The Redemption of the Black Sisters
Part Four B
After lunch Harry decided to wander around Grimmuald Place alone. Ron had decided to be a glutton for punishment and challenge Luna to another game of chess. Hermione had gone back to reading and Ginny was staring lovingly at a letter Dean had given her. Having been alone for so much of the summer Harry felt a little suffocated in with all his friends surrounding him, which led to his walk around the mansion.
The house—which was his he guessed—was a bit brighter than it had been the previous summer. Molly Weasley had transformed the dingy abode into a livable, if not overly cheery, home. Still, it felt wrong to be here. He could still remember Christmas with Sirius and how happy he'd been to finally have some company for a while. The echoes of his godfather's laughter could still be felt by Harry and it hurt him. He might own this place but he was never coming back here after this year. Never again.
Eventually Harry's wanderings carried him towards a distant corner of the house and he passed a door where familiar snorting could be heard. Harry paused and then reached for the handle.
The door opened into a room with a vast bay window with open curtains. Sunlight flooded the room and bounced off the dappled form of Buckbeak, the hippogriff that Sirius escaped on three years earlier. Remus Lupin stood near one of the strong flanks of the creature and brushed its coat with long smooth motions of the comb he clutched with a white-knuckled grip.
When Harry opened the door, Remus stopped and tested the air with his nose. "Hello Harry," he greeted softly without turning around. Instead he continued to brush the hippogriff with strong practiced moves.
"Professor Lupin." Harry whispered guiltily. He started to back out of the room. He couldn't face Remus. Not now. Maybe not ever. After the way he got Sirius killed, Remus was the last of the marauders. And the last person Harry wanted to face.
"Don't go." The werewolf whispered brokenly. He turned around and met Harry's gaze.
Lupin looked at least two decades older than the last time Harry had seen him. His face was etched with lines and his eyes were heavily bagged and bloodshot. He had let his graying brown hair grow long. It now hung like a tangled knot down to his shoulders. Combined with three days worth of stubble, Remus Lupin resembled a shabby mess instead of the poor but dignified teacher he had been but a few years earlier.
"Come here," Remus motioned.
Harry bowed to buckbeak and when the creature acknowledged him, Harry approached. His favorite Defense Professor handed him a brush and muttered "other side."
Harry moved to the opposite end and started to match his mentor's moves. They worked in silence for a few minutes.
"How was your summer?" Remus ventured after a few minutes of silence.
Remus shrugged wordlessly. Teacher and pupil met each others eyes and stared at each other sadly for a moment. A wide gulf of pain separated them. Remus opened his mouth to say something then closed it. Harry could see that Remus was at as much a loss for words as Harry was. The moment gone, they went back to work.
Harry couldn't stand it; he had to break the silence. "I'm sorry Professor." He whispered with downcast eyes. He wasn't going to look Remus in the eyes. He didn't deserve to.
"What for? The werewolf queried. "And don't call me Professor," he added with a sad little smile. "It's Remus or Mooney."
"Sirius. He was the last of the real marauders besides you." Harry rubbed his rapidly welling eyes. "It's my fault he's gone. If I hadn't been so…stupid…or I practiced Occulomeny like I was supposed…or that damn mirror…" Harry let out a strangled sob.
Wordlessly Remus enveloped Harry in his strong arms. He cradled the boy, rocking him back and forth while Harry shook with great heaving sobs. He covered the front of the werewolf's robes with salty tears. Remus made comforting sounds in Harry's ear and held him, letting him know with the strength of his grip that he gave Harry no blame for what occurred. Slowly, Remus allowed himself to grieve. He let himself morn his friend with the one person who'd miss him as much as he did. Tears began to wind down his face and together the pair—teacher and student—let the floodgates of their grief be opened.
Finally Remus calmed down. He wiped the tears from his eyes and looked down at Harry, who was wiping away the tears from his own face. "We're a right sight, aren't we? You blaming yourself and me not talking to anyone. Sirius should come down and kick our arse for acting like this."
Harry let out a strangled laugh "I know deep down its not really my fault, I do. Most of the time anyway. I'm angry at the right people, the people who deserve it, but then sometimes…like when I saw you it just hits me and I was worried that you would hate me."
Remus hugged Harry tight. "Mad, no Harry, I could never be mad at you. A little at Sirius for leaping without looking, but he wouldn't have been Sirius without that."
Harry suddenly flashed on the memory in Snape's pensieve. He remembered his father and Sirius and how they bullied the young future potion master and felt a little less warmly towards Sirius.
Remus felt the change in tension in Harry's limbs. "What's wrong?" He asked worriedly.
"Nothing." Harry said a little too quickly.
Remus wasn't a fool and he quickly divined what was wrong. "Your father was a good man. Regardless of what you saw in Snape's memories, he was."
Harry shrugged. "I wish I could believe that, but I guess I'll never know."
Remus watched Harry sadly for a moment before he furrowed his brow. "Harry did you find a sealed pensieve in the Vault when you went through his things?"
Harry nodded. "It was filled with memories, but I don't know whose."
Remus lit up. "They were Sirius' memories. He spent days duplicating them. He was going to give them to you but he…it happened." The werewolf's voice trailed off.
"Memories of what?" Harry asked.
"Your father." Remus answered. "You have no idea how much it hurt Sirius when he saw that you believed every bad thing about father that Snape had been saying. It hurt both of us. So he hit on the idea of duplicating memories in a pensieve so you could get a better picture of who your father was, of who both your parents were. I donated a few of them myself."
Harry rocked back. "Memories of my parents." He whispered softly. His eyes darted towards the entrance to the door. A part of him wanted to run right now to his room and shove his arm into the pensieve. But another part, the larger part, couldn't bare to watch a younger set of marauders happy. It was too soon after Sirius' death and too soon after the revelations in Snape's memories. The shattering of his father's image had hurt him and he wasn't sure if he could stand any more images of his father. Selected by Sirius or not.
