Shadow felt himself slam onto the hard floor of the Hospital Wing. He could feel Moony moving but didn't dare move himself. Pain was everywhere. His head was swimming so badly he felt as though any movement would make him sick. A soft whine escaped and suddenly, Shadow found himself surrounded. He couldn't make out what was being said but he could feel the pain slowly decreasing. His body started to relax to the point he didn't care someone had picked him up and carried him to the nearest bed. He didn't care what they did. Shock and exhaustion had begun to set in. All he wanted now was to sleep.
"Shadow?" Moony's voice broke his journey into oblivion. "Shadow, we need to turn you back. Poppy's done all she can but she needs you in your natural form to heal you completely."
Shadow looked up at Moony with pleading eyes.
"I know you want to sleep but don't you want to be healed for when Padfoot comes?" Moony countered.
Shadow let out another whine and closed his eyes. A hand sank into his fur and rubbed behind his ears. Shadow prepared himself and then felt it. He was being pushed away and Orion was being shoved forward. A pained yelp turned into a human shout as arms grabbed his limbs and held him still. Once again the pain slowly decreased allowing him to relax and open his eyes to see the crowd around him. Madam Pomfrey was waving her wand over his injured leg, Remus and Bill were holding down his arms, Aunt Alice was holding his other leg and Professor Dumbledore was standing at the foot of the bed with a pained look on his face.
"Is there pain anywhere else, Black?" Madam Pomfrey asked.
Orion had to think for a moment before answering. "Headache, but it's not as bad as before." Slowly, everyone released his limbs and backed away, allowing Orion to glance around. Professor Moody was sleeping a few beds away, Cedric was sleeping a bit further away with his parents at his bedside and Hayden was sitting on a bed in the far corner, surrounded by his family.
Professor Dumbledore pulled out his wand and waved it over his head. "They will not hear anything, Orion," he said gently. "I need to know what happened after you touched the Portkey in the maze. Cedric has told us all he knows and we have an overview from Hayden's visions. The details are what we are missing. I understand you are tired and have experienced something that many grown wizards could never survive from but now, time is of the essence."
Orion nodded and, with help, managed to sit somewhat upright and began to tell them. As he spoke, visions of everything that had passed that night seemed to rise before his eyes. He saw begging Cedric to go for help, Wormtail catching him, Voldemort's rebirth, and Death Eaters Apparating. Remus had a firm grip on Orion's right hand and Aunt Alice had moved to grip his left. Each had made noises as though they wanted to say something but refrained from doing so. Orion was glad that they did. He didn't think he would be able to continue if they interrupted him. The only interruption had been when Orion had told of Wormtail piercing his arm with the dagger which had simply been Professor Dumbledore examining the now healed wound.
"He said my blood would make him stronger than if he'd used someone else's," Orion told Professor Dumbledore. "He said that you were wrong. It wasn't Hayden who survived the curse. It was Harry."
Professor Dumbledore's eyes slowly closed and he suddenly looked older than ever. "I see," he said with difficulty. "Orion, continue, please."
Orion went on, telling them all he could remember of Voldemort's speech to the Death Eaters and then what followed. He told them about the duel and how their wands seemed to connect to create the golden beams.
"Priori Incantatem?" Remus asked curiously.
Professor Dumbledore nodded. "Orion's wand and Voldemort's wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenix—Fawkes, in fact. They will not work properly against each other. If the owners of the wands force the wands to do battle…a very rare effect will take place. One of the wands will force the other to regurgitate spells it has performed—in reverse. The most recent first…and then those which preceded it…"
"I didn't keep the connection long enough for that to happen," Orion said quickly. "The Aurors had already arrived and…I just wanted to get out of there."
"No one would blame you for wanting that, Orion," Remus said gently.
Orion shook his head stubbornly. "But if I had, Auror Williamson wouldn't—"
"—don't go there, Ori," Remus said firmly as he stood up so their eyes met. "Auror Williamson was your protector. It was his duty to ensure your safety, no matter the cost. This is Voldemort's fault. He killed Williamson and would have killed you if you hadn't surprised him with Shadow."
