6. A New Order
"Mum's been in a right state," said Ron dully.
"You know—crying and stuff. She came
up to London to try and talk to Percy but
he slammed the door in her face."
—Order of the Phoenix, chapter 4
"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 cleaning's going—"
—Order of the Phoenix, chapter 5
"We're doing our best," said Lupin.
—Order of the Phoenix, chapter 5
Molly paused outside Tudhope's Apothecary in Diagon Alley, peering at her crumpled shopping list. There were quite a few things she needed to restock; Sirius had used up rather a lot of supplies in the two days since the full moon, brewing pain potions and bone-knitting elixirs. Not that Molly begrudged Remus those remedies. He was back on decontamination duty now, but he still didn't look particularly steady on his feet.
Shaking her head, she turned back to her list, wanting to finish her shopping as quickly as she possibly could. The first full meeting of the Order of the Phoenix was scheduled for that afternoon.
And she had something else to do, first.
Arthur still refused to let Percy's name pass his lips. But last night he'd slipped her a scrap of parchment bearing the address of their son's new flat, muttering vaguely about having asked around at the Ministry.
Today was Saturday, so Percy would probably be at home. It was all she could do to make herself take care of the shopping before Apparating straight over, but she didn't want to get there too early, in case he was sleeping late on his day off. He always works so hard, the poor dear...
"Hi, Mrs. Weasley!"
She looked up to see a classmate of Ron's approaching, with his mother right behind him.
"Hello, Seamus." Molly smiled. "Are you enjoying your summer holidays?"
"Yeah, I am." The boy grinned back. "But I'll be glad to go back to Hogwarts, too. I get tired of not being able to use magic when I'm at home!"
"He never slows down, my Seamus," Eithne Finnegan said fondly. She ruffled her son's hair, which made him look pleased and embarrassed at the same time. Then she sighed. "I only hope they get someone competent for Defence this year. Gilderoy Lockhart was a brilliant choice, to be sure, but it's been downhill ever since. A werewolf and a mad impostor! I don't know what the school is coming to these days."
"Mum." Seamus poked at the ground with the toe of one shoe. "That Moody was a bit scary, maybe, but Professor Lupin was all right." He shoved his hands into his pockets. "I've toldyou. He was a really good teacher, and we all liked him."
Eithne looked appalled. "I don't care how friendly he seemed. I simply don't know what Dumbledore was thinking! No one with any sense would be letting a bloodthirsty monster watch over innocent children!"
She had just left the werewolf in question cheerfully polishing flatware in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place—with Ron, Ginny, and Hermione. And it was because Remus was in the house that she'd been willing to leave Fred and George anywhere near Sirius Black without her supervision.
Absently, she exchanged a few more pleasantries with the Finnegans and then stood watching as they walked away.
It was odd, how different that sounded when someone else said it.
The flatware was all polished and put away. The children—and Sirius—had vanished somewhere upstairs to take advantage of what freedom they could snatch before Molly came back.
Remus had retreated to the library, where he was trying to make some progress on the many piles of cursed and hexed books that still needed to be disarmed. One thick green volume had been laced with a rather intricate combination of unpleasant spells, a Stinging Hex crossed with a Page-Turner Curse, and he had to hold it suspended in the air while he disentangled half of one spell, neutralized the other, and finished removing the first. By the time he let the book land with a soft thump on the all-clear pile, his side ached where the rib had been broken and he was feeling embarrassingly winded.
Clearly, a cup of tea was called for.
It was nearly time for lunch, in any case. If Molly wasn't back from shopping yet, maybe he should start making sandwiches. With the Order meeting in the afternoon, they had better not leave lunch too late.
Remus made his way gingerly down the stairs to the ground floor, stepping carefully and concentrating on keeping his balance. But when he was halfway down the basement stairs, he heard an odd choking sound coming from the kitchen.
Leaning on the banister for support, he hurried the rest of the way down and burst through the kitchen door.
There sat Molly at the table, with her head pillowed on her arms—sobbing.
