The Order of the Phoenix
It was chaos. Harry sat in stunned silence, staring blankly at the half-wall before him while around him Wizengamot members jumped up by the dozens and started shouting. He couldn’t decipher legible words amongst the screaming. His gaze flicked to where Lucius Malfoy sat with his son and saw him smirking triumphantly.
“I WILL HAVE ORDER!”
The banging of the gavel and Fudge’s words, spat loud enough to hear over the uproar, jerked Harry’s gaze to the Minister’s seat. Fudge kept banging his gavel, shouting: “ORDER! ORDER!”, but the shouting did not quiet. Harry pressed his hands over his ears, shrinking back against his seat, the shouting was beating on his eardrums painfully.
“SILENCE!” Fudge screamed, and abruptly, the entire courtroom cut to a hush, so fast that it was almost disturbing.
Fudge’s glare was evident even from across the courtroom. He set down his gavel, his face livid and purple.
“This kind of behavior will not be tolerated,” he declared. “We put the Wembley Act to a fair vote, and it won with a majority.”
“There are 30 members of the Wizengamot not present!” someone shouted. “This was no fair vote!”
“Silence!” Fudge shouted, banging his gavel once again. “The Wembley Act has been passed and will be put into effect! I will hear no more disrespect!”
The courtroom made no move. No one spoke. Fudge gave the room a long look, then set down his gavel. “Now, if you all will cease behaving like children, we will move on to the claims of Albus Dumbledore that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned.”
The court occupants slowly resumed their seats. Harry found himself staring blankly ahead of him, unsure of what to do and what to say. Fudge gave the courtroom one more stern look, then stopped as Amelia Bones, sat near him, rose to her feet.
“Madam Bones,” Fudge announced. “You may address the Wizengamot.”
Madam Bones did not spare Fudge a single glance. She swept her gaze across the courtroom, before landing it on the seat of Lucius Malfoy, her face an odd mixture of calm and contempt. “If Dumbledore speaks truth, then this act has just sealed the death certificates of all wizards and witches in Britain.”
“Now, see here, Madam Bones —”
“My Lord Minister, if you will excuse me, I believe I have been given the right to address this court at large,” Madam Bones said sharply. Minister Fudge recoiled, his face purpling again. “The events at the Tri-Wizard Tournament this last summer were highly unusual and suspicious, and yet the most I, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, ever heard about it was a statement released by yourself, Minister, declaring all that had happened to be a tragic accident.”
“Madam Bones, those events —”
“Were clearly investigated improperly,” Madam Bones snapped. “These allegations that Barty Crouch, Sr., rescued his convicted Death Eater son from Azkaban just to have him turn and kill him at the very least should have been looked into the moment they were proposed. I should have had reports on my desk the night young Cedric Diggory was killed, and yet nothing of the sort occurred. I do not speak for the other members of the Wizengamot, but I am certain that each of us is at least mildly curious as to why no investigation was ever done, Minister.”
“Cedric Diggory was impaled by a Wyvern,” Fudge announced. “Barty Crouch succumbed to the stresses of a chronic illness that left him bedridden and addled for months. Allegations of conspiracy are simply that, Madam Bones; allegations.”
“If they are simply allegations, where is the documentation of the investigation to prove they were allegations, Minister?” Madam Bones demanded. “Why did I never see a memo let alone a bloody case file declaring Cedric Diggory’s death to be an accident?!”
“Madam Bones, please remain civil when addressing the Minister,” the loud voice announced. Madam Bones shot a scathing look to the ceiling, angered by a non-corporeal voice.
“No investigation was needed, Madam Bones,” Fudge said coldly.
“Minister, at what point did I have my job swept out from underneath me?” Madam Bones shot back. “Because that decision is one to be made by the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
“I was on the scene of the accidents and declared it to be so,” Fudge answered her, his voice rising in anger. “Are you questioning my judgment?”
“You bet your fine silk robes I am, Minister,” Madam Bones said, and the entire courtroom gasped. Fudge’s face drained of color.
“Madam Bones, please take your seat,” Fudge said.
“Minister, the clauses of rule 19 declare that Mugwumps and court overseers are excluded,” Madam Bones replied with a cool voice. “I cannot be forced to take my seat.”
“You swore an oath to use impartial judgment in this courtroom, Madam Bones —”
“So did you, Minister,” Madam Bones interrupted.
“Madam Bones, if you would like to call for an investigation into the accidents occurring at the Tri-Wizard Tournament in June —”
“Then I call for an investigation,” Madam Bones said, spreading her hands. “Show of hands, who agrees that the suspicious events at the Third Task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament appear to have been covered up and deserve investigation?”
