A/N. I'm ashamed of myself, I really am. This was supposed to be up months ago, yes MONTHS, but I was having huge trouble with the fight scene between Molly and Sirius, and I was very reluctant to just rush through it and write something half hearted. Because there are so many fics like that, and I made a promise to myself when we started writing this, and that was that this was going to be different! And I hope you think we have succeeded in that, because frankly I'm kind of proud of this one. AND it's again almost 22k words sooo.. it's a fucking monster size wise.
And even through all this I have had time to do other stuff than sit here and agonize over Sirius and Molly, and I read 'Beautiful World' and believe me I cried. I t was heartbreakingly fascinating, and as much as I whished Harry wouldn't die, we all knew it had to happen. But that last line… just broke my heart. And it was really all that emotion that poured from that fic that made me really take a grip of this and force my head to wrap around Sirius and Molly, and even more importantly Harry.
Hopefully it won't disappoint…
"Hello, Harry," he said grimly, "I see you've met my mother."
"That's it," Mrs. Weasley said quietly, placing the book carefully on the table in front of her.
"I think we should read one more chapter before lunch, is that okay for everyone?" Dumbledore looked around the room, but before anyone could answer the door opened, and guess who stepped through. It was none other than their loved potions professor Snape. The room fell silent, and he glared at them all.
"I hope I didn't interrupt anything?" he sneered, and only Dumbledore seemed to look unaffected.
"Of course not dear boy, come here, sit! Nymphadora was just about to start reading," Tonks shrugged and reached for the book, and flipped open to the next chapter.
"The Order of the Phoenix,"
The room was tense as Tonks reached for the book. The sudden appearance of Snape had soured Harry's and Sirius's mood even further. The last chapter had been a relatively good one compared to the others, but Sirius didn't want to kid himself and start thinking that they had gotten over the hardest part, because he knew that was a lie.
Harry on the other hand had hoped that his most hated professor, after Umbridge, wouldn't be present for the rest of the day. Was it really too much to ask for that he wouldn't have to put up with the git on his holiday? Especially reading about his life! He felt the frustration well up in him again just thinking of all the snide remarks he would get to hear about his thoughts, his private thoughts months ago.
The room was silent when Tonks started reading, and Moody was keeping an eye on everything going on. He didn't trust that man any more than he trusted a brick wall, because even walls have ears. Once a death eater, always a death eater. Or that was what Moody thought.
Hermione was looking very thoughtful, glancing at Harry and then back down at her wand frowning.
"The Order of the Phoenix,"
"My dear old mum, yeah,"
Sirius snorted. He hated his mother as much as he hated this house. It was all because of her that he had in the end given up and ran away. Leaving his brother behind and Sirius had always known that was a big part of the bitterness between him and his brother. He had never been able to fix that again, and look what happened. His baby brother was dead. Sirius hated his mother.
Harry nudged Sirius in the side, breaking the older man out of his thoughts.
"Are you alright?" Harry felt stupid asking that, but it was the best he could come up with. He could clearly see that Sirius was in fact not alright, and he felt like he had asked that same thing over and over again these last two days. It was getting repetitive.
"Yeah, don't worry about me pup. I'm fine," Sirius ruffled Harry's hair, but avoided Remus' dubious eyes. Moony always had a way of knowing things he wasn't supposed to know and after that episode in the kitchen earlier he was bound to be on high alert.
said Sirius. "We've been trying to get her down for a month but we think she put a Permanent Sticking Charm on the back of the canvas. Let's get downstairs, quick, before they all wake up again."
Harry exchanged a glance with Hermione, and she shrugged. He had asked her about that earlier when Snape walked in, but she hadn't known anything that could've helped them get it down. But if Harry knew his friend as good as he thought he did, he was sure there was that ever familiar light in her eyes, that usually meant that she had a mystery to solve and that she wouldn't rest before she had all the facts right. Harry had no doubt that they would get that painting down sooner or later, and really, Sirius probably wouldn't object to demolishing the whole wall if necessary.
"But what's a portrait of your mother doing here?" Harry asked, bewildered,
"Harry, Harry, Harry…" Fred shook his head in mock disappointment.
"Really, is it that hard to figure out?" George sighed deeply, before snickering with his twin. Harry rolled his eyes.
He had never had that much time to talk with his godfather before this summer, and hadn't known much about anything. Least of all Sirius' family, seeing as his godfather very rarely talked about them.
Of course he had always felt connected to him, and they had exchanged letters over the summer before fourth year. But when he had gotten to spend time with Sirius at the headquarters… he had gotten a feel of the 'family' he could have had if Pettigrew hadn't escaped. And they had talked, more than Harry had ever talked to any adult and he felt closer to Sirius than any other adult too. He had learnt so much about his godfather, but he couldn't deny that there were things that Sirius avoided talking about. Like his years at Azkaban, and a bit of their Hogwarts years. Harry could always tell when it got too painful for his godfather and backed down even though he would have liked to hear more about his parents.
But it couldn't happen, and that was just his life. The family part that is.
as they went through the door from the hall and led the way down a flight of narrow stone steps, the others just behind them.
"Hasn't anyone told you? This was my parents' house," said Sirius. "But I'm the last Black left, so it's mine now. I offered it to Dumbledore for Headquarters - about the only useful thing I've been able to do."
The adults in the room glanced at each other. It had been a very lucky thing that Sirius was indeed the last Black. It would otherwise have been Draco Malfoy's house, and they all knew who could have gotten access to its dark secrets then. The house was filled with objects that would have been very bad in the hands of certain death eaters. They had been cleaning the junk out of the house for months now, but it had been a real sight the first time they had stepped in through the door.
Kind of ironic though, the headquarters for the light side residing in this house, the epitome of darkness.
Harry, who had expected a better welcome, noted how hard and bitter Sirius's voice sounded.
Sirius widened his eyes and threw his arms around his godson bringing him close, ignoring the snort that Remus let out.
"Welcome Harry! My favourite godson here at last," Sirius almost shouted straight into his ear, and Harry rolled his eyes but laughed anyway.
"I'm your only godson," he pointed out, and got an elbow in the side for his trouble. He pouted at his godfather playfully rubbing his chest, and moving his chair further away.
"Oh shut it," Sirius laughed and reached out to ruffle Harry's hair.
"Well you're my favourite godfather too," Harry ducked the offending hand and smoothed his hair over his forehead, lifting his head haughtily and raised an eyebrow. And then he met the eyes of Ron and burst out laughing.
The only person in the room not even a bit amused by the antics of the two Gryffindor's, was our much loved potions master. Clearly he should have just stayed away, Snape thought with a deep sneer lining his face. If this was what his day would look like, he was not going to hold himself responsible for any injuries he caused. But he couldn't deny himself in the fact that he had been intrigued about the things going on. Maybe he could finally catch the brat red handed –even three months late was better than nothing.
Dumbledore looked on sadly. This was the most animated he had seen the two men for a long time. And yes, two men. Harry had gone through too much to be considered a boy anymore, but he still needed the protection.
He followed his godfather to the bottom of the steps and through a door leading into the basement kitchen.
It was scarcely less gloomy than the hall above, a cavernous room with rough stone walls. Most of the light was coming from a large fire at the far end of the room. A haze of pipe smoke hung in the air like battle fumes, through which loomed the menacing shapes of heavy iron pots and pans hanging from the dark ceiling.
Molly frowned to herself at that. She had been trying so very hard to make at least the kitchen look welcoming and less dark than the rest of the house. This description though didn't seem very positive. She didn't know what to do! The kitchen had always been where she belonged; where she felt strong and needed, and now she couldn't even get it clean! The house seemed to be fighting back, and every battle they won the house would strike back tenfold next time.
But nothing stopped a determined Weasley!
Many chairs had been crammed into the room for the meeting and a long wooden table stood in the middle of them, littered with rolls of parchment, goblets, empty wine bottles, and a heap of what appeared to be rags.
Remus shook his head. That didn't sound very good for the Order. Wine bottles, that just made it seem like they sat down, got drunk, and went out on suicide missions. And what was with the rags?
Mr. Weasley and his eldest son Bill were talking quietly with their heads together at the end of the table.
Moody glared in the direction of the book, as if daring it to take it back. How foolish could they be? The meeting was over and there were curious ears on the loose! That was not the time to discuss any information. Constant vigilance!
Mrs. Weasley cleared her throat. Her husband, a thin, balding, red-haired man who wore horn-rimmed glasses, looked around and jumped to his feet.
Arthur smiled sheepishly at the old auror and his wife. Yes, not his brightest moment that was for sure. But he couldn't help feeling slightly amused at his description in the book. It was very accurate after all.
"Harry!" Mr. Weasley said, hurrying forward to greet him, and shaking his hand vigorously.
Harry smiled warmly at Mr. Weasley when the man turned to him. He really was one of the nicest men Harry knew, and he looked up to him immensely. And his never ending fascination with muggles made it impossible for them to have an awkward moment, there was always some question or another. And Harry could never fully express how grateful he was for the fact that Mr.- and Mrs. Weasley had welcomed him into their home so readily time after time, not caring about the risk they were under because of him. That meant more than anything.
The Weasley kid's in the room didn't say anything. They had always known Harry liked coming to the Burrow, but it seemed they hadn't really appreciated how much Harry loved it there. It was odd to think that someone with that much money, who was used to live in a very clean and un-cluttered house ever could enjoy living at the Burrow, as it was the complete opposite.
"Well, he always was bit of a nutter," Fred whispered to George before they both snorted. Yeah right!
What none of them fully realized yet was that it wasn't really Harry who lived in that house. He was the one who cleaned everything and then got shoved into his room to wait until the next task bestowed upon him. He only had money in the Wizarding world, and his hand-me-downs were much worse than anything the Weasley's owned.
"Good to see you!"
Over his shoulder Harry saw Bill, who still wore his long hair in a ponytail, hastily rolling up the lengths of parchment left on the table.
Molly shook hear head. Really, leaving things like that around for everyone to see, especially the children. But she couldn't deny that she was very happy that her son was home again, she was able to see him much more now, and she would have a chance to cut that hair again. And maybe that girl would grow on her. She could after all see how much she meant to him. But things always change.
"Journey all right, Harry?" Bill called, trying to gather up twelve scrolls at once. "Mad-Eye didn't make you come via Greenland, then?"
Moody rolled his eyes. It was a wonder these people hadn't all been killed already. He was evidently the only one to really consider the risks of these times. There were dangers lurking everywhere! No need to mention he was the only one in the room who had spent almost a year locked up in a trunk.
Dumbledore watched his old friend rile himself up, and shook his head fondly. It was very much like Alastor to force people under his charge to take every precautionary action possible. And though it annoyed the others at the time, there was no doubt in the matter that Alastor had saved many lives through the years. What many people didn't realize was that Alastor Moody was fiercely protective and would rather go through all those extra measures than see anyone getting hurt. Tonks would never find a better mentor than his scarred old friend.
"He tried," said Tonks, striding over to help Bill and immediately toppling a candle on to the last piece of parchment. "Oh no – sorry –
Fred and George snickered, and Ginny rolled her eyes shaking her head at Tonks who had narrowed her eyes at the twins. Remus moved closer and whispered something into the young auror's ear, and first the twins were smirking but their faces quickly grew doubtful when Tonks smiled at them.
Sirius and Harry turned simultaneously and smirked at Remus, who was quite resolutely not meeting their eyes. Sirius had been badgering him for ages about this, and Harry was just too observant for his own good. It just wasn't that simple. It never was, being a werewolf and all that.
Tonks seemed to notice Sirius too, and glared at him when she saw Remus' slightly pink cheeks – even though that was just too cute! Sirius really could be a pain in the arse when he wanted to, he should just go back to worrying about Harry.
"Here, dear," said Mrs. Weasley, sounding exasperated,
Molly smiled apologetically at Tonks, but the young witch waved her away. She knew she was a hazard to all things fragile, but that's what 'Reparo' was for after all. Oddly enough she was very good at that charm. She snorted.
and she repaired the parchment with a wave of her wand. In the flash of light caused by Mrs. Weasley's charm Harry caught a glimpse of what looked like the plan of a building.
Sirius cuffed his godson on the head lightly, and mock glared at him. Harry rubbed the side of his head with a slightly betrayed expression.
"What was that for? It was on the table, I saw it on accident," he grumbled, knowing very well that Sirius wouldn't believe him. Ron snorted, and Harry turned his head to glare at him.
