The Sugar Quill
Author: Robin (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Promises Remembered  Chapter: Chapter 3: Slytherin vs. Gryffindor
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Promises Remembered

Author’s Note: This is the sequel to Promises Unbroken.  If you have not all ready read PU, I highly suggest doing so, else this story will probably make no sense whatsoever.  Be advised that this is an Alternate Universe tale as well.  That said, enjoy the story—and let the darkness come.

 

Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Harry Potter belong to the wonderful and talented J.K. Rowling, whom I thank very much for the loan of her playground.  The plot, however, and anything you do not recognize, belongs to me.  I am not making any profit from the writing and display of this story, except for gratification of my ego and quenching my thirst to write. 

 

Second Author’s Note:  If you haven’t read my other new story, Forget Me Not: A Story of Broken Promises, please check it out.  Events in Forget Me Not have later (slight) significance in this universe.  Click on my user name to access all my stories.

 

 

Promises Remembered

The Sequel to Promises Unbroken

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three: Slytherin vs. Gryffindor

 

“I expected Sirius to bring me,” Harry said quietly, hoping the words didn’t come out wrong.  After all, he would have thought that Hogwarts needed its headmaster, now more than ever.  But Remus only smiled.

“Sirius is about as testy as humanly possible right now, Harry,” he replied.  “He and your dad would only wind up yelling at one another and get in some pointless fight.” Remus shrugged.  “Besides, I drew the short straw.”

“The what?”

The headmaster chuckled slightly.  “Never mind.  It’s a Muggle thing; I doubt you’ve heard of it.  Needless to say, though, I’m the one who got stuck with the job of bringing your dad bad news.”

“What bad news?” Harry asked carefully, not liking the sound of that at all.

But his father’s old friend didn’t answer as they made their way into St. Mungo’s, bypassing the witch at the information desk and moving along in silence.  Harry’s confused look seemed to wash over Remus without any effect, and finally he sighed, knowing that he’d find out soon enough.  However, keeping his frustration inside was difficult, and part of Harry desperately wanted to explode.  Every since his mother had shown up at Hogwarts the day before, he had only come up with more questions in response to the answers no one would give him.  The Order had met, he knew, but why he did not know.  Dumbledore and Arabella Figg were both dead, as were countless others—but beyond that, he knew almost nothing.

Breakfast that morning had proved very interesting with almost all of the Order present, and all their children still around.  Hogwarts had become half madhouse, half meeting at that point, and Harry had never been around a group of adults who were so frightened.  No one said so, of course, but the tension in the air was thick and everyone was jumpy.  The attack on the Ministry had been completely unexpected, and its consequences, Harry felt, would linger for far longer than the summer could last.

“So where is Sirius, anyway?” he finally asked.

“At the Ministry.  He and the Aurors are still searching for survivors.”  Remus led Harry around a corner and down another hallway.  “He was there for most of yesterday and almost all night.”

“Oh.”  Harry swallowed.  “Things are getting bad, aren’t they?”

Remus turned to look him in the eye, surprising Harry with how calm he looked.  “Yes, they are,” he replied evenly.  “But I wouldn’t exactly say everything is lost.  Not yet.”

“Some of the parents are saying that we ought to just surrender now,” Harry said quietly.

The comment made Remus’ head whip around; his deep blue eyes were suddenly sharp.  There was that same strength in him that Harry had only seen once before, the same implacability that had frightened Malfoy so much.  Suddenly, the headmaster seemed dangerous.  His voice was very soft, very controlled.  “Who said that, Harry?”

“I’m not sure, really…it’s just something that Fred said he overheard,” he answered hesitantly.  After all, Harry hadn’t felt that the remarks were such a big deal, and he had no idea who had uttered them—but Remus seemed to take that lack of confidence very seriously—too seriously.

“Ah.”  The strange look passed, and suddenly Harry was standing next to the Remus Lupin he’d known for all of his life.  “Well, we’re here, anyway.”

