Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction based on the characters and plots devised by J. K. Rowling. Ownership of said characters and plots remain the property of Miss Rowling and her publishers.
The Janus Order
The Angus cattle spread slowly out across the pasture that the cowboys had herded them to. Sniffing the gentle breeze that came off of the mountains that rose to the west, the old lead bull looked out across the meadow. He had been coming here for nine summers. He knew the place well and the many years of peace that he had experienced in the tall grass relaxed him. He fell to eating grass. The rest of the herd followed his example although a few drifted over to the stream that meandered more or less eastward.
Geoff Kelly, a tall, lean man with bright blue eyes that were set deep in a tanned and profoundly lined face, had been a cattleman most of his sixty-one years and foreman of the Flying B ranch for the past ten. He wore stout denim pants, a faded blue long sleeve cotton shirt, and highly scuffed books of brown leather. The only thing new he wore was a black cowboy hat with a silver band, a birthday gift from his wife of twenty seven years. The hat effectively hid his bald head.
He caught sight the owner of the Flying B'snine year old son with his ten year old cousin. They along with the boss had helped drive the herd to the midsummer grazing land. However an urgent cell phone call had sent Mr. Black scurrying back to the main house an hour earlier.
The older boy didn't talk enough to fill a matchbook but he listened and didn't forget what he heard. Not one to let others work while he sat around, the kid had been helping with the cattle from the time he could get his legs across a pony. Kelly figured the kid knew at least as much about the cattle business as his aunt and uncle and a far sight more the most of the hands. He was pointing out something to his cousin, James Remus whom everyone called J. R. J.R. was beginning to learn about a ranch that would be his some day. Kelly thought that if he followed his cousin's example, he would be a solid man to work for in ten or so years.
Both boys were dressed in identical crimson shirts and black jeans but where J.R. wore a black cowboy hat where his cousin favored a simple red Calgary Stampeders ball cap. J.R. was a lanky kid who would probably grow up to be one of those tall men that can never seem to pack on weight. His cousin was slightly shorter despite being nearly two years older but had a stockier build. Green eyes looked out through wire rimmed glasses from a face framed by thick black hair that stopped just short of his shoulders. The long hair was the only thing that Kelly didn't like about the kid.
"What do you think, Harry?" Kelly asked as he rode his roan over to the pair of boys.
Harry, astride a gray appaloosa gelding, rubbed the scar on his forehead as his eyes slowly scanned the vast pasture. "Grass is thicker then I expected. With some good rains we might be able to keep the herd right here the rest of the summer and use the canyon pasture strictly for hay."
"Possible," Kelly mused. "More then possible."
"Did Dad tell you why he had to go back to the house, Mr. Kelly?" J.R. asked nervously as he patted his pinto's neck.
Kelly shook his head but a reassuring smile pushed up the corners of his mouth. "No, he didn't but if your Momma or one of your sisters had been sick or hurt, he would have said something."
"He left in an awful hurry," J.R. said.
Kelly's laugh was a low rumble that barely could be heard. "Well, Boy-o, when you are grown and married, you'll find it prudent to heed your wife if she calls you at work and asks you to come to the house. Saves a man a lot of grief."
Harry, seeing that his worried cousin wasn't fully convinced, set out to keep him occupied. "C'mon, J.R., we need to check the fence out."
J.R. frowned. "I thought that some of the hands were up here a couple a weeks ago repairing the fence. You were with them, weren't you?"
"Yes but as you said that was two weeks ago."
"You two do that," Kelly said. "If you find nothing wrong then head on back down to the house. Just keep an eye out for cougars."
The foreman watched as the two boys rode off. He respected the owners of the Flying B but had never warmed up to the two British émigrés who had shown up ten years ago with their daughter and young Harry in their arms but Harry had grown up Canadian and western Canadian at that and J.R. was born was raised in Alberta. Kelly was as fond of the two of them as if they were of his blood.
With the small smile still lingering on his lips, he turned his horse and rode to rejoin the rest of the hands.
The fence line proved to be intact so with a wave to the hands, Harry and J.R. set out for the main house. They wound their way down the mountainside through the dappled shadows of the trees. The calendar said that it was high summer but the temperatures remain cool. Away from the massed cows, the sweet fragrances of the Rockies Mountains could be noticed and enjoyed.
