Title: The Order of the Phoenix
Author name: Ruskbyte

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Now this is a nicely rounded chapter I think. It has a fight scene, some light Draco bashing (a new national sport), Ron and Hermione flirting, Harry and Ginny flirting, an explanation of the inexplicable and a teaser of what lies ahead. All that's missing is Quidditch and that's coming next.


***
Chapter Fifteen
~ The Facts of the Matter ~


Dinner in the Great Hall was as superb a feast as always, although the conversation was quieter than it had been before the Christmas holidays. Ever since the attack on Hogsmeade the children had been somewhat muted during mealtimes, though today things had picked up a bit.

Hermione supposed that was because today had been the first day of classes for the new term and everyone was either discussing how good it was to be working again, or complaining about the amount of work that had already been laid down for them.

"You see, I have trouble with Potions," Ron was telling her, trying as usual to get her to help him with his homework by way of getting her to do it for him.

"Which part?" she asked, expecting him to immediately mention Snape.

Much to her surprise Ron did not begin complaining about the Slytherin head of house and instead shook his head mournfully, "The potions part. I'm hopeless."

Rolling her eyes Hermione frowned disapprovingly at him. How he was ever going to manage to pass his O.W.L.s at this rate she did not know. "If you're that hopeless," she asked, "why are you asking me for help?"

"You're like a textbook with legs," he replied earnestly.

"Really," she cocked an eyebrow his way and waited until he lifted his goblet of pumpkin juice to his lips before continuing, "And here I thought you were only interesting in my tits."

For a moment Hermione was worried that perhaps her timing had been a bit off and Ron was going to choke to death. He certainly was shocked though and after spluttering and coughing and making a wide range of obscure gestures, Ginny hitting him hard across his back, he managed to gape at her and turn a very fetching shade of crimson.

'Brings out his hair. And his eyes.'

Still coughing lightly Ron looked around to check if anyone else had heard, but conversation around the table continued without pause. Turning back to her he stared with a completely horrified expression and asked, "Did you have to say that right when I was drinking?"

"Course she did," grinned Ginny, clapping him on the shoulder, "It's more funny that way."

"Funny? She could've killed me!" he protested.

Checking her watch, Hermione rose from her seat and motioned to the door, "Come on, it's almost time for Harry's class. You can complain on the way."

Most of the other Gryffindors were up and making towards the third floor corridor as Hermione, Ron and Ginny left the Great Hall. The first, second and third years split off from the group before they reached the corridor, heading back to Gryffindor tower. As they left Hermione could hear Moira loudly complaining that it wasn't fair that only fourth-years and above got a chance to attend PFT, something the boisterous second-year did every time.

'A good thing too; she's dangerous enough as it is.'

Climbing down the winding staircase leading down from Fluffy's old lair, the students made their way into the Practical Fighting Techniques auditorium. As the trio took their seats, Hermione noticed that there was a large attendance of Slytherins for some reason, which was very odd as less than a dozen of that house took the class with any regularity.

"What do they know that we don't?" muttered Ginny, eyeing them narrowly.

'Nothing good I'll bet.'

"You don't think Harry's going to tell all of us, do you?" asked Ron, pointing to where The Boy Who Lived was standing on the stage, waiting for all the students to enter.

This was the primary reason why Hermione, Ron and Ginny were so eager. Harry had promised them a forthcoming explanation, the day after Christmas, which he was to give them after finishing the first PFT class of the new term. That was tonight.

"I don't think so, Ron," she told him, but not sounding entirely certain. Looking around the auditorium Hermione saw that almost every teacher in the school was present for tonight's class.

'Perhaps Harry's going to be explaining everything to them as well,' she thought, nudging Ron and Ginny with her elbows and directing them to where Professor Lupin was entering the auditorium with Snuffles trotting along beside him.

"Snuffles is here?" asked Ron quietly.

"Harry wasn't kidding when he said everyone involved," agreed Ginny.

Harry was still on the stage and appeared to be playing a game of chess against himself at his desk, to one side of the stage. It was a slow moving game and Harry was shifting his pieces with less rapidity than he usually did when playing Ron. By now all the students that attended PFT were in their seats, along with the teachers and a disturbing amount of Slytherins. They sat in silence, watching Harry play, and waited for him to begin.

And waited.

And waited.

Impatient mutters and hushed whispers slowly began to make themselves heard. Harry had remained sitting at his desk, playing his game of chess, for nearly twenty minutes after when the class was scheduled to begin. He seemed completely unaware of their presence and continued to play on with an almost bored expression.

'The natives are getting restless,' Hermione thought as Dean and Seamus shifted in their seats behind where she was sitting.

"Patience is a virtue," Harry suddenly said, not looking up from his game. "You will find it impossible to live your entire lives where everything you want is instantly brought to you. At some point or another, you will have to sit... and wait."

Everyone was completely silent and focused on Harry now, whispers and mutterings forgotten. His voice had been perfectly calm and inflectionless, yet somehow he managed to make everybody feel like scolded three year olds.

'How does he do that?'

They watched quietly as Harry used his white bishop to remove a black knight, moving the pieces with his hands since he was not using a Wizard Chess set. A minute or so passed, everyone still watching the seated boy closely, before he made his next move. He reached out a hand and with a flourish tipped the black knight over, ending the game.