"Oh, shut up Ron."
Mrs. Weasley had seen him looking. She snatched the plan off the table and stuffed it into Bill's already over laden arms.
"This sort of thing ought to be cleared away promptly at the end of meetings," she snapped, before sweeping off towards an ancient dresser from which she started unloading dinner plates.
Moody nodded to himself. At least one person understood that. If they didn't want to tell these kids anything, then they needed to make sure they couldn't get the information elsewhere. That was where it turned dangerous.
Bill took out his wand, muttered, "Evanesco!" and the scrolls vanished.
"Why didn't he do that from the beginning?" Ginny laughed. All that commotion over with a flick of her older brother's wand, but they had to start scrambling around. She wouldn't lie, she had been just as curious as Harry about those scrolls, but it seemed he had been the only one to catch a glimpse.
"Sit down, Harry," said Sirius. "You've met Mundungus, haven't you?"
The thing Harry had taken to be a pile of rags gave a prolonged, grunting snore, then jerked awake.
The twins, Ron and Ginny laughed hard at that one, and Molly glared disapprovingly at Sirius who was also laughing. He was the one who let that scumbag stay for dinner every time, even though it was Mundungus' fault Harry was almost killed. Of course Sirius had been angry, furious even but then why did he let that thief stay?
"I love your descriptions Harry! They are so spot on," Sirius laughed, even though the sound was a bit stilted if you listened closely. It was easier to be calm about this when he had Harry besides him, and he could make sure he was okay. But he had been this close to killing Dung when he first arrived there, and he had blown up on him several times after that. Then he had just sunken into a depression, feeling worthless for not being able to protect his godson in any way, and Moony had to come and drag him back to the land of the living. But Harry was here now, and Dung really provided information that they could not obtain form anywhere else. And the fact that Dung was homeless in all the ways that counted, he felt it was the right thing to do when he let him stay for dinner.
'Some'n say m'name?' Mundungus mumbled sleepily. "I 'gree with Sirius…"
Harry raised an eyebrow at his godfather, who smiled sheepishly. Yeah, Dung was trying very hard to stay on Sirius' good side these days, trying to avoid any more shouting.
Harry rolled his eyes, but couldn't deny that it felt good to know that Sirius had been angry at Mundungus, that he had been worried about him.
He raised a very grubby hand in the air as though voting, his droopy, bloodshot eyes unfocused.
Molly frowned. She didn't want her children near these kinds of people. People like Mundungus Fletcher were not good role models. She was dreading the fact that her boys seemed to enjoy talking to him so much, listening to his horrid stories about 'business'.
"The meeting's over, Dung," said Sirius, as they all sat down around him at the table. "Harry's arrived."
"Eh?" said Mundungus, peering balefully at Harry through his matted ginger hair. "Blimey, so 'e 'as. Yeah… you all right, 'Arry?"
Hermione snorted angrily. She didn't know what to think of Mundungus Fletcher. She was furious with him for risking her best friends life and then all those illegal things. But she had heard Sirius tell Remus that he was homeless, and couldn't help but to pity him, if just a bit. No one deserved that.
"Yeah," said Harry.
Mundungus fumbled nervously in his pockets, still staring at Harry, and pulled out a grimy black pipe. He stuck it in his mouth, ignited the end of it with his wand and took a deep pull on it. Great billowing clouds of greenish smoke obscured him within seconds.
Molly clucked her tongue, just bursting with the need to say something. Really, smoking in the kitchen?
"Owe you a 'pology," grunted a voice from the middle of the smelly cloud.
The women in the room wrinkled their noses at that. They hated when he smoked inside the house. Moody was only concerned with the fact that it obscured his vision, even though only partially because of his magic eye.
"Yeah he does," growled Sirius quietly so only Harry and Remus could hear him. Harry didn't feel like pointing out that it had been an apology, and Remus just decided to let Sirius brood in peace.
"For the last time, Mundungus," called Mrs. Weasley, "will you please not smoke that thing in the kitchen, especially not when we're about to eat!"
Molly nodded satisfied to herself.
"Ah," said Mundungus. "Right. Sorry, Molly."
The cloud of smoke vanished as Mundungus stowed his pipe back in his pocket, but an acrid smell of burning socks lingered.
"How lovely!" George snorted. He couldn't say he enjoyed the smell either, but Dung was hilarious. He also realized their mother didn't like him, so they made sure to spend just that much more time with the scruffy man, just so they could get on her nerves but not make her explode.
"And if you want dinner before midnight I'll need a hand," Mrs. Weasley said to the room at large. "No, you can stay where you are, Harry dear, you've had a long journey."
"You never make him help! And he's the only one who really wants to anyway!" Fred grumbled, but winked at Harry when Mrs. Weasley wasn't looking. Molly glared at her sons before glancing at Harry. She didn't want him to over work himself, he always looked so pale and weak, and she feared he would tire.
"A bit of work won't kill you," she frowned at them, before one last glance in Harry's direction.
Harry rolled his eyes. He had seen the look Mrs. Weasley gave him. It was like he was always healing from some severe sickness and he was never allowed to do anything. He wouldn't mind doing something, he was used to chores and felt bad when Mrs. Weasley was always cooking and cleaning by herself. He would gladly ask Dobby if he would want to help out at the Burrow if he didn't know that idea would be rejected by the Weasley's and their pride.
"What can I do, Molly?" said Tonks enthusiastically, bounding forwards.
"Okay, so Harry and Tonks are the only ones, but you never make them help!" George joined in before laughing. Everyone knew why no one wanted Tonks help, especially near glass and knives.
Tonks huffed playfully, and ignored the snickers from Sirius and Remus. She was perfectly aware of her own clumsiness, thank you very much.
Mrs. Weasley hesitated, looking apprehensive.
Tonks once again smiled reassuringly at Molly who was looking apologetic. It wasn't their fault her body wouldn't listen to reason.
"Er - no, it's all right, Tonks, you have a rest too, you've done enough today."
"No, no, I want to help!" said Tonks brightly, knocking over a chair as she hurried towards the dresser, from which Ginny was collecting cutlery.
Tonks smiled sheepishly when Moody snorted. That did sound kind of dangerous for anyone too close to her. Maybe they should just tie her down somewhere so she couldn't hurt anyone.
"I think it's cute," a warm whisper in her ear, and she flushed bright pink before quickly schooling her expression. She turned to smile at the man besides her, momentarily forgetting the room full of people and Sirius.
"Yes." Blush again.
Soon, a series of heavy knives were chopping meat and vegetables of their own accord, supervised by Mr. Weasley, while Mrs. Weasley stirred a cauldron dangling over the fire and the others took out plates, more goblets and food from the pantry. Harry was left at the table with Sirius and Mundungus, who was still blinking at him mournfully.
"Seen old Figgy since?" he asked.
Sirius snorted. Dung was bloody terrified of that old lady nowadays. Sirius always knew there was something about the old cat loving squib that he liked, she wasn't afraid to say it how she saw it and had been a real joy at meetings before he was chucked into Azkaban.
"No," said Harry, "I haven't seen anyone."
"See, I wouldn't 'ave left," said Mundungus, leaning forward, a pleading note in his voice, "but I 'ad a business opportunity -"
Ron scowled. He usually thought that Mundungus business stories were fairly hilarious, but leaving his best mate in trouble like that? Not cool.
"And that was more important than Harry?" Hermione cried out, an angry scowl lining her face. She couldn't even think about what could have happened if Harry hadn't been able to protect himself. And even then she remembered it had been a close call. She shuddered.
Harry felt something brush against his knees and started, but it was only Crookshanks, Hermione's bandy-legged ginger cat,
Hermione who was still very much angry huffed but didn't say anything.
who wound himself once around Harry's legs, purring, then jumped on to Sirius's lap and curled up. Sirius scratched him absent-mindedly behind the ears as he turned, still grim-faced, to Harry.
"You hate cats Padfoot, what's with this one?" Remus asked softly.
"Crookshanks is smart; he was the first one to believe in my innocence, if that makes sense?" Remus' face fell when reminded of those years believing Sirius to be guilty, that he deserved to be sent to Azkaban. It was easy to forget sometimes that Sirius wasn't the same happy young man anymore, but sometimes you could see the darkness in his eyes that hadn't been there before. And Remus couldn't deny that he was impressed with how Sirius handled Harry.
Sirius had changed, but it wasn't in a bad way.
"Had a good summer so far?"
"Sorry, stupid question really," Sirius grinned at his godson, who smiled back. How could he ever have thought it would have been a good idea to send Harry to that place? After all that had happened last year and they send him off somewhere and forbid any contact. He hadn't even had a real chance to talk with his godson with everything going on, the Order and the Ministry being the biggest reasons his time with Harry had been cut short. Really, he was the worst godfather in the world!
Harry watched as Sirius practically deflated in his seat, and looked over at Ron, but he only shrugged unhelpfully.
"No, it's been lousy," said Harry.
For the first time, something like a grin flitted across Sirius's face.
"Don't know what you're complaining about, myself."
"Sirius!" Molly exclaimed and Remus frowned at his friend. That really had been a stupid and insensitive thing to say, even more now that they knew what Harry had to put up with because of them. Sirius might not have known as much back then but saying something like that?
"Sorry Harry, I didn't know," Sirius tried to meet Harry's eyes but his godson wasn't looking at him. This book just couldn't leave that alone could it? He always had to be reminded of his relatives in some way, didn't he?
"Forget about it Sirius, it wasn't important," Harry flashed a quick smile at his godfather before looking down again, making Sirius feel even more guilty and Remus worried.
Moody frowned at the scene playing on in front of him, and then turned to Dumbledore. What was it that he had missed? Something important that had to do with the Potter boy it seemed like. He quickly realized Dumbledore wouldn't give him any answers.
Tonks, who had stumbled into the kitchen earlier, had her suspicions, but she still didn't understand what was going on. Had something besides the dementor attack happened with Harry's relatives?
"What?" said Harry incredulously.
"Personally, I'd have welcomed a Dementor attack. A deadly struggle for my soul would have broken the monotony nicely.
Remus elbowed Sirius hard for that one. It was a horrible thing to say to Harry. Remus knew Harry feared the possibility that Sirius would be recaptured, and he admitted that he was worried too. Add the fact that Harry's biggest fear was Dementors, Sirius really couldn't have picked a worse thing to say. And Remus clearly remembered telling Sirius this!
"What?" Sirius hissed, even though he knew perfectly well what he had done to deserve that one. He just didn't know how to apologize to Harry when he didn't even look at him.
"You know what Harry's boggart is!" Sirius winced, and reached out to Harry who still didn't look at him. But Harry shook his hand off.
You think you've had it bad, at least you've been able to get out and about, stretch your legs, get into a few fights… I've been stuck inside for a month."
Sirius would have glared at the headmaster, but he was too worried about his godson at the moment to really register what Tonks was reading.
Moody threw the man a calculating look. He had come to now Sirius Black quite well when he first started working under him at the Ministry. You could say Sirius and James had been his first students, like Nymphadora. He knew his tendencies of acting first thinking later, but Sirius wasn't a foolish man, far from it actually.
That had been one of the reasons he had been so shocked –yes, he was shocked, when he had arrived at the scene of the massacre, which was blamed on Sirius. Now in hindsight it had been so clear that there was something wrong with the picture woven by the Ministry, but at the time Alastor himself had been so caught up in the betrayal to think much of the fact that there had never been a trial. He was ashamed of himself.
Sirius Black was a changed man, no wonder after spending over a decade in Azkaban, but one thing was for sure. Sirius Black was as good at sitting still now as he had been twelve years ago, meaning that Dumbledore would have to revaluate his decision of locking him up or face the consequences, and Moody feared they would be tragic.
"How come?" asked Harry, frowning.
Really that had hit something inside Harry. It had reminded him so much of his own summer, and flared that memory of Sirius that first night at the Shack. Even after almost a year out of prison, he was still filthy and thin as a thread. His face was haunted, and Harry knew he would never quite get to know the Sirius his parents had known, the Sirius who had caused havoc all around him. It was too late to take back all those years, and until the Ministry could pull their heads out of their arses then Sirius would never be free.
"Because the Ministry of Magic's still after me, and Voldemort will know all about me being an Animagus by now, Wormtail will have told him, so my big disguise is useless. There's not much I can do for the Order of the Phoenix… or so Dumbledore feels."
Harry raised an eyebrow at Ron, who widened his eyes and quirked his lips. Harry forced his own lips from forming a smirk; it wasn't too hard when Hermione caught his gaze.
