A.N.: Sooo, sorry for the long wait! Real life can be a bitch, but I'll soldier on! Anyway, here's the latest chapter of my story! Many important things happen here, people, plot related things. And to those that usually just scroll past the Sisterhood parts, you can always do that, but you might be slightly confused come later chapters… Finally, I would like to thank you all for your support; you guys rock! And to those that sent me messages related to a certain flame I received, don't worry. I'm not stopping writing this story. No, sir! I hope you'll enjoy this chapter too and don't forget to review!
P.S.: Over 5,000 reviews. You can't see me but I'm crying.
Disclaimer; I own the plot and my OCs. Everything else belongs to me too, just not when I'm awake.
MEET THE ORDER
"As long as you promise to catch me if I faint." Ginny muttered, causing the two witches to laugh around her. Her mother would have a heart attack, she was certain, Ginny thought as the three witches walked back to the shelter. She turned her attention towards Evy once again, looking at the blonde's eyes apprehensively when a new question arose. "Evy?"
"What's your second ability, the one that makes your eyes darker?" Ginny wondered, finding everything she learned of the Sisterhood captivating even through her shock.
"Oh, that." Evy said, smiling brightly. "I'm an Oracle."
"And what's that, exactly?" Ginny wondered.
"That requires quit the long explanation." Evy offered.
"I've got time." Ginny stated, smiling back at the blonde witch walking next to her.
The thirty-first of July dawned to find the Dark Lord more enraged than ever. He had spent the past few weeks waiting for Harry Potter to make his move, to make a fear induced slip, some type of mistake that would give him an opening to strike while there was still time. The infuriating boy, however, seemed just as adept in the art of waiting as he was in duelling. He hadn't made an appearance on his radar and, according to the weekly missives Lucius received from his son, was leaving Silbreith -the blasted castle had been placed under the Fidelius charm and Voldemort was almost certain he would have to get through Harry to reach it- daily, returning only late in the evening; Draco had no idea where the teen disappeared to, stating in his letters that Harry said he was working on a new broomstick design.
If the Malfoy brat believed that, he was just as ignorant as his father could be, the Dark Lord thought, seething in anger. No, the Dark Lord was certain Snape, at least, had realised what Draco was doing and was purposefully letting him stay in his house, probably planning to use him later on as a source of information. And even if the young Malfoy could yet prove useful to him, Voldemort had decided not to take any drastic measures to either use or dispose of the boy presently. Not until there was time to walk out in the open at least; after that, he couldn't possibly think of a use for the brat.
And then there was that; he had decided that he would have to move in the shadows for the time being, at least until he got his hands on the prophecy. For that, of course, he would have to venture into the Department of Mysteries, more specifically, into the room of prophecies. He leaned back on his armchair, rubbing circles on his temples with long, spidery fingers. The Department of Mysteries… there was one more thing he had always coveted that was famed to reside in the darkest corners of the Ministry. He had always thought that, once his control over the Ministry had been complete, he would have the time to go through the treasures laying there to uncover that one thing that would cement his reign like nothing else could.
He had once believed it imprudent, spending too much time focusing on it, knowing it would be an extremely difficult object to locate. But that was fifteen years ago, during his first attempt to take over the Ministry. For, even if they generally were complete disappointments, some of his Death Eaters had managed to climb up the social ladder occupying places in the Ministry to which he didn't have any access before. And through them he knew that the Veil, at least, was still in the Ministry. And few, very few, knew of its significance. None in the country other than himself, he had made sure of that early on. There were only two left in the entire continent and soon they too would be gone.
His plans would have to move forward, of course, sooner than he had initially intended them to. He was the most powerful wizard of his time, he reminded himself, and he wasn't going to repeat the mistakes of his past or of the past wizards before him. Grindelwald had managed to control the greater part of Eastern Europe before his fall; in the end he had had only himself to count upon and Dumbledore had overpowered him. He had been too late to realise what had almost taken Voldemort himself his demise to see; he couldn't trust his followers. Grindelwald's followers had run away scared in the end while his hadn't searched for him the moment he needed them to. His Death Eaters would only be loyal as long as he stood strong; he needed more than that.
Considering how the Potter brat was acting, he would have to revise his plans; maybe waiting till he took control over the Ministry wouldn't suffice. Last time around he didn't have the opportunity or the time to search his way through the Ministry's Department of Mysteries. Now, with his followers having sunk their claws deep in the Ministry, he believed he could at least have the lay of the land before he had to move into the situation himself. He wouldn't be able to avoid visiting the Ministry on his own, of course, and he wasn't planning to. But this time everything would be completely planned through. His past had proven just how destructive knee jerk reactions could be and how underestimating his enemies could lead to his demise. The country would bow down to him, the Dark Lord promised himself, then the world and there were no lengths to what he'd do to make that happen.
And as Voldemort laid down his plans, determining which of his followers he'd use to best infiltrate the Ministry, Harry Potter was waking up in Silbreith, eyes snapping wide open as the earth beneath him trembled. He reached for his wand immediately only to realize that it wasn't the world that was shaking; it was merely his bed. Draco and Neville had seemed to have decided -for no apparent reason- that jumping on his bed and proceeding to bounce around gleefully, was the best possible way to wake him up.
"What the…" He mumbled, falling unceremoniously back onto his pillow, closing his eyes and hoping that, if he ignored them for long enough, his brothers would simply go away.