They had stopped before a nondescript door on the Fourth Floor; there were two Aurors outside it, but they let Harry and Remus pass without argument.  Harry knew that his mother had spent most of the early morning at the hospital; finally, Peter, who seemed to have stayed the night, had dragged her back to Hogwarts and forced her to go to bed.  Harry had struggled not to bombard her with questions, and had been rewarded by Remus’ offer to take him to the hospital.  He hadn’t expected it, but Harry had jumped at the chance.  Being left in the dark was threatening to drive him crazy.

But when they stepped inside his father’s private room, Harry almost began to wish they hadn’t come.  Although he’d visited his father in the hospital before (once, in fact, had been earlier that year), Harry had never seen him look so terrible.  Livid bruises covered his father’s face, and he looked small against the sheets…despite having been warned about his dad’s condition, Harry felt shocked.  His father’s legs were limp and lifeless underneath the covers; it was very clear that the healers had yet to find a solution to James Potter’s sudden paralysis.

“Moony!  Harry!”  Still, though, the same smile split his father’s face.  “What are you doing here?”

“Didn’t Lily tell you we were coming?”

“Well, she said someone would bring Harry by, but I was expecting you to stay at Hogwarts.”  He and Remus exchanged a significant look, then Harry’s father turned to him with a smile.  “Don’t worry.  It’s not as bad as it looks.”

“Peter said you can’t walk,” he answered in a tiny voice.

His dad hesitated slightly.  “Well…not yet,” he admitted.  “But I’ll be okay.  The healers are just having some problems figuring out how to fix everything.”

“But shouldn’t it be simple?” Harry asked. “I mean, if it’s your back that’s broken, can’t they just heal it?”

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Remus frowning.

“That’s what I would have thought,” his father replied with a shrug.  “But I guess it’s a bit more complicated than that.  Right now, I can’t feel anything below my waist…but that’ll change, Harry.  Don’t worry.”

Harry bit his lip.  “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”  A larger hand reached out to take his own as he sat down on the bed, and Harry struggled to bit back tears that wanted to rise.  He was eleven years old, and that was much too old to cry.   Harry tried to smile, and failed miserably.  His father squeezed his hand.  “Everything will be all right.”

“Okay.”  He nodded, unsure of what else to do—but his father seemed so certain of it, and Harry had to trust that.  He didn’t want to know what would happen if he couldn’t.

“So what brings you here, Remus?” His father asked lightly, obviously changing the subject for Harry’s sake. 

“I bring news,” the headmaster replied.  “Both good and bad.  Which do you want first?”

“Give me the bad first,” was the immediate response.  “I don’t think today can get much worse, anyway.”

Remus snorted.  “Just you wait.”

“Oh, now I’m feeling real warm and squishy inside.  Just spit it out, Moony.”

“Well, the bad news is that Fudge is already angling to be the next Minister of Magic.”

It was a very good thing that Harry’s mum wasn’t there, because she definitely wouldn’t have liked the words that came out of her husband’s mouth in response to that announcement.  The look on Remus’ face, however, said that he tended to agree with James’ rather foul way of stating his opinion, and he did not object at all to the torrent of foul language.  For his part, Harry only sat on the bed and listened; he didn’t know Cornelius Fudge all that well, but he knew enough to know that the head of the Department of Magical Catastrophes was very political, and about the worst leader that the Magical world could ever have.  That, and even his mother hated Fudge with a passion, which said a great deal.

Remus waited for Harry’s father to stop cursing before he continued.  “The good news is that we think we’ve found someone who stands a chance against him.”

“That’s a relief.  Who is it?”

“You.”

Harry had never seen such a slack-jawed and shocked expression color his father’s face, and in any other circumstances, it would have been funny.  Right then, though, it was only startling—Remus couldn’t possibly be serious.  His dad as the Minister of Magic?  The entire idea was insane! 

After a long moment of unintelligible stuttering, it seemed that James Potter most definitely agreed with his son’s silent assessment.  He blinked several times, and his mouth clicked open and shut repeatedly before he seemed to gain control of it and simply stare at his friend.  The expression he wore, though, was anything but friendly, and Harry felt certain that if looks could kill, Remus Lupin would be at least fairly well scorched by that one.  Finally, Harry’s dad managed to form coherent words.

