Disclaimer: Don't actually own HP and said charries and stuff. You probably know who does. Spoiler! It's JKR.
Anyways- OH MY MERLIN.
Has it really been this long since I wrote for this story? Oh man. I had to reread everything to remember the tiny details. Remember the ideas that I had, the direction this was going. Currently I'm in Tennessee at a competition. If anyone knows what I'm talking about, shoot me a PM.
Anyways, my writing was so crappy! I'm so stepping it up. I have three months of summer to kill, so this is like- my release. I also did start a second story account which shall not be named for now. Maybe in the future. Who's really reading this ramble about apologies and crappy writing? We all know you just want the chapter.
It's not super long and epic as I had hoped. Mostly because I wanted to update before getting to Tennessee. And also, all the epic details, all the grandiose plot schemes- they take work and slow build ups. And We're doing the build up slowly but surely this time to a grand climax. This chapter is a ball of slow plot devices and a simmer back into plot. Enjoy and review!
The warm days of summer had faded with the passing week of September and into the chilly October winds. Scarves broke out of closets, and heavier cloaks began to be worn. The leaves on the trees had turned golden, and the students were spending more time in doors. The tinkering laughter of the students echoed in the hallways. Hogwarts was preparing for a grand Halloween feast, and students found themselves looking forward to Halloween.
The weeks had been strenuous on the school, both from teachers piling on homework, and the outside war struggles. Even Hogwarts seemingly impenetrable walls were feeling the pressure of the outside world, for the main cast of our story, however, the world was changing around them, and seemingly not for the better. Deaths were filling the newspaper pages, and work was piling high on the students. They found themselves working on projects that were tougher than anything they had before.
Defense in particular had become a tough subject. For the last three weeks, they'd engaged in four more duels since their first. Most duels were similar to the first, various citizens and two groups dueling. It wasn't until the third duel that a pair had managed to make it to the safe house, and Avery and Mulciber were relieved to not be writing a two foot essay on their failures. It wasn't until the fourth duel that a group managed to win. Peter, Sirius, Marlene, Narcissa, and Alice had won the duel narrowly, as Remus and Frank became the second citizen pairs to cross the finish line.
Socially, however, the climate at Hogwarts had changed. For one, Frank was found spending more time talking to Remus. For another, Lily was spending more time talking to James outside of their Head Boy and Girl duties. Marlene refused point blank to talk to Sirius, and wild rumors had spread that he had broken her heart after a one night stand.
Ginny was reaching the beginning of her second trimester, and Hannah was following close behind. Both found they were able to consume more food, with Ginny having the appetite of Ron. Harry teased her mercilessly, as she was often found munching on something. Hannah found she was having back pains, and thus became a more frequent visitor in the Defense classroom, as the Greenhouses were strenuous.
Smith had become more integral to Dumbledore, to his immense surprise. He was now running errands constantly, delivering personal messages in the ministry and attending meetings. It wasn't Auror work by far, but it was impressive work nonetheless. Meeting Barty Crouch had stunned him beyond belief. The impressive Head of Magical Law Enforcement had been just as unpleasant as Smith had been warned. But the Barty Crouch had taken Dumbledore's suggestions in stride, implementing some as his own ideas, in twisted manners. Aurors now had the right to arrest anyone on grounds of suspicion, and interrogate them. Apparently Veritaserum was too risky on health to test without a signature from the prisoner in question, but fining them for 'being suspicious' was not. Smith did not like Barty Crouch.
Amelia Bones was improving slowly in her Transfiguration lessons, to the delight of McGonagall, who was the only other staff member aware of Amelia's tutoring. Teddy and Victoire were assigned to a permanent daycare now during the day. The staff-room. Teachers on break would watch the two playing quietly, or loudly, depending on the day.
Madame Pomfrey had been busy over the month. Besides the regular first year flying injuries, and the occasional duels, she was closely monitoring Remus's progress. It didn't help that he had his second full moon coming up and wasn't properly healed yet. She was working overtime trying to find ways to ensure that none of his injuries would rupture or worsen. All while balancing learning maternity healing to work with Ginny and Hannah on their pregnancies.
Dumbledore had been working hard as well. In trying to gain details of the future, managing Hogwarts, and fighting the War. Recruitment for the Order had been weak. The candidates brought forward had little experience, or muddled backgrounds. Approaching just anyone about the order was not an option. Approaching no one was not an option either. And frankly, Dumbledore wasn't sure what the endgame of the matter really was. What he could and couldn't achieve with the Order.