Eventually they reached the lower pastures where the herd had cropped the grass short. In the distance, the main house rose like a lone castle of yore. It was two stories made of field stone and natural colored timber. Light poured out into the increasing dusk from gabled windows. A porch wrapped itself completely around the ground floor. In deference to the long hard winters the roof was sharply pitched.
"I hope something good's for supper," J.R. said as they released the horses into the corral. "I'm about half starved."
Harry tossed his saddle onto the top rail of the corral fence. "Ever known something bad served for supper?"
"No, not for supper," his cousin answered. "But sometimes when Lindsey attempts to make lunch."
"Your right about that," Harry chuckled. "But she's getting better."
As if talking about her had summoned her to them, Lindsey came running out of the house. Like her younger brother, she was tall and lanky but otherwise looked like Harry. Since they shared the same birthday, people often though that they were twins instead of cousins. She wore her long black hair pulled back into a ponytail
"You two hurry up and bathe," she commanded as she skidded to a halt beside of them. "We have guests from England."
"Who?" J.R. asked. "Is that why mom called dad back to the house? Why are they here?"
Lindsey grinned at her brother. "One at a time, please. First, I don't know their names. I think that they are from mom and dad's old school in Britain. One of them looks like a skinny Santa Claus. If his beard gets any longer, he could probably get away with not wearing pants. There is an older woman and a younger man with him."
"As to why, they're here," she continued. "It has something to do with you, Harry."
"I could have stuck around and learned everything as loud as everyone was arguing," Lindsey said. "But mom and dad were in fine form so I took Bess and Terry down to the pond to play. They don't need to learn those sorts of words yet. They're only five, after all."
Harry nodded his understanding. His aunt and uncle were masters of creative profanity. When either got riled it was a performance to behold; when both were angry, it was a force of nature. Being persons of high passions, their explosions were frequent. Strangers often thought that they were constantly on the edge of divorce. Their kids and nephew knew only death would separate them.
"Like I said, I don't know who they are exactly," Lindsay reiterated. "But to come into mom's house and make her mad, they're either the dumbest sons of bitches that ever walked upright or they got bigger balls then a buffalo."
Harry briefly wondered if Lindsey guarded her tongue around her younger sisters better then she did around him. Pushing any curiosity aside, Harry went up to his room to shower and change. He liked his horses but could do without smelling like them.
Harry pawed through his closet. In light of guests in the house, he chose a pair of navy blue slacks and a light gray shirt. He pulled on the jacket that went with the slacks but decided to forgo a tie. He made sure his still slightly damp hair was neatly brushed before heading for the dining room.
He met his uncle halfway down the stairs.
"I was just coming to get you, Harry," His Uncle Sirius said as he approvingly looked over Harry's ensemble. "You inherited your father's sense of style. He was always a blade."
"Thanks," Harry said as they both went down the stairs. "Anything I should know before I go in there?"
A dozen different emotions flashed across Sirius's face. Finally he said, "You've probably just had your last day as a child, Harry."
Harry was used to his uncle's overly dramatic language so he merely shrugged. "At least it was a good one."
Sirius roared with laughter and drew Harry into a rough hug. "Come on, let's eat."
The table was nearly full. Harry's four cousins were already seated along one side. His Aunt Jane, twin sister to his late father, was seated at the far end. Sirius took the chair at the near end of the table leaving Harry to sit amongst the three strangers.
Lindsey was right. The older man did remained one of a thin Santa Claus. He had merry eyes that twinkled as they peered over half moon glasses. The younger man was one of those dark sorts that appeared to be greasy at all times. His hard black eyes barely glanced at Harry before looking away. The woman was obviously an older woman but her hair remained dark. Harry had the impression that it was naturally so although it didn't seem probable. All three radiated the self confidence that comes from intelligence and power.
"Harry," Aunt Jane began. "These are Professors Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, and Severus Snape. Professor Dumbledore is the Headmaster at Hogwarts. Professors McGonagall and Snape are teachers there."
"I am pleased to meet you," Harry said politely.
The three teachers replied to him in kind but before anything else was said, Aunt Jane spoke up.