“That’s a very sorry joke, mate.”

Those steady blue eyes never wavered.  “I’m not joking, James.”

“You’d better be,” Harry’s father replied darkly, glaring.

Remus just stared.

Harry’s father glared back.

The headmaster arched one slender eyebrow, very calmly and seemingly waiting for the inevitable explosion.  It didn’t take long in coming.

“No.”

“No?” Remus echoed innocently.

No,” James Potter spat.  “No, as in there is no way in hell that I’m going to take that job.  Never.  Not-over-my-dead-body-never.  It’s not going to happen.  Not in a million years.”

“Ah.  I see.”

“Remus!”

“So then, tell me, James, who you would recommend,” the headmaster responded pleasantly.  “I’m certain that you know someone who is both powerful and well-known enough to take on Fudge’s candidacy and win.  Mind you, this person also needs to be a member of the Order—preferably in the Inner Circle, which, as I might remind you, has grown rather small as of late.”  Remus’ smile disappeared.  “But I’m sure that there is someone who fits all those requirements.  Other than you.”

Harry’s father glowered.

“We need you, James,” Remus continued in that relentlessly gentle voice.  “We need someone who can give people confidence, who they can trust.  We need someone who has proven, time and again, that they are not afraid to do what has to be done.  We need you.”

His father blinked, and Harry watched the anger fade slowly from his face.  After a moment, he bit his lip, chewing on it thoughtfully, although he still glared unhappily at Remus.  Neither spoke for a long while; they only stared at one another as if to see who would break first.  Finally, it was James who looked away.

“Make Sirius to it,” he grumbled.

A slight smile creased Remus’ features.  “Will you, then?” he asked quietly. “It’s your choice, James.”

“Yeah,” Harry’s dad snorted.  “Sure it is.”  He rolled his eyes.  “You’re playing dirty, you realize.  Very dirty.  It’s unbecoming, Remus.  I expected better from you.”

“Must be the company I keep.”

James mumbled something under his breath that made the headmaster smile.

“What was that?” he asked.

“I said yes, you bloody bastard!” Harry’s father snapped, glaring.  But there was no anger in his voice, now.  “Damn you!”

“Language, James,” Remus chided him, chuckling.  “There are children in the room.”

Harry laughed as his father shrugged and replied nonchalantly, “He’s heard worse.”

“Yes, but Lily hasn’t…”

“You tell her, Moony, and I’ll never speak to you again!”

Remus laughed harder at that one.  “Sure you won’t.”

“You—”

Both Harry and Remus seemed to get the exact same thought at the same time; grinning, each had lifted their wand to bring pillows crashing down on James’ head.  However, twice the magic went into the effort, and all of a sudden, it was raining feathers, and all three of them were laughing.  Somehow, when with his family, it was easier to forget the dark world outside; for those few moments, Harry could forget the darkness that lurked around corners and haunted their every step.  

---------------

“Severus…” the low voice hissed, and Snape had to resist the urge to shudder.  Even after so long, it was hard to keep his voice even.

“My Lord.”

The only good thing was that they were alone.  Even Malfoy wasn’t present, which in itself was odd, but Severus figured that if he had been uncovered, and he was about to die, the Dark Lord wouldn’t be satisfied with killing him in private.  No, a traitor’s death was a spectacle, a lesson for others to learn from—not something to be accomplished quietly or in the shadows.  Not where Voldemort was concerned.  Severus supposed that a Muggle might call the Dark Lord a master showman, and immediately wondered where such an irrelevant thought came from.

He had to fight down the urge to scowl.  Such mundane thoughts were unworthy of a Slytherin, and proved that he’d been spending far too much time around foolish and Muggle-loving Gryffindors—Dumbledore.  The thought caught him completely unaware and threatened to shatter his control.  Suddenly, he felt cold inside.  Albus was a Gryffindor.  Only years of experience of locking his soul away kept Severus from snapping immediately—but the fury he felt was no less real because it was hidden.  You bastard, he thought behind an emotionless facade.  He’d tried to force himself to forget, and then had tried to move past the pain when that had failed—but there was no hope in doing either.  Voldemort had killed Dumbledore.