Remus let Harry stew in his thoughts for a while. When he spoke again it was in a hesitant voice. "Harry…I just want you to know…I know I'm not your godfather or anything, but…but I'll be there for you whenever you want me to be, if that's you know…Okay."
The werewolf's chest tightened as Harry looked up at him with his mother's eyes shining out of his fathers face. Slowly he smiled. "I'd like that," Harry whispered. "I'd like that a lot."
It was a greatly changed Remus Lupin who joined the rest of the house for dinner a few hours later.
He had showered, shaved, and cut his hair, once again returning the well groomed form he had displayed as a teacher.
His demeanor was as changed as his outward appearance. He greeted the people he knew with a smile and a nod while lingering over both Narcissa and Bellatrix with a chaste kiss on the back of their hands.
The sisters were pleased at the reception they'd received by everyone; Although Harry could sense that neither was all that comfortable around the werewolf. Their prejudices ran deep and werewolves were among the most hated beings in the entire Wizarding world. Still, Harry was pleased that the girls could contain the loathing they felt towards him and Hermione for her non-pureblooded status. That meant they would be able to behave themselves once they were in Gryffindor tower.
Molly of course gave them a bone crushing hug and moved straight into mothering mode, complaining that the sisters were far too skinny for women of their height but to never fear because she would fix them right up.
Ron was less awestruck by their beauty than Harry would have imagined based on his reaction to Fleur. He made a few off color jokes about them because of their relation to Dumbledore which made his mother angry but the jokes had the effect of breaking the comfort barrier of the girls and allowing them to truly become part of the group.
Hermione peppered them incessantly with questions about their school in the Alps and what they learned their. Harry marveled and the smooth and casual way Narcissa was able to field her questions and construct a web of lies based solely on the information they'd been given by Dumbledore.
Luna simply gave them both an unsettling smile and a whispery 'hello'.
The meal began in earnest with conversation flowing freely across the table and Harry found himself slipping into companionable talk with everyone, forgetting his problems for a little while. The link he had with the women transmitted their anxiety at the beginning at the beginning of the dinner but it slowly bled away over time.
The women were so at ease with their surroundings that not even Dumbledore himself joining them for dinner half-way through the meal was able to shake the enjoyment they'd built up.
It was Harry himself which changed the mood of the table. He was quite simply caught off guard when Dobby popped in to clear away the plates at the end of the meal.
"Master Harry Potter." The house elf screeched excitedly. "Dobby is Master Harry Potter's new House elf." He bowed comically while balancing a dozen plates in his hands. With a pop and golden flash he disappeared.
Harry looked around the table confusedly. "Dobby? Master?" He searched the faces of people trying to divine an answer from their expressions. The nervous glances they shared between each other told up something was up. The train of his thought shifted.
All the strange things that had been happening over the past few days had caused him to forget about the ignoble little being.
"What happened to Kreacher?" Harry asked slowly.
The table exchanged glances until Dumbledore cleared his throat to explain when it seemed like no one else wanted to explain.
"Kreacher killed himself a few days after Sirius died," he began. "He locked himself away from all of us until one day Dobby popped in. He spoke at some length with Kreacher although I could not say what they spoke about. Mere moments after Dobby was finished Kreacher had hung himself with a shoelace."
"How did Dobby get in?"
Dumbledore shrugged. "House elves have great power even if most wizards refuse to acknowledge it. I believe he bound himself to you as his new master. House elves are capable of popping to any of their master homes, going through wards with ease."
Harry jumped to his feet. "I have to talk to him." He rushed out of the room with speed that surprised almost everyone.
It was good that he did so because it detracted attention from Narcissa Black who had turned ghostly white upon seeing her family's old house elf.
Harry found Dobby in the kitchen. He was standing in front of the large sink a number of dishes and utensils dancing in the air while they cleaned themselves while he waved his hands like a conductor. He spun around when he heard the door open.
"Master Harry Potter Sir!" Dobby said excited. "Does Master Harry need anything? Dobby can get whatever you need."
"I just want to talk to you about this master thing." Harry said.
"Does Master Harry Potter not want Dobby to be his House elf?" The tiny creature's ears wilted with despair at the thought of not being wanted. He reared back his head and prepared to smash it upon the marble edge of the sink in self punishment.
"Dobby, No!" Harry lunged forward to prevent the small creature from braining himself into unconsciousness. "It just surprised me Dobby. I freed you from ever needing to have another master." Harry knelt down so that he was eye level to the bug eyed elf. "I thought you like being free?"
Dobby smiled widely. "Harry Potter is a great wizard. After awful Kreacher-beast betrayed his master Harry Potter needed a house elf to take care of him. Dobby wanted to be that house elf. Dobby chose to be that house elf because Harry Potter gave him that choice. Dobby is free. Free to serve Harry Potter," he finished with great dignity.
Harry could read the earnestness in the elf's eyes. He could hear the sincerity in his voice. And his mind wandered towards what he could do with a loyal house elf. He hated himself for thinking about Dobby in such cold terms.
Of course that didn't stop Harry from smiling at the small creature and accepting his fealty.
When Harry returned to the dining area everyone stared at him with questioning glances. He shrugged. "I guess I have a house elf."
Hermione's gasp of outrage filled the room. "How could you do that to him, Harry? You freed him just so he could be a slave for you instead. Why?" She asked accusingly.
"He volunteered for it. He wanted it." Harry answered.
"Miss Granger, Dobby just showed how highly he regards Harry by giving up his freedom. And not just his. He bound his family and children into his service for now until they are freed. That's a profound statement of trust." Dumbledore interjected.
