"Merlin's shorts, where is that man!"
"I haven't the faintest, Arabella! I've been trying his office for the past twenty minutes but that hideous statue won't let me up!"
"Well, how can it Argus, being what yeh' are? Don't give me that look, I'm one too; it's not such a terrible position, you old grouch!"
"I'm not a grouch!"
"Never mind that, have you been able to reach anyone else then?"
"What do I look like, an owl?!"
"Men! Never send them to do a woman's work! First Fletcher, now you! If the fate of the Wizarding World is to fall on you both, Merlin help us all!"
"There's no need to get pers'nal, Arabella!"
"Hmph! I sent Fletcher to find someone, the least that old tramp could do. The ol' blighter leavin' his post like he did! The Ministry will be here soon, make no mistake. And I haven't the means to keep them at bay. I need Albus here!"
"I'll see if I can find Sev'rus…he may be still be on the grounds."
"Yes yes, go! If nothing else, he can send a patronus to the Order for us."
This was the ruffled exchange Harry heard that roused him from his sleep. Both voices he recognized, though for some reason he found it difficult to place their names. He tried to open his eyes but they were so heavy—in fact, his entire body felt like it was weighted down with lead.
At the rustling of his person on her couch, Arabella Figg turned from the fire where Argus had been able to contact her through (on his end with aid from Hagrid and his own fireplace). She tutted and placed a firm but gentle hand back on Harry's chest to push him back down on the couch. The boy was so drawn and frail…and that nose was still bleeding a bit despite her best efforts at Muggle First Aid. She had nothing stronger than a coughing drought in her cabinet.
"Keep yeh' head tilted, Harry. Your cousin gave you what-for back there at the playground." Arabella sighed, rather annoyed with the boy. Really…he should know better than picking a fight with his cousin. After all these years, the two were still at odds.
Course, no wonder that was, considering that horrid family Harry was forced to reside with.
"Wha…where…m'I?" Harry asked, barely above a whisper.
"You're in my home, Harry. You remember me, yeh? Arabella Figg. Your neighbor. Saw you get cornered by that dementor, both you and Dudley."
Arabella…Harry gradually connected who she was in his mind as she spoke. But, hold on…she knew what a dementor was?
He peeked his eyes open a bit, but with his glasses off all he saw was her blur. "You know what…what that—?"
"Oh of course I do, silly boy." Arabella waved away his astonishment mid-sentence. "I daresay I wasn't exactly supposed to tell you, but as it is, you are much older now. No need to keep hiding it. I'm a squib, Harry. You know what that is, yes?"
Harry nodded. For once glad someone didn't automatically assume he knew every term in Wizarding society. Mrs. Figg knew how sheltered he'd been, even if that knowledge did not go beyond the lawn of Number Four. And no one had to guess magic was not a welcome topic in that home. She knew he could just as likely not know what a squib was because of that.
"Good, good. Well, I've been watching out for you all this time." Harry saw her move from the chair beside him to another part of the room, still prattling on. "Under Dumbledore's orders of course. He wanted it to be a secret from you, to keep you safe. And to ensure your family didn't get wind of what I really was. They wouldn't have let me keep you otherwise, had they known."
Harry figured that was reasonable, but still felt so betrayed and lied to. It was stupid really; it was for his safety, like she said. But Harry, young though he was, still had trouble understanding how this kept him safe. How leaving him ignorant of who and what he was helped in any way during that lonely first decade of his life. How thinking his parents had been drunks that were killed in a car crash had been in any way helpful. How…how thinking he was an impossible freak, alone in this world, had been helpful.
Harry again felt a bubbling of sorrow and anger hit his chest and he once again pushed it back against the rim of his consciousness. He must have looked a bit pale from the effort because once again Arabella was at his side and feeling his forehead.
"Blasted old coot…He'll be lucky if he catches sight of Fudge's coattails as he leaves at this rate." She tutted. She wasn't nearly as dotty as she made herself out to be, Harry decided. She was rather spunky for an old lady in a tartan and slippers.
"We were lucky the thing was destroyed—how, I have no idea—but it was gone before it sucked the life out of you." She continued, her tone finally soft and thoughtful. "You were overcome before you could properly cast, I suppose. Lucky you are to even be alive; as I ran up the drive all I saw was a dreadful smoke—and when it cleared there you were, on the ground out light like a light."
Harry changed the subject. "Where's my glasses?"
"Oh! Here they are, dear." He felt the frames stuck into his right hand. He gingerly slipped them on, careful not to jostle the dishcloth he was holding to his nose that was currently staying the blood dribbling through. It still hurt terribly, but other than the pinching pain he felt rather apathetic to the injury.
"Thanks." Though things were still a strain to focus with the old things on, he was still better off with than without.
Several cracks were heard outside. Then a shuffling before Figg's doorbell sounded.
"It's about time." She huffed, going to open it. Harry didn't even have the energy to sit back up to face whoever had finally come.
"Where's Potter?" A gruff voice called from the doorway. Harry recognized it…and it sent a thrill of fear down his spine until he realized that no, that wizard had been Kissed on order of the Minister. This must be the real deal.
"In the parlour. Wait a moment, wait! Wipe those boots—you may be a wizard but some of us are forced to clean manually." Arabella's voice all but shouted at whoever had arrived.