He’d wept once, in private and where no one could see him.  If asked, he’d deny it.  Snape would never admit shedding tears for the old man, even to those who would understand—and when he was feeling honest with himself, he would admit that there were a few who would.  But Severus Snape did not cry.  No longer, and not any more—not for over thirty long years had he shed a tear.  Until finding out the truth.

Albus was dead, and everything had changed.

Remus had been right about that, he knew.  Nothing would ever be the same again.  Unfortunately, though, too much also remained the same…so there he was, kneeling before the Dark Lord once more, praying to whatever deity would listen that he hadn’t been uncovered as a traitor.  For the first time in his life, Severus found himself agreeing with Sirius Black; there was almost no other reason that he would not have known of the attack on the Ministry.  Even if the Dark Lord had not expected him to attend (which only his duties at Hogwarts could be blamed for), Severus should have known about it.  After Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange, he was the highest-ranking Death Eater in their Lord’s circle, and it made no sense for him to have been unaware of such an important raid.  At the very least, he should have known that they were planning something.

Instead, nothing.  And now he was beginning to truly feel afraid.

“Rise.”  The command came after an uncomfortably long moment, and despite his earlier conviction that this was not to be his execution, Snape felt uneasy.  What was going on?  But he complied without hesitation.  For a Death Eater, there was no other choice.  So, in silence he waited, feeling the dark silence grow deep until Voldemort finally spoke.

“Tell me of how Hogwarts stands.”

This was not what he had expected; Snape had to take a deep breath before replying.  “Uneasy, My Lord,” he said carefully.  “The phoenix’s arrival was unexpected, as was Lupin’s…elevation.  Many members of the Order of the Phoenix are not happy with the outcome of Dumbledore’s death.”

“Indeed…”

It was the truth, though not all of it, and not quite a lie by any standards.  Yet sometimes Snape wondered if Voldemort sensed the half-truths and careful dance of danger and words.  He was not yet dead, of course, but there were moments when he doubted how much control he really had over the situation.  How many sides am I really on here? Snape asked himself silently, feeling cold inside.  But he shoved his feelings away.  He was used to doing so.  Such was the price of his existence.

“Many are afraid, My Lord,” he continued into the silence.  “Even as the Order of the Phoenix gathered at Hogwarts, those fears persisted.  Lupin is not Dumbledore, and Potter is gravely injured.  The combination of these factors may drive many to your side.”

“And what of the staff at Hogwarts?  Will any of your comrades feel so driven?”

“I do not know, My Lord.”  Snape hesitated.  “Perhaps Vector or Trelaweny, but none of the others are so prone to fear.  Fletcher, especially, would sooner die.”

“I did not ask for a lecture, Severus.”

He bowed his head immediately at the semi-sharp rebuke.  “Forgive me, Master.  I did not mean to presume.”

“Of course you did,” The Dark Lord snorted.  “But unintelligent followers can only serve me in a limited capacity, and your tenacity has never surprised me.  Beware that you do not step too far, though.  My patience is limited.”

As I am well aware, he thought silently, but responded dutifully: “Yes, My Lord.”

The Dark Lord was silent for another moment, seemingly considering his next words.  For Snape, it was hard not to hold his breath; although Voldemort had not indicated that he thought Severus a traitor, the possibility always existed—and now more than ever.  Take care, Severus, he told himself quickly.  Act with prudence, and you may yet survive.  A funny thought, that was; almost as funny as it was careless.  Survival, he’d learned long ago, wasn’t something he was likely to do.

“Lupin is becoming more of an issue than you anticipated,” the cold voice finally said, making Snape scowl inwardly.  No, Lupin is becoming more of an issue than you anticipated, he thought acidly, but you can’t admit that, now, can you?  But Voldemort continued, thankfully unable to discern the Death Eater’s disobedient thoughts: “Yet with time he will undoubtedly prove himself incapable of dealing with such pressure.  Would you not agree?”