"Damned if I saw that coming," muttered Ron, who had been following the game closely for the last ten minutes.

Pushing his chair back Harry robe from behind his desk, revealing that he was not dressed in the usual black Hogwarts robes, but was wearing instead his father's trenchrobe. As he slowly made his way to the centre of the stage, where the lecturer's podium was rising up, his eyes swung to his friends and he smiled thinly.

'He looks... reluctant?'

With an inaudible sigh Harry took his place behind the podium, resting his hands on it as he swept the auditorium and those sitting before him with a glance. His next words were ones that Hermione had never imagined she would ever hear Harry say out loud. Let alone willingly.

"I believe I owe Draco Malfoy an apology."

***

"Damned if I saw that coming!"

Ron couldn't help but mutter the words as Harry's proclamation dropped upon the students like a bellowing Hippogriff with toothache. Or should that be beak-ache? He'd have to remember to ask Hermione about that later, but right now the youngest of the six Weasley boys merely sat in his seat in disbelieving horror.

"Merlin, he looks like Snape would if he ever had to give Gryffindor points," muttered Seamus, from behind him, sounding disgusted that Harry was actually apologising to Malfoy.

"What I wouldn't give to wipe the smirk of that smarmy git's face," growled Fred, sitting further along. Ron turned to look where his brother was scowling and found his own face contorting in anger. Malfoy was sitting amongst his fellow Slytherins and, for the first time since Harry had beaten him to a pulp, appeared abhorrently smug. He looked almost precisely as he had done when taunting Harry the day of the disaster.

'I'll hold him down for you, brother.'

"Well, Harry did go a bit overboard," admitted Hermione with obvious reluctance. "He's lucky an apology's all he has to do. The school board could have very easily revoked his Prefect status."

"Extenuating circumstances!" protested George, looking just as angry as his twin.

Harry in the meanwhile had remained shock still where he had been standing, waiting patiently for them to settle back down. After a minute or two, when some semblance of quiet had been achieved, he gave a sharp nod that was followed by an oddly humorous seeming shrug.

"It has been brought to my attention," he began in a tone of voice Ron could not immediately identify, "that my actions on the day of the Hogsmeade attack were somewhat... inappropriate, especially for a Hogwarts Prefect."

'Slimy bugger deserved it for what he said.'

"We had been discussing the victims of the attack and, if I remember correctly, Mr Malfoy had said something to the effect of, 'I hope they were all Mudbloods or Muggle lovers'."

This time the mutters and whispers that broke out were ones of outrage and Malfoy quickly found himself under the fierce glares of every single Gryffindor present, as well as almost all of the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. Ron was pleased to see that the pale boy's smug smile had abruptly turned upside down and the rest of the Slytherins weren't looking that pleased any more either.

"I'm afraid I let my temper get the better of me," Harry explained, Ron now recognising the condescending tone in his friend's voice. It was not one he usually heard from Harry which was why he had not recognized it sooner.

"In the haze of my anger," continued Harry as though discussing a topic from History of Magic, "I inflicted grievous bodily harm on Mr Malfoy. I believe Madam Pomfrey listed the injuries as a broken collar bone, broken wrist and elbow, a broken nose, a broken jaw - in two places and three teeth knocked out. Oh yes, I'm afraid I also dislocated his shoulder at the same time."

'Ah... wish I had a photo of the moment.'

Malfoy was now looking quite livid, his cheeks flushed a bright pink and his cold grey eyes were burning with open hatred. The rest of the Slytherins seemed equally infuriated, with the sole exception being Blaise Zabini, who oddly enough seemed amused by it all. Craning his head around Ron could see that Snape also wasn't looking all that happy with the delivery of Harry's apology.

As for the rest; Dumbledore, sitting not far from the Potions Master had a highly bemused look in his eyes and his long silver moustache was twitching as he fought a grin. Ron couldn't make out Sirius' expression, he was a dog after all, but Lupin quite frankly looked delighted with how things were proceeding.

"Fortunately Madam Pomfrey was able to repair the damage with a minimum of fuss," summed up Harry, now smiling sweetly at Malfoy. "Still, I would like to offer my most sincere apologies to Mr Malfoy and assure him that I have learnt my lesson."

The lecturing podium swiftly sank back into the floor as Harry gave a short bow towards Malfoy. A few words drifted gently to all their ears, sounding as though spoken in jest, but clearly laden with a warning.

"Next time I'll be certain to remember to use my wand and not my hands."

The Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws twittered with amusement, much to the Slytherins displeasure and one or two of the students even applauded lightly. Harry had apologised for his slightly over the top behaviour, but had also made it perfectly clear that he would repeat it if Malfoy stepped out of line again.

'Good one, Harry.'

"Well then," Harry smiled and clapped his hands eagerly together, "Now that the trivialities are out of the way; on to business."

'Trivial? Oh, Malfoy's not going to like being called that!'

His eyes roamed over the body of students and teachers who were sitting about the large room, a dangerous gleam burning in his bright green eyes. This was something Ron was very well acquainted with, he saw it far too often for his liking.

Usually it was right before Harry dragged Hermione and him into some damned foolish adventure that just as usually ended up with one or more of them in the Hospital Wing.

