The Summer of the Phoenix

"We've set up Headquarters somewhere undetectable. It's taken a while…"

- Remus Lupin to Harry in "The Order of the Phoenix", Chapter 3

Have you ever wished that "The Order of the Phoenix had come with a long, long, prologue? Here it is.

Summary: Set in the days between the events at the end of the "Goblet of Fire" and the day Harry arrives at Headquarters, this story tells - from Sirius Black's point of view – how No. 12 Grimmauld Place was set up as Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix, how the Order came to accept Sirius back into their ranks, and what life in the house was like for Remus and Sirius before Harry arrived. 100 % canon (book spoilers included!)

Rating: PG – for being dark and angsty. Very mild romance (strictly M/F).

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling owns all the characters. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm writing this for my own amusement and I don't make any money of it.

Author's note: This story is dedicated to the Order of the Phoenix. They're my heroes. I love them, each and every one of them. It was also written in memory of my beloved grandmother, a great storyteller, who lived in an old, mysterious, magical house with a large, cosy basement kitchen. I owe it to her, and the memories connected with that place, that reading and writing about the Order of the Phoenix felt like I was coming home.

I aim to be 100 % faithful to the fantastic creation of J. K. Rowling's Wizarding World. But I know I don't always succeed, so constructive criticism concerning mistakes, inconsistencies and omissions on my part are much appreciated. Thanks, and enjoy!


Chapter 1

Night had descended on Grimmauld Place. The gloomy orange street lamps added only little light to that of the waxing moon in the cloudy sky above. The square itself was deserted. A slight breeze rustled through the withered trees around it.

There was a particularly strong gust of wind – and two figures appeared at the north-eastern corner of the square, as if the wind had blown them there. They were the figures of a man and a dog, walking side by side down towards the southern side of the square. The man wore a shabby old trench coat and trainers. His hair was grey, but it seemed to have greyed prematurely, since his face, although rather thin and lined, was that of a man not much past forty. He seemed to be muttering to himself, but as he drew nearer it became clear that he was talking to his dog, like lonely people talk to their pets when they have no other friends.

"Here we are, then. Number twelve, was it? The one over there, with the dark brick façade and the windows boarded up on the ground floor?"

He paused, as if expecting the dog to reply, but the dog, a big, shaggy black creature, stood quite silent and motionless, contemplating the house the man had indicated.

"Right, then," said the man. "Looks like we're early. Let's take a little walk around the square while we wait, shall we?"

"Wait for whom?" a deep voice growled behind them.

The man in the trench coat whipped round, reaching into his coat, but the moment he came face to face with the speaker, he relaxed immediately and even smiled, if still a little nervously. The appearance of the newcomer, however, was not of a sort that would usually invite smiles, even nervous ones. He was an elderly man, wearing a long black travelling cloak over his slightly hunched shoulders and a bowler hat that sat lopsidedly on his grizzled dark hair, covering his right eye – but it could not conceal the fact that the man had a large chunk missing from his nose, as if it had been bitten off by a ferocious dog. Perhaps that was the reason why he was eyeing the black dog next to the younger man rather suspiciously.

"Waiting for me, were you? I was waiting for you. Where are the others? And what did you bring that dog for?"

"Just for company. Nice to meet you, Alastor." The younger man offered his hand to the newcomer, who didn't take it.

"We don't want to draw attention to ourselves, Lupin," he growled instead.

"We don't," confirmed Lupin, and his smile widened. "Only we figured we'd attract far more attention if we had Sirius Black wandering around the heart of London in his usual form."

Alastor Moody let out a low rasp of breath that sounded almost like a laugh. "Oh yes, of course," he said. "Dumbledore told me. Brilliant achievement for a fifth year student, by the way. So this is what you look like," and he gave the dog a gruff but good-natured pat on the head. "You'd better wait until we're inside then. And if that old crook doesn't turn up this instant, we're going without him."

"He'll come," replied Lupin.

"He'd better be quick about it," Moody muttered. "We can't stand here forever… got to keep moving… not linger in one place too long, makes you vulne  – over here, quick!" The last words were spoken in an urgent whisper, and Moody caught the other man by the sleeve and pulled him out of the circle of light from the street lamp they'd been standing under.

A third figure had appeared on the far side of the square, looking even more like a  shabby tramp than the other two, with his mop of ginger hair and unshaved face. He walked straight towards them across the brownish patch of lawn in the middle of the square, his hands deep in the pockets of his coat, which seemed to be several sizes too large for him.

"About time," Moody growled as he stepped forward to meet him.

"'Evenin', guv," the other replied, not bothering to take his hands out of his pockets. "Now, where're we s'pposed to go? An' what's the dog doin' 'ere?"

"Never you mind," Moody said. "We've got to get a move on. Let's see if we can get in."

He turned his back on the others and opened the wrought-iron gate that led to the door steps of number twelve.

"Too much light," he muttered, looking up sourly at the street lamps, but then he shrugged and moved up the steps.

The others followed, grouping around the large black front door with the brass No. 12 on it, the figures blind with age. The door had neither handle nor keyhole, but there was a large door knocker in the shape of a twisted serpent in the centre of it, and a frayed bell string that looked as if it might crumble in the hand of whoever touched it.

"You'd better check if the coast is clear," Lupin whispered.

"That's what I'm doing," Moody replied, staring at the door, and then moving his gaze to the left, to the right and up to the windows of the first and second floor. "No sign of any living creature, beast, being or spirit," he reported.

"D'you reckon we're safe then?" the man with the ginger hair asked.

"I can see through closed doors, not into the future, Mundungus," Moody replied irritably. "Never reckon you're safe, anywhere or any time."

He drew out his wand and pointed it at the door. "Alohomora."

Nothing happened. He tapped the door in different places, still without effect. Finally, he pocketed his wand again and pushed his shoulder against the door, but it still didn't open. "Am I supposed to blast the whole darn thing down?" he growled.

"If that is a rhetorical question, go ahead," Lupin smiled.

"You have a better idea then?"

"Oh, move over," Mundungus interrupted them, pushing Moody unceremoniously aside. He produced a little instrument from somewhere inside his coat that looked like a pocket knife, only with several blades, one very fine and thin, one crooked, one broad and flat. He tapped the door with the fine and thin blade in the place where the keyhole would normally be. There was a soft click. Next he pushed the broad blade into the narrow gap between the door and the frame and moved it up and down carefully until it metal hit metal, and there was a clatter like a chain being released. Then the crooked blade went in, and after about a minute, during which Moody began tapping his foot impatiently, they heard a bolt drawn back, and the door swung open, revealing a dark and dusty hallway.

"Never underestimate the ol' crook." Mundungus grinned and gave Moody a mock bow. "Step in an' make yourselves at home, gentlemen."

"No," said Moody, and turned to the dog, which was sitting behind the three men, patiently watching the proceedings. "You go first. It's yours after all." He stepped back to make room, and the dog hesitantly got up and moved towards the darkness of the hallway. It stopped and sniffed. The hair on the back of its neck bristled. But then, with sudden resolution, it walked on through the door into the gloomy hall. The others followed in silence.

And so it was that Sirius Black, for the first time in almost twenty years, again set foot in the house of his fathers.