Questions didn’t come much more loaded than that one.

“I believe it is possible, My Lord,” Severus answered carefully.

“Good…” Voldemort said slowly, as if he was still considering the numerous possibilities inherent in the Ministry’s destruction.  “Watch him.  Carefully.”

His was not to reason why.  “Yes, My Lord.” 

---------------

The four remaining Misfits sat in the Gryffindor third year boys’ dorm, stewing in their impatience and frustration.  This was the one place where they could escape the others and speak of their secrets; Neville had taken to sitting with Ginny in the common room, and Percy would never think to enter the twins’ private domain for fear of what pranks they might play on him.  The Misfits were careful not to abuse the privacy, however.  They knew that if they spent too much time together the others might start to wonder, and that could prove downright disastrous.  Especially with what they were planning.

“You are going to owe us big time after this one, little brother,” Fred grumbled.  The pinched look on his twin’s face echoed his brother’s sentiments perfectly. 

“Do you want to know what’s going on, or not?” Ron shot back.

“Well, yes, but—”

“You hate not knowing as much as we do,” Harry pointed out levelly. 

“He’s got a point there, Fred,” George sighed.

“Unfortunately.  There’s a first time for everything.”

Ron reddened.  “Hey!”

But Harry had to smile a bit.  This was, in fact, Ron’s first workable plan; every other idea for mischief making that he’d ever come up with had ended up as a dismal flop in one way or another.  He’d been basking in the glory of coming up with a practical way to uncover exactly what the Order of the Phoenix was meeting about, but Harry didn’t mind.  All he cared about was finding out what was going on.

“Are you in or not?” he asked with a smirk, knowing that the twins could never turn down a challenge.

“Of course we’re in,” Fred replied, just as George moaned.

“Mum is going to kill us.”

“It’s worth it,” Ron said decisively.

His older brothers only rolled their eyes.  “Easy for you to say.”

“You’re not the one who’s going to be on the chopping block—”

“Risking life, limb, and happiness like pliant little sacrificial lambs,” George finished.

Harry groaned.  There were times when the Weasley twins could stretch the melodrama out just a little too far.  “So when do we go?” he asked.  “They’re meeting now, you know.”

“Yup,” Fred agreed cheerfully as they all rose.  “Mum is going to kill us.”

George nodded.  “Let’s get the torture over with, then.”

---------------

Molly Weasley’s earsplitting screech signaled Harry and Ron that all was going well.  Carefully hidden underneath Harry’s Invisibility Cloak, the two boys exchanged grins.  As planned, Fred and George had clumsily attempted to eavesdrop on the Order meeting that was in progress, and had been caught by a vigilant Mrs. Weasley.  Predictably, she was now getting into stride for a real chewing out, overrunning all of the twins’ protests as if they hadn’t even spoken.

“I CAN’T BELIEVE THE PAIR OF YOU!  AS IF I HAVEN’T TOLD YOU A THOUSAND TIMES THAT YOU AREN’T OLD ENOUGH!  THE ORDER’S BUSINESS IS NO CONCERN OF YOURS—”

Ron’s grin widened as he shot Harry a thumbs up.  Fred and George had been discovered lurking around the Great Hall’s main entranceway, staying just far enough in the shadows to avoid casual notice.  However, their presence in that entranceway meant that Mrs. Weasley was well clear of the side door that the professors used to gain access to the hall.  It was in that dark hallway that Harry and Ron prowled, safely underneath the Invisibility Cloak.  They’d briefly worried about what to do if the door was shut, but luck was with them, and the two boys had found it slightly ajar.  There was just enough space for both of them to peer into the Great Hall, and provided they didn’t move the door, there was no way for anyone to know they were there.