“Madam Bones —”
“I called for a show of hands, Minister,” Madam Bones interrupted once more. “Unless you’d like to forbid this motion, remain silent.”
Fudge’s lips were white, and a vein was pulsing in his temple. Harry could see it even from across the courtroom.
Dumbledore raised his hand into the air. Madam Bones held out a hand to the professor, looking around the room with a set jaw. A man across the courtroom, twice as high up as they were, lifted his hand into the air.
It was like a wave, one that lifted slowly so that you thought it would dissipate before even touching the shore, but resolved into becoming taller than the average man, one that crashed into any in its way with an unrelenting force. The hands filled the courtroom, until more than half the room had their hands raised. Madam Bones turned to the Minister.
“It seems we have a majority,” she said coldly.
Fudge gave her a look that boded nothing but ill will, then violently banged his gavel. “Motion passed,” he said in a tone just as icy as the woman before him. “An investigation into the accidents at the Tri-Wizard Tournament shall be launched.”
Harry sought out Lucius Malfoy’s face, trying to see if there was anything even resembling panic in his eyes, but the man was too far away from him to tell. Neither Malfoy were looking at each other, Draco looking like a younger copy of his father, the both of them staring at Madam Bones with unreadable expressions.
“If there is nothing else you wish to say, Madam Bones,” Fudge began, but the witch cut him off before he could finish.
“There is something else, yes, thank you for reminding me, Minister,” Madam Bones said. “I would like to make the investigation into the attack at King’s Cross completely public.”
“The investigation is just begun, Madam Bones, an Order of Transparency would be early let alone warranted.”
“I am aware of that, Minister,” Madam Bones replied with scorn. “I also believe that the people deserve to know every littlest detail about the case that is stripping them of their rights.”
“The Wembley Act is not to be questioned, Madam Bones,” Fudge declared. “It was passed with a majority and it shall remain so.”
“Oh, trust me, Minister, I will do my very best to ensure that every witch and wizard in Britain is given the right to defend themselves if attacked by terrorists,” Madam Bones said scathingly. “My first argument will be to remind the Wizengamot of the fact that 30 members are currently not present, but that is a matter for another time.”
“Madam Bones —”
“I would like to call another vote,” Madam Bones said, completely ignoring Fudge’s popping veins again, “show of hands, who agrees that the investigation into the attacks at King’s Cross this morning should be open to public record immediately?”
The hands were faster this time. Dumbledore was within the first twenty to cast his vote, but half the courtroom had followed within a minute.
“Another majority,” Madam Bones said with a smile of grim satisfaction. “That settles it then, Minister, I will release any and all information we have immediately after this session.”
Fudge gave her a glare that was not even remotely well hidden, then banged his gavel once more. “So be it,” he said tonelessly.
“Now I am finished, Minister,” Madam Bones announced, her tone cool and yet simultaneously wrathful. She bowed, first to the courtroom at large, then to the 12 Mugwumps behind her, then finally to Fudge himself. “Thank you.”
Fudge banged his gavel, his face sour. Madam Bones took her seat, and dozens of others jumped up as well, but Fudge banged the gavel again, and announced above the sudden chatter: “This session of the Wizengamot is concluded. We will meet again at 9 a.m. tomorrow to discuss any further concerns. Thank you.”
There was shouting again, but Fudge rose from his seat and the disembodied voice boomed out above the shouts: “Please exit in an orderly and respectful fashion.”
“Harry, Ginny, with me,” Dumbledore said, just loud enough to be heard. They rose from their seats and Dumbledore lead them to the aisle and the steps down to the courtroom floor. Harry held tightly to Ginny as the Wizengamot members pressed in on them while they walked, inhaling deeply when they reached the aisle.
“I shall take you back to Hogwarts,” Dumbledore told them on the stairs. “I’ll explain further once we are someplace private.”
Harry only nodded, following Dumbledore’s quick steps. The courtroom seats were draining into the aisle, witches and wizards standing all around him and maybe just a little too close. Harry held Ginny’s hand as tightly as his chest held itself, his lungs feeling like he was being pressed into a very small corner, or perhaps a cupboard.
Dumbledore grabbed Harry’s shoulder and guided them in front of him at the end of the stairs, the vast courtroom floor releasing the squashed feeling on his lungs. “To the exit, quickly now.”