"I think it would be a nice change of pace," Harry told them, grinning impishly, "if tonight's lesson were to be a bit more... laid back than usual. Perhaps a friendly duel between myself and a... volunteer? Anyone?"

Not a single hand or voice was raised. Everyone present knew all too well that going down onto the stage with Harry almost always resulted in a visit to Madam Pomfrey. After a few seconds of silence, everyone was a bit surprised when Draco Malfoy rose to his feet, apparently intent on finding satisfaction since Harry's mock apology had not supplied it.

"I need an opponent, Malfoy," Harry noted with a tinge of sarcasm, "Not a sacrificial lamb."

Before Malfoy could respond or anyone else could volunteer the light clicking of a heel against the stone steps descending to the stage drew everyone's attention. There, moving swiftly down the centre aisle, was Ginny. She strode onto the stage with the assuredness of a tigress, her flaming locks free from the usual loose ponytail and cascading down passed her shoulders.

Harry was grinning broadly, his bright green eyes alight with eager anticipation. As Ginny came to a halt about five yards away, he waved towards his desk with his wand. A pair of sheathed swords rose up into the air and glided silently to the two, one coming to rest before each of them.

"So, how d'you want to play it?" Harry asked, plucking his sword from the air.

"You feeling adventurous?" Ginny asked back, her deep brown eyes full of challenge.

Harry's grin grew even broader, "Always."

Ginny's smile was a feral one and Ron was immediately glad that it was Harry down there opposite her and not himself.

"First blood."

Gasps echoed throughout the auditorium as everyone heard Ginny set the rules for the upcoming duel of wits and steel. Several students and teachers even rose to their feet, trying to protest, but their companions forcibly hauled them back down before they could interrupt.

Harry, if possible, seemed to be enjoying this and nodded his acceptance. "Stakes?" he asked, as he slowly drew his Katana from its sheath.

"Winner gets whatever he or she wants," replied Ginny, drawing her own blade.

"If that's the case," admitted Harry with a mischievous smile, "I'm almost tempted to throw the match."

'How in the name of Hades can they be flirting now?'

The two opponents slid into what Ron assumed were ready stances, swords held lightly in one hand. From the chess board on Harry's desk one of the white knights lifted up and floated across the stage to hover in the air between the two.

"When the knight drops; we begin," explained Harry as the chess piece rose up above them, near the auditorium's high ceiling.

Ginny nodded her agreement, eyes never once straying from where Harry was standing, waiting. A veil of complete silence fell over those watching, anxious anticipation bubbling within them. Long moments passed as Harry and Ginny faced off, ready launch at each other in an instant.

And then, in complete silence, the knight fell from where it had been hanging in the air and dropped to the floor of the stage.

Over a dozen blows were exchanged before it landed.

***

It defied belief to watch.

This was not a mock duel or even a friendly competition. It couldn't have been. Even with the slightly enhanced reflexes and perceptions that came with being a werewolf, Remus Lupin was having trouble following the fight.

Everyone had heard about the first swordfight Harry and Ginny had participated in, right after the school year began, Lupin had queried Ron and Hermione about it one afternoon. But from what they had said that had been a simple sparring match, with Harry clearly being the superior of the two, coaching Ginny more than anything else.

'This is several notches higher.'

For the passed quarter hour the auditorium had been filled with the clash of steel against steel and the flash of blades under the torchlight. Everyone watching had been silent at first, sitting perfectly still and watching as Harry and Ginny put on a display the likes of which none of them had ever seen before.

After a few minutes the students, then the teachers, had gotten into the spirit of things and begun cheering the two on. The split between the supporters was fairly even, although what bets Lupin saw being exchanged seemed to favour Harry as the victor. He was pretty certain that less money was wagered during a Quidditch game than at this moment.

Watching closely Lupin thought that the fighting style the two used was a complimentary blend of simple and intricate techniques. The blades licked in and out, sometimes so fast the only way to know a move had been made was by listening for the sound. Harry and Ginny were dancing around each other, their weapons constantly weaving around and about between them.

And then there were the spells. After a few minutes, about the time the cheering had started, Harry and Ginny had progressed the duel into something beyond the simple swordfight Lupin had been expecting it to be. Even if what it was was already something more than simple. Now it was combined with a magical duel where spells and curses and hexes were exchanged almost as rapidly as sword strokes.

It should have been impossible for either of them to dodge or deflect all the spells and still keep the blades moving. Somehow they did it anyway. After a flurry of clashing strokes Harry swung his sword in a wide arc as he hopped back a couple of yards, casting a simple disarming spell at Ginny with his wand.

Ginny jabbed her wand at the floor beneath her and was airborne before the spell reached her, cleaving harmlessly under her feet. Her magically assisted jump must have easily cleared five or more yards at its apex and then she came dropping down on Harry like an eagle diving on its prey. Harry spun out of the way and Ginny's sword sank to the hilt into the stone floor, leaving her momentarily defenceless.

'He has her now; she's wide open.'

Harry was about to slash at her from where he was standing, but a tall shadow suddenly loomed over him. He jump into a forward roll, coming to his feet and spinning around to face what had snuck up behind him. There, standing a good seven feet tall, clad in plate mail and a cloak that billowed behind him, was a literal knight in shining armour. Held in his right hand was a large broadsword and in his left was grasped an equally large battle axe. His helmeted head, with a plume of Weasley red feathers was turned towards Harry.

