In this chapter, Harry gets another visitor... or is it two? Also, the Daily Prophet reveals quite a bit, Remus helps Kreacher deliver an apology, and Arthur and Molly have a very important convers...
Chapter 2: Summer, Day 5
"He's not a member of the Order of the Phoenix!" said Mrs. Weasley. "He's only fifteen and - "
" - and he's dealt with as much as most in the Order," said Sirius, "and more than some - "
"No one's denying what he's done!" said Mrs. Weasley, her voice rising, her fists trembling on the arms of her chair. "But he's still - "
"He's not a child!" said Sirius impatiently.
"He's not an adult either!" said Mrs. Weasley, the color rising in her cheeks.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 5 -
Someone was cowering against the dark wall, her wand in her hand, her whole body shaking with sobs. Sprawled on the dusty old carpet in a patch of moonlight, clearly dead, was Ron...
"R-r-riddikulus!" Mrs. Weasley sobbed, pointing her shaking wand at Ron's body.
Ron's body turned into Bill's, spread-eagled on his back, his eyes wide open and empty. Mrs. Weasley sobbed harder than ever.
"R-r-riddikulus!" she sobbed again.
Mr. Weasley's body replaced Bill's, his glasses askew, a trickle of blood running down his face.
"No!" Mrs. Weasley moaned. "No... riddikulus! Riddikulus! RIDDIKULUS!"
Crack./ Dead twins. Crack. Dead Percy. Crack. Dead Harry.../
"Mrs. Weasley, just get out of here!" shouted Harry, staring down at his own dead body on the floor.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 9 -
o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o
A light knock sounded at Harry's door. Before Harry could respond, the door opened slightly, and Nymphadora Tonks stuck her head in.
"Wotcher, Harry. You decent in there?"
Two days had passed since Remus Lupin's visit. From the smell and sight, Tonks felt certain that Harry had not bathed or changed in that time, and had only eaten and drunk what was necessary to live.
"Not interrupting anything, am I, Harry?" Tonks asked wryly, as she stepped into his room.
"Sorry, Tonks. Not up to visitors. Thanks, though. Tell Kingsley I said hello," Harry said lifelessly, his only movement being his eyes and head following Tonks across the room.
Tonks ambled slowly around the small room, looking through its contents. "You know, Harry," she said as she pawed through some of Dudley's broken and useless possessions, "I was glad to get the chance to visit you. I'm surrounded at Grimmauld Place by well-wishers, people who thought highly of Sirius - "
Harry flinched, and a fire sparked in his eyes. " - but none of them really knew him. He was the only real family I had, the only family I had that didn't treat me like a genetic mistake."
Harry's eyes took on a definite glisten. Tonks tripped over an old broken television, but managed to right herself before falling over completely. As she resumed her walk, she continued her talk, still not looking at Harry. "You may not believe this, or you may not care," she said, then turned to look directly in his eyes, "but I have some idea of how much you miss Sirius. I miss him too."
Harry reined in his emotions, and his cold, lifeless mask fell back fell back into place. "Go away, Tonks. Please. Talk to Remus; I'm sure he's in need of a friend. Go cheer up someone else who has a life, or some hope of a life. You're wasting your time on me. I'm not allowed to have friends, family, or any of that. I'm only here to fight Voldemort." Harry turned his back on Tonks, then continued speaking, almost too soft for her to hear, "And then I die. I'm a weapon, not a person."
Tonks stared sadly at Harry's back, not really seeing him. She could feel his pain, thick and palpable in the air. He was drowning in his own grief, without a clue as to how to deal with it. As Harry turned around, Tonks slipped back into a casual look, and began her sauntering inspection away from him again.
"Congratulations, Harry. Welcome to War. You see War or Crime on the telly all the time nowadays. They tell you every death or injury to the minutest detail, but it never prepares you - not for the real loss. Your loss of innocence, the loss of someone close to you - those are things you only understand when you feel it yourself."
Tonks turned suddenly to once again face Harry. "Have you ever wondered, Harry, how someone as clumsy as me could become an Auror?"
Harry's face betrayed his confusion at her sudden change of topic.
"I know, I know - my career hasn't been at the forefront of your thoughts recently. It's a valid question, though. I must have something, right? As a matter of fact, not to toot my own horn or anything, but it turns out that my expertise and skills are highly sought - I've even worked on cases for American and Canadian authorities, not just the Ministry.
"Interrogation - that's my specialty," Tonks continued, knowing she had piqued Harry's curiosity in spite of himself. "You'd be surprised what some people will say - "
Harry's eyes grew wide as Tonks' voice deepened and her features changed. Her dialogue continued unbroken in spite of the change in tenor. " - when faced with the right person."
Harry now saw Sirius Black, his dead godfather, where Tonks had just stood. "Sirius..." he said, weakly.