"Jus' do as she says, Moody. Don' be a hard-arse." A new woman's voice, dripping with humor, joined in.
There was distinct, low muttering of swears and then a stomping into the room where Harry was. The bits of china and figurines tinkled from the vibration—several cats hissed and scurried away.
"Potter! Up with you!" Mad-Eye Moody greeted roughly.
Harry did as he was told, apathy being his shield once again. It helped him ignore the rage, indignance and even the pain.
"Wotcher, Harry!" The woman bounded into the room but almost tripped up on another cat. Arabella picked the traumatized creature with a roll of her eyes at the girl.
"'Lo." Harry managed in a very soft, nasally voice.
"C'mere boy, let me look at you." Moody demanded. Without waiting for Harry to barely glance his way again, the rough old Auror flicked his wand and Harry felt (as well as heard) his nose crunch back into place; the wound closed lickety-split.
"You could've warned him first, Alastor." The other woman lightly reprimanded. Harry blinked when her hair changed from a bubblegum pink to a dark red then back again.
"I'll not be coddling the boy, Tonks—he's old enough to take it." Moody grumped, pulling Harry bodily up from the couch. Merlin, was he to be man-handled to death today?
"Where is Dumbledore then? I meant Argus to send for him—" Arabella cut in. Tonks pried Harry from the older man's clutches and was haphazardly straightening his clothes.
"Poppy sent us his regrets—said something about an explosion in the dungeons. Had to tend to it." Tonks explained, putting a finger through an old worn hole in Harry's jacket. He had the decency to blush but she merely winked and mended it with her wand.
"Serves that old bat right. Merlin's justice on the Death Eater." Moody grumbled, going over to the window and almost tearing Arabella's shades off to peer through.
"Not this again." Tonks sighed. Her hair turned from pink to silver. Harry mused her hair must be like a mood ring. Was that a normal wizard thing? Harry didn't know. A part of him wanted to ask Hermione next chance he got but then…well, as she and Ron weren't replying to his letters, he decided he'd be better off ignorant than feel even more ignored.
"It was a muggle boy it attacked…you are sure of this?" Moody called to no one in particular, still darting his eye about until it settled on Harry after a moment. Harry jumped to kickstart his voice, realizing the question was meant for him after all.
"Yes'ir." Harry replied. "My cousin…" Speaking of which, where was his cousin? They had been together when the dementor appeared…unless…
"Sir! Is Dudley alright? Where is he? Did it kill him?!" Even if Dudley was a bully and a prat, Harry didn't want him to die.
"Bit late on the take, eh boy?" Moody faced him fully once again and Arabella huffed.
"He's only just now come 'round! He didn't even know where he was at first!"
Harry colored, feeling dumb.
"Anyway, I didn't want to upset him…" Arabella continued as she turned to Harry, whose stomach was doing summersaults. "Dudley's at home, Harry. But he's still suffering from the effects of that monster. And your aunt and uncle are not very…pleased with you at the moment. Dudley seems to think you cursed him."
Harry stared at her blankly. What?
"But I didn't! I couldn't even—" Harry caught himself, the memory coming back fully now. "—even cast in time." He finished lamely. But it seemed to fool the three before him.
"And that, unfortunate as it may be, is what we're trying to figure out." Arabella explained, setting her pawing cat down again.
"What?" Harry crinkled his brow. Tonks took the lull and hopped on the arm of the couch.
"The Ministry owled a notice saying they'll be sending someone directly—as they detected the dementor, albeit rather belatedly. But they also mentioned some detected accidental magic in the area. It was not directly traced back to you, but there were implications."
Harry's heart plummeted.
"I've been expelled, havn't I?" He muttered, looking at nothing as his eyes clouded in disbelief.
"Only suspended, until their investigations clear up. Which I'm sure will be; accidental or not you were in the right to try and defend yourself and your cousin. His accusation will likely be dismissed as Muggle confusion."
Harry also sat back down on the sofa. Even if there was a chance he be cleared and allowed back, it was just his luck that his wish to be reconnected to the Wizarding World would be twisted into some nightmare like this.
As if he didn't suffer enough from nightmares at night.
A patronus arrived through the window, interrupting whatever Tonks was about to contribute. It was a St. Bernard and it seemed to hold its grace even as it lumbered through the window and faced Alastor Moody. It spoke, but Harry was too tired and muddled in controlling his emotions to really hear what it said. Somewhere in the depths of his mind, the part still clear from anger, grief and resentment, startled in surprise at the fact that the patronus was even capable of speech.
"We'll need to take the boy now." Moody ordered, the silver dog disappearing in sparkling mist, with Harry thinking it dreadfully beautiful despite everything.
"Yes, alright. I'll be up at Number Four with his aunt. I'll see if I can sort things out, stall for time." Arabella replied, quick as a whip at gathering herself up to the mission. "The Ministry will likely send an inquest, and I doubt they'll be as forgiving as they were when he blew up Petunia's sister-in-law." She continued, more to herself really, as she made a grab for her purse and a warmer coat, flicking off light switches as she went.
