Disclaimer: I still don't own any of it:-D
"Expelliarmus!" With a feeling of dread, Harry whipped around, seeing that Ginny's, Ron's, and Hermione's wands were all gone too. And ten feet away from them, in all of his dark and bat-like glory, clutching five wands and wearing an unreadable smirk, stood Severus Snape.
Harry, heart pounding, felt several emotions surface immediately—anger, first and foremost, and then loss, and betrayal. "What are you doing here, Snape?" he asked finally, after several moments of the four teens staring at Snape and vise versa.
"What do you think, Potter?" hissed Snape, with pure malice in his eyes. Harry looked quickly at Hermione and Ron, then at Ginny. They looked back at Harry with those determined looks Harry knew all too well. He nodded to them slightly—they would make it out.
"I honestly couldn't tell you, Snivellus," said Harry with loathing. "So are you just going to stand there all day? Talk."
"You are not in the position to be issuing me orders, now, are you Potter?" asked Snape calmly, breathing heavily. Harry ignored him.
"What? Can't take us on your own? When are your little Death Eater lackeys going to come and save your sorry—"
"Don't—finish—that—sentence," breathed Snape, stepping to Harry and pressing a wand against his throat. "Now, follow me."
"Why should we?" asked Ginny angrily. Snape turned towards her with interest.
"The littlest Weasley finally taking a stand?" he mocked. Ginny glared at him.
"Where are you taking us? We can Apparate now, you know."
"Which makes the situation all the more precarious for me," snarled Snape, rolling his eyes. He then pressed a wand against Ginny's back. "Move! All of you—start walking. It's on this street, where we're going. Number 164, Lion Terrace…" Harry took a deep breath. This was the address Lupin had given him sometime back, when Harry had asked for his parents' address…
Harry nodded to the others, and they began to walk begrudgingly. What else could Harry do? None of them had their wands, and he had a feeling that they could Apparate if the situation became any worse. "So, why are you taking us to my parents' house?" asked Harry casually, turning his head towards where Snape walked behind them.
"I knew you'd come running here the moment you got the chance, Potter… there are some things we have to discuss. If any of you try anything, I will not hesitate to kill, or at the very least use an Unforgivable." Harry kept walking, mind racing.
"You never answered my question," he said with contempt. "Why do you need to be here? Why can't we just talk in the street—?"
"Muggles, Potter, even you shouldn't be so dim as to not realize."
"Not very Death-Eater of you to worry about Muggles," spat Harry. "Why don't you just kill them all once you're done with us?"
"Harry!" moaned Hermione in a whisper. Ron and Harry both looked at her. Harry knew she was right, that he shouldn't egg Snape on like this, but—before he could say anything, Ron spoke up.
"Maybe he's a soft spot for Muggles," said Ron in a would-be nonchalant voice. "After all, he is a half-blood, and—"
"ENOUGH," roared Snape as they reached the end of the street. "Next person who utters a word will find himself subject to a very uncomfortable curse. This is the house, go on…" The house was more of a cottage, but a very big cottage nonetheless. And it had this nice feel about it. Harry knew he'd been here before. But he didn't quite understand—wasn't the house destroyed the night his parents were murdered? As if reading Harry's mind (which was not entirely impossible, Harry reasoned), Snape spoke up.
"It was destroyed the night you received your scar," he said calmly as they began walking up the drive. "Muggles apparently tried to rebuild it for years, but everything built was cursed—would fall, or somebody would be injured. Nobody wanted it, and it was sold dirt cheap to a man named Mundungus Fletcher," he said with the greatest dislike.
"What?" everyone demanded angrily, and surprised. "What do you mean?" repeated Harry. "Mundungus Fletcher owns my parents' house? Shouldn't it be mine?"
"I'm getting to that," Snape said, bored. "Mundungus, piece of filth, sold it to the Ministry for a bundle a while back, and then spent all his money gambling, to nobody's surprise. The Ministry—back when Fudge was around—wanted to make a museum, of all things, of the First war, and rebuilt the house. Then they were planning on paying you, or something. Anyway, that project was left uncompleted when the Dark Lord returned. Go on in, it should be open, Alohomora."
