Tempest threw on her dressing gown, not bothering to lace it as she tugged on her socks and shoes, grabbed her wand and went with Minnie out of the room.
"Explain it to me," said Minnie, the both of them striding quickly down stone corridors.
"It was a dream- bear with me- and I was Nagini along that corridor, Mr Weasley was on guard- slipping off by the way, hope to the gods above that if he survives you might want to be having words about the guard's sleep schedules. And yes I am aware that it could merely have been a dream, yet the events were simply too specific to be any dream."
They passed Mrs. Norris, who turned her lamplike eyes upon them and hissed faintly, but Minnie said, "Shoo!" and Mrs. Norris slunk away into the shadows.
"This is very worrying," muttered Minnie, and in a few minutes they had reached the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to Dumbledore's office.
"Fizzing Whizbee," said Minnie.
The gargoyle sprang to life and leapt aside; the wall behind it split in two to reveal a stone staircase that was moving continuously upward like a spiral escalator. They stepped onto the moving stairs; the wall closed behind them with a thud, and they were moving upward in tight circles until they reached the highly polished oak door with the brass knocker shaped like a griffin.
Though it was now well past midnight, there were voices coming from inside the room, a positive babble of them. It sounded as though Dumbledore was entertaining at least a dozen people.
Minnie rapped three times with the griffin knocker, and the voices ceased abruptly as though someone had switched them all off. The door opened of its own accord and Minnie led Tempest in.
The room was in half darkness; the strange silver instruments standing on tables were silent and still rather than whirring and emit- ting puffs of smoke as they usually did. The portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses covering the walls were all snoozing in their frames. Behind the door, a magnificent red-and-gold bird the size of a swan dozed on its perch with its head under its wing.
"Oh, it's you, Professor McGonagall... and... ah."
Dumbledore was sitting in a high-backed chair behind his desk; he leaned forward into the pool of candlelight illuminating the papers laid out before him. He was wearing a magnificently embroidered purple-and-gold dressing gown over a snowy-white nightshirt, but seemed wide awake, his penetrating light-blue eyes fixed intently upon Minnie.
"Professor Dumbledore, Tempest has had a... well, a nightmare," said Minnie. "She says that Arthur has been attacked by that snake of You-Know-Who's."
The words seemed to reverberate in the air after she had said them. There was a tense pause in which Dumbledore leaned back and stared meditatively at the ceiling. All Tempest could think of was Mr Weasley, quite possibly bleeding out and dying in that corridor.
"How did you see this?" Dumbledore asked quietly, still not looking at Tempest.
"Well I dunno," said Tempest, "not in a crystal ball if that's what you're asking."
"You misunderstand me," said Dumbledore, still in the same calm tone. "I mean... can you remember- er- where you were positioned as you watched this attack happen? Were you perhaps standing beside the victim, or else looking down on the scene from above?"
Tempest's jaw snapped shut. "I was the snake," she bit out.
Nobody else spoke for a moment, then Dumbledore, now looking at Minnie, who was quite pale, said in a new and sharper voice, "Is Arthur seriously injured?"
"No," bit out Tempest, snapping her heels together, "because when a snake decides to maul you, the person comes out after perfectly fine." Because if Dumbledore for some reason couldn't even physically move his eyeballs to look at her, then she had very little cause to reign in her sarcasm.
But Dumbledore stood up so quickly that his chair skidded back, and addressed one of the old portraits hanging very near the ceiling.
"Everard?" he said sharply. "And you too, Dilys!" A sallow-faced wizard with short, black bangs and an elderly witch with long silver ringlets in the frame beside him, both of whom seemed to have been in the deepest of sleeps, opened their eyes immediately.
"You were listening?" said Dumbledore. The wizard nodded, the witch said, "Naturally."
"The man has red hair and glasses," said Dumbledore. "Everard, you will need to raise the alarm, make sure he is found by the right people-"
Both nodded and moved sideways out of their frames, but instead of emerging in neighboring pictures (as usually happened at Hogwarts), neither reappeared; one frame now contained nothing but a backdrop of dark curtain, the other a handsome leather armchair. Tempest noticed that many of the other headmasters and mistresses on the walls, though snoring and drooling most convincingly, kept sneaking peeks at her under their eyelids, and she had to commend their excellent acting skills. She realized her dressing gown was open, revealing her massively too-large AC/DCt-shirt and too-short pajama bottoms. She would have bought more, and in her size, but they were the same bottoms she'd been wearing for the past several years, all though her growth spurt and she was loathe to part with them. She tugged her dressing down closed, tying it.
She felt calmer now, Dumbledore, as much as he waffled on at times and though he was still ignoring her, would never let Mr Weasley die.
"Everard and Dilys were two of Hogwarts's most celebrated Heads," Dumbledore said, now sweeping around Tempest and Minnie and approaching the magnificent sleeping bird on his perch beside the door. "Their renown is such that both have portraits hanging in other important Wizarding institutions. As they are free to move between their own portraits they can tell us what may be happening elsewhere... Please do sit down, Everard and Dilys may not be back for several minutes... Professor McGonagall, if you could draw up extra chairs..."
Minnie pulled her wand from the pocket of her dressing gown and waved it; two chairs appeared out of thin air, straight-backed and wooden, one of which Tempest sat in, fiddling with the arm rests.
Dumbledore was now stroking Fawkes's plumed golden head with one finger. The phoenix awoke immediately. He stretched his beautiful head high and observed Dumbledore through bright, dark eyes.
"We will need," said Dumbledore very quietly to the bird, "a warning."
There was a flash of fire and the phoenix had gone.
Dumbledore now swooped down upon one of the fragile silver instruments whose function was a mystery, carried it over to his desk, sat down facing them again, and tapped it gently with the tip of his wand.