For a moment The Boy Who Lived seemed completely nonplussed by the sight and he blinked with surprise before a calculating look crossed his face. Harry glanced passed the slowly advancing knight to where Ginny was standing, just succeeding in pulling her sword free.

"You transfigured the chess piece?" he asked, cocking an eyebrow at her and completely ignoring the closing automaton.

Ginny grinned at him and saluted with her sword, "You were feeling adventurous, remember?"

'I didn't even see her change it,' wondered Lupin, glancing at McGonagall, who seemed quite at a loss for words. Transfiguration on such a level was definitely not in the syllabus for a fourth-year student such as Ginny.

Harry grinned in return just as the knight reached him, swinging its sword at his head, but he was no longer there. Lupin was positive that Harry had not used his wand, but somehow Harry's jump backwards was even higher and further reaching than Ginny's had been. As he sailed up and away from the knight, Harry hurled his sword at the knight in a single smooth motion. The chess piece fell to the floor a moment later, the Katana buried clear through its armoured head, and after a moment flickered back into its original form; a tiny white knight.

Landing lightly on his feet and in a low crouch, Harry looked up at Ginny, who seemed pleased that her opponent was now separated from his sword. But her grin only lasted for a second when, with a tangible wave of power emanating him, Harry grinned wickedly back at her and laid his hands on the floor before him.

"Acciendo Dementisoria Servaantis!"

With a cry that sounded like damned souls, twin pillars of inky blackness arose to either side of Harry, quickly solidifying into tall and cloaked, discernable forms that sent chills up the spines of everyone that saw.

It was a pair of Dementors.

Strangely though Lupin could not feel the customary coldness that was a Dementors companion, nor did anyone else for the sound of things. Another unearthly wail sounded, just as unnerving as the first time, and the black shadows began gliding across the stage towards Ginny. For a moment the girl seemed frozen to the spot, unsure what to do or how to respond, but then she leapt into the air.

"Expecto Patronus!" she shouted aiming her wand at the one Dementor, while dropping down before the other. It should have been impossible for a simple sword to injure, let alone destroy, a Dementor, but Ginny apparently knew something everyone else did not. Her Katana flashed back and forth in a blur of gleaming steel, cleaving through the Dementor's black robes a dozen times in quick succession.

The Dementor threw its shrouded hands up as it was rent asunder and howled terribly as it fell apart in a shower of shadows that faded in the light. Ginny ignored its death cries and spun to the remaining Dementor, which was struggling helplessly in a web of misty silver and gold that emerged from her wand. Her Patronus was clearly unpractised, but still held enough power to hold the creature back and immobile as she leaned into it.

As the last Dementor, which was obviously not a real Dementor, exploded into shards of nothing, Lupin saw that Harry had retrieved his own sword. He was standing opposite Ginny, waiting for her to finish, his eyes blazing with excitement as she whirled to face him.

The two came together in the centre of the stage, abandoning the use of spells entirely and obviously intent on finishing their duel with nought but their swords. The blades were almost singing as they slashed through the air, moving so fast they were little more than curves of light in Harry and Ginny's hands.

'Sweet Merlin, they're going to kill each other at this rate!'

There was a sudden explosive flurry of blows that came to a head. Ginny had exchanged a few blinding thrusts and parries with Harry, eventually swinging her sword up and down as if she were trying to split him right down the middle. It was then that Harry deliberately cast his sword aside, Ginny's Katana swooping down unchecked towards his head.

SMACK!

'Good. God.'

Harry's hands had arced up and in, catching and halting the descending blade between his open palms at the very last second. They stood there for a long moment, completely immobile, like a stone or bronze cast statue. Then with a jerk Harry twisted Ginny's sword to one side, pivoting on one foot and planting the other into her stomach with a powerful side kick.

They spun away from each other, robes billowing about them, Harry's discarded sword leaping up from where it lay and into his hand. The blades flickered in the light as they passed within inches of each other, twirling around to face off when they were several yards apart.

"Game over," declared Harry, sounding a bit out of breath but happy.

"Yeah," puffed Ginny, still holding her sword up and at the ready.

Harry grinned wickedly, "Looks like I won."

Ginny looked at him as if he were off his rocker, "How do you figure that?"

"First blood," he replied, pointing at her left bicep. There on her arm, through a small cut in her robes, was a tiny nick. Ginny glanced down at her arm an swore quite colourfully, though Remus doubted anyone other than himself and Harry heard her.

The redhead looked challengingly at Harry and smirked, "We'll need a rematch then."

"A rematch?" asked Harry, looking puzzled, "What d'you mean?"

Ginny grinned happily and pointed at his left thigh. A small slash ran through the tight cloth of his jeans and a thin line of red lay upon his skin. Harry looked down at himself and then back at Ginny, eyebrow cresting near his hairline.

"First blood," confirmed Ginny, straightening up and lowering her sword.

They began circling around each other, swords still in hand but not raised, their eyes never straying from the others. Lupin noted with some amusement that they were slowly spiralling in towards each other and would soon be meeting at the centre of the stage.

"Those mock Dementors were a nice touch," complimented Ginny.

"Thanks, that transfigured knight was certainly a novel trick," returned Harry, his sword now trailing behind him, its tip gently scraping against the stone floor.