"Maybe we should turn to recruiting students?" suggested Aberforth gruffly, "I mean, it's where You-Know-Who's been recruiting, isn't it?"
"No," said Dumbledore firmly, before anyone at the table could react.
The eleven members were all gathered at the home of Elphias Doge for their third unsuccessful meeting. Elphias had brought a large round table, fit for fifteen into his house. Smith was seated as he customarily was beside Albus Dumbledore, taking notes of the meeting. It was strangely easier now, now that he had a purpose, a mission. Well, not so much of a mission as a will to get out of this alive and healthy. He was finding out that despite his knowledge of the future, he knew nothing at all about these people. These ordinary people who would have no books written about them. No odes to their name. Just a tiny mention in the big picture. A tiny scribble in the biography of their leaders, and they'd fade out before anyone remembered them.
"I'm not comfortable recruiting children either," said Elphias uncomfortably, "Most of them are impressionable, and if we can't recruit their parents, it is the utmost disrespect to recruit their children."
"We're not saying brainwash second years!" argued Fabian directly, "This is seventh years! We can bring them in!"
"They are of age," acknowledged Gideon slowly, though with less certainty than Fabian. Smith had realized much earlier that Gideon was less direct than Fabian, and far less confrontational. In fact, they seemed like opposites, and yet, it somehow worked for the two of them. Like two halves of a whole.
"Would you let your seventeen year old boy join the fray?" asked Edgar, frowning.
"If yeh ask me, it's no' a good idea," said Hagrid with a frown, "These kids, they haven' grown up in a war, they grew up in Hogwarts. They don' know what they're going up agains'."
"But we don't have anyone on our side we can trust! Background checks are futile if they're imperiused! These kids have no exposure to Death Eater scum! They could be allies!" argued the gruff Mad-Eye Moody.
Dumbledore remained impassive, and Smith peeked at the man from the corner of his eye. Despite being dressed in gaudily cheerful baby blue robes with silver stars, he had no cheer in his face. Smith turned away. Instead, he mimicked the same, impassive look on his face. It was something he had learnt not only angered the person before him, but defused situations and drew back power to him. It was amazing how much Dumbledore could teach just by standing near you.
"I'm against this as well," said Caradoc Dearborn, a Welsh man with an incredibly serious attitude. He never smiled, as far as Smith knew.
"Exactly," said Elphias, nodding jovially to Caradoc. "It's too risky!"
"For us," said Caradoc, causing Elphias's face to fall. Something about Elphias made him believe in the best in everyone, and something about Caradoc made him expect the worst.
"Little rays of hope you four are," scoffed Aberforth.
"These are kids. They've never fought in a war, as Hagrid said himself," said Caradoc seriously, "Can we really risk our lives and missions on amateurs? Even if we do train them up, who has the time for it? Among us all, the Prewetts are Aurors, and Mad-Eye. Sturgis and Edgar are in the Wizengamot! Their lawyers, not fighters! I'm in the Hit Wizards. But besides us six, none among us directly stationed in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. We have the most qualifications, and the least time to teach."
"But they have a good Defense teacher! Anyone who's anyone has heard that rumor!" said Sturgis, simply adding his points but refusing to take a side. If a vote ever came down to his decision, he may just split himself in half. Poor man could never take a decision.
"One teacher isn't going to make an army," said Edgar sternly.
"So why can't we recruit these teachers?" asked Elphias, and everyone in the room went silent. All heads turned to Dumbledore. Smith kept his own head down, uncertain how best to respond. It wasn't a good idea to tear Harry and Neville away from their current missions.
"I'm afraid it would be unwise," said Dumbledore finally.
"Why, they sent Smitty boy, didn't they?" said Mad-Eye, leaning back and fixing his strange whirring globe upon Smith. Smith had a distinct feeling Mad-Eye always had one eye trained on him.
"Smith is my assistant," said Dumbledore firmly, "And his brother-in-law and his friends are not of importance or vitality to the Order. They have their own purposes in Hogwarts, and I would much rather they be under my eyes in Hogwarts protecting the students, much like Minerva."
"So what do we do then?" asked Aberforth, his identical blue eyes zeroing in on his brother.
"Perhaps," said Dumbledore slowly, "We should expand our search."