The instrument tinkled into life at once with rhythmic clinking noises. Tiny puffs of pale green smoke issued from the minuscule silver tube at the top. Dumbledore watched the smoke closely, his brow furrowed, and after a few seconds, the tiny puffs became a steady stream of smoke that thickened and coiled in the air… A serpent's head grew out of the end of it, opening its mouth wide.
"Naturally, naturally," murmured Dumbledore apparently to himself, still observing the stream of smoke without the slightest sign of surprise. "But in essence divided?"
The smoke serpent, split itself instantly into two snakes, both coiling and undulating in the dark air. With a look of grim satisfaction Dumbledore gave the instrument another gentle tap with his wand: The clinking noise slowed and died, and the smoke serpents grew faint, became a formless haze, and vanished.
Dumbledore replaced the instrument upon its spindly little table; Tempest saw many of the old headmasters in the portraits follow him with their eyes, then, realizing that she was watching them, hastily pretended to be sleeping again.
Minnie took Tempest's hand after a moment or two, giving it a reassuring squeeze. She must have risen quickly, Tempest noted, Minnie had not even attempted to pin up her hair, it was lose in waves around her face whereas in any other circumstance, she would never have let herself look so uncollected.
There was a shout from the top of the wall to their right; the wizard called Everard had reappeared in his portrait, panting slightly.
"What news?" said Dumbledore at once.
"I yelled until someone came running," said the wizard, who was mopping his brow on the curtain behind him, "said I'd heard something moving downstairs- they weren't sure whether to believe me but went down to check- you know there are no portraits down there to watch from. Anyway, they carried him up a few minutes later. He doesn't look good, he's covered in blood, I ran along to Elfrida Cragg's portrait to get a good view as they left-"
"Good," said Dumbledore as Tempest stiffened in her chair, "I take it Dilys will have seen him arrive, then-"
And moments later, the silver-ringletted witch had reappeared in her picture too; she sank, coughing, into her armchair and said, "Yes, they've taken him to St. Mungo's, Dumbledore... They carried him past under my portrait... He looks bad..."
"Thank you," said Dumbledore. He looked around at Minnie. "Minerva, I need you to go and wake the Weasley children."
"Of course..." Minnie got up and moved swiftly to the door. "And Dumbledore- what about Molly?" she asked, pausing at the door.
"That will be a job for Fawkes when he has finished keeping a lookout for anybody approaching," said Dumbledore. "But she may already know... that excellent clock of hers…"
Tempest knew Dumbledore was referring to the clock that told, not the time, but the whereabouts and conditions of the various Weasley family members. Right now, Mr Weasley's hand must be pointing at 'Mortal peril.' But it was late and Mrs Weasley was probably asleep... and if Mr Weasley died before she was even informed…
Dumbledore was now rummaging in a cupboard behind Tempest. He emerged from it carrying a blackened old kettle, which he placed carefully upon his desk. He raised his wand and murmured "Portus"; for a moment the kettle trembled, glowing with an odd blue light, then it quivered to a rest, as solidly black as ever.
Dumbledore marched over to another portrait, this time of a clever-looking wizard with a pointed beard, who had been painted wearing the Slytherin colors of green and silver and was apparently sleeping so deeply that he could not hear Dumbledore's voice when he attempted to rouse him. "Phineas. Phineas."
Tempest developed an instant and deep respect for the member of the portrait.
And now the subjects of the portraits lining the room were no longer pretending to be asleep; they were shifting around in their frames, the better to watch what was happening. When the wizard continued to feign sleep, some of them shouted his name too.
"Phineas! Phineas! PHINEAS!"
He could not pretend any longer; he gave a theatrical jerk and opened his eyes wide. "Did someone call?" Tempest blinked at the portrait, the man looked vaguely familiar.
"I need you to visit your other portrait again, Phineas," said Dumbledore. "I've got another message."
"Visit my other portrait?" said Phineas in a reedy voice, giving a long, fake yawn (his eyes traveling around the room and focusing upon Tempest. Familiar handsome grey eyes and she felt a jolt of recognition, and his voice…). "Oh no, Dumbledore, I am too tired tonight…"
But before she could ask, the portraits on the surrounding walls broke into a storm of protest.
"Insubordination, sir!" roared a corpulent, red-nosed wizard, bran- dishing his fists. "Dereliction of duty!"
"We are honor-bound to give service to the present Headmaster of Hogwarts!" cried a frail-looking old wizard whom Tempest recognized as Dumbledore's predecessor, Armando Dippet. "Shame on you, Phineas!"
"Phineas Black," said Tempest loudly, over the sound of the portraits, "I am right, aren't I?"
"Lord Phineas Nigellus Black," corrected the wizard, straitening his robes, "and you're Tempestas Potter who brought a muggle into my home."
"It's our home now, actually," said Tempest coolly.
Phineas huffed in annoyance. "You see Dumbledore? They may well have destroyed my picture by now, like they've done most of the family-"
"We haven't," interrupted Tempest. "Shunted it off into the attic though, yes. But you know, at least we didn't transfigure it into an inanimate object like we did with Wallburga Black."
"Why you little-"
"Enough Phineas," said Dumbledore quietly, yet with an underlying tone of power that made Phineas shut up immediately. "You are to give Sirius the message that Arthur Weasley has been gravely injured and that his wife, children, and Tempest Potter will be arriving at his house shortly. Do you understand?"
Tempest's heart leapt instantly, Mr Weasley leaving her mind for a moment as she rejoiced- she would be seeing Sirius that night.
"Arthur Weasley, injured, wife and children and Tempest Potter coming to stay," recited Phineas in a bored voice. "Yes, yes... very well…" He gave Tempest a final disgruntled look before he sloped away into the frame of the portrait and disappeared from view at the very moment that the study door opened again.