"No, you're not falling asleep again, sir!" Draco exclaimed, shaking the raven haired wizard awake.
"Go, away." Harry offered, inwardly cringing at how much his, in theory, strict command sounded like a whine.
"Nope." Neville offered. When Harry didn't move, instead throwing an arm over his eyes and willing his brothers away with all his might -'cause he was tired, damn it, he still hadn't completely recuperated from taking down Orbein's wards and all his brain demanded was that he needed sleep- the brown eyed Gryffindor persisted; "It's our birthday!" He sing-songed, finally claiming his brother's attention.
"Huh?" Harry muttered, rubbing his eyes as his mind caught up. July the thirty-first; it was their birthday!
"And you're supposed to be a morning person." Draco lamented, the teasing note evident in his voice.
"I'm just… I can't believe I forgot." Harry admitted, shaking his head in an effort to chase the last remnants of sleep away.
"Anyway, happy birthday to us!" Neville exclaimed, resuming his bouncing routine.
"Why am I the recipient of such a wake up call?" Harry asked, looking at Draco accusingly. "It's Neville's birthday too!"
"Neville's room is closer to mine than yours." Draco explaining, grinning widely. "I just got to him first. He was…" They turned to look at Neville who had just managed to fall off the bed with a loud thumping noise, an almost silent and clearly annoyed string of curses echoing from where he had landed on the floor. "He was a bit more enthusiastic than you." Draco stated, chuckling at his brother's expense.
"I noticed." Harry commended smiling fondly at the scene before hopping off his bed. "And yes, happy birthday to us!" He exclaimed helping a now smiling Neville to his feet before pulling him into a hug. The three brothers walked down towards the kitchen -after Neville and Draco had agreed that Harry needed a few minutes to get dressed before they dragged him out- in search for breakfast and Severus. The potions master made the search easier for them by waiting in the kitchen to greet them.
"Happy birthday, Harry!" He wished his son, enveloping him in his arms. "And happy birthday to you too, Neville."
"Thanks, Dad!" Harry offered, smiling widely and taking his place on the table. "Oh, chocolate cake!" He exclaimed, smiling even brighter at Minnie who was carrying said cake towards the table.
"Happy birthday, master Harry!" She offered. "Happy birthday, Mr. Neville!"
"Thanks, Minnie!" The two wizards chorused, as Severus offered to cut the cake for them.
"I can't believe you're turning fifteen…" The potions master muttered, looking at his son in contemplation. Harry had gotten taller in the past few months, just a few inches short of his own height, his frame resembling that of a child less and less as he approached adulthood. And Severus had a creeping suspicion his son was about to start shaving too; he hadn't missed those sideway glances Harry had sent to the living room mirror every now and then, staring at the few black hairs that had started growing on his face.
"It had to happen, eventually." Harry stated, smirking slightly before his expression turning sour. "I can't believe I have to go to Potter manor today; Adrian has been training all summer. I can't see why we can't postpone the birthday party for a few weeks! It's not that we usually do anything big, not since the training started; just a cake and a few presents exchanged and that's it!"
"It sounds thrilling." Draco commented drily, wolfing down his cake. There had been a letter waiting for them when they had returned from Orbein last night. Lily had written to inform them that the birthday party would commence at noon on the next day and that the whole family would attend. Not exactly and invitation, not exactly his ideal birthday party either, Harry mused.
"You're going to witness it first hand, you realise." Harry stated, emerald eyes glinting teasingly as his blond brother sighed the sigh of a long suffering man.
"If I must." He offered dramatically. Neville, who's grandmother had decided he had grown up enough to spend most of the summer on his own and had gone to visit that friend of hers in southern France after all -Harry had never been and probably would never be in a position to say that he understood exactly how Augusta Longbottom's mind functioned- chuckled at the young Slytherin's expense.
"Look, Draco, I'll be there too. How bad could it possibly be?" The brown eyed teen asked.
"Famous last words." Severus muttered, taking a sip from his coffee.
"Thanks for the support, Dad, really." Harry threw back, a smile never leaving his lips.
"You're welcome, kid." The potions master offered, completely unrepentant and undisputedly amused. Harry smiled wider at the obvious lightening of his father's spirits; as if having to leave the further exploration of Orbein and their newly found lead on Horcruxes for a day to go to a party Harry didn't feel like throwing, Dumbledore too had made contact last night. The Headmaster would be at the Potter manor too on the thirty first and had stated that there was an urgent matter he had to bring to Severus' attention. The Head of Slytherin House would bet his complete collection of cauldrons that that "urgent matter" had something to do with the Order of the Phoenix getting back on business.
After breakfast, the four wizards retreated to their respective rooms to get dressed for the party at Potter manor. Harry had stared at his reflection on the mirror for a few long seconds before he called for a house elf to bring him a razor; he would look nothing less than immaculate when he entered Potter manor and a shave, he believed, was in order. Satisfied with only having cut himself thrice and inwardly cursing Neville for his apparent talent with a blade -his Gryffindor brother had started shaving last winter and he didn't walk around looking like he had just fought against a group of Death Eaters and lost- and Draco -for having hair so light he wouldn't have to even consider shaving for a few more years- he pulled out his wand and healed the cuts. His clothes were picked carefully, the silver wolf ring clear on his right hand, stating his status as an adult.
