Author's Notes: Finally! Chapter Three! This chapter almost took me as long as the first chapter! I think I'm on an exclamation mark high! Woot!
…Erm. Just ignore me. Yes. I believe that's best for your health.
By the way, I have no idea what Ruben loaf is. I just asked my good friend Akalei about a food she didn't like and that's what she said, even though she doesn't know what it is either. She may be kinda blonde sometimes, but go check out her fic Behind Closed Doors anyway. It's very, very good. Hee.
[CHAPTER THREE: THE MEETING]
Ron was automatically reaching for the bell next to the door of number 12, Grimmauld Place when Harry grabbed his hand to stop him. "Bad idea, mate," he said wisely. Ron grinned sheepishly and knocked on the old door instead. Immediately it was answered by none other than Ron's mother, looking both cheerier and older than ever. However, she positively beamed at the sight of her youngest son and his best friend, and ushered them in quickly. "Hurry in, boys," she whispered so as not to wake Sirius's horrible mother, still hanging behind the curtains. Mrs. Weasley gave Ron a hug, much to his embarrassment. "The meeting's about to start, we're just waiting for Professor Dumbledore."
They tiptoed down the hall to the kitchen, where the Order meetings were always held. Mr. Weasley was usually the one to conjure the long mahogany table from thin air, while it was Fred and George's job to make room for it. When Harry, Ron, and Mrs. Weasley entered the kitchen, Fred was nowhere to be seen and George was conducting a few dancing pots to the other side of the room, and suddenly there was a squeaky chorus of, "UNCLE RON!" as four children no bigger than Harry's knee attacked Ron, knocking him to the floor.
Mrs. Weasley sighed with a smile. "Charlie's children," she said, explaining to Harry. "He and Gisele are in Russia visiting her parents but couldn't bring the children with them, so she left the dears with us. Fred volunteered to watch them during the meeting, but I expect he's upstairs with Bill's girls and didn't realize that the majority of the children ran off." Shaking her head, Mrs. Weasley gathered her grandchildren off of Ron, who was laughing uncontrollably at the smallest boy who was sitting on his chest, and steered them out the door. While they were leaving, Harry noticed that all but one of them had red hair; the tallest girl had long, black curls that fell loosely to her shoulders. Harry asked Ron about her, and he said, "Oh, that's Molly – Charlie named her after Mum, but she got Gisele's hair. First Weasley in eight generations to not have red hair, you know."
A few minutes later, Hermione came in with Ginny and Mrs. Weasley, chattering good-naturedly with each other. Hermione spotted Harry and Ron talking with Kingsley Shacklebolt about his vacation (he had just returned from a three-month excursion to America and advised Harry and Ron not to go there unless they wanted to be run over by smelly muggles), and she joined them for a few minutes. Mr. Weasley came in not long after that, directed everyone to stand against the wall, and conjured the table like he always did.
After they had all sat down, Harry noticed that neither Lupin nor Snape were there. He commented this to Ron, who shrugged and said, "Maybe they're coming with Dumbledore."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's three o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon. They're probably teaching their classes."
"Oh," said both Harry and Ron, and Hermione laughed.
As if in response to Harry's question, two sets of footsteps suddenly became audible over the noise of the room before their owners appeared in the doorway. The commotion subsided at the sight of the two men - out of respect for one and repulsion for the other - as Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape crossed the room and took their seats at the awaiting table. Harry ignored Snape as he sat down a few seats ahead of him and studied Dumbledore's solemn expression as he sat down, the latter looking more exhausted than ever and the former just the same as he always looked – greasy and extremely sour. Everybody was staring at Dumbledore, waiting for him to start the meeting officially, but he just smiled and looked directly at Tonks, whose head you could easily identify out of the small crowd because it was green. "I was beginning to fear Peter Pettigrew would never be caught," Dumbledore said softly yet proudly, "but you seemed to have proven me wrong. Well done, Nymphadora." Tonks beamed and didn't say a word about calling her Nymphadora, which was most definitely a first. Everyone clapped for Tonks and George whooped loudly, but after a moment Dumbledore held up a hand to silence them.