Harry mumbled a yes, sir and lengthened his stride. Dumbledore kept a hand on his shoulder, his fingers holding tightly to him, but Harry barely noticed. The exit from the courtroom filled to bursting into the dark and empty hallway made Harry take a long, deep breath, then Dumbledore led them through a doorway into a wide set of stairs.
“This way,” he said, and Harry felt immediately grateful that they didn’t have to take an elevator with a dozen other people. Dumbledore stepped in front of them again and started up the stairs, his pace never slowing, so they followed just as quickly. They came out to a carpeted hallway lined doors and a bank of elevators across the hall.
“The Wizengamot members will all be taking the main elevators,” Dumbledore explained as he opened a brass gate. “I do not wish to be overheard.” He cast a glance at Harry, telling him that the professor knew he had been feeling overwhelmed by all the people.
“What are we going to do now?” Ginny asked.
“The Wembley act calls for all witches and wizards to be refitted with the Trace,” Dumbledore answered as he pressed the button for the atrium, “however, a modified version that is put on the wands rather than the wizards. In order to accomplish our goals, we shall be needing untraceable wands.”
Harry glanced sharply over to the Headmaster, who was staring calmly at the now closing gates. The elevator lurched, then began to rise slowly upward. “Where would we get untraceable wands?”
“You’ll see,” Dumbledore answered cryptically, then the elevator gate opened again and a disembodied woman announced they had arrived at the atrium. Looking around, however, Harry saw very few people, much less than there had been when they had first arrived. “These are service elevators,” Dumbledore told them, stepping out. “This way.”
There were fireplaces down this shorter leg of the atrium, where Dumbledore conjured flame and then tossed Floo Powder into it. “Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts,” he declared, then stepped into the flame. Harry took a pinch of the Floo Powder, then let Ginny go before him. As the flame died again, he heard someone shout his name.
Harry turned, and started in shock as he saw Madam Bones running toward him. He hesitated, clutching his fistful of Floo Powder. The older witch slowed to a jog and then a fast walk, then stopped in front of him.
“Give this to Albus,” she said, handing him a bound scroll. “And you didn’t see me.”
With that, she took a spoon from her pocket, then vanished in a flash of light. Harry blinked.
“Right then,” he muttered, turning back to the fireplace. “Right.”
He tossed the Floo Powder into the grate, and said clearly, “Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts!” He stepped into the green flames and spun out of sight.
Drawing a long breath, he felt a small sense of relief wash over him. The air was cold, crisp but not chilling, it filled his lungs with clean oxygen that managed to calm his fast-beating heart, even if it did nothing for his mind. It was strangely warm for December, he thought abruptly. That, however, was caused by the many wards over the grounds, not the weather. He leaned back against the stone off the fountain, feeling the cold seeping from the granite into his clothes and flesh. The cold was soothing to him. Something that reflected what was going on in his mind.
“Be prepared,” his father had said to him as they left for home. “You will likely be called upon at a moment’s notice to complete your mission.”
“Yes, father,” he had answered emotionlessly. His father hadn’t noticed.
“Remember, this is an honor bestowed to few your age. There are dozens ready to kill to be in your place, to have the favor you have been graced with. This mission is one of utmost importance.”
“You had better not fuck it up.”
“I don’t care what concerns you might surrounding him, do you understand? You had better not hesitate.”
It was then that he had winced. “Yes, father,” he had answered shamefully.
“Don’t you just yes, father me, do you bloody understand?”
“Don’t raise your voice at me, young man,” his father said carelessly, yet somehow simultaneously vicious. “Remember who controls you.”
He had clenched his fists, his chin trembling, but with his father behind him, that moment of weakness was not visible. “Yes, sir,” he had murmured tightly.
His father had squeezed his shoulder, almost painfully. “Good. We shall be going to get you a new wand tomorrow for you to register. I don’t want you being held under this new law.”
“There’s a good lad.”
His father squeezed his shoulder again, this time digging his nails into his flesh, then they were twisting and his lungs were being shoved through a pinhole, and the foggy air of the countryside surrounded them.
“Dinner at 6, sharp,” his father said, striding past him towards the gate. “Wear dress robes, we’re having guests, a potential bride included.”
“Yes, sir,” he spat quietly. His father didn’t hear him, already vanishing into the fog.