Soon, all four of them where gathered in front of the fireplace, looking at each other, waiting to see who would take the first step. Harry sighed and looked at his father pleadingly.
"Can we leave as soon as possible?" He asked, hoping he would like the answer; Severus, who didn't feel he could remain in the same room with an irate James for more than a few hours without started hexing the man, readily conceded;
"The moment they start gritting on your nerves." He assured his son.
"I would rather we went to Orbein." Neville muttered, voicing the thoughts of the whole family.
"I would rather we had time to continue with our research too." Harry stated; he had explained what they had found in that book to Neville and Draco while Severus had elaborated on his theory on how Voldemort had remained alive after his first encounter with Harry. It had taken the two teens some time to stomach the idea alone -Severus had been adamant they wouldn't actually read the ritual needed, feeling that he had been sufficiently scarred for all four of them- but they hadn't disappointed after the shock had passed, swiftly helping in the search for more books on the subject that may have been lurking on the selves of Orbein's library. They had found two more, one of which a huge tome that had a protective spell on it that had almost burned the hair right off Neville's head, but had barely managed to start reading them before it was time to sleep. And then there were the repairs on the castle that had to start, eventually, and they wouldn't be done on their own.
"The sooner we leave, the sooner we will return." Severus offered, smiling supportively at Draco who had gone even paler than usual; the fact that the blond didn't allow his feelings to show easily didn't mean he wasn't bothered by the continuous insults he received from the remaining Potters. At least, his cousin would be there too, he figured and of course, he thought, his smile widening, his family would be there too.
"I hope you appreciate what we go through for you, Harry." Draco stated, grabbing a handful of floo powder and throwing it onto the flames.
"Trust me, I do." Harry offered, stepping into the green-blue blaze first; the world started spinning the moment he worded his desired destination. He stepped out of the fireplace in the manor that, in another life, could have been his home and found it lacking. The manor was grand in its own right but simply lacked that element that made it home. And, he noted as the people gathered in the living room turned their attention on his, it wasn't even that well protected. There had been a reason why the Potters had had to abandon this place during the first war; the location of the manor was well known and there was no feasible protection that could make the world forget of it, not even the Fidelius charm.
"Harry!" Lily called and rushed forward to hug her younger son just as the flames behind him turned turquoise once more. "Happy birthday!" She exclaimed, seemingly unwilling to let him go; she did however, when Neville stepped out of the fireplace and came to stand right behind his brother.
"Thank you." Harry offered kindly, before pointing at Neville. "You don't mind I invited Nev and Draco over too?"
"Draco?" Came Ron's expected, disgruntled reaction. "You invited that bastard over?" Neville seemed ready to pounce but Harry beat him to the proverbial punch.
"I assumed that this was my birthday party as well, Ronald." He stated, voice colder than ice. "It hadn't occurred to me that I should have acquired your blessing first." He had the pleasure to watch Ron turn beet red, from the roots of his hair to all the way under the collar of his shirt as the boy fumed.
"Of course you can invite whomever you wish." Lily stated, gulping once as she tried to defuse the situation. "And on the subject of birthdays, happy birthday to you too, Neville."
"Thank you, Mrs. Potter." The brown eyed boy stated curtly, no real warmth in his usually jovial tone. The rest of his family approached the two boys to wish them a happy birthday, most hugging Harry, their reactions getting much more subdued when Draco walked into the room. Harry simply smiled widely at the blond and Draco smiled back, deciding to ignore the stares the two remaining male Potters and the one Weasley where throwing at him. Severus arrived seconds later, completely disregarding any hostility directed his way as he politely wished Adrian a happy birthday. The hazel eyed twin seemed even more frigid than he had during the beginning of the summer and Harry wanted nothing more but to grab him by the shoulders and shake him into his senses. That not being an option, he tried to strike a conversation with him, via Hermione who seemed quite eager to talk to him after all.
Thirty minutes into the supposed party and Harry could already tell it had all been a monumental mistake; Sirius and Remus were sitting at a corner, silently staring at Severus, as if they were dying to talk to him. Lily stood numb as her two sons avoided each other. James was glaring at everything that moved. Draco was talking vividly with Neville and Harry and later Hermione, shocking the girl to temporary silence, while Severus sipped his tea in apparent tranquillity, reconsidering the whole Horcux theory in his mind. Mr and Mrs Weasley had arrived a few minutes ago, the later with red rimmed and puffy eyes, along with Fred and George. Apparently, Percy had decided -in a Ron-worthy, pigheaded manoeuvre, as Draco later put it- to side with the Ministry in the Voldemort debacle. She had started crying openly when Dumbledore had appeared and brought news of the Minister's unchanging attitude. Professor McGonagall -who had arrived with Albus- had taken her to the kitchen for some water as the Headmaster sighed tiredly.
"How can the Minister still refuse to see what's happening?" Adrian exclaimed, filled with, admittedly, righteous indignation. "The signs are all there."
"Not really, no." Harry offered, sipping carefully from his still too hot tea. "It appears that Voldemort has taken enough measures to hide himself from anybody unwilling to look. As always, the devil's greatest victory was to convince the world he doesn't exist." The silence the followed his words was something he had come to expect from his biological family who continued to stubbornly treat him as a mindless child, but it still irritated him.