Hermione had reached the door first. Taking a deep breath and looking at Harry worriedly, she opened it. Harry was hit with a horrible sense as he walked through the door. He knew this house, he had been here, it even smelled right! He looked questioningly at his ex-Professor, whose lip was curled and eyebrows raised.
"Sit," he commanded, pointing at the main room's furniture. Harry sat down, never taking his eyes off of Snape. The furniture felt completely unused, as if nobody had ever sat on it before. Snape sat down across from the four wandless students.
"Once Potter stops looking around like an amazed First year, we can begin." Harry turned moodily to Snape.
"Can you just say what you want? I'm assuming you're not trying to kill us, as you could've done that already—you certainly had no qualms against killing Dumbledore, after all…"
"Can you shut your mouth, Potter? Don't speak about things you've no idea of!"
"What do you mean, I have no idea?" demanded Harry, standing up threateningly. "Of course I do! I was there! I saw you kill him! You cowardly—death eater! And Dumbledore always trusted you…you had the trust of the greatest wizard alive…you murdered him!"
"Sit down!" said Snape loudly.
"Please, if you could just tell us why you—" began Hermione in vain.
"Don't you say a word, Mudblood—I've had enough of you in classes for six years, always speaking out of turn and showing the whole world that you know everything, when all you even do is memorize books—what good will that bring you in the real world, Granger? I see I have taught you nothing in all these years. Potter, Weasley, will you sit down?" Harry and Ron looked at each other edgily for a moment—both had risen when Snape said 'Mudblood'—and sat down silently.
"First, ah, order of business," said Snape satisfactorily. "Dumbledore." He looked right at Harry. "Why did I kill him? Whose side am I really on? Why did he trust me? Why did I give the Prophecy to the Dark Lord? I will answer all of this—in reverse order." He paused pensively for a moment.
"Why did you do it? The prophecy?" asked Harry finally, anger building up inside of him once more as he looked around. This was the house—the place, where his parents had lived. With him—when he knew Lupin and Sirius…and Pettigrew. Snape took a deep breath.
"The prophecy. I was in the Dark Lord's service at the time, obviously. I don't exactly know why I had joined. Malfoy was his top dog back then. I didn't know him well. Narcissa, his wife, and Nott, Avery…those were my crowd at Hogwarts. They convinced me. Actually," he added with some odd emotion—regret?—"It was your pathetic father and his friends, always ganging up on me when I was alone…four on one was the only time they'd fight. I promised I'd get back at them. After fifth year, and, in seventh year I got my chance. I became a Death Eater.
"So, there I was, three years later, in a bar, speaking with Pettigrew of all people, and I heard the strangest thing. Dumbledore, talking with some seer, and a prophecy was being made. I had no idea who it concerned, and I was thrown out of the bar after hearing the beginning. I went straight to the Dark Lord and told him. I was soon greatly in his favor. But, not long after that, I found out that Lily and the Longbottom woman were pregnant, due around the end of July. I was afraid, but I stayed in death eater ranks. I, best as I could, urged the Dark Lord to go after Longbottom instead, Potter, because, however much I hated your Dad…well, your Mother and I were friends once. Then I found out he was going after you, the half-blood, and I did the only thing I could—I went to Dumbledore. Told him I wanted to be a spy, told him the prophecy, and what I'd done. He accepted me quickly, but didn't exactly share any inside information. At the same time, I was lucky, because the Dark Lord asked if I would be a double agent for his side, and I accepted immediately. He asked what would I want as a reward—I asked him not to kill Lily Potter."
"So, in other words," interrupted Harry rudely, "you didn't give a damn about my Dad, so long as my Mum was alive and you could tell the Order that you saved her or something? I know you didn't care about her, you called her 'Mudblood', you're a liar."
"There you go again, talking about things you don't know. And would you close your mind for once in your life?"
"Did you even teach me Occlumency? I bet you were opening up my mind more for the Dark Lord, I told you, Hermione," he said, looking at her briefly. She looked extremely upset, as did Ginny.
"Silencio!" yelled Snape, pointing his wand at Harry. Harry felt his mouth moving, but words were no longer coming out. He sighed with frustration. "As I was saying," continued Snape silkily, "Soon afterwards, about a year, the Potters were killed and the Dark Lord was destroyed—or so I thought.
