I do not own Harry Potter and I have no financial gain from this story.
The following morning Harry woke to soft knocking on his door at the Leaky Cauldron. He drowsily blinked at the clock on his night-table and saw that it was still only half past 4 am. Tom was most certainly not happy with whoever came at such an ungodly hour. Though it was probably Dumbledore. Coming to round up his unruly charge. Fantastic.
Harry got out of bed and tugged his T-shirt down on his stomach, then went to open the door.
"It's me, Harry." came the reply from Dumbledore "Please let me in, my boy."
The old Headmaster's voice allowed no arguments so the boy hastened to open the door. The wizard was obviously not amused with his sudden departure from the Dursley home. Truth be told Harry didn't even expect to be able to get away from Privet Drive before the man arrived, but to even have some sleep in the Leaky Cauldron! He supposed that Dumbledore didn't immediately receive his message. Some emergency parchment it was!
"Good morning, Headmaster."
"Good morning, my boy." Dumbledore didn't seem angry with him, more relieved really "You gave me quite the scare with that message you realize?"
Harry looked sheepish at that.
"Sorry 'bout that Sir," he said "I was just really excited about the invitation!" he finished with a big smile.
Dumbledore smiled back at him and the twinkles came back into his blue eyes.
"Quite alright, my boy. Thankfully no harm came to you."
Harry grinned and stepped further back to give the wizard more room.
"Now, we shall go to Snuffle's place don't you think so?"
That said the old man waved his wand and the few belongings Harry took from his trunk went flying back into it. The bed made itself and the linens freshened. Dumbledore turned and the young man noticed Tom standing behind him in his nightclothes with a really weird nightcap on his head. He did not seem happy.
"There Tom," the Headmaster said "Mr. Potter will be checking out now. Sorry for waking you so early."
Tom grumbled something unintelligible and sent a pointed look to Harry. The boy shook himself out of his stupor and hurriedly started to dress. He didn't even realize he was still in his sleeping gear. In a few minutes the Headmaster and Harry were trailing behind a still grumbling Tom and were let out into muggle London.
"Now, my boy, please hold on tight to me."
Harry awkwardly embraced the old man and then he felt as if he were being pressed through a tube that was way too small for him. It reminded him of toothpaste.
With a crack they appeared in a street similar to the one they have just disappeared from. Slightly disoriented and shaken Harry looked around and noted that they were still in London. Across the street he saw the houses Nr. 11. and 13. He vaguely wondered what had happened to Number 12 but taken the early hour and his recent experience with side-along apparation his brain wasn't really up to wondering about strange muggle street numbering.
Dumbledore thrust a small piece of paper into his hand. He frowned down at the folded piece of parchment then looked up at the Headmaster.
"Read it, Harry."
He unfolded the parchment and read the few words written on it.
Sirius Black and the Order of the Phoenix reside at 12 Grimmauld Place
Harry looked up and saw Number 11 and 13 jump apart and a huge, dark town house spring up between them. He felt his jaw slacken.
Dumbledore took the parchment from him and it burst into flames.
"The house in under the Fidelius charm, no one is able to see without the secret-keeper telling them the location." Dumbledore explained "Quite ingenious charm, the Fidelius is,"
"Who is the secret-keeper?"
"Why, it's me Harry."
The young boy nodded and relaxed. His parents were hidden under the Fidelius too and it only took one traitorous rat as a secret-keeper for the unbreakable protection to shatter and leave his parents as free game to Voldemort. Dumbledore had dubious talent at choosing teachers but Harry had no doubt that he would never betray his godfather to Voldemort.
"What is the Orde.." Harry started as they were walking towards the house.
"We should talk about that inside the wards, Harry." came the sharp interruption from the wizened wizard.
Harry mutely nodded and they opened the door to the dark house.
"Quietly, my boy."
Harry frowned not understanding the strange order, surely Sirius wouldn't mind if he were a little loud? However he did as the Headmaster told him to.
They quietly entered the house. It was just as dark and foreboding in the inside as on the outside, if not even more so. The dark wallpaper was peeling, the hallway was illuminated by a large ornate chandelier and a few gas lamps. On one of the walls was a huge portrait shrouded by dark blue curtains. Everything was covered by dusty spider-webs.
Harry's mouth hang open at such obvious lack of care and cleaning the house must have gone through. During his years with the Dursleys he got used to every furnace being shiny and clean and well-kept. It didn't matter that usually he was the one that had to clean, he probably would start here too, on his own accord in a few hours. The house looked barely habitable. And he had only seen the hallway yet!
Dumbledore led him into what must've been the kitchen. There was a long oak table with matching chairs and a large cabinet that had the same symbol as the seal on his letter. Harry smiled, the kitchen seemed to be freshly cleaned, maybe the other parts would be like it too. Sirius did hint that the house had been unoccupied for some time.
"Sit down Harry," said Dumbledore "I'm sure Sirius will be with us in a moment."
"Ron and Hermione are here?" asked Harry.
"Yes, they have been here since.."
"Harry! Professor Dumbledore!" burst Sirius through the door.
"Sirius!" screamed Harry and flew into his Godfather's outstretched arms.
