The Order of the Phoenix
(Sunday, December 4, 1977)
The morning dawned gray and cold. Overnight, the landscape had been iced with the season's first snow, and trees dripped with glittering icicles. The outside world had erased the previous afternoon's events, but the same could not be said within Hogwarts.
Breakfast was incredibly quiet; the only sound was a flurry of owls sending and receiving letters. As Hermione sat down at the Slytherin table, dozens of eyes went to her, and she glared them down. Her eyes wandered the Great Hall; it looked like half the Slytherins were gone, quite a few Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were gone as well, while most of the Gryffindors were still present.
The most notable difference wasn't the lack of students but the second table on the dais at the head of the Great Hall. It took her a moment to realize that the table was populated by the Order of the Phoenix. Alice and Frank Longbottom held hands and chatted, smiling widely. Alice saw Hermione looking at her and waved at her with a huge grin. Timidly, Hermione waved back.
Severus slumped into the seat beside the dark-haired girl, lost in thought. Truthfully, she was a little startled to see him. Her brown eyes examined him curiously. He looked like death warmed over; his sallow skin was much paler than usual, and there were dark circles under his bloodshot eyes. "You look terrible, Severus," the girl said, touching his left arm. A hiss came from him as if the touch had burned his skin.
He opened his mouth as if to speak but was interrupted by Dumbledore's magically-amplified voice. "After yesterday's attack, all visits to Hogsmeade are canceled until further notice. Classes have also been drastically-altered; starting tomorrow, all classes will now carry a focus on Defense Against the Dark Arts with assistance from our new teachers." He made a wide-sweeping motion to the second tier of teachers. "I'd like to introduce Alice Longbottom—" Alice stood at the mention of her name "—Frank Longbottom—" Frank joined his wife standing "—Caradoc Dearborn—" Caradoc stood, and Hermione noted the hard set to his face "—Alastor Moody—" Moody stood, glowering at the students, specifically at the Slytherin table "—Dorcas Meadowes—" Dorcas stood, smiling at the Ravenclaw House "—Emmeline Vance—" Emmeline smiled and waved at a girl at the Gryffindor table, who grinned back at her "—Edgar Bones—" Edgar stood and smiled at a boy sitting at the Hufflepuff table; the boy grimaced and slouched as not to be seen, and a younger girl sitting nearby elbowed him hard before waving at Edgar "—Sturgis Podmore—" Sturgis stood and bowed toward the students "—Fabian Prewett—" Fabian stood and grinned at the Gryffindor table "—and Gideon Prewett." Fabian's twin stood and grinned at the Gryffindors as well. The ten members of the Order of the Phoenix sat. "Each of these Aurors will be assigned to a teacher. We'd also like to welcome Professor Slughorn's return." Professor Slughorn waved to the students. "And Professor Flaherty will be taking over Defense Against the Dark Arts due to Professor Faust's…unexpected abdication."
Some of the Slytherins paled noticeably at Dumbledore's comment, and the Gryffindor-turned-Slytherin watched them curiously. "Dueling Club is now mandatory for all students. No one will wander the grounds of Hogwarts alone, you must have at least one other person with you at all times. To ensure that all students are safe, we will now have prefects for years four and under, and we will also be replacing prefects who are no longer attending Hogwarts." "I need the following students to stay after breakfast…" Dumbledore read off a list of several students, including Draco and Hermione.
Breakfast continued after Dumbledore's comments, quiet and reserved. Eventually the students filtered out, keeping in groups like Dumbledore told them while the students Dumbledore called off stayed behind. Draco crossed the Great Hall to sit with Hermione. "All of you have been selected to be prefects." He moved between the tables, handing each student a prefect badge. Hermione stared at her silver badge with the Slytherin insignia and the words "PREFECT" above it in wonder before pinning it to her robe. She was a prefect again.
Draco examined his own prefect badge with curiosity; it was golden with the Gryffindor insignia. If they ever got home, they'd have to switch badges. If they ever got home. Truthfully, he hadn't really even thought about going home. He'd never really been happier; he had friends, and he didn't have to worry about what people thought about him, or what was wanted of him. It had been the best few months of his life.
"Would you like to go for a walk?" Draco asked. Hermione smiled and nodded. The two headed up to the Head house, changed into warmer clothes, and made their way out to the snow-covered grounds. Hand-in-hand, they meandered.