The bushy haired witch crossed her arms with a huff but didn't say anything else. It wasn't like she could contradict Albus Dumbledore. Everyone settled back down to their meal. The rest of the dinner past by pleasantly. After everyone finished their desert, Ron pushed back his chair and belched out his pleasure. Hermione and his mother frowned at him in displeasure while Luna looked on in amused indulgence.
"Time for you lot to head up to your rooms." Mrs. Weasley stood up and clapped her hands. "Shoo. Off with you."
The kids stood up with reluctance and looks of annoyance on their faces. With the exception of Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Harry. The two sisters looked confused for a moment at the thought of being sent to their rooms like a pair of children.
Harry just stayed in his seat. "Is there an order meeting tonight?"
Dumbledore nodded silently.
"Then I'm staying," Harry said quietly.
"No you are not, Harry James Potter." Mrs. Weasley said. "The Order of the Phoenix meeting is not for children."
"I'm staying." Harry refused to budge from his position. But neither would he look his surrogate mother in the eye.
"Please, Harry." the matronly woman pleaded. "I don't want you to have to hear such things."
"I need to." An emerald flicker over to Dumbledore. "He knows why."
Mrs. Weasley glanced at the old wizard. He did not meet her gaze. Instead he trained his formidable stare at the boy who lived. There was no twinkle in his eye now.
"Harry, your mind is still open to Voldemort. Do you want to put the rest of the order in danger? You would if you learned about our movements." His voice was calm and measured, every inch the commanding wizard.
Harry scoffed. "I doubt legitimency only works on me. You must have some way of protecting your secrets in the rest of the members. And besides, I haven't had a single Voldemort-dream since the department of Mysteries."
"Do not press this thing." Dumbledore whispered. There was no malice in his voice. No desire to hide things for the sake of hiding them. Harry could tell it was simply an honest inclination to protect him from the dark things which infested the Wizarding World.
"Dobby." Harry whispered the name of his house elf, instinct telling him that the creature would come to his call. The greenish elf appeared with a slight golden pop. He smiled widely at his new master.
"What can Dobby do for Master Harry Potter?"
"Can you remove anyone from my house if I wish it?" Harry asked softly.
He kept his gaze firmly on Dumbledore. He studiously avoided Molly Weasley. He didn't think he would be able to do what needed to be done if he had to look at her in the eye.
Dobby's expressive ears wilted. His great eyes darted between the old wizard and his young master. "Dobby can do that." He whispered in a tremulous voice.
Harry saw the fight die in Dumbledore's eyes but he didn't exult in his victory. Instead he simply felt as old as Dumbledore looked. "You're going to let me into the meeting because I am Lord Black, master of an old and powerful family. I have a seat on the Wizngamot and the British delegation of the International confederation of Wizards. I've dueled him, which is more than most of the order can say. I can say his name without flinching, which again is more than most of the people in the Order can say." Harry said all this without moving from his chair. Slowly he stood up. All eyes in the dining room were on him; his friends with worried expressions as they feared Harry would go too far in his demands.
"Most of all you're going to let me into the order meeting because; You. Are. In. My. House!" His eyes flashed and Harry crossed his hands with determined defiance.
The whole room waited with bated breath as the two wizards stared at each other. Finally Dumbledore sighed. "Very well Harry. You can stay for the meeting."
"Albus, no!" Molly Weasley cried out.
"He is right, Molly." Dumbledore never looked older. "I have no right to hid this from him. He, above all others, has earned the right to hear what is happening." He glanced at Harry over his half-moon spectacles. "You are correct Harry. There is a magic I can use to shield your mind from intrusion."
"I simply do not think you would be willing to pay the charms price."
Narcissa Black stared at the veela-haired wand she so carefully polished. She sighed and looked around. The room that she and Bellatrix had been given was a nice, well-appointed room with two four poster beds and an adjoining bath. She recalled this room in another life, when she and her sister had visited their aunt, Sirius' mother. That was the whole problem.
She had been sixteen the last time she'd stayed in this room, too.
Merlin, how she hated being this age! She still felt the humiliation of her disastrous attempt to gain entrance into the order of the phoenix meeting after Harry's masterful manipulation of events. Molly Weasley had laughed at her. After that she had fled up the stairs without waiting for anyone else.
Laughed at her!
She was only a few years younger than the fat red-head and that woman had the temerity to treat her as if she was a fresh off her NEWTS. They all did. She could still see that damn twinkle in the eyes of the headmaster as he instructed his 'niece' that she was much too young to hear such things.
It wasn't as if Bella was any help either. The girl had become positively childish after the potion had begun to remove the damage dark magic had done to her mind and soul. If she wasn't so glad to see the change in her sister she'd slap some of the giddiness out of Bella herself. It was rather irritating.
Narcissa was still attempting to figure out why she had spoken up all of a sudden. All of sudden she was just speaking out of turn and everyone was looking at her. It was these bloody teenage hormones. They were an affliction the first time around and they as much as a curse the second time around.
And on top of everything else she was developing a pimple on her chin.
She couldn't even brush her platinum hair to comfort herself because of this damn disguise. She was forced hide who she was, as if she was ashamed of herself. Forced to wear a different face and hair and now she could hardly stand to look herself in the mirror with this strange face staring back. Ahhh, well. It was necessary and at least she was still pretty.
Priorities and all that.
Aside from that damn pimple.
"Are…are we interrupting anything?"
Narcissa turned around. Hermione Granger, that young mudblood friend of Harry's was standing in the doorway with an amusingly anxious look plastered all over her face. Behind her the other children in the house, Bella towering over everyone else with that ridiculously exaggerated height of hers.
"No of course not, Hermione."
