Chapter 15

Bridge of Trust

There was a slight hesitation before Sirius stepped aside and ushered everyone else into the room. As soon as Ginny stepped in, there was a scream as a plump red haired woman rushed over to her and pulled her into a fierce embrace followed by a tall and balding red haired man. Orion quickly took the opportunity to glance around the room. Professor Dumbledore was there, standing by the mantelpiece beside Professor McGonagall. He looked happy while she looked relieved. Also in the room were the Potters and the Longbottoms who also looked relieved as they rushed forward to check on their sons.

As Fawkes swept past Orion's ear and settled on Dumbledore's shoulder, Orion felt an arm wrap around his shoulders and pull him close. He looked up and met his father's gaze with a tired smile. At that moment, Orion could think of anywhere he'd rather be.

"You saved her!" the red haired woman who had to be Mrs. Weasley exclaimed as she grabbed Ron and hugged him before moving onto Kingsley, Remus and Evelyn. "You saved her! How did you do it?"

"I think we'd all like to know that," Professor McGonagall said as she looked sternly at the Gryffindors. "We'd also like to know what three second year students were doing out of Gryffindor Tower at a time like this."

Hayden, Neville and Ron flinched but remained silent.

"Hayden, please," Mrs. Potter urged. "There must have been a reason—"

"—we heard it was Ginny that was taken and wanted to help," Hayden said softly.

"Hayden!" Mr. Potter said in exasperation. "What were you thinking!? There were four Aurors already going to save her!"

"James," Professor Dumbledore said calmly. "I believe we should start at the beginning before scolding choices made. Sirius, if you would…"

Sirius walked over to the desk and laid Gryffindor's sword down on it. Orion followed suit, putting the Sorting Hat and the diary beside the sword. Sirius then opened his mouth and started talking, starting with Orion's theory about Myrtle. For nearly a quarter of an hour, Sirius talked like he had watched what happened instead of experiencing it. Sirius was giving the facts and nothing else although Orion noticed that Sirius omitted exactly why Orion was needed.

"It almost sounds too unbelievable," Professor Dumbledore said pleasantly as he moved forward and picked up Riddle's diary. "I trust that this was how Lord Voldemort managed to enchant Ginny. Curious when my sources tell me he is currently hiding in the forests of Albania."

"W—what's that?" Mr. Weasely asked in a stunned voice. "You-Know-Who? En-enchant Ginny?"

"It—it was the diary!" Ginny sobbed. "I've b-been writing in it, and he's been w-writing back all year—"

"Ginny!" Mr. Weasley scolded. "Haven't I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain! Why didn't you show the diary to me, or your mother? A suspicious object like that, it was clearly full of Dark Magic!"

"Mr. Weasley," Hayden said softly. "It's not completely Ginny's fault. I only wrote in it once and it felt like it had some sort of power over me."

"Hayden!" Mr. Potter scolded. "You knew about this and didn't turn it in? What were you thinking?"

"Arthur, James," Professor Dumbledore interrupted calmly. "I am certain that Ginny and Hayden regret their actions. We should now focus on the positive. I believe Ginny should go up to the hospital wing right away. This has been a terrible ordeal for her. There will be no punishment however I do hope that, in the future, all of you will seek out help when you are in over your head." He strode over to the door and opened it. "You will find that Madam Pomfrey is still awake. She is just finishing the final preparations of the Mandrake juice with Professor Snape. I believe it should be ready in a few days."

Mrs. Weasley led Ginny out with Mr. Weasley followed after shaking Sirius' hand and shakily expressing his gratitude.

"Minerva, if you would inform Madam Pomfrey of Professor Lockhart's 'condition'," Professor Dumbledore continued. "I believe she will have to contact St. Mungo's to see if there is any hope of a cure and please, take Neville and Ron with you. A cup of hot chocolate and a good night's rest will do them both some good."

Professor McGonagall ushered Ron and the Longbottoms out leaving Sirius' team, Orion and the Potters. There was an uncomfortable silence as Professor Dumbledore moved over to Professor McGonagall's desk and sat down. His gaze shifted from Hayden to Orion for only a moment but Orion got a feeling that something big was going through Professor Dumbledore's mind.

"Kingsley, Evelyn, if you would excuse us," Professor Dumbledore said at last.