"Expand our search?" asked Edgar slowly.
"We have only considered people who are directly involved in the fight," said Dumbledore slowly, "But there are many skilled wizards and witches outside of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement who would have skills required to approach the world at war."
"But they'd have no battle experience," argued Caradoc.
"But they'd have life experience," said Dumbledore, "And they aren't impressionable students. They have a job, they have lives, and they know what's at stake and what's to gain."
"It seems like a good plan," said Edgar with a nod, "I have a few friends in other departments I could speak with."
"How about all of you?" asked Dumbledore politely.
"We have some friends," indicated Gideon.
"Caradoc might have to sit this one out," muttered Fabian audibly, earning a dirty look from the man and general snickering from others.
"And remember, be discreet! We need no rumors spreading back to Voldemort," said Dumbledore, to the general shudder of all but Aberforth and Mad-Eye. "Dismissed."
"Well?" asked Mad-Eye to his protege Prewett twins as they stood by the edge of Elphias Doge's garden. They were surrounded by the thick hedges that Elphias had grown to enormous heights, dwarfing the three men in as they stood against them.
"Nothing," said Fabian with a frown.
"We searched the International Portkey Department head to toe, but not a single mention of Smiths or Potters or Lockes in their records," supplemented Gideon.
"So they didn't take an official Portkey," said Mad-Eye, raising an eyebrow.
"Dumbledore wants them close by, won't let them in the Order, so- how much does he trust them?" asked Gideon with a frown.
"Apparently with the lives of his students, which we all know he puts more emphasis on than that of his own," said Fabian.
"But he let shrimpy blonde work for him, doing real stuff with the Ministry," countered Gideon easily.
"Maybe shrimpy is the weakest link, worst fighter," suggested Fabian, "Useless in a fight."
"Or he could be deadly and thus has the skill to make deals in the Ministry and spy," said Gideon.
"Or maybe he's using the kid to subdue and sedate the other two. Keep them from escaping his control," added Fabian.
"That's a technique You-Know-You would use, and still doesn't explain why he needs the kid to play errand boy," countered Gideon.
"Would you two shut up?" asked Mad-Eye with a growl, interrupting the Prewetts, who put on a mock subdued look.
"Who, us?" they both asked with innocent expressions.
"Has anyone ever told you how utterly useless you idiots are?" continued Mad-Eye with a huff, "You can't get me a solid theory? You've had three bloody weeks! Are you telling me, in three weeks, the best you could do was spittle nonsense before me and not have a solidified explanation of where they came from? And you call yourselves Aurors! Pathetic!"
"Sorry, sir," they replied morosely.
"But really sir, they're in Dumbledore's control," tacked on Gideon.
"It's not easy to dig up information when we can't even survey them properly!" Argued Fabian.
"Pathetic," muttered Mad-Eye, "I better see resignations from both you bloody wankers tomorrow. You can't even work around Dumbledore! He's so bloody busy it's not like he'd notice two of his own men gathering information."
"Sir, I'm not sure if you just suggested it, but are you saying we go against Dumbledore?" asked Gideon incredulously, his jaw slightly agape.
"Cotton in your ears Prewett? As far as I'm concerned, I want a report by Christmas! That's enough time to knit all your little nephews a bloody sweaters while your at it! Bake me a cake! Build a fucking house! Do some fucking work while you're at it!" barked Mad-Eye.
"Charming sir," said Fabian with an eye-roll, "What's got you so desperate anyways?"
"Listen here kiddo," said Mad-Eye with a growl, "We're in war-time. And Dumbledore trusts anyone who feeds him a sob story, and these Americans have fed him a hell of story. I want to see them sobbing for it."
"Dramatic, aren't you?" asked Gideon earnestly.
"Get out of my site, gits," said Mad-Eye, as he apparated away with a loud crack.
"I thought we were supposed to leave," said Fabian to the space Mad-Eye had been standing in.
"Constant vigilance laddie!" mimicked Gideon in a gruff voice, "Can't you tell I have to go get my garlic and silver for when I run into a werewolf-vampire? Can never be too prepared on a new moon night!"
The two twins burst into laughter at the expense of their boss, their chuckles filling the night air as they apparated into the silence with their own loud cracks. The echoes of their chuckles filled the solemn night air, as the moon rose over the sky, painting the dark clouds with it's white light.