After a long, companionable silence with the crunch of snow beneath their feet the only soundtrack, Draco finally spoke. "I always loved the snow," he said. "It reminds me of my birthday."
Hermione cocked her head and looked up at him. "Isn't your birthday in June?" He smiled at the fact she remembered.
"Yes," he said. At his reply, she gave him a look. "Before Hogwarts, I used to spend my birthday at my grandmum's. She lives in New Zealand. So, a lot of the time, we'd have snow for my birthday."
"New Zealand? How'd your grandparents meet?"
"My father's father was sick of his family constantly having to marry the same families to maintain blood purity so he decided to find other pureblood families. He went all over the United Kingdom, and then all over Europe before he decided to go to Australia. From Australia, he ended up in New Zealand, and that's where he met my grandmother. After my grandfather died, she moved back there to her family estate. We'd always go there around my birthday, and I would always play in the snow. Once I enchanted a snowman so I could play with a little brother; my mother couldn't have any more children after me."
Hermione frowned slightly. "I have a younger sister, Annabel, but we've never been really close. She was born when I was seven, and I started at Hogwarts a few years later, so she doesn't really even know me. I think my parents like her better because she's a Muggle. She's like them; they understand that. I mean, how do you make them understand when they can't experience it themselves?"
Draco had no answer for her. Fluffy snowflakes, the consistency of goose down, began to float from the sky. Flakes clung to their hair and eyelashes, and Draco carefully swept one of the flakes from her cheek. Her skin was ruddy with cold. "You're freezing," he said.
"Well, then, let me warm you up." He gripped her hands, and even through the knit gloves, he could feel how cold her fingers were. They looked at one another for a long moment. Her hands slid beneath his robes to his shoulders, and he leaned over. Their lips met in a soft kiss, eyes closing as they melted into each other. Boy, he was doing a really good job of warming her up. The flakes continued their ballet around them, making the two look almost like the center of a snow globe.
Then, splat, a wet snowball hit them in their faces.
Laughter filled the air. Hermione and Draco pulled apart, wiping the snow off their cheeks to find Peter grinning cheekily at them. "You're dead, Wormtail," Draco muttered.
Peter's eyes grew wide, and he let out a squeak before running towards Marlene, Remus, Sirius, Lily, and James. The platinum-blonde scooped up a pile of snow, quickly forming it into a snowball, and hit the chubby teen in the shoulder. The snow exploded, wet slush hitting James. The black-haired boy wiped the snow off his glasses and glared at Draco.
James palmed a snowball and lashed out at the newly-minted Gryffindor prefect. Once again, Draco was hit by a snowball. The sixth-year struck back, but James moved out of the way at the last minute, and the snowball's trajectory sent it straight into Marlene's face.
The Hufflepuff seemed startled, and Draco opened his mouth to apologize only to have the tiny blonde hit him square in the face with another snowball. He ended up swallowing half the snow. He grinned at her, and shot a revenge snowball at her. The girl moved out of the way causing the snowball to hit Sirius.
Sirius wiped the snow away. "This means war!" he cried, sending another snowball at Draco and Hermione. This time, Hermione was caught in the crossfire, and she attacked with a well-aimed snowball to Sirius's stomach. The black-haired boy grunted. "Good arm on that one."
Within minutes, all eight of them were engaged in an epic snow battle. After yesterday's events, it was nice to just be able to have some fun again. No one escaped unscathed; they were all encrusted with the ice crystals as they re-entered the castle. After a few spells to dry their clothes, they ended up in the Head common room, sipping hot chocolate and warm butterbeer the boys had purloined from the kitchens in front of a cozy fire.
The door to the Head common room opened, and everyone looked up, startled. Dumbledore stood in the doorway, looking over the students. "I thought I would find you here," he replied, taking one of the empty seats.
"Hello, Professor Dumbledore," Lily greeted him. "What brings you here?"
His long fingers steepled in his lap as he looked over the eight of them. "Have any of you heard of the Order of the Phoenix?" The students exchanged confused looks until Hermione spoke.
"I have," she said.
"Very good, Miss de Lioncourt," Dumbledore stated merrily. "Why don't you explain it to your friends?"
The brunette swallowed hard. "The Order of the Phoenix is an organization of the best witches and wizards in the United Kingdom."