With a nod of approval from Sirius, Kingsley and Evelyn left, closing the door behind them. Orion didn't know what to think. He wasn't too keen on discussing anything with the Potters in the room. The last thing he needed was them judging him like they had judged his father.

Professor Dumbledore's eyes drifted over to Hayden as he enfolded his long fingers. "Hayden, I can understand you have questions, however, there are a few matters I need to discuss with the Black family," he said with a smile. "I must ask that you and your parents wait outside for a short time."

Hayden opened his mouth to protest only to be silenced by Mr. and Mrs. Potter ushering him out of the room. A wave of nervousness flooded Orion. Had Professor Dumbledore figured it out? Would he demand answers? Would he understand why it had been kept a secret for so long? Would he reject Orion because of something Orion couldn't control?

As soon as the door closed, Professor Dumbledore rose to his feet. "Now, Sirius, I have never criticized your decisions as a parent before," he said seriously. "However, taking Orion to face a Basilisk—"

"—Headmaster," Sirius interrupted briskly, "if I had my way, Orion would have been moved off Hogwarts grounds. Don't think for a moment that I wouldn't do everything in my power to protect my son! Unfortunately, the decision was made for me. Orion was needed for the team to succeed."

Professor Dumbledore stared at Sirius in confusion, a look that was so foreign to Orion. If anyone could have the answers to everything, it would be Professor Dumbledore. "Sirius, I—"

"—would we be having the same conversation if it had been Hayden, Headmaster?" Sirius interrupted sarcastically.

"Sirius!" Remus scolded. "That was uncalled for!"

"Was is?" Sirius countered with a raised eyebrow. "Hayden, after all, is the-boy-who-lived—"

"—that has nothing to do with this," Professor Dumbledore interrupted softly. "I know you may not believe me, Sirius, but I do care for my students."

Orion had never seen Professor Dumbledore look so—so—hurt. It was clear that Sirius was in 'defensive mode' but was it really necessary? If he couldn't trust Professor Dumbledore then who could he trust? "Dad," Orion pleaded quietly then waiting until Sirius' gaze met his. "Tell him. We can't keep this a secret forever."

Sirius stared at Orion for a long moment before letting out a long sigh. "Very well," he said then looked at Professor Dumbledore. "The reason why Orion was needed was because he could hear something we couldn't. Orion could hear the Basilisk and therefore warn us if it was coming."

Professor Dumbledore stared at Sirius in disbelief before his eyes shifted to Orion, Remus and back to Sirius. "Orion is a Parselmouth?" he asked in a hushed voice as he slowly sank into his chair. "How long have you known?"

"We found out when Orion was seven," Remus answered. "With the stigma placed on Parselmouths, we felt it was best to keep it to ourselves."

Professor Dumbledore's eyes never left Sirius. "Did you honestly believe that I would think any less of Orion if I knew?" he asked, his voice soundly pained. "Sirius, you know that I am a firm believer that it is the choices that make the person, not the abilities. Do you really have that little faith in me?"

Sirius didn't back down. "I believe it is my right as a parent to shield my son from unnecessary prejudice," he said firmly. "Secrets don't remain secrets here, Dumbledore. What do you think would happen to Orion if the students here found out about his ability?"

Professor Dumbledore let out a sigh. "I suppose I will have to earn your trust, Sirius," he said as he enfolded his long fingers. "I give you my word that this revelation will remain between us for the time being. I only wish I knew what I had done to make you so suspicious of my motives."

Remus stepped forward. "It's nothing you personally did, Dumbledore," he assured. "You know how Fudge and Scrimgeour are. They are ready to incriminate at any sign of darkness. You can imagine how they would react considering who Sirius and Orion are related to."

"You're not mad, are you Grandad?" Orion asked in a pleading voice.

Professor Dumbledore's gaze shifted to Orion, his face immediately changing to one of compassion. "Of course not, Orion," he said gently as he rose to his feet and walked around his desk. "I know you too well to even consider the possibility of you using this ability against someone else." Sinking down on one knee, Professor Dumbledore grasped Orion's hands and held them tightly. "Orion, I want to thank you. It was your loyalty to me in the Chamber that called Fawkes to you. You have never doubted me so it is only fair that I return the favor."

