the kitchen, slightly amazed that so many people could fit in to one room and still have space left over. Counting himself, Hermione, and the entire clan of Weasleys, there were twenty seven people crowded in the kitchen of number twelve, Grimmauld Place.
Once everyone was seated, Dumbledore began to talk. Over the next few minutes, Harry learned that the majority of the people in the kitchen were members of the Order of the Phoenix, an organization that Dumbledore had started during Voldemort's first rise to power. The rest, it seemed, Dumbledore had invited to fill in empty places of those who were missing from the original Order: namely the Potters (here, Dumbledore shot a sympathetic glance to Harry), the Longbottoms, who had been tortured in to insanity, and several other witches and wizards who had lost their lives during the first war.
The old wizard went on to state that due to Voldemort's rebirth, the Order was once again forming in the hopes that they would be able to challenge Voldemort and hopefully prevent a repeat of the catastrophic loss of life that occurred during the first war.
Harry tuned him out for a moment as he became aware of a feeling of disbelief and incredulity in the room. He thanked Obi-Wan silently for teaching him how to track a person's feelings, as he believed he was the only one aware in the room of Percy Weasley's refusal to believe that Voldemort was back. However, he was given no time to analyze the feelings he was picking up from Percy. Dumbledore had again cleared his throat.
"I would like those who are still in school or who were not previously in the Order to read this piece of paper," he said firmly. "Otherwise, if you leave this house, you will never find your way back in. Earlier this afternoon, I placed this house under the Fidelius Charm, and I am the Secret Keeper."
So saying, he pulled a tiny strip of paper from his shirt pocket and handed it to George Weasley who was nearest him. George read it, frowned, and handed it to his twin. And so the paper made its way around the table to all of those who would be returning to Hogwarts and to those who were not yet in the Order. Harry wondered again if he was the only one who saw the brief scowl cross Percy's face as he took the note from Ron, read it, and thrust it almost savagely in to Hermione's hand. When it got to the Grangers, Scott and Haylee read it with puzzled expressions on their faces. Hermione leaned over quickly and must have given them a brief explanation to the purpose of the Fidelius Charm, for soon looks of comprehension dawned on their faces, and they nodded their assent. When he finally read the paper, Harry was surprised to see only this line:
The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix is at number twelve, Grimmauld Place.
As Harry, the last one to read the paper finished, he dropped it as it caught fire and burned. The fire was a deep green color, and when it went out, Harry realized that there were not even ashes left to indicate that anything had burned.
After this, Harry, along with Fred, George, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione were summarily and none to quietly forced from the kitchen by a tiny furious creature that called itself Mrs. Weasley. When Harry pointed out that Sirius was his guardian and that it was his decision as to whether or not he could stay, the glare he received from the overly-protective woman made him shut up at once. Training to be a Jedi he might be, but he doubted whether or not even Obi-Wan would emerge unscathed from a confrontation with Molly Weasley.
And so, the organization that existed to fight Voldemort was reactivated with new warriors for the light to take up the challenge and hopefully recruit others to their cause.
The night before they were to return to school, the third and final event happened. Harry was not present to hear the argument, but was filled in by Fred and George, between bouts of cursing and plans for revenge. It seemed that all of the secrecy and talk of Voldemort's return had finally gotten to Percy Weasley. He and his parents had had a shouting match in one of the drawing rooms on the second floor earlier in the evening. Percy, it seemed, did not believe that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had returned at all. He had angrily questioned his father why they were willing to take the word of a delusional boy on such sensitive matters. When Mr. Weasley pointed out that Dumbledore, too, believed the Dark Lord had returned, Percy had accused him of blindly following Dumbledore without proof. He explained that he, Percy, would not be taken in by the lies of an attention-seeking brat and an old fool, and that if his father was too much of a coward and fool to think for himself, then he, Percy, had no choice but to leave. He had ignored Mrs. Weasley's desperate tear-filled entreaties for him to stay and talk things over and summoned his stuff from his room.
According to George, the only good thing that happened was the fact that Mr. Weasley, shocked and deeply hurt by his son's outburst, still maintained enough composure to discretely cast a Memory Charm on Percy just before he Apparated out.
"At least the filthy git won't remember anything about this place," Fred growled in agreement.
Harry knew that they were deeply upset by their feelings which he could sense through the Force. Therefore, he made it a point to avoid all of the Weasleys until it was time to go to bed.
As he lay there about to drift in to meditation for the night, he wondered if this ominous event was a shadow of things to come.
And just before he slipped completely in to the trance, he was aware of rumbling thunder in the distance.