"That's exactly what he has done." Dumbledore offered, finally sitting across Harry on the dining table. "Voldemort is biding his time; to what purpose, we still don't know." Or do we? Severus wondered, having learned not to take what the Headmster said to face value anymore. Albus had held the diary after all, two years ago. Had he really not known what it was back then; when even he himself had suspected…
"What can we do then?" Remus asked, looking more tired than he had since the day he started taking Severus' Wolfsbane.
"There are a few things we can do but before that…" The Headmaster stated, clearly not wanting to start that conversation in front of some of the people gathered around the table, and pulled out a stack of envelopes from his robes. He gave one to Ron, Adrian and Hermione, surprisingly, one to Draco and Neville each -and how did the man even know that Harry would have asked his brothers to tag along, the green eyed teen did not know- and two to Harry. One of the envelopes was his regular Hogwarts letter while the other had the official seal of the Ministry on it; his Arithmancy OWL score, Harry realised, heart beating faster all of a sudden.
"Is that…" Hermione trailed, looking at the envelope in Harry's hands with thinly concealed covetousness.
"Harry's OWL result?" The Headmaster asked. "Why yes, it is! Open it, my boy." Harry didn't need any more prodding; steadying his hands, he broke the wax seal and pulled out the parchment. The wide smile in his face told Severus -who was watching with bated breath- all he needed to know.
"You passed, didn't you?" The potions master asked, mirroring his son's smile.
"Only with an Outstanding, you know." Harry stated drily, before throwing his hands in the air with a loud 'whoop!' as Neville and Draco attempted to tackle him from his chair onto the floor.
"Of course you did." Severus stated, not having worried for a second. Okay, maybe his paranoid side had, but… rationally, at least, he knew Harry was well beyond OWL level taught subjects. "Congratulations, Harry!"
"And that's not all." The Headmaster added, pointing at the Hogwarts envelopes. Harry, now cocking an eyebrow in confusion for Dumbledore's eyes seemed to twinkle just a tad on the excessive side, pried the envelop open; his usual list of books was in there and then, as he was about to ask what exactly he was missing, a small pin fell from the envelope. No, a badge, he realised with some trepidation, the letter "P" clearly engraved on it.
"You made me Gryffindor's Prefect, professor?" Harry asked bewildered, Neville bursting into spontaneous chuckling as the horrified expression on his brother's face, Draco soon following suit. It was quite clear that Harry hadn't even considered that might happen, despite his grades and general magical prowess and the expression of pure mortification on his face was a memory Neville wanted to save and drag later on in their lives, just so that he could perpetually tease his youngest brother with it.
"Hell, no." Sounded a faint voice from the blond Slytherin, along with a soft whine. Neville knew what was going to happen before he saw it; there, on his elder brother's his palm, lay one more prefect badge. And as shocked grey eyes met terrified emerald, falling on the floor laughing was all Neville could do.
"Congratulations, Harry, Draco!" Severus offered, sidestepping the still laughing Neville and walking closer to pat Draco affectionately on the shoulder, making the Malfoy heir blush slightly at the praise, and hugging his son close. After Hermione received her badge too -no surprise there, obviously- a second round of congratulations seemed to be in order; Neville had gotten over his laughing fit and had hugged his brothers close, gleefully whispering this party turned out to be a treasure chest of blackmailing material after all. The ones that seemed to completely abstain from the, more sincere and less stiff than the first, congratulatory round were Ron and Adrian, that had opted on sulking at the far corner of the room; the hazel Potter twin was picking at a biscuit with no real appetite while Ron refused to even look at Hermione, let alone Harry and Draco.
Severus, on his part, was almost bursting with pride; he knew that, even if Dumbledore hadn't wanted to keep Harry close -something which he strongly suspected was the case- his son had earned that badge in a way that no student before him had. And that OWL for that matter, he reminded himself.
"My little boy, a prefect!" Lily exclaimed, her eyes tearing up. Harry rolled his eyes, slightly; he was by no means little, thank you very much. Despite being a legal adult he was a good head taller than his twin. Little… Meh!
"I can't believe you did that to us, kiddo! A Prefect, of all things!" Sirius offered, clutching his chest as if fatally wounded. "And Draco too, my own flesh and blood!" That last dramatic exclamation had caught the attention of four specific wizards in a much more favourable way than any reaction they had elicited so far; it seemed that Sirius hadn't forgotten that conversation in Hogwarts after all. Harry smiled encouragingly at his godfather.
"Don't listen to him, of course." Remus stated, slightly pushing Sirius out of the way to congratulate the two teens and Hermione.
"Well done, all three of you!" Dumbledore exclaimed, clapping once. "And now, young gentlemen, Miss Granger," he continued, smiling softly at his students, "would you mind if borrowed the rest of our company for a while? There are a few subjects I have to address. I wish this didn't have to happen today, of all days, but alas! Some things can not wait."
Harry resisted rolling his eyes at the statement. He well knew what Dumbledore wanted to talk about; his father had, after all, spent an hour last night -all they could spare from brainstorming over Horcruxes- to explain to him and his brothers what the Order of the Phoenix was and how it operated. Reinstating it had seemed to be the only natural course of action now that the Ministry had made its position on the subject of Voldemort completely clear.
"Why can't we stay, professor?" Adrian asked, hazel eyes narrowing behind his glasses. Yes, Adrian, because picking a fight with Dumbledore will get you into the meeting, Harry thought sarcastically as he observed his twin fume.
