Prologue

It was a quite peaceful summer, in spite of the past events of the last school year. Lord Voldemort's body and powers had recently been restored, and Death Eaters attacks were increasing in frequency. No one was safe, neither Muggles nor wizards. Hogwarts was void of its usual noisy population of students who were back home spending their summer holidays with their families. Most of the staff members went home as well, but a few decided to remain. In fact, the caretaker Argus Filch and his cat Mrs. Norris were always present, and lived at Hogwarts year round. Summer was absolutely Filch's favourite season, as students were all gone and he could completely enjoy the peaceful silence of the empty corridors. His days were disturbed only by Peeves' occasional pranks. The poltergeist became more annoying than usual due to boredom and lack of his favourite victims, students.

The only teachers staying over the summer were Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Mad-eye Moody, Severus Snape, Filius Flitwick, and Professor Vector. They all remained to reorganize Hogwarts's defences against enemy attacks.For Snape, at least, it was the best alternative to the gloomy, lonely, almost empty Snape Manor. There was no one there waiting for him, unless one counted the faithful family house-elves. Hagrid left Hogwarts for a couple of weeks to spend some time with his beloved Madame Maxime, enjoying France's beauty and trying to borrow from her a couple of the Beauxbatons's giant Abraxan flying horses for next term's Care of Magical Creatures classes. Some harmless-no-student-eating-creatures, just for a change!

After Sirius Black's unlucky death, the Order of the Phoenix had temporarily moved its headquarters from Number 12 Grimmauld Place to Hogwarts itself. Meetings were held almost every week-end. Some members were used to spending a couple of days there too, as there were lots of empty rooms at hand and the house-elves's cooking was simply delicious. The following week the rest of the staff members would be returning to start preparing their lessons for the coming school year. Once they were back, the castle would no longer be a safe place for the Order, and it would have to move back to Grimmauld Place or find another unplottable place to use.

It was nearly mid-August when the last meeting took place. That night, the Order members were all present; only Harry Potter and his friends were not allowed to take part in it. Harry was spending his last summer days at the Burrow with the Weasleys, doing his homework for the start of his sixth year. It was true that Lord Voldemort was now stronger, but school was still one of Harry's main preoccupations. Until Voldemort came out of hiding, there was nothing else for Harry to apply his mind to but studying. At the meeting, Dumbledore explained the situation so far.

"Voldemort is still in hiding somewhere, whether in Britain or elsewhere, we don't know for certain." he said, looking around at the faces of the Order members gathered at the High Table in the Great Hall. "All we can do is keep vigil for any sign useful to track Voldemort and his followers down. Alas, there have been a few more attacks and we've always arrived too late to do anything useful." He lowering his eyes to the floor, feeling the weight of his helplessness deep inside his old heart. A glint of rage flashed across his blue eyes. He couldn't stand his own incapacity to stop that damned, bloody, mad wizard. But, it was no use at all to keep dwelling on what had not been done; it was time to gather all their strengths and fight to prevent new attacks.

"Severus..." Dumbledore said suddenly to the Potions Master.

"Yes, Headmaster?" Snape said, annoyed at being snapped out of his own stream of thoughts.

"I'm afraid a very hard time is waiting for you. We still need you as a spy, as well as a potions brewer.

"I'm ready to do whatever you tell me, of course," Snape said sternly, trying to supress a cold shiver that ran along his spine at the thought of the danger of his double role. He wasn't afraid of it; he would have give his life as long as it helped to kill Voldemort once and for all. But, the prospect of facing the Dark Lord again made him ill.

"I need you to prepare an adequate supply of Wolfsbane Potion for Remus. We're all equally valuable to our cause, and he needs to be always prepared for action," Dumbledore said in a serious voice.

"It will be done, Albus. I am going to replenish our storage supplies as soon as possible," Snape assured him, glaring maliciously at the werewolf.

"Before this meeting ends," Dumbledore noted, "I have to inform you that Professor Flitwick will be temporarily leaving his position at Hogwarts, this year. He will join a group of researchers working to create more powerful wards to protect the castle. They will also be studying the Unforgivible Curses in hopes of finding a way to block them."

"But, who will teach Charms, Albus?" Professor McGonagall asked, concerned.

"We'll interview the candidates together, Minerva," Professor Flitwick suggested with a kind smile, trying to calm down the anxious Deputy Headmistress. The meeting was adjourned and the members of the Order retired for a good night's sleep.