"You have certainly shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected from you tonight, Orion," Professor Dumbledore said. "You have shown bravery equal to those who died fighting Voldemort at the height of his powers. You have shouldered a grown wizard's burden and found yourself equal to it—and you have now given us all we have a right to expect. There is one more thing we will need to discuss and I believe we should include the Potters in this."
"No!" Orion protested. "Please, Professor. We can't tell them…"
"I am afraid we have no choice since this concerns their son too," Professor Dumbledore said as he raised the wand and canceled the spell.
"Dumbledore, can't we at least wait for Sirius—"
"—I'm here, Remus," Sirius said as he entered the Hospital Wing looking exhausted but otherwise unscathed. "What's going on?"
Remus pulled Sirius aside and quickly explained everything. Orion could only watch as Sirius' face changed from concerned to nervous before settling on resigned. This wasn't happening. He was trapped in a bad dream. That had to be it. There was no way Sirius would agree…
"Orion, you should know that we caught Voldemort's spy," Aunt Alice said gently.
That caught Orion's attention. "Who?" he asked immediately. "Who was it?"
Aunt Alice and Professor Dumbledore shared a glance. "It was Barty Crouch, Jr. polyjuiced as Mad-Eye," Aunt Alice answered. "When Mad-Eye tried to take Cedric after Dumbledore instructed everyone to keep him in sight, we knew something was wrong. We found the real Alastor Moody locked in his trunk. Barty Crouch, Jr. is on his way to a Ministry holding cell."
"But—but how could—I mean—it's Uncle Al!" Orion protested.
"That is the very thought that made many of us fail to consider Alastor as a suspect, Orion," Professor Dumbledore said gravely. "I am certain we will hear all about it from Alastor once he recovers."
"Does this really need to be done now, Dumbledore?" Sirius asked as he approached. "Orion's been through enough—"
"—Orion—if I am reading his lack of reaction correctly—already knows the majority of the truth," Professor Dumbledore interrupted softly. "The Potters deserve some answers, Sirius. I would think you would understand better than anyone."
Sirius' eyes narrowed. "This has nothing to do with denying them but protecting Orion from the entire family's reaction," he growled. "Orion made the decision a year ago to not tell them for the very reason he wanted to be seen as who he was now."
"Sirius, that was before Voldemort found out and told all of the Death Eaters there tonight," Remus interjected. "It would be better if they found out from us instead of the Death Eaters—or their children."
Sirius let out a long breath and nodded as he took the seat at Orion's bedside. "Let's get this over with."
Orion could only watch as Professor Dumbledore walked over to the Potters. He could feel his stomach twisting in knots. A part of him was still waiting for someone to confirm that all of the theories that had been thrown around tonight weren't true but no one was. Why wasn't anyone telling him that Voldemort had it wrong?
"Bill, Alice," Sirius said quietly, his eyes, however, were determined. "I think it would be best if you step out for a bit. This is going to be difficult enough for the children to hear." Bill nodded and moved to leave. "I would also appreciate if you wouldn't tell anyone—"
"—you don't have to worry about me, Sirius," Bill said firmly. "No one will learn a thing from me."
"I'm staying," Aunt Alice said stubbornly. "I'm Orion's godmother, Sirius. I am also one of the few who was by your side from the start. If this doesn't go well, you will need me to put the Potters in their place."
Orion stared at Aunt Alice with wide eyes. It had been years since Aunt Alice had been this scary.
The sight of several chairs appearing out of nowhere put an end to any further conversations. Bill left the Hospital Wing as the Potters approached. Rose immediately sat down on the bed, giving Orion a nervous smile. Hayden sat down on the chair nearest to Sirius leaving Mr. and Mrs. Potter to take the available chairs on the opposite side of the bed.
"What is this about, Dumbledore?" Mr. Potter asked impatiently.
Professor Dumbledore raised a hand to silence him before casting another silencing ward around them. "I beg for your patience for this will be difficult for all to hear," he began. "Years ago, when Voldemort attacked Hayden and Harry I made a decision, a decision based on information that few knew about. That information could be interpreted in any number of ways. With my interpretation, I proclaimed Hayden as the child who defeated Voldemort instead of Harry, who was slowly dying."
Lily opened her mouth to protest.