"Dumbledore trusted me because I was truly sorry. He questioned me many times—it was quite infuriating after awhile. But I didn't need to worry any longer once the Dark Lord was gone. However, after the Sorcerer's stone disaster, I began to worry. I knew he was back, alive, and Dumbledore told me. Yet I still knew which side I was on, I was with Dumbledore. Then the chamber—I still don't fully know what that diary was, but I've a feeling. I know a lot about the Dark Arts, and I know a lot about the Dark Lord, and a lot about Dumbledore. I've suspicions, and you may already know. Then I found out that Pettigrew had been the spy on the Order. He wasn't in the inner circle of the Dark Lord, I know that much. I will admit, I was surprised that it had been Black when I first found out, but then I became used to the idea. And, finally, the Dark Lord returned. I'd been prepared all year, and I knew that I had to continue life as a double agent this time around. I was doing quite well, too, until last summer.
"Narcissa and Bellatrix found me and asked if I knew about Draco Malfoy's mission, which I did. It was a suicide mission." At this point, Hermione and Ron were looking rather ashamed of themselves. "And Narcissa forced me to swear the Unbreakable Vow. I didn't know she'd make me do the job if Draco failed—but backing out would prove to Bellatrix that I was not with the Dark Lord. So I helped Draco all year long. I didn't know what he was doing, he wouldn't tell me. And then the night Dumbledore died. I know you saw the whole thing Potter, but I didn't know at the time. I was sure that if I killed him I could still continue to spy for the Order. Unfortunately, now I'm wanted all over Britain." He studied his long fingers for a second before continuing.
"I had to do it. If I didn't, the Oath would kill me, and Draco would be killed. Dumbledore, too, would have died. You saw how weak he was, Potter. And there were about five other death eaters up there on the tower—he didn't stand a chance, wandless. I made up my mind, and I killed him. I do regret that I never told him about the Oath I made to Narcissa. But it couldn't be changed. Now do you believe me Potter? Oh, yes—finite incantatem." Harry opened his mouth immediately.
"I—I don't think I do. It's a good story, yes, but it doesn't add up, does it?" he asked of his friends. Hermione spoke first.
"I think, if you don't mind me saying," she said apprehensively to Snape, "that you're not on anybody's side. You're on your side, and the side you think will win. Harry, I think that if we accept him, he'll be on our side, and if not, he will personally see that Voldemort kills you," she said with a shudder.
"Insightful, Miss Granger," Snape admitted. "I could simply take you to the Dark Lord right now. Or you could allow me to help you. Teach you Occlumency…tell you how I believe somebody could defeat Him…tell you when he's planning on attacking. He's already infiltrated your stupid Order, I'll have you know…"
"What?" gasped Hermione.
"How do you know?" asked Harry suspiciously.
"Who is it?" said Ron quietly. Snape sighed, drumming his fingers against a small coffee table.
"I don't know—but I'm sure I could find out. Now, if I help you, you must tell the Ministry what I did at the end of all this. I doubt you could convince them right away…"
"So if Voldemort wins you're still safe?" asked Harry blankly.
"Precisely. But, there's also the unmistakable fact that if the Dark Lord wins, I am nothing more than a devoted servant for the entirety of my life. I am a Slytherin, Potter, and I have more of an incentive to side with you than with the death eaters."
"I don't know," mumbled Harry, lost in thought. "Your version makes sense. But—you wanted to kill Dumbledore…you looked like you hated him."
"I did," said Snape. "But I'm not going into that at the moment." Harry didn't know what to do. Finally, he decided that they should Apparate. He turned discreetly to Ginny, and mouthed 'A' to her. She nodded silently and passed the message to Ron and Hermione.
"Now!" yelled Harry. Yet as he tried to Apparate—using the three D's, of course—nothing happened.
"Trying to Apparate?" asked Snape with amusements. "Anti-Apparition wards, Potter." Harry turned to Snape angrily.
"Can I have my wand back?" he demanded.
"Not until you give me your judgment, Potter." Harry looked at his friends before remembering what Moody and Tonks had spoken of the night previously.