The two of them were less than a yard apart now and continued to slowly circle around, eyes firmly locked upon the other. Both were still breathing heavily and seemed completely oblivious to the presence of everyone else. Finally they drew to a halt, close together, Harry towering a good six inches above Ginny, causing her to tilt her head back to look into his face.

"So... if we both win..." said Harry, huskily.

"We both... get what we want," agreed Ginny, breathlessly.

Both were grinning broadly and Lupin noticed that Harry was leaning slightly in towards Ginny, his head bent at an angle suggesting exactly what he had in mind.

'I don't believe it,' he thought, 'He's going to kiss her!'

"Ahem."

The air seemed to ripple around the two as their gazes snapped away from each other and locked onto the source of the cleared throat. There was a resounding crack, like splintering wood, and the stone tiles beneath them cracked open in a spider web of fine lines. Clearly the couple did not like being interrupted.

Dumbledore had risen to his feet and, once he had gotten everyone's attention, began to clap his hands together. "Bravo! Bravo!" he announced, soon joined by most of the audience in applauding a very flushed looking Harry and Ginny. Whether it was the attention or the smouldering chemistry that caused them to blush was anybody's guess.

"What is it with the Potter men and redheads?" Remus muttered to Snuffles, who shook his canine head as they watched the couple take a small bow.

After bowing to their audience and then again to each other, the two sheathed their swords and then Harry handed his weapon to Ginny. As the young girl carried the weapons back to where they had been stored, Harry pulled off his trenchrobe and draped it over the back of his chair. The grey t-shirt he was wearing, stretched tight across his chest, was darkened with sweat on the front and back from his exertions.

'Is he trying to start a riot?' Lupin wondered, noticing the sudden interest and whisperings that had suddenly enveloped all the ladies present. He sincerely hoped the slight intake and hitch of breath he had heard from Professors McGonagall and Vector had been a figment of his imagination.

"I think that's enough excitement for one night," Harry announced, picking up a sheet of parchment from his desk and glancing over it, "I didn't have much else planned anyway. I don't think any of you would object to an earlier night. Class dismissed, see you tomorrow."

It did not take long for the large auditorium to clear out, aside from the select few that were staying for the special meeting Dumbledore had arranged. Just about all of the students left in a matter of minutes, except for Ron, Hermione and Ginny, all of which had joined Harry on the stage and were standing quietly about his desk.

Finally all that remained were Lupin, Snuffles, Hagrid, McGonagall, Snape and of course Dumbledore. After a quick check to make sure no unwanted eavesdroppers were present Snape and Hagrid pulled the doors leading in or out of the auditorium closed.

"You never told me his classes were like that, Moony!" were the first words out of Sirius' mouth once he changed out of his animagus form.

"They usually aren't," admitted Lupin, stroking his chin thoughtfully.

Sirius sank back into his seat and shook his head, "I need to sit down."

"You already are sitting down."

"Oh. That's good."

***

"I'm afraid I've been a trifle... disingenuous... with regards certain events that transpired over the summer."

Sirius leaned close to Lupin and whispered, "Disingenuous?"

His old friend answered, eyes not leaving the stage, "Polite word for lying."

It was several minutes into the meeting and by now Sirius had managed to recover and slow the rapid beatings of his heart. The duel between his godson and Ginny Weasley had come within a short inch of giving Sirius a stroke.

Dumbledore had spoken for a while, discussing with them the attack on Hogsmeade, the Dementors abandonment of Azkaban, the disappearance of many of the prisons inmates at the same time, the possible movements and activities of known Death Eaters and lastly Voldemort's next possible move against them.

Against Harry.

After all this had been concluded, Dumbledore had turned the floor over to Harry, who was also one of the reasons this little group had been assembled. When he had heard about the attack on Hogsmeade, so close to Harry, Sirius had been frantic in his attempts to return to Hogwarts as fast as he could. When he had heard that Harry had apparently done the impossible and apparated from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade during the attack, Sirius had felt his heart stop.

'I don't know what's worse,' he thought, 'Knowing Harry had rushed into a situation like that or seeing him and Ginny fight like that.'

Now Harry was pacing restlessly back and forth across the stage, hands clasped behind his back, chin down and a look on his face that clearly said he was trying to figure something out. To Sirius' right, standing with his arms cross and a dark scowl was Snape, who had made voluable complaints about Harry and then later his friends being included in this meeting.

"Why am I not surprised?" muttered the Potions Master.

Harry looked up from his pacing and glowered at Snape, somehow having heard what the man had said. His eyes also turned towards him, Sirius was delighted so see Snape's sallow face become just a shade paler under Harry's glare.

"I don't suppose any of you have heard of the Order of the Phoenix?" Harry asked after a moment, glancing over at Ginny.

"I can't say that I have," said McGonagall, looking sternly at her pupil.

Harry groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose as Hermione started bouncing up and down, an enlightened expression on her face. "They're the people who wrote the book you gave me for Christmas!" exclaimed Hermione.

"Be very careful with it please," beseeched Harry, "Merlin would kill me if anything happened to the damned thing."

"Merlin?" asked Remus.

Harry had resumed pacing, "Yes, Merlin. He was one of the people who have held the Order. It's hard to explain I'm afraid. You see... the Order..."