"Let me finish, Lily," Professor Dumbledore insisted. "There was nothing to confirm or deny my theory, until a few years ago. I learned that a boy other than Hayden received the brother wand to Voldemort's. I learned that a boy other than Hayden was a Parselmouth. I learned of a bond shared between two boys that should be impossible. I learned of a connection to Voldemort however it took the most recent vision to figure out how it really worked. The child with the actual connection felt the pain while the other saw the event through the bond. I could not deny my fears any longer. I had been wrong and Voldemort confirmed it tonight. Hayden was not the one to survive the killing curse. It had been Harry with Hayden trying to magically protect him. With Hayden being so young, the protection was not complete which would explain Harry's failing health."
Mrs. Potter was on her feet. "No!" she exclaimed. "You swore it was Hayden! You gave us your word—"
"—Lily!" Aunt Alice hissed. "Calm down!"
Orion could feel something break inside him. The way Professor Dumbledore explained it…every sign pointed to him except for the small fact that it couldn't be him. It wasn't supposed to be him. He didn't want it. He never wanted it. This past year was enough time in the spotlight to last a lifetime and now it would never end.
Hayden stared, wide-eyed at Orion for a long moment before his eyes sought out his parents. "You lied to me?" he asked slowly. "All these years, you told me he was dead. You knew what losing him did to me and you just let me go through it? Why? Just because he didn't look like Dad anymore?"
"It wasn't like that Hayden!" Mrs. Potter protested. "We were just trying to protect—"
"—who? You?" Hayden interrupted, jumping to his feet. "You weren't protecting me, Rose or even Har—Orion! I asked you so many times why I could see through Orion's eyes! I begged for answers and you—you lied!"
"We didn't lie, Hayden," Mr. Potter said firmly. "We told you what we could for you to move on. No matter what you want to believe, that boy—" he gestured to Orion "—is not Harry. He doesn't remember anything prior to the adoption potion."
"There's more to a person than just memories," Rose said softly. "We could've built new ones with Orion. He's still our brother."
"How many times have I told you about how Orion got me out of trouble—how he saved me?" Hayden added. "He never changed, Dad! Harry never left! You just want the sick little boy who needed you to take care of him and rock him to sleep when he was having one of his bad days!"
Mr. Potter flinched but didn't say anything to counter Hayden's statement. Both Hayden and Rose looked like they were just getting warmed up but Orion had seen enough. He didn't want to be in the middle of their family argument since it was clear that Mr. Potter had no regrets with abandoning him.
"Hayden, Rose, I can understand how upset you are however we have more important matters that need to be discussed," Remus said calmly. "Voldemort is aware of the situation. He will be actively targeting Orion now. The question is, what do we do about it? Do we alert the Ministry—"
"—absolutely not!" Mrs. Potter interrupted quickly. "The Ministry will turn him into their mascot."
Orion would never admit it but he agreed with Mrs. Potter. The Ministry would jump at the chance to have the-boy-who-lived in their pocket assuring the public that everything was under control. The truth was that all control had gone out the window. Today was the first day of chaos that wouldn't end until Voldemort was gone for good.
"So you want to use Hayden as a decoy?" Sirius shot back. "Over my dead body! You don't get a say in this, Lily. Remus and I will decide what we will do concerning my son! Dumbledore is doing this as a courtesy because it involves Hayden. Now that you know Hayden has no part in what's coming, you can take Hayden and Rose and leave us in peace."
Orion avoided looking in the direction of any of the Potters. He really didn't want to deal with this tonight. Actually, he didn't want to deal with anything. It felt like everything was becoming a fuzzy mess. It was hard to focus on anything which was actually welcomed at the moment.
"Sirius," Aunt Alice warned. "You know where I stand on this issue…however, nothing will be decided tonight and I don't think Orion will be able to handle much more bickering. Everyone is now up to speed with the truth. That was the main objective. Let everyone sleep on it and we'll move on tomorrow morning."
"Well said," Madam Pomfrey said briskly as she was at Orion's side, handing over a goblet containing a purple potion which could only be one thing. "Dreamless sleep. You'll need to drink all of it."
With help, Orion took the goblet and drank a few mouthfuls. Everything instantly became hazy as his body felt as though it was sinking deeper into the warmth of the feather mattress. His mental and physical exhaustion allowed sleep to come before he could take any more potion.