"Did you steal something from Mundungus?"
"Why, yes. Yes, I did. A locket—does this look familiar?" He reached into his robes and pulled out the locket which Harry had seen in a Pensieve once and once while cleaning. It had an S engraved on it."
"Slytherin's locket," breathed Hermione behind him.
"Er—I need that," said Harry lamely, holding out his hand. "It's mine. Mundungus stole it from me."
"I doubt you even know what this is, Potter. Have you ever heard of a Horcrux?"
"A horcrux?" asked Hermione loudly and pointedly. "What's that? I've never even heard of it, have you, Harry?"
"No, never," said Harry, thinking quickly. Snape smirked knowingly.
"You lie. I see right through that open mind of yours. That must be why you were with the Headmaster so often this year—but what else were you doing? It doesn't take so many lessons to tell you about one thing… Come on, Potter. You and your friends are at my mercy. What did the Headmaster tell you?"
"I don't believe you," said Harry accusingly. "I know that you and Dumbledore were fighting over the year, and that you didn't want to work for him anymore…"
"It wasn't him I didn't want to work for! For Merlin's sake, Potter… the Dark Lord knows now that I am not in his service anymore! He knows! I had to protect Malfoy, and so we went to Headquarters. But then I found out what the Dark Lord planned to do with Draco, so we fled. Draco didn't trust me after a few days and I'm assuming that he ran off to you, but I've no honest idea. I know he's still alive, though, or else I'd be dead."
"Then why did you just threaten to take us to the Death Eaters?" asked Ron angrily. "He's lying, Harry."
"Because that was the only way to get you to listen to me! Now, the Dark Lord will punish me for saving Draco, but I can explain that I made an Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa. He will forgive me, if all goes to plan, and then leave Draco alone. Will you accept my help, Potter?" Harry looked to his friends uneasily. Then he looked back at Snape.
"Make an Unbreakable Vow," he said, determined. "Make an Unbreakable Vow to our side, and to each of us," he said, gesturing at Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. "Then you can help us, and I will vouch for you at the end of the war." Snape nodded, sighing tiredly.
"I assumed this much. Fine, I will make an Unbreakable Vow to you…Potter, I need your hand." He then looked suspiciously at the other three teenagers, eyes darting to each one.
"Granger. Here's your wand. You'll need it—place it over our hands—" Harry gripped Snape's hand calmly. Hermione hesitated.
"It's all right," said Harry. "I think we can trust him—Dumbledore did…nice way he was paid back, but…it could help to have him on our side." She nodded.
"I trust you, Harry," she said quietly, looking at Snape with some kind of new respect; the way she looked at him in classes. She grasped her wand and held it over the hands of Snape and Harry. Harry took a deep breath and looked Snape in the eye.
"Do you, Severus Snape, swear to defend the Order of the Phoenix at any battles you find yourself in, and fight against Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters?"
"I do," said Snape with complete seriousness in his voice.
"And do you swear to protect any Weasleys, Hermione Granger, and myself from imminent danger?"
"I do," he said again, though it sounded forced. Several snakes then twisted themselves around Harry's hand, and he felt very strange—as if a voltage was going through his body. Hermione must have felt it as well, for she gasped and jumped into the air. Snape smirked.
"Never cast Dark Magic before, have you Miss Granger?" Hermione looked up suspiciously.
"No, I haven't—but I've read about it, and it never said that you feel something like that when casting it…"
"That's why you three—four now, is it?—need me to help you. You don't have an understanding of dark magic, you have no idea of its—"
"At least we don't worship it," snorted Ginny. "Now, Hermione!"
"Expelliarmus!" yelled Hermione—or she must have yelled it, though nonverbally, for the spell had such force that it knocked an unsuspecting Snape off of his feet. "Here Harry, Ron, Ginny," she said cheerfully, squinting down at Snape, who was cursing as he stood up. "Here's your wand—sorry, Professor…" Harry laughed, for he had never seen Snape look at Hermione with so much frustration.
"You handled this a lot better than last time you attacked a teacher," joked Harry wryly.
"Ha, ha," said Hermione, rolling her eyes.