"How 've you been kiddo?" asked Sirius "I didn't expect you to arrive for at least a few days yet!"
Harry's grin turned sheepish at the older man's inquisitive and excited stare.
"Well, you see," he started "I might have took the Knight Bus to the Leaky Cauldron yesterday when I got your letter..."
"Harry!" admonished Sirius "That was a dangerous stunt to pull!"
Harry hid his head between his shoulders and peered up at the black haired man from under his fringe. However Sirius was incapable of being angry with his godson for long so his excited smile was soon back.
Harry grinned then too and stepped out of the embrace to examine the man's appearance. Sirius still had his hair the same shoulder length. But now the shabby black mess had a healthy shine and it was clean without any knots. His angular face filled in a bit so it was not as gaunt as it had been in fourth year. His complexion also lost its sickly white pallor and was instead a healthy mix of milky white and red from the excitement of seeing Harry again. He lost his torn brown and grey clothes and was instead dressed in a fine dark blue tunic and black slacks with black slippers, he had probably just woken up. He was quite a few inches taller that Harry. It was obvious through his clothes that he had gained some much needed weight, though he was still quite slim.
Harry grinned, it was good to see Padfoot in such a good shape.
"Sirius, have you thought about my advice about the Black Library?" interrupted Dumbledore his thoughts "Now that Harry is here too some of those texts are..."
"My answer is still the same Headmaster." the black haired main said in a strong voice "You are not allowed to take anything from the library, however you are free to browse whenever you feel the need. I have also considered your worries about the children and decided to spell the darker books to scream if someone under-age tries to read them."
"I see." conceded the old man.
Harry noticed that the blue eyes lost some of their twinkle and his tone held some reproach. However it didn't seem like Sirius was bothered by it.
"Well then I leave you two to get re-acquainted." were the Headmaster's parting words "Sirius, don't forget that tomorrow night we're having a meeting."
"Of course, Professor. Take care."
Dumbledore nodded his grey head towards them and swiftly left. After his departure Harry turned to Sirius.
"What kind of meeting?" he asked "Does it have a connection with 'The Order of the Phoenix'?"
"Where did you hear about the Order?" the taller man sputtered.
"Dumbledore gave me a parchment with the words 'Sirius Black and the Order of the Phoenix reside at 12 Grimmauld Place'." the boy told him.
"Oh, I see." sighed Sirius. "The Order was founded back at the time of Voldemort's first rise. It consists of a group of people dedicated to stop him. Your Mum and Dad were members too."
"Yeah, I'll try to find you a picture of the old crowd okay?"
"Thanks!" grinned Harry.
Sirius smiled back, grabbed Harry's trunk and turned towards the door.
"Come on kiddo. We should bring your luggage upstairs."
"Sorry, but you'll have to bunk in with Ron. We could only clean a few rooms yet. But if you want your own room then we can clean one in the afternoon for you."
"Oh it's fine. I always bunked with Ron when I stayed in the Burrow and we share a dormitory." Harry grinned "I'm quite used to him and he doesn't snore like Neville."
"The Longbottom kid?"
"Yeah, his name is Neville Longbottom, why?" inquired Harry as they quietly made their way upstairs passing an ugly troll-leg umbrella stand.
"Oh, I knew his parents, they were in the Order too,"
"Oh." the young wizard had half a mind to ask about them but something horrifying caught his attention before he could formulate his question, "Are those goblin heads?"
Sirius looked up at what Harry had pointed at and sighed non-committally.
"No, those are the shrunken heads of house elves that had served the Noble House of Black over the centuries."
"Ugh, why don't you take them off? They're disgusting." croaked Harry.
"Oh believe me, I would! But they were put there by elf magic, not even Dumbledore could take them off."
"Elf magic? An elf did that to another?"
"Yeah, rotten little creatures right?" Sirius grumbled.
Harry thought of Dobby, the slightly crazy house elf that tried to 'save' his life in second year and who still gave him Christmas and Birthday presents and would put an extra helping of Treacle Tart on his plate at every mealtime. Dobby was more warm-hearted than most humans and wizards put together. He couldn't imagine the small elf with his mismatched socks behead one of his companions and then stick their shrunken head to a wall like some kind of trophy.
"Umm, is this some kind of wizarding tradition?" 'Cuz then it's a very bizarre thing that I should somehow try and forget...and Merlin forbid!
"By any chance did Hermione see these?" groaned Harry.
"Oh, yeah. She still goes around lecturing everyone about such barbarism and she's been trying to civilize Kreacher." he said with a dark frown.
"Yeah, my good for nothing house elf whose main goal in life is to have his head in this stairway." grumbled Sirius "And oh Merlin! I would be so happy to make that wish of his come true!"
Harry almost choked on his surprised laughter. Sirius threw a quick grin at him.
"But house elf heads? Your family had a strange sense in interior design."
The taller man snorted.
"Yeah. The Noble and Ancient House of Black. As dark as they come. You'll have to be on the look-out while cleaning too, there are some seriously nasty surprises." he said morosely.
They arrived at the top of the stairs and there was a long corridor lined with doors and lit by the same type of gas-lamps.