Orion slowly woke to the sensation of hands running through his hair. Partially opening his eyes, Orion could see sunlight only starting to shine through the windows. It was still early…too early to be awake…too early to even think about anything concerning what had happened last night. As a matter of fact, Orion never wanted to think about what happened last night ever again.
"I know you're awake, Ori," Sirius' tired voice said softly. "You're too stiff to be sleeping."
Orion reluctantly opened his eyes and turned his head to see that his father looked just as tired as he sounded. He couldn't stop the guilt that pooled in his stomach. He had done this. It was because of him that Sirius now had to deal with Voldemort and the Potters. At the moment, Orion couldn't decide which one was worse.
"We should probably talk before the masses come demanding answers," Sirius said with a sigh as he sat up a bit straighter. "As far as Voldemort is concerned, he and the majority of the Death Eaters Disapparated shortly after Remus got you out of there. We managed to catch Macnair—and it was a good thing we did. Fudge is in a serious state of denial. He doesn't want to believe Voldemort's back even with all of the proof stacked against him."
Orion couldn't say he was surprised. Fudge was going to be in serious trouble considering who was at the graveyard last night. Many of his financial supporters were 'reformed' Death Eaters.
"Frank, Kingsley and Rufus are currently working on a plan hunt Voldemort down and make sure someone is able to protect you," Sirius continued.
"—I know you don't want to admit it, Ori, but ignoring it won't change anything," Sirius interrupted. "You are the one Voldemort will target. You are the one in danger and Rufus knows your safety is my top priority." Sirius let out a calming breath before continuing. "Dumbledore was right. The signs were all there. We just didn't want to admit it. It was easier to believe that someone else would have to deal with the pressure—the burden that no one would ever ask for."
Orion could feel dread replacing the guilt. It almost sounded like…
"I want you to know that we will help you with this, Ori," Sirius said firmly as he grasped Orion's hand. "The entire team is behind you. I just want you to know that you're not alone."
Orion felt his eyes burning and quickly looked away. This wasn't supposed to be happening. He had never considered that the answers he had so desperately wanted would be ones that he would never want to hear.
"Orion, don't do that," Sirius said as he stood up and turned Orion's head so their eyes met. "Don't hide from me. We need to face this the way we have faced everything else—together. We'll get through this and we'll make sure Voldemort regrets the day he targeted you."
"But why?" Orion asked in a wavering voice. "Why did he want to kill me in the first place?"
Sirius closed his eyes as his shoulders slumped. "What I am about to tell you cannot be repeated. I don't know everything; Dumbledore was rather tight-lipped back then. Before you were born, Dumbledore found out about a prophecy made about a baby born at the end of July that could destroy Voldemort."
Orion stared at Sirius incredulously. "Dad—"
"—I know, I know," Sirius interrupted. "Prophecies can be interpreted in a number of ways. What is important is that Voldemort believed it to be true—and still does. That is why he wanted your blood for the ritual. He believes using the blood of his 'ultimate enemy' will make him stronger than ever."
Orion bit his lower lip nervously. So that was it. Voldemort had allowed his fear to get the better of him and that had brought about his own destruction. If he would have waited…and now…"He's fulfilling the prophecy himself…"
Sirius nodded thoughtfully. "I suppose that's one way to look at it. If he keeps trying to get rid of you, he's making you into his 'ultimate enemy'." He stared at Orion a moment before continuing. "You do know I couldn't be more proud of you, right? What you did last night…Ori, there are trained Aurors who wouldn't have fared as well as you did. I know you want me to tell you that last night doesn't change anything but we both know I'd be lying. Everything will change but we'll face those changes as we always have—as a pack."
Orion grinned weakly. It was nice to think that even with all of the changes that would undoubtedly come, the main constant in his life would remain the same. "What about the Potters?" he asked cautiously.
"Remus and Alice have volunteered to handle them," Sirius said with a shrug. "Alice has already recruited Neville and Cedric to help you with Hayden and Rose if they cause problems."
Orion glanced over at the bed Cedric had occupied only to find it empty.
"He was released last night," Sirius said following Orion's gaze. "It wasn't a pleasant sight to wake up too—Lily causing a ruckus because we told her to leave. Alice immediately put her in her place but I think we need to prepare ourselves that Lily will try to be in your life now that she knows you know."