He had made his way into the garden, through the hedge maze to the fountain that hadn’t carried water for years. He had dropped to the ground, his wand falling from his clenched fist, and held his head in his hands. Nausea churned in his stomach, his head spinning and empty at the same time. The thought that he had been exposed, told on, forced to speak truth, it made him want to walk to the nearest cliff and step off. Then again, it didn’t take much for him to want to jump off a cliff these days. He could trust no one, anymore, he realized. He shouldn’t have even said anything, to begin with, but it had been weighing on his shoulders for so long… It had been a relief to confess at first. To just have someone who knew, someone who had some sympathy for what he felt. Now, it was a numb sense of betrayal in his gut. He couldn’t even bring himself to be angry that he had been told on, he just felt… sad. No one would guard his secrets anymore. No one was even able to.
“Harry, Ginny, come with me,” Dumbledore said. Harry barely had time to right his balance before the Headmaster was calling them, already climbing a set of stairs to a level of his office Harry had never been to. “Quickly!” Dumbledore added over his shoulder, disappearing through a door flanked with bookcases.
“Professor,” Harry called, starting for the stairs despite a slight sense of dizziness in his brain, “Professor, Madam Bones gave me something just after you left.”
Dumbledore stepped back into view. “What?”
“This scroll,” Harry said, climbing the steps two at a time. “She ran up to me just before I took the Floo, handed this to me to give to you, and told me that I didn’t see her.”
Dumbledore took the scroll he was holding out and severed the string holding it shut with his wand. Unrolling it, the Headmaster glanced over it quickly, then he nodded and rolled it up again.
“Follow me,” he repeated, then disappeared once again into the bookshelves. Harry glanced at Ginny, then followed Dumbledore.
There was a large room beyond the bookshelves, with a long table lined with chairs and a second fireplace at the end of the room. Dumbledore was standing at the head of the table, writing something on a piece of parchment.
“Fawkes!” Dumbledore called. There was a flash of flame, and the phoenix appeared at his shoulder. “Take this to Madam Bones at her home.”
The phoenix let out a trill and took the parchment in his talon, then disappeared in another flash of flame.
“Harry, if you would do me a favor and call your godfathers from this fireplace, I shall summon the others via Patronus,” the Headmaster said.
“Uh, sure,” Harry said, striding down the long room. “Um, who are you summoning?”
“You’ll see,” Dumbledore said, flicking his wand. A second, barely opaque phoenix appeared, this time made of silver light rather than flesh and bone. Harry took a pot of Floo Powder from the mantle, but paused to watch Dumbledore address his Patronus.
“The time has come,” the Headmaster said. “Come to my office immediately if you are able.”
Dumbledore waved his wand again, and the phoenix vanished. The Headmaster turned, then raised his eyebrows at Harry. “Oh, sorry, right,” Harry muttered, and dropped down to his knees in front of the fireplace. “Defense Against the Dark Arts’ teacher’s quarters,” he announced, then stuck his head into the fire.
Opening his eyes, he saw the sitting room of his two godfathers, devoid of any life. “Sirius?” he called out. “Remus?”
The bedroom door opened and both men exited quickly into the sitting room. “Harry!” Sirius said, sounding very relieved. “How did it go?”
“Not good,” Harry admitted. “The Wembley Act passed.”
“What?” Sirius and Remus gasped together. “You’re not kidding?” Remus asked, as if Harry would be. Harry just shook his head.
“Dumbledore said you should come to his office,” Harry said. “He’s calling a meeting of some sort, I think.”
Sirius and Remus exchanged glances. “The Order,” Sirius said. Both of them held solemn expressions, but Harry didn’t have time to think through their body language.
“The Order of the Phoenix?” Harry asked.
Sirius nodded. “We’ll be there just as soon as you get off, Harry,” his godfather said. “Go on.”
“See you in a bit then,” Harry replied, and pulled his head back. With a soft pop, he was back on the floor of the long conference type room in Dumbledore’s office, Ginny standing behind him, hugging herself and biting at a nail.
“People will be arriving momentarily,” Dumbledore said to them, standing at the doorway back out to the main office. Harry nodded, lifting himself up off the ground to take Ginny’s hand. She glanced at him, then dropped her other hand from her mouth, just nodding. He squeezed her hand gently.
“Sirius, Remus, up here,” Dumbledore called. Harry looked up as Dumbledore stepped away, then his godfathers crossed through the doorway.
“The Order’s meeting?” Sirius asked instantly.
“Yes,” Dumbledore said. “There should be — ah, Minerva, Severus, up here, please.”
Harry stiffened immediately at the sound of Snape’s name, his hand clutching Ginny’s more tightly now, and faced the doorway with a stony expression. Sirius was just as tense as Harry, standing with his arms crossed and his face guarded. McGonagall entered the room first, her robes swishing behind her, to be followed by a sallow-looking Snape.