It was also in a sorry state however it was noticeable that it went under some serious cleaning in recent days. The wallpaper was some kind of strange plum purple that was red next to the lamps. Not really welcoming.
Sirius stopped next to a hardwood door and quietly eased it open. As they were walking inside Harry could make out Ron's quiet snores in the bed with a moving lump on it. There was another bed with the linens undisturbed. Sirius levitated his trunk next to it and placed it on the floor with a soft thud.
"Would you like to get some more sleep, Harry?" he asked is hushed tones.
"Naw, I'm wide awake already."
"Okay, then lets go back downstairs and we can talk." answered Sirius with a happy smile.
Once in the kitchen they sat down at the table just sitting there in silence for a few minutes. Listening to the old town-house creak around them.
"Who lives here besides us and Hermione and Ron?" asked finally Harry.
"The Weasley twins, hilarious pair those two, and the Weasley girl. You should hear my Mother's rants now that the house is run over by 'blood-traitors'." he snickered ruefully.
"Your Mother?" asked Harry surprised, he thought Sirius' parents were dead.
"Yeah, you remember that curtained portrait in the hallway? That's her."
"Oh, so she's dead?" the question was out before the dark haired boy could realize how rude and insensitive it was.
Once he did though he looked horrified at Sirius. He almost apologized when his godfather smiled and ruffled his hair, earning a scowl from him.
"Yeah, she is dead. I'm the last Black. Not that I'm awfully sorry for it."
Harry stared at him in incomprehension and horror.
"Harry, you must understand that my family was dark, very dark. Every one of them a Slytherin to the core. I believe Hermione is the first muggleborn to ever be in this house." the black haired man explained.
"They were Death Eaters?" the teen asked with a gasp. Sirius' family?
"No, but they thought Voldemort had the right idea. Pureblood supremacists the lot of them." Sirius sneered "Only my harebrained little brother shared those ideas with them though." he said with an assuring smile.
"You had a little brother?"
"Yes." from the dark undertone of his Godfather's voice the emerald eyed teen realized that their conversation about Sirius' family was over.
He fidgeted on his chair uncomfortably in the dense silence. He peered at the older man from the corner of his eyes and saw him deep in thought with a frown on his face. He swung his legs and decided to leave the man to his thoughts for a while. His gaze wandered to the clock on the wall over the cabinet and realized that it was now nearing the time everyone would wake up. Maybe he could make breakfast? He spied the pantry door from where he sat and jumped up from his chair to open it and start cooking with what he found when a thought occurred to him.
"Hey, Sirius, would you mind if I made breakfast for everyone? Umm, or would Kreacher mind?"
"Kreacher?" came the incredulous snort "The last time that little shit made any edible food was when my Mother was still alive!"
Harry was still looking at him, obviously waiting for his answer though there was a twinkle in his eyes from his previous sentence.
"No, Harry. I wouldn't mind if you made breakfast." he said, then " You can cook?"
"Yes." said Harry on his way to the kitchen, his tone didn't invite any more questions about said skill. Apparently Sirius didn't realize this.
"Where did you learn? Most wizards can't even boil water without magic," he snorted "with me in that category too."
Harry was already in the pantry rummaging through the numerous shelves so Sirius moved to follow his nephew.
"I learned it at my relatives' place. Would eggs and bacon be alright? Or pancakes?" the shorter boy called over his shoulder.
"You can make PANCAKES!" screamed Sirius in obvious delight.
"Yes." said Harry amusedly and watched his grown and manly Godfather prance across the kitchen singing a song about pancakes.
The man finally noticed his nephew standing in the pantry door quietly snickering at his antics and grinned unabashedly.
"Pancakes, it is." grinned Harry and put the ingredients on the counter.
Fred and George found Harry at the stove making pancakes and Sirius sitting at the table devouring the already baked treats. The two redheads grinned at each other.
"We didn't know"
"That you were coming and"
"Feeding us too!" finished George while his twin went to twirl the smaller boy around.
Sirius grinned at them over his plate and put another bite into his mouth.
"And how well he's feeding us!" he said smiling in bliss. "I dare say his pancakes are better than Molly's!"
The twins grinned and sat down next to the rugged man, while Harry blushed under the compliment.
"Now that" started Fred.
"We must see!"
They both took a buttery pancake and started eating their grins widening on their faces. They looked at each other then at the blushing teen by the stove.
"We're keeping you!" they said in unison making the boy blush even harder and causing Sirius to laugh out loud.
"He'd make a lovely wife, right, boys?" quipped Sirius dodging the spatula Harry threw at him in indignation. Then they burst out laughing holding their sides while Harry watched them scowling, though a small smile and his dancing eyes betrayed his amusement.
A few minutes later the same scene welcomed a drowsy Hermione and Ginny though by then Harry was also laughing at a tale the twins spun about one of their pranks and Ron. Apparently they passed their Apparition tests with flying colours. A fact of which they reminded everyone by popping in and out of room over the summer.
The girls glared at the lively males in the kitchen and Ginny plopped down on a seat not really realizing who the black haired teen at the stove was. However Hermione screamed in delight and ran across the kitchen.