"Now, I haven't any idea what you want out of this place," said Snape, looking around the room with dislike, "but I will be meeting you in a few days, once I've spoken with the Dark Lord. I trust Draco Malfoy is with you?"
"Yes," said Harry after a moment. What was the point in lying? Snape had made the vow, after all. "And Bellatrix Lestrange saved her sister from your Headquarters. Malfoy's Mum." Snape raised his eyebrows in obvious surprise. "Just thought you'd like to know," said Harry, shrugging.
"Are you quite sure?" asked Snape quickly. "Bellatrix saved Narcissa? Behind the Dark Lord's back?"
"Yes. Malfoy and I saw them outside Grimmauld, trying to get in. So I suppose that's where we should meet?" he asked.
"I haven't an idea where it is anymore," said Snape. "Who's the new Secret Keeper?"
"I still don't know, actually," said Harry, looking around. "Did any of you ever figure it out?"
"No," said Hermione. "We forgot last night, with everything else going on."
"Right. D'you know any other places?" he asked thoughtfully.
"I believe I do, Potter. Meet me in Spinner's End—you can go by Floo. The Ministry never knew where I lived; I gave them a fake address. But it's only a matter of a week or so before they find me there. Monday night. Ten O'clock. Spinner's End." Harry nodded.
"Now, I'll leave you to—ah—look around the old Potter household. I believe it was renovated to be quite similar to the old place. I don't think they've finished the upstairs yet. Good day."
"Wait," said Harry, remembering the locket. "Can we have the locket? I don't know if you understand—we really need it."
"Fine," said Snape, handing it to him. "I don't know if it was a Horcrux or anything. I don't think it could have been, because that means someone's destroyed it already."
"It's—destroyed? But how?" asked Harry quickly. He opened the locket in his hands. Nothing looked peculiar about it, just a golden locket.
"That locket…I just don't see how it can have been destroyed," said Snape, shaking his head in disbelief. "I—it's just that I can see how it can be destroyed if there are more of them. But I don't know why the Dark Lord would have made more than one or two horcruxes, if that is indeed what he has done…" He then stopped, looking carefully at Harry, who, taken by surprise, started to clear his mind.
"Seven," whispered Snape suddenly, horrified. He then looked at Harry with superiority. "And no, Potter, I didn't dig through your mind for that…it's quite obvious…" Ginny gasped.
"So—Tom Riddle, if the way he's staying alive is through things like that diary—there are seven of them?"
"Were," corrected Harry. "Sorry we haven't explained." He looked carefully at Snape before continuing. "You see, the diary was destroyed, and Dumbledore destroyed one. And then there's Voldemort's body." Ginny looked thoughtful, and opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted by a curious Snape.
"Potter—this isn't Slytherin's locket, is it?" he asked as he reexamined the locket.
"Er—yes, I think so," said Harry, frowning. He hoped that he was making the right choice by trusting Snape with this. But Dumbledore trusted him. It would be an insult towards Dumbledore's memory to completely disregard his faith in people—but Harry still wished he knew the old man's reasoning.
"Because," continued Snape, "If he used not only a Slytherin relic—but relics of other founders, then they can be destroyed together and will create an interesting type of light magic…"
"Really?" asked Harry contemplatively. "But Dumbledore said that—that he couldn't have Gryffindor's…the only one's the sword."
"Hmmm," said Snape, not heeding Harry in the slightest. "Well, Spinner's End, Monday night. I will see you then. Do not be late," he said, nodding to the four ex-students and heading towards the door, robes billowing sinisterly. Harry watched as he left he house, shutting the door soundly.
"I'm sorry, everyone," he said quietly as he turned around. "If Snape really wasn't trustworthy—I still really can't tell—we could've died."
"Nonsense, Harry," said Ginny bracingly. "It's okay, we would have figured something out, we always do."
"And I think you made the right decision," added Hermione, nodding. "I mean, like we've said before, if we can't trust Dumbledore then who can we trust?"
"I—I don't know," began Harry before Ron cut him off.
"Yeah, whatever. I guess we can sort of trust him—but honestly, he still goes around ordering us and everything! 'Don't be late', I mean, whose house is this? Harry's!"