He had been speculating with Ron for some time about becoming Animagus, but they hadn't mentioned it to Hermione yet, they knew they would have to sooner or later, because they would need her help and she would kick their arses if they left her out of it. Harry had been able to smuggle some books out from the Black library, he had even conjured copies of the books so they wouldn't be noticed missing. He could only hope Sirius wouldn't notice, because it would be clear what they were trying to do if someone noticed which books he had nicked… borrowed.
Snape noticed this silent conversation but dismissed it from his mind under the notion to keep more alert for pranks, how that was even possible he didn't know as he was in the same room as those twin menaces. There was nothing in that sentence that would spark the interest of those dunderheads, he was sure.
There was something about the slightly flattened tone of voice in which Sirius uttered Dumbledore's name that told Harry that Sirius, too, was not very happy with the Headmaster.
Harry felt a sudden upsurge of affection for his godfather.
Harry didn't even bother to apologize and Sirius didn't shift any of his attention from his godson to that old coot. Instead he huffed and finally gave up on the staring match he had going on with the side of Harry's head, and ignoring the indignant grunt he slung his arm over the thin shoulders and brought him closer, just like yesterday. This time however he had to duck an incoming elbow to his gut, but it didn't deter him. Harry glared at him and Sirius glared back, using his size to his advantage and pinning the dark haired teen to his side.
"Don't shut me out Harry, you need me whether you like it or not." Harry huffed and tried to wriggle free, but Sirius was too big and too strong for him. So he gave up and slumped in his chair, letting himself pout at the mutt he called his godfather.
Hermione and Ron were watching them struggle, marvelling how relaxed Harry seemed even though he was annoyed at Sirius. Hermione could even detect a slight twitch in her friend's lip that clearly showed that he was fighting of a smile.
Snape was scowling, but as that wasn't anything unusual no one really paid any attention to him. And that suited him just fine.
"At least you've known what's been going on," he said bracingly.
Sirius glared at the wall behind the headmaster. Personally he would rather be in the dark and be able to go outside than be stuck at the Order meetings but unable to act. He would even skip the Order meetings if they would have gone with his idea and let him reside with his godson at Privet Drive in his Animagus form. He would have been able to keep an eye on Harry and make sure nothing happened. But somehow that idea had been shot down rather quickly.
"Oh yeah," said Sirius sarcastically. "Listening to Snape's reports, having to take all his snide hints that he's out there risking his life while I'm sat on my backside here having a nice comfortable time… asking me how the cleanings going -"
Everyone but Molly, Arthur and Dumbledore glared at the potions professor with varying degrees of anger and disgust. Snape ignored them all, a small smirk curling his mouth.
It was so rewarding to know that he could rile up that dog as much as he wanted, and then be able to watch as Black was unable to reciprocate and instead sink lower and lower into a depression first created by the time served behind the grimy walls of Azkaban.
Remus didn't hold his glower for long, but the reminder had him worrying about his friend all over again. He knew better than anyone that Sirius was bound to do something rash and stupid sooner or later if Dumbledore continued insisting that he stay in the house.
"What cleaning?" asked Harry.
"Trying to make this place fit for human habitation," said Sirius, waving a hand around the dismal kitchen. "No one's lived here for ten years, not since my dear mother died, unless you count her old house-elf, and he's gone round the twist - hasn't cleaned anything in ages."
Hermione huffed, but refrained from saying anything. She knew she was right in her beliefs but she wasn't blind. She realized now wasn't the time or place to start lecturing about it, she would have to find another way to go about things. And really she just wanted to hear Harry's thoughts about what happened next, Harry's thoughts were fascinating and she thought she was starting to understand a couple of things better.
"Sirius," said Mundungus, who did not appear to have paid any attention to the conversation, but had been closely examining an empty goblet. "This solid silver, mate?"
"Yes," said Sirius, surveying it with distaste. "Finest fifteenth-century goblin-wrought silver, embossed with the Black family crest."
Sirius snorted in disgust. For all that he cared Mundungus could take whatever he wanted… maybe he should strike up a deal. He could certainly make some profit from this. Not that he had anything to use it on in the house.
"That'd come off, though," muttered Mundungus, polishing it with his cuff.
Mrs. Weasley sniffed, and turned her nose away from the book. Mundungus Fletcher was a thief and a bad example for the kids, he certainly shouldn't be part of the noble Order of The Phoenix.
"Fred - George - NO, JUST CARRY THEM!" Mrs. Weasley shrieked.
The twins covered their smiles when their mother shot a sharp look their way. That one had been a close one, and that thing with Ginny, and once when they… well, maybe their mother had a point.
Harry, Sirius and Mundungus looked round and, a split second later, they had dived away from the table. Fred and George had bewitched a large cauldron of stew, an iron flagon of Butterbeer and a heavy wooden breadboard, complete with knife, to hurtle through the air towards them. The stew skidded the length of the table and came to a halt just before the end, leaving a long black burn on the wooden surface; the flagon of Butterbeer fell with a crash, spilling its contents everywhere; the bread knife slipped off the board and landed, point down and quivering ominously, exactly where Sirius's right hand had been seconds before.
Sirius examined his hand with wide eyes, not having noticed at the time how close he had been to being impaled. The twins were looking every bit as horrified as Mrs. Weasley. They had not realized how close they had been. It was sort of a golden rule in their jokes. Everything was good until someone got hurt, they didn't want to kill anyone! They really would have to think over some things.
"Sirius, we're really sorry-"
"-and we promise it won't happen again. We didn't mean anything to happen." Molly stopped herself from screaming, closing her mouth in shock. Her boys had just apologized, without being told to do it.
Sirius just waved them off looking as cheerful as ever, apparently already over the fact that he could have gotten his hand completely severed off. He had in his bewildered examination of his hand let go of Harry for a moment, but to Harry's own surprise he had not moved away and readily accepted the arm that hugged him closer for a second before relaxing around his shoulder.
"It's fine you two, don't worry about it. I've certainly come closer to losing an appendage before," Sirius reassured the twins who were looking sombre. Remus snorted rather loudly but tried to pass it off as a cough, and Harry noted how Tonks also snickered. Sirius shot them both a glower before punching the werewolf in the arm. It only seemed to set him off more. Soon they were both laughing.
"Professor Lupin, what is it?" Hermione asked after a moment, smiling slightly at the rapidly turning red man. Sirius tried to calm down, he really did! But then he would just catch another look of Moony's face and he would just crack up again. Tonks was barely controlling herself too; she had heard this story before. Unsurprisingly it was Remus who managed to calm down first, meeting many confused but amused faces looking at him, the most important one being Harry.
"It is a rather long story, involving a certain… joke we played on James in our fourth year. Sirius here had to be scarified in the progress. And I must insist you call me Remus, I'm not your professor any longer and haven't been for a long time now," Remus smiled, chuckling slightly when Sirius huffed besides him.
"It wasn't my fault that Prongs found out and turned the thing on us, you could have bloody well helped me! I was stuck in the…" Sirius trailed off suddenly, turning a very peculiar shade of pink before glaring at Remus who was laughing again. Snape turned his face away, hiding his hateful sneer from Dumbledore's overly observant eyes.
"You were stuck where?" Harry asked curiously, his big green eyes making Sirius just a bit more flustered. How did you lie to a face like that? That had certainly been one of the more embarrassing pranks gone wrong, and he had vowed to never speak of it again, and Moony had promised too! Traitor.
"It's a rather long story… I'll tell you later," he said quickly, trying to rein in the certain blush- NO! Sirius Black did not blush, it was just hot in here.
The twins on the other hand had been shocked out of their musings, and were gaping at each other mouthing 'Prongs' at each other.
"FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!" screamed Mrs. Weasley."THERE WAS NO NEED - I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS - JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE ALLOWED TO USE MAGIC NOW, YOU DON'T HAVE TO WHIP YOUR WANDS OUT FOR EVERY TINY LITTLE THING!"
Molly glared at her boys, but it wasn't as angry as it maybe would have been earlier.
"We were just trying to save a bit of time!" said Fred, hurrying forward to wrench the bread knife out of the table. "Sorry, Sirius, mate - didn't mean to -"
Harry and Sirius were both laughing;
Harry snickered remembering. The look on Sirius face had been rather hilarious and Dung slipping of that chair had certainly lightened the mood for them.
"You just laugh Harry, I could have been seriously hurt," his godfather pouted at him, but Harry wasn't about to take the bait for that one.
"Don't try that one with me, you were laughing too!"
Mundungus, who had toppled backwards off his chair, was swearing
Mrs. Weasley huffed. Yet another reason why that man was a bad example for her children.
as he got to his feet; Crookshanks had given an angry hiss and shot off under the dresser, from where his large yellow eyes glowed in the darkness.
"Boys," Mr. Weasley said, lifting the stew back into the middle of the table, "your mother's right, you're supposed to show a sense of responsibility now you've come of age -"
The twins looked down at their laps. Reprimands from their father were much harder and serious, because he rarely did it. They knew he really was disappointed in them if he got quiet and too calm, and they never wanted that. They wanted their parents to be proud of them without having to change who they were. It wasn't an act when they said that their names were Gred and Forge, they were maybe two separate persons but they both knew they would be lost without each other. Some may say this was a bad thing, but it meant security to them, to always know their other half is going to be there.
"None of your brothers caused this sort of trouble!" Mrs. Weasley raged at the twins as she slammed a fresh flagon of Butterbeer on to the table, and spilling almost as much again. "Bill didn't feel the need to Apparate every few feet! Charlie didn't charm everything he met! Percy -"
The Weasley's stiffened in their seats. Molly turned pale and looked over at her husband who was also looking paler except for the redness in the tip of his ears. It really was a big cloud over everything in their lives, and the fact that his son hadn't even visited him at the hospital… Arthur couldn't deny it hurt. His son… he could only wish.
The twins were barely keeping quiet, if only on the behalf of their parents.
Ginny merely flinched before glaring down at the floor, she may say she hated her brother and in some ways that was true, but he was family and he hadn't always been a stuck up prat. She loved all her brothers, and there was a reason she never said who was her favourite one. She was close with all of them, they were important for her in different ways. And Percy fitted into that picture, but he left, and that was inexcusable for her, for the family.
Ron was very tense, and his knuckles were white from how hard he was clenching his fists on his thighs. Hermione and Harry shared an uncomfortable look, both remembering that letter Percy had sent, not sure of what they were supposed to say to their friend. The finally settled on quiet support, Harry placing a hand on Ron's shoulder and Hermione clutching his hand tightly.
Sirius and Remus and Tonks shared a look, and Sirius shrugged before deflating under Remus' hard stare. Sirius never did have anything nice to say about Percy and it was something he and Remus talked a lot about. In Sirius eyes Percy had done the unthinkable, he had abandoned his family, almost betrayed them for the Ministry. And that was too close in Sirius' mind to one Peter Pettigrew. Remus just couldn't think badly of a person he barely knew, he needed to know the facts before he judged. They were very careful to keep these talks quiet, and even Sirius had enough tact not to mention him in front of any of the Weasley's.
She stopped dead, catching her breath with a frightened look at her husband, whose expression was suddenly wooden.
Arthur reassured his softly crying wife quietly, holding her close and whispering in her ear. Percy would come to his senses; there was too much proof and logical facts to ignore in the long run. Arthur just feared that it would be too late. He looked over his children, again realizing how much he had neglected them lately, they had all been hurting. In the moment were one of his children walked out he had forgotten the other ones, a mistake he wouldn't repeat.
"Let's eat," said Bill quickly.
Ginny almost snorted. Bill had the tact of an angry dragon. God, she missed him! He was the one she sought out when she needed decisions and logic. He helped her understand homework when younger and life now that she was older. There was so much he had taught her.
"It looks wonderful, Molly," said Lupin, ladling stew on to a plate for her and handing it across the table.
Remus smiled reassuringly when Molly glanced over at him with tearful eyes. He had always felt grateful for the presence of Molly Weasley in his life, and she had helped him through many years of depression, both as younger and after that fateful Halloween night.
For a few minutes there was silence but for the chink of plates and cutlery and the scraping of chairs as everyone settled down to their food. Then Mrs. Weasley turned to Sirius.
"I've been meaning to tell you, Sirius, there's something trapped in that writing desk in the drawing room, it keeps rattling and shaking. Of course, it could just be a Boggart, but I thought we ought to ask Alastor to have a look at it before we let it out."