"No, Harry," the person facing Harry said. "Sirius is gone. He's gone, but he would want you to know you are a real person, feeling real things, and it's okay to let it out. It's not your fault; you need to let it go."
"NO! NO!" Harry screamed as he shot up from the bed. "YOU - YOU - HOW DARE YOU! How dare you just - just look like him! STOP IT!"
Harry moved to hit the Tonks-as-Sirius, but she deftly swerved away from his rage-induced punch. After another unsuccessful swing, Harry lunged at her, and the two fell to the floor. After a few rolls and punches, Harry's energy gave out, and his anger-filled screams grew quieter. He lifted himself up to his knees facing the faux-Sirius sitting before him.
"You can't be Sirius. He's dead." Harry stopped altogether, and tears began to roll down his cheeks as his mournful eyes remained locked on hers.
Harry's sniffles grew into loud, mournful sobs, wracking his body. "He's g-g-gone, Tonks. He's dead. She k-k-killed him."
Tonks shifted back to her own form, and moved beside Harry. She wrapped her arms around him and leaned her head on his shoulder, offering him her warmth as comfort while he expelled his grief.
"I can't do it ... Why me? ... I'm not strong enough," Harry continued, all of his worries and fears now rushing out.
"Oh, Harry," Tonks said in a soothing voice just above a whisper. "I don't know why you're surrounded by trouble, but it's not 'just you' - it's never been 'just you'. Whether or not you choose to let them in, you'll always be surrounded by people who love you. Whether or not you choose to let them in, they'll always be in danger.
"Right now, you think it would be easier to never love again, to bottle up your feelings and never let them out - safer for you, safer for everyone else. Think about what closing yourself off will cost you. V-V-Voldemort is an example of someone who forsook love, mercy, and kindness, someone who gave up on being human. Is that what you want to become? Sirius was better than that. In spite of being disowned, betrayed, forsaken, and sent to Azkaban, Sirius never stopped loving. His love for you gave him the strength to escape from Azkaban.
"Sirius believed in you, Harry. I believe in you. Ron and Hermione, Neville and Ginny and Luna - they all believe in you and/ still do/. They all love you, and would give anything to have you in their lives. You know none of them give a sickle about your fame or money or influence, because they stood behind you when your name got them nothing but trouble. Do what Sirius would do. Take what he wanted for you. Live. Feel. Cry. Laugh. Don't stop feeling, because that's when Voldemort wins."
Harry looked into Tonks' eyes for a long time, then his head dropped to her shoulder. They sat there together as minutes rolled by, lost in their thoughts, relaxing in the sound of their breathing.
Finally, Harry broke the silence.
Tonks gave Harry a tired smile, which he tentatively returned.
"Me too," she said. "Let's go get something to eat. I brought something you might like to read."
o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o
Sirius Black Innocent! Pettigrew At Large!
The Ministry of Magic revealed today that new evidence has come to light indicating that Sirius Black, long believed to be a mass murderer and second-in-command to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, was in fact innocent. It now appears that Black was framed and that Peter Pettigrew committed the murders for which Black was imprisoned. Black served 12 years in Azkaban and holds the distinction of being the only person to escape the prison without assistance.
This information was revealed in a press conference held by Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic. The news of Mr. Black's wrongful imprisonment was the first item in a report released at the press conference and summarized orally by Minister Fudge. The report was compiled by an investigative committee headed by the Minister, which was formed immediately after the June incursion into the Ministry of Magic in order to uncover other subversive activities within the Ministry by followers of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Minister Fudge named Lucius Malfoy, benefactor to several major wizarding institutions, as the alleged ringleader of the subversive activities. The Minister cited several of the committee findings with which Mr. Malfoy was strongly involved. These included the widespread use of dementors two years ago in the search for Mr. Black, as well as several other wrongful imprisonments in Azkaban. Narcissa Black Malfoy, wife of Lucius Malfoy, sister of known Death Eater Bellatrix Black LeStrange, and cousin of Sirius Black, was unavailable for comment.
Another surprising detail of Mr. Black's saga was revealed in the Ministry findings. Black was apparently present at the Death Eater incursion into the Ministry of Magic this June. Evidence seems to indicate Black may have died defending the Ministry from the encroachment. It is unclear at this time whether Ministry forces were aware of Black's allegiance prior to the incident.
The Daily Prophet had reported earlier this year about the ceremony used to restore He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to his body, principally performed by Pettigrew. During the restoration, Pettigrew was required to sacrifice his right hand, which his master replaced with a magical hand of silver.
Peter Pettigrew joins the list of known Death Eaters at large. Readers are cautioned to become familiar with the list and to report to the Ministry any possible sightings of or activities by the known servants of the Dark Lord. However, under no circumstances should anyone attempt to approach the criminals.
o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o
Remus Lupin emerged from one of the many shadows in the basement of the Black Estate at 12 Grimmauld Place. He joined former Auror Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, standing over the immobilized body of Kreacher, the Black family house elf.