Inwardly Narcissa sighed. She had little desire to play with the children and pretend she was as young as the face she wore. The bushy haired witch took a seat opposite her and the older witch took the time to study the mudblood. She was a pretty enough witch in a librarian sort of way. She was slender and possessed well shaped eyes. Aside from her riot of dull brown hair and the tenderness she exhibited from some kind of fresh injury she could be called conventionally pretty. In a witch next door sort of way. But that wasn't why Narcissa spoke with the mudblood, an act that she would have never countenanced just a little while ago. The reason was simple curiosity. Over the years she had heard enough complaints about Hermione Granger from her son to find the girl at least mildly interesting based solely on her reputation as a know it all.
Right now she didn't seem all that confidant. Her eyes darted back and forth while she tried to formulate her thoughts into words. Narcissa watched with detached amusement.
Not a politician, this one
"So I…We…wanted to see how you were doing." She eventually said. "After what happened downstairs and everything."
Ron made his way into the room. "My mum can be something else if you don't know her, but she means well. After what happened before school let out, she's just more protective." He rolled his eyes. "If that's even possible."
Hermione smiled and Luna giggled with amusement at Ron's description of his mother.
Bella sat down on the bed. "What happened before school let out?" She shot a glance at Narcissa that clearly said "play along."
Ginny answered. "You-Know-Who sent Harry a dream during OWLs last year. He showed Harry that he had captured his godfather. Harry could get in contact with a trustworthy teacher so he went after Sirius himself. And we went with him."
Narcissa looked askew at the students. "You…fought Death Eaters?" she asked incredulously. She had known that Harry had been present where her husband had been captured, but these children. That was a surprise. It could be amusing if not so sad for Lucius.
No, it was amusing, she eventually decided.
"Harry trained all of us himself so we could protect ourselves in a fight. He's a dead good teacher." Ron added proudly. "We, along with a mate of ours, Neville Longbottom, went with Harry. We flew their on the back of Thestrals."
Bellatrix let out a belly laugh. "That's how you got there! By Thestral!" She couldn't restrain herself. She flung herself backwards on the bed and let out a guffaw that lasted for several tear-inducing minutes. "That's the funniest bloody thing I've heard in ages."
You've been in Azkaban for fifteen bloody years. Of course it's funny to you
"So what happened?" Narcissa asked impatiently.
"We did a good job at first. Broke into the Department of Mysteries and fought our way down into the prophecy library when we were cornered by Death Eaters. We did good at first but they knocked us out one by one until only Harry and Neville were left." Ron answered. "Then Dumbledore and the order burst in the room and the fight became a lot more even. Harry's godfather was there, because you see, the whole dream had been a trick. His godfather was fighting Bellatrix Lestrange when she shot a spell into him and he fell into the veil of death which I guess is some kind of mysterious magic item they study there. Harry chased her down and that's all I heard about." Ron flushed. "I was rather…"
"…Out of it, I would say. Wouldn't you, Ronald?" Luna's sweet voice added.
Ron shot Luna a look but didn't correct her. Narcissa was too lost in her own thoughts to bother thinking much about Ron and his problems with the strange girl. She had never heard about his death or how he had died. After all that was the same time her husband had been captured so she'd had other things on her mind at the time.
Bellatrix's voice was soft and lacked any of the humor or giddiness of earlier. Narcissa looked up. Her sister was pale and wan. She looked sick with guilt at her place in the story.
"Why did you go?" Narcissa started at the question that her sister whispered after a few minutes of silent brooding.
The other students looked at each other. Narcissa couldn't read anything in their faces. They had a remarkable ability to close off their expressions when their scarred friend was mentioned.
By silent accord, Ron answered for the group. "He's Harry," he said with quiet certainty. "He would go to the ends of the earth for any of us. What else could we do."
"But still," Narcissa argued. "This wasn't about house loyalty. You fought Death Eaters. I wouldn't do that for any of my friends."
Hermione smiled with fondness. "You don't understand. But you will. I don't think there is a person, who knows Harry, really knows him, that wouldn't fight to the end for him. He's inspiring. He's honest." She shrugged, "There's no other way to say it. He's a hero."
This time it was Narcissa's turn to hold a silent communion with her sister. Then she turned back to the muggleborn witch.
"Tell me about him."
Harry Potter sat in a corner of the Library on a conjured chair and beneath a disillusionment charm so that no one would know he was attending the meeting. He and Dumbledore had decided that it would be better if no one knew he was attending the meeting to cut down the inevitable argument.
While he sat there and waited for the meeting to begin Harry rubbed his face. The numbing feeling was part of the aftereffect of the Geas the old wizard had lain upon him. The spell sealed the information about the order in Harry's mind so that not even a legimens could remove it. The downside was that he couldn't talk about what he learned to anyone—including his close friends. The knowledge was literally locked inside of him. Dumbledore promised to rescind the spell when Harry became more accomplished as an Occulmens.
The first people to arrive were Alastor Moody and Nymphadora Tonks. The grizzled ex-auror saw through the charm that hid Harry instantly. The barest flicker of approval appeared on his face before he schooled it back into its usual grimace.
Tonks made her way over to the table and flung it around to sit in it backwards. She blew a wad of gum the color of her neon pink hair and started chatting with Remus. Harry noticed that she seemed uncommonly glad to see the werewolf was doing better.
Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour were the next pair to walk in. Bill shook hands with everyone while Fleur greeted the Order members with a traditional kiss on the cheek. Bill became deeply engrossed in talk with Remus and Tonks while Fleur started an involved conversation with Molly. Harry was surprised to see the matronly woman speak in halting French with the veela's encouragement.
By twos and threes the rest of the Order the phoenix filed into the room. The last to enter was the greasy Potion Master and spy, Severus Snape.
Harry felt an irrational surge of hate towards the teacher and only fought down the urge when he felt the wand in his hand and was mere moments away from cursing the ex-Death Eater.
Once everyone was seated Dumbledore called the meeting to order and made a sweeping motion with his wand. Runes on the wall that had been previously hidden flared into momentary life. Wards against intrusion and magical spies, Harry realized.