Tonks drew in a sharp breath, her hair flashing bright yellow a moment as she stared at Harry, though the brightness in her eyes made him think of the Weasley twins.
"You blew up a Muggle?"
"Like a balloon." Arabella sighed, as if this were typical mischief instead of a rather explosive end of a terrible night for Harry.
"Merlin, Harry—" Tonks gasped with awe and a touch of humor.
"Not on purpose…" Harry mumbled, blushing under her scrutiny.
"Can we GET ON WITH IT, WOMAN?" Moody practically yelled from the door. A muggle man and his wife startled on the sidewalk as they passed, walking their tiny dog. They quickly hastened their progress, especially at the sight of the old ex-Auror.
"Don't harass me, you vile old thing! I'm still your senior; I'll box your ears, wizard or not!" Arabella snapped, being last to exit the house (Harry maneuvered out by the gentle grasp of Tonks) and locked it with her keys. Moody growled but wisely kept his trap shut.
"There's an old alley to the left of that flat down the way. You'll be safe to apparate from there." Arabella said, a bit out of breath from wrestling with her keys and sticking them back in her purse. With a wave to Harry and Tonks (and a disgruntled harrumph for Moody) she began her trek across the manicured lawns to the Dursley residence.
Harry followed the bubbly witch and her grisly companion into the suggested area.
"Think you can handle him, Nymphadora?" Moody gruffed, turning with some difficulty to face her and Harry in the uneven pavement of the alley.
Tonks immediately bristled, her hair flashing reds and oranges.
"DON'T CALL ME NYMPHADORA!" She hissed, and had Harry not been in her grip he would have stumbled back a few steps.
Moody just smirked, then tuned on the spot and was gone with a crisp crack!
Nymphadora—Tonks!—pulled on her vest beneath her robes in agitation, before calming herself, her hair turning a pale baby blue a second as she exhaled.
"Wretched old pirate." Tonks muttered under her breath, before taking Harry's arm.
"You ever apparated before, Harry luv?" Tonks asked in a comforting voice, giving Harry emotional whiplash as well as feeling like he was five not almost fifteen.
"No ma'am." He meekly replied and he saw a dash of red in her hair again, a thrill of fright at wondering what he could have possibly said to her to make her upset.
"Don't ma'am me, ya' scamp! I'm not that old!" She laughed and the sound of it was melodious and free, making Harry wildly think of his time riding Buckbeak. He relaxed instantly, suddenly very fond of this Tonks witch.
"Well, take me' arm then. It's a bit like popping out of existence for a moment and back again, only to somewhere else, see?"
Harry didn't, but nodded anyway.
"Now this won't be too pleasant, but let's give 'er a go, mm?" Tonks winked and Harry took a breath, bracing for whatever unknown sensations were about to fall upon him to make him and this witch blink out of space as it had for Moody.
Faster than a wink Harry was pulled to Tonks's side and away they went. The feeling of almost suffocating was almost unbearable but was squelched just as quickly as it had filled up Harry's chest, a pulling bringing him back to land on solid ground once again. Harry promptly stumbled onto the ground, and he absently wished he had cracked his head onto the concrete and ended his existence then and there. But it was not to be as two calloused and strong hands yanked him back up, a shout of instruction to be more gentle calling somewhere off to the side.
Harry's glasses were cracked on the left lens, but Harry's apathy quickly filled his fear of such a small but important loss. He couldn't see very well with the old things, but they did help him see nonetheless.
Moody jabbed a ripped piece of parchment into Harry's face and it took him a second to bring it into focus. A very long second.
A moment later after reading the address scribbled on the parchment, an impressive, if a bit imposing, flat seemed to appear between the two previously adjoined apartment buildings that they had apparently apparated to.
Harry was pushed inside quickly, and he stumbled once again on the steps and into the now opening door.
"He's as clumsy as you, Tonks." Moody barked from behind, and a sound whallop could be heard, with Moody yelling "Ay! Gerrof me, ya spiteful tart!"
"Alastor Moody! You'll not be calling any witch that in my presence, you hear me?" Came a familiar voice bustling through the length of the very dark hallway where Harry had stopped in the middle of, not sure where he was, what was happening or even how he fit into all this.
"Harry dear!" the voice squealed with joy, a complete turnaround from its scolding tone moments before. Harry was trapped in a bear hug, but immediately melted into it as he realized through his clouded thoughts and fatigue that this was Mrs. Weasley, and the closest person he'd ever known for a mother-figure. He was thankful it was total darkness in the hall as he felt his eyes prickle with emotions he was unable to squash down inside.
"Can we please shuffle this display into the kitchen at the very least? I'm starvin'!" Growled Moody behind them, and Harry jumped. Mrs. Weasley tutted, rubbing his back as she led Harry into the light (he hastily wiping at his eyes and trying not to sniffle).
The brightness of the next room nearly blinded him and it took him a moment to adjust, catching sight finally of the man he'd most longed to see all summer.
"Harry!" he called.
He looked far better than Harry had last seen him, with much nicer robes trimmed smartly to resemble a long, almost muggle coat and vest combo. It was just slightly different enough to signify it was wizarding fashion. His hair was clean and wavy, cut far shorter now, and his silver eyes did not look quite so manic. In fact, if Harry dared hope, they held something akin to affection when he looked his way. But suddenly his face twisted into shock and then anger, and Harry stepped back once again, taken off guard by the expression.