"However, when a criminal such as Peter Pettigrew is caught, it causes the Ministry a great deal of agitation, for no one wishes to deal with these delinquents." Dumbledore stared pointedly at Mad-eye Moody, who stared forebodingly back, but Harry saw his thumb twitch and he grinned. "Because of this, Alastor asked me to question Mr. Pettigrew before his trial. I spent my day today with Mr. Pettigrew, and although it was very informing, it was also quite tedious and I very much wish to return to Hogwarts, so this meeting will be a very short one."
Professor Dumbledore paused only a second before continuing. "Most of what was said between Pettigrew and I today will remain confidential until he testifies in court on October the thirteenth, but I shall enlighten you of a few things that won't end with my arrest." A few quiet chuckles were heard and many members smiled – with the exception of Snape, of course.
Harry expected Dumbledore to reveal something very important by the way he was talking, and he was severely disappointed when he began to tell how Pettigrew betrayed Lily and James Potter twenty-two years ago. He supposed Dumbledore was explaining this for everybody else in the Order – the Daily Prophet didn't really mention Peter's betrayal to Harry's parents and neither Dumbledore nor Harry had every bothered to tell anybody else. In fact, the only other people in the Order who knew of Peter's disloyalty were Ron, Hermione, and Lupin. And even though Hermione already knew the story very well, her eyes were focused on Dumbledore and were rapt with attention. Ron, however, sighed with boredom and gave Harry a sideways look of annoyance.
Harry tilted his head back against his chair, stared at the ceiling as Dumbledore spoke, and sighed. He caught a sentence or two here and there, but mostly he heard the gasps, occasional whispers, and overall quiet from the rest of the group. He gritted his teeth, fully aware of the eyes that were gazing back and forth at him, and silently wished to himself that he was someone else, if for just a moment.
Finally, Dumbledore finished talking – Harry could tell by the incensed whispers all around him. He shifted his gaze from the ceiling to Ron, who was looking at him pityingly, but only because Ron knew how much Harry hated so much attention. Harry smiled weakly at him, and then Snape's unpleasant voice filled the small kitchen.
It took a full five minutes for Snape to explain yet again how much peril he was in and how dangerous his duties for the Order were. Hermione rolled her eyes, which was most unlike her as she usually showed little or no emotion when Snape was talking, and Harry and Ron, among others, couldn't help but do the same. Finally the unlikable professor cleared his throat and said, "Recently I have discovered that the Dark Lord is no longer interested in recruiting mere witches and wizards for his campaign, but instead is focusing his sights on the world's population of vampires and werewolves."
Mrs. Weasley gasped and covered her mouth with her hand, Tonks and Ron both groaned, and Hermione breathed a very quiet, "Oh, no." However, Sean O'Leary, a Scottish Auror who was known for his blasé attitude toward everything, mostly Death Eaters, simply rolled his eyes in annoyance and said quite clearly, "Well, those Chinese vampires won't do him any good, will they? They stick out a bit more than the European kind. Besides, nobody's going to find a pig with green hair even remotely frightening."
"You'd be surprised, O'Leary," Moody growled. "I've heard of Chinese Aurors who've gone insane at the sight of those bastards."
"Are we Chinese, Moody?" Sean replied without missing a beat while picking at his fingernails. Moody opened his mouth to answer, but Sean answered his own question before Moody could get a word out. "No, we are not. So why should a pig with discolored hair scare a Scotsman, an Englishman, even a Welshman? I see no threat there."
"It's not a question on whether the buggers scare anybody," Emily Snelling, an Unspeakable, said bitterly. "They can still bite you if you happen to come across one." Her cold, blue eyes stared directly into Sean's uncaring and very foolish hazel ones. "Or did you forget that that's what vampires do? Bite people and suck their blood?" Sean glared at her but did not respond. Harry and everybody else in the room knew that Emily Snelling and Sean O'Leary were not fond of each other.
Dumbledore sighed. "Emily has a point, Sean. Vampires do not exist just to terrify people. Something will have to be done about them, I suppose."
Bill took the opportunity to speak up for his absent younger brother. "Charlie's in Russia right now with Gisele, he could probably stop in Romania and speak to the Minister before he comes back. It's a known fact that most of the vampire population live there."