"Molly!" Remus crossed the kitchen in two strides. "What's happened?"
"It's P-P-Percy," she gasped. "He—he—" A fresh torrent of sobs burst forth, and she thumped one fist weakly against the table.
Remus had heard from Dumbledore about Percy's break with the family. He'd been entirely in favour of Sirius leaving home all those years ago, and of course the Blacks were not the Weasleys. But now, for the first time, he really stopped to imagine how it would feel to have your own child turn away from you.
He sat in the chair next to Molly's, perching on the edge. Her distress was painful to see. Acting on instinct, he reached out and patted her on the shoulder.
The sobs quieted a little.
"What happened?" he asked, gently.
"I went to see him," she said, her voice breaking again. "To see if he was all right—to see if he wouldn't at least talk to Arthur. But he told me—"
Another burst of sobs.
Remus kept patting, and added a sympathetic murmur.
"—he told me he'd meant everything he'd said, and he didn't want to have anything to do with our family, or Dumbledore, ever again! What if..." She shuddered. "What if he joins the Death Eaters?"
Remus gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze. "I don't think that's the kind of thing Percy would do."
Molly sat up at that. "Really?" She fixed him with a pleading expression. "You really think he wouldn't?" She rubbed at the tears on her cheeks with the heels of her hands, and Remus started to reach into his pocket for a handkerchief to offer, but Molly fished a frilly, embroidered one out of her apron and wiped her eyes.
"I saw quite a lot of Percy when he was Head Boy, and in my N.E.W.T.-level Defence class," said Remus slowly. "He likes to be right, and he likes to be the best at things. But he has a good heart." He gave her a smile that he hoped was a reassuring one. "You and Arthur have done a fine job raising your children. It may take some time, but I think Percy will come home, and I don't think he'll fall in with the Death Eaters."
"Oh, I do hope you're right." Molly bit her lip and turned that pleading gaze on him again. Then she shook her head, sniffed hard, and sighed, looking a little embarrassed for the first time. "I should probably go wash my face before the children come downstairs."
"That's a good idea," said Remus. "You do that, and I'll make some sandwiches for lunch."
"Thank you." She managed a watery smile before she disappeared up the stairs.
Remus began to assemble a platterful of roast beef and horseradish sandwiches. He thought about Percy, and Sirius, and families.
And then he froze, staring blankly at his hand.
The hand that had actually been patting Molly Weasley on the shoulder.
She must have been so distressed that she forgot to be afraid of him.
Sirius slouched in his chair in a corner of the kitchen, his scowl growing darker and darker as the first meeting of the reconstituted Order of the Phoenix dragged on.
How much longer would he have to sit here, listening to everyone else being given missions and tasks, when he would be trapped in this mouldering old house until he started to rot away? Even Remus had a mission, even this soon after the full moon. He was to go up to Glasgow tonight, to sit around in a certain dodgy pub under an Appearance Charm and try to figure out if Death Eaters were meeting there.
The only other member of the Order who hadn't been given some kind of task outside the house was Molly. Sirius tried not to think too hard about the implications of ending up in the same category as Molly Weasley.
"And that," came Dumbledore's voice, "is the last of our business for today, I think."
"Thank Godric," Sirius muttered. Remus flashed him a hint of a smirk before snapping back into perfect-prefect mode.
"Until next time, then," Dumbledore was saying. "And, although I very much regret the circumstances, it is nevertheless a pleasure to have us all together once more."
Chairs scraped, and chatter swelled and grew, until the kitchen was quite noisy. Even Remus stood and began to greet some of the people he hadn't spoken to before the meeting began.
Sirius stayed in his corner and glowered.
Sturgis Podmore passed by and caught his eye. "Erm," he said awkwardly. "Black. Good to see you."
"Podmore." Sirius smiled grimly. No one seemed to know what to say to him. He supposed they weren't quite ready for I'm so sorry none of us trusted you enough to work out that you were wrongly accused and imprisoned without a trial.