"What's that on his shirt?!" Sirius practically yelled, rushing forward and clenching Harry's shirt in his hands, dragging the teenager to the table. Harry dimly realized that Remus was also present, and now trying to loosen Sirius's grip.
"Sirius! Let him go so I can see to it!" Remus wrangled. Harry felt like he stopped breathing for a moment. His thinking was still hazed and while trying to push down his earlier anger he felt a spark of affection for the two men as they fought to tend to him, something no one had ever cared enough to do.
"Will you both get off him!" Tonks scrambled at the group, and with Molly's help wrestled them both out of the way so Harry could finally breathe.
"Oh my, look at this!" Molly almost shouted, though her anger was clearly directed at someone other than Harry, much to his relief. She wordlessly incanted a cleaning spell and Harry no longer smelled the iron-like scent rising from the stains of his previously broken nose.
"Thanks." Harry muttered.
"Well? How'd my godson get blood on him?" Sirius rounded on Alastor, who was nipping a biscuit from the plate on the counter.
"Something about his cousin, how should I know?" Moody roughly replied, mouth full of the food.
"His cousin?" Remus asked, curiously but his eyes narrowed.
"Can you stop talking like I'm not in the bloody room?" Harry snapped, but his voice was quieter and raspier than he thought it would be.
All eyes darted to him, but Mrs. Weasley tutted.
"Language, dear. Come, sit down and you can tell us yourself what happened, mm?"
Harry muttered an apology and let himself be steered in a seat between Remus and Sirius, who sat on either side almost protectively.
"Hang on, why haven't I heard from any of you?" Harry blinked his eyes rapidly to dislodge the burning sensation he felt in them, as if he hadn't slept in days. That was rather odd as he did sleep…just not restfully.
"Should we tell him?" Sirius immediately asked Molly, and Harry sighed irritably at being talked about again like he wasn't there. At least he now knew things were being kept from him—though things were always kept from him, weren't they?
"Alastor, had any word from Albus? He should be the one to ask. None of us expected to pick him up so early…but there's no helping it now." Molly turned to the older wizard.
"None yet, not even when we left the muggle neighborhood. Figg hoped he'd get there before the Ministry Officials."
"Why would the Ministry be involved? Tonks just said Harry was to be picked up ahead of schedule…" Remus's eyes narrowed, casting a curious but worried glance to Harry.
"The boy can tell you himself why, he was there." Moody moodily replied, leaning on the counter to give his leg a rest.
Before Remus could prompt Harry to shed some light on things (ironic though it was as he was the one feeling quite in the dark at the moment) the floo roared to life and Madam Pomfrey strode out, mumbling to herself something about ridiculous children not acting their age. Despite himself Harry felt the light bubbling of amusement at the sight.
"Well! I see you found him then. Good thing too, as Albus won't have been able to fetch him like he is." She muttered as she looked Harry over with merely her eyes before turning to the adults.
"Like he is?" Moody questioned.
"Yes, like he is. The Headmaster has had a…potions accident." Poppy cryptically explained, her tone short like she had had quite a time with something before coming to Grimmauld Place.
"That slimey dungeon bat did him in!?" Sirius jumped in his seat and Harry flinched violently. Sirius was the only one in the room not to notice the reaction, preoccupied as he was.
"Sirius Black, will you sit down! It was truly an accident and has affected Albus, Minerva and Severus himself. But they are alive and well, if that's what you're upset about." Poppy rolled her eyes, her voice very tinged with exasperation.
"So what did—" Remus tried but Poppy held up her hand.
"I can't explain it; you'll have to ask Severus. I just came to warn you all first as to their appearances and to inform you, Sirius, that the Headmaster requires use of your home here as sanctuary while they work things out. They can't very well stay at the castle looking like they do right now."
Harry, along with everyone else, was full of questions.
"I—of course. If Dumbledore needs it." Sirius blinked, confused but loyal to Albus.
"What's wrong with how they look?" Molly asked, wringing her hands in her apron slightly in her nervousness.
Poppy sighed. "The accident somehow…had de-aging properties."
This revelation was met with stunned silence.
"What? Like…they're younger?" Sirius finally asked.
"That's all I can say." She nodded. "Now then, if you'll excuse me, I'll send them on through."
Poppy then muttered something about a dragging spell for disagreeable children and in a flash of green flames she opened up the Grate and shouted through.
"Come on! 'Haven't got all day!"
Harry could definitely hear some voices on the other side now and thought it peculiar she was looking downwards. Somehow he couldn't wrap his mind around what she had said, wishing he was in bed asleep instead.
"I'm coming, you clucking witch!" yelled back a voice from within, a very young voice.
Suddenly the fire roared to life again and spit out a small black-haired boy about twelve years old, thrown from the green flames, who then landed on the ground with his longish hair covering his face. He wore pitch black robes, almost identical to those worn by Snape, if not for the size.
"Minerva, you old hag! I said I was going, you didn't have to push me through!" he yelled again as he dusted off his robes and spun around to face his assaulter, who had just arrived through the Floo right after him.