“Severus, you look ill,” Remus said almost immediately.
“It is no concern of yours,” Snape replied sharply.
“He was only being polite,” Sirius said darkly.
Snape bared his teeth in what was bound to be an equally scathing retort, but Dumbledore held up his hands. “Please, gentlemen, do not bring petty boyhood feuds into this now, we have a crisis on our hands.”
Snape recoiled, then crossed the room to take a seat. Sirius set his jaw, while Remus sighed softly, taking his— Harry frowned suddenly, not knowing what Sirius was exactly to Remus. Husband? Lover? Boyfriend? He’d never considered it. Remus took Sirius’s hand, regardless.
They’re too old and been together too long to be boyfriends.
Yeah but… they’re not actually married.
So they’re lovers?
That’s gross, Ginny.
Harry, it’s just a word.
Harry didn’t answer, as her parents had just stepped into the room. “Albus,” Mrs. Weasley said. “What’s going on?”
“I shall explain everything when we are all here,” Dumbledore told her. “Please, take seats.”
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley joined McGonagall at the table, talking to her in quiet tones. Professors Flitwick and Sprout entered next, then the Vances, then people Harry didn’t recognize began to enter the room. Sirius and Remus crossed over to join them by the fireplace, silent still, then Tonks arrived and came to stand beside them. She hugged Ginny, then Harry.
“It’s good to see you two alright,” Tonks sighed.
“They were half a world away, Dora,” Sirius said, trying for a smile. Tonks tittered, then half-heartedly pushed at him.
“Don’t mock me, I’m pregnant,” Tonks muttered, but she was smiling.
“How are you?” Ginny asked her.
“Fine,” Tonks answered with a sigh. “The little bugger’s growing fast, I swear he’s already dancing on my bladder and it’s still the first trimester.”
“He?” Harry asked.
Tonks shrugged. “I can just tell,” she answered. “My mum agrees with me.”
“You’ve told them then?” Remus asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Yeah,” Tonks admitted with another sigh. “Day before yesterday. I was staying with them when the news came. We were going to go up to visit my granny in Manchester, you know, but the train was delayed.”
“Thank Merlin,” Sirius said.
“Yeah,” Tonks agreed.
“If you could all please take a seat,” came Dumbledore’s voice, interrupting them. “I shall begin the meeting.”
Sirius jerked his head towards the table, and the group of them moved to the table, taking seats near the very end. Dumbledore was standing at the other end, his hands splayed on the table and a very serious expression on his aged face.
“You all likely have heard of Lucius Malfoy’s Wembley Act of Caution by now, I trust?” Dumbledore asked. There was a murmur of ascent from the table, but a few people shook their heads. “Essentially, it’s forbidding we wizards from using any magic in front of any Muggle or in any Muggle place, even in cases of self-defense.”
“That’s preposterous,” a fat man in the middle of the table exclaimed.
“It’s calculated,” Dumbledore answered him. “The law requires all wands be fitted with a new version of the Trace, rather than all wizards, allowing for Death Eaters to sneak past it. However, the same loophole applies to us. Garrick?”
Harry glanced towards the other end of the table, where the old wand-maker of Diagon Alley, Ollivander, was sitting. “I am capable of supplying each of you with second wands,” the wand-maker said. “When you are asked to come in to register and have your wand Traced, bring this second wand rather than your usual wand.”
“The Trace will only notify officials when you perform magic in a Muggle area or in front of a Muggle,” Dumbledore continued, “so worry not about anyone noticing odd patterns.”
“Are you saying that the Wembley Act was passed?” someone asked.
“It was,” Dumbledore admitted, and the whole table gasped. “There were ten swing votes and thirty members absent. I do not believe that was a coincidence, however, that is a worry for another time. Right now, we must discuss our strategies.”
Fawkes suddenly appeared behind him, dropping a piece of parchment before vanishing in another flash of flame. Dumbledore caught it before it hit the ground, glanced over it, then shoved it into the pocket of his robes.
“We have limited support within the Ministry,” he told them. “Madam Bones and many others are on our side, however, Fudge is in Malfoy’s pocket, and we already know he’s working for Voldemort.”
Up the table, Snape shifted in his chair.
“The press is not likely to take our side either,” Dumbledore continued. “Barnabas Cuffe, the editor of the Prophet, is a close friend of Fudge’s, but as far as I am aware has no direct ties to Voldemort. There will certainly be moles within the Ministry and the Prophet, so from now on, you tell no one about our goings ons except for other Order members, and only if you are absolutely sure that they have not been replaced by a Death Eater taking Polyjuice.”