In a moment Harry found himself surrounded by bushy brown hair and had an armful of teen-aged girl in his arms. Hermione's body pressed into his and made him, yet again, blush to his ears and the twins to laugh for an entirely different reason. Ginny also woke up a little more because of her friend and her eyes widened in realization.
"Harry!" she said at the same time as Hermione.
"When did you arrive? How was your summer? We've been in this horrible house, sorry Sirius, for almost the whole summer! Mrs. Weasley made us clean it! You won't believe how huge the doxies grew in one of the upstairs rooms!" she ranted "Oh, Harry!"
Harry laughed and tried to understand every jabbered word.
"Slow down Hermione!" he breathed.
The witch finally let him go and looked at him with scrutinizing eyes.
"You're awfully thin, Harry! Don't just make those pancakes, eat some too!" she made a shooing motion with her hand "There you go! Sit down before they gobble down everything! Honestly, men!"
She made Harry sit down and put a generous amount of food on his plate, glaring at one of the twins who tried to take one. Then she went back to finish baking the remaining pancakes shooting glares at the people surrounding her green eyed friend and encouraging him to eat more.
"Honestly, Hermione!" cried one of the twins indignantly "You are worse than Mum!"
This outburst made everyone laugh again. Harry smiled with his mouth full and wondered at the differences between this old, moulding and foreboding house and the Dursley home which was immaculate and foreboding in an entirely different way. He would take the house on Grimmauld which was filled with the overwhelming sense of dark magic and had shrunken elf-heads on the walls over the house on Privet Drive, where he was belittled and hated just for existing, any day. He could see that his Godfather didn't like his ancestral home and that Hermione and the twins would twitch at every creak the house made but Harry felt better than he had the whole summer.
He grinned seeing his bushy haired friend tut at Fred who stole one of his pancakes and the redhead guiltily put half of it back on his plate with a muttered 'Sorry' and 'Not like you're gonna eat all that, right, Harry?'
Yeah, life was good at Grimmauld.
The twins, the two girls, Sirius and Harry had already finished breakfast by the time Mrs. Weasley arrived with a bag full of groceries and various breakfast foods already half made. She probably started them back at the Burrow so that she could finish them in a moment once she arrived.
Her eyes widened upon seeing all the empty and full plates and Harry Potter baking what must have been the last of the pancakes. She saw two of her sons sitting contentedly and patting their stomach listening to a story Sirius was telling them from when he was still in Hogwarts while Harry and Hermione talked quietly by the stove.
"Oh, my! Good morning, dears!" she exclaimed "I see you've already had breakfast."
Even while saying this she proceeded to ignore the pancakes in favour of making more food. In a moment she had the bacon and eggs on the stove while she started to mix the porridge.
"Mum! You have to try Harry's pancakes! They're divine!" urged George.
"Good morning Mrs. Weasley." chorused everyone not Weasley while Ginny and Fred just waved at their mother.
"Oh, Harry, dear! You shouldn't have! When did you arrive? Have you also eaten? You look awfully thin, dear. You should eat some more." she decided, not paying attention to Harry's half open mouth as he tried to answer "Would you like some bacon with eggs?"
"No, Mrs. Weasley, thank you." the boy said quickly, seeing the Weasley matron was already making her way to put the food on a clean plate "I'm full already, Hermione made sure of that." he said with a smile.
"Oh, well, then. Don't hesitate to ask if you're hungry, understood?" she said with a stern look, then turned to her children "Boys, Ginny, have you also eaten too? Hermione? Would you like some bacon? Sirius? You should put on some more weight!"
The older man smiled and scratched the back of his neck in embarrassment at being treated like a child.
"No, Mum. But you really should try Harry's pancakes!"
"In a moment. Where's Ron? Still sleeping?"
"Yeah," said George.
"Well, then, Ginny, dear, Run and wake him! We have lots of cleaning to do today!
Everyone groaned in unison while Harry looked at them, obviously amused.
"Surely it's not that bad?" he queried.
The twins looked at him with horrified expressions, while Hermione choked a bit.
"No, it's worse." answered Sirius finally "come on, lets get you into some suitable clothes."
Once upstairs Sirius left Harry to his own devices and went to dress. Harry went into the room he shared with Ron to find his friend groaning in bed while Ginny was singing an off-tune muggle song into his ears. He grinned.
"Why, good morning!"
"Harry! Save me from this banshee, mate!"
The black haired boy snorted and moved towards his trunk to fish out same hand-me-downs he received from the Dursleys. They would be perfect for cleaning the old house.
"Naw, mate I'd rather not have her on my back, thanks!" he said with a grin.
Then Ron bolted uprights in his bed almost butting heads with Ginny, who hastily backed away from the bed, a surprised scowl on her face.
"Harry!" said Ron with wide eyes "You're here!"
He looked at the redhead in the bed with amusement swimming in his eyes while Ginny laughed outright.
"Yeah, I'm here." he conceded.
"But, when did you arrive?"
Harry looked at his tattered watch "Umm...about 3 hours ago, I guess."
