Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter.
A/N: This was written for SH's Spring Faire Festival in response to the "Welcome to the Order of the Phoenix" Challenge. It didn't win anything, but I wrote it about two hours before the deadline, so no surprise there. I encourage you to pop in over at Sychophant Hex and check out those stories that did win. They were all very good and deserve lots of reviews.
A Cold Reception
Chapter One—Alice Longbottom
I watch as Snape raises his right hand and repeats after Professor Dumbledore. Both men's eyes glint seriously. This is no small matter, being inducted into the Order of the Phoenix, and I hope that the dark and mysterious man standing before us will not betray us like he has betrayed his first master. Though he makes me uneasy, the words he speaks are comforting, flowing over me like a warm bath. Frank and I said the same oath three years ago. So much has happened since then, but I remember it like it was yesterday, how the Headmaster had shown up at our door.
"Hello, Alice," he had said gravely, the twinkle conspicuously missing from his eyes. "May I come in? I have something important to discuss with you and Frank."
I ushered him in, worried that he had come to tell me that the Dark Mark hovered over my parents' house or Frank's brother's, but he surprised me.
"I'm here to ask you to join a secret organization pledged to fight Tom Riddle and his Death Eaters, the Order of the Phoenix," he said simply. Frank nodded as if he knew all along what Albus was there to say, but I stared at him in confusion.
"Tom Riddle?" I asked.
"You-Know-Who," Frank said as he took my hand.
"Why us? What can we possibly do?" I asked, suddenly realizing what Dumbledore was asking of us.
"Because you are young and vibrant. Because I know you believe in equality and fairness. And more importantly than that, because I can see that you love one another very much."
We do love each other. I've adored Frank since sixth year when he would make faces across the table in Herbology at me. It was childish, I know, but he made me laugh. He still does. But I couldn't figure out what that had to with Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix. Frank felt the same way and asked.
"The one thing that Tom has always underestimated is the power of love. He sees it as romantic drivel better suited for silly women and small children—nonsense in other words. But I know better, it is an ancient magic more powerful than any Dark spell," the older man explained.
I wondered if it could repel even the Killing Curse, the dreaded Avada Kedavra, and if it could then why had Rufus and Aurelia Vance died? Love had not saved them.
"So you're assembling people who love each other?" Frank asked skeptically.
"Let me ask you a question," Dumbledore said, ignoring Frank's. "Would you die to save Alice?"
"Yes," he answered quickly. I looked at him surprised, unbidden tears springing to my eyes.
"You would?" I asked incredulously. I knew he loved me but I had no idea.
"Of course I would," he said, as he looked deeply into my eyes. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder, pulling me close and pressing a kiss to my forehead.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too." We looked up and remembered that Dumbledore sat watching us.
"And you, Alice?" He asked me with a twinkle in his eye.
"Yes, of course," I replied. How could I not? The fear that had been slowly building as I read the list of deaths and 'missing persons' in the Daily Prophet each day ebbed. It didn't disappear completely but with Frank's arm around me and armed with his declaration I knew I could face the night that slowly descended on us.
"Remember it only takes the slightest flicker of light to dispel the darkness—a match in a darkened room," Dumbledore said.
"We are to be that match?" Frank asked.
"If you accept," he said.
"We do," I had replied boldly. Frank had squeezed my hand and I knew that I spoke for both of us. A week later we had stood where Snape stands today. I don't know him very well, a different house and different year at Hogwarts, but he had sought me out, even before Dumbledore, I think. I had received an anonymous note asking me to meet someone at The Hogs Head. They had important information for me.
"I shouldn't be here, not with you. If Frank knew…"
"I understand your reticence but I have important information for you," he assured me. I was not assured. What could a known Death Eater possibly want with me? Was this some sort of ruse? I should've left Neville with my mother.
"What kind of information," I asked suspiciously.
"You've been marked, targeted. You and your husband's profile is too high. You need to go into hiding, leave the country, anything."
"I don't believe you," I said even though what he says is partly true. Our profile is high; since we joined the Order we have faced You-Know-Who several times, three to be exact. I was certain that each time would be our last, and secretly to myself I almost wished one of them had been. Our world is darkened, there is little hope and not much to live for, but dying a hero… I longed for it. Dumbledore had told us not to be frightened of death.
"It's their greatest weakness," he said. "They believe that death is the end, but in truth, it's only the beginning." And I believed him. I would run into battle, fighting as hard as I possibly could, taking impossible risks, frightened of nothing more than continuing another day—another day of burying friends, another day of watching a part of my husband die as he used Unforgivables on Death Eaters, another day of whispered suspicions. But since I brought Neville home from St. Mungo's I have a renewed sense of hope and of life. I want our world to be a safe place for him to grow up. I don't want him to face the horrors that I have seen. I want him to live. I want him to receive his Hogwarts letter, marry the love of his life, get a job, and have children. But he might not make it; we all might not make it.
I turned back to Snape, waiting for him to tell me the truth. He looked desperate, clutching the table in front of him, his knuckles whitening.
"Fine, you're right," he relented. "They aren't after your husband. They want your child. He-who-must-not-named believes that a child born at the end of July will be a threat to his rise to power, born to parents who have defied him thrice. He's consumed by it. He won't stop until he kills every child who fits that very description."
I looked down at Neville sleeping peacefully in his pram, his eyes shut, and his small hands balled into fists. I suddenly wished I was anywhere but here, a soft meadow, a chamber concert, a quiet bookshop, anywhere but here discussing the potential death of my child with this loathsome man.
"Have you told Lily Potter this?" I asked bluntly. He looked surprised and then his face hardened and his mouth pressed into a thin line.
"You should," I said.
"I'm telling you."
"We already know. Dumbledore warned us two months ago." How I remember that day. I haven't slept properly since. My mother assumed the black circles that ring my eyes are from a colicky baby, but Neville is an angel. She offered to watch him for me so that I could get some sleep but I don't want him out of my sight. It wouldn't matter, even if he weren't there I would still dream. I dream of him often. I see someone pushing him from a window, a dark man and an explosion, he falls from his broom. I see a hundred different deaths for him and I wake up covered in a sheen of sweat and trembling, hoping I don't disturb Frank. I turned back to Snape. He was standing.
"Then I am wasting my time here," he snarled.
"I guess you are," I told him. When he left, I heaved a sigh of relief. I hoped I would never see him again. But of course, I did. Days later, Dumbledore announced to the Order that he wanted to induct Severus Snape as its newest member.