"Well?" Asked Dumbledore, as he often did when Smith returned from an important meeting, or when he had finished an important task, or even after meeting someone new. As though anything Smith said had any impact on the old wizened wizard.
"It was the right move not to recruit students, sir," said Smith unsurely. This whole anything you say and do can affect the future was rather irritating, to say the very least.
"Why is that?" Asked Dumbledore gently, urging the young Auror to speak up.
"Well, sir," began Smith, "If it came down to it, Caradoc had several good points on the matter. And there are plenty of options we have yet to exhaust. Even foreign help would be better than relying on kids."
"Foreign help? I considered it, but I feel it would allow the Death Eater bigotry to spread, however, I suppose I could take a gander through my contacts," said Dumbledore as the two men apparatus away from Elphias Doge's home and arrived beside each other at the base of Hogsmeade hills.
Smith hurried to catch up to Dumbledore. It was amazing having mastered apparating at the same time as Dumbledore, but the older wizard was always a second faster in arriving. And he never waited for Smith to continue his walk. They both now continued up the dark stony path, listening to the cheerful humdrum behind them of people closing up for the Sunday night. As though they had always been walking on the road, and there had never been a pause to apparate. Smith's face betrayed an uneasy look.
"I don't employ foreign help, now do I?" Asked Dumbledore, smiling pleasantly despite a twinge of regret in his eyes.
"No sir," said Smith apologetically, "It never came down to foreign help."
"Very well," said Dumbledore as he turned to face the castle before them. "Is there something else on your mind, Mr. Smith?"
"Erm- no sir," lied Smith, though his eyes darted to a spooky little road, off the corner of Hogsmeade's Main Street.
"Fancying a drink?" Asked Dumbledore in amusement.
"Ah- Not at all sir! Actually, I'm trying to abstain," confessed Smith as he turned back to Dumbledore with a nod.
"Then a chat with the barkeep, I suppose? Though Aberforth is hardly as pleasant as Rosmerta is," continued Dumbledore, as though commenting on the color of one's socks rather than on one's brother.
"Aberforth- Was he- I mean- Is he- He's really your brother?" Asked Smith uncertainly, "Meaning no disrespect to either of you, sir."
"So that relationship becomes a known fact?" Asked Dumbledore, looking, well, surprised for the first time Smith had ever seen.
"Er- yessir?" Answered Smith, confused slightly. How do people not realize that the two were related? Besides the very obvious different choices in clothing and lifestyle. But besides that, they had the same last name! And they even looked alike, if you looked past the grime and darkness on one and the shiny flashy robes of the other.
"How strange, the things that occur when one dies. Perhaps death does heal wounds," said Dumbledore, a bit distantly as he looked mournfully at the road to the Hogs Head,
"Tell me, Mr. Smith, am I right to assume our relationship is a public affair after my death?"
"Er- I think so sir. I mean, you died when I was a second year sir. After that everyone knew you had a brother, and then at the end of the Second War, Mr. Potter- Harry- he claimed that Aberforth was just as excellent a man as you, and deserved the same praise," recited Smith awkwardly.
"I see," said Dumbledore, a faint hint of pride in his voice as he continued to walk, digesting the information.
"Um- sir," continued Smith nervously as they approached Hogwarts, "You didn't answer my question."
"I know. We seem so very, different," said Dumbledore with a chuckle.
That's mild, thought Smith with raised eyebrows. Dumbledore seemed so happy as he walked up to the gate and drew his wand. He turned to Smith with a morose look on his face now as he glanced to the sky.
"I'm sorry to say, sometimes children grow up very differently. Life- life is a teacher, Mr. Smith. You grow up very fast, or some of us, some never grow up at all. But in the case of myself and my brother, Mr. Smith, I fear he grew up far faster than myself. And in my naïveté I assumed that age was the only factor to wisdom. It cost me my family. Never forget that Mr. Smith," said Dumbledore softly, before the gate flew open and the two walked in. "I shall head to my quarters tonight. I presume I shall see you in the morning?"
"Yessir," said Smith solemnly. He watched the elaborate man walk away, a bit shaken. He had never read the elaborate biographies of Professor Albus Percivul Wulfric Brian Dumbledore for the simple reason that Smith always assumed biographies had bias. And that who knew a man's life better than the man in question. Now he wondered if perhaps he was missing a piece of the puzzle as he made the lonely trek to his own quarters.