“Should we start using passwords again?” Mrs. Weasley asked.
“Yes,” Dumbledore answered. “Establish secret codes with each of your loved one’s, other Order members, et cetera. If my identity is ever put in question, know that my favorite sort of sweet is a Muggle lemon drop.”
Dumbledore gave a nod, then raised his wand. A blackboard appeared behind him, floating in the air. He pointed his wand at it, and a diagram began to sketch itself out.
“As far as we know, Voldemort has a dozen or so old followers outside Azkaban prison,” he began. “Lucius Malfoy will be the biggest one, as he has plenty of Ministry influence. The Parkinson, Goyle, Crabbe, and Greengrass families, in addition to the Malfoys, will likely be his biggest financial backers, but as for foot-soldiers, I expect he will be recruiting soon if he hasn’t already. There were twelve total involved in the attack today,” he added, “and none were associated with any of his previous followers, two of them were still in school when he first vanished.
“The attack was a suicide mission, as you probably have heard,” Dumbledore announced. “So far, the Ministry has found and identified 43 witches and wizards killed, 54 injured, and over a hundred Muggles dead or injured. Likely, Voldemort used the Imperius Curse on those who committed the attack, as I doubt many new recruits were willing to kill themselves immediately, nor would he have wanted to be out 12 Death Eaters so soon.”
“Do we know who the attackers were yet?” McGonagall asked.
“Their identities were not released yet,” Dumbledore said, shaking his head. “However, Madam Bones has successfully obtained an Order of Transparency, so all information will be released to the public by morning.”
“That will be useful,” McGonagall said, a tone of relief in her voice.
“Indeed,” Dumbledore said with a nod. “Fortunately, not only do we have ears within the Ministry, but we have an ear inside the Death Eaters.”
Harry immediately looked to Snape, who was staring at the table coolly. Everyone else was looking at him too.
“Professor Snape has agreed to take the risk in being a double agent,” Dumbledore went on, as if the whole room wasn’t staring at Snape in shock or disdain. “Voldemort trusts him, and therefore we should be able to gain a level of knowledge otherwise inaccessible.”
Beside Harry, Sirius opened his mouth to speak, but Dumbledore abruptly looked at him, for a moment holding his gaze silently, then Sirius dropped the gaze, looking down at the table. Harry glanced between them but Dumbledore was already moving on.
“What we know so far is that Voldemort has very little manpower currently,” Dumbledore continued. “He is also being very guarded, discussing things with very few people, so not even Severus can tell us what exactly is going on at the moment.”
“So that was why we had no warning,” Sirius said.
Dumbledore nodded. “It seems Voldemort is learning from the past. Unfortunately, he was incredibly intelligent even back in the first war.”
“What reason would he have to attack now?” a woman near them asked. “I mean, it’s Christmas holidays!”
“Exactly,” Dumbledore said. “A guarantee that the station would be full.”
“Then why wouldn’t he do it on Christmas day?” Remus asked.
Dumbledore let out a sigh. “I cannot be sure.”
Harry shrank a little in his chair. He didn’t like all the I don’t know’s he’d been hearing since he’d arrived back in the UK that evening. Afternoon. He didn’t know.
Oh, hush, Ginny, but he smiled. Ginny squeezed his hand gently, giving him a soft smile of her own.
“Continuing with what we do know, however,” Dumbledore said, attracting their attention again, “is that he’s going to try and break out some of his old followers from Azkaban.”
It was Sirius’s turn to have all eyes swivel towards him. Sirius glanced around, then subtly slid downwards in his chair.
“As we only have one person who’s ever been imprisoned there let alone escaped,” Dumbledore said, “it would be very useful to hear what you know, Sirius.”
“They won’t be going out the way I did,” Sirius said immediately, his gaze fixed on the table. “I managed to escape in my Animagus form only because I was thin enough to slip through the bars, and they’re barely four inches apart.”
Harry saw Remus reaching for Sirius’s hand under the table.
“What about security there?” Dumbledore asked. “What can you tell us about that?”
“The — the Aurors only do checks every few hours,” Sirius said. “Maybe every three, every five, I’m not sure. The Dementors are the ones that keep constant watch. In high security, they stand guard outside the cells, bring the food, do everything. Aurors aren’t allowed to use Patroni in high security, so they stuff themselves with chocolate whenever they have to come down there.”
“What manner do the Dementors have?”
“I — The same manner they always have, I don’t know,” Sirius confessed. “I didn’t spend much time analyzing my surroundings.”