"It's a delicate subject, I fear, but rest assured!" The Headmaster said, trying to appease Adrian. "You will soon be informed." Not of everything, of course, Harry continued with his internal commentary, twirling his newly acquired badge and wincing slightly; Neville was never going to let neither him nor Draco live their reaction to becoming prefects down.
"No, Fred." Mr. Weasley admonished.
"If we could just…"
"George, your father said no for a reason." Molly chastised her son. Ron tried to voice his own objection but was swiftly pushed out of the room and towards the gardens by Hermione; Adrian followed her, still looking mutinous while the twins left next, identical determined expressions on their faces. Neville and Draco shrugged, shared a look with Harry who nodded, signalling he too would be following them and left the room. Severus, who had deliberately placed himself a few steps back from everybody else nodded towards his son, an added reassurance that he would share everything the Headmaster told them with him afterwards. As such, Harry was the last to leave the room; Dumbledore seemed hesitant to let him go, almost as if he held himself back from stopping him only a fraction of a second before he opened his mouth to do so.
The wizards left in the living room were swiftly led to James' study, Albus leading the way, already assuming his place as the de facto leader of the group. Severus walked at the end of the group, right behind Sirius. He had expected Albus would want to address the subject at hand as soon as possible. He had expected he would wish the children not to be present. He had expected the Headmaster's indecision on whether Harry should or should not be included in the group of those he considered children. What he hadn't expected was Sirius, stopping him just before they entered James' study.
"After the meeting is over, Remus and I would like a word with you." Severus didn't even manage to nod before Sirius turned around and followed his werewolf friend inside the room, his feet leading him in too as his brain processed what he had just heard. If he wanted to be completely honest with himself, Sirius and Remus wanting to talk to him about Harry -he could think of no other reason why the two wizards would like to speak to him all of a sudden- was a possibility that had entered his mind right after they had chased Pettigrew, that night almost two years ago. But time had passed and Severus had thought that, whatever understanding these two had gained regarding his relationship with Harry had been long forgotten. But it seemed the two wizards remembered quite well and now he too found himself recalling a thought that had passed his mind that very night; maybe there was hope for Sirius Black yet, after all.
"Close the door, Severus, if you please." Albus asked and the potions master complied, his thoughts focusing back on the meeting at hand. He would worry about what he was going to say to Lupin and Black after this first council of war was over; it all depended on their questions, after all.
"Is this really happening again, Albus?" James asked as the Headmaster pulled some secrecy wards over the room. Severus made a mental note of those he recognised; some permanent form of them could certainly be used on Orbein after all. "Are we back in business?"
"It would seem we're running out of solutions." Albus stated, his expression serious. "The Order must return once again."
"There is no persuading the Minister, you think?" Molly asked, looking at the Headmaster in hope; that would be the ideal solution for her, Severus knew, as it would mean the quarrel with her son would be put to rest immediately.
"Fudge will only believe what suits him, Molly." Said the pot concerning the kettle, the potions master inwardly commented. "He will not be persuaded unless he sees Voldemort with his own eyes." Irony, thy name is Dumbledore, Severus thought, wondering what it would take, short of witnessing Harry and Voldemort duelling -the mere thought caused him to shudder- to convince the Headmaster his theories had been wrong.
"Who has been informed so far?" James asked, leaning on a bookcase by the window.
"Everybody in this room, of course," Albus explained, "along with all surviving members of the Order. Kingsley has started looking out for more people to join; he has connections in the Ministry, of course, but he can't just go asking around, you understand."
"Would you like me to search through the Auror ranks?" James asked, considering his chances. "Scrimgeour might oppose," he stated, referring to his second-in-command "but I have a few candidates in mind, as long as I manage to go around him." Severus too considered their chances; Scrimgeour had joined the Aurors three decades before the first war; the man was no doubt determined, driven and a powerful wizard… that still had the same image of what the Ministry was almost sixty years ago. He would be the Head of the Auror department if it wasn't for James and his much more contemporary mindset and both men knew it. There was bad blood between them and the fact that Scrimgeour would never stray from the path the Ministry dictated only made things that much more difficult.
"If you can manage to do so discretely." Dumbledore said. "More eyes inside the Ministry can only help us and the last war has left us with fewer members than what I would wish for." The old wizard concluded, his expression turning dark. Severus caught Molly stiffening with the corner of his eyes. She had lost her brothers in the war, he recalled, as Arthur consoled his wife at the best of his ability. The conversation soon turned to possible recruitments and such, before the matter of the Headquarters was addressed. The Potter Manor was out of question and James with Lily themselves where planning to move to a property of theirs in London once Adrian and Harry returned to Hogwarts. It wasn't long before Sirius offered his own house at Grimauld Place. Everybody knew he wasn't using it but the wards were working perfectly even after all this time.
"It will need some work, of course." Sirius warned them.
"We can all help." Lily supplied.
"Of course." Albus agreed. "Until the Order is completely reinstated we will need to spend much time at the Headquarters as it is. The Fidelius too would be a good measure of protection; I'm planning on being the secret keeper myself, of course." Everyone nodded in agreement and, after half an hour of additional conversation, it was decided that the first official meeting of the Order would take place in the new Headquarters in three days. Dumbledore soon adjourned the meeting after that, claiming he would have to return to Hogwarts and work on informing every member of the Order he could reach.