"What?' asked Harry, registering what Ron had said. "This isn't my house…is it?"
"It probably is," said Hermione thoughtfully. "I mean, you won't find out until your seventeenth birthday, though. I'm sure that's when everything in their will that goes to you is finalized."
"Wow," said Harry, more to himself than anything. "I mean, I knew about the money and all…but I didn't ever think—I mean, everything was destroyed that night, so…"
"Hmm," said Hermione, standing up and walking over to the mantle. There were several frames across it, and a jar of Floo powder. Upon closer inspection, the pictures were of the Marauders, of Harry's Mum…and some other girls that Harry had never seen before. There were the Longbottoms… a picture of who could only have been baby Dudley.
"I don't like this," said Ginny quietly, standing quite close to Harry. "It's as if they were just here… why on earth would the Ministry—Fudge—have done this?" Harry was at a loss, and his words were catching in his throat as he looked around the home that was identical to his first.
"I'm going upstairs," he said, determined.
"Harry," warned Hermione suddenly. "I don't know if you should do that… won't it be really weird? I mean, what if they rebuilt it exactly how it was left? Like with your crib tipped over or something?" Harry looked at her thoughtfully for a moment before sighing in defeat.
"You're right, 'Mione. Let's just go… Moony said that my parents are buried in a cemetery down the road. D'you mind if we stop by?"
"'Course not," said Ron. "Let's go. This place is just…too creepy. Like Thestrals. Let's go." Harry nodded, and, with a last look at the cottage in all of its frozen magnificence, strode out the door into the misty summer morning.
"So which way is it?" asked Ginny as they all stepped outside.
"It's up here," said Harry, gesturing towards the left. "C'mon." The walk to the gravesite was silent—and allowed Harry to think about his parents, and their lives, and their sacrifice. Their lives had been so short. When they were Harry's own age, nearly seventeen, they had just five years left to live. Less. The graves were modest, and overgrown. Nobody would ever guess that these were the people who'd thwarted Voldemort three times, and had eventually given their lives up for their son, the boy chosen to defeat him. The Potter graves were covered in wildflowers. Harry moved some aside to read the inscriptions.
James Arthur Potter
Brought love and laughter into our world
In a time where it was needed most
Ne'er forgotten by those you have touched
You shall forever be loved
To the left of Harry's father's gravewas that of Lily Potter.
Lily Catherine Evans Potter
Your spirit caught in the lair of time
Remembered 'till the end of time
Your youth stolen by war
Harry found himself getting all teary-eyed; he vaguely noticed that his friends were several feet behind him, bowing their heads. He knelt at the graves, and felt sparks shower gracefully from his wand. He watched them as they turned into beautiful roses, landing slowly on each grave. He took a deep breath.
"Hello, Mum. Dad. I'm nearly of age now. I miss you…I know I never knew you, but I wish I could have. Sirius told me about you…how Mum hated Dad for years… all the adventures the Marauders went on. I miss him too, Sirius." Harry's voice cracked with emotion. "And—I just want to say thank you, I suppose. You made it so I could live my life… and I have two wonderful friends, a sort-of girlfriend. Ginny. I care about her a lot. You—you still give me strength, and courage. I wish I knew you. It isn't fair, but… it had to be done, I suppose. I just," Harry said, looking up with his eyes shut tightly, "I love you both so much. And I want you to know—I will never forget you. I'm going to defeat Voldemort, and I'm going to make sure you and Sirius and Cedric and Dumbledore—Ron's uncles and Regulus Black… Benjy Fenwick, Madam Bones…that Muggle bloke, Bertha Jorkins, Emmeline Vance. You—none of you died in vain, I will make sure. I love you, Mum and Dad. I'll see you again. I know it, in—in my heart. Good-bye," he said sadly, standing up. Tears were running down his cheeks. He turned back to his friends, who smiled at him supportively.
"We're here for you, Harry," said Ron.
"Always," agreed Hermione.
"Forever," whispered Ginny, who was also starting to cry.
"Let's go, then," said Harry, smiling. "Thank you guys… what would I do without you?"
"Fail all your classes," said Ron quickly. "So would I, of course… good thing Hermione wanted so badly to be friends with us in first year."