Moody nodded to himself. It had been just a boggart, but he was pleased to hear that they were careful about it either way, maybe they weren't beyond saving after all. And the ridiculous notion that he knew what a boggart looked like? Why would he share that information? It could just be his biggest fear and then the enemy would know and take advantage and they would all die and the hope of the wizarding world would be extinguished. Yes, better to keep that secret to himself. Constant vigilance!
"Whatever you like," said Sirius indifferently.
"The curtains in there are full of Doxys, too," Mrs. Weasley went on. "I thought we might try and tackle them tomorrow."
Fred looked up startled at Harry who was sporting equally wide eyes. They had not counted on this happening whilst hiding their products from their mother. He knew Harry had seen them smuggling Doxys that day. Hopefully it wouldn't be mentioned!
Harry just didn't want to imagine Mrs. Weasley's reaction to him giving all his winnings to the twins. He knew Sirius wouldn't be upset, he would probably be proud of him. And that eased some of Harry's feelings of unease.
"I look forward to it," said Sirius. Harry heard the sarcasm in his voice, but he was not sure that anyone else did.
Molly frowned to herself thinking of that night. She was not proud of her actions, but she couldn't help but think there was some truth in her words.
Remus had certainly heard the sarcasm, and he remembered being partly worried and partly relieved. On one hand Sirius using sarcasm wasn't anything even remotely shocking, but after being imprisoned for so long he had become quieter in some ways and also more careful of what he said, like he feared he would insult someone and they would start hating him again.
But on the other hand Sirius never used to speak sharply to Molly, but after being in that house for so long unable to do anything, Remus could see why Sirius was getting very frustrated with Molly. She could be a bit overbearing at times, and Remus remembered very well that shouting match, and the hurt that had flickered in Sirius' eyes. How had he not thought to move in sooner?
Opposite Harry, Tonks was entertaining Hermione and Ginny by transforming her nose between mouthfuls. Screwing up her eyes each time with the same pained expression she had worn back in Harry's bedroom,
"I look pained when I do it?" Tonks asked curiously looking around the room. Her eyes landed on Remus who was trying to avoid her eyes, and she cast a suspicious look her cousin's way. Anything that made Remus go red was usually linked back to Sirius. And she was partially right on this one. There had been an instant involving a bit too much alcohol on Moony's part and some well masked questions on Sirius' part that somehow led to Remus confessing to his huge crush on Tonks. He had also let slip how cute he thought she looked when she concentrated on her transformation. Needless to say Remus had not been very happy in the morning.
"You look wonderful whatever you do Tonks, right Moony?" Sirius grinned and laughed when Remus glared at him, ignoring the questioning looks around the room. He winked at Tonks before ducking a sharp elbow to his guts.
"No Remus, remember what you promised! No violence, it was not my fault. You just-" Remus cut him off with a look that promised severe pain if he finished that sentence, so he settled on laughing instead, jokingly dragging a very confused but slightly amused Harry to shield him.
The moment was broken however by a very pointed scoff from Snape, and they turned back to the book, or in Sirius' case to glare at the git.
her nose swelled to a beak-like protuberance that resembled Snape's
Snape's glare shifted from Black to the dark haired brat besides the mutt.
The students in the room were laughing hard; even Hermione was giggling slightly behind her hand and besides her Ron was nearly breathless. The twins were encouraging Tonks to show them, but the young auror had enough self preservation to not even attempt it at the moment.
Harry was covering in his seat a bit, shrinking down trying to get out of direct aim from his professors wand. He did not trust those hands in those robe pockets. Sirius on the other hand had not even stopped to chuckle but had continued to glare at the slimy git. He may have promised to himself to try and make peace with Snape, but the way he was glaring a hole into his godson he didn't think it would really ever work.
, shrank to the size of a button mushroom and then sprouted a great deal of hair from each nostril.
Apparently this was a regular mealtime entertainment, because Hermione and Ginny were soon requesting their favourite noses.
"Do that one like a pig snout, Tonks."
Tonks obliged, and Harry, looking up, had the fleeting impression that a female Dudley was grinning at him from across the table.
The room tensed up slightly, and even the enraged potions professor shifted his eyes away. There were only three people in the room who didn't understand the sudden stillness.
Harry was bewildered. How did the slightest mention of the Dursley's freeze everyone up like this? He could practically feel Sirius shaking, and Ron and Hermione were shooting very odd looks his way. Mrs. Weasley was looking torn between furious and disgusted. The twins weren't smiling but instead shooting very dark looks at the book. Harry just didn't understand.
Tonks and Moody exchange looks over the table, silently coming to an understanding to find out more that would help them understand, but not now, maybe later when they could talk to Sirius or Dumbledore alone. Tonks cleared her throat and continued.
Mr. Weasley, Bill and Lupin were having an intense discussion about goblins.
"They're not giving anything away yet," said Bill. "I still can't work out whether or not they believe he's back. Course, they might prefer not to take sides at all. Keep out of it."
"I'm sure they'd never go over to You-Know-Who," said Mr. Weasley, shaking his head.
"They've suffered losses too; remember that goblin family he murdered last time, somewhere near Nottingham?"
"I think it depends what they're offered," said Lupin. "And I'm not talking about gold. If they're offered the freedoms we've been denying them for centuries they're going to be tempted. Have you still not had any luck with Ragnok, Bill?"
"He's feeling pretty anti-wizard at the moment," said Bill, "he hasn't stopped raging about the Bagman business, he reckons the Ministry did a cover-up, those goblins never got their gold from him, you know -"
Dumbledore frowned to himself slightly, but there was no other sign pointing to the very important thoughts roaming around his head.
The goblins would be a deadly factor in the war if they wanted, and Dumbledore feared the very same things as his fellow Order members. Tom Riddle had been a very charming young man, and he may have changed his appearance and name, but Voldemort still knew the right things to say and promise, even if he never intended to keep that promise. You could never know with the goblins and Voldemort could either get a priceless alley, or take a very big hit to his resources. Either way it wouldn't be pretty. Dumbledore feared he would have to withdrawn Mr. Weasley and Miss. Delacour from Gringotts sooner or later because the risks working with very suspicious goblins would be too high.
A gale of laughter from the middle of the table drowned the rest of Bill's words. Fred, George, Ron and Mundungus were rolling around in their seats.
Molly huffed again.
"… and then," choked Mundungus, tears running down his face, "and then, if you'll believe it, 'e says to me, 'e says, 'Ere, Dung, where did ya get all them toads from? 'Cos some son of a Bludger's gone and nicked all mine!' And I says, 'Nicked all your toads, Will, what next? So you'll be wanting some more, then?' And if you'll believe me, lads, the gormless gargoyle buys all 'is own toads back orf me for a lot more'n what 'e paid in the first place -"
Sirius chuckled slightly. He sometimes wondered how Dung was still alive.
"I don't think we need to hear any more of your business dealings, thank you very much, Mundungus," said Mrs. Weasley sharply, as Ron slumped forwards on to the table, howling with laughter.
Hermione shot Ron a look, silently telling him she was not impressed. He couldn't do more than shrug, Dung was funny.
"Beg pardon, Molly," said Mundungus at once, wiping his eyes and winking at Harry. "But, you know, Will nicked 'em orf Warty Harris in the first place so I wasn't really doing nothing wrong."
"How does he work that logic?" Tonks chuckled. She wasn't overly fond of Mundungus, but he wasn't a bad man, he just had his morals a bit upside down.
Sirius shrugged in response as no one answered. He seemed to be the most informed of the inner workings of Mundungus Fletcher, and that was shady at best.
"I don't know where you learned about right and wrong, Mundungus, but you seem to have missed a few crucial lessons," said Mrs. Weasley coldly.
Fred and George buried their faces in their goblets of Butterbeer; George was hiccoughing. For some reason, Mrs. Weasley threw a very nasty look at Sirius before getting to her feet and going to fetch a large rhubarb crumble for pudding. Harry looked round at his godfather.
"Molly doesn't approve of Mundungus," said Sirius in an undertone.
"No I don't. And I still don't understand why he is in the Order!" she exclaimed angrily. Arthur, who wanted to avoid another row, quickly dragged his wife down from where she had partially stood up in her anger.
"Dear Molly, you know very well that Mr. Fletcher has access to vital information that we wouldn't be able to come across without him. He is important." Dumbledore reminded Molly for the fourth time since Mundungus Fletcher had joined their ranks.
"Well yes, but that doesn't change the fact that he is a very bad example for all the kids-"
"Dear, we can talk about this later. Now is not the time, and the kids are fine. They know what's right and wrong," Arthur soothed quickly, shooting looks at all his kids. They were good people.
"How come he's in the Order?" Harry said, very quietly.
"He's useful," Sirius muttered. "Knows all the crooks - well, he would, seeing as he's one himself. But he's also very loyal to Dumbledore, who helped him out of a tight spot once. It pays to have someone like Dung around, he hears things we don't. But Molly thinks inviting him to stay for dinner is going too far. She hasn't forgiven him for slipping off duty when he was supposed to be tailing you."
Mrs. Weasley evidently wasn't finished.
"And how come you have Sirius?"
The room got quiet and eyes flicked between the two of them.
"Harry is fine, and we don't need fighting inside the Order. We need to keep together." Harry nodded besides Sirius, and Remus was smiling slightly. It was good to see that Sirius was still able to forgive. Because he had been furious, and he was still tense with Dung even though the number of shouting matches had dropped down significantly.
Three helpings of rhubarb crumble and custard later and the waistband on Harry's jeans was feeling uncomfortably tight (which was saying something as the jeans had once been Dudley's).
"So Harry, we are going shopping later," Tonks informed bluntly, and snickered at the look on Harry's face. She wasn't the only one.
"Shopping… what for?" Harry was confused, and at the same time he was not looking forward to this, at all. Sure he didn't like the hand me downs he had, mainly because they were all several sizes too big, but he had managed this far. And he only wore them in the summer; even now he was wearing his school trousers and a Gryffindor Quidditch t-shirt. No one had noticed before.
"I'm not even going to answer that one, but prepare for shopping sometime in the near future," Tonks ignored the redness of the teens face completely and the fact that Harry really shouldn't be out in the public at the time, she would just have to work around it.
She did not fully understand yet, but she remembered those clothes, and remembered wondering about it. But she had not wanted to embarrass him by asking.
Ginny and Hermione were giggling at the faces Harry was making, and Ron had winced in sympathy, but they had to admit they had just thought Harry's relatives couldn't afford anything better.
As he laid down his spoon there was a lull in the general conversation: Mr. Weasley was leaning back in his chair, looking replete and relaxed; Tonks was yawning widely, her nose now back to normal; and Ginny who had lured Crookshanks out from under the dresser, was sitting cross-legged on the floor, rolling Butterbeer corks for him to chase.
"Nearly time for bed, I think," said Mrs. Weasley with a yawn.
"Not just yet, Molly" said Sirius, pushing away his empty plate and turning to look at Harry.
"You know, I'm surprised at you. I thought the first thing you'd do when you got here would be to start asking questions about Voldemort."
"Well evidently you did, just the wrong people. So I was right all along," Sirius chuckled. Molly shot him a dark look. It was wrong to volunteer information for the children, even Fred and George. They were not part of the Order, and would never be if it was up to her.
Moody nodded approvingly. The other adults might not like it, but it was better to give them this knowledge in a controlled environment. Think what you like but Hogwarts was definitely not a place for secrets, and with all those Death eater spawn roaming the halls it was better to be warned. And these kids had gone through more than many, and Moody didn't doubt for a minute they would get to know just how much whilst reading these books.
The atmosphere in the room changed with the rapidity Harry associated with the arrival of Dementors. Where seconds before it had been sleepily relaxed, it was now alert, even tense. A frisson had gone around the table at the mention of Voldemort's name. Lupin, who had been about to take a sip of wine, lowered his goblet slowly, looking wary.
"I wasn't going to blow up the kitchen you know," Sirius whispered, but Remus looked very unconvinced.
"What do you call that shouting match then?" Sirius only rolled his eyes in response.
"I did!" said Harry indignantly. "I asked Ron and Hermione but they said we're not allowed in the Order, so -"
Hermione glanced around the room warily. She was not keen to be the one to anger any of the very tense adults in the room. Sometimes it seemed a bit odd to listen to them go on about things that happened months ago, and she could see Harry agreed most of the time. She was not looking forward for the more… dangerous stuff they had done. Mrs. Weasley or Sirius wouldn't be very happy about some things.