Orion scowled. Out of everything that happened, an interfering birth mother was—at the moment—the worst. "She gave up and right years ago," he grumbled. "I don't want anything to do with her or Mr. Potter."
For a brief moment, Orion thought he saw Sirius look a bit relieved only for it to be replaced with a look of understanding. "If that's what you want," he said in a neutral voice then glanced over at the bedside table. "Just so you know, once everything settled down—well as much as it could—you were declared the Triwizard Champion." Sirius grasped the bag from the table, the clinking of Gallons echoing in the silence. "A thousand Galleons, yours to do with as you please."
Orion stared at the bag in Sirius' hand. "I don't want it," he said looking away. "Give it to Cedric. He's the one that demanded I take the cup with him…"
"And he feels incredibly guilty for that," Sirius said softly.
Orion already knew that but that didn't change how one little act had completely turned his life upside down. Was this how Dad felt when I took the adoption potion? Orion suddenly felt ill. No matter how often Sirius insisted that he had wanted Harry, gaining a son had been a choice made for him. However, instead of being angry or bitter, Sirius had taken the challenge and had been (in Orion's opinion) the best Dad ever.
An arm wrapping around Orion quickly pulled him out of his thoughts. Orion let himself sink into Sirius' blanket of protection and couldn't help feeling that the heavy burden that had forced on his shoulders had suddenly become just a bit lighter.
The next few days were awkward and tense to say the least. Neville rarely left his side and when he did, Cedric was there. Both had taken Aunt Alice's words to heart, becoming a barrier between Orion and the rest of the school. The stares were never ending now, especially with—from what Neville told him—Professor Dumbledore's speech to the school the morning after the task. It had been then that Professor Dumbledore had revealed Voldemort's return and not to bother Orion with questions.
Just one look around was all that was needed to know that even if people weren't voicing their questions to Orion, they were voicing them to each other. There were many who didn't bother to lower their voices when he was nearby, undoubtedly hoping that Orion would either confirm or deny what was being said. Most were asking the same thing. Why Orion Black? What was so special about him?
Hayden and Rose had also kept their distance but Orion didn't know if it was because they needed space to deal with the shock or if Neville had said something. The only question Orion had but was too afraid to voice was if Hayden or Rose had spoken to their friends. Both Ron and Hermione were giving Orion space along with looks of sympathy but he couldn't determine if it was because of what happened recently or years ago.
Mirror communications with Sirius and Remus were occurring multiple times a day. Mostly, they were just keeping him informed of what was happening outside Hogwarts. The biggest surprise was Rufus Scrimgeour making a move against Fudge in the fight against Voldemort. Evidently, Fudge was dragging his feet in announcing Voldemort's return so Scrimgeour gave him a deadline. If Fudge didn't announce it by the end of the week, Mr. Scrimgeour would do it for him.
Before Orion knew it, it was time to pack up his trunk while trying to think of a way to avoid the Leaving Feast. Professor Dumbledore was bound to announce something concerning Voldemort which would put the attention back on him. A part of Orion knew he needed to get used to it but he couldn't help wanting to go back to his days of normalcy. The simple normalcy of feeling safe even though the world was a dangerous place.
Entering the Great Hall with Neville, Orion noticed all of the drapes decorated with the Hogwarts emblem. The lack of colors from the winning house was just another oddity of how abnormal this year had been. The real Alastor Moody was at the staff table now, his wooden leg and magical eye in place. Both of Mad-Eye's eyes sought out Orion, forcing him to look away. He could only imagine what Mad-Eye thought of this entire situation.
Professor Karkaroff's chair was empty, however, which wasn't too surprising. It was only a matter of time before Voldemort ordered Professor Karkaroff's death for betrayal. Seeing Professor Snape on the opposite side of the table, Orion coud only hope he wouldn't meet the same fate. Granted, Professor Snape wasn't Orion's favorite person but had always he helped when needed.
As Orion sat down beside Neville, Professor Dumbledore stood from the staff table and silence fell throughout the hall.
"The end," Professor Dumbledore said looking around at them all, "of another year." He paused for only a moment, his eyes falling upon Orion. "There is much that I would like to say to you all tonight but first I would like to congratulate Orion Black, winner of the Triwizard Tournament."