"Welcome," Dumbledore intoned gravely. "First we will have our reports." Harry leaned forward with keen interest. This was why he'd gone to all the damn trouble. He was finally going to learn something.
The reports by the members of the order were anything but comforting, Harry soon realized. Attacks were coming with frightening frequency now that Voldemort couldn't hide his presence any longer. Vampires, trolls, and darker things were being reported along the outskirts of muggle populations and more than one witch or wizard had been forced to defend themselves and their families from dark creatures. Death Eaters had killed dozens of muggles and muggleborns and Dark Marks shone over destroyed homes nearly every week.
The information made Harry's blood turn to ice but that wasn't the worst thing Harry heard. Amelia Susan Bones, head of the magical law enforcement division of the ministry had survived an assassination attempt. The aunt of one of his DA members, the administrator was attacked at her home one night by several vampires and a two trolls. It was with great relish that Kingsly Shacklebolt reported that time had not dulled the former auror's dueling skills. When he and a squad of hit wizards had apparated to her home after they discovered the wards had been breached, they found the Ministry Official surrounded by the smoking corpses of her would be assassins.
Fleur was the next to speak. She reported that several small communities of veela and their half breed children had agreed to give aid to the order in exchange for promises of future political aid. Apparently veela's, despite their beauty, were not held in high regard because of their magical creature status. Fleur told the group that there were many Voldemort sympathizers in France, even among the school masters of Beauxbatons.
"Thank you Fleur. That is certainly disturbing news. Severus?" Dumbledore turned the floor over to his spy.
"I have several pieces of news." The greasy man began. "Some of it is welcome but most is not." The group started to rumble but he quieted the lot with a sour look. "First of all, the dark lord has not fully healed from the battle at the department of mysteries." He sneered. "He is certain that Potter has found some sort of secret magic that could be used to hurt him, but I find that in serious doubt."
"Harry has reported no untoward dreams." Albus added. "That seems to indicate that he was able to do something to Tom."
"The boy," Snape spat, "is a dunderhead. He was unable to learn even the most basic forms of Occlumany after months of tutoring. And the dark lord was easy able to twist those idiotic Gryffindor sympathies of his. I find it difficult to believe he could have done something so damaging to the Dark Lord."
Harry curled his fists. Rage welled up in him and he wanted nothing more than to plaster that great beak of a nose across his cheek. He calmed himself with several breaths. Luckily he had friends in the room.
Tonks, who was busy altering the shape of her nails with a furrow writ across her face, spoke up. "I forget, Severus, what does your Patronus look like?" after asking the question she quickly plastered a look of mock realization on her face. "I'm sorry, I forgot, you can't cast one." She looked over at Remus with a smile. Harry could have kissed Tonks at that moment. Well except for Remus looked like he wanted to kiss her more. "Remmie, what does Harry's look like? I can't remember."
The werewolf smiled at her kindly before answering. "I believe it's a stag, like his fathers Animagus form."
Tonks turned back around. "Mmmm, it seems that Harry was able to learn a very advanced charm, one you can't cast, but still you insist he's a dunderhead. Why is that?"
"Listen, you pink haired harlot, I don't care what you and your pet dog-
Remus jumped to his feet and in a flash had his wand in his hand. "Apologize to Tonks, Severus or-"
Albus Dumbledore silenced the argument with a bellow that echoed through the chamber mightily. Remus immediately lowered his wand and looked chastised. Snape was slower to calm. Tonks kept blowing bubbles, probably to help calm her nerves since the bubbles hid her face.
"Remus, Severus, if we fight amongst each other, Tom has already won." He chastised in a much softer voice. "We must work together, in order to defeat him." Snape and Remus muttered insincere apologies towards each other but Dumbledore didn't seem to notice. He smiled indulgently and beckoned Snape to continue.
"The second bit good news was the Dark Lord sent an envoy to the Shadow Ryu in Japan." Harry didn't know who they were but they didn't sound friendly. Why would Snape be pleased about them?
Dumbledore seemed to have the same thought. "They are among the dangerous magical assassins in the world. How is that a good thing?"
Snape grinned. It was the scariest thing Harry had ever seen. "Because the Chunin of the Ryu sent back the envoy with their answer. He was missing his head."
An old witch that Harry didn't recognize spoke up. "Does that mean we could form an alliance with them?"
Alastor Moody shook his scared head. "No, the Shadow Ryu's aren't any allies of ours." He tapped his leg. "I lost this fighting one of them during the war with Grindlewald. Their as evil as they come, but they have honor. And they like muggles. Or at least they like the muggles of their culture. They won't fight for us, but they'll stay out of the fight and we should all thank Merlin for such mercy," he finished in a dead whisper.
Even Snape was humbled for a moment by the dangerous memories which threatened to overwhelm the old auror. He cleared his throat. "The Dark Lord is planning some kind of break out at Azkaban but I do not know the specifics. I have been busy with other tasks on his behalf. He's discovered several ancient Egyptian scroll fragments that contain the secrets to the Elixir of Life. He's had me experimenting with the fragments to try and divine the remaining parts of the formulae."
Upset murmurs broke out when the order heard Voldemort had fragments of the Elixir of Life in his possession. "Is there any way for you to alter the potion, perhaps poison Voldemort."
Dumbledore intervened. "Severus has already volunteered such action, but I have vetoed it. It is far too dangerous to attempt for Severus and I highly doubt the Heir of Slytherin would fall prey to so simple a thing as a magical toxin."
"One last thing." Snape said. "At the last meeting of the inner circle I saw Andreas Nott."
Once again the order burst into murmurs at the news the spy brought. Harry didn't understand the significance of the name, aside from it was shared by a Slytherin in his year.