"What?" Ron cried in outrage "Why ever did you get up that early? It's barely daybreak yet!"
"Ron! It's already half past seven! You'll have to get up much earlier once we're back at school!" came the admonishing voice of Hermione from the doorway.
"Yeah Ron, and Harry made pancakes!" quipped Ginny.
The red haired girl then promptly continued to sing the inane muggle pop song about rainbows and dewy fields. Ron groaned and pulled himself from under the comfortable covers, glaring at his younger sister who just smiled pleasantly at him and twirled her wand. The tall boy shuddered at that motion and quickly moved to get out his clothes for the day. Seeing that the boys were about to dress the two girls left them talking amiably about the twins' joke shop.
After everyone had finished breakfast Mrs. Weasley herded everyone into a room upstairs. Harry realized that his first thoughts in the hallway were inaccurate. The hallway was clean. This room on the other hand!
For several moments he just stood in the doorway in astounded silence while the others were pouring inside sighing and muttering.
The room was much like the one that Ron and he would share from now on. Mrs. Weasley flicked her wand and the same type of gas lamps and a silver chandelier came to life lightening the room. If the goal was to make it more welcoming then it was a total and absolute fail. The lights highlighted the room's sorry state. Peeling and blotchy wallpaper of indefinable colour, maybe peach? Cobwebs and dust everywhere. There was a huge glass cabinet with smudgy doors and many things inside. Harry couldn't really make out what they were so he unconsciously moved forwards to better see through the dirty glass.
"Harry!" he heard the shrill voice of Hermione and Mrs. Weasley screaming at him at the same time.
In his surprise he stood there like a deer caught in the headlights, his hand outstretched towards the cabinet's door-handle.
"Don't touch the cabinets without Sirius or me!" scolded Mrs. Weasley.
"Yeah, mate. You shouldn't then either." said Ron from next to the curtains "All kinds of nasty stuff in those! A few days back I found a ring that actually wanted to eat my finger!" he whined.
"That was because it was a family ring!" rounded in on him Hermione "It's obvious that you shouldn't try on any heirlooms of Dark families!"
Ron blushed a brilliant red that clashed horribly with his hair, then paled staring towards the door where the last Black had just then entered. Seeing his friend's face Hermione turned around and blushed to her ears.
But Sirius did not acknowledge her sputtering but turned towards Harry.
"Harry, what are you doing there?" he asked with a definite sharpness in his tone "Don't touch those cabinets without me okay? Wouldn't put it past them to bite your hand right off."
The boy gulped and nodded, Sirius was rarely so serious. No pun intended. The man then turned towards the others, especially to Hermione who was still looking at him nervously. "Sorry." she said.
Sirius blinked at her. "For what? Calling my family dark? That's what they were, I'm not in denial about it, Hermione. I haven't been for quite some years now." he smiled ruefully.
Hermione almost said something but then they were interrupted by the high pitched scream of Ron, who managed to pull the curtains open with the help of his brothers. They were swarmed by small beetle like creatures with black fur covering their bodies. For a moment Harry thought they were fairies, they were moving so fast and on shiny wings.
"Whoa!" he exclaimed and stepped back as one of the small things zapped close to his face and opened its mouth intent on biting his nose.
He heard his Godfather shout "Stupefy!" and the creature that was totally not a fairy, what with those sharp teeth, dripping something that Harry was sure must have been venom, and small beady eyes, fell to his feet. Harry looked up and saw that everyone was shouting that same spell, except for Ron, Hermione and Ginny who were still under-age. They were battling the creatures with anything that fit in their hands and was useful against the things.
The hardwood floor was soon littered by the small furry creatures, they were actually quite evil looking, with their black faces and sharp teeth. He puffed out a breath and looked around the room of panting people. Hermione's hair was even fuzzier than usual and Ginny's silky locks were out of place too. Mrs. Weasley and Sirius also looked quite ruffled. He imagined he looked something like them, though his hair was not nearly as long. Only Ron and the twins who had short hair came out of the small battle relatively normal looking. Though they were panting and quite red in the face too.
Ron was also nursing a bite on one of his fingers. His mother swiftly handed him a potion and Ron downed it without complaint. It looked quite practised.
As did the quick movements of the twins. They were actually collecting the unconscious creatures into a small bag while their Mother was preoccupied by Ron.
Then Sirius grinned at him. "Welcome to Grimmauld, Harry."
The first week of his stay was filled with cleaning the doxy infested and run-down house, and hearty meals at the huge kitchen table, with lots of laughing and bonding. He got to know Kreacher, the mean and muttering house-elf. He and Ron had almost attacked the creature when it spewed some overly vicious things about Hermione's heritage. They had to listen to the girl's lecture for almost an hour after that stunt. He also had several run ins with Sirius' mother.
Walburga Black was a horrid woman. Harry understood what Sirius meant by not being sorry for her death. He felt his dislike for any other Black than Sirius increase when his Godfather showed him the family tapestry. There were way too many black holes to be healthy in any family and he actually learnt that he was cousins with a lot of Death Eaters and even Malfoy! Though thank Merlin it wasn't a close relation. He learnt that most pure-blooded families were connected, usually by more than one family member. "In-breeding" Sirius said.