"And they're quite right," said Mrs. Weasley. "You're too young."
Molly readied herself for another shouting match with her children, but no one said anything. Not even the twins! She waited a beat longer in shock, but none of them even looked at her. For all she knew they were avoiding catching her eye all together.
She was sitting bolt upright in her chair, her fists clenched on its arms, every trace of drowsiness gone.
"Since when did someone have to be in the Order of the Phoenix to ask questions?" asked Sirius. "Harry's been trapped in that Muggle house for a month. He's got the right to know what's been happen—"
"Hang on!" interrupted George loudly.
"Sorry mate," George winced. Not one of his best ideas. He had screwed up that time, maybe if he hadn't interrupted they could have avoided that row. Because even they could see that the stuff their mum had said had hurt Sirius, and he was kind of a hero to them. And not just because of awesome prank ideas, but because when they heard Sirius talk about his friends, they could practically hear how much he loved them and how he would do anything for them. They admired his loyalty, and they hoped that their friends were as great as Sirius.
"How come Harry gets his questions answered?" said Fred angrily.
"We've been trying to get stuff out of you for a month and you haven't told us a single stinking thing!" said George.
The twins winced simultaneously, in a way they were very prone to do, and glanced at each other. They were not very proud of their past selves at the moment, not at all. They had approached all this with the wrong attitude and just strengthened their mother's resolve, they could see it now. And now they were even interrupting when things were finally getting interesting. Bloody hell they had been stupid.
"'You're too young, you're not in the Order'," said Fred in a high-pitched voice that sounded uncannily like his mother's.
Ginny snorted. She knew for a fact that they had practised very hard to be able to achieve that.
"Harry's not even of age!"
Many people in the room darkened at the reminder. It was true, and it was also horrible. Harry had gone through more than they could ever imagine, just these first chapters had showed that, and no one felt like even thinking about what was yet to come, least of all Harry himself. But there was a slight ray of hope in all this. Maybe they really could change the way the war was shaping up to be and save themselves and their family with these books.
Sirius in particular looked very crestfallen. It might be true that Harry was still very young, but that didn't change the fact that he -the kid's godfather for Merlin's sake! - hadn't been there even for that time. His heart was breaking when he watched Harry tense up when he was touched, or just expected the fact that his wishes were going to be overlooked. He was again reminded of how much he had missed, and at the same time it had resulted in Harry having missed out on it too. By landing himself in Azkaban he had robbed Harry the chance of even a remotely normal childhood.
"It's not my fault you haven't been told what the Order's doing," said Sirius calmly, "that's your parents' decision. Harry, on the other hand -"
Sirius ignored the very chastising look Molly was sending him. Contrary to popular belief it seemed like, he did not like arguing with Molly about things, especially not about Harry. Partly because of the fact that Harry was his responsibility and it stung when everyone doubted his abilities to see what was best for his godson.
"It's not down to you to decide what's good for Harry!" said Mrs. Weasley sharply.
The room was silent, eyes flickering between the two very likely explosions. Even though it was starting to look like Molly would be the one to blow first, like usual.
Harry was pretty tense too. He remembered everything from this night very clearly, but he had tried very hard to dismiss everything said from his mind. He felt ashamed of himself for ever doubting Sirius, but the things Mrs. Weasley said just hit something inside him. Spot on.
The expression on her normally kind face looked dangerous. "You haven't forgotten what Dumbledore said, I suppose?"
Molly frowned at her husband. The way she was being described didn't sound very good, but she didn't remember being that obvious. Se had been trying to look calm and composed and then order everyone to bed, but clearly Harry had read the situation in a different light.
"Which bit?" Sirius asked politely, but with the air of a man readying himself for a fight.
Albus also frowned, but at the book this time. He himself had not been present, and you never do quite get the unedited version afterwards. He was becoming more aware of how Sirius' 'imprisonment' was affecting the man, but he hadn't quite realized his orders had divided the Order in such a radical way. Maybe it was time for a meeting, for everyone.
Moody again studied the dark haired man sitting opposite him. He was rigid in his seat, and had that far away look in his eyes that told the ex-auror that Sirius Black was not listening to anything but his own thoughts at the moment. He was most probably reliving that night from his own perspective, Moody grumbled to himself. It didn't look like anything good came from that night. He also studied Molly Weasley, and wasn't sure what to make of the expression on her face. Hmm.
"The bit about not telling Harry more than he needs to know," said Mrs. Weasley, placing a heavy emphasis on the last three words. Ron, Hermione, Fred and George's heads swivelled from Sirius to Mrs. Weasley as though they were following a tennis rally. Ginny was kneeling amid a pile of abandoned Butterbeer corks, watching the conversation with her mouth slightly open. Lupin's eyes were fixed on Sirius.
The room was as tense as it had been that night. Only the people who hadn't been present were looking around questioningly. Snape in particular was watching the scene play out in front of him, and he could practically see Molly riling herself up again. He hated to admit it, but Black had always acted a bit more Slytherin in situations like this, protecting himself. A bit like the Potter brat he suddenly realized, but that was going too far even in his own mind so he quickly dispelled everything from his head and focused his sneer on the book.
"I don't intend to tell him more than he needs to know, Molly," said Sirius. "But as he was the one who saw Voldemort come back" (again, there was a collective shudder around the table at the name) "he has more right than most to -"
And probably needs to know more than most too, Sirius thought bitterly. He would do anything to protect his godson, and he wondered how he hadn't seen before how their secrecy had just made that harder. He did not want to tell Harry about the prophecy but if it had to be done… could he do it?
"He's not a member of the Order of the Phoenix!" said Mrs. Weasley. "He's only fifteen and -"
"And he's dealt with as much as most in the Order," said Sirius, "and more than some."
"No one's denying what he's done!" said Mrs. Weasley, her voice rising, her fists trembling on the arms of her chair. "But he's still -"
"He's not a child!" said Sirius impatiently.
"He's not an adult either!" said Mrs. Weasley, the colour rising in her cheeks. "He's not James, Sirius!"
The room was silent, and Sirius and Molly weren't the only ones avoiding looking at each other. Harry flinched violently at that, remembering the night and the look on Sirius face. First he had thought it was disappointment, but Harry didn't like to think that and quickly tried to school his face into a blank mask.
Sirius was the only one who had noticed Harry's flinch, sitting so close and all, and was now staring down at his godson horrified. Harry couldn't think that, surely no! Sirius had never been confused about anything like that. All he saw when he looked at Harry was the small baby boy who had loved playing with Padfoot and was a master at hiding himself at bath time. Harry had caused many panic attacks in that household when he suddenly just disappeared. His most ingenious hiding spot had been the bathtub itself, no one had thought to look for him there. It had been a fulltime job to keep an eye on Harry after he learned to walk. He had been such a happy baby, where had that gone?
"Harry," Sirius tried softly, tightening his hold on Harry's shoulder. Slowly Harry looked up with great reluctance in his eyes.
"Harry, I know exactly who you are." Harry tried to avert his eyes back down, but Sirius placed a finger under his chin to keep their gazes locked.
He needed Harry to understand.
"James was my best friend, true, but you are my godson! Family. And I could never confuse you with anyone else, you may look like James but you don't seem to realize how much you are like Lily too. And the fact that everyone compares you to them doesn't mean that you're not your own person! I love you just as you are," Sirius was whispering in Harry's ear, but Remus couldn't help but overhear. He watched sadly as Harry glanced doubtfully at Sirius before dropping his eyes again. But before Sirius could say anything else Harry had leaned his head on his shoulder, hiding his face there.
"I know." The whisper was very faint, but Remus couldn't help but feel the same relief that Sirius undoubtedly did. How long had Harry been carrying around these doubts?
The remaining people in the room looked on quietly, no one seemed to really register that Tonks had stopped reading. Tonks herself was clutching Remus' hand in a silent offer of support and was very relieved when amber eyes met her own.
The twins were also watching the two of them, a surprisingly sombre look on their face. To suddenly realize how insecure Harry was, it was shaping up to be a shock at every turn.
Hermione longed to hug her friend, but Ron held her back. Something in Ron's eyes made her sit still. They were dark with an understanding that she was coming to realize she didn't posses. Ron could be so tactless occasionally, that she had sometimes doubted how much he really understood Harry, but it seemed like he understood more than she thought, and probably more than her too.
"I'm perfectly clear who he is, thanks, Molly," said Sirius coldly.
And Harry believed that now, or at least he didn't doubt himself or Sirius as much as before. There was still work to do, but Sirius was his family and they would get through it.
Molly glanced at Sirius quickly, feeling a bit stupid now. It had been a bad time to bring that up, but when she looked over at the dark haired man she was surprised to see Harry leaning on Sirius so heavily. Oh dear! She hadn't thought of how Harry would react to that! The poor boy probably doesn't know what to think. Molly was halfway up from her seat when she noticed the tight grip Sirius had on Harry's shoulders and the slight movement of his mouth. She saw Harry grin weakly, and resolved herself to apologizing later. She had been out of line with that one.
"I'm not sure you are!" said Mrs. Weasley. "Sometimes, the way you talk about him, it's as though you think you've got your best friend back!"
"What's wrong with that?" said Harry.
Remus shook his head at Tonks who was about to say something. This really wasn't the best moment. He knew that Sirius would never think that, but Remus was afraid of how Harry would take any comments. He apparently already doubted himself. How had they never noticed any of this? They would have to talk to Harry today, before dinner. Merlin, when was it all going to end? Harry and didn't deserve this.
"What's wrong, Harry, is that you are not your father, however much you might look like him!" said Mrs. Weasley, her eyes still boring into Sirius. "You are still at school and adults responsible for you should not forget it!"
"Meaning I'm an irresponsible godfather?" demanded Sirius, his voice rising.
Molly and Sirius were avoiding each other's eyes, both of them looking very stone faced. But Arthur could see the mist in his wife's eyes, and the spark of regret. Well, there was not really anything he could do about it now, Molly had been wrong in saying those things.
Tonks looked incredulously at Molly. How could she ever imply that? Sirius worried more about Harry than anyone! If it was up to Sirius, Harry would be tied with a string to his godfather and never leave his sight again.
"Meaning you have been known to act rashly, Sirius, which is why Dumbledore keeps reminding you to stay at home and -"
Snape smirked slightly at those words, but quickly controlled himself before anyone in the room could see it. He was set on keeping out of riots, and unfortunately he would only get jinxed if he voiced any of his thoughts at the moment. But it was with difficulty he stopped himself from standing up and applauding Molly Weasley, who was doing an admirable job of dividing the Order.
"We'll leave my instructions from Dumbledore out of this, if you please!" said Sirius loudly.
"Arthur!" said Mrs. Weasley, rounding on her husband. "Arthur, back me up!"
Arthur sighed heavily, while still being careful that his wife wouldn't notice. His kids were a different matter on the other hand, but thankfully they all managed to control themselves. It was a known fact that you couldn't win a fight in the Weasley household, if you didn't want to the grounded for the rest of the year. Arthur just found himself in the middle of it more often than not.
Mr. Weasley did not speak at once. He took off his glasses and cleaned them slowly on his robes, not looking at his wife. Only when he had replaced them carefully on his nose did he reply.
Molly shook her head; she should have realized then that she was alone in this. Whenever her husband stalled like that when asked for something, meant that she wasn't going to like the answer.
"Dumbledore knows the position has changed, Molly. He accepts that Harry will have to be filled in, to a certain extent, now that he is staying at Headquarters."
"Yes, but there's a difference between that and inviting him to ask whatever he likes!"
"Personally," said Lupin quietly, looking away from Sirius at last, as Mrs. Weasley turned quickly to him, hopeful that finally she was about to get an ally,
Remus avoided looking at Molly, but he didn't need to have bothered. Mrs. Weasley was too busy trying to shoot apologetic looks at Sirius to pay attention to him. He wanted to tell her not to, because it was a sure way to just make Sirius angrier, or at the least more frustrated and then he would say something rash and etc. it would only lead to a new fight. But he held his tongue for the moment, but only because Sirius seemed too preoccupied with Harry to even notice Molly. Hopefully it would stay that way too.
"I think it better that Harry gets the facts - not all the facts, Molly, but the general picture - from us, rather than a garbled version from… others."
Moody nodded, a gesture that was not missed by the teenagers in the room. Fred and George in particular were eyeing Moody with an unreadable expression. Would the old auror be their source of information? Somehow they doubted it would be that easy, they would have to prove themselves first.