Tonks apparently shared his confusion. "Not to show my age or anything, but who is Andreas Nott? I recognize the family but I don't recall the man."
Moody spoke up. "He was the worst of Voldemort's death eaters the last time around. A dark wizard of great skill, Andreas managed to escape the purges after the last war ended." He grew disgusted. "Almost caught him myself, but he called up one of the bound demons he has, a great spidery monstrosity, and got away while I was busy." He tapped his scarred nose. "Chewed off most of this, before I banished the bugger." The old Auror looked at the head of the order. "This is bad, Dumbledore. There aren't a dozen Aurors in the ministry who can banish so much as an imp right now. If he's going to start calling up demons we'll be in some real trouble."
"There is no evidence that he's going to start dealing with infernal powers, Alastor." Dumbledore answered.
"Actually, I think there might be evidence of that." Apple cheeked Hestia Jones spoke up timidly. She turned red when every face turned towards her. "I…that…You had sent me to the Italian Ministry because my aunt is the Undersecretary of Catholic Cooperation. My aunt and I had made reservations to go out to dinner when she got an emergency floo call. A murder had happened in a park located in muggle Rome. She had to go oblivitate the officers in charge and begin a proper investigation. She invited me to go along." Hestia drew a sharp breath. "I've been having nightmares about what I saw for the past week. It was awful. It was something out a muggle horror movie. The ground was soaked in the blood of the bodies. Three girls. They had pentagrams and Hebrew phrases carved into their skin. One of their chests had burst open, like something had crawled its way out of her body. It was a demon calling ritual if ever there was one." The young woman had the entire order captive with her words. "You know what I am, what I do for a living. I neither frighten easily nor am I squeamish. But I still hear the squish of my feet from when I walked through their blood. My aunt said that it was the work of La Croce Nera di Judas—the Black Cross of Judas. I haven't had time to do research on the group since I just got back from Italy yesterday. Have you heard of them, sir."
"The Black Cross is the longest lasting Dark Brotherhoods in the world. Most groups such as theirs are like Death Eaters. They have a strong central figure who keeps them together and when that figure is brought down the group crumbles under the weight of their own corruption. The Black Cross is different. They've been in existence since the time of the Christ. Formed by the traitor Apostle, he betrayed the Christ after he learned all he could about the binding of demons and Angels from him. He formed a group of twelve of his own dark apostles. Down through the centuries the group has never had more than thirteen members, all of them former clergy or excommunicated church members. They seek to destroy the Pax Angelis—the seals which prevent demons from freely traveling to earth and the only thing keeping the Lightbringer trapped within its prison. Indeed, if Voldemort has made common ground with La Croce Nera then he has sunk completely into madness. The Black Cross serves no master but those Dark Powers they have enslaved themselves to."
Harry shivered. He had never heard of the group before. Religion and Wizardry was something that wasn't usually taught in History of Magic. Whoever they were, they sounded evil.
Apparently Harry wasn't the only one who thought so. "This is bad, Dumbledore," Moody grumbled. "These young aurors, they haven't seen the black circle in action." Tonks elbowed him in the side in outrage at the slight against her.
"True, Alastor. What do you suggest?" Dumbledore asked.
"Contact retired aurors. Men and women who saw what Grindlewald's war looked like. I guarantee any survivor of any significance from that war will know what to do if they see a demon. They've seen them before." He added grimly. "Secondly I would get in contact with the church, specifically the Order of Saint Michael and the Order of Saint George. Their kind as more experience with the Black Circle than any auror or ministry."
The old wizard nodded. "I agree completely." He turned to Hestia. "Miss Jones, can you be our liaison to the Church. I believe your aunt could be invaluable in serving as a bridge for us and you already know your way around."
The young witch nodded.
"Is there any thing else before I hand out orders." The old headmaster asked.
Bill Weasley raised his hand. "I ran into something odd at Gringotts yesterday. Narcissa Malfoy's private account was completely cleaned out and canceled. I tried to trace where the money went and I couldn't find it." He grinned. "She must have paid a pretty knut for the goblins to fudge their books like they did." Then he lost his smile. "What's odd is that I found divorce papers for both Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange."
Harry grew cold. Was Dumbledore going tell the order what happened? What the sisters had done? A strange surge of protectiveness filled hi. He wouldn't let the order take the sisters away—not even if he had to fight the whole order to do it.
"Impossible," scoffed an old wizard Harry didn't know. He had a tanned patrician face and wore a plain black robe with a stiff roman collar. "Bellatrix and Narcissa would never divorce their husbands. I married them. I would know. Bella was devoted to Rudolphous, and while Narcissa was much more pragmatic, she loved her status too much to divorce him."
"But she doesn't have that status anymore." Bill argued. "And Bellatrix could be having second thoughts after so much time in prison and You-Know-Who's loss at the Ministry. Why couldn't they be having second thoughts about their loyalty?"
Moody sneered. "Bellatrix has killed enough people to bathe in their blood. You didn't see the Longbottoms after they were left to her tender mercies. She's so deep in the dark arts I doubt if she has the conscience left to even consider changing sides. Narcissa might have cleaner hands than her sister, but she's done her share of evil deeds and she's always turned a blind eye from those of her husband's. She's a collaborator if there ever was one. No, lad, a lion would sooner lay down with a lamb than either of those join our side."
After that the order was issued their orders by Dumbledore. Moody was sent to talk with several of his friends who happened to be retired Aurors with experience in the daemonic realms. Hestia Jones made plans to go back to Rome in order to coordinate with the church and the Italian Ministry. Harry was surprised to learn the Bill was leaving Gringotts so he could teach Defense against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. Fleur would be going back to France to talk with veela and other magical creature communities for Dumbledore.
The order was dismissed and soon Harry was left alone with the headmaster. The old wizard banished the disillusionment charm with a casual wave of his hand and motioned for Harry to join him at the Orders table.