"Merlin." Sirius breathed as he took in the sight. Remus looked pale and Molly absolutely shocked.
The next to arrive through after the boy was a girl who looked about fifteen, had her dark brown hair in a very McGonagall-like bun and even wore her hat and emerald robes, though they too had been resized. She strode over to the boy with a furious glare.
"How dare you! I am NOT a hag! Nor am I old, obviously!" She huffed in a girlish voice—natural to her age—right at his face. The boy merely glared back, folding his arms over his chest in a very Snape-like manner.
"Now now, my dears, we mustn't bicker; surely our minds are mature even if our bodies are not." Said a good humored, mild and youthful voice as the third of their party arrived from the fireplace. He had on an alarming shade of purple robes, and was quite tall compared to the other two, but not taller than Moody yet. He had longish auburn hair held back in a pony-tail. He was looking down as he dusted off the garish clothing he wore, but when he looked up everyone saw the eyes they knew so well. They sparkled a deep blue and twinkled as he took in the reactions of the room. When his gaze settled on a stock still Harry, eyes wide and mouth a bit agape, the young man's own blue eyes softened yet tinged with a bit of worry.
"A-Albus…?" Molly gasped, putting a hand over her mouth.
"Why yes Molly, my dear. I'm glad I'm still recognizable." The seventeen-year-old boy with auburn hair chuckled as he helped himself to a seat at the table directly in front of Harry. The girl and boy who had also arrived sat on either side of him. Moody took his place at Albus's side, still grinning at everyone's dumbfounded expressions, he apparently getting his jollies from the ridiculous and unusual situation of such respected wizard-folk.
"What happened sir?" Harry brought himself to say, eyes for once not clouded as his curiosity still trumped his depression somehow.
"I believe Severus should explain that part." The teen motioned to the little black-haired boy beside him, who was glowering at Tonks, who was in turn biting her lip as she looked at him, obviously finding his current form quite adorable. Said little boy—Snape—was glaring daggers at Harry now as if daring him to make a comment. Sirius noticed and placed an arm around Harry, glaring right back. Snape looked at the action with a twitch of his eyes and a deep loathing before looking away, preparing to speak.
Harry, feeling too tired to deal with all this, leaned into his godfather. He may have been cross with everyone here for still not telling him what was going on before the de-aging incident, but he craved affection far too much to deny himself such.
"So this is actually you, then? All of you? Minerva…Albus…and that's Severus?" Remus said breathlessly, seeming to reel slightly from the situation. Harry felt guilty for being a bit blasé about it all now, and did his best to look interested.
"No, Lupin, I'm some random child who impersonates Potions Masters for kicks!" he yelped. This incited a snort from the girl on Albus's other side. The boy-Snape swiveled attention to her, giving her his most loathing glare he could muster. The laugh turned into a cough as cover and Snape merely gritted his teeth looking at McGonagall. Albus meanwhile looked serene and at complete peace as a barrier between the two.
Remus, a bit peeved at being told off by a child—regardless if it were Snape or not—wisely said nothing as said child began his spiel. With arms folded tightly at his chest, fairly hunched into himself, he and the others took their places at the table as he began the tale;
"I was in my lab trying to find a way to perfect and perhaps enhance the effects of…Wolfsbane…on an infected individual," Snape began in a monotone similar to his older self as he then threaded his fingers together on the table top. Remus straightened in his seat, a flash of gratitude in spite of his previous irritation for the boy-Snape show on his face for the effort of working on his much-needed potion. "—when that horrendous elf Dobby popped into my chambers and startled me into dropping far too much of the ingredient I had in hand into the cauldron I was currently experimenting with."
"Dobby doesn't mean to do that, y'know." Harry interrupted, taking offense at the derisive tone Snape spoke of the elf. "He's always been a bit jumpy."
Snape, who would have normally berated the boy for rudely interrupting, instead looked unusually sidetracked.
"You know of that elf?"
"'Course, I freed him from the Malfoys in Second Year." Harry replied, then a second later amended, "Well, technically I tricked Mr. Malfoy into freeing him, but same difference I suppose."
Snape looked absolutely taken aback, never having heard that part of the story. Sirius and Remus looked equally astounded, knowing what kind of person Lucius Malfoy was.
Moody looked downright gleeful though, and oddly proud. It was the same expression Crouch-Moody had when Harry mastered his Accio…and it made Harry feel a need to look away from him quickly.
"You tricked Lucius Malfoy into freeing his own elf? Are you mad?" Snape asked, looking at Harry oddly.
"Hey! He was being a right arse to Dumbledore, and literally kicked Dobby around in the office! I wasn't about to let him get away with that!" Harry shot back, rankled. Everyone looked at a loss at this new side story unfolding, except for the young headmaster.
"That's a Potter if I ever heard one!" Moody proudly crowed from behind the group, and Harry felt vindicated despite his earlier fear.
"Harry, Lucius Malfoy is very dangerous—you must be careful around him." Remus half-heartedly lectured (likely just as proud as Moody and Sirius for Harry showing up the old death eater) but Harry just shrugged.
"I mean I know that, he tried to Avada me, but Dobby blasted him across the room before he could. Lucky break I guess." Now the room was shocked to silence again.