When everybody cleared out of the office, Remus asked Severus to stay behind, stating he had a question about the new Wolfsbane he had long wanted to ask. At James' curious glance, Sirius stepped forward and swiftly assured the Potter patriarch that he would remain in the room, just in case. Somewhat appeased, James followed his wife back into the living room.
"How may I be of assistance, gentlemen?" Severus asked, looking at the two other wizards in the room expectantly.
"How about by explaining what exactly 's been going on between you and Harry?" Sirius blurted out, obviously having been dying to ask that for quite some time. Well, tough, Severus thought; he wasn't going to make this easy on them.
"You lost me." He simply stated, accompanying his declaration with the most successful confused and innocent look he could muster. Sirius narrowed his eyes at the display, but it was Remus who spoke next.
"What Sirius meant, was that you two seem to be more closely connected than Harry is with his own father." The werewolf stated. Severus almost snorted; quite the oxymoron there, Mr. Lupin.
"Why would you say that?" The potions master asked.
"We're not blind, Snape!" Sirius declared.
"Sometimes I wonder." The potions master simply stated, shrugging nonchalantly.
"Sirius!" Remus cautioned his friend, hoping the commotion wouldn't bring James in the room. When the door didn't open, he spoke again.
"It started out when we first came to teach at Hogwarts." Remus explained. "We noticed almost immediately. Sirius first, then me. And after everything that happened last summer and Harry's emancipation and now with Voldemort… For Merlin's sake, he's been staying with you all this summer and not in his house!" The werewolf exclaimed. "James and Lily have talked about this with Dumbledore and he has advised them not to interfere presently but…"
"And they would have no right to." Severus stated matter-of-factly. They had absolutely no right whatsoever.
"They are his parents!" Sirius said. "And he's closer to you than he is to them; how the ruddy hell did that happen?"
"Sometimes I wonder indeed." Severus muttered, his anger shimmering in his chest. He wasn't going to deny how close he was with his son; but he didn't feel they deserved all the answers just yet. Not when they had to ask questions like those. "Answer me my questions and I'll answer yours." He turned towards Sirius. "You ask how did this happen. I ask, how couldn't you notice? You say you first noticed how Harry and I interacted two years ago. Shouldn't you be asking yourselves why did you notice only then? I spent more than a decade raising him; where were you?" The silence that followed his questions said it all; it was thick enough to cut with a knife and weighted down on Remus and Sirius both.
"Severus we…" No matter how hard he tried, Remus couldn't continue his sentence. Sirius had seemingly given up on trying to justify himself and was looking at the floor instead, his face blushing in shame.
"Yes, that." Severus offered and chuckled mirthlessly. "So, gentlemen, I will not be answering your questions today. But I'll tell you this; Harry is a person of his own right, more mature than you give him credit for. He's capable of making his own decisions and he will make his own decisions no matter what." The potions master stated. "Do remember that. Now, gentlemen, we should head back to the living room before our presence is missed." And he opened the door, stepping out of the room, leaving Remus and Sirius behind to mull over what they had heard. There might be hope for them still, Severus thought again, but that didn't mean the road ahead of them would be easy; if they truly wanted to get closer to Harry, to get to know him, they would have to be worthy of him first.
While this conversation was taking place, Harry was amusing himself with watching Fred and George's attempts to eavesdrop on the meeting. They had used an invention of theirs -extendable ears, they called it, and privately thanked him again for giving them the money that made it all possible; apparently their mother had been pestering them all summer, trying to find out why they had thanked him so vividly back at the platform making their stay at the Burrow that much more fun- but to no avail. The room was warded and warded well.
"I don't understand why you keep trying, mate." Neville said, his voice reaching the Weasley twins from where he had decided to lay down on the grass and wait for the meeting to be through.
"Don't you want to know what's happening in there?" Ron asked, looking furious and completely baffled as to how unconcerned Neville appeared.
"It's not a matter if we want to know or not." Draco stated, plopping down next to his brother. "There's no way you'll eavesdrop in a room where Dumbledore is holding a meeting; he's probably cast so many cloaking spells, your ears would buzz if you passed by the door."
"Oh, shut up Malfoy!" Adrian exclaimed, shooting a death glare to the blond.
"Temper, temper." Harry cautioned, deciding his brothers had the right idea and joining them on the grass. "I bet he's even warded the room."
"I bet not even bugs could get in there without Dumbledore noticing." Neville stated, causing his brothers to laugh at the thought of a very special kind of bug that would sacrifice her right antenna just to listen in to that conversation for a minute.
"Sorry, inside joke." Harry offered, still chuckling, as he observed the confused stares he received from the Weasley twins.
"I give up!" George exclaimed disgruntled, as he pocketed the extendable ears and crossed his hands in front of his chest, huffing.
"Yeah!" Fred agreed. "They don't want to tell us? See if we care!"
"Why yes, you don't care at all, I can clearly see that." Draco commented, grinning widely.
"I thought I told you to shut up!" Adrian spat.
"I thought I told you to control your temper." Harry interjected, smiling still, even if he was considering hexing his twin on the spot.
"Sod off, Harry!" Adrian countered, his face turning an interesting shade of purple.
"Gladly." The green eyed twin offered. "As soon as we cut the cake, we'll be leaving you in peace."
"So, you're not staying?" Hermione asked, looking at the younger Potter twin in confusion.
"Nope, can't do." Harry said. "I have still a lot of work to do, you know, broomsticks to design and such." That wasn't completely a lie as he had presented Nimbus with a family model of the Firebolt he had designed last year along with the Seeker Edition, after tinkering a bit with the tail. He did have a contract to uphold after all.