"Thanks, Moody. I appreciate your help. I can take it from here."
"Distract and flank - works every time," replied Moody. "You have a way to keep him out of trouble?"
"Yes... Dumbledore and I agreed on a means to keep Kreacher 'occupied' for the time being," Lupin confirmed. Not that I plan to use that means.
Lupin picked up Kreacher, and Moody continued talking as the two men proceeded upstairs. "Hagrid should be here by lunchtime to take the hippogriff, now that it's been cleared of all charges."
"I think... " Lupin started, "I think... Sirius would be happy to know that Buckbeak, at least, won his freedom."
"Yeah, both Fudge and Dumbledore want to atone for wrongfully imprisoning that poor boy," Moody commented thoughtfully. "Fudge will use Buckbeak's release to show he's righting old wrongs and supporting the right side - strictly a political move. As for Dumbledore - if anything positive can come out of Sirius' death, I'd bet my one real eye that Albus will find it."
Moody's lack of tact bothered Remus, but years of dealing with the widely accepted prejudice against werewolves had taught Lupin not to react to others' opinions. Alastor, we're quite lucky Harry isn't here. I doubt he could be as understanding as I am of your straightforward attitude regarding Sirius' death.
The two men finished their trek, ending at the front entryway, and exchanged farewells. After Moody had left, Lupin moved away from the prying eyes and ears of the Black portraits and looked down to his frozen companion.
"Are you ready, Kreacher? I believe you owe an apology to the only other resident of the house. You led Buckbeak's only friend, his keeper, to Death."
The movement of Kreacher's eyes was the only sign that he heard and understood Lupin.
Remus smiled at Kreacher, the cold smile of a predator. "Not to worry, little sir. I have no doubt that Buckbeak will be happy to accept your gesture of apology."
Kreacher's rapid eye movement betrayed his lack of reassurance by Lupin's words. Nonetheless, Remus would not have considered hazarding a guess as to what was going through the house elf's mind at that moment. No witch or wizard was privy to the inner workings of the house-elf mind, and Kreacher was atypical of his species anyway. Kreacher had long since gone insane, perhaps from his treatment by the Black family, or perhaps from over a decade of solitude with only the house's venomous portraits for company.
When they reached the master suite, Buckbeak's room, Remus performed the obligatory bow of respect to the hippogriff. Once the return bow was complete, Lupin brought his captive forward and spoke, "Buckbeak, I believe you know Kreacher. Kreacher is the one who sent Sirius to die. Kreacher injured you," Remus indicated the hippogriff's recently acquired injury, "as part of the ruse to send Sirius and his godson Harry to their deaths. Sirius gave his life to save Harry."
Remus paused a moment, then looked into Buckbeak's eyes and continued. "Buckbeak, I thought you might need a chance to express to someone just how much Sirius meant to you. I thought Kreacher would be the best one to share your time of grief, given his need to better understand Sirius."
Buckbeak turned his gaze from Lupin to Kreacher and back to Lupin. Then his gaze returned to Kreacher and hardened, and a rumbling growl began deep in his throat.
Remus locked gazes with Kreacher. "Your paralysis will wear off in an hour; I'll be back before then to... collect you."
Remus turned and left, shutting the door quietly behind him.
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The kitchen of Number 12 Grimmauld Place was once again uncharacteristically busy as Molly Weasley bustled around, preparing another meal fit for an army - literally, in this case. In addition to her other duties for the Order of the Phoenix, Molly had taken it upon herself to see that no Order member would ever lack a good meal.
As Molly continued her work, easily adapting to a kitchen four times the size of her own, her husband Arthur cautiously peered through door.
"Molly, dear, you disappeared before the meeting was done. Dumbledore had another important issue for us all to discuss."
"Arthur, there's work to be done here. I have a meal to prepare for the Order. Besides, it sounded like my opinion wasn't needed anyway."
Arthur sighed as he moved into the kitchen. "No need to push yourself. Something's come up, and Dumbledore's set everyone to tasks. More to the point, you and I are overdue for a talk."
"Really, Arthur, now is not the time for chitchat. I have work to do," she insisted, moving to put away the food she had just been preparing.
Arthur moved in front of Molly and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Molly, why did you leave? You need to understand - "
"Arthur, don't you DARE defend their position to me!" Molly spat, no longer suppressing her ire.
"Molly - "
"These are your /children/, Arthur!"
"Molly - "
"How on earth can you be so anxious to push them out on the front lines OF A WAR!" she roared.
"THINK about what you're saying, Molly," Arthur replied hotly, as the last of his patience began to ebb. "Do you honestly believe I'm anxious to see our children die?"