Harry got closer to Sirius than he had been in the 2 years since they have known each other. He watched increasingly worried as his exuberant and brave Godfather suffered from being locked up in his childhood home.
Sirius told him about his escape from the family when he was 16 and the happy years he had living at the Potter residence. Harry listened to the stories he told about his father with gleaming eyes, grateful for every little information.
He noticed that Sirius sometimes had trouble realizing who Harry was actually. His godson or his long lost best-friend. He sometimes called Harry 'James'. Sometimes he realized it. Then he looked at his godson guiltily with lots of sadness and a little anger in his eyes. Harry didn't know if he was angry at him, for not being James, or at himself, for not being able to make the distinction. Probably a little of both. Then he would promptly run off and spend hours with Buckbeak in one of the rooms on the 3rd floor.
All the same Harry adored his ex-convict Godfather. He thought about how to make his life easier. He was increasingly worried that someday Sirius would defy the main rule of his life and just go out. Harry was very scared of losing the last family he had.
On Friday their Hogwarts letters arrived. Harry was with Ron in their room when Mrs. Weasley brought the letters.
Harry was reading through his list of supplies for his Fifth Year at Hogwarts with a frown on his face. He lifted his head to ask Ron if he had the Defence textbook in his letter, since they obviously forgot to write it in his.
However Ron's face was a rather unhealthy shade of yellowish red with white blotches so he quickly forgot about it.
"Ron?" he asked "You all right, mate?"
The taller boy looked at him from his letter with a slightly hysterical gleam in his eyes.
"What?" Harry was sure he heard wrong.
Now that Ron mentioned it he remembered that the Prefects were appointed in 5th Year. But Ron? His grades were not nearly as good as most of their Gryffindor classmates. He wondered if Hermione made it. Then internally snorted. Who else if not Hermione?
However Ron was not dissuaded by his apparent disbelief and it seemed that he finally realized the fact himself. "I'm PREFECT!" he grinned at Harry and held up the shiny badge with a big 'P' on it.
Harry was still staring at him disbelieving and Ron was just about to frown and call him on his lack of enthusiasm when Hermione burst into the room.
"I'm prefect!" she screamed obviously ecstatic, then turned to Harry not seeing the red-head's opening mouth "Were you appointed too Harry? Yours were the best grades is Defence Against the Dark Arts and you're the second best Gryffindor in Charms!" it went without saying that she was the first of all houses.
Harry was just about to answer when he saw Ron's face colour, this time not from happy embarrassment but because of anger.
"No, Harry didn't make Prefect." he said icily "I did."
"What?" Hermione asked stupidly. However Ron had already stormed from the room.
Harry put his face in his hands and mumbled "Ron was appointed the Gryffindor Prefect with you, not me." he tried to quell the pang of jealousy and bitterness he felt at it, but he could hear that it didn't really work.
"Oh." came the uncharacteristic reply from Hermione.
"Yeah," Harry agreed "oh."
Ron held onto his grudge for almost the whole day. Though both Hermione and Harry said their heartfelt congratulations to him. Well they were heartfelt from Harry too after a few hours of stewing. When he got over his indignation at being denied something that he felt he deserved and something that he actually wished for on some level. After all it would have been the materialization of his heroic and selfless tendencies in a normal fashion.
But then he realized that he really did hate being in the spotlight. And being a prefect would have automatically put him in the spotlight. For everyone. He probably could not have managed with any more attention than what he already had just for being The-Boy-Who-Lived, thank you very much.
After he realized this he actually meant his happiness for Ron. The poor boy was constantly teased by the twins and Mrs. Weasley told everyone who listened that every one of her sons was a prefect now! Which, in turn, made the twins send her indignant remarks such as 'And what are we? Puppies?'. It was hilarious.
Ron was constantly blushing and obviously uncomfortable but it was also easy to see that he basked in the attention he received. Though it dampened slightly when Mrs. Weasley announced that they would hold a party for Ron and Harry the next day. For Harry as a belated birthday party and for Ron to celebrate his accomplishment. It was clear how proud the Weasley matron was at her youngest son.
Mrs. Weasley actually wanted to hold the party that very evening but there was an Order meeting. Actually in the one week since Harry was there they already held two meetings.
The children were banished to their rooms every time, though Sirius fought on Harry's side, insisting that they let Harry sit in on the meetings. Truth be told Harry couldn't decide if he felt angry at being left out or happy. His more pressing worry was that the Headmaster refused to look at him whenever he visited.
However since the last time Fred and George had brought out their newest invention, The 'Extendable Ears', they had all the same information as everyone else in the house. The twins were brilliant at Charms, even Hermione admitted this.
However they didn't get any really interesting information from that first Order of the Phoenix meeting they eavesdropped on, except for the fact that apparently Mundungus Fletcher was missing. Harry's mouth hang open when he heard that there was a circulation of guards around Privet Drive for his safety. He thought of Mrs. Figg's daily visits with suspicion but quickly brushed it aside. Mrs. Figg? No way! And if he thought about it, it was quite reasonable that he had guards, after all, Voldemort was back. Still, some guards they were if he could just walk away!