Ron, Fred, George, and Ginny were ushered inside by Minnie, all four of them looking disheveled and shocked, still in their night things.
"Tempest- what's going on?" asked Ginny, who looked frightened. "Professor McGonagall says you saw Dad hurt-"
"Your father has been injured in the course of his work for the Order of the Phoenix," said Dumbledore before Tempest could speak. "He has been taken to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. I am sending you back to Sirius's house, which is much more convenient for the hospital than the Burrow. You will meet your mother there."
"How're we going?" asked Fred, looking shaken. "Floo powder?"
"No," said Dumbledore, "Floo powder is not safe at the moment, the Network is being watched. You will be taking a Portkey." He indicated the old kettle lying innocently on his desk. "We are just waiting for Phineas Nigellus to report back... I wish to be sure that the coast is clear before sending you-"
"What do you mean safe?" asked Tempest, "Grimmauld Place is always safe- well," she said reconsidering, "So long as you don't go wandering into the rooms Sirius and I haven't cleared yet-"
There was a flash of flame in the very middle of the office that made Tempest trail off and leaving behind a single golden feather that floated gently to the floor.
"It is Fawkes's warning," said Dumbledore, catching the feather as it fell. "She must know you're out of your beds... Minerva, go and head her off- tell her any story-"
Minnie was gone in a swish of tartan.
"He says he'll be delighted," said a bored voice behind Dumbledore; Phineas had reappeared in front of his Slytherin banner. "Positively beaming with joy- he actually tried to embrace the frame I was in… My great-great-grandson has always had odd taste in houseguests..."
"Come here, then," Dumbledore said to Tempest and the Weasleys. "And quickly, before anyone else joins us..."
Tempest and the others gathered around Dumbledore's desk. She wound up next to George, who glanced down at her pensively. He looked away.
"You have all used a Portkey before?" asked Dumbledore, and they nodded, each reaching out to touch some part of the blackened kettle. "Good. On the count of three then... one... two..."
It happened in a fraction of a second: In the infinitesimal pause before Dumbledore said "three," Tempest looked up at him- they were very close together, he was opposite her- and Dumbledore's clear blue gaze moved from the Portkey to Tempest's face.
At once, her scar burned white-hot, as though the old wound had burst open again- and unbidden, unwanted, but terrifyingly strong, there rose within Tempest a hatred so powerful she felt, for that instant, that she would like nothing better than to strike- tear the man before her to pieces-
She was tugged forwards by the portkey, the ground vanished from beneath her feet, her hand was glued to the kettle; she was banging into the others as all sped forward in a swirl of colors and a rush of wind, the kettle pulling them onward and then-
She crashed into someone who swore familiarly and the world came back to her.
"Bleeding fuck buckets, you'd think with magic, you'd be able to aim better," said Cat, staggering from where Tempest had landed almost on top of her.
"Nice to see you too," said Tempest, ruffling Cat's hair. Around her, the Weasleys were getting to their feet, and she saw Kreacher in the corner, muttering some vitriol about all of them, until Sirius entered the room, looking like he had just finished shaving and combing back his hair, a wide smile crossing his face when he saw her, before yelling for Kreacher to GET OUT.
Abruptly, he turned to Cat. "By the way, are you caught up on what's happening?"
"Oh, I heard-" Cat caught Sirius's look and shook her head. "-very little. Nope, no idea what's going on."
"Right, then, you guys, just find a seat, I'll be along in a second, we need to fill in Cat." Said Sirius, giving Tempest a significant look too and after Tempest ushered the Weasley's towards the couches and armchairs in the sitting room where they had appeared, he shepherded her and Cat out of the room.
"Good to see you," said Sirius, "the circumstances do leave much to be desired, but I'm just glad you're here."
"Same here," said Cat with a wry smile. "Do you suppose that makes us selfish?"
Tempest shrugged carelessly, "we're all selfish. Let's call it a tie." She glanced over her shoulder before hugging both Sirius and Cat- Sirius had a dressing gown hastily thrown over his pajamas while Cat hadn't bothered at all, her own sleep clothes mimicking Tempest's, only her bottoms fit and her shirt depicted an abstract penguin instead. "We should probably go back though, the others are most likely incredibly worried..."
So Tempest returned to the others, quickly explaining what she had seen, trying to pretend that there wasn't something accusatory in their looks. It was hardly her fault; if anything, she had saved his life. She made no mention of being the snake however.
"Is Mum here?" said Fred, turning to Sirius.
"She probably doesn't even know what's happened yet," said Sirius. "The important thing was to get you away before Umbridge could interfere. I expect Dumbledore's letting Molly know now."
"We've got to go to St. Mungo's," said Ginny urgently. She looked around at her brothers; they were of course still in their pajamas. "Sirius, can you lend us cloaks or anything-?"
"Hang on, you can't go tearing off to St. Mungo's!" said Sirius at the same time as Tempest exclaimed; "What are we, a pit stop?"
"'Course we can go to St. Mungo's if we want," said Fred, with a mulish expression, "he's our dad!"
"And how are you going to explain how you knew Arthur was attacked before the hospital even let his wife know?" demanded Sirius.
"What does that matter?" said George hotly.
"It matters because we don't want to draw attention to the fact that Tempest is having visions of things that are happening hundreds of miles away!" said Sirius angrily. "Have you any idea what the Ministry would make of that information?"
George looked slightly more contrite but Fred looked as though he could not care less what the Ministry made of anything. Ron was white-faced and silent. Ginny said, "Somebody else could have told us… We could have heard it somewhere other than Tempest..."
"Like who?" said Sirius impatiently. "Listen, your dad's been hurt while on duty for the Order and the circumstances are fishy enough without his children knowing about it seconds after it happened, you could seriously damage the Order's-"
"We don't care about the dumb Order!" shouted Fred.
"It's our dad dying we're talking about!" yelled George.