"Of course not," the Weasley matriarch conceded as she began losing some of her steam. "Still, how can you possibly condone our children being privy to Order affairs? You must realize the danger that would put them in. It will only encourage them to take greater risks, to become more involved with... with... this horrible mess."
Arthur's voice took on a softer tone, but retained its firmness. "Molly, as you said, this is war. Whether we like it or not, the Weasleys, the Malfoys, the Grangers and Goyles - we're all in the thick of it now, and somehow, Harry's at the middle of it. Harry's linked to You-Know-Who, and our family is linked to Harry."
Molly's look of determination began to falter.
"The cat's out of the bag, Molly. Our children have faced down You-Know-Who himself, and we know trouble will find them again, so what do we do about it? Do we spend our energy fighting fate to keep them out of it? Did that help Harry? Did it help Sirius? Wouldn't our time be better spent fighting with our children rather than against them? Maybe, just maybe, if we hadn't tried to exclude them from the Order, they would have felt they could call us when they needed us most."
Molly's shoulders sagged, and she dropped her head onto her husband's chest. "Oh, Arthur, I just... I just wanted them to be able to grow up happy, to have a childhood without all the darkness we faced."
Arthur placed a hand under her chin, and raised her head until her eyes met his. "Molly, look at our little girl. When she was eleven, she faced down the spirit of You-Know-Who. Now look at her today - she's full of love, joy, happiness - all the things we need to defeat the darkness. We gave her that, Molly. We gave her what she needed to stand up to Tom Riddle. In fact, I believe she not only survived him, I think she stopped him from killing anyone, ruined his every attempt with that basilisk.
"And look at Bill and Charlie. They live in two of the worst environments this earth has to offer, doing the most challenging jobs they could find. Our boys grew up in a home that gave them the strength to tame dragons. What child could ask for more? What parent could ask for more?"
Molly harrumphed. "My, aren't you the proud father," she joked lightly, causing Arthur a small grin.
"Yes, I am. Our Ginny and our Ronnie had enough love to see their friends through a battle with You-Know-Who's closest followers. What parent wouldn't be proud of them, standing up for each other, being there when their friends would have died without them?
"As for Harry, were he not in the middle of things, I'd be dead. Period. Don't we owe it to the boy to support him in the fight against You-Know-Who?"
Arthur's hand returned to Molly's shoulder, and her head again sagged to his chest. Arthur's arms wrapped around his wife, engulfing her in his warmth, and he lightly kissed her head. The couple quietly shared what comfort they could, knowing all too well that very difficult times lay ahead.
Finally, Molly pulled away from Arthur, straightened herself up, and squared her shoulders. "Alright then, you said something had come up?"
"It seems that once Sirius' name was cleared and he was declared dead, the Malfoy's long-standing petition for the Black holdings became active again. The case was over and approved before Dumbledore caught wind of it."
Molly's jaw dropped and her face went white. "But Arthur, that means that all that money... this estate..."
"It's not all that bad, dear. Apparently Sirius spent the last year selling what properties the Blacks held - besides this house - and that he moved the Black holdings at Gringotts from family vaults to other accounts. I suspect he made provision for Harry and Remus, as well as Tonks, if I'm not mistaken. This house is all that Narcissa Malfoy will inherit. We have about 36 hours to clear out."
"But Arthur, there's no way we can clear all the magical artifacts and books out of here in time. Think of the things they'll get their hands on-"
"Ah, Dumbledore thought of that, and his solution is simply brilliant. Albus told Mundungus that, if he can move all the magical artifacts to safety in that time, old 'Dung gets to keep every mundane item he can grab. And Dung's got every Order member - us and the kids included - at his disposal."
Molly harrumphed again. "That's all well and fine, Arthur, but what's to keep that man from nicking an amulet or book for his own, seeing as anything magical will be far more valuable than the silver or the furniture."
"Albus asked Moody to oversee the operation - not to run it, just to keep an eye on it, so to speak."
"Alright then," Molly said as she took off her apron and set it on the counter. "I suppose we'd best get started. I can't say I'm at all disappointed to leave this house, no matter how safe it was."
As they left the kitchen, Arthur turned to her and said, "You know, this is indeed a day for the record books. Molly Weasley leaves a kitchen in disarray to join Mundungus Fletcher in ransacking a house. I must say I'm shocked."
With narrowed eyes (and a bit of a smirk, truth be told), Molly locked her arm in his, and led him to join the others.
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Author notes: What did you think? Was it unbelievably good? Abysmal? I'd be grateful for your feedback.
This story was originally posted at FanFiction (dot) net, Checkmated (dot) com, and FictionAlley (dot) org. I have removed the version from Checkmated, and will leave the version at FictionAlley as is for now. The revised version will be posted at FanFiction (dot) net and FicWad (dot) com.
Originally posted 2004/07/03
Revised and posted at FicWad 2006/09/08