"The war is coming and you're concerned about broomsticks?" Adrian asked; really now, Harry thought, that colour on his face couldn't be normal.
"To each their own, Adrian." Harry countered. "Besides, you are training. Wasn't that the point?" Adrian's eyes widened as he recalled their conversation from a month ago.
"But surely, Harry, you must see you have to train too." Hermione stated, her expression stern.
"Who says I'm not?" Harry offered, chuckling once.
"You do realise he won the Triwizard Tournament, right?" Neville asked, joining the conversation, smirking.
"I still can't get over that dragon statue." Draco muttered.
"I still can't get over that fish tail." Neville said, laughing out.
"You'll never let me forget the fish tail." Harry accused them, fondness colouring his words instead of accusation.
"We'll never let you forget that you thought you could walk without help after the first time you transformed your legs back after a swim in the lake; you took a few steps, tripped, fell on top of us and we all ended up in the water." Draco reminded him. "It was January, Harry. The lake was almost completely frozen over, Harry." The blond whined as Fred and George laughed uproariously at Harry's peeved expression.
"You were the ones that insisted on tagging along." Harry defended himself.
"Because we were afraid you wouldn't be able to stand on your own legs after the transformation." Neville stated. "It seems we were right." And he high-fived his blond brother as Harry groaned.
"Idiots, both of you." The green eyed wizard stated fondly.
"Meh, probably." Neville agreed.
"You fell into the lake?" Fred asked, still chuckling, imagining how the scene must have played out.
"I wouldn't recommend it to anybody else, but yes." Harry admitted. "Could we not talk about this?" He asked, chuckling a little. Fred and George shared a glance and started talking instead about quidditch, tentatively including Draco in the conversation while Ron and Adrian fumed, with Hermione trying to get them to talk.
Eventually, harry kept his word with him and his family leaving the Potter manor a bit after the birthday cake. Lily seemed ready to protest but Dumbledore, who had apparently returned just for the cake -or so he said- held her back with a subtle glance. Well, Harry thought, Adrian was still being an idiot and now that he was a prefect he was afraid things would get even worse between them. Still nobody had gotten hexed or punched and there had been no attempts to coerce him to spend the remainder of his holidays at Potter manor. For all intents and purposes, things could have gone much worse.
Coincidentally the thought "things could have gone much worse" was the exact same thing that had passed from one Ginny Weasley's mind as she looked herself in the mirror for the first time after her initiation ritual. The violet shade she had been so much afraid to see in her own eyes wasn't the deep mauve hue she had been terrified of. Instead, it was a soft lilac, the tones of amethyst varying the further away you got from the pupil.
"Not that bad, right?" Evy asked, smiling tentatively from her spot on the couch. Ginny had followed her and Michaela back to the guest house so that they could explain to her the basics of the Sisterhood and how it worked. From what she had gathered so far, the Order of Morgana, for that was exactly what the Sisterhood was, had been actually founded long before Morgana was born.
"How does that work?" Ginny had asked, sitting cross legged on the couch across the two witches; it was two in the morning already, but she knew she wouldn't be sleeping for a good long hours still. She felt hyper and full of energy with few odd giggles escaping her now and then; these would pass, Michaela reassured her, in a matter of days.
"It all started with the witch Queen Aine; she ruled once, over two millennia ago, in the isle now called Ireland. And though she was strong and so were her people, she saw that the magic around her was changing. Fewer and fewer witches were born with the instinctual magic every witch originally had." Evelyn explained. "Aine was an Oracle too; and in one of her visions one day she saw that, even if the magic in its most fundamental form wouldn't disappear, wouldn't be tempered in the magic we know now, the witches that would have those first gifs would be rare. And thus, the idea of the Sisterhood was born."
"Why is the Order consisted only of witches?" Ginny asked.
"It's in witches that those gifts manifest. That doesn't make us stronger of course." Michaela explained. "Merlin was the strongest wizard the world had ever seen, even if Morgana, who had been blessed with the ancient gifts and was powerful herself, lived at the same time as he."
"So, the Sisterhood was founded." Ginny prompted.
"Exactly." Evy said. "It wasn't of course until the time of Morgana when the Sisterhood was actually shaped to what it is today. There had been a war. A bitter war, one you'll find little about in your history books simply because it is not spoken of. Death and pain took the land as Queen Maeve's armies marched on."
"The Great War?" Ginny asked, looking at the two witches in confusion. "It thought that was just a fairy tale?"
"No, it was not." Michaela assured her. "Vivian, one of Merlin's students, had fallen in love with him. When he chose Morgana instead and wedded her…" Ginny's gasp caused Michaela to giggle. "Yes, they were married; interesting fact, no? Anyway, once Vivian found out, she left and turned to the dark arts and swore to ruin the very land Merlin had dedicated his life to protect. She assumed the name Maeve and raised her armies from the dead, with an artefact of her own creation. Very little we know of her sceptre, the one she used to control her army; some say it was the magic infused on the wood of it. Some say it was the stone. As it remains, not even we know what it truly was that gave her such power."
"So she led an army of inferi?" Ginny asked, paling at the mental image; she had heard the story many times over, of course. But she had though it just that; a story. Had the armies that terrified her so in her childhood truly walked the earth? Killing indiscriminately, poisoning the very ground they walked upon? "How can the world have forgotten?"