As Dumbledore agreed and told Bill he would send Charlie an owl later, Harry thought about this newly revealed plan of Voldemort's disturbing. For some odd reason, Harry felt that vampires and werewolves were the least of their worries, but the so-called "monsters" were not treated very well at all by the Ministry and it would be very easy to get them to switch sides, with little or no blackmail whatsoever. The werewolves would be harder to sway, however, since the Ministress had introduced some very helpful laws that made it easier for werewolves to get around these days. Some speculated that Astera Griffiths had only done this out of sympathy for her younger brother, who had been bitten by a werewolf while on holiday in Austria, but for whatever the reason, werewolves now considered the Ministress to be a fairly righteous leader of the magical community. The vampires were a different story. Nobody treated them well at all.
The chattering around the table and Harry's thoughts generally stopped when Dumbledore said, "Is there anything else, Severus?"
All eyes shifted reluctantly back to Snape. The Potion's Master's face remained just as unfeeling, serious, and smug as it normally did, yet Harry could see hesitation in Snape's black eyes. He said sketchily, "There is nothing that everyone else should be troubled with," and his eyes rested momentarily on Harry before looking back a Dumbledore. Hermione, as observant as ever, noticed this and looked at Harry confusedly and all Harry could do was return her puzzled stare.
Professor Dumbledore also glanced at Harry before saying, "Very well. I guess I shall have to conclude this meeting with a final sentence: I do hope they are not serving Ruben loaf or something equally unappetizing at Hogwarts for supper, for I am very, very hungry." Dumbledore smiled and everybody had a good laugh as they all stood up to socialize with the other members of the Order.
Harry was immediately dragged off by Ron and Hermione to where Ginny was standing with a fellow Healer named Clarence Gaines. Clarence, a very shy man with brown hair, noticed Ginny's older brother and his friends headed his way, quickly said good-bye and headed to the other side of the room where Mystica Hackett was standing. Ginny glared curtly at Ron. "Look, you've gone and scared off poor Clarence, you great prick," she said, her lips twitching, as she playfully punched her brother.
Ron glanced at Ginny's co-worker standing near the wall opposite them. "Looks like he getting along quite nicely with that blonde woman," he said approvingly and both Ginny and Hermione rolled their eyes.
Harry sniggered but didn't say anything. He watched Mrs. Weasley leave the room hurriedly, apparently to go fetch her son and grandchildren so she could show them off, a thing she did as often as she could. Not even a minute later, six kids, all but one with fiery red hair, charged into the kitchen laughing and shouting like mad. Soon afterwards Mrs. Weasley and Fred joined them, the latter looking very much exhausted and not at all himself. As Fred ambled past Harry and the others, they distinctly heard him mutter, "That's the last time I volunteer to baby-sit… what a nightmare…" Ginny snorted as he passed, but Fred was too tired to even come up with a snappy retort.
For awhile, Harry chatted animatedly with Ginny, Ron, and Hermione, but when he stole a quick glance over Ron's shoulder (which happened to be a good four inches higher than eye level), he saw Dumbledore and Snape whispering in a corner, Dumbledore looking grim and Snape looking aggravated. He tuned out of the conversation before him – it was amazing how easy and how often he could do that these days – and watched the professors curiously. They didn't seem aware of their jolly surroundings; after each word Snape said, Dumbledore's already ancient face looked as if it were aging a year a minute. At first Harry thought that Snape might be telling the headmaster some horrifying detail about the vampires and werewolves that he had not disclosed to the rest of the Order, but then he thought, Why would he do that? Any detail, no matter how shocking, would help the Order, not hinder it. No, Snape was informing Dumbledore of something entirely different.
Unfortunately, before Harry could even begin to wonder what Snape was talking about, his pondering was interrupted by a concerned, "Harry?"
"Er, yes, sorry?" Harry quickly said, tearing his gaze away from the corner and looking at Ron instead.
Ron's eyebrows furrowed in a perplexed fashion. "Your eyes were sort of distant and you were looking a bit thrown there for a minute," he said suspiciously. "Anything wrong?"
"No, nothing's wrong, I was just wondering –" Harry's eyes darted back to the corner and he nearly jumped when he saw Dumbledore looking back at him and shaking his head in a way that was hardly noticeable. Harry didn't finish his sentence but instead closed his mouth and stared at Dumbledore.
"Wondering what?" asked Hermione inquisitively.
Harry blinked and smiled at his friends. "Wondering when we're having dinner," he finished quite lamely. "I'm starved and it's not even five yet."
"Glad I'm not the only one," Ron said loudly, avoiding Hermione's gaze and yet maintaining to give her a stubborn glare.