Harry glanced over Ron’s shoulder at the Marauder’s Map, checking to make sure they were alone.  Mrs. Weasley had closed the main doors to the Great Hall, so her shouting was no longer audible from within (Harry suspected that someone else had cast a Silencing Charm to drown her out, anyway), but she was still with Fred and George on the Map.  Exchanging another victorious glance, the boys crept forward and looked out upon the Order of the Phoenix.

And what chaos that was.

Harry had no idea that the Order of the Phoenix was so big.  The long tables had been moved so that they formed a box, and the plain benches had been replaced with comfortable looking chairs that ringed the outside of the square.  Nearly every one of those seats was full, and many of them were occupied by tense but familiar faces.  He was slightly surprised to see several of the professors there: Sinistra and Vector were both present, sitting side by side with matching frowns.  Missing, rather inconspicuously, was Snape.

A pair of red haired wizards sat side by side at the closest table; there was an empty seat next to Bill and Arthur Weasley that Harry assumed belonged to Ron’s mother.  Not to far from them, Harry’s mum sat between Peter and a witch Harry didn’t know. 

The silent and unbending Aurors sat at the farthest table, facing the pair of troublemakers.  They wore nearly identically grim expressions; dark eyes stared out from drawn faces that had seen too much.  But the Aurors maintained their silence.  As the argument raged, they simply watched, arrayed in an unbroken line to their new leader’s right.  There were few of them, now; far fewer than there ought to have been, but the symbolism of the unified front the Aurors presented was not lost on Harry.  They were the wall that shielded the Wizarding World from fear.  That wall might have been cracked now, but it was not broken.  Not yet.

Watching the Aurors, Harry almost looked right over Sirius; he sat silently at the table’s end, with his chin resting in weary hands.  His usually bright eyes were dull as he watched the growing debate; Harry’s godfather sat listlessly and didn’t even seem to be listening. 

Dead center at the left most table, Remus was the calm in the midst of the storm.  He sat gravely and composed, with Fawkes perched on the back of his chair; both headmaster and phoenix watched the others shout and argue with uncanny eyes.

It took Harry a long moment to figure out exactly what the discussion was about; everyone was speaking at once and it was hard to distinguish one angry voice from another.  However, after a few minutes of careful listening, he gathered that the disagreement was twofold: first, some were arguing over the immediate inclusion of all the Aurors in the Order of the Phoenix; second, others were still disagreeing over how to deal with the Ministry attack.  They were worried about fallout, public opinion, and Muggle reaction—not to mention the fact that the Aurors claimed to have found no survivors at all.  Paranoia was running high, and the absence of survivors obviously meant that the Aurors were on the other side.

Their logic didn’t make much sense to Harry, but then again, he wasn’t part of the problem.  He wasn’t part of the solution, either, of course, but watching the adults argue, he had to wonder if a younger perspective wouldn’t help.  If grown witches and wizards could think so crookedly when under stress, maybe they needed someone to set them straight.  As the arguments raged on and on, he figured that any additional input certainly couldn’t hurt.  But then again, if his mum or Mrs. Weasley had anything to say about it, Harry wouldn’t become any part of the Order until he was old and gray and the war had already been seen to its conclusion.

Harry resisted the urge to snarl.  Why can’t they see that the war affects us, too?  We feel the same fears and pains they do, no matter how young we are—and we do understand!  He had to grit his teeth to keep the irritation and impatience inside.  I want to be a part of this.  I don’t want to be left in the dark.

Sometimes, even his mum acted like Harry lived in a padded and comfortable world that was safe from the war.  Sometimes, he thought that she’d forgotten that he, too, felt the pain of loss and hardship.  Before this moment, Harry supposed that his parents had been right—he hadn’t known—but now he did.  He’d known the late Deputy Minister of Magic as “Aunt Bella” since early childhood, and though he’d hardly had time to come to terms with her death, it was hard to imagine a world without his former babysitter.  He’d been so lucky in the war—Harry had never really known someone who died.  His grandparents had died before he was born, and though David and Diana Potter had been victims of Voldemort’s wrath, Harry had never lost someone whom he’d grown up with and had learned to love.