"Your father knew what he was getting into, and he won't thank you for messing things up for the Order!" said Sirius angrily in his turn. "This is how it is- this is why you're not in the Order- you don't understand- see even Tempest gets it, sometimes there are things worth dying for!"
"Easy for you to say, stuck here!" bellowed Fred. "I don't see you risking your neck!"
The little color in Sirius's face drained from it. Tempest grew very still and Cat looked quite murderous.
"Fred," said Tempest with a voice of forced calm, "I know you're going through a lot at the moment and it's tough, but say another word like that to Sirius and I will be throwing you out. You're lucky at all that you're here and not at Hogwarts."
"At least wait till your mother brings news," said Cat curtly, "I'll get Kreacher to make up a few spare bedrooms, if you like." When the twins sat stubbornly on a sofa, followed by Ron and Ginny, "or not," shrugged Cat.
It was blatantly rude, and Tempest bristled at the insult to Cat. "Well then, make yourselves comfortable," Sirius said, exiting the room. Cat followed, and so did Tempest.
They separated at the stairs; Sirius heading off to the kitchen saying he'd get something for Tempest to drink, Cat; down to the basement to check on some potion seeing as she was up anyway, and Tempest upstairs for a bit of privacy to send Minnie a message.
Tempest closed the door to her room and looked around, breathing in the familiar sight of the bed, the view from the window and the various posters, photos and portraits around the walls. She took out her wand then, muttering, "Expecto Patronum." Caesar shimmered into existence before her, and pawed at the ground, nuzzling his insubstantial nose into Tempest's shirt. "Hey," said Tempest softly, "right, if you could please contact Minnie when she's alone, I need you to pass on a message, just this." Tempest cleared her throat, "Hey Minnie, if I could ask a favour, don't let anyone else pack my trunk, I've lived with you, you know what sort of sensitive stuff I've got- and if the Ministry… Merlin. Anyway, I hope to see you here soon, things with the Weasleys are bit strained and I just really want to sleep- which I know I probably won't get to. Hope Umbridge doesn't give you too hard of a time. Tempest."
Caesar dipped his magnificent head then dashed out through her wall and went to carry on her message.
There was a rap on her door, then Sirius cracked open her door, entering.
"How're you doing?" he asked, offering her a mug of coffee. (Her favorite mug.)
"Coffee at two in the morning," said Tempest, accepting it and smiling in relief, "you know me far too well. I'm fine now, I suppose, as much as I can be after seeing their dad being potentially fatally injured by a snake, a snake whose body I was in…" She sank down onto her silver and black bedspread running a hand down her face. "And I can't let on how scared I am of this shit because I'm too used to being angry about it, or pissed about it, or indignant and I don't think I can actually physically be outwardly afraid. Shit, did you ever feel the same? At any point?"
Sirius came to sit beside her, still in his pajamas, although he had dispensed with the dressing gown. "Different situation but yes," he lay back on her bedspread, and after a while so did she, their arms brushing and staring up at her canopy. "Peter blew himself up right in front of me and I was too shocked to do anything but laugh, because that was what I did whenever one of the others did something crazy. I couldn't act reasonable, serious, I couldn't even compose myself enough to be sane and explain what had happened to the Aurors… I've replayed that moment over and over in my head probably several thousand times afterward, damning myself for not having managed an explanation, for being trapped under that mask and not breaking out…" Sirius rolled his head sideways to look at Tempest. "I haven't cried properly in years. Not since I was a child. My father couldn't stand tears, see. I couldn't even cry when your parents died."
"Gods we're repressed," said Tempest eventually, "I can't remember the last time I cried at all. The Dursleys liked me crying. Fucking made a sport of it and I wouldn't give them the satisfaction." Tears of laughter were the closest she had gotten, and on occasion anger, but no, she couldn't remember what crying even felt like.
"You should never have had to live with those muggles," said Sirius, voice hard, "none of this should ever have happened- but it did, and Merlin, it fucked us up majorly."
The door was knocked upon and cracked open again, this time revealing Cat. "Slumber party?"
"Join us," said Tempest with the air of a still-hopeful but waning terminally ill person. She rolled over to lie on her stomach, "we're talking about how the world's fucked us all up the arse, care to complain with us?"
"Love to," said Cat, sprawling out beside Tempest. "Where to begin?"
"When was the last time you cried?"
"Glad you ask," said Cat, propping herself up on an elbow, "I really have no fucking idea. I mean, it didn't help anything at all for me, so what was the point?"
"Hmm, very true," said Tempest, "but then again, Sirius and I were just talking and I guess, do you ever think we're missing out?"
Cat considered, "maybe. Wait, you mean missing out on what normal people cry about? Sirius, rugby and soccer games, emotional confessions on pub nights? And Lyal, hormonal tears and sobbing in bathrooms over guys? Sure, I've wondered what we're missing."
Sirius pursed his lips, lifting his eyes to look at Tempest. "Actually, in retrospect, I think we turned out pretty well."
"True," agreed Tempest, "we're all here, aren't we? I still can't really believe it worked out."
Cat tossed her a chocolate frog, which once Tempest unwrapped, leapt out of her palm and back to Cat and leapt into her conveniently open mouth.
"That just committed frog suicide," said Sirius dryly, before reaching for Tempest's pillow and shoving it behind his own head. "What?" he asked, seeing both Cat and Tempest's questioning look, "neck support. I'm not as young as I used to be."
Tempest looked at Cat and they held each other's gaze for a second before they both broke into uproarish laughter, holding their stomachs and faces creased with merriment. They did eventually subside with Sirius's indignant but good-natured protesting and much giggling on their behalf, which both of them would adamantly deny if ever asked, because they didn't giggle.