Emmeline Vance was the next to pass by. It hit Sirius just how long fourteen years really was—he'd still thought of Emmeline as young, but you couldn't really say that anymore. She didn't seem to have any words for him, either, so she made do with a quick, flustered smile. Sirius merely inclined his head, as regally as he could manage. If no one was going to try to make him feel at ease, why should he make an effort for any of them?
At least Dung was Dung. "See you, mate," he said, as though the last fourteen years had never happened. "I'll be round for a drink later, yeah?"
Kingsley Shacklebolt was all right, too. Sirius remembered him, vaguely, as a shrimpy little first-year, but apparently now he was the Auror in charge of the Sirius Black manhunt. Shacklebolt seemed to find the irony rather amusing.
"Meant to tell you, Black," he said now. "I've got my eye on a likely new Order recruit in the Aurors, who I think you'll find particularly interesting. If it works out, I'll bring her along soon."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "It'd be good to have another Auror on our side."
Shacklebolt just grinned mysteriously and made his way up the stairs.
McGonagall stopped to say a few words, then, and Arthur Weasley went by with his friendly smile, and Sirius started to feel a little better about things.
Until Snivellus Snape caught his eye and fixed him with a sneer.
Sirius lost no time in sneering right back.
Snape took a few steps closer, and it would have been hard to say which of the two of them looked at the other with more loathing.
"Be sure you pay attention when you're working for Voldemort," said Sirius, seizing the opportunity to vent his frustration at his favourite target of old. "Don't forget whose side you're really on."
"I am hardly likely to forget," said Snape, dripping venom. "I cannot afford mistakes when I am standing at the Dark Lord's side." His lip curled. "I understand it is you we have to thank for the housecleaning—such as it is—at this miserable headquarters." The smirk grew. "Sirius Black, tied to Molly Weasley's apron strings. Imagine."
Sirius narrowed his eyes and wrapped his fingers around his wand.
And then all at once, Remus was there. "Hello, Severus," he said. "I've been following up that information you sent about Mulciber's contacts in Bulgaria. It has been most useful."
"Good," Snape drawled. "That was a particularly tricky bit of espionage, and I would hate to see it go to waste." He looked Sirius up and down, and smirked again. "As Black, here, has done." Then he spread his hands in mock apology. "Oh—do excuse me, Black, I forgot. You're taking care of the housecleaning, so central to the mission of the Order of the Phoenix. And so conveniently distant from any, say, Death Eaters."
Sirius felt the blood rush to his head. His fist clenched around his wand, and his mouth opened to launch some suitably scathing reply.
"Sirius." Remus put a hand on his arm.
Sirius jerked away and thumped up the stairs, up and up and up until he reached the third floor. He shoved open the heavy mahogany door to the master suite. Then he took a deep breath, and bowed.
Buckbeak shuffled sideways, rolling his eyes—he always could tell when Sirius was agitated—but then he bowed back. He always did.
Sirius straightened up and pushed the door shut behind him. Buckbeak trotted right over, butting against Sirius's shoulder, and Sirius couldn't help feeling a little better.
"Hullo, Beaky," he said, stroking the feathery head. "Holding up all right in here?"
Sirius looked around the room with sour satisfaction. His mother would have popped a vein or two if she could have seen her bedroom now, with the ornate furniture all stacked in the corner under a Shrinking Charm, and the once-elegant carpet strewn with a layer of hay—which, incidentally, smelled like it would need an Evanesco soon.
Buckbeak snorted and pranced a little, but then he made a little inquiring noise and looked longingly at the the wide double windows in the western wall.
"Feeling a bit cooped up, are you?" asked Sirius, wryly. "I can sympathise." He tapped the hippogriff on the head with his wand, Disillusioning him, and then pulled both windows all the way open.
"Go on, then," he said, giving Buckbeak a slap on the rump. "At least one of us should be able to get out of here sometimes."
The hippogriff butted his head against Sirius's shoulder one more time before trotting to the window, spreading his wings, and launching himself into the summer evening.