Orion ducked his head but couldn't silence the applause and cheers that filled the hall. Thankfully Professor Dumbledore raised his hand and the attention was turned back to him.
"However, this event that should be concluded in celebration has become one of tragedy," Professor Dumbledore continued. "A means of promoting magical understanding has been tarnished because of Lord Voldemort."
A panicked whisper swept the Great Hall. A hand grasped Orion's arm, forcing him to turn and see Rose staring at him in sympathy. Next to her was Hayden who looked more determined than anything. That made Orion nervous. That look normally meant Hayden was going to do something stupid and no one would be able to talk him out of it.
"Yes," Professor Dumbledore continued, "the Ministry of Magic has still not officially accepted this even though their Aurors fought him and his Death Eaters on the night of the Third Task. Their quick action to the threat was due to our Hogwarts Champions. Both Orion Black and Cedric Diggory have showed in every respect, the sort of bravery that few wizards have ever shown and for this, I honor them."
Professor Dumbledore raise his goblet to Orion and then to Cedric. Nearly everyone in the Great Hall followed suit. Orion couldn't help but notice, through a gap in the standing figures, Draco, Vincent and Gregory along with many other Slytherins had remained in their seats, their goblets untouched. It was really no surprise. Walden Macnair was friends with many of their fathers. His capture and Sirius' account of who had been at the ceremony would be either under investigation or arrested.
When everyone had once again resumed their seats, Professor Dumbledore continued, "With Lord Voldemort's return, the ties created during the Tournament are more important than ever before."
He looked from Madame Maxime and Hagrid, to Fleur Delacour and her fellow Beauxbatons students, to Viktor Krum and the Durmstrangs and the Slytherin table. Viktor, Orion realized kept glancing his way as if he wanted nothing more than to join Orion at the Gryffindor table. It wasn't surprising. They hadn't really had a chance to talk since the Third Task.
"Every guest in this Hall," Professor Dumbledore said, his eyes lingering on the Durmstrang students, "will be welcomed back here at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again-in light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord ad enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."
Orion couldn't help glancing at Rose and Hayden, both were looking at him hopefully. His heart ached. He knew what they wanted but he also knew what he needed. He needed to sort out the madness that his life had become before adding more to it.
"It is my belief-and never have I hoped that I am mistaken-that we are all facing dark and difficult times," Professor Dumbledore added. "Some of you in this Hall have already suffered directly at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of your families have been torn asunder. A week ago two students were nearly taken from our midst but they survived because they did what was right instead of what was easy, remember that."
Everything was packed, including Hedwig in her cage. Orion was waiting in the crowded Entrance Hall for the carriages surrounded by people. Neville, Cedric, Hermione and Viktor had taken up serving as a shield from those who still tried to corner Orion. Hermione's presence had been a surprise but Orion had welcomed her after her only question of how he was doing. For once, she hadn't demanded for answers which was a relief because he wasn't prepared to give them.
He turned around and saw Fleur Delacour hurrying up the stone steps into the castle.
"We will see each uzzer againm, I 'ope," Fleur said as she reached him, holding out her hand. "I am 'oping to get a job 'ere, to improve my Eenglish." She then turned to Cedric and Viktor. "I 'ope you two watch out or 'im."
"Always," Cedric said shaking her hand.
Fleur smiled and shook Viktor's hand before taking a step back. "Good-bye, it 'az been a pleasure meeting you!" She turned to go, her silvery hair rippling in the sunlight.
"Any sight of Karkaroff?" Cedric asked Viktor.
Viktor let out a snort. "That man is a covard," he said in a gruff voice. "I'm just glad he took that vay out instead of rejoining the Dark Lord," he eyes shifted to Orion, "othervise I vould have killed him."
Cedric grinned. "I would have helped you," he said firmly.
Viktor returned the grin. "I know," he said then looked over at the lake. "It looks like it's time for me to go too. I vish I could stay but someone needs to inform the goverment vhat happened."
"We understand, Viktor," Orion said with a smile. "Just remember, you'll always have friends here."
Viktor reached out and ruffled Orion's hair. "And you'll alvays have friends in Bulgaria. If you need me, don't be afraid to ask for help."