Sirius woke, exceedingly comfortable with a warm weight on his chest and around his waist, the wonderful scent of sandalwood and citrus pervading his nostrils. He gave what may have been somewhat like a moan of either a reluctance to get up or of contentment.
Sirius grunted and blinked blearily, bringing a hand up to rub at his eyes. It took a moment for the world to re-focus, but when it did, he saw a very severe-looking Scottish woman standing in the doorway to the room, a levitating trunk beside her, Tempest's cat on her arm and a stormy expression on her face. Sirius's mind struggled to drag itself to full wakefulness, then the full realization of where he was crashing down upon him, and looking down at his chest he realized who he was with, and the many mornings he had spent waking in an unfamiliar girl's bed could not compare to the sudden shock and not entirely unpleasant occurrence to him that he was in Tempest's bed.
Sirius gave a noise that was certainly not a squawk as he sat up hurriedly, Tempest falling off him in a wave of black hair and a moan of annoyance, which was not sexual in any way. Sirius quickly became aware of a certain morning problem that was tied to a very specific part of his anatomy and he shifted his pillow very quickly, praying to all above that Minnie had not seen, or if she did, would not mention it. "Ah, Minnie," said Sirius with a stab at casualness, "what can I do for you?"
Minnie's eyebrows had drawn a threatening 'V' across her face and with a flick of her wand, the trunk, which must have been Tempest's, lowered itself to the ground and Tempest's cat Nyx, sprung to the ground. Minnie jerked her head to the side. "A word, Mr Black, outside, now."
Whatever problems Sirius was having with particular parts of his body quickly subsided as he got to his feet; Tempest and Cat were stirring properly, and as he left the room reluctantly, he heard Cat's voice mutter sleepily; "Lyal, what's the time?"
The door closed with a slight click, and Minnie grasped Sirius's arm with an unexpected strength and all but dragged him down the corridor.
"What, in Merlin's name, was that?" Minnie snapped as soon as they were far enough from Tempest's room. "I arrive at Grimmauld Place, see the Weasley's downstairs and they assume you've all gone to bed in your respective bedrooms, yet when I reach Tempest's bedroom intending to drop off her trunk, somehow I find you in her bed."
"Wha- but, I, nothing happened, we fell asleep!" protested Sirius, raising his hands defensively, "Cat was there too- we were merely talking and then fell asleep!"
Minnie's expression darkened further and she took a threatening step forwards while Sirius backed away, likening Minnie at that moment to a protective lioness. "Fell asleep with her head on your chest and arm around your torso?"
Sirius stuttered, "it was a cool night-" it hadn't been. "-she just probably gravitated towards me when she was asleep-" completely feasible. "-and I would never do anything untoward towards her- she's Tempest, I would never. Cat was there the whole time, Tempest will say the same, and honestly, Minnie, it's-" he glanced around for a convenient grandfather clock; "-four in the morning and I was up till about two and nothing is making much sense."
"Young man, if-"
The sound of a door opening far down the hallway made Sirius's head turn, and he saw Tempest stumbling out of her room, eyes half open. "Hey Sirius, Minnie, thanks for the trunk… Cat went back to sleep… I'll make you a coffee…" she staggered to the stairs and proceeded to wobble her way down them, clutching at the banister.
"Temper, you're going to break your neck-" Sirius left Minnie and went to lean over the balustrade after her. "let Kreacher get it- KREACHER! Where's that cursed house-elf? Tempest-"
"Sirius, I love you, but if you come between me and coffee, I can't guarantee it's you that'll win." called Tempest as she continued descending.
Sirius sighed and made some sort of motion for Minnie to follow him if she wanted to continue berating him and followed Tempest down the stairs. He caught her down the stairs from the second-floor landing when she began wavering dangerously, caught her from behind. Swinging her up so he hooked an arm under her legs too, carrying her down the rest of the stairs as she failed about, protesting.
"This is completely unnecessary, let go of me!" complained Tempest, but not struggling very hard at all. Sirius knew; he had been the one who taught Tempest how to fight, and if this was her best, then he was incredibly disappointed.
"Your wish is my command," said Sirius happily, reaching the kitchen and dumping her on the kitchen island, which she slid off and lunged for the coffee pot before Sirius could.
"Wanker," she said, beginning to empty her preferred coffee beans into the grinder. "You could at least start on pancakes seeing as it's four in the morning and Kreacher isn't around- any idea where he is?"
"Nope," said Sirius, entering the pantry for flour. "Last I saw him was when you arrived- did you inexcusably offend him in those couple of seconds you were in the same room?"
"Couldn't possibly be anything worse than what I've said to him in the past," said Tempest, "you know, I do think our relationship is improving, I very much believe that in a couple of years we'll be inseparable."
Sirius laughed, dumping the massive bag of flour on the island then staring at it, stumped. "Tempest, I have no idea how to make pancakes."
Tempest didn't turn around for the longest while, but when she finally did, she was snickering, the hand holding the coffee pot shaking so hard she barely managed to slosh it into a couple of clean mugs. "You can butter a crumpet better than the fucking queen yet you can't make a pancake?"
Sirius shrugged. "In my defense, the queen probably has her crumpets buttered for her."
Tempest laughed, opening a drawer and tossing Sirius a measuring cup. "I'd say four cups to make enough for all of us, do the dry ingredients first, sugar, a bit of salt, get a big bowl. Wet ingredients- that'd be a bit of lemon, eggs, milk, "
"Where'd you learn how to make them?" asked Sirius, rummaging about for a large bowl. "And where are the bowls?"
"Makes me amazed that you didn't poison us all with that cake for my birthday," said Tempest drolly, "cupboard to the left."
"On the doorstep with the milk," replied Tempest, and Sirius was actually out of the door before he realized what she had said and what he was doing, and the sound of her laughter inside the kitchen made him groan in embarrassment.