His voice trailed off and he seemed to flounder about for words. Ginny, who had been watching from where she was sitting on his desk, asked after a while, "You said you were a member of the Order. Perhaps you should start there."

"Actually," announced Dumbledore, "I think it would be best, Harry, if you started at the beginning of all this."

"Okay. Okay..." Harry took a few deep breaths and seemed to settle down, "It happened on my birthday, when I suddenly found a phoenix in my room. It was delivering a message."

A thousand thoughts and worries were flying through Sirius' mind as Harry paused to conjure up a chair to sit in. After a moment he casually conjured up accompanying chairs for Ron and Hermione, leaving Ginny to use the chair from his desk.

"The phoenix, you see, wasn't a real phoenix. It was the Order," Harry continued after his friends were seated, "The moment I opened the message it... well... possessed me, I guess. Merged with me would probably be a better word for it. However you care to describe it, the Order is now inside of me, a part of me."

"Are you saying the Order is alive?" asked Hermione, sounding alarmed by the prospect. Of course, Sirius was also alarmed by the idea of something "possessing" his godson.

Harry shook his head and chewed on his bottom lip, "No. The Order's not alive, it simple is... it has some sort of awareness, an instinct I think, that's how it chooses its avatars, but it's not a living thing."

"And it chose you," deduced Ginny thoughtfully.

"Yes, although I'm not entirely clear on all the points it considered for my selection," agreed Harry, looking slightly embarrassed, "Apparently, from what the others tell me, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"You mean it was an accident?" blurted Snape snidely.

'And here I was telling Harry that accidents happen.'

Harry rolled his eyes and chuckled, "No. That's the reason it chose me. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And yet I survived. It's something I've made a habit of, which is why I chose me to be its latest custodian. I'm a focal point, my actions tend to have results that are further reaching than most other people."

"So was exactly is this Order of yours?" asked Snape clearly intrigued, but anxious to get on with it.

"Power," Harry answered immediately, "A lot of power."

There was silence for a long while as everyone considered his words. It was Ron that finally asked the question they were all thinking, "How much power?"

Harry smiled thinly, "A lot."

"Define 'a lot'," insisted Sirius, starting to worry even more.

"If something went wrong... I could conceivably crack the planet in half."

Silence blanketed them as the implications of Harry's words became clear to them. Sirius could feel Lupin tensing beside him and everyone heard Ron's struggled swallow.

"That's... a lot of power," Hermione concluded, looking at Harry with such wide eyes Sirius wondered, ludicrously, if perhaps she was part owl.

'Oh, get a grip on yourself Black! Stay focused on the matter at hand.'

"Which is how you were able to apparate to Hogsmeade," agreed Dumbledore, stroking his moustache and looking at Harry with a penetrating stare, "And, if I'm not mistaken, how you apparated from Little Whinging straight into my office on the morning of your birthday."

Harry sheepishly nodded his head, "Yes, that's correct. I thought it would be better so say I'd apparated to the village and walked up to the castle, rather than let on that I can pass through the anti-apparation wards without too much trouble."

Lupin leaned forward curiously, "Too much trouble? You mean you can't do it with impunity?"

"It takes a good bit of power," admitted Harry with shrug, "I probably couldn't do it more than a couple of dozen times a day. It would be easier to simply tear the wards apart first, but that would leave the rest of you open to attack."

"You - you could bring down the wards?" breathed Snape, clutching a hand to his chest.

"Like tissue paper, only with less effort," confirmed Harry.

Ron swallowed again and asked, "So you can do anything you like."

Harry looked apologetically at his friend and shrugged, "As long as I don't try and use more energy than the Order can supply. I can do a lot, but not everything." He rubbed the back of his neck in a rueful manner, "I can't play the piano, or dance worth a damn and my attempts at the Animagus transformation have been... less than a complete success."

"Yeh - yer an Animagus?" breathed Hagrid behind Sirius, sounding unsure whether to be delighted or horrified.

"So everyone keeps tell me," grouched Harry, folding his arms across his chest, "Every time I try to change however I end up flat on my back and barely conscious. I've only tried it twice since this whole mess started. We figure it probably has something to do with the size of my Animagus form that's causing the problem."

"Size?" asked Remus

"General consensus is that I'm going to change into either a very large dragon or a very large dust mite," replied Harry jokingly.

Snape, still standing solemnly by himself, brought up an interesting point, "Fine, so you have power. But who taught you all this, Potter? Animagus, duelling, apparating, sword fighting... who is this 'we' you keep talking about?"

Harry suddenly looked exceptionally nervous, shifting awkwardly in his chair. "The other members of the Order have been teaching me," he finally said in a soft voice.

"I thought you said the Order was inside you," said Hermione, "D'you mean to say it's also in other people as well?"

"Nope, just me," answered Harry, gnawing on his lip, "The other 'members' are those people who held the Order before me. Merlin's the most well know of then."

"So in other words," summed up Snape, sounding as if he had serious doubts about Harry's sanity. For that matter, after hearing what he had, Sirius wasn't that sure about his godson's mental health either. "You talk to dead people."

"No, I don't," corrected Harry immediately.

Ron shook his head, trying to clear it, "I'm really confused now, Harry."

Harry grinned, "Don't worry. I'll have you completely bewildered all too soon."