"What did you think about the Order, Harry?"
"It was impressive." Harry admitted. "I was surprised to see so many order members were doing things out of the country. Did Voldemort even make it out of Britain last time?"
"He has Death Eaters in many ministries although his strength is here in Britain. Sadly the philosophy he espouses is not restricted to our land. Truly, most places in the world see purebloods as more worthy of respect than muggleborns. Really, only the United Wizarding States, Australia, and Africa are free from such prejudices."
"Why those places?" Harry asked, interested in the answer. This was very different than the history and politics he'd leaned in Binns class. It was actually interesting.
The old wizard's eyes twinkled. "Australia is not well regarded in Wizarding circles. Their magic is a mixture of rather borderline practices from low born criminal elements banished from England and aboriginal sorceries. As for the United States, there are still wizards who remember and still refer to the states as 'those bloody colonials'. Africa was not the birthplace of magic, Atlantis was, but the wizards and witches there represent the oldest pure practitioners on the planet. So they console themselves, by pretending their skin color and refined culture makes them better wizards. It's sad really, but our culture changes at the pace of a glacier and it has a very long memory."
"This is all very interesting, Headmaster, but ..." Harry interrupted.
"No, I suppose we should move on. Perils of being an old teacher you understand." The old wizard folded his robed arms carefully. "We must discuss what you are going to do for the rest of summer."
"Why? I could just stay here. I'm involved in Order meetings now. You could have Order members here train me since I'm the one that has to defeat Voldemort." Harry was curious now. That twinkle meant something, but what?
"Training? Harry, Voldemort has been practicing some of the darkest arts known to this plane of reality for more than sixty years. I could give you a time turner and lock you in the room of requirement for the entire year of school and you emerge no more prepared to face Voldemort than before. You are a wizard of astounding power, but it will take decades before you reach the peak of your powers. I don't know what the prophecy speaks of, but I can tell you one thing, it is not a matter of training or raw strength, it is something born of who you are and what Tom as given up." Dumbledore smiled kindly down at the boy who lived. Harry, despite his problems with the old wizard, was profoundly comforted by his words. "Have no fear, Harry, when the time comes you'll do what is right. You are incapable of doing anything else."
"So then what am I going to do?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore smiled and his eyes twinkled. "I'm sending you to get training of course."
"Relax, Harry. After our discussion at the end of last year, I wanted to avoid further mistakes. So I decided to do something I had not done in some time. I meditated and consulted my inner eye."
"Don't be." Dumbledore consoled the teen. "All wizards—with the proper mental discipline—can tap into the core of their magic and seek out guidance. It is not Seeing per say. It is more of an instinct, a sixth sense that can guide a wizard towards what he wants. I sought out my core and sought out the path that would lead to your winning this conflict. And not just win, but win and live a life of peace and joy to make up for what you've had to endure thus far in your life. The feeling I got was most curious. And the one that was most contrary to my nature. If I wanted to keep you close, I had to send you away."
"Where, professor?" Harry was curious now. The feeling had to be indeed powerful if he was willing to go against his protective instincts and leave Harry alone."
"France. I knew you would become the next Lord Black and I contacted one of your family members on the mainland. A lovely, if eccentric young woman who spends a large portion of her time on various private ventures from around the world. She has agreed to allow you and your young friends to stay at her Chateau. Remus will accompany you as a chaperon. It overlooks a village of lower class wizard vassals to the Family of Black. The wards around the home and village are quite adequate and the bond between a lord and his vassals will prevent them from betraying you. I do not know what will occur there but I do know it will plant the seeds of Tom's eventual destruction."
The pair sat in silence for a few minutes. Dumbledore did not pressure Harry to speak. His pale blue eyes simply watched Harry without judgment, waiting to see what Harry would say.
"Professor, do you think what Moody said was true? About Narcissa and Bellatrix not being able to change? Are we wasting our time?" Harry asked earnestly.
"The sisters are deeply wounded people with many demons and sins to make up for, but I believe they can change."
Harry wanted to believe the man but after Snape he had a hard time trusting the older wizard's judgment. Still, the old wizards assurances did some good in making him feel better about having linked with the girls.
"So Harry, I believe you wanted to speak to me about something important." Dumbledore asked casually.
The Philosophers Stone. Harry had forgotten about the alchemical talisman completely after everything else that had happened. He opened his mouth to tell the professor when he realized he wanted to keep the secret. He wanted the stone to be for him only. He wanted to be the one to hold the cards for once.
"Uhh…it was nothing, Professor. Don't worry about it." Harry hedged. It did not take a legimencer to know the aged leader did not believe Harry.
"I wish you would confide in me more, Harry."
"Like you've confided in me, Professor?" Harry retorted. "How many secrets have you hid from me? Are still hiding from me?"
"I've made mistakes with you, Harry. But I want to make up for them, Harry. Please," the wizard begged, "let me in."
Harry shook his head. "Someday, Professor, someday."
"But not today."
Several hours later Harry was making his way to the bedroom he was sharing with Ron when he saw a pale silver light bobbing up and down in the hallway. Cautiously, Harry drew his wand and advanced. He lowered his wand when he saw who it was.
Luna Lovegood stood in the hallway with a pale globe of light bouncing over her shoulder. She bent dramatically at the waist while she stared at an invisible speck on the ground. She cocked her head to see Harry. It was an odd sight to be sure and Harry marveled at Luna's flexibility in her contortions.
"Lovely evening, Harry. Would you care to help me find the African Dust Bunny?" She asked dreamily. "I swear I saw one earlier but now it's gone."
"I'm sort of tired." Harry hedged.