"The world didn't forget. But the world was very different back than; in the years that followed, the story became legend and the legend became myth, many different variations of what had happened surfacing. And then everything got tangled up with the Muggle version of the Arthurian legend and well, you get my drift." Evy explained.
"And how did the Sisterhood get involved?" The redhead asked, trying to remember everything her mother had once told her as a fairy tale.
"She didn't lead inferi to battle, not exactly." Michaela said. "Everybody thought that's what they were, of course. But those men -if you could call them that still- were capable of basic magic and weren't afraid of fire; they poisoned the earth and the water and the air and they couldn't be killed, unless beheaded." The story sounded so bizarre, so otherworldly, Ginny finally understood why it ended up being regarded as myth and nothing more.
"But that army must have been defeated somehow, right?" Ginny asked, looking from Evy to Michaela and back again.
"Of course." Evy assured her, smiling brightly. "The Lady Morgana assembled the Sisterhood then and suddenly Maeve's army faced dragons and giants and the very earth it was poisoning. Cursed as her men were, they were still men and sirens lulled them to their deaths. A great moment for the Sisterhood. Soon, Merlin and Morgana found Maeve; they fought and killed her, her body falling down the mountain where they fought. Nobody found her sceptre and it was better that way, I think. Not that anybody could use it, not that anybody knew how. The very moment she died, the army she had called from the dead perished with her, and that was the end of the Great War."
"But… if the Sisterhood has so much power, why not help with the wars after that?" Ginny wondered, thinking of how many lives could have been spared during the te past few decades alone.
"Because we're not supposed to be fighters; after the Great War, many kings asked for the Sisterhood's aid, of tried to control it's power. Seeing as such strength should not be held by one man alone, Morgana moved our Home up north, to the land that today is Norway." Evy explained, smiling widely. "There we remained, keepers of our magic, swearing never to get involved in war again unless attacked. We're not panacea, Ginny; we can not meddle with the story of the world. If wars start, they must be dealt with without us. We would very soon perish if we fought in every war; we're not immortal, Ginny. We wouldn't make it, in the long run, and our magic would vanish with us. Young witches born with gifts would have nobody to turn to."
"We are not warriors…" Ginny said, repeating the words so they could stick. She saw why, she understood. No matter what gifts you had, a well aimed curse could snuff your life away and then what. There are only forty-three of us, she recalled. So few to fight in every war.
"No." Michaela agreed. "We are guardians. We do not seek war, we do not seek glory or conquest. And, should the time come when we're needed again, when we are provoked, we will move. But until than, we remain in peace."
"So," Ginny asked, wondering if there was a book somewhere she could read to find more about the Great War, "what is Home, exactly?"
"Home is where we meet, where we study our arts. It's not a building as much as it is a grand, unplotted mountain plateau at the northern-most part the Jotunheimen mountains." Evy explained. Seeing Ginny's completely lost expression she laughed kindly. "I'll show you the mountains on a map before we get there, I promise. Anyway, my many times over great-grandmother, Queen Eydís, who was also a member of the Sisterhood, completely erased the plateau from any map. Home is possibly the most well kept secret location on the planet."
"Oh…" Ginny mumbled, completely overwhelmed by that point.
"You'll get used to it, eventually, worry not." Michaela stated. "There's a great library at Home, and rooms that will be yours for the rest of your life. You don't have to live there, but you are free to stay for as long as you wish."
"That's great, I think." Ginny offered, still not sure what to think exactly.
"The Sisterhood has three sisters leading it, with elections that take place once a decade. Our leaders at the moment are sister Elfë, sister Li Ling and sister Neha. You will get to meet them, tomorrow. Well," Michaela reconsidered looking at the clock that now read three thirty, "more like later tomorrow."
"And how many types of gifts are there?" Ginny asked, trying to absorb all information thrown her way.
"There are Oracles, Tamers, Sirens, Empaths -that's Michaela, by the way- Enchantresses, Healers and Nymphs. Sister Neha is charged to explain everything once we reach Home." Evy elaborated. Ginny nodded numbly.
"And I think we should call it a night." Michaela offered. "Tomorrow is a big day; we shall travel to Home by portkey but first," she said, smirking slightly towards Ginny, "we should notify your brother, at least. He works here, right? Charlie?"
"And there's that." Ginny realized, now completely dizzy. "How am I supposed to blurt out something like that? No, Charlie, I can't help you with the shelter today. Why? Oh, I joined the Sisterhood and have to leave the country to go meet everybody, of course! Don't wait up for dinner!" Michaela and Evy laughed at her expense, even as Ginny plopped on the couch. She had never truly stopped to consider what she would do after she would join the Sisterhood. That should be an interesting morning.
"We can help explain, don't worry." Michaela offered, smiling as if she understood exactly what Ginny was going through. Wait, Empath, hadn't Evy said? She probably did understand perfectly then. My head hurts, Ginny thought and giggled. Oh well.
"And you should sleep here tonight." Evy offered. "There are two more empty rooms in this house, if I'm not mistaken." Ginny, who figured she would barely be able to make herself move from the couch, let alone drag herself to her room, nodded in agreement. She followed the two witches up the stairs and into her room for the night, wished them good dreams and plopped herself on the mattress, face down, buried in the pillow. Tomorrow -today- would be an interesting indeed.