"I would like to extend an invitation for all of you to join the Order," he said. "Usually, we don't accept those under seventeen, but I think we can make an exception for Mr. Aquilus and Miss McKinnon."
James cocked his head and looked at Dumbledore. "You think we're great wizards?" Marlene, Lily, and Hermione looked at him. "And witches, of course."
"You were the only ones able to stand up to Voldemort and his Death Eaters," the headmaster stated. Sirius winced at the mention of the dark wizard's name. He had gotten Pomfrey to let him out early mostly because he threatened to be as bad of a patient as Draco. He was still incredibly sore and healing, though. "You each did an admirable job."
Peter's cheeks grew red at the compliment, and Marlene grinned at him. "So, what do you need from us?" Remus asked.
"Every evening, you will meet with other members of the Order and train," the headmaster told them. "Follow me."
"Now?" Peter asked.
"Now. The war has begun," Dumbledore stated.
"'Has begun?'" Lily asked, anger flashing in her green eyes. "It's been going on for years. Just because the victims were Muggles and Muggle-borns doesn't mean they don't count."
"I'm well aware of that. Voldemort is a dark wizard who has been collecting members called 'Death Eaters' for years. He has amassed a small-but-growing contingency of followers who wish to eradicate Muggles and Muggle-borns."
"He's doing a really good job so far," the redhead said. There was a sharp bitterness in her voice that startled the other students, and James placed a hand on her shoulder. Her hand covered James's. "I'm so tired of people dying for no good reason, and if there's anything I can do to get rid of that monster, then I'm your girl." There was a hard set to her face, and the seventeen-year-old suddenly looked a lot older than she was; Lily was holding something back, but Hermione decided not to pry.
"Come along, children," Dumbledore said. The group paired off behind Dumbledore as he led them through the castle. It was after hours, and since his earlier decree no one dared to leave their Houses after curfew; the sense of fear was thick in the air.
The group ended up at the tapestry of Barnabus the Barmy. "Miss de Lioncourt, I believe you and Mr. Aquilus are quite familiar with the Room of Requirement." Dumbledore pulled the tapestry aside to reveal a long hallway before disappearing.
"Draco and Hermione, sittin' in–" Sirius started, and ended as he received a hard elbow in the stomach from Draco, and the black-haired boy grunted. "Will you bloody well watch out? I'm injured here."
"Sorry, I forgot," the blonde replied, smacking him in the back of the head. "Better?" Sirius glared at him.
The eight headed down the hallway, dropping the hanging back in its place. The hallway led to an enormous classroom with tall ceilings, walls lined with books. In front of the back bookcases, there were a couple of tables and chairs. The rest of the room was filled with strange items that most of them couldn't identify. Frank and Alice Longbottom were engaged in a duel, their wands whipping through the air.
The eight students watched in awe. The two fought confidently, silent spells shooting at one another. Then Frank was disarmed, the fight was over, and Alice shook her head in disdain. "I told you not to go easy on me," she said, a grin crossing her round face.
Frank panted hard, wiping some sweat off his brow as he looked at his wife. "Trust me, I wasn't going easy on you." They kissed, and Dumbledore cleared his throat. Frank turned bright red and looked over at Dumbledore. "We weren't expecting you quite yet."
"There wasn't much discussion," Dumbledore said. "Frank, Alice, meet James Potter, Lily Evans, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Marlene McKinnon." He gestured toward the six students he'd named. "I believe you're familiar with Draco Aquilus and Hermione de Lioncourt."
"Hermione of the Lion's heart," Alice stated, her eyes went to the silver prefect badge Hermione wore. "And you're a Slytherin?"
"She gets that a lot," Draco replied.
"First of all, how many of you can produce Patronae?" Frank asked. Hermione, James, Remus, Lily, and Draco raised their hands. "Wow, so many of you? I'm impressed. That's usually not something that's taught in school."
"Professor, why would we need to know about Patronae?" Marlene asked.
"Call me Frank," he told her. "Voldemort has been gaining control of the dementors at Azkaban."
Sirius's eyes widened, and the rest of the students looked unsettled at the mention of dementors. "Dementors? Really?" he asked, his tan skin paling. Draco and Hermione stared at him for a long while, and Draco fought the urge to somehow find a way to reassure his friend. Thirteen years in Azkaban, surrounded by dementors.