"If he doesn't, I will," Cedric said holding out his hand. "I'm glad we got to know each other, Viktor, and keep practicing your Quidditch. You still owe us a rematch."
Viktor laughed as he shook Cedric's hand and bid a final farwell before leaving, the bright sun nearly making him disappear the moment he stepped past the carriages that were now trundling toward them up the drive. Orion focused on them and had to bite back a gasp. They were no longer horseless. They were being pulled by Thestrals, creatures that were only visible by those who had seen death...like Auror Williamson being killed by Voldemort.
A hand wrapped around his arm causing Orion to turn and see Hermione's sympathetic face. She didn't leave his side until they found a compartment on the train and he was placed between Neville and Cedric. It wasn't long before they were joined by Hayden, Ron and Rose who managed to squeeze in. Hayden and Ron dove into a game of exploding snap while Hermione and Rose pulled out books. Orion knew that they all were just waiting for him to say something to open the door for questions.
The only problem was that Orion had every intension of leaving that door closed…forever. The only time actual conversation broke out was when Hermione pulled out her copy of the Daily Prophet.
"What does it say?" Hayden asked cautiously.
"There's a lot of speculating for the press conference scheduled tomorrow," Hermione said browsing through the front page. "You're mentioned, Orion—just if you'll be there. It seems that they all believe the press conference is to explain 'the event' after the Third Task."
"The event?" Neville asked skeptically.
"That's what The Daily Prophet has named…you-know-what," Hermione said glancing briefly at Orion. "They know that something happened to require Auror help and that something resulted in the arrests of a Ministry employee and the convicted son of a former Ministry employee who's supposed to be dead. From the way the articles have been written, they're all thinking the worst but they don't want to cause a panic."
Orion let out a snort. "Isn't that what Rita Skeeter thrives on?"
"Oh, Rita hasn't written anything at all since the Third Task," Hermione said in an oddly constrained voice. "As a matter of fact, Rita Skeeter isn't going to be writing anything at all for a while. Not unless she wants me to spill the beans on her."
Orion stared at Hermione suspiciously for a moment before concluding, "you figured out how she's been getting her information. What makes you think she'll fear what you may say?"
Hermione pulled a small sealed glass jar out of her bag. "I caught her on the windowsill in the hospital wing that night before Professor Dumbledore sent us back to Gryffindor Tower," she said beaming. "Once I saw her, I remembered the bug that was in my hair after the second task. No one would pay attention to a beetle. It was the perfect cover—"
"—wait a minute," Hayden interrupted. "You're saying that Skeeter is a beetle Animagus?"
"An unregistered Animagus," Hermione clarified, brandishing the jar at them. Inside were a few twigs and leaves and one, large fat beetle. "That was how Malfoy and the Slytherins were giving her all those nice little interviews. They wouldn't care that she was doing something illegal, as long as they were giving her horrible stuff about us and Hagrid."
"Draco told Evelyn as much," Orion said. "They've been looking for Skeeter ever since to arrest her."
Hermione looked a bit uncomfortable. "Well, I can hand her over when we reach King's Cross. I've put an Unbreakable Charm on the jar so she can't transform."
"I'm sure Dad will appreciate it," Orion said with a nod.
"Can she still hear us in there?" Hayden asked cautiously only to look alarmed when Hermione nodded. "Hermione! What's to stop her—"
"—the only thing she knows is what Professor Dumbledore told us mostly because Parvati and Lavender were talking about it," Hermione interrupted quickly. "She was hidden in my dorm the entire time until today."
Both Hayden and Rose let out a relieved sigh. Orion knew better than to repeat the action. Even if Rita Skeeter knew everything, she would shortly be in Ministry custody and unable to tell anyone, Sirius would make sure of it.
As Hermione placed the jar back inside her schoolbag, the door of the compartment slid open, revealing a disgruntled Draco with Vincent and Gregory standing behind him.
"What do you want, Malfoy?" Ron spat.
Draco focused on Orion. "You and your entire blood traitor family are going to pay for what you did," he snarled.
Orion shrugged. "All we did was show your father's true loyalties, Draco. Has your father turned himself in yet?"
Draco moved to pull out his wand only to have six pointed at him.