Dumbledore nodded, not responding to Sirius’s distress at remembering his time at Azkaban or perhaps just not noticing in his focused state. “Given the number of inmates, I expect the Dementors are full, so to speak, having a constant source of emotion to feed on, which won’t make it any easier on Voldemort to break anyone out but it won’t make it any harder. Amelia has promised to keep me in the loop for any news from Azkaban, and she’s promised to increase security there wherever she can, but, again, not a coincidence, Malfoy has been moving to decrease the number of Aurors who have to endure the prison. In any other time, this would be beneficial, but in light of recent events, it’s dangerous.”
“How long has he been campaigning?” Flitwick asked.
“His bill was first introduced in September,” Dumbledore said, inhaling deeply in a way that was almost a sigh. “It keeps getting tabled, but I expect he’ll put some new twist on it and try again soon.”
“What do you suggest we do, then?” Remus asked. “Go to Azkaban and patrol it ourselves?”
“No, no, nothing of the sort,” Dumbledore said quickly, “there’s no way we’d be able to do that without drawing suspicion or risking our own safety. In fact, there is little we can do inside the prison, but a few of us have Wizengamot seats, we can vote against Malfoy’s bill, and most especially we can keep a close eye on the prison and on Voldemort. Severus is progressing greatly with Voldemort, and I expect he’ll be back at Voldemort’s right hand quite soon.”
Dumbledore paused for breath, looking at the diagram, now containing sketches and labeled names of known or unknown Death Eaters, suggested tiers of the group, and other information, then turned back to the group at large. “Without Ministry support, I confess that we are at a great disadvantage, even with a mole inside the Death Eaters, and especially without the popular support of the people, we’ll be even further disadvantaged. For the time being, all I can ask you to do is spread the word. Give people the facts, try to sow doubt in the story Fudge and the Prophet are offering. Keep your families updated and aware, this is no time to keep secrets from your children.”
Harry could swear Dumbledore looked at Mrs. Weasley briefly before going on. “Stay diligent. Anything you might see or hear, report it back immediately. For now, there are no tasks I can assign you, no objectives other than to spread the word and keep updated.”
“What about the future?” Professor Sprout asked. “What do you think we’ll need to do later on?”
Dumbledore glanced between her and his diagram of Death Eaters. “To be honest with you, Pomona, I cannot be sure for the time being. It seems that Voldemort is trying to weaken us politically before he attacks us directly, hence the attack this morning and the Wembley Act.”
“So there’s nothing that we can actively do,” Harry said.
All eyes turned to him. Dumbledore slowly clasped his hands in front of himself, looking at Harry calculatingly over his glasses. Harry squirmed slightly in his seat, disliking the two or three dozen pairs of eyes examining him.
“It depends on what you mean by active, Harry,” Dumbledore admitted. “For the time being, we will be in the mode of espionage rather than warfare, but trust me, battle will come. Once Voldemort feels he has sufficient wand-power, he will attack again, the difference is that we will be ready.”
“What about trying to find him while he’s still weak?” Harry asked. “Why haven’t we found him already?”
“We have been trying,” Dumbledore told him calmly. “Madam Bones has had a secret taskforce searching for him since June.”
Harry deflated. Why hadn’t Dumbledore told him that before?
“What leads have they found?” asked a man down the table.
“They found a handful of the locations he’s stayed at in the past several months,” Dumbledore answered. “Speculation at the moment is that he’s moving every few days, perhaps every week.”
“What are some places he’s hid in?”
Dumbledore looked suddenly uncomfortable, looking away. “Mostly abandoned structures, houses, and buildings in urban areas that haven’t been occupied in quite some time. There was a point in mid-October that he was staying in the village of Godric’s Hollow.”
“Not —” Sirius started, then Dumbledore shook his head.
“Not in their cottage,” he said. “In my childhood home.”
At this, an uneasy silence settled over the room. Harry glanced at Sirius, wondering whose cottage he had been talking about, but also how Dumbledore could be so calm about knowing that the most evil wizard of the century had slept in his home.
“Since October, we’ve found one other place that we believe he inhabited,” Dumbledore said, moving on as if nothing had happened at all. “He’s not stayed in the same place twice, and lately we believe he’s been on the continent, likely in the south of France. The Headmistress of Beauxbatons, Madame Maxime, has promised to keep a wary eye out for strange disturbances in France and Spain, and so far there have been none. That fits within his profile, however. Even back then, he was focused on conquering Britain before moving on to other nations.”