"A Patronus is also useful as a fighter on your behalf, your Paladin," Alice said. Hermione looked up at the mention of Paladins, Remus seemed interested as well. The older woman's eyes turned to Hermione. "I understand that you produced a Paladin."
Hermione nodded nervously. "I have no idea how I did it, though," she defended. Alice gave her a smile.
"Okay, we'll need two groups. Marlene, Peter, Sirius, we'll teach you how to create your Patronae, come with me," Frank said, gesturing for the trio to join him at one side of the room. "Now, the spell is simple: Expecto Patronum." You must say this with all the force of happiness you can muster."
"Draco, Hermione, Lily, James, Remus, we'll teach you how to create a Paladin. On purpose."
Hermione looked at Draco with curiosity. "I didn't know you could produce a Patronus," she said.
"He took over the manor," he said simply. Hermione opened her mouth to question him further, but she soon realized what he had been saying. Voldemort had taken over Malfoy Manor, and the Dark Lord was in control of the dementors in their time as well. Well, at least they knew where to find him if they ever returned to their time. Truthfully, it all seemed so far away. It had only been a few months, but she felt at home.
"Let's start with you, Miss Evans," Alice told her.
"Expecto Patronum," Lily said, a stream of silver light flowed from her wand to turn into a doe, and James blushed at the sight, grinning sheepishly at her.
"Just lovely, Miss Evans," Alice said.
Across the room, Sirius saw the doe and looked from James to Lily. "Bloody hell, you told her? The more people you tell, the less fun it is for the rest of us," the tall, dark-haired boy muttered as another puff of silver mist was expelled from his wand.
"Think happy thoughts, Mr. Black," Frank told him.
"Do I look like bleeding Peter Pan?" he asked. "Expecto Patronum." Another wisp of silver smoke.
"Actually, Peter Pan didn't need to think happy thoughts," Marlene corrected him, and he scowled at her.
"Now you, Mr. Potter," Alice said. Another cry of Expecto Patronum, and a stag appeared from James's wand. The stag and doe nuzzled each other, and James and Lily shared a smile and held each other's hands. "Very good. And quite romantic. Mr. Lupin?"
"Expecto Patronum," Remus said. To Hermione and Draco's surprise, Remus's Patronus was a giant, silver wolf; his werewolf form. Alice nodded at his Patronus.
"Why would that be your Patronus?" Hermione asked. "I thought it was happy things."
Remus opened his mouth to demand why she would think that, then a few things clicked. Hermione's werewolf tutor. She'd known he was a werewolf probably longer than he'd known her. "It's not necessarily something that makes you happy, just something you're deeply tied to," Draco explained, and Remus nodded at him.
"Miss de Lioncourt?" Alice asked.
"Expecto Patronum," Hermione replied, a silvery otter hobbled around. The brunette grinned at the sight.
"Cute," Alice stated with a soft smile. "Your turn, Mr. Aquilus."
"Expecto Patronum," Draco stated. A puff of silver smoke was exhaled from his wand and formed into the shape of an owl. Hermione stared from the doe to the owl in shock.
"Sometimes, it is something that makes you happy," Lily told Hermione, noting the amazed look on the dark-haired girl's face. The girl's brown eyes followed the owl as it flew elegantly from the air, and Draco's cheeks flamed.
Alice looked from Hermione to Draco with a slight smile. "Very good, Draco," she said. "Expecto Patronum." A smoky canary flew free of her wand. "A Paladin isn't that dissimilar from a Patronus. Every spell you say takes a small amount of energy, even the Killing Curse doesn't take that much energy." Lily shivered. "A Paladin, on the other hand, takes massive amounts of energy, feeding directly off of you. If a Paladin is out too long, it may put you in a coma or even kill you by draining you completely. You take your Patronus and mold it like clay, feeding it with your energy, causing solidification. This may cause migraines and light-headedness. If you experience those symptoms, you must stop because it means that it is taking too much energy."
Alice held out her hand, and the canary landed on her finger. "I don't expect any of you to be able to create a Paladin on the first try, even you, Miss de Lioncourt. Even people who have even thoroughly trained to create Paladins may not be able to create them each time. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of knowing when to cut off the energy, but if the energy is cut off, the Paladin will disappear." She took a deep breath. "Now reach out for your Patronus with your mind, feel the invisible thread that binds you together. Pour your energy into it, mold it like clay."