Orion couldn't stop the grin from appearing on his face. Deep down he had always known that, out of anyone, Professor Dumbledore would never hold the ability to speak to snakes against him but it still felt good to hear it. It just reinforced the lesson that had needed to learn this year. No matter what others may think, there was nothing wrong in asking for help, especially when you're in over your head. Being proactive was so much better than having to clean up a disaster.

"Now," Professor Dumbledore continued as he rose to his feet, "I believe Orion could use a good night's rest and perhaps a large, steaming mug of hot chocolate. I always find that relaxes me after a long day." His attention shifted to Sirius. "You, on the other hand, could benefit from look over in the hospital wing before you report to the Ministry."

Sirius moved to protest only to be silenced by Remus. "I believe all of us could use a check up," Remus offered calmly. "I trust you will handle the punishments for Hayden, Neville and Ron, Headmaster. After all, they did interfere with an investigation and endangered lives."

Professor Dumbledore hesitated for a moment before nodding. "If that is what you feel is best," he said regretfully. "I believe suggesting the removal of a certain invisibility cloak will help prevent something like this from happening in the future. However," his eyes shifted to Orion, "I think you have certainly earned 200 points for your efforts today as well as an award for special services to the school."

Orion couldn't help thinking that the 'reward' was a little bittersweet. He could already imagine the grueling detentions Neville, Hayden and Ron would be assigned with Filch. All of us learned how our actions have consequences this year. Orion could only hope that it was one lesson he wouldn't have to learn the hard way twice.

Before Orion knew it, he was ushered out of Professor Dumbledore's office, past Hayden and the Potters. Out of the corner of his eye, Orion noticed Mr. Potter holding Hayden by the shoulder with a stern look on his face. The entire situation felt extremely bizarre to Orion. He'd never actually spoken to the man but his mental picture of 'Prongs' was nothing like the man standing before him. A part of Orion had to wonder if any part of 'Prongs' existed anymore.

As they moved past the Potters, a soft voice brought them to a halt. "Sirius?" Mr. Potter asked pleadingly. "Sirius, could we talk?"

Sirius slowly looked over at Mr. Potter, his face set and professional. "We have nothing to talk about," he said quietly. "Excuse us."

"Sirius, please," Mrs. Potter pleaded taking a step forward. "It's about the children—"

"—then send me an owl," Sirius interrupted impatiently. "At the moment, I need to take my son to the hospital wing. Good day."

Orion couldn't help noticing the obvious flinch from Mrs. Potter as he was ushered down the stairs. He was torn between confusion and concern. Did Mrs. Potter react that way because she believed Hayden was the reason the visit to the hospital wing was needed or was it something else? Why couldn't everyone just be upfront about everything for once?

Not another word was spoken until they reached the hospital wing with Evelyn and Kingsley following them. In fact, they didn't get the chance to say anything once they entered the hospital wing due to the fact that Madam Pomfrey was already waiting for them. One by one they were ushered to a bed hidden behind a privacy screen and ordered to change out of their sweaty and filthy clothes. Evelyn and Kingsley tried to protest but Madam Pomfrey insisted that a checkup was in order for everyone.

All in all, Orion had lucked out. There had only been a few light bruises that would probably be gone by morning although that hadn't stopped Madam Pomfrey from prescribing a night of rest in the hospital wing. Orion had a feeling that he was receiving an overabundance of care since his father's team refused everything other than what could be corrected at the moment. It was actually quite funny to hear Sirius protest and complain to every poke and prod.

However, all thought of laughter came to an abrupt end when Sirius approached Orion's bed. Orion knew what was coming. That didn't mean he had to like it.

"Feeling better, kiddo?" Sirius asked as he sank into the chair at Orion's bedside.

Orion stared at Sirius in concern. Although Sirius did look better, there was no denying that the man looked beyond exhausted. Tiredly, Orion reached out and waited until Sirius grasped his hand—just like they had down in the Chamber. That was certainly one memory that would never leave him. "Dad, do you have to go?" Orion asked, his voice pleading.

A half smile appeared on Sirius' face as he reached with his free hand to brush some stray fringe out of Orion's eyes. "You know I do, Ori," he answered gently. "I know this year's been difficult. I wasn't the father I should have been but I promise that's going to change. You proved down in the Chamber that you're not a little boy anymore. You proved that you can follow orders and keep a level head in a crisis. Sometimes, that's the most important ability to have."