"He what?" Albus asked, a tinge of something new in his voice.
Harry shifted uneasily in his seat, taking in the looks around the table and room.
"It's not like that's the worst thing that ever happened! He didn't even finish the spell. I didn't know what it even was until last year when Crouch taught us what the spell was for the Killing Curse…" Harry trailed off, feeling the blood on his face draining at the continued looks he was getting. Had he said too much? Too little? What was the right thing to say!?
"Not the worst thing—? What the hell happened while I was in prison?!" Sirius looked accusingly at the others, as did Remus. Harry didn't see the big deal here, as he had faced a dragon and even Voldemort himself in the last year. And Sirius, while cautiously worried, had seemed just as much excited about the prospect of it being an adventure. Besides…some spat with Malfoy's dad hardly ranked in Harry's top ten life threatening situations. But the way everyone seemed surprised only made him more nervous.
This was escalating quickly.
"Can we get back to Snape's potion story?" Harry weakly suggested, feeling thankful that he had been virtually starved this past week because he wasn't sure he could keep in any food at the moment with how nervous he now felt.
"Professor Snape, boy." Snape snarled, his patience gone long ago on this trying day.
Harry glared right back, before softening his look as Molly came around to hand him a cup of hot chocolate out of nowhere.
It was bloody rich Snape call him a boy when he was clearly the younger one now, Harry thought.
Sirius looked like he was about to bark some invective about Malfoy and Remus seemed to also want to continue with this more than why the Headmaster looked like a teenager, but Albus held up a youthful hand wanting silence.
"We shall discuss what you have since missed in Harry's…colorful adventures…later." Albus deflected, though his eyes never left Harry's visage. Snape looked at Harry oddly again before continuing.
"Yes…well. After Potter's ridiculous friend Dobby jolted me into ruining the potion, the mixture had unforeseen affects…There was an explosion and I was knocked into a wall." Snape picked at his sleeve as he spoke, almost bored in his retelling. "Albus and Minerva were alerted by the dungeon wards of the incident and came to my supposed rescue when they were also exposed to gases caused by the hybrid potion I had inadvertently created. They pulled me out and the Headmaster apparated us to the Hospital Wing before we all passed out. We awoke a few hours later like this." The boy gestured vaguely, encompassing his youthful body.
"So the potion worked as a de-aging solution?" Remus asked, amazement in his voice.
"Poppy seems to think so." Minerva replied.
"How long will it last?" Tonks asked, a bit out of her element but wondering just the same.
"That remains to be seen. Upon not feeling any effects of the potion to be lessening, I assume until I can create an antidote." Snape answered, staring at one of his small but long and thin hands.
"And so, Sirius, I am here to ask for sanctuary for the three of us this summer, until a remedy is found or until term begins." Albus said, his blue eyes imploring. "It is vital that the fewer who know of this the better. Should Tom realize our compromising situation, he could strike prematurely than what we are currently prepared for."
"I..o-of course Albus!" Sirius said, reminding Harry of a deer stuck in headlights. Snape merely rolled his eyes.
"Thank you my dear boy…oh well, I suppose I can't say that anymore…" Albus chuckled. Sirius smiled sheepishly, an expression Harry had not yet seen on the man's face and it surprisingly made him look much younger than the aged-before-his-time godfather and Azkaban escapee.
"Perhaps this shall be a good opportunity to get to know one another." Albus tried cheerfully, but even he was unable to make it stick, him seemingly having things on his mind now.
Snape snorted, folding his arms. Harry agreed with the Slytherin's sentiment, not thinking this was in any way a good idea having the little bugger in close quarters with Sirius and Remus. At least McGonagall and Dumbledore could keep an eye on him.
"Well, let me get out the food, it's getting late and you children need your nourishment before bedtime." Molly teased, her mothering lessening the tension that had built up in the room.
"I'll help you, Mrs. Weasley." McGonagall called, slipping of the chair she was in and heading to the other side of the room where Molly bustled with trays.
"Me too!" Tonks piped up, wanting something—anything—to do to be useful. Especially since it looked like Moody was going to be staying for a homecooked meal. Alastor then excused himself to use the loo and so Harry was left at the table with Sirius and Remus on one side, and the Headmaster and Snape on the other. And all had eyes only for him at the moment.
"Now then, Harry, you must be curious as to what's been going on this summer, as well as I have been concerned with what exactly happened in your neighborhood this afternoon." Albus began gently, the youthfulness throwing Harry off a bit. He squirmed a bit in his seat, feeling almost like he was speaking to a stranger.
"Anything wrong?" Albus asked, picking up on his feelings, like he always did.
"No sir, I uh…this is just…strange…" Harry's voice was stilted but he braved a look to Albus and found the old twinkle in his eyes, and relaxed marginally.
"I understand, dear boy." Albus patiently conceded, somehow still able to look grandfatherly.
"Potter, the sooner you tell us what happened the sooner we can all put an end to this deplorable day." Snape snapped.
"Shut up, Snivellus." Sirius hissed.
"Sirius!" Remus reprimanded as Harry saw just how dark a look child-Snape was able to twist upon his visage.
"Get run over by a car, you mangy mongrel." Snape hissed right back. The women in the kitchenette part of the room paused in their movements, possibly preparing for some sort of fight.