God, Voldemort trying to conquer other nations…
It’s definitely a scary thought.
“What about tracking down Death Eaters who weren’t imprisoned last time?” asked Professor McGonagall. “I know twenty just off the top of my head that never set foot in Azkaban.”
“And half are dead by now,” Dumbledore answered. “Those that did not answer Voldemort’s initial summon in June have gone missing or found dead already. Karkaroff, for example, was found in July. He vanished some time after the end of the Tournament, but was killed not long after. Very few have been allowed grace.”
Dumbledore glanced towards Snape as he said this, then quickly away. Harry looked over at him too, seeing the hooked nose drawn back in distaste and the dark eyes fixed on his hands, clasped on the table.
“We were able to locate four former Death Eaters before Voldemort, however,” Dumbledore said, “two of which agreed to give us information in exchange for help escaping, one refused to cooperate, and another was brought in and sent to Azkaban for other crimes. The two who agreed to help gave a fairly comprehensive list of those Death Eaters still living and free, and we are trying to track down more.”
“Where did those two end up?” asked someone.
“Remote locations in the Western hemisphere,” Dumbledore answered. “I do not even know if they are still there.”
“What else can we know for sure?” Flitwick asked.
“The attack on Azkaban is coming,” Dumbledore promised. “And there will be a definite search for recruits, and those who refuse will likely be killed.”
“What about protecting ourselves?” Mrs. Weasley asked. “Surely You-Know-Who will be looking to decrease the number of people opposing him.”
“I will personally set up wards at all of your residences if so necessary,” Dumbledore said. “For those of you who have wards already, strengthening them is advisable, and for those who do not, get some. I have to recommend fewer outings, unfortunately, especially if you believe you are being watched. Freedom is a luxury you may not have in the coming months.”
Freedom, Ginny thought abruptly. The soul can be forever free.
It’s something I heard in a dream. There was something else too… I can’t remember what it was.
“For now, that is all I have to give you,” Dumbledore was saying. “Stay vigilant. Stay cautious. Thank you.”
There was a chorus of chairs scraping the floor as the room’s occupants rose. Harry followed Sirius and Remus out automatically, but paused when he realized that Ginny was lingering behind, talking to her parents. He waited for her, watched as she hugged first her mother, then her father, then took her hand as she joined him at the exit.
I think we should get some rest, he thought. It’s been a long day.
Ginny nodded, yawning as if to prove his point. They found Sirius and Remus standing with Tonks by the office exit, talking quietly to each other.
“Yes, I’m sure, Sirius, I’m bloody sure, it — oh, hello, you two,” Tonks said, cutting herself off and smiling at them.
“What are you sure about?” Harry asked her.
“Nothing, don’t worry about it,” she said, waving a dismissive hand. “Listen, now that you’re back, we’ll resume our training first thing tomorrow, alright?”
“Right,” Harry said, and for once he wasn’t about to complain. Tonks nodded, then gave Sirius and Remus a glance, and made for the queue at the fireplace.
“We’ll walk you to Gryffindor tower,” Sirius said, opening the office door.
“Thanks,” Ginny said, her voice quiet.
“What was that about?” Harry asked his godfathers as they descended the spiral staircase to the fourth floor.
“Don’t worry about it," Sirius said stiffly. “We’ll talk about it later. For now, it’s late and you two have been out of the country for two days. It’s off to bed with you.”
“More specifically, it’s off to sleep with you,” Remus added.
Ginny and Harry both blushed while the two men chuckled at them. Sirius threw an arm over their shoulders.
“You always blush after the first time,” he said in conspiratorial voice. “It’s part of the deal.”
“You’re going to make them blush further,” Remus warned Sirius. They had entered the staircases up to the other floors now, taking them up to the seventh and Gryffindor tower.
“That’s half the fun!” Sirius said with a laugh. “You remember how James used to tease us!”
“What would he do?” Harry asked, as always eager to hear about his father.
“He’d remind us every five minutes that we weren’t allowed to do it in the dorm room,” Sirius said, rolling his eyes. “Not that it stopped us.”
Harry suddenly regretted asking. Sirius laughed at his face, patting him on the shoulder.
“Ron likes to make fusses over PDA too,” Ginny mused, smiling lightly. “It’s always fun to make them squirm, isn’t it?”
Sirius laughed again and clapped Ginny on the shoulder. “That’s the spirit, Gin.”
They reached the seventh-floor a while later, and Sirius and Remus left them outside Gryffindor Tower. As they made their way through the portrait hole, the common room suddenly exploded with sound.