"I'm never going to hear the end of this, am I?" he muttered to himself, resting his head on a convenient wall.
"I don't believe you will," said a droll voice, and Sirius lifted his head to see Minnie, standing some ways down the corridor, and he wasn't sure how long she had been standing there without him or Tempest realizing. Sirius opened his mouth ready to further protest his innocence from before, but Minnie held up a hand to stall him. "Don't worry about it Sirius… I know nothing happened. I was merely… taken aback when I entered and jumped to conclusions, I am sorry."
Sirius stood, rather dumbstruck for a moment, while the sound of Tempest moving around making coffee filtered through towards them. "Well, thanks… yeah, glad we got that cleared up."
Tempest's head peered around the kitchen door at them. "Er, Sirius, sorry to interrupt, but I sort of need you in here, hopeless as you are with a whisk-"
"Yeah," said Sirius, and was about to walk in when Minnie spoke.
"The day's going to come when you won't be able to say no to that girl."
Sirius turned back to Minnie, and she was looking at him with a sort of understanding. He couldn't even protest because it was true. That day had probably already come. He returned Minnie's gaze and he wondered if he had ever imagined the most important thing in his life being the existence of a sixteen year old girl. "Could you ever?"
And Minnie shook her head. "No."
A half an hour later, there were some edible flat pastries ready that had by some miracle turned out alright and Tempest carried them out to the Weasleys who ate unenthusiastically and sipped moodily from their mugs of coffee. The Weasleys had received a letter that their father was alive, but Tempest had been drawn to the side by Minnie and told the narrower truth; that Mr Weasley was alive, but hardly stable.
After sitting in tepid silence, exchanging the occasional 'should I say something' glance with Sirius, Tempest got to her feet, filling another mug with coffee and muttering something about going to see if Cat was awake, and if she was, then to offer her coffee.
Cat was lying on her back on Tempest's bed when Tempest entered the room and Nyx sprung off Cat's face where she was perched.
Cat sat up, spitting out cat fur and sighing in relief. "I have a love/hate relationship with that cat, Lyal."
Tempest scooped up Nyx from the floor and nuzzled her furry face, thrusting the coffee mug towards Cat with her other hand. "You may as well get up now anyway," said Tempest, "Minnie left a while ago, she said 'hi' and Sirius made pancakes, miraculously they're actually edible. There're still some left if you want any."
"Alright," said Cat, who had seized the mug and was drinking from it as though it was the Holy Grail itself. She gave odd gasping and spitting noises at the same time, burning her tongue as she went, but Tempest did that herself at the best of times. Sometimes caffeine was caffeine, and caffeine was life.
There was a sudden commotion downstairs and Tempest and Cat scrambled to their feet, hurrying to the landing to see what the fuss was about. Loud motherly tones announced that it was Mrs Weasley and she wasn't bearing somber news. Tempest sighed in relief and ran down the stairs with Cat following at a slower pace.
"-sleeping now," said Mrs Weasley as Tempest reached the Weasley party, Sirius standing on the fringes, looking immensely relieved that Tempest and Cat were there now. "We'll visit soon, Bill's taking the morning off work to sit with him."
Fred fell back into his chair with his hands over his face. George and Ginny got up, walked swiftly over to their mother, and hugged her. Ron gave a very shaky laugh and downed the rest of his coffee.
Sirius, Cat and Tempest exchanged glances, all agreeing, then retiring to the kitchen to make a large breakfast, (more filling than pancakes) unwilling to intrude on the Weasley's happiness. However, Tempest had barely begun teaching Sirius how to work the stove when she was engulfed in a massive hug by Mrs Weasley.
"I don't know what would have happened if it hadn't been for you, Tempest," she said in a muffled voice. "They might not have found Arthur for hours, and then it would have been too late, but thanks to you he's alive and Dumbledore's been able to think up a good cover story for Arthur being where he was, you've no idea what trouble he would have been in otherwise, look at poor Sturgis..."
"I'm glad he's alright," Tempest managed, and Mrs Weasley detached herself to turn to Sirius and thank him for letting her children stay the night. Sirius, who had never gotten along with Mrs Weasley much, accepted her thanks graciously and said she and the rest were free to sat as long as Mr Weasley was in hospital and even after he, Cat and Tempest went off to France in a bit less than a week's time.
Mrs Weasley thanked him again; Grimmauld Place was closer to St Mungo's than the Burrow, then proceeded to take over the kitchen, shooing the rest of them out.
Tempest showed the rest of the Weasleys off to their guest bedrooms on the second floor after the breakfast, and they spent the rest of the morning sleeping, while she, Sirius and Cat, now far too awake went down to the basement. Tempest and Cat spent the time exchanging notes over the various potions they had learnt and brewed over the term, while Sirius sat writing out a list of things they'd need in France.
"Condoms?" commented Cat as she walked behind him, "Sirius, I think they sell condoms in France. It's France."
Sirius shrugged carelessly. "Better safe than sorry. I trust the English make more- and what if I walk into a store and they only have regular sized condoms?"
"Ooh, you've a rather inflated opinion of yourself," said Tempest, "or is that the doll in your room?"
Cat hooted, "nice," reaching over to high-five Tempest across the long bench separating them.
Sirius huffed in annoyance, but he was smiling too while Tempest ignored the odd and abrupt feeling of discomfort she received when she imagined Sirius buying condoms with the image of some French girl in mind.
More members of the Order turned up during the day, all dressed as Muggles much to Tempest and Cat's amusement. Moody was wearing a bowler hat at an angle to conceal his magical eye and an ill fitting suit, which by itself made him look like a dour businessman working at Tower 42, yet when he paired it with a large black trench coat, he looked like a dour business man sick of life and half a step away from being a suicide bomber too. While Cat tried to explain that to Moody, Tempest was trying to persuade Tonks to turn her short bright pink hair into a shade less offensive.