Harry was also watching Moody, and he was sure the man was watching them too. He would have to think about this, and probably not mention it just yet.
His expression was mild, but Harry felt sure Lupin, at least, knew that some Extendable Ears had survived Mrs. Weasley's purge.
Molly swivelled in her seat to glare at Remus, who had just groaned rather loudly whilst rubbing his hands over his face. Harry would have liked to laugh, but Sirius had poked him in the side as some kind of warning. Oh yeah, Sirius had a pair right now. They would have to be careful now that Sirius had a way to listen in on them. He would have to warn everyone else too, not that he thought the twins would object. He would just have to slip who Sirius really was and that would be it. Sirius would never have any peace anymore, maybe he could use this as blackmail over Remus, he would not like the idea of the twins pestering him all the time.
"Remus! Is this true?" Molly had obviously forgotten all her earlier sadness and was now glaring at the twins again. They just rolled their eyes.
"Not exactly Molly…" he trailed off when Molly turned to glare at him again, and he could feel Tonks shaking from suppressed laughter besides him.
"Well?" Molly demanded after a beat of silence and Remus winced slightly.
"I didn't know about the… Extendable Ears? But I did suspect that they had some way of listening in. They wouldn't be kids otherwise," he tried to defend himself feebly but they could all see that it was no use. Molly was not happy.
But Dumbledore interrupted them this time.
"Molly dear, I know you are upset, but this is not the time. I'm rather curious myself of this particular event and would like for us to carry on reading," the slight reminder made Mrs. Weasley flush, and glance at Sirius again, and reluctantly sat back down so Tonks could carry on reading.
"Well," said Mrs. Weasley, breathing deeply and looking around the table for support that did not come, "well… I can see I'm going to be overruled. I'll just say this: Dumbledore must have had his reasons for not wanting Harry to know too much
A lot of people in the room frowned over at Dumbledore, or in Sirius' and surprisingly Ron's case it was more like glaring. Harry refused to look up.
It would be a miracle if they would be able to get very far with the book today. They had read two chapters and the room was practically vibrating with suppressed emotions. Sometimes it was very dangerous to have many very upset wizards and witches in an enclosed space. There was no guarantee that nothing would sooner or later explode, especially considering the many fiery tempers in the room.
Snape could feel his neck prickling and glanced around himself warily. He had first thought this would be a very satisfying experience, and it had started very promising. But he wasn't stupid, and he could now sense the brooding chaos, he was a Slytherin after all, and he knew nothing good could come out of Molly Weasley exploding, and seeing the very dark looks on some of the people's faces told Snape that her anger or righteousness wouldn't be received very well. And for once he wouldn't blame the mutt. He had to admit that the fact that surprised him the most, even though he would never show that, was the very odd look on Arthur Weasley's face. It was a cross between frustration and resignation, but he couldn't be too sure what the man was thinking. It would be a risk to try and use Legilimency right at this particular moment, a risk he wasn't willing to take.
, and speaking as someone who has Harry's best interests at heart -"
Tonks had noticed how tense Remus' had gotten, and glanced over, worried that the chapter was affecting him more than she had first thought. She of course remembered that night perfectly well, but she had been quite quick to expel it from her mind afterwards, and focus more on the mission gone right and the particularly serious Order meeting that had taken place. She hadn't wanted to dwell on the guilt and sorrow that consumed her when she thought of Sirius in Azkaban. And it was even worse now. She may not know Harry very well yet, but when you looked at Harry and Sirius together now, it was so obvious they shared a bond, and that they fully depended on each other- or they were at least learning to. And there was this coldness in her chest when she thought about the twelve years missed between them. Neither one of them had deserved it.
She had thought he was guilty. Not at first, no of course not! But she was an auror, and there had been evidence and witnesses. And that bloody finger! She felt like throwing up and hugging her long lost cousin tightly –not at the same time of course, but she wasn't about to move and disturb Harry and Sirius.
"He's not your son," said Sirius quietly.
Ron glanced over at his best mate, and for a moment he wondered what it would have been like if Harry had lived with them. Would he have been jealous of Harry again, would he have ruined their friendship for good, or would they have been real brothers? And then he shook his head forcefully. He wouldn't make the same mistake again as last year. He knew Harry didn't like the attention and would trade places with anyone if he could. Ron wasn't jealous anymore; he had grown up a bit since then. He understood things a bit better. And whether Harry lived with them or not, he was Ron's brother! Just not in blood. They had done everything together!
"He's as good as," said Mrs. Weasley fiercely. "Who else has he got?"
"He's got me!"
Sirius felt the hand fisting his cloak tighten momentarily before slipping away, but before Harry could wiggle out of his grip again, Sirius grabbed a hold of his godson's chin and forced him to meet his eyes.
"Remember what I said Harry? Don't shut me out," he spoke quietly, but he was quite sure that at least Remus had heard him.
Harry looked reluctant for a moment, before glancing away and then back at Sirius. His lips tightened slightly, and his eye lids were squeezed shut, but before Sirius could say anything Harry had slipped back under his arm and pressed his face into his godfather's cloak in a very rare show of vulnerability.
Sirius exchanged a troubled look with Remus, who had been listening in on them, but when the werewolf only shrugged, Sirius tightened his hold around Harry and kissed the messy black locks tickling his neck.
"Yes," said Mrs. Weasley, her lip curling, "the thing is, it's been rather difficult for you to look after him while you've been locked up in Azkaban, hasn't it?"
Many people in the room sucked in a sharp breath, even the ones who had been there that night.
Sirius' hold on Harry didn't shift, if anything it only tightened more and he was very resolutely staring down at Harry and not meeting anyone's eyes, least of all Molly Weasley.
Moody was looking rather incredulous, and Dumbledore was frowning very deeply. Arthur had not let go of his wife, but he was also sitting very quiet and stoic in his seat, not really responding to Molly's quiet natter.
Remus was keeping a firm stare on Sirius, but he wouldn't turn around to look at him. He had seen how hurt Sirius had been, but of course his friend had masked it with anger. It had been a horrible thing to say, and if Sirius wasn't so wrapped around Harry at the moment he would have hugged his friend, just to remind him that they didn't blame him. It wasn't his fault that he had been chucked there, it wasn't his fault that Harry had to grow up the way he did. It had all gone so horribly wrong, but they were now given the opportunity to fix it and they wouldn't throw that away.
Harry wasn't sure how to react. Unfairness was nothing new to him, and Sirius' imprisonment was as unfair as life could be. He was angry of course, but he wasn't sure who he was angry at. Dumbledore? Wormtail? Mrs. Weasley?
Sirius started to rise from his chair.
"Molly, you're not the only person at this table who cares about Harry," said Lupin sharply. "Sirius, sit down."
Molly was ready to burst! She wanted to apologize to Sirius and everyone else, but no one would meet her eyes. Even her husband, her dear Arthur, wasn't responding to her! She knew she wasn't the only one that cared about Harry, but couldn't they see that this was dangerous information! The kids shouldn't have to think of things like that! There was a war raging on outside these walls, and she could only pray her family would come out of it unscathed.
"Sirius…" she trailed off uncertainly when stormy grey eyes snapped up. The raw emotion in them shocked her deeply, the hurt shining through the hard armour Sirius had around his feelings crumpling just for a second. She had only noticed the anger that day, and had responded in kind, but now she could see the effects of her words and there was nothing she could say that would portray how much she regretted them. And it was all months too late anyway.
"Sirius, I can't say how sorry I am. I had no right to say those things… and I know it's not true. I was horrible." A small sob escaped her throat, but Sirius only blinked. "You didn't deserve Azkaban, you're a good man," she glanced down at Harry, "and a great godfather." The shock on Sirius' face didn't stay there for long, but Molly was greatly relieved to see the slight softening in his eyes. He didn't say anything but the slight nod of his head indicated that he understood. It wasn't all good yet, but Molly would make sure that it would be before long. That man needed a mother almost as much as Harry did. And they were both looking far too skinny and pale to be healthy… maybe it was a bad thing keeping Sirius locked up. It was Dumbledore's orders but seeing how it affected the usually jovial man…
Remus shared a shocked glance with Tonks and Arthur. They all knew how irresponsible Molly thought Sirius was, and for her to say that she thought Sirius was a good godfather for Harry was a very big thing. She considered Harry her seventh son, and was equally as protective over him as her own children but she seemed to have finally recognized that Sirius cared for Harry like a son too, and would never let anything harm him if he couldn't help it.
"You're the best godfather there is," Harry's whisper was muffled by Sirius cloak, but he heard it, and that if anything helped him calm down again. His biggest fear was disappointing Harry, he couldn't imagine what he would do if Harry hated him. He wasn't able to have Harry this close very often, partly because Sirius wasn't sure how to, and partly because every time he hugged Harry, the teen would humour him for a moment but then back away stiffly. He had worried over Harry's aversion of touching, but he now realized he just didn't know how. The way Harry was clinging to his cloak showed a deep desperation for contact, any positive contact from an adult, and he cursed the Dursley's in his head, they would pay for what they did to his godson! But for now the only thing he could do was to let Harry lean on him and bring him just a bit closer. He would do anything for that kid, but now wasn't the time.
Mrs. Weasley's lower lip was trembling. Sirius sank slowly back into his chair, his face white.
It wasn't white now, but it was clear to everyone else in the room that he was very much upset about that night, but no one said anything.
"I think Harry ought to be allowed a say in this," Lupin continued, "he's old enough to decide for himself."
Harry nodded to himself and Sirius snorted weakly. No one else noticed because Harry was still pressing his face into Sirius robes. He realized it was calming his godfather, and it was oddly comforting to have Sirius there.
"I want to know what's been going on," Harry said at once.
Hermione smiled over at Ron who grinned back. Harry never could stay out of the loop for long. Their friend was as curious as it got, and as often as it got him in trouble, it also saved his life. They wouldn't change him in any way.
He did not look at Mrs. Weasley. He had been touched by what she had said about his being as good as a son, but he was also impatient with her mollycoddling. Sirius was right, he was not a child.
Molly looked fondly over at the boy, her own tears finally slowing down, and was about to reassure him that she knew he wasn't a child but some things were just too important and dangerous. But if she had been expecting Harry to say anything, or even look up at her, she was wrong. Harry didn't even move to acknowledge the other people in the room.
Sirius gazed down at the black unruly head, incredibly sad but at the same time fiercely proud. He realized Harry had seen and heard too much to ever be considered a child again, and he had his doubts about Harry ever really being a child. But now looking at the young man besides him, who was so strong despite everything, he couldn't help but feel so proud.
Lily and James would have been so proud of him too, and his time with them was probably the only proper childhood he had. Sirius was battling with his emotions, trying to break down the sadness, focus on the pride and care of Harry, and it was hard but he did stop the tears threatening to spill down his cheeks.
"Very well," said Mrs. Weasley, her voice cracking. "Ginny - Ron - Hermione - Fred - George – I want you out of this kitchen, now."
Tonks snorted before she could stop herself. The noise that had caused. She couldn't believe that Molly had ever really thought they would go, even Ginny. And what would it have helped? They still would have told each other everything in the end, or that's at least what she would have done in a situation like that.
Ginny huffed quietly at the reminder. She had been the only one forced to leave, no matter that she had heard everything later on from Hermione, but the feeling of being singled out just because she was a year younger! She had been enraged, and she hated being thought of as the baby sister. She could never do anything without any of her brothers butting in! They were just so 'protective' of her, and after she got over the mad urge to hex them she could appreciate that they worried and cared for her, but seriously!
Arthur shook his head chuckling softly. He had been prepared for an explosion at that time, and what he got was not far off the mark.
Even Snape winced at that. He could just imagine the three Weasley's and Potter's lackeys at that particular moment, and how they would react to that. Be left out, ushered away?
Maybe he should count himself lucky to not have been there after all.
There was instant uproar.
"We're of age!" Fred and George bellowed together.
The twins nodded to themselves, oblivious to Ginny who was still fuming between them. Not that it had been very informative after all. They had known pretty much everything that had been 'revealed' that night, but it was good to be sure in any case.
"If Harry's allowed, why can't I?" shouted Ron.
Hermione rolled her eyes when Ron straightened up in his seat a bit. It wouldn't have really mattered anyway, Harry would have told them afterwards. But yes, she had also wanted to stay there, she just hadn't been as vocal about it.