Now, though, those kinds of losses seemed so much more possible.  Probable, even—the Dark Lord had moved on the offensive, and at nearly twelve years old, Harry wasn’t young enough to think that everyone would survive the war.

But thinking about life without his parents, Remus, Sirius, or Peter was unbearable.  The thought of losing Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, or Lee was painful to even consider—yet it was possible.  Anything was, now, because he could no longer be certain that they would win at all.  The high that the light side had ridden after the Azkaban Raid was completely extinguished; optimism and hope were now in short supply.  In the face of Voldemort’s brilliant exhibition of power, Azkaban seemed like an aberration.  Victory no longer waited just around the corner.

And it might not ever come if they don’t stop arguing amongst themselves, Harry thought bitterly, then turned his attention back to the Order’s proceedings.

---------------

Sirius scrubbed a weary hand over his face, feeling stubble where there should have been none.  Years ago, he’d kept his hair short and had always been clean shaven, but a few years in the Aurors had slowly brought on the longer hair and goatee that he still favored.  Despite that and his own reckless personality, though, Sirius liked appearing clean; his goatee was always carefully trimmed and there wasn’t a chance in hell that his hair would look like Snape’s.  At the moment, though, that aforementioned hair was just a little greasy, and to describe it as dirty would have been an understatement.  He hadn’t had time to clean himself up after the Aurors left the Ministry once and for all; instead, he’d gone to visit James and had left St. Mungo’s feeling worse than he had arrived.

Nothing could be done, the healers claimed.  Repeatedly, and even when he’d shouted at them, which he now regretted.  But not having slept in three days was beginning to get at him, and the hard-won self-control that he’d gained in Azkaban had been failing him ever since Voldemort’s attack on the Ministry.  Everything had happened so quickly.  It was as if the world was spinning out of control.

Sitting in the Order’s current excuse for a meeting wasn’t helping matters and his head was pounding in tandem with his heart.  Lily was just getting into stride now, shooting down Elphias Dodge over some stupid point or another…where they still arguing that the Aurors were really working for Voldemort?  Were they really that dumb?

Sirius groaned softly, glancing to where Remus and Fawkes sat silently.  Damn Moony and his calm, the Auror thought acidly.  The man’s a saint, I swear.  Sometimes, though, it helped to shout, and he wished Remus would start doing so.  At least then they could get on with something constructive.  Right now, they were only wasting time.  Saint Moony.  Hm.

“Your argument has no logic behind it,” Lily retorted coldly.  “There is no way that even Fudge can blame the Aurors for what happened at the Ministry.  If they were involved, they would never have lost two of their own to the Dark Lord.”

“And what proof do you have of that?  For all we know, that was just—”

“Just what?” Lily counted.  “Camouflage?  Deception?”  She smiled, but it was a frosty and hard expression, even on her pretty face.  “With all due respect, Ms. Dodge, I did not see you with a wand in hand during the attack, and I feel this is a poor way for many to thank those who have so recently saved their lives.”

 “How dare you call me a coward?” Dodge snarled angrily, growing red in the face.  “I would think—”

“That’s enough, Elphias,” Remus suddenly interjected in his quiet voice, answering Sirius’ every wish.  Almost.  Though I could have wished for louder…

“Headmaster—”

“No one is calling you a coward,” the younger wizard said quietly, standing up with a smoothness and grace that marked him as different than he’d ever been before, especially to Sirius’ practiced eye.  The Font had indeed changed him, though that was still hard to get used to.  Remus’ blue eyes moved slowly around the room, focusing on those individuals who were still standing.  Several individuals on both sides of the discussion took the hint and sat down.  Others, including a red-faced Dodge, did not.  A touch of steel entered Remus’ voice.  “Sit down.  Please.”

Sirius noticed with delight that none of them dared make him ask again.  There was a rustling of robes and scraping of chairs as the Order members made themselves comfortable, some still glaring at others with mistrust and distaste.  Finally, after a long moment, Remus spoke once more with slight disappointment in his voice.

“I grieve to see that it has come to this.”