The trunks for the Weasleys had arrived and they got changed too, all talking happily and chattering on about being out of school early.
Sirius had opted to stay behind at Grimmauld Place even though he generally seized any opportunity to leave the house. He'd decided that with their holiday in France he may as well attempt not to go against Dumbledore for the couple of days they were still in London. Also, it was a visit to St Mungo's, the place that Sirius admitted he avoided at all costs.
"We'll stop by Diagon Alley too," said Tempest through the wall as she and Cat got dressed, "maybe after we've visited Mr Weasley we could head off and get a few last minute things- I need to go to Gringotts, we both need to visit the Apothecary, you need to get to Flourish and Blotts and then I need to buy a new broom, just a replacement for the Firebolt in the interim before I get it back… anything else?"
"Not really," replied Cat, then there was the sound of her door closing and she entered Tempest's room, "well, I was maybe thinking of getting a taser- oh."
Tempest looked up to see they were wearing the almost identical same clothing items. Dark jeans and a deep green shirt- the same grey scarf and the only difference being that Tempest wore Sirius's jacket while Cat wore her own black coat. "Well that was odd," said Tempest, "but yes, brilliant idea for the taser, I mean I'd suggest a gun itself but I figure you'd be trigger happy."
"You're one to talk," snorted Cat, "but that did cross my mind, yeah."
Tempest laughed then slipped her wand up her sleeve. "C'mon, we're going on the tube."
Tonks sat with Tempest on the train, incredibly interested in her vision of the attack on Mr Weasley. "There isn't any Seer blood in your family, is there?" she inquired curiously.
"Well…" actually as skeptical as she was after Professor Trelawney, that'd be a nicer truth than the one that she was dreading. Tempest had been a tad afraid that somehow she had mind melded with Voldemort's snake. "Er…" if she did have seer blood, it couldn't have been on her mother's side, and she didn't know about her father's side; she'd have to ask Sirius, common great grandfather and all, he'd probably know. "I'll ask," she said instead.
"Hmm," said Tonks musingly, "although if it isn't, I suppose it's not really prophecy you're doing, is it? I mean, you're not seeing the future, you're seeing the present... It's odd, isn't it? Useful, though..."
Tempest shrugged, and thankfully they got out at the next stop, where to her misfortune, she ended up walking beside George. George, who she hadn't once spoken to in the entire time that his dad had been hospitalized.
"Thanks," he said, "for saving my dad's life."
"Don't mention it."
"You know, I actually think you mean that."
"I do." Tempest said.
George's mouth was pressed in a flat thin line and it suddenly occurred to Tempest that George was practically grown up. Eighteen, he was almost as old as Viktor Krum, he was setting up a business with his twin and right now, striding down the sidewalk in the heart of London, tall and assured, Tempest could almost see his entire life before her eyes. As crazy as he was, he'd have a normal, safe life. He wasn't cynical, not so far gone with the world fucking him up that he was where Tempest was, where she couldn't actually see a future further than where she was now. The snake had gotten close; Tempest knew that, close to changing George's perception of the word, but fallen short just of the final step.
"Where's St Mungo's anyway?" asked Tempest
"Not far from here," grunted Moody from behind her as they stepped out into the wintry air on a broad store-lined street packed with Christmas shoppers. "Wasn't easy to find a good location for a hospital. Nowhere in Diagon Alley was big enough and we couldn't have it underground like the Ministry- unhealthy. In the end they managed to get hold of a building up here. Theory was sick wizards could come and go and just blend in with the crowd… Here we go," said Moody a moment later.
They had arrived outside a large, old-fashioned, red brick department store called Purge and Dowse Ltd. The place had a shabby, miserable air; the window displays consisted of a few chipped dummies with their wigs askew, standing at random and modeling fashions at least ten years out of date. Large signs on all the dusty doors read closed for refurbishment.
"Right," said Tonks, beckoning them forward to a window displaying nothing but a particularly ugly female dummy whose false eyelashes were hanging off and who was modeling a green nylon pinafore dress. "Everybody ready?"
They nodded, clustering around her; Moody gave Tempest a shove between the shoulder blades to urge her forward and Tonks leaned close to the glass, looking up at the very ugly dummy and said, her breath steaming up the glass, "Wotcher... We're here to see Arthur Weasley."
The dummy gave a tiny nod, beckoning its jointed finger, and Tonks seized Ginny and Mrs. Weasley by the elbows, stepping right through the glass and vanishing.
Fred, George, and Ron stepped after them; Tempest glanced around at the jostling crowd; not one of them seemed to have a glance to spare for window displays as ugly as Purge and Dowse Ltd.'s, nor did any of them seem to have noticed that six people had just melted into thin air in front of them. She reached for Cat's arm, and they stepped forward together.
It felt like a sheet of cool water, emerging quite warm and dry on the other side. There was no sign of the ugly dummy or the space where she had stood. They had arrived in what seemed to be a crowded reception area where rows of witches and wizards sat upon rickety wooden chairs, some looking perfectly normal and perusing out-of-date copies of Witch Weekly, others sporting gruesome disfigurements such as elephant trunks or extra hands sticking out of their chests. The room was scarcely less quiet than the street outside, for many of the patients were making very peculiar noises.
A sweaty-faced witch in the center of the front row, who was fanning herself vigorously with a copy of the Daily Prophet, kept letting off a high-pitched whistle as steam came pouring out of her mouth, and a grubby-looking warlock in the corner clanged like a bell every time he moved, and with each clang his head vibrated horribly, so that he had to seize himself by the ears and hold it steady.
Witches and wizards in lime-green robes were walking up and down the rows, asking questions and making notes on clipboards.
At Tempest's side, Cat stiffened. "Don't like hospitals," she said, by way of explanation.