"Yes, yes, you make a very good point Ron, we're all half starved and you most of all need nourishment," Hermione said exasperatedly.
Ron nodded. "Damn straight." Hermione scoffed and Ginny shook her head.
"What do you say we eat out tonight, eh?" Harry asked, and he added generously, "My treat."
Ginny grimaced. "Ugh, I'd love to but I'm covering the night shift at St. Mungo's for Karen Daruwala, her sister just had a baby in Spain and Karen's supposed to be the godmother." Ginny checked her watch. "Speaking of the night shift, I'd better get going." She waved goodbye to Harry, Ron, and Hermione before seeking out her parents to tell them she was leaving.
As Ginny left, Harry saw Dumbledore staring pointedly at him with a look that clearly said, "I need to speak to you now." With more subtlety, of course. It was Dumbledore, after all. So Harry said distractedly, "Look, you two figure out a place to eat, all right? I need to ask Dumbledore something… But not that French place, Hermione," he added as an afterthought. "I don't think that waiter liked me much." Hermione smiled, and Harry walked over to where Dumbledore was standing just in time to see Snape leave.
"Well, headmaster, I really must be going," Snape said as soon as he saw Harry. "Miss Crane and Miss Mackenzie both have detention again tonight and sadly, I must supervise them as if they were toddlers." And with one final glare shot in Harry's direction (Harry merely raised an eyebrow in response), Snape left number 12, Grimmauld Place.
For a quick moment, neither Harry nor Dumbledore said anything, but when Harry opened his mouth to ask what was going on, Dumbledore cut him off before he had even drawn a full breath. "What am I about to tell you," the old headmaster began quietly, "must remain secret until it becomes a threat. You must not tell anybody under any circumstances, not even Miss Granger or Mr. Weasley. Do you understand?"
Harry's eyes narrowed at the straightforward introduction, but he nodded slowly, expecting the worst. Sensing this, Dumbledore said with a exceptionally small smile, "It's nothing terrible at the moment, I assure you."
"Then why are you keeping it a secret?" Harry asked wryly, fully aware of whom he was being sardonic to.
"So as not to concern those who needn't be worried yet," Dumbledore responded wisely.
"Ah," Harry said. "I see." But surreptitiously he thought of how things had turned out the last time Dumbledore had kept a secret from Harry because he didn't want to see Harry hurt, when keeping that secret for all those years hurt Harry more than anything. Harry made a note to himself to inform Ron and Hermione of whatever Dumbledore was going to tell him. "What's the problem?"
Dumbledore didn't answer at first and instead took off his half-moon glasses and absentmindedly cleaned them with the hem of his robes, looking tight-lipped and worried, an expression that had always been reserved by Minerva McGonagall before she died. Finally, Dumbledore said seriously, "When Snape first heard rumors about Voldemort's plans for the vampires and werewolves, a few other bits of information came through as well. That was a few weeks ago, and since they were just names and phrases, Professor Snape dubbed them trivial. However, in the past few weeks, those same names and phrases have come up more often than not, so Severus became suspicious. He looked into them and thus found more names that made the other phrases make more sense." Dumbledore paused, looking hesitant, and he put his glasses back on, seemingly waiting for Harry to ask the obvious question, so Harry asked it.
"What were they?" Harry asked cautiously.
"Hogwarts, Lestrange, Potter, lure, friends, trap, and kill."
Harry's insides froze. He was hardly breathing now, and in the back of his mind he wondered how pale he had just become. In the front of his mind, he was reeling. He should've suspected this, he really should have. Voldemort knew he had a "saving people thing", as Hermione so eloquently put it, and that he would do anything for his friends. But hadn't the Dark Lord already used that particular plan with Sirius in fifth year? He had lured Harry into the Department of Mysteries with a false vision of Sirius being tortured just so he could get a Prophecy, so why was he using this weak maneuver to kill Harry and take over the wizarding world again? And plus, the whole string of words didn't entirely make sense. Out of the seven words, only six fit together: Lestrange would use Harry's friends as bait to lure Harry into a trap and then proceed to kill them all, that made sense. But where did Hogwarts fit in? Was that where Lestrange – Bellatrix Lestrange, perhaps – would hold Ron and Hermione and kill them? But there's no way for Bellatrix to get into Hogwarts, let alone hold hostages there, Harry's reasonable mind told him. It didn't make any sense, and from what Harry saw, Dumbledore knew that too.