Orion knew he should be happy that his father was proud of him but all he could think about was the word 'change'. For years, he had hated being treated like a child. Now, however, as it seemed that Sirius was finally going recognize Orion as one of the team, Orion could only wish that he could be that little boy for a while longer.

With a heavy heart, Orion could only watch as Sirius kissed his forehead, promised he would be back soon and walked out of the hospital wing with Evelyn and Kingsley following their leader. As his eyes began to sting with tears, Orion buried his face in his pillow, wondering why finally getting what he had wanted hurt so much. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't even feel the hand gently rubbing his back in a soothing manner.

All Orion could think of was that what had happened that night had changed his life completely.

Just like the previous year, what had happened down in the Chamber was a complete secret so, of course, everyone knew what had happened in some form by lunch the following day. Once again, Orion was the center of all the praise with students cornering him at every turn to find out what had exactly happened in the Chamber of Secrets. When Orion refused to answer, Hayden, Neville and Ron became the next targets…whenever they could be found

Neville, Hayden and Ron had indeed been punished by Professor Dumbledore and their parents. They had a week's detention with Filch and were grounded when they returned home. Hayden had been ordered to hand over his invisibility cloak which would be locked up in the Potter family vault. "He said he intended for me to pull pranks with it, not put my life in danger," Hayden had said. "If dad knew anything about me he'd know I don't pull pranks."

Hagrid had returned the morning after the threat of Slytherin's monster was removed, eager to thank Orion as loudly as possible until Madam Pomfrey ordered him to leave the hospital wing. Orion couldn't help but feel sympathetic. Regardless of how happy Hagrid tried to be, there was no denying the presence of dark shadows under his eyes and the exhaustion in his body. If Hagrid had been in the low security section, Orion couldn't imagine what it was like in the high security section.

To everyone's relief, those who had been petrified were cured a few days later. Hermione was horrified to hear how Orion had been severely injured instead of petrified and had pulled him aside the first moment possible to ask him about his 'ability' in private. Thankfully she understood Orion's desire to keep it a secret, even from his friends.

The rest of the final term was what most of the older years considered normal for Hogwarts…well, almost normal. Defense Against the Dark Arts classes were canceled due to lack of teacher and Lucius Malfoy had been sacked as a school governor although Hayden insisted the man deserved much worse. Hayden had revealed that it had been Lucius Malfoy who had given Ginny Riddle's diary and had threatened to curse the families of the other Governors if they hadn't agreed to Professor Dumbledore's removal.

Orion couldn't help wondering why Voldemort had given the diary to Lucius Malfoy in the first place. It was obvious that Mr. Malfoy hadn't known what he had in his possession or he would have never given it away. A piece of Voldemort was priceless to those faithful to him. How could Voldemort afford to take such a risk?

Due to the loss in his father's status, Draco Malfoy was no longer targeting Hayden and Neville, something that both boys were relieved about. "I've gotten into enough trouble this year," Hayden had said. "I don't need fighting with a prat to be added to the list." It was odd seeing a resentful and sulky Draco but Orion had to admit that it was about time Draco stopped using his name as if it made him better than everyone else.

Ginny, on the other hand, was back to her normal, happy self. She did have the habit of blushing fiercely and running away every time she saw Hayden or Orion but Ron insisted that was normal. "Ginny's always been strange like that," Ron has said. "Mum always said I'll understand when I'm older."

Sirius was able to clear up the confusion during one of their 'mirror conversations' that now happened at least every few days. Ginny obviously fancied Hayden which wasn't news to Orion. The singing Valentine was a clear indication to that. Her behavior towards Orion, according to Sirius, was most likely based on embarrassment for either saving her life, knowing her inner most thoughts via Tom Riddle, or a combination of the two.

Orion didn't know how to feel about that. In all honesty, he had a problem with someone who didn't like him because he decided to use his brain once in a while. Ginny Weasley was like many of the other 'children' at Hogwarts and in the wizarding world, completely naive to reality.

In what felt like a blink of an eye, school had ended and it was time for the journey home on the Hogwarts Express. Orion, Neville, Hermione, Hayden and Ron got a compartment to themselves, away from the stares and whispers. Orion had buried himself in Standard Book of Spells, Grade 5 as soon as the train started with every intention of reading as much as possible. Sirius had informed Orion that there would be some surprises in store for the summer so Orion wanted to be prepared for everything.