"Neither," murmured Tempest.
"Over here!" called Mrs. Weasley over the renewed clanging of the warlock in the corner, and they followed her to the queue in front of a plump blonde witch seated at a desk marked inquiries. The wall behind her was covered in notices and posters saying things like a clean cauldron keeps potions from becoming poisons and antidotes are anti-don'ts unless approved by a certified Healer.
There was also a large portrait of a witch with long silver ringlets that was labeled:
St. Mungo's Healer 1722–1741
Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, 174i–1768
Dilys was eyeing the Weasley party as though counting them; when Tempest caught her eye she gave a tiny wink, walked sideways out of her portrait, and vanished.
Meanwhile, at the front of the queue, a young wizard was performing an odd on-the-spot jig and trying, in between yelps of pain, to explain his predicament to the witch behind the desk. "It's these- ouch- shoes my brother gave me- ow- they're eating my- OUCH- feet- look at them, there must be some kind of- AARGH- jinx on them and I can't- AAAAARGH- get them off-"
He hopped from one foot to the other as though dancing on hot coals.
"The shoes don't prevent you reading, do they?" said the blonde witch irritably, pointing at a large sign to the left of her desk. "You want Spell Damage, fourth floor. Just like it says on the floor guide. Next!"
The wizard hobbled and pranced sideways out of the way, the Weasley party moved forward a few steps and Tempest read the floor guide:
Ground Floor (Cauldron explosion, wand backfiring, broom crashes, etc.)
First Floor (Bites, stings, burns, embedded spines, etc.)
Second Floor (Contagious maladies, e.g, dragon pox, vanishing sickness, scrofungulus)
POTION AND PLANT POISONING:
Third Floor (Rashes, regurgitation, uncontrollable giggling, etc.)
Fourth Floor (Unliftable jinxes, hexes, and incorrectly applied charms, etc.)
VISITORS' TEAROOM AND HOSPITAL SHOP:
If you are unsure where to go, incapable, of normal speech, or unable to remember why you are here, our Welcome Witch will be pleased to help.
A very old, stooped wizard with a hearing trumpet had shuffled to the front of the queue now. "I'm here to see Broderick Bode!" he wheezed.
"Ward forty-nine, but I'm afraid you're wasting your time," said the witch dismissively "He's completely addled, you know, still thinks he's a teapot... Next!"
A harassed-looking wizard was holding his small daughter tightly by the ankle while she flapped around his head using the immensely large, feathery wings that had sprouted right out the back of her romper suit. (Cat leant in to Tempest and said in a quiet aside: "Wouldn't mind a pair of those myself.")
"Fourth floor," said the witch in a bored voice, without asking, and the man disappeared through the double doors beside the desk, holding his daughter like an oddly shaped balloon. "Next!"
Mrs. Weasley moved forward to the desk. "Hello," she said. "My husband, Arthur Weasley, was supposed to be moved to a different ward this morning, could you tell us-?"
"Arthur Weasley?" said the witch, running her finger down a long list in front of her. "Yes, first floor, second door on the right, Dai Llewellyn ward."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Weasley. "Come on, you lot."
They followed through the double doors and along the narrow corridor beyond, which was lined with more portraits of famous Healers and lit by crystal bubbles full of candles that floated up on the ceiling, looking like giant soapsuds. More witches and wizards in lime-green robes walked in and out of the doors they passed; a foul-smelling yellow gas wafted into the passageway as they passed one door, and every now and then they heard distant wailing. They climbed a flight of stairs and entered the "Creature-Induced Injuries" corridor, where the second door on the right bore the words "dangerous" Dai Llewellyn Ward: Serious Bites. Underneath this was a card in a brass holder on which had been handwritten Healer-in-Charge: Hippocrates Smethwyck, Trainee Healer: Augustus Pye.
"We'll wait outside, Molly," Tonks said. "Arthur won't want too many visitors at once... It ought to be just the family first."
Mad-Eye growled his approval of this idea and set himself with his back against the corridor wall, his magical eye spinning in all directions. Tempest and Cat stepped back too, but Mrs. Weasley reached out a hand and tried to shove her through the door saying that Mr Weasley would want to thank her. Tempest was adamant about going in later though, saying anyone else would have done the same and she really didn't want to intrude.
"So did you find the snake?" Cat asked Moody when Mrs Weasley finally gave up and entered the ward without Tempest.
Moody shook his head in a disgruntled fashion. "No. We searched the whole area and so did a couple of trusted others, but we couldn't find it. It seemed to have vanished after the attack."
"It is Voldemort though, right, who sent the snake?" asked Tempest, "I'm pretty sure the snake was Nagini."
"Perhaps," replied Tonks, "but if it is, the question stands; why would he send the snake? He can't have expected a snake to get in, can he?"
"I reckon he sent it as a lookout," growled Moody, "'cause he's not had any luck so far, has he? No, I reckon he's trying to get a clearer picture of what he's facing and if Arthur hadn't been there the beast would've had much more time to look around?"
Tempest glanced and Cat and knew she had heard it too. Moody had spoken as though there had been other attempts to get into the Department of Mysteries. If only Dumbledore would tell her what was in the bleeding place… but apparently that was something she didn't need to know.
"And Voldemort wants to get into this place so badly because…"
Moody didn't reply.
"So you talked to Dumbledore this morning?" Tempest tried instead, "did he have any ideas about why I saw the attack?"
"You going to tell me any of his theories?" asked Tempest. "Like you say, Constant Vigilance- how am I meant to be prepared if I don't know what I'm looking out for? Whatever it is, I can handle it."
Tonks looked quite unwilling to elaborate, but Moody was considering her words.
"Very well," he said finally. "You say you can handle it Potter… alright. You're seeing things from inside You-Know-Who's snake. There is a very real possibility that You-Know-Who is possessing you."