"I'm getting a headache," moaned Snape quietly, glowering even more fiercely at Harry.

"Every person that is chosen by the Order leaves a - an echo," explained Harry. "When they die their memories and experience, their personality, is left with the Order. It - it's like leaving a footprint in the earth, only this is an imprint of their minds."

"Like the shades that leave a wand during Priori Incantantem," murmured Dumbledore, his eyes sparkling with interest and excitement.

All Harry had time to do way nod before Hermione was snapped out a question, "So that book you gave me... it was really written by Merlin?"

Harry smiled and nodded again, "Yeah. I had to apparate from Surrey to Dartmoor every day for a week during the summer before I found it. After all, a book with every spell in existence would be too much of an asset to leave lying around."

"That's impossible," asserted Ron, shaking his head vigorously, "That book's big, but it's not that big! It couldn't possible have every spell in existence."

"You didn't look at it very closely, Ron, did you?" asked Hermione, looking smugly at the boy sitting beside her. When Ron paused and looked cautiously at her she elaborated, "The book is an index. It contains the name of the spell and a short description. It's pretty much just a very elaborate table of contents."

Harry finished the exploration, grinning wickedly as Ron's jaw dropped, "Once you've found the spell you want, all you do it tap its name twice with your wand and the book will give you more detailed information. Where, Why, When, How and whatever else."

Snape sank into a sit, not far from Sirius, and quietly complained, "Wonderful. Potter with almost unlimited power and unlimited knowledge. Just what I've always wanted."

"I believe Shakespeare said it best," declared Dumbledore, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Harry, I fear, you will have to live with all three."


TBC...
(teaser below)


grey - Thank you very much for the high praise. My generosity is infinite... well, nearly, so I won't torture you all to badly. In response to your question, Harry's going to need Ginny's help later, but it will be in a completely seperate battle to the one with Voldemort. (check the teaser below)

Lana Riddle - I do try to keep the chapters coming out at regular intervals, but the pace might slow down this month as I have exams to write and study for (eep!).

Tavi - I really want to stick a "GET OVER HERE!" in there (Scorpion's my favourite!).

Aeris Deathscythe - Thanks, I hope this will hold you over until next time.

Hyper Princess - I am rather proud of the poison idea. I wanted a way for the good guys to get Fudge in line without resorting to deposing him.

Amanda - Interesting story, I hope this other Harry Potter made it out okay.

bubblez fairy - I love Draco bashing. Like Harry said, it's good for stress relief.

Golon - I suppose I did kinda good giving Hermione a book by the Order before Harry actually got around to tell them about it, but... I'll cover my tracks and go with you idea that he secretly wanted them to find out.

FireLily - Just about everyone except our beloved Minister. I'm planning to give some insights into Harry's distressed state of mind in the following chapter, after a Quidditch game and during the celebratory trip to what's left of Hogsmeade.

Aeris Deathscythe - Until JKR gets book five out, we'll have to make do with our own little stories. I'm just pleased you like mine.

No Reply - Maybe when Fudge comes to collect his second doze I'll have Harry give him the real poison. Just in case - you can never be too careful.

Sara Ane - Ah, we're back to discussing Harry's animagus, are we? I will admit the animal will be one of a kind. Just the kind of 'harmless' creature Hagrid would like.

Arizosa - I'm afraid the Draco bashing will have to drop down a bit of this, the school board will probably get right annoyed with Harry if he keeps putting Malfoy in the infirmary.
::sigh::
Oh well, there are plenty of other gits for Harry to stomp on.

Elizabeth Culmer - I just can't help myself. Snape and Malfoy are my two favourite targets for when Harry gets rocking.

patron st. of magik - I would put poisoning Fudge under the "desperate times / desperate measures" category, but yes, beating the stuffing out of Malfoy was out of line. I'm doing that deliberately - Harry's treatment of Malfoy will be coming back to haunt him in the sequel.

Merusa - Poor Snape, finding out his most despised pupil would probably make a better Slytherin than him! I just had to do it.

Sparks - Don't worry, more is always on the way.

Rishi - I hope I didn't keep you waiting to long.

Otaku freak - One thing's for sure; he's never going to accept a drink from Harry again.

Professor Weasley - Thank you very much. I hope chapter 14 met with your approval as well.

Ginny13 - If you liked what Ron said to Herm, how did you like her reply at the beginning of this chapter? And everyone thinks she's a bookworm!

Briar Rose - I love cliffhangers! I'm evil! Yes!

sk8reagle - As we found out in this chapter, interupting them in a tender moment is probably a dumb thing to do. Probably? Nah - definitely. Just wait.

Kali - Nobody can say Malfoy's stupid, but he definitely doesn't know when to back off, does he? Unfortunately Harry won't be making Malfoy a Ballerina - I have something else in mind for our fav ferret.

Lone Wolf - I'm planning for Harry to have greater interaction, or should I say cultivation, with the Slytherins in his sixth year. After Draco gets... oop! I shouldn't have said that. I should not have said that.

Embyr - My timing is evil isn't it. Heh heh!

dog-boy - I'm pleased you like it.

smalls - Of course I'm going to kill Harry! He's going to drop stone dead and Voldemort is going to dance on his grave. I like the idea so much I might even do it twice! ;)

Bill - Ah - you've hit the nail on the head! What will happen in later years? Exploring how Harry's actions against others now will affect him (not to mention the entire wizarding world) in the future is going to be basis for the follow-on to this story.