"Alright alright!" Harry decided to plow on through before things once again got out of hand. It was getting late; when they were to take him back to Privet Drive after all this, Harry knew he would pay dearly if he were the cause of awakening his relatives. Or rather, pay even more, as he knew the dementor incident already guaranteed he be punished. All eyes turned back to him and Harry focused on a stray thread in his jacket sleeve to relieve his anxiety.
"I was sitting on a swing in the park near the Dursley's house." Harry began. "And Dudley—that's my cousin—came round with his gang and started to…um, make of me."
Great, Harry, way to make yourself sound like a real wally.
"Poor Potter…" Snape muttered, looking almost bored. Remus and Sirius shot him an icy look. Harry ignored the jab and continued, expecting about as much really.
"He was saying some stuff and finally I got tired of it and told him to, er…go away…he got mad and punched me in the face." He felt his face flush, embarrassed.
"Broke his nose more like." Tonks elaborated, setting a plate of steamed broccoli on the table.
"Broke his nose?!" Molly called.
"It's okay, see?" Harry tried to reason, poking the bridge of his nose. It was still a bit tender but clearly not broken anymore. He loved Mrs. Weasley, but he really did not need to be coddled and especially not in front of Snape who could use it against him later.
"Besides, it's not the first time he's done it and likely won't be the last." Harry shrugged the experience off. Snape this time remained silent but again looked at him oddly. Harry felt Sirius shift in his chair in agitation and Remus stiffen beside him. But Harry had much more to tell.
"That was about when the dementor showed up. It really affected Dudley and he sort of passed out in a fit, and by the time I could pull out my wand, I passed out too." Harry decided to keep his inability to feel his magic to himself. No need to feel even more of a freak in their world.
"Here, I expect with all the chaos no one gave you any." Remus shoved a hunk of chocolate into Harry's hand. Harry looked to him in surprise and with an encouraging nod from Mrs. Weasley he took a bite out of it, silently wishing for even a portion of the coldness he felt inside to ebb into warmth.
"That's when you found him, Nymphadora?" Sirius questioned. Tonks slammed another plate down, this one filled with Shepard's pie, in front of Albus but with a glare for Sirius.
"Don't call me that." She growled, hair a brilliant crimson. Even Snape looked a bit put off by the venom in her voice. Sirius of course was unfazed.
"No, Potter's neighbor found him and brought him up to her house. His relatives took their son in theirs, and he was awake by the time we got there." Moody filled in, coming back into the room.
"Ah yes, Arabella." Albus chimed in with the name, spooning some broccoli onto his plate.
"She said she knows you, sir. That she's a squib." Harry stated quietly.
Albus nodded. "Indeed. I felt it prudent to keep an eye on your residence…as precaution of course."
"So there were people watching…" Harry muttered, adjusting his glasses.
"What?" Sirius asked. Remus visibly chided himself as he properly looked at Harry's glasses and tapped them with his wand, fixing the crack and the taped middle. Harry, forgetting himself a moment in his gratitude, explained more than he meant.
"My relatives thought we were being watched by wizards because of how my Hogwarts letter was addressed. They moved me into a proper bedroom after that."
"…They are automatically addressed with an archaic but accurate spell, Mr. Potter." McGonagall provided with an odd tone, setting his plate before him, Molly and Tonks setting down plates for the others.
"Oh. Don't tell them that, then." Harry huffed a laugh he didn't quite feel.
Snape unintentionally shared a confused look with Remus before Harry went on.
"Well anyway, Mrs. Figg was trying to reach you and said my relatives weren't too pleased with what happened, and that the Ministry was coming." He gulped. "She said they declared me suspended from Hogwarts." His voice had gone soft now and he worried his bottom lip.
"Yes, I got a similar letter apprising me of the ruling." Albus waved his hand dismissively. "It's a rash judgement even for Fudge, and likely part of some agenda to keep quiet of Voldemort's return."
Harry's stomach turned at that.
"Worry not, I'll be seeing about this. There will be a trial in a few weeks which we will plead your case and sort all of this out." Harry didn't feel the confidence Dumbledore seemed to, but was comforted he would try.
Besides, he was glad someone like Albus Dumbledore was on his side.
Moody, meanwhile, decided to leave early (but not before grabbing a plate to-go of Molly's cooking) and left Tonks. He grumbled something about late night surveillance of Private Drive, then disappeared through the floo. Snape looked relieved he was gone however, or so Harry thought as he looked at his expression when the man flooed away.
"So, why um, hadn't I heard from anyone till now?" Harry asked again, quietly. It was more to change the topic, but he wasn't quite sure he wanted the answer now. He was not terribly sure he cared.
And that thought scared him more than anything in that moment.
"We're sorry about that Harry." Remus replied softly, but with feeling.
"Yeah, kiddo. We had to take a bit of a vow of silence, so to speak. At least while we organized the Order again." Sirius picked up.
"Order of the Phoenix." Remus explained as Molly and Tonks took a seat beside him.
"It's what our group is called, top secret it is." Sirius tried to explain. Harry just nibbled on his pie and tried to make sense of what they told him.