Dumbledore sighed again – he did that quite often nowadays – and said quietly, "I see that Ron and Hermione are waiting impatiently for you, so I mustn't keep you any longer." Harry instinctively looked over his shoulder at his two friends, and they were acting eager and hassled, glancing every once in awhile in Harry and Dumbledore's direction, looking peeved.
Harry shook his head with a small smile, turned around to leave and had hardly taken a step when Dumbledore said, "Oh, I forgot something." Harry whirled around, thinking that whatever Dumbledore forgot what piece the whole puzzle together.
"Yes?" he asked worriedly.
"Severus also said that ghosts were mentioned, but only once," Dumbledore said thoughtfully.
Harry nodded disappointedly. What could Voldemort do with ghosts? Nothing that was what. He hesitated, debating quickly in his mind whether or not he wanted to know, before asking, "Er, Professor? What are we going to do about this, erm, situation?"
Dumbledore looked straight into Harry's eyes and said gravely, "I do not know, Harry. Until this situation, as you call it, worsens there is nothing we can do except keep a sharp eye out for anything suspicious."
Harry nodded again and left with Ron and Hermione without another word on the subject. And after all of what Dumbledore said, Harry finally understood why he had kept a secret from him for five years. For the time being, Ron and Hermione were better off not knowing anything. For now.
Later that night, Harry stumbled into the flat he shared with Ron, feeling, for lack of better words, dead tired. He barely heard Ron talking about Hermione's ridiculous obsession with house-elves and he didn't respond when Ron punched him gently in the arm, teasing about how demented he looked. Instead, he just muttered a weak "g'night" and staggered to his room, not even bothering to change into his pajamas before crashing onto his bed. He fell asleep instantly.
At first, his dream wasn't strange; it started out fairly normal for a dream by Harry's standards. Well, as normal as a dream that involved a giant red jellybean that was trying to kill you could be, but for some odd reason this wasn't the first time Harry had dreamt this particular nighttime reverie. But right when they enormous jellybean was about to pounce, the whole dream shifted. Dream-Harry still had his face covered for protection from the murderous candy, but when he didn't get smashed, he peeked his eyes open and saw that he was in a whole different setting, a setting that was, unfortunately, all too familiar. He was in the room where Sirius had died.
It looked the same as it did in fifth year – ancient and eerie – and why wouldn't it? He was having a dream, after all. However, there was something different about the room that Harry identified right away: there were three people standing in front of the veil, still fluttering as though there was a wind in the chamber when there really wasn't.
All three of the people's backs were facing Harry, so he couldn't identify them by their faces. Two of them were wearing indistinguishable black robes with the hoods up and were on either side of the third person, who was a girl; Harry could tell by the hair pooling around her shoulders. However, he couldn't tell anymore than that.
Then, as though she was forced, the girl in the middle stepped up onto the dais. She held up her wand, pointed it directly into the veil, and began muttering something. Harry strained his ears to try to make out what she was saying, and he tried to step onto the next tier to get closer, but slipped and made a very loud racket. One of the robed figures apparently didn't even notice the noise, but the other one whirled around, the hood of her robes falling off her head, for the second figure was a woman.
When Bellatrix Lestrange saw the dream Harry, she grinned maniacally.
The next moment Harry sat up in his bed, completely disoriented. He looked around wildly, as though he expected Bellatrix Lestrange to walk out of his closet or pop out of the curtains any moment. When he realized that it was just a dream – and a weird one at that – he lied back down and instantly fell back into a dreamless, albeit restless, sleep.
The next morning Harry didn't remember the dream at all.
Dun dun duuuuun!
Ooh, ooh! Look at all the plot points! There's one there, and there, andthereandthereandtheeeere… What? You wanna know which ones give away the entire plot? Well, I'm afraid I can't do that, mate. 'Twould give away the plot, that would. Shame, isn't it? Sigh.
On a more sirius note, what was revealed in this chapter isn't the whole plot. I promise. [tries to grin reassuringly but fails miserably] Eh. Stupid reassuring grin. Never works.
Anyway, don't forget to reveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiw! Because, that way, you get the next chapter. Woot.
Yeah, just ignore me again. But do review. That part I mean.