A-man - Harry very seldom gets angry, doesn't he? It's only really happened during PoA when he blew up Aunt Marge and when he still thought Sirius betrayed his parents. There was a little in GoF, but nothing major.

Ginny Potter - Thank you, I certainly intend to continue.

SayianPride - I try to please.

pudadingding - Well, if you've got to go away tomorrow, consider this a going away present. Hope you like.

dENNiS - Ron is related to Fred and George, although I must admit I don't have a clue what he was thinking when he said what he did. Unfortunately, while I like the idea, Harry can't arrange for anyone to meet the voices in his head - what he did to Ron at Halloween was akin to how Dumbledore transfers his memories to a pensieve. I know the explanation here was not exactly total, but more will be revealed in the following couple of chapters, via Ginny, Ron and Hermione's POV.

mystery guy - He can stop a sword with his bare hands, how hard can a curse be? The big question is; can he survive Avada Kedavra a second time?

Lord Orion - It is? I've actually quite a few where they do, so I almost didn't for fear that it had become a bit cliche.

Temporary Insanity - Harry will be bumping into Lucius pretty soon, but our hero will be more interested in getting to Voldemort than the elder Malfoy. Since Harry shared the Order's power with Ginny she is a member, but because he was there first Harry gets priority on tapping that power. If he were out of the way, Ginny would have full access.

sons - Voldemort will be showing his noseless face all too soon and boy, it's gonna be one heckuva party.

unclee - I've occasionally considered shaving my head, putting on something grey and then complaining that I'm surrounded by fricking idiots.

Lavendar Brown - I'm glad you liked it so much. Don't worry, more is here and more will definitely be following.

Malena - Draco bashing. ::sigh:: I love it. And poisoning Fudge was fun too!

Storyspindler - Don't worry, Voldemort will be getting up close and personal with Harry in due course. Somehow I doubt he will enjoy the experience. We'll be looking into Harry's feeling about the attack on Hogsmeade next.

janibo - I hope I managed to get this out before you leave. In any case, enjoy the break.

The Millennium One - Actually the last three chapters have all been twice the length of the very first chapter. You must be reading them too fast! Ginny already is tapping into the Order's power, as shown during the duel in this chapter, but she won't have full access until near the end of the story. Sorry that H/G didn't manage to kiss again, but they almost did!

psychochick - I'm certainly not going to admit to having voices in my head, despite all evidence to the contrary, but I will say that I do know people similar to them.

AquiLa - Thanks, I hope I can maintain the pace.

M. Black - I can only hope your insurance is paid up. Thanks for the... uh... serious review. I might include some Snape bashing later, but no promises.

Chibi-Chingo - It's his own fault and completely deserves it. Especially after insulting Harry the way he did at the end of GoF.

Bookworm12357 - Harry normally wouldn't swear so much, but he had just been through a doubtless traumatic experience. He was just letting off steaming before he blew up the castle.

Bucky - Hmm... end the fic with Harry still dead... hmm... I like that idea. Think of what an evil cliffhanger that would be! Heh heh.

anon - I really enjoyed writing the bluff, glad you liked it.

The Red Dragons Order - Those dragons of yours scare me sometimes. But beware - soon you'll be meeting my little pet - his name's Harry. You're a Slytherin, huh? Somehow I feel I should have guessed that.

Minerva-Severus-Dumbledor - Thanks, I certainly will try.

Confuzzler - Only five? I only start bouncing after about a dozen...

Sam - A bit more bashed? This is just a guess, but, you don't like Malfoy, do you? We'll be checking Ron and Hermione's reactions in the next chapter.

Lady FoxFire - Glad you liked, I was worried I might offend some people with Ron's explanation of guy talk.

Ryshora - Ah, but the entire book is only the index to everything else. And I'm sure it's all in very fine print as well. What better gift to get Hermione? And yes, I'm sure I'm not writing shorter and short chapters. You're just reading faster than I can type.


***
Meanwhile,
Somewhere south of the Scottish Highlands...

Theo Garrett, standing behind the glass paned main counter, adjusted his bifocals and looked up when the door to his modest establishment swung open. The man who had just stepped inside was not especially dangerous looking, despite his bulk. He was looking around himself nervously as if he did not want to risk anyone seeing him inside Theo's shop.

"Can I help you, sir?" Theo asked, his attention peaking as he got a better look at the man.

"Yes, I hope you can," blustered the customer, coming over, his beady eyes peering about the shelves of merchandise behind Theo.

Theo's watery eyes narrowed and her peered at the man over the rims of his glasses, frowning with concentration. "Do I know you, sir?" he asked, for the man certainly looked familiar.

The man paused uneasily, but finally nodded, "Yes. I made a purchase sometime ago."

"Ah, yes," agreed Theo, nodding as he remembered, "It was what? Five years ago? Nearly six?"

"That's right," replied the customer, frowning heavily.

Theo raised an eyebrow querulously, "I trust you haven't had any trouble? It was a fine piece you bought, as I recall."

The man huffed angrily and his scowl deepened, "Unfortunately there was an accident. That's why I'm here; I need a replacement. It's my family, you see... things have become dangerous at home lately..."