"Like that tells him anything." Snape snapped again, this time twisting his fork mutinously in his own pie. Harry noted his plate was void of the broccoli Remus saw fit to pile onto Harry's plate. Harry was lucky he liked the vegetable, but found it surprising Snape apparently did not.
"It is the same organization formed during the first war by the Headmaster." Remus elaborated. "The same your parents were a part of. It is also called 'The Light' and its main function is to defeat You-Know-Who."
Harry blinked, not expecting so much information.
"Well put, Remus." Albus complimented. Snape looked terribly disapproving but remained silent.
"Mum and Dad were in it?" Harry asked, now very alert to hear what he could about this.
"For sure!" Sirius beamed, latching onto the memories—the good days.
"And we want you in it too." Remus said. "When you're old enough of course. For now, a sort of honorary membership is granted to you. Mainly for your protection."
Harry didn't voice how he thought that a waste of time, at this rate he'd likely be dead by the time he reached majority. But that wasn't very fair of him, perhaps things would…turn up. Besides, Remus and Sirius meant well and being a part of what his parents thought a noble cause was certainly enough for him.
And anything to further the war against Voldemort was priority.
"So…I can't tell anyone about this, then." Harry stated.
"By all means, Potter, go ahead. Maybe advertise your home address, might as well invite the death eaters to afternoon tea while you're at it." Snape shot from across the table.
"Severus!" Minerva chastised from over her own meal.
"Whot's got yer' gobble in a gook?" Tonks huffed.
"He's always been like that." Remus told her in an aside.
"Severus…" Albus sighed, rather tired of this as well.
"And Ron?" Harry instead turned to Mrs. Weasley. "Hermione?"
"Oh they know dear." Molly replied over her goblet she just grabbed. "They've known not to contact you yet until we could straighten this all out. But with this rogue dementor business we had to accelerate explaining it all to you."
Harry couldn't be angry at her personally, but her words cut him a bit deeply. So even his best friends knew of this 'Order' before him. It was unfair really, as he was the one who was facing everything alone every year…if anyone had a right to know anything up front, it was him.
"And with our little…accident…" Albus managed a soft chuckle. "We decided to postpone their visit for a while until we can figure out our best course of action. For now, it's best only we, and of course Poppy, know about it."
Well. At least Harry finally knew something Ron and Hermione didn't.
Harry pushed his plate forward slightly, not able to finish. He had much too much to ponder and found himself unable to think of anything aside from how useless he felt. "Is that all, sir?" he asked softly, staring at the grain of the wood table top.
Albus blinked. "I suppose so, for tonight."
"If you wouldn't mind, sir, I'd like to get back to Surrey. My relatives are already upset; they'll be more so if I come back any later than reasonable."
Minerva shot a look to Albus on her side; Snape peered curiously on Albus's other side.
"Oiy, Harry! You're staying here for the rest of the summer!" Sirius exclaimed and Harry's heart almost felt warmth hearing it.
"What?" Harry felt like he was saying that a lot recently.
"In all the excitement we've forgotten to tell you." Remus laughed easily, though a hint of something flashed in his eyes as he glanced to Sirius above Harry's head. "Another reason we've taken so long is so we can get this place livable and have you stay before school starts."
"Well, if you wanted, of course." Sirius suddenly sounded uncertain and Harry gripped his sleeve.
"Of course I do." Harry smiled, feeling just for a moment complete. It was fleeting but definitely the highlight of his month.
"How touching. I think I may just vomit." Snape growled, kicking back his chair with an ear-splitting scrape against the floor and stalking out of the room after banishing his plate to the sink, ruining the moment. Albus looked after him with a sad expression, the others looking rankled or irritated.
"I'll go see that he has fresh sheets." Molly followed after him, before pausing at the doorway to speak to Sirius.
"Which is a good room for him?"
"I believe there's a nice one upstairs just off the hallway to the left that would be just fine for us both. If that's agreeable, Sirius?" Albus ventured, standing up and moving to the doorway.
"Oh yeah, that's one of the two guestrooms. That'll do." Sirius replied with a nod.
"I'll go transfigure an extra bed then, and you can show me where I can sleep, Mr. Black." Minerva got up as well.
"Right." Sirius, looking more serious as he was given the task. He ruffled Harry's hair before joining the headmaster and Molly out.
Harry let out a big huff of a sigh, leaning back. Tonks took his plate and levitated it with the others into the sink to begin washing them magically.
"Long day?" Remus asked ironically, mirth in his eyes and something else Harry couldn't identify.
"Yeah." Harry smiled weakly, then his brow furrowed. "I…don't have any of my things…"
"I'll be takin' ya back on the morrow to get what you need. Not to worry, luv." Tonks said.
"I'll come with you both, if that's alright." Remus said to the girl. Harry noticed she turned around quickly to hide a blush.
"Yeah, yeah; s'alright with me."
Harry couldn't help smirking a bit at her display and Remus being completely oblivious. It was cute.
"I guess we better go up and see where ol' Padfoot wants to put us drifters." Remus chuckled and Harry smiled back, appreciating his attempts at easing whatever tension he must have sensed in Harry.
Climbing up the staircase, Harry very much dreaded the night to come. He was a mess inside and was not sure he could face the new nightmares sure to haunt him tonight.