"Mum, I want to hear!" wailed Ginny.
Now Ginny reddened slightly. Merlin, she sounded like such a baby!
"NO!" shouted Mrs. Weasley, standing up, her eyes over bright. "I absolutely forbid -"
Mrs. Weasley sighed frustrated to herself. Whatever she did to protect her children, she was always seen as the bad guy. But why didn't anyone understand that they shouldn't know these things, they shouldn't have to worry about it! If they didn't know, the chances were that much bigger of their survival, at least in her mind. She wouldn't let her family die!
"Molly, you can't stop Fred and George," said Mr. Weasley wearily. "They are of age."
"They're still at school."
Fred and George eyed each other. They had been planning for some while now, but they hadn't seriously considered it before that one faithful Quidditch match. They had seen how much power that toad had harnessed and were honestly petrified of what was going to happen, to them and to Hogwarts. The school had changed and they had no desire to remain there as long as she was there, they could use their time better in the real world. But they did realize that this was something that would have to be planned and plotted and seriously thought through. Because once they left, there was no coming back.
"But they're legally adults now," said Mr. Weasley, in the same tired voice.
Mrs. Weasley was now scarlet in the face.
Molly flushed at that description, resembling herself from that night more and more. The other people in the room inched away slightly, not knowing what to expect.
"I - oh, all right then, Fred and George can stay, but Ron -"
Ron tried to control his face, but he was still quite certain his grin was a bit too smug. Hermione pinched him on the arm discretely and he barely stopped from yelping.
"What did I do?" he asked in a whisper, after he checked around the room making certain no one had noticed his less than manly flinch.
"We can't give them more reason to be suspicious of us! You grinning like a complete fool would have caught someone's attention. Do you want them to start asking questions?" she demanded sharply, but still managing to be miraculously quiet so no one noticed them.
"No but- okay, okay! I'll be good!" Hermione had raised her hand threateningly again and he was quick to back down. And if he wasn't sure that they had been very quiet, he could have sworn he could see Harry's shoulders shaking in laughter.
"Harry'll tell me and Hermione everything you say anyway!" said Ron hotly. "Won't - won't you?" he added uncertainly, meeting Harry's eyes.
For a split second, Harry considered telling Ron that he wouldn't tell him a single word, that he could try a taste of being kept in the dark and see how he liked it.
Harry could feel the two pairs of narrowed eyes on his back, and slowly turned to face them with a sheepish grin, detangling himself from Sirius' hold. His godfather didn't protest when Harry drew back but his brow did furrow a bit before smoothing again.
"Guys, don't look at me like that! It was just a second I swear; I would have told you everything!" Ron was only mock glaring anymore more, but Hermione was very much upset about this new revelation.
"I can't believe you even considered withholding information! That's like me finding a book with pages missing! I thought you told us everything, or at least important stuff, like the dreams and the voices-" she suddenly faltered under the very intense gazes of every adult in the room, Sirius and Remus and Moody in particular. "-and it doesn't really matter, so Tonks?" she finished lamely, her cheeks blushing a delicate pink.
Ron was snickering and Harry had a very strong urge to smack his own forehead, but restrained himself under the stern eyes of Sirius.
"Voices?" The strains of the chapter were clear on his godfathers face, and now even something like this.
"It's a pretty long story, and we really should continue reading…" Grey eyes narrowed. "I'll tell you later?" Harry tried hesitantly.
But the nasty impulse vanished as they looked at each other.
"See? I told you." Ron grinned and even Hermione smiled slightly, but her cheeks were still a bit flushed and she was shooting nervous glances around the room. The twins were snickering quietly but Ginny was paying them no mind. What voices were they talking about?
"Course I will," Harry said.
Ron and Hermione beamed.
"Fine!" shouted Mrs. Weasley. "Fine! Ginny - BED!"
Ginny huffed once again, earlier thoughts forgotten for the moment.
Ginny did not go quietly. They could hear her raging and storming at her mother all the way up the stairs, and when she reached the hall Mrs. Blacks ear-splitting shrieks were added to the din.
The one and only time she had been glad hat blasted portrait even existed. Her mother had been very near just blasting the thing from the wall in her hurry to get 'her precious little baby girl' to bed. Fortunately, or unfortunately –it depended on how you looked at it, Remus had come hurrying just that moment and silenced the horrid portrait and led them upstairs bidding Ginny goodnight, with a slight wink before disappearing downstairs again. Sometimes it was hard to read that man.
Lupin hurried off to the portrait to restore calm. It was only after he had returned, closing the kitchen door behind him and taking his seat at the table again, that Sirius spoke.
"Okay, Harry… what do you want to know?"
Molly glared at the dark haired man once again. She couldn't stop them from giving information but to just volunteer to tell them anything they wanted? That was going too far!
But she didn't say anything, the look in Sirius' eyes still etched into her memory, blinking at her blankly.
Harry took a deep breath and asked the question that had obsessed him for the last month.
"Where's Voldemort?" he said, ignoring the renewed shudders and winces at the name. "What's he doing? I've been trying to watch the Muggle news, and there hasn't been anything that looks like him yet, no funny deaths or anything."
The Order members exchanged very covert looks, careful of not showing any outward emotions. It had been somewhat of a relief that the summer had been so calm, even though it had been alarmingly still in some ways. They had known Voldemort was alive and on the move but they didn't know what he was doing, planning or even where he was. It was very tiring to glance over your shoulder wherever you went, because you never could be too careful and none of them wanted to die because of a moment of lapsed attention. Both sides of this war were hiding, biding their time, and this made it even more nerve-wracking that it maybe would have been.But any casualties saved were a victory in their eyes.
"That's because there haven't been any funny deaths yet," said Sirius, "not as far as we know, anyway… and we know quite a lot."
"More than he thinks we do, anyway," said Lupin.
Harry thought they knew quite a lot more than the adults thought too. Nothing they had revealed that night had been much of a surprise or new information, except for the weapon. They still didn't know what that was, and he was terrified he would be proven right and it was him. He could be the weapon. Sirius had reassured him otherwise, but there had been something there that had made Harry doubt him. There was a small chance he wasn't the weapon, but it definitely involved him. Because when didn't it involve him? Even though Ginny had assured him he hadn't been possessed, and he couldn't have attacked Mr. Weasley… but still, something wasn't right.
"How come he's stopped killing people?" Harry asked. He knew Voldemort had murdered more than once in the last year alone.
"Because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself," said Sirius. "It would be dangerous for him. His comeback didn't come off quite the way he wanted it to, you see. He messed it up."
"Or rather, you messed it up for him," said Lupin, with a satisfied smile.
"How?" Harry asked, perplexed.
They all turned their incredulous stares towards Harry, who was blushing at all the sudden attention.
"How?" Tonks repeated disbelievingly, shaking her head to herself as to get rid of some fog. This boy had accomplished the impossible several times but he still didn't realize it himself. It was slightly ridiculous and somehow very endearing. Remus, who was a bit more used to Harry's obliviousness about himself, chuckled at Tonks before shaking his head mockingly. She turned pink for a moment, closing her mouth that had been hanging open in shock, but as usual she got over it quickly, her hair turning electric blue a moment later.
Dumbledore was studying the dark haired boy very closely, still being careful of eye contact of course, but this was the first time he noticed how tired the boy looked. Defeated almost, but still that wasn't the right word.
Hermione and Ron shook their heads fondly, Ron thudding a heavy hand against Harry's back.
"You can be so dense sometimes mate," he snorted but quickly turned sombre at the scandalized look on his mother's face. Right, not the time for jokes then. But Harry seemed to chuckle, so it couldn't have been that bad, not even Hermione had reproached him for it. His mother really had to realize soon that Harry didn't want pity, he didn't want anything. He just needed them to be there.
Our loved Potion's master was feeling a little blank. How? Bloody brat couldn't even pretend to be stuck up? Snape would have thought the boy would demand attention over the fact, whine and complain if they didn't shower him in praise or pity of course, fawning over his wild stories of that night. But the boy didn't even realize he had probably saved them all again. Without knowing Voldemort was back, Severus wouldn't have had time to prepare his shields and a likely story to his defence, and Dumbledore wouldn't have had time to alert the Order, and they wouldn't have discovered the death eater until it was too late.
"You weren't supposed to survive!" said Sirius. "Nobody apart from his Death Eaters was supposed to know he'd come back. But you survived to bear witness."
Thank Merlin for that! No one in the room wanted to think about what would have happened if Harry had died. Hermione could feel her eyes burning just at the thought of Harry's body coming back from the maze like Cedric's had done.
Sirius was this close to cracking under all the emotions the chapter had brought forward, the only thing holding him there was the sight of a healthy and alive Harry trying to quietly reassure a very upset looking Hermione.
The twins had been very quiet through out the chapter, because they were pretty much for the first time ever speechless. They couldn't imagine what life would be like without Harry, and they didn't want to. So instead they wrapped one arm each around their baby sister and hoped that the chapter would be over sooner rather than later.
Arthur watched his family somewhat sadly. He couldn't imagine their lives without Harry either, and it was very disconcerting to even try. Harry had impacted with their lives and made such an impression time after time, there was just no way they would ever abandon him. He was in desperate need of a family, and they already thought of him as a son, brother… And even though Harry had his family with Sirius and Remus, it could never hurt to add some more people around the table, Merlin knew the three of them all needed some sturdy home cooked meals.
"And the very last person he wanted alerted to his return the moment he got back was Dumbledore," said Lupin. "And you made sure Dumbledore knew at once."
"How has that helped?" Harry asked.
"Are you kidding?" said Bill incredulously. "Dumbledore was the only one You-Know-Who was ever scared of!"
Dumbledore only smiled slightly when everyone's eyes flickered to him.
"Mr. Weasley was only exaggerating, I'm afraid. Voldemort is afraid of a great number of things." Many people scoffed at this, particularly the younger persons in the room. It was hard to imagine the feared Dark Lord being scared. But that wasn't a really good thing for them, now was it?
"Thanks to you, Dumbledore was able to recall the Order of the Phoenix about an hour after Voldemort returned," said Sirius.
Yes, and around then was when his time with his godson ran out. After that he had been locked in here. Well… if you didn't count that one trip to the train station, he certainly didn't. He was slowly going barmy in here –or not so slowly, it depended on whom you asked.
But his misery didn't change the fact that he had abandoned Harry when he needed him, and hadn't made sure that he was fine. He should have realized how Harry would feel after a month with those monsters. Luckily that was the last time Harry would ever have to endure it, Sirius would make sure of that.
"So, what's the Order been doing?" said Harry, looking around at them all.
"Working as hard as we can to make sure Voldemort can't carry out his plans," said Sirius.
"How d'you know what his plans are?" Harry asked quickly.
"Dumbledore's got a shrewd idea,' said Lupin, "and Dumbledore's shrewd ideas normally turn out to be accurate."
Dumbledore sighed rather heavily, sometimes he whished that there would be more doubt about his decisions. He was not always right, and he feared that it would some day go incredibly wrong because no one had pointed out to him one mistake or another. He was only human after all, and he had a lot of regrets resting on his shoulders right, one in particular and the result could be seen in this very room.
"So what does Dumbledore reckon he's planning?"
"Well, firstly, he wants to build up his army again," said Sirius. "In the old days he had huge numbers at his command: witches and wizards he'd bullied or bewitched into following him, his faithful Death Eaters, a great variety of Dark creatures. You heard him planning to recruit the giants;
The Order members watched the teens for any signs of recognition, and some of them weren't even surprised when Harry glanced at Hermione and Ron, exchanging knowing looks. They undoubtedly knew that story then. But the others seemed to be more in the dark about the whole thing, the twins and Ginny didn't seem to know anything about it.
well, they'll be just one of the groups he's after. He's certainly not going to try and take on the Ministry of Magic with only a dozen Death Eaters."
"So you're trying to stop him getting more followers?"
"We're doing our best," said Lupin.
"Well, the main thing is to try and convince as many people as possible that You-Know-Who really has returned, to put them on their guard," said Bill.
"It's proving tricky, though."
"Because of the Ministry's attitude," said Tonks. "You saw Cornelius Fudge after You-Know- Who came back, Harry. Well, he hasn't shifted his position at all. He's absolutely refusing to believe it's happened."
The wounds on the back of his hand tingled, and Harry fought down the urge to scratch at the offending appendage. It would only upset the scabs and make it bleed again, and that was the last thing he bloody needed at the moment.