Sirius crossed to the window, kicking at the hay and the occasional rat skull. He leaned his elbows on the sill and looked out over the old-fashioned roofs of Grimmauld Place. The bright blue of the summer sky was starting to soften around the edges as evening came on. Birds darted among the chimneypots, chittering.
He sighed, watching one particular bird until it flew up over the house and out of sight. Never thought I'd see the day when I was jealous of a bloody swallow.
But his rage had cooled, now that he was away from Snivellus—leaving behind little more than the fog of sullen irritation that had become all too familiar.
Remus, pushing open the door to Mrs. Black's old bedroom, was halfway into his bow before he realised that the hippogriff was gone. Sirius was alone in the room, standing at the open window, looking up into the sky.
Remus stifled a sympathetic grin. At least Sirius hadn't been riding Buckbeak when he let him out.
He crossed the room, slowly, letting the hay crackle under his feet to mark his progress. When he reached the window, he mirrored Sirius's pose, propping his elbows on the sill and gazing out into the early-evening light.
"I know, I know," Sirius muttered, unprompted, still staring straight ahead. "I can't go off on missions, because I need to be here for Harry."
The dull, flat tone of his voice made Remus wince.
"Actually, I've been talking to Dumbledore." He risked a sideways glance. "There will be a fair number of intelligence-type missions, too. Papers to go through, information to analyse—that sort of thing. No reason you can't work on those right from here."
"Sounds like homework," Sirius grumbled, keeping up appearances. But Remus saw his head lift, just a little, and his eyes turn thoughtful.
Crisis averted, then.
So now, Remus could relax and make small talk. Sirius would most likely cooperate, parrying with something caustic but amusing. And things would go on as they had been ever since Sirius turned up at Remus's flat—or, really, ever since their first exchange of owls after Sirius fled Hogwarts with Buckbeak a year ago. A more-or-less comfortable jokey rapport between two Order members who had known each other for a long time, even if they had both made mistakes. Even if, in the end, they hadn't always trusted each other.
Things could go on just as they had been.
"It's not only for Harry's sake, you know," said Remus, quietly, before he lost his nerve.
"Hmm?" Sirius turned, actually looking at him now.
Remus steeled himself and met the curious grey eyes straight on. "I don't want to lose you again, Padfoot."
Sirius blinked, startled into silence. For once.
"You and James were the best friends I ever had, in all my life." Remus fought a visceral urge to look away, and prevailed, if just barely. "All the troubles we had—a lot of that was Peter's scheming, of course. But some of it was my own bloody pride and shame. And then, afterward, I went on telling myself I was all right on my own. But I wasn't."
Something deep flickered in that grey gaze. A bony hand gripped Remus's shoulder and squeezed. Hard.
Still, Sirius's voice was light when he finally spoke. "Moony, you're a hopeless sentimentalist. You're about as far from alone as you can get, now that you've got the whole damn Order of the Phoenix watching your back."
"A few of them, maybe." Remus tried not to let thoughts of Molly's fear and prejudice spoil the moment. "But none of them used to nick biscuits from the Hogwarts kitchens for me after moons."
Sirius smirked at him, although his eyes were still warm. "I think you've got more of the Order with you than you know. People listened to you at the meeting today. Didn't you see?"
Remus hadn't noticed any such thing, but it wasn't important. He shrugged, and smiled.
And then he eyed the sky, which was fading and turning pinker toward the west. "Speaking of the Order meeting," he said carefully, "I had probably better start thinking about setting off for that pub in Glasgow."
Sirius began to scowl, but then he glanced sideways at Remus and settled on a small weary sigh instead. "You'll bring back information for me to analyse?"
"I solemnly swear that I will find you a mission you can carry out from here." Remus raised his hand in mock earnestness, and—thankfully—Sirius grinned.
They left the window open for Buckbeak, closed the mahogany door firmly, and set off down the stairs. Remus still wasn't moving all that quickly, but they hurried past the house-elf heads and tiptoed past the portraits in the ground-floor hallway.