"Did not!" exclaimed Hermione, sniffing and giving a watery smile.
"Sure," laughed Harry. And then, without warning, the trio hugged. "C'mon, Ginny," said Harry after a moment, pulling her in.
"So embarrassing," teased Ginny as she was pulled into the triangle. Several moments later, it was decided that they would go from Godric's Hollow to Remus's flat in London so that they could find Tonks and ask her where to find her mother, Andromeda.
They set out not an hour later, Apparating to the street in front of Grimmauld Place. From there, they entered and were about to proceed to the Floo, but were stopped when they noticed that something wasn't quite right about the dreary entrance hall. It was Ginny who stopped them first, right as they closed the door.
"Hey, you guys? Doesn't something feel off? Like something's missing in here?"
"Yeah," said Ron, frowning. "I can't quite put my finger on it…" Harry looked around. Everything seemed normal…the umbrella stand, the stairs, the door, the walls…
"The portrait!" gasped Hermione suddenly. "It's gone! The portrait of Mrs. Black!" Harry looked at the wall, stunned. Indeed, the portrait had vanished.
"If it was valuable and Mundungus stole it," he began angrily. But before he could finish his threat, Draco Malfoy walked into the room, a look of annoyance on his face.
"What's all the fuss about?" he asked coolly.
"Do you know if anyone's taken the portrait of Mrs. Black?" asked Ginny quickly. Draco looked at her, eyebrows raised.
"I took it down…it was bothering the hell out of me, the way it just started screaming every five minutes. And d'you think you can tell the house elves to lay off, they're really starting to—"
"What?" asked Harry, amazed. "How did you get it down?"
"Well," said Draco obviously, "I picked it up, took it off the wall, and threw it in the attic with Kreacher's collection."
"But—how?" asked Ron. "We've been trying to get it down for ages…"
"I don't know," shrugged Draco. "It was rather easy for me…"
"Well let's never mind that for now," said Hermione. "We need to hurry and get to Remus' so we can find Tonks' Mum…"
"Andromeda? My Aunt?" asked Draco curiously.
"Yes," snapped Ron.
"Well can I go? If my Mother's there, I'd really like to see her and all. And I haven't seen my Aunt in years… can I go? Listen, before you just say 'no', do you know how hard it is being cooped up here, Potter?"
"Yes, I know," said Harry, thinking painfully of Sirius. "Whatever. Fine. But if you get caught, we're not helping."
"Right," agreed Ron quickly.
"Fine," said Draco, who seemed suddenly more cheerful. "Let's go, then."
"Wait," cautioned Hermione. "We'll be going out in public and all, so…well…shouldn't Draco be disguised?" She looked as if she was biting back a smirk.
"Oh, no," said Malfoy, backing up. "There's no way on earth that I'm just going to let you people put glamour charms on me…"
"Just a little one," said Ron nonchalantly. "Like, maybe we should dye his hair brown? And his eyes? And skin?"
"Shut up, Weasley, you're just as pale as I am," said Malfoy, affronted. It was true. Ron and Ginny, both redheads, had skin just as fair as Malfoy, the only difference being the freckles that covered both Weasleys from head to toe. Ron and Ginny both glared at Malfoy for a moment, and Malfoy glared back. Suddenly, though, someone came running through the house. It was Kingsley Shacklebolt, carrying two huge boxes of papers.
"Harry—Hermione, Ron, Ginny…Malfoy…sorry, I can't talk…gotta grab something and get out of here," he panted. "I have—to shut—the Floo down…"
"What's going on?" asked Harry immediately. "Why does the Floo have to be shut down?"
"The other Headquarters…You-Know-Who," he panted. Before this could register with Harry, Tonks, Remus, and Charlie Weasley came running into the room, all carrying huge boxes filled with paperwork and odd objects.
"What?" asked Harry quickly, filled with dread. "Is everyone okay?"
"Charlie!" cried Ginny suddenly, running to her brother, who was clutching his arm in pain.
"Shh, s'all right, Gin," he murmured.