Luna stood back up. The silvery mote, which was no bigger than a firefly, floated between Harry and Luna. She smiled softly at the boy who lived and Harry felt a surge of warmth. It was the same feeling he had when she talked with him on the last day of classes. Luna radiated a serenity that was truly infectious for those who took the time to get to know her. "How are you doing, Harry?"
"Better than before." He answered just as softly. "Thank you for talking with me at school. It helped some."
She smiled. "You're welcome of course, Harry."
Harry got a serious look on his face. "Luna, if anyone bothers you at school, let me know. I'm not going to let anyone bully you this year."
"You don't have to do that for me, Harry. I get on well enough. Besides, Ronald has already graciously offer to 'take the mickey' out of anyone who bothers me. Hermione also said she would hex anyone who took my things. It's quite overwhelming really to have so many people looking out for me."
"We care about you, Luna. You're our friend." Harry grinned a little. "I am surprised that Ron agreed to help you. He always thought you were a little odd."
"He has warmed up to me over the summer."
Harry, for the first time, really looked at Luna. He looked past the wild hair, the wide eyes, and the odd ornaments. He saw her slender face, the long torso which gave her the illusion of height, the slim hips and narrow waist. He realized that Luna was actually quite pretty, although unconventionally so.
"I'll bet he has."
Narcissa stared up into the black heavens. Stars filled the sky like tiny diamonds seeded across a blanket of ebony velvet. She lost herself in their majesty as her family members of old once did. There was a reason why her family developed the convention of naming their scions after stars and constellations. Something about the heavens caused the magic in her soul to sing and lift upwards. As it was for Blacks uncounted through the centuries
It had been a long time since she'd bothered to look up at the sky.
Bellatrix's voice rang out softly behind her. Narcissa turned around and smiled at her. She beckoned her sister over. Bellatrix walked over to the railing and looked up.
"That's what I hated the most about Azkaban." The elder sister whispered. "I could never see the sky. I missed it. Once I remember there was a small crack in the ceiling which let in some moonlight on clear nights. It was the sky pouring crystal clear water into my cell. I wanted to bathe in the moonlight more than I wanted to bathe in water." Narcissa looked at her sister and for the first time saw just how haunted the years at Azkaban had left her. Bellatrix asked her sister softly, "What are you thinking about?"
Narcissa pointed out a constellation. "Andromeda." She said. "I was thinking about our sister. It's funny. She was the bad one. The white sheep of the family. The one father disinherited while we got everything. We did exactly as we were trained. We married well, did our duty to preserve our blood. I had a child." Her voice trailed off
"But." Bellatrix prompted.
"She's the only one who's happy." Narcissa finished in a whisper. "A husband she loves. A child she can be proud of. Even modest wealth. A life that for all her disobedience is better than either of ours."
The sisters sat in silence for a while and simply stared into the sky.
"Do you know what the sorting hat told me when I was sorted?" Narcissa asked. Her sister shook her head. "It told me that I would do best in Slytherin because while I was smart enough for Ravenclaw, I was too ambitious for it. Ravenclaws were content to learn magic for its own sake, but I wanted more. I wanted to conquer spell crafting. Have my name in a book of spells; be in a history text as the discoverer of some rare spell or new type of magic. When I graduated I had the world in my hands. Even after I married Lucius I was going to do great things. Then Lucius 'decided' that he wanted a wife who did not do something as low as work. I'm not going to give up my dreams for anyone this time around."
"I've decided that I'm going to be a beater for the Harpies when I graduate." Bellatrix said. "Smashing a bludger just seems like fun."
Narcissa rolled her eyes. "Only you would get a second chance at life and decide to take up the most violent job on a Quiddich pitch. But at least you have a firm plan for the future."
"We're all going to need a firm plan for the future. Luckily I have one."
The sisters turned around. Harry stood in the doorway of the terrace. He left the entryway and walked toward both of them. Narcissa and Bellatrix watched the young wizard stride forward with confidence. Apparently being let into the Order of the Phoenix meeting was good for the boy.
"Hello Harry." Narcissa greeted pleasantly. Bellatrix arched an eyebrow at the rather friendly reaction to the Boy-Who-Lived by her naturally cold sister.
"I've been thinking." Harry started.
"That's a good start." Bellatrix encouraged mockingly.
He shot her a quieting look. "I've been thinking about what's next. Dumbledore is sending the three of us plus Ron, Hermione, and Luna to Chateau Black in France. We'll be under the supervision of Remus. His inner eye told him we need to be alone but for what he doesn't know."
The sisters exchanged looks. Chateau Black was the home of Countess Dominique Black. She was a strange witch who obsessed over self transfiguration and Animagus forms. While neither sister had met the woman, they had heard some rather odd stories of her Chateau. It was a safe place to spend the rest of the summer if one that was a little perplexing.
"What does that have to do with us?" Narcissa asked.
"We have a whole lot of books with a lot of spell knowledge and we have you. You can teach us a lot, including apparation. We need to know as much as we can. More importantly you can help me get in touch with the leaders of the other branches of the Black family."
"Why." Narcissa arched her eyebrow questioningly.
"Because the family is going to take the war to Voldemort."
On the face of it the announcement was ridiculous, Narcissa realized. Harry Potter was a child, a boy with great potential but not potential that could be realized before Voldemort crushed him like a bothersome insect. And he would never be able to command the other leaders of the family. He was too young, too untried. Still something made her realize that he was dead serious about his declaration. It was his eyes she realized
They reflected the light of the thousand stars that shone in the night sky. He met the gaze of the two women and held them firm. It wasn't the gaze of a child; it was the stare of a man. A man on a mission. All of a sudden Narcissa no longer had any doubt that the Lord of the Black Family was about to make the Dark Lord regret he ever heard the name Harry Potter.
Okay, so I was re-reading Enders Game the other day and I thought, what would ender do to beat Voldemort? Spawned a few ideas for Harry to have fun with.
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