And then they were at the front door, past which Remus could go and Sirius could not.
"Right, then," said Sirius. "Go on up to Glasgow and prank a few Death Eaters, yeah?"
Remus felt the squeeze of that hand on his shoulder again. He grinned, remembering what it was like to be seventeen and making mischief.
He had his hand on the doorknob when there came a sudden clatter of footsteps, hurrying up the stairs from the kitchen and along the hall.
There stood Molly, with her hands on her hips, positively glaring.
"Remus Lupin, just where do you think you are going?" Her voice was a whisper, in deference to the portraits dozing in their frames. But it had the impact of a shout.
"Erm." Remus blinked. "I'm off on the reconnaisance mission to Glasgow." He had never seen Molly this angry, not at him, anyway (the twins were another matter entirely). "I'm sorry—I thought you were there when Dumbledore was briefing me about it at the meeting."
"Yes, I was there." The glare grew, if possible, fiercer. "But it didn't sound like such an urgent mission that it can't wait another half hour."
Remus blinked again. "No, it's not that much of a rush—I just thought I'd go along and get started."
"Oh, no you won't." She stepped toward him again, and even though she was considerably shorter than he was, it was all he could do to stand his ground without stepping back.
And then, Molly reached out and closed her fingers around his sleeve.
"I will not have you leaving this house without a hot meal." She gave the sleeve a sharp tug. "You are to come downstairs right now and join the rest of us for supper. Is that understood?"
Remus felt his jaw drop. He hurriedly closed it and nodded obediently.
Apparently satisfied, Molly released her grip on his robes and disappeared back down the stairs, muttering under her breath things that sounded like "skin and bones" and "working himself to death" and "no sense at all."
Sirius was sniggering. "Looks like you've finally landed in her 'needs mothering' category." He rolled his eyes. "Much better you than me."
But Remus couldn't stop a small grin from tugging at one corner of his mouth.
They descended the last flight of stairs down to the kitchen, Remus trying not to lean too hard on the banister.
The kitchen was dim but warm in the light of the chandeliers and the fireplace. The table was laden with food, including what looked like two entire roast chickens and an enormous Yorkshire pudding—Remus felt his mouth start to water. Arthur and Bill, both contentedly chewing, looked up and smiled at them. Molly gave a brisk nod of approval and turned away to fill more plates.
"Oi, Sirius." One of the twins brandished a piece of parchment bristling with notes and diagrams as soon as his mother had turned her back. "Come and have a look at this."
"Professor Lupin!" called Hermione, from the end of the table where she was sitting between Ginny and Ron. "I'm glad you haven't left yet. There's something we wanted to ask you, about doxies."
He started in their direction, only to have Molly intercept him with a positively heaping plate of food.
"Here you are, dear," she said. "Make sure you have plenty to eat, especially if you'll be out late. Do you know what time you'll be home? I can leave something out for you under a Warming Charm."
"Oh—I—erm—thank you," said Remus, a little dazed by the dear. "I should be home right after last orders, I imagine, but then I'll probably just have a cup of tea and go to bed."
Molly patted his arm.
Still blinking, he took a seat at the table. He was leaning forward to listen carefully to Hermione's question when the echo of his own words brought him up short.
But it was true.
Sometime, somehow—while he had been busy with doxies and cobwebs and counterspells, with the full moon, with the children's restless energy, and Sirius's sulks, and Molly's worries—
Grimmauld Place had become home.
~ fin ~
Author's notes: Many thanks to everyone who has read this story, especially those who have left comments and suggestions.
There is a sequel in preparation, called "Kaleidoscope". (More accurately, "All Will Be In Order" is something of a prequel to "Kaleidoscope".) Unfortunately, I expect it will take months before I'm ready to begin posting that here. But if you are willing to put up with a WIP and would like to read more about Lupin, Sirius, Molly, and the Order—and follow the development of the relationship between Lupin and Tonks—visit my LiveJournal (shimotsuki) and look for the link to "Kaleidoscope" in the sidebar.