"Dammit, Kingsley, what's the spell? How do we turn the Floo off? They'll be trying to get in any second, and the Fidelius is so messed up…"
"Hang on," said Kingsley thoughtfully and urgently. He sifted through some papers with utmost concentration. "Here!" He ran towards the fireplace in a rush. "Ornuseo Desino!" he shouted right as the Floo had begun to turn green. Everyone watched with fear as the fire seemed to freeze. And then they sighed in relief when a huge iron block appeared in the fireplace.
"Are we safe?" asked Hermione in hushed tones.
"For the moment," said Remus grimly. "They heard us saying 'Grimmauld,' they'll be surrounding us in a few hours at most. We need to get everything out…without using Floo. What are we going to do? Apparating will make the place get detected even more quickly, if anything…"
"What happened?" asked Harry again, more urgently this time. The four adults exchanged weary glances, and Charlie sat down on the couch, obviously hurting still. It was Tonks who spoke first.
"Well, we were moving things out of Little Hangleton, and suddenly the place was teeming with Death Eaters…see, after Dumbledore passed, we never named a new secret keeper there. So we got away with the most important things, and as quickly as possible. A death eater got Charlie with a cutting hex… he needs medical attention, and soon. Stupid Amycus… can't stand either of those siblings. Anyway, the Death Eaters heard us say 'Grimmauld'. We think they'll be here, setting the block on fire or some other nonsense. We've got to get out of here." Harry thought quickly and came to a conclusion.
"I think I have a plan," he said determinedly. Everyone looked at him expectantly. "We spend ten minutes finding the most important things, that we absolutely need. Then we shrink them, put them in our pockets. Right now, before that, someone—Draco in disguise, maybe—can walk Charlie to St. Mungo's, or get a Muggle Cab there. The rest of us work to get all the papers and send the house elves to Hogwarts with some things, and take the rest…we can get a cab, take it to Fred and George's flat in Diagon Alley, from there Floo to the Burrow." He looked up hopefully.
"Brilliant plan, Harry," acknowledged Lupin, nodding.
"You'll make a great Auror," added Kingsley. "All right, let's get moving. Malfoy, get over here so I can glamour you. Everyone else, start moving!" Harry followed Lupin into the parlor, subconsciously reaching into his pocket to feel Slytherin's locket.
"All right," said Remus to Tonks, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. "We need all the files on magical creatures, all the new legislation…we need the minutes of all the meetings so far—you work on those, Hermione, in that desk. Harry, this house could be destroyed. I want you to go to Sirius's old room and get anything that you want someone to keep, all right? Ron, go on in and shrink those boxes in the other room. We need those. Ginny, please go to the basement and get all the Potions supplies. Tonks—would you find Dumbledore's will and everything he left here? They'd be in that room near the kitchen…" Everyone nodded. Harry ran upstairs as a dark-haired Draco was leaving the house with Charlie Weasley, and watched as Kingsley bolted the door with unease.
A silence met his ears when he entered Sirius's old room. After standing in some kind of panic for a moment, he grabbed a pillowcase and started throwing things inside that reminded him of Sirius. A bunch of pictures, a hippogriff toy, Sirius's wand, a carving of a stag, a dog, a werewolf, and a rat… Sirius's two-way mirror. Harry's heart sank. Why didn't he remember? Several minutes later, he ran downstairs, shrinking the sack to the size of an apple. Everyone was gathered in the entrance hall.
"Good, Harry—here, take this box—" began Kingsley. "Ready? You four, shrink your brooms… I want Harry, Ginny, and Hermione under the invisibility cloak, all right? You three are to follow me, we'll walk to the Underground, then into Diagon Alley. Remus, you can go on to St. Mungo's, send Draco to the Weasley's if that's possible, with the message. We can't have people recognize him. And Tonks, if you'd change your hair to red… you and Ron'll be brother and sister, you can go ahead and take the Knight Bus." Ron groaned loudly. "Let's go everyone…good work here—oh, no."
"What?" asked Lupin, Tonks, and Harry in unison. Harry rushed to the window, where a known Death Eater—Rudolphus Lestrange—was pacing.
A/N: Sorry I took awhile! And sorry for cliffie, couldn't resist! Please review and I'll update ASAP. Thanks!