"I think you should leave, Malfoy," Hayden said. "We've learned nearly as many spells as Orion this year."
Draco sneered at Hayden. "You've all picked the losing side and you all will be the first to go! Mudbloods and Muggle-lovers—ack!" His mouth was suddenly overflowing with soap bubbles. Laughter broke out as Draco, Vincent and Gregory bid a hasty retreat.
"Prat," Hayden growled as he slammed the door shut.
The rest of the train ride was rather quiet, except for a few visits from Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. Most wanted to visit but found it difficult in the crowded car. Orion couldn't help but feel a bit grateful for that. He knew everyone meant well but he really didn't want talk about the same thing over and over again but he also couldn't bring himself to pretend that everything was normal either.
Perhaps that was what was bothering him the most. This train ride symbolized the end of normal. Normal was now a dream that could never be obtained until Voldemort was gone for good. But it gives me something to fight for—a chance for everyone to appreciate the peace that we had taken for granted.
Before Orion knew it, they were pulling in at platform nine and three-quarters. Everyone moved at once, collecting the items they had taken out during the ride as well as their trunks that had been stowed. The chaos made it difficult for Orion to stay behind Neville but Cedric kept pushing him forward, leaving no room for anyone to jump between them. Finally, they stepped off the train only to have a hand grasp his shoulder. Turning quickly, Orion relaxed and smiled at Sirius.
"This way boys," Sirius said with a grin as he grabbed Orion's trunk. "The entire team is waiting for us."
"I see my parents," Hermione spoke up, already moving. "Take care! I'll write!"
Orion, Neville and Hayden shared a look, each trying to keep from laughing. Hermione would never change.
"Are Mum and Dad with you?" Hayden asked eagerly as he stepped off the train behind Cedric.
Sirius' grin faltered slightly. "Actually, I saw them near the platform entrance with the Weasleys," he answered briskly. "They have wisely decided to allow you to say your goodbyes in peace."
Orion withheld the wince that wanted to escape. It must have been bad for separation to be required.
Hayden clearly felt the same way. "What did they do now?" he asked in exasperation.
"—just please tell me the truth, Sirius," Hayden begged.
Sirius let out a sigh as he ushered everyone away from the train. "I'm not trying to lie to you, Hayden," he said, resting his hands on Hayden's shoulders. "This matter is between your parents and myself. I understand you're angry with them but that doesn't mean you should look for more reasons to justify your anger."
Hayden's eyes narrowed slightly. "They lied to me—us for years, Sirius," he spat. "They abandoned their son for years and then used me to get information on him. How can I not be angry?"
Orion shifted his weight nervously. It seemed that Hayden didn't actually know the circumstances around the actual adoption. If he had, Orion had a feeling—or a fear—that the anger would be directed in a different direction. Did not speaking up make him as much of a coward as the Potters?
"They want 'Harry' back, don't they?" Rose asked softly.
Sirius let out a long breath as he ran a hand over his face. "Your mother asked if visitation would be a possibility," he admitted. "I simply told her now wasn't the time to discuss improbable situations."
Hayden rolled his eyes in exasperation before turning to Orion. "We'll figure this out, I promise. I want to be your brother, Ori, if you'll let me."
"And I want to be your sister," Rose added as she rested a hand on Hayden's arm. "We should go, Hayden. Orion can let us know what he wants when he has time to think about it."
Hayden and Rose left with Ron following, looking slightly uncomfortable. They quickly vanished in the sea of people. Orion was glad for Rose's suggestion. He didn't think he could give them the answer they wanted...at least not yet. He needed to remember that there were more important things happening than the dreams of the Potters.
"Are you all right, Shadow?" Sirius asked as he wrapped an arm around Orion's shoulders.
Orion looked up at Sirius and smiled weakly. "Not really but I think I will be," he admitted as they started walking toward the Black Team.
It was the truth. As much as it felt like his life was falling apart, remembering that he support from his family, the Black Team, Neville, and Cedric helped. He would get through this. He would face the upcoming challenges head on because that is what his father would do.
After all, he was his father's son.
A/N: Wow, that took forever to get out. I was trying though. The last part just didn't want to be written. Oh well. So here ends Goblet of Fire. I'm hoping to start Order of the Phoenix soon.