Not that the twins were dissuaded from listening in on other meetings. He could see from the mischievous smirks on their faces that they'd be spying that night too. He actually found himself excited at the prospect.
For the Order meeting that night there were two more participants than before. Bill and Charlie arrived in time to have dinner with everyone. Harry had last seen them last year during the Tournament so he had mixed feelings when they appeared. Seeing Charlie and Bill brought back memories of Cedric and the fight in the graveyard. The dead eyes. And strangely the long, dark corridors he had been dreaming about.
He was still happy to see them though. Bill was like a very cool big brother to him and, though he didn't know him as well, Charlie also seemed like a nice person, even if he seemed to be worried about something at the moment. And he worked with dragons! How cool was that?
So he smiled and greeted them warmly. Many other Order members also came in time to have dinner with them at the huge kitchen table. Like Nymphadora Tonks, or Tonks as she insisted to be called, who entertained the company by changing her appearance according to their wishes. Apparently she was a metamorphmagus. Harry asked her if she could teach him with no little hope to acquire the ability to blend into the crowds. However Tonks told him that it was an ability one must be born with not something you learn.
Professor McGonagall and several other Order members also voted for the dinner the Weasley matron made. The only people who arrived in time to see Mrs. Weasley shoo the children into their rooms was Snape and the Headmaster.
Harry wasn't surprised at Snape, he always made it his priority to spend as little time in Grimmauld or around other people as he could. It was still not short enough for him. At the previous meetings he realized that Snape's hate for his old schoolmate did not abide over the years. Well, that shouldn't have surprised him. Snape hated him too, just for being a Potter. Harry made peace with himself about the Potions Professor having the Dark Mark, hell he actually defended the man in front of Ron. Why couldn't he forgive a child, several years younger than him, for something he couldn't have control over? The git.
Dumbledore however yet again made a point to avoid looking at Harry. He greeted all the children quite jovially but just when his gaze would've swept over Harry he quickly turned his head. Harry felt sick. Why was the old man doing this?
The Order meeting started boring as usual. Dumbledore greeting everyone. Harry was more occupied by the fact that he was lying next to Ron on the top of the stairs and the red-head found a reason to drive his elbow into his side every other minute.
Then came a report from a voice that Harry realized belonged to Hestia Jones.
"Headmaster, during my patrol around Privet Drive yesterday, I admit, till now I didn't know why ever you wanted us to guard Potter's good -for-nothing family! I met his cousin on a street not far from their house and he was about to get his soul sucked out by a dementor! There were two dementors! Two!" she cried desperately.
"What?" bellowed Sirius "Weren't the dementors still under the Ministry, Kingsley?" he asked reproachfully.
However the black man couldn't answer because Dumbledore cut in.
"How is the boy, Hestia?" he asked urgently "Were you on time?"
"Yes, I was." she assured "Just so, but the boy's soul is quite intact. I don't know, however, what he told his parents, since you forbid us from using magic on them."
Harry grinned at that. He would so love to be present for that conversation! He momentarily dismissed the part about Dumbledore forbidding the Order members from using magic on his relatives. In his daydreams he completely missed the next few seconds of the meeting and only came back to himself because Ron, yet again, embedded his elbow in his side. He turned to frown at the lanky boy but his friend was motioning with his head towards the kitchen so Harry turned back to the conversation through his Extendable Ear.
For some reason they were yet again arguing if he should have been allowed in the meeting. Most probably Sirius had brought it up again. They were arguing about it in the previous two times too. And it would probably end up like last time...
"We have talked about this already, Sirius!" bellowed Dumbledore in the end "Harry is not yet of age, as such he can not be a member of the Order!"
"He is just a child, Sirius!" cried Molly "Why ever would you want him in the middle of the war?"
There was a heavy, unbelieving silence upon that sentence. Harry stared ahead without seeing anything. Mrs. Weasley seriously believed that whatever happened on the war-front Harry wouldn't be in the middle of it? That's crazy! So far Voldemort attacked him one way or another every year! Hell, she was there when he brought back Cedric's dead body! He still flushed at that particular memory. He was really unused to hugs.
"Yes, Molly, quite." acquiesced the Headmaster "What news from the Ministry, Kingsley?"
"Fudge still denies that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned." he said morosely "He is telling everyone how you're trying to overturn the Ministry, by spewing lies, Headmaster."
"Well, It seems my hope, that Cornelius will see reason was misplaced." said the Headmaster with a heavy sigh "It seems he will make our work even harder."
The students lying on the steps heard Sirius snort through the earpieces. "You actually expected Cornelius Fudge to do anything but? The man is completely useless!"
"As much as I hate to agree with the mutt on anything it is so." said Snape "Fudge will only accept the truth when the Dark Lord walks into his office." he sneered.
Dumbledore sighed again. "Yes, that might be so." then he moved the conversation "Bill?"
"The goblins are restless Headmaster. However they won't tell me the reason." Ron's brother sounded upset "They keep saying that something is coming, something that would have an impact on their bank-system, but they immediately shut up when they see me."