"But why?" said Harry desperately. "Why's he being so stupid? If Dumbledore -"
"Ah, well, you've put your finger on the problem," said Mr. Weasley with a wry smile. "Dumbledore."
"Fudge is frightened of him, you see," said Tonks sadly.
"Frightened of Dumbledore?" said Harry incredulously.
"Many people are Harry. That kind of power is very intimidating, even if he doesn't use it for dark stuff," Sirius whispered to Harry, not wanting to upset anyone in the room, or let Dumbledore over hear them. Harry frowned at him, but nodded thoughtfully after glancing at the headmaster quickly.
"Frightened of what he's up to," said Mr. Weasley. "Fudge thinks Dumbledore's plotting to overthrow him. He thinks Dumbledore wants to be Minister for Magic."
"But Dumbledore doesn't want -"
"Of course he doesn't," said Mr. Weasley. "He's never wanted the Minister's job, even though a lot of people wanted him to take it when Millicent Bagnold retired. Fudge came to power instead, but he's never quite forgotten how much popular support Dumbledore had, even though Dumbledore never applied for the job. Deep down, Fudge knows Dumbledore's much cleverer than he is
"Well that isn't very hard now is it? Anyone who can tie their own shoe laces is smarter than that idiot!" Fred laughed, ignoring the reprimanding look his mother sent him.
- a much more powerful wizard, and in the early days of his Ministry he was forever asking Dumbledore for help and advice," said Lupin. "But it seems he's become fond of power, and much more confident. He loves being Minister for Magic and he's managed to convince himself that he's the clever one and Dumbledore's simply stirring up trouble for the sake of it."
"How can he think that?" said Harry angrily. "How can he think Dumbledore would just make it all up - that I'd make it all up?"
Harry had never been very fond of lying, he preferred telling the truth, but that didn't change the fact that he was maybe better at it than most would think. Living with the Dursley's had at least taught him that particular skill, it had been necessary to be a good liar in that house.
"Because accepting that Voldemort's back would mean trouble like the Ministry hasn't had to cope with for nearly fourteen years," said Sirius bitterly. "Fudge just can't bring himself to face it. It's so much more comfortable to convince himself Dumbledore's lying to destabilize him."
"You see the problem," said Lupin. "While the Ministry insists there is nothing to fear from Voldemort it's hard to convince people he's back, especially as they really don't want to believe it in the first place. What's more, the Ministry's leaning heavily on the Daily Prophet not to report any of what they're calling Dumbledore's rumour- mongering, so most of the wizarding community are completely unaware
That was probably the wrong thing to say. People weren't unaware, they just weren't informed properly. Everyone in the wizarding world had read an article about Dumbledore and The-Boy-Who-Lived telling lies and causing havoc, no one could have missed it. So people were aware something had happened, they just didn't know what.
any things happened, and that makes them easy targets for the Death Eaters if they're using the Imperius Curse."
"But you're telling people, aren't you?" said Harry, looking around at Mr. Weasley, Sirius, Bill, Mundungus, Lupin and Tonks. "You're letting people know he's back?"
Harry almost scoffed at his own stupidity. Not even his own dorm mate believed him, why would some strangers of the street suddenly want to believe Voldemort was back. It was horrifying to even think it, and people shied away from such things, the last wars consequences' could still be seen in some places and no one wanted to think how far it would go this time.
They all smiled humourlessly.
"Well, as everyone thinks I'm a mad mass-murderer and the Ministry's put a ten thousand Galleon price on my head, I can hardly stroll up the street and start handing out leaflets, can I?" said Sirius restlessly.
"And I'm not a very popular dinner guest with most of the community," said Lupin. "It's an occupational hazard of being a werewolf."
Sirius elbowed Remus lightly, like he always did when the other man got bitter or too pessimistic about it all. It wasn't a reprimand, it was just a reminder that Moony would never be alone, and he should stop whining, he was ruining the mood.
"Tonks and Arthur would lose their jobs at the Ministry if they started shooting their mouths off," said Sirius, "and it's very important for us to have spies inside the Ministry, because you can bet Voldemort will have them."
Moody had a couple of people he was keeping an eye on, and he could admit that it was slightly alarming how high ranked individuals were acting off. Voldemort was not saving any resources, that was for sure.
"We've managed to convince a couple of people, though," said Mr. Weasley, "Tonks here, for one - she's too young to have been in the Order of the Phoenix last time, and having Aurors on our side is a huge advantage - Kingsley Shacklebolt's been a real asset, too; he's in charge of the hunt for Sirius, so he's been feeding the Ministry information that Sirius is in Tibet."
"I have actually been there so they could maybe even find some leads that would keep them occupied for a longer time." Sirius chuckled to himself, missing the slightly worried look on Harry's face. Any clues or ideas about his godfather's whereabouts were a bad thing to him.
"But if none of you are putting the news out that Voldemort's back -" Harry began.
"Who said none of us are putting the news out?" said Sirius. "Why d'you think Dumbledore's in such trouble?"
"What d'you mean?" Harry asked.
Something bristled in Harry just at the thought of all those lies, and all the people that believed them. He was so fed up with the whispering in the hallways, but what got to him the most was how the people near him reacted. Like Seamus who really was a good friend, always had been. He was like Ron in many ways, always trying to lighten the mood and making jokes. And Seamus acting like the prat he was currently being also conflicted Dean. Not into thinking Harry was lying but how to act around both of them. Sometimes it was hard to have no privacy in the dorms.
Hopefully they would all soon realize what grave danger they were in, and start doing something!
"They're trying to discredit him," said Lupin. "Didn't you see the Daily Prophet last week? They reported that he'd been voted out of the Chairmanship of the International Confederation of Wizards because he's getting old and losing his grip, but it's not true; he was voted out by Ministry wizards after he made a speech announcing Voldemorts return. They've demoted him from Chief Warlock on the Wizengamot - that's the Wizard High Court - and they're talking about taking away his Order of Merlin, First Class, too."
"But Dumbledore says he doesn't care what they do as long as they don't take him off the Chocolate Frog Cards," said Bill, grinning.
There were some chuckles around the room, but to many this was only a reminder off the situation outside this house. There was still no change in the Ministry and that had given Voldemort many months to develop a plan, or an army and to just cause mass destruction in any way he could.
"It's no laughing matter," said Mr. Weasley sharply.
She frowned over at her boys before shooting a disapproving scowl Dumbledore's way, who was also smiling. It really was horrible watching such a great wizards and man's name be dragged through the mud.
"If he carries on defying the Ministry like this he could end up in Azkaban, and the last thing we want is to have Dumbledore locked up. While You-Know-Who knows Dumbledore's out there and wise to what he's up to he's going to go cautiously. If Dumbledore's out of the way - well, You-Know-Who will have a clear field."
There were shudders throughout the room, and many loaded looks betraying the very dread that thought had brought up in the group.
"But if Voldemort's trying to recruit more Death Eaters it's bound to get out that he's come back, isn't it?" asked Harry desperately.
Sirius squeezed Harry's arm comfortingly, trying to reassure even though this had all happened months ago. Harry felt it was better not to remind his godfather.
"Voldemort doesn't march up to people's houses and bang on their front doors, Harry," said Sirius. "He tricks, jinxes and blackmails them. He's well-practiced at operating in secret. In any case, gathering followers is only one thing he's interested in. He's got other plans too, plans he can put into operation very quietly indeed, and he's concentrating on those for the moment.'
Moody barely restrained a groan. That was no way of telling these youngsters something as important as this. There was no fact, no steady ground for them to take stand in and it would only make them more confused and curious than before. Should he actually move in to the house? Just to keep an eye on these idiots who couldn't decide on one common ground. Merlin it was like dealing with twenty teenagers instead of just five!
"What's he after apart from followers?" Harry asked swiftly. He thought he saw Sirius and Lupin exchange the most fleeting of looks before Sirius answered.
Now it was Remus' turn to bite back a groan. Harry noticed entirely too much of the things he wasn't supposed to, they would have to be very careful discussing things when he was in the house, there were some things Harry just didn't need to hear.
"Stuff he can only get by stealth."
When Harry continued to look puzzled, Sirius said, "Like a weapon. Something he didn't have last time."
Even though he didn't believe that he was the weapon, Harry still couldn't meet the eyes of his friends that were all staring pointedly at him. He had been avoiding them, yes, but he just couldn't face them. It was hard even now to talk to Mr. Weasley, because all he could see was the bandages. They had maybe gotten him to understand that it wasn't his fault, but how could he not blame himself?
"When he was powerful before?"
"Like what kind of weapon?" said Harry. "Something worse than the Avada Kedavra -?"
Harry glanced over at Hermione and Ron, who both looked just as curious as him about what Sirius had meant to say. Just their luck to finally get to the stuff they wanted to know but to be interrupted.
Snape didn't show it, but he was wishing this chapter to be over as much as anyone else in the room. It had sounded so promising from the start but now it was just too much. He didn't want to hear about any of Voldemort's plans or plots ever again, and all this reading Potters thoughts was giving him a headache.
The teenagers in the room exchanged rather dark glances. That had certainly not been enough, and had only left them with more questions than answers. They knew it was up to them to find more information, but from where? There had to be some other way than to listen in on the meetings, a way that they could get the right information when they needed it. It was so very frustrating not knowing what was going on but at the same time being terrified for your life.
Mrs. Weasley spoke from the shadows beside the door. Harry hadn't noticed her return from taking Ginny upstairs. Her arms were crossed and she looked furious.
As she did now. Molly Weasley was this close to blowing up and giving everyone a piece of her mind on this matter. She had not realized they had told the children quite this much, and counted herself lucky for arriving back in the kitchen just at that moment.
But there seemed to be as much support for her views now as that night, so none. Remus was whispering with Sirius and Tonks was listening in, nodding furiously. Dumbledore was listening to Alastor's vehement mutterings with a thoughtful look on his face. Even Severus was studying the children on the couch, and rather than glaring he looked almost considering but at the same time like he wasn't really seeing what was in front of him.
And the kids were leaning towards each other, Harry saying something so carefully, that she could barely see his lips moving, and the others were all listening closely. The beginnings of a smirk on her sons' faces didn't reassure her at all.
"I want you in bed, now. All of you," she added, looking around at Fred, George, Ron and Hermione.
"You can't boss us -" Fred began.
"Watch me," snarled Mrs. Weasley.
Even the twins didn't say anything to that, it wasn't worth the fight, and they had realized that they had gotten all the information they could get. But that thing that Harry had come up with did sound very promising even if a bit Slytherin. They would just have to test it out at some point in the near future.
She was trembling slightly as she looked at Sirius. "You've given Harry plenty of information. Any more and you might just as well induct him into the Order straightaway."
Snape almost snorted, but controlled himself once Black also chuckled. Potter seemed to frown at his godfather, looking almost insulted. The brat. But as always Black had something funny to say and soon the menace was smiling lightly. It was almost too much to take.
"Why not?" said Harry quickly. "I'll join, I want to join, I want to fight."
And once again Mrs. Weasley readied herself for a full onslaught of protest and shouting but nothing happened. They didn't even mutter to each other.
It was not Mrs. Weasley who spoke this time, but Lupin.
"The Order is comprised only of overage wizards," he said. "Wizards who have left school,"
Fred tried very hard not to glance at his brother, because now really wasn't the time for their mother or anyone else to catch onto their plans. And with the wonder trio in the room, who knew what could be revealed. But he couldn't help a small grin slipping through, one mirrored on his twins face.
he added, as Fred and George opened their mouths. "There are dangers involved of which you can have no idea, any of you… I think Molly's right, Sirius. We've said enough."
Sirius half-shrugged but did not argue. Mrs. Weasley beckoned imperiously to her sons and Hermione. One by one they stood up and Harry, recognizing defeat, followed suit.
"So melodramatic Harry, I actually think you won that round," Sirius laughed, smiling bigger when Harry joined in.
"We'll see." Harry continued laughing even when his godfather suddenly stopped. It was very rewarding to see the adults in the room puzzle over things they knew and not the other way around for a change. And Sirius was just too easy to wind up some times.
"Well that's the chapter finished, so Remus here you go," Tonks looked very relieved to get rid of the book, and no one in the room really blamed her.
"I'd say one more chapter and then lunch?" Mr. Weasley suggested and was met with many enthusiastic nods, most of them from his own brood.
"Okay, the next chapter is 'The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black',"
"Oh joy," Sirius muttered, before grinning at his friend reassuringly.