Silence greeted his words, but the unorthodox beginning seemed to have at least gathered attention.  Finally, after a long moment of silence, Remus continued.

“I grieve that we, whom have always stood together, must now threaten each other in search of someone to blame.”  His voice, quiet and disappointed though it was, seemed to impact the Order deeply, and Sirius saw several of the loudest objectors look away, somewhat ashamed.  “As I said to you three days ago, only by standing united can we survive.  The Order of the Phoenix has always been based upon trust.  I ask you to remember that trust now, and to work together.  Divided, we will fall, and we have not the time for that now.

“The Aurors will remain with the Order.  In the absence of a firm government or a Minister of Magic, we are all that there is.  Therefore, it only makes sense for us to work with those most suited to repelling the Death Eaters that will come against us.”

Several mouths opened to protest, but Remus continued in a hard voice.

“The discussion has ended.”

Sirius snuck a glance around the room as silence greeted his friend’s words.  From the calm expression on Remus’ face, one would never guess the pressure he was under or how the weight of the Order was beginning to grate on him.  Unless you knew how to spot the slight lines around his eyes, or how to see the minor twitch of the thumb on his right hand that meant he was irritated, he seemed perfectly cool and unnaturally composed.  Others were staring at him in surprise and some newfound respect—the Order might have decided to follow him, but in many eyes, Remus would never fill Dumbledore’s shoes.

Today, though, he was beginning to prove that he didn’t have to.  Remus Lupin was his own man, singularly unique and strong.  Many thought him docile because he chose not to speak unless he had something important to say.  They misinterpreted quietness as weakness.  Oops.

“Next order of business, then,” the headmaster continued briskly.  “Peter, how are preliminary contacts with the rest of Europe going?”

Their short friend stood clumsily, still as uneasy as ever before a crowd.  “Not very good,” he admitted shakily.  “No one wants to deal with me until we have a new government in place.”

After the death of his superior, Peter was the de-facto head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation.  However, despite how many years he’d spent on diplomatic trips and in tense negotiations, Peter Pettigrew would never have the type of forceful personality that would make other Magical governments stand up and listen.  Peter took a deep breath.

“I also think that they’re beginning to see You-Kno—Voldemort—as our problem,” he added quietly.  “No one else wants to be involved.  They seem to hope that he’ll just go away if they ignore him long enough.”

Angry grunts and snarls sounded from almost every seat, but no one spoke up as Remus nodded.  “Thank you.”

Peter sat down with visible relief, and Sirius spared a moment to give him a thumbs up.  Poor Wormtail had always hated crowds and tests—putting him under pressure had always been a sure way to send Peter into pieces, but he did seem to be getting better.  After all, he’d saved James’ life at the Ministry, and hadn’t cracked up then.  Perhaps there was something to be said for time and the changes it made in men.

Peter’s grateful smile helped cure a little bit of Sirius’ headache.  Friends, he’d long ago realized, were more important than anything else in the world.

But Remus was saying his name, and Sirius stood slowly, wishing that exhaustion didn’t make his bones weigh so much and emphasize every lasting ache and pain.  After rearranging his dirty robes in order to give himself a moment to gather his thoughts, Sirius cleared his throat and began to speak.

“As you all know, three days worth of searching revealed that there are no survivors of Voldemort’s attack on the Ministry of Magic.  We had several run-ins with Muggle law enforcement and ended up performing countless memory charms on them to protect our purposes and identities, but there are still many Muggles out there who know that something went wrong. Currently, their press believes that the Ministry’s explosion was part of what they call a terrorist attack, but sooner or later they’re going to wise up.

“Regardless, that isn’t the biggest of our problems.  What we have to do is strike back, and do so quickly, lest—”

Sirius had been prepared for the objections, but hadn’t expected them to come at such a massive volume.  It seemed as if every mouth in the room had opened and screamed caution at him.  Trying not to sigh, he met Remus’ eyes and watched his friend shrug imperceptivity.  

It was going to be a long, long, afternoon.

 

 

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