"That's quite troubling, my dear boy." Dumbledore agreed "Quite troubling indeed."
However he did not elaborate on his thoughts.
"What do you know about the reactions abroad?" he asked at last "Do the foreign governments believe us?"
There was a quiet gasp in the room and then the Headmaster's voice "Charlie?"
"Well, Romania, for one, certainly believes that He is back." he said in a strong voice "They ordered every British wizard and witch to leave the country." he finished quietly.
He heard Ron and the twins sharp intake of breath. That meant Charlie lost his job at the dragon reserve. Harry felt saddened at the thought.
"Oh, Charlie! Why didn't you tell us?" asked Mrs. Weasley weakly "I thought it was strange that you've been at home for almost a week now, but..."
"I was trying to make them change their decision, Mum. I have been sending owls to the Reserve, to my friends and superiors but it's out of their hands." Harry had the impression that Charlie's head was in his hands "They're afraid. Afraid that You-Know-Who will go there again. You probably don't know but there are horror stories about the few years He spent there as a...a ghost, or whatever He was. They don't want him there as himself." he finished with a sigh.
"That's most unfortunate, my boy." Dumbledore said "It, however, is quite beneficial to one of my ideas." he said.
Harry bristled. Beneficial to his ideas? Charlie lost his dragons and the Headmaster already has an idea to use him? The boy glowered at the stair in front of him.
"How well do you know young Harry?" The room was obviously just as thrown by the sudden change of topic as the eavesdroppers.
"Harry?" Charlie asked and the old man must have nodded for he soon continued "Well I have met him last year at the Burrow and we went to the Cup, and of course at the Tri-Wizard Tournament. He is quite good on a broom and he handled that Horntail beautifully!" Harry blushed at that and Ron snickered next to him, just to earn a swat on his shoulder from Hermione "But I think Bill is closer to him than me. Right?" he must've turned to his brother at that.
"Yes, I think we're good friends with Harry." they heard Bill say and Harry felt his insides warm up. So Bill thought so too! He smiled.
"Why, Headmaster?" that was Charlie again.
"I just wanted to know how you would feel at becoming Harry's bodyguard at Hogwarts this year?"
"WHAT?" several people shouted at once, including Ron, even though Hermione and Harry quickly plastered their hands over his mouth and he grinned sheepishly. Hermione looked lost in thought. Harry was also surprised. Bodyguard?
"I thought you said Hogwarts was safe, Dumbledore!" accused Sirius.
"Well, yes it is from outside foes." he admitted "I, however, cannot vouch for certain students." he said with sadness in his tone. They heard Snape grunt.
Everyone knew he was talking about the Slytherins. "Malfoy!" Ron breathed, angered at the mere thought of the blond boy. Harry quietly agreed though he would've included the Defence teachers in that statement.
"But..." Charlie started "How would I even get inside the castle? You cannot mean to tell the entire student body that I'm to be Harry Potter's bodyguard?" he cried disbelieving.
They heard Snape's derisive snort. "It's obvious you'd be there as some kind of teacher, probably Defence Against the Dark Arts, idiot Gryffindor."
"Now there, Snivellus!" Sirius shouted "No one asked your opinion!"
They heard a chair fall back closely followed by another. Harry was afraid the two would fight there, in the middle of a meeting.
"Calm down, my boys!" said Dumbledore at the same time as Mrs. Weasley's shrilly screamed "Sirius! Severus! Don't you feel ashamed of yourselves? Behave!" even the small group's ears ringed, Harry didn't want to think about what the people in the room felt. Mrs. Weasley could be scary. And a few moments later he heard two chairs slide up again and he thought he even heard a muttered "Yes, ma'am." from Sirius!
"I'm sorry to say Severus, that the Defence position is not available for Charlie to take..."
"You think my son is not qualified?" interrupted the Headmaster Mr. Weasley surprising everyone with the quiet protectiveness in his voice.
"No, Arthur, I believe Charlie to be quite capable of filling the position." Dumbledore placated "However the Board of Governors informed me of their wish to appoint a teacher for the post themselves."
Meaning they ordered Dumbledore not to look for a teacher himself.
"Who?" came the sharp question from the dour Potions professor.
"I don't know." the old wizard admitted.
That sounded ominous. However Harry though the person the Governors chose couldn't be a lot worse than some the Headmaster himself would. He had prior experience to that.
"Then what would be my position in the school Headmaster?" Charlie queried.
"I thought you'd make an excellent caretaker next to our dear Mr. Filch." Dumbledore said jovially and Charlie groaned. "He can't quite take care of every magical problem the castle has for obvious reasons." Harry could almost see the twinkles in the man's blue eyes.
I decided here would be a good place to finish this chapter. So now I announce that the 3rd chapter of 'Emerald Cocoon' is finally finished! It's by far the longest chapter I've ever written and the hardest too. It was a real fight with words. I have proofread it a few times so I hope it's up to the standards of the previous two.
I tried to keep everyone in character as much as I could. And Charlie finally made an appearance! And he is staying! Yay! I was so waiting for him! :)
I thank you for reading this chapter too!
Please share your thoughts. I always dance around for a whole day when I receive a review!