"There are no house elves here," she said. "If it catches your eye, grab it."
The message was clear. Nothing was going to be said at the table as to why the three professors had traveled a third of the way around the world to a remote cattle ranch in rural Alberta. Harry accepted this easily enough figuring that explanations would be offered eventually. Lindsey was content to wait also but J. R. looked as if he was going to burst yet, he too, kept quiet save for the expected small talk.
Supper took no longer then usual but the suppressed emotions that Harry felt on all sides of him made the minutes drag on by. Finally, it was over and the table was being cleared.
"Lindsey, please see that your sisters brush their teeth and then get them to bed," Aunt Jane ordered. "J. R., I know that it isn't your turn at he dishes but we need Harry in the den."
"Yes, ma'am," he answered unenthusiastically. "Am I bunking down with Harry, tonight?"
Aunt Jane laughed to herself. "Yes, thanks for reminding me," she said as she squeezed his shoulder affectionately. "Be sure to take what you're going to wear tomorrow from your closet tonight."
Sirius sighed deeply. "Let's go, Harry. Into the breach with us."
Dumbledore chuckled. "You're going to have the boy prejudiced against us before we get out of the room."
"Sirius," Jane warned as her husband opened his mouth to reply. He snapped his mouth shut and led Harry to the den.
Everyone spread out among the couches and leather chairs of the den. Sirius sat behind the desk where most of the ranch business has transacted.
"Where do we start?" He asked.
"We start with the truth," his wife replied.
She sat down beside Harry and drew him into a quick but fierce hug. She gently stroked her nephew's cheek once.
"I had a brother that I would have died for," she began looking into Harry's eyes. "He married a woman I was so overjoyed to call sister. They are both gone and all I have of them is you, Harry. As I loved them, I love their son."
"You know how they died and you know that the monster also tried to kill you," she continued. "What you don't know is that there was a prophecy."
"Jane," Dumbledore interrupted as he stood. "I don't think that…"
"I don't give a flying fuck what you think," Jane Black snapped, her eyes suddenly blazing. "I will not have you keep Harry in the dark."
Dumbledore sat back down, his eyes full of worry.
"Now, Harry," She said calmly as she turned back to her nephew. "The prophecy states that neither you nor Voldemort can truly live as long as the other one is alive. Dumbledore wants to take you to Hogwarts School and train you to kill Voldemort."
"That's misrepresenting our position, Jane," McGonagall said forcefully.
"Strip away the bullshit," Jane replied. "And that's precisely what you wish to do. Frankly if you fail to do so, Harry dies."
"Excuse me," Harry said. "I become a killer or be killed?"
"Harry, Dumbledore here sincerely believes that Voldemort will return," Sirius said. "He'll make the truth dance on the head of a pin but he won't lie. Your parents thought enough of him and his cause to follow him to their deaths and I don't mean that to be sarcastic. He wants to train you in hope that you can avoid your parent's fate."
"I'm confused," Harry admitted. "You two speak as if you don't like the professors but it sounds as if you want me to go with them back to Hogwarts."
"They aren't mutually exclusive positions," Sirius said.
"If I thought for a moment that Voldemort would never come after you," Jane added. "Every wizard in Britain could die at his hands and I would not bat an eye but he will come for you one day and I want you prepared."
Harry shook his head slowly. "This is too weird for words."
Sirius laughed mirthlessly. "You don't know the half of it."
"What else is there?" Harry asked.
"Well, for example," Sirius began. "Your father's greatest enemy other then Voldemort was Severus Snape here."
"Oh, yes," Sirius said with mock gleefulness. "Professor Snape was a classmate of ours and he and your father loathed each other yet he is willing to teach you. Isn't that nice?"
"Please," Harry pleaded. "Don't get muddy the waters. This is too puzzling as is."
"Potter," Snape sighed. "Your uncle is right. Your father and I hated each other. I can only say that despite our differences we fought for the same thing. Your Aunt and Uncle will never believe so but it is the truth."
Harry slowly looked at the five adults in the room. Finally his eyes settled on his aunt.
"You want to go to this Hogwarts?" he asked.
Jane Black shook her head slowly. "No, I don't want you to go but I think that is for the best."
"So, how do I get there?"