As she spoke, the canary grew larger, easily as big as an eagle, and the silver color turned platinum, then a shade of rose gold, and then finally bright gold, gleaming like a Galleon. It was beautiful. "A Paladin, unlike a Patronus, can also physically attack wizards and witches, carry spells further than they'd ever go without the assistance, and even direct a spell to hit a specific target over kilometers." With a deep breath, the Paladin shrunk back into a Patronus and then dissipated.
Wow. Hermione was impressed. Until curfew, the students practiced on their Paladins and Patronae. The students were all unable to produce what they were learning by lesson's end, but it had felt fruitful. As they filtered out of the Room of Requirement, Frank reminded them of tomorrow's Dueling Club and their lessons.
"Can I talk to you for a moment, Hermione?" Remus asked. Lily and James wandered off toward the Head House, Peter walked hand-in-hand with Marlene to drop her off at the Hufflepuff House.
"Um, sure," she said, following him away from the group. Draco followed her.
"That werewolf, you were talking about, was that me?" he asked. It took her a moment to realize what he was talking about.
"Yeah," she said. "You taught Defense Against the Dark Arts in our third year. Until Draco got you fired."
Remus looked at Draco. "You got me fired?"
"Um, technically, my father did, but, yeah…but I'm really sorry about that now for what it's worth," Draco replied.
"And Professor Longbottom, the Potions professor, made the potion for him? The Neville Longbottom one," Remus said.
"Neville Longbottom?" Draco asked, looking from Hermione to Remus.
"Not Neville Longbottom," Remus surmised.
"Neville's Frank and Alice's son," Hermione said.
"And you made him our Potions professor?" Draco demanded, looking at Hermione. "Hell, even Weasley's better at Potions than Neville. You're a really horrible liar."
"Shut up, Draco. And Ron's only better because I do his potions for him. Um, Professor Snape actually made the potion for you," the girl explained.
"Snape? As in Snape?" the werewolf demanded.
"Yes. So, you really should be nicer to him, Remus," the petite brunette told him.
He ignored the comment. "And you have no idea how to create that potion?" he asked.
"No, but we're working on it for our Potions project," Draco cut in.
"Really?" Remus asked.
"Really," Hermione confirmed. The sandy-haired youth gave them a smile before heading toward the Gryffindor House, leaving Draco and Hermione alone.
The two headed toward the Head House. "So, um, I—I have a question," Hermione said finally.
"Um, your Patronus..." Another blush colored Draco's cheeks. Hermione found herself really enjoying his discomfort; he was so cute when he blushed.
"What about it?"
"It's an owl. You know, my, uh, Animagus form," she murmured. "Does that, uh…does that mean I make you happy?"
"More than you'll ever know, Granger," he murmured in response, brushing hair off her cheek, and she grinned up at him.
"I like that. You…you make me happy, too, Malfoy," she said. They kissed softly.
"That's so sweet," a feminine voice came, and Hermione looked up to see the painting of Lily and James that led into the Head House.
"Congrats," the voice of James came from his portrait. The two of them sat in a beautiful meadow surrounded by woods on top of a large, white, flat boulder. They snuggled against each other. "Ain't love grand?"
"It is," Draco murmured without thinking.
A blush colored Hermione's freckled cheeks. "Is there something you need to tell me?" she asked.
"There is." He took a deep breath. "I think I love you, Hermione Granger," he said, cupping her cheek. It was so incredibly bizarre. Four months ago, they had hated each other, but now everything was different.
She grinned at him. "I think I love you, too, Draco Malfoy." Another kiss, and the two walked hand-in-hand into the Head House to find James waiting up for them.
"Uh, hey, Lily's in the shower," he said. "I wanted to ask you something. What are you doing over Christmas break?"
The two looked at each other. They hadn't really thought it over. "I guess we're staying here," Hermione finally said.
"Would you, maybe, like to spend the winter break with my family?" he asked. "Sirius, Remus, and Peter will already be there." A goofy grin crossed his face. "And, uh, Lily. I'm going to ask her to marry me, and I just wanted all our friends to be there. Don't tell her. I couldn't tell Peter because, well, he can't keep a secret to save his life, but, yeah, I haven't really told anyone else either."
"Congrats," Draco said, repeating what the painting had said earlier. "I'd love to be there."
"Me, too," Hermione replied, hugging him. "Take care of her."
"Until my last breath."