They were almost at King's Cross before Hayden spoke up. "Orion, did you hear what my dad wanted to talk to your dad about?" he asked. At Orion's head shake, Hayden continued. "Dad's going to teach me this summer. Mum's not happy about it. She insists that I'm 'only a child' but Dad won't back down. He even asked your dad and Remus what they used when they taught you."

Orion stared at Hayden with a raised eyebrow. A part of him wanted to say it was about time while another part of him wondered why it was happening now. Did Mr. Potter finally realize that it was time for the-boy-who-lived to live up to his name or was there something else going on?

"You mean you'll have to do more homework than what we already have over the summer?" Ron asked in horror.

Hayden shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "It was fun last summer at Black Manor and Rose is looking forward to it."

That caught Orion's attention. "Rose is going to learn too?" he asked cautiously. "She doesn't even have a wand yet."

Hayden simply shrugged his shoulders. "Rose will either learn from Mum and Dad or on her own. That's just who she is. I think that's why Mum and Dad waited so long. They knew Rose would want to learn too and they wanted their 'little girl' to be a kid for as long as possible."

"I'm sure your parents wanted the same for you," Hermione offered.

Hayden let out a snort. "But I'm not a normal kid," he said dryly. "I'm the-boy-who-lived. I have a destiny to fulfill should he come back."

"B—but you're just a child!" Hermione protested. "How could anyone expect a child to face off against You-Know-Who and win?"

Orion, Neville and Hayden just stared at Hermione until she figured out the answer to her own question. Most of the wizarding world idolized Hayden because he had taken care of a problem they were too cowardly to confront. It had happened once and it most likely would happen again. It was harsh but it was the truth.

The mood was still somewhat subdued as the Hogwarts Express slowed and finally stopped. As a group, they stepped off the train and moved off to the side. Hermione immediately threw her arms around Hayden leaving Orion, Neville and Ron to glance at each other uncomfortably. They weren't expected to do the same, right?

"If you need anything, Hayden, just owl me," Hermione insisted as she pulled away. "I promise I'll help any way I can."

"Same here, mate," Ron said as he stepped forward. "I don't know how much help I could be but—well, you know."

Hayden grinned. "I know and I appreciate it," he said as his gaze shifted to Orion. "Do you think your dad will still let Rose and me come over this summer?"

A half smile formed on Orion's face. "Oh, I think we can work something out," he said with a note of humor in his voice. "Look Hayden, just because most of the people in the magical world are cowards doesn't mean everyone is. You have your parents, my dad, Remus, Neville's parents, the Weasley's, and Professor Dumbledore—"

"—Not to mention some rather devoted friends," Sirius said and he rested his hands on Orion's shoulders. "Listen Hayden, I know training with your father has you thinking the worst but in all honesty this is to prepare you for the future. If Voldemort—" he ignored the flinches that came from Ron and Neville "—were to come back, he would undoubtedly go after his opposition. You're a target just like Orion is a target because he's my son."

"Couldn't we be targets too?" Ron asked nervously.

Sirius smiled a compassionate smile. "Anything's possible. That's why it's wise to concentrate on your studies and learn whatever you can. " Ron's ears turned pink as his quickly looked away while Hermione looked slightly smug. Neville let out a snort of laughter which he quickly hid with a cough. Sirius grinned. "Well, perhaps that will be more difficult for some than others. Now, where's Cedric?"

"Over here!" Cedric announced as he pulled his truck towards them. "Everyone at Black Manor?"

Sirius grinned. "Of course! Mindy and Toby have been working hard on dinner. To be honest I think they've missed you boys." He tapped his chin thoughtfully. "I really can't imagine why but we shouldn't keep them waiting."

Orion and Neville big goodbye to their friends with promises to write as soon as everything settled down. As they walked towards the gateway to the Muggle world, Orion noticed the Potters rushing towards Hayden and pulling him into fierce embraces. It was then that Orion concluded that Hayden would be fine. Sure, it was scary to think of the possible future that awaited Hayden but one should never underestimate the power of a supportive family. No matter what, the Potters would be there for Hayden.

Just like Sirius and Remus would always be there for Orion.

And that's it for Chamber of Secrets. Just so you all know, it may be some time before book three begins. I haven't even started it yet and I'm starting classes tomorrow to get my certificate in Web Design. Hopefully I'll get some writing done on the plane to and from Star Wars Weekends in Florida.