It was with an air of curiosity that Ron and Hermione listened to Harry explain his decision to involve the Order of the Phoenix in his quest to find the four remaining Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort once and for all. Ron seemed dubious of his friend’s sudden change of heart but Hermione, knowing that surely more trusted people could only aid them on their search and being fully aware of Remus’s visit to Harry that afternoon, was more positive about the additional help.
“It can only be a good thing, Harry,” she said to him calmly as she perched on the edge of his bed in Privet Drive. Her eyes roved around the room, taking in her surroundings and feeling quite ill at the idea of anyone having to spend their earliest years in such a place. Had she known that Harry had only been in possession of a room of his own for little more than six years then she would probably have been infinitely more upset on his behalf. “After all, the Order has many members, all of whom were trusted by Dumbledore, so it stands to reason that they would be acceptable aid to us.”
“Hermione,” Ron sighed and Harry knew that an argument was about to break loose, “Dumbledore trusted Snape. He was in the Order and he killed him!”
“But—” Hermione began but was cut off by Ron, only causing her quick temper to ignite.
“As well as that, Dumbledore only told Harry about the Horcruxes and said that he could tell us. He didn’t tell McGonagall or Lupin or anyone else! Just Harry,” Ron said rationally. Harry hated to admit it but Ron was sounding quite convincing. There was only one problem – he had already told Remus everything that he might have wanted or needed to know about the Horcruxes and the situation they were in. “He clearly didn’t want anyone else but us doing this!”
‘He wants the glory,’ Hermione thought as she watched her boyfriend through narrowed eyes. ‘He wants to be able to stand alongside Harry and I and be able to say that he was part of the small team that killed him. Not part of a group of around thirty people!’
“That’s all fine and good except for one small problem,” Harry said grimly and Ron knew from his tone that whatever it was that was coming next was not good in the slightest. “Dumbledore may have wanted me to do this alone but I’ve already told Remus everything this morning before you arrived.”
“What?!” Ron demanded, leaping to his feet. “How could you just go and tell someone about this?! This was entrusted to you; to us! You can’t just go doing things like that now, we have to work together in this and tell each other what we’re doing.”
“Too late now,” Hermione said and Ron wondered whether he was imagining the triumphant glint in her eye.
“Go Obliviate him or something…” Ron suggested and Hermione rolled her eyes.
“Yes, that’s right Ron, you just go wiping away Professor Lupin’s memory and when he can’t remember who he is anymore then you can be the one to take him to St. Mungo’s!” she shouted at him. Harry felt glad for the Silencing Charm that Remus had placed around the room earlier on to prevent the Dursleys from overhearing their conversation. “The fact is that we can’t do this alone! There are only three of us! Three of us to get rid of four Horcruxes and Voldemort! We can’t do it! We need more help and the Order will be very helpful.”
Ron didn’t bother to reply – no words came to mind and he felt so furious that he could only pace and clench his fists. Hermione on the other hand seemed quite calm and relaxed at the idea of more than them tackling their problem. Not many more, but certainly more.
“Who are we going to ask to help us then? Surely we’re not going to ask the entire Order, or tell all of them about the Horcruxes?” Hermione said, glancing at Harry and ignoring Ron entirely.
“I think we should talk to McGonagall,” Harry sighed, knowing that after he had refused to talk to her only the year before it would probably not go down too well with her that he had changed his mind in favour of her assistance. Still, it would be required and he had no doubt that she could be of great help to them.
Hermione’s smile was enough to tell him that he had probably made the right decision. All he had to do now would be to leave the Dursleys’ that night and move into Grimmauld Place on a more permanent basis. He wanted to get McGonagall informed on their situation as soon as possible, if only so that there would be more people working at an earlier date preventing Voldemort from taking more lives than would otherwise have been taken. He would be visiting Godric’s Hollow at some point also, taking Ron and Hermione with him when he went. That wasn’t the current matter – first of all came the short move from one home to another.
“Let’s go then,” Harry said, rising to his feet. Ron was still stood at the window and Hermione glanced up at him in slight surprise. She had not been there long and neither had Ron but already Harry was ready to move on.
“What have I got to keep me here? I had to make one last visit here to ensure that the blood protection would hold. I’ve been here for the last month now so I’m sure that’s long enough, Hermione,” Harry assured her and glanced to his trunk at the bottom of the bed.
“Here let us do it; we don’t want you to get dragged into the Ministry again for underage magic a week before you turn seventeen,” Hermione smiled as she levitated his trunk from the floor. Ron glanced around for anything he could do with magic but upon seeing nothing his shoulders slumped and he walked out after the others.
Downstairs the Dursleys were all in the kitchen eating lunch. For Dudley it seemed closer to a snack however. Petunia was flittering round like a bizarre, overgrown moth ensuring that everyone had as much as they wanted whilst the males of the family consumed as much as humanly possible. Upon Harry’s entrance to the room they all froze however, the tension increasing due to Ron and Hermione’s appearance in the hallway.
“Are you leaving now?” Vernon demanded of Harry, trying to keep his voice level. One wizard was more than he wanted to deal with; three magical persons in his home were enough to make him begin to stutter, teenagers or not.
Harry nodded. “Yeah, I’m leaving now. I’d thank you for the hospitality, had you shown me any.” Vernon scowled darkly at him but remained silent.
“What are you waiting for then? Be gone with you!” Harry needed no more prompting than that from his uncle and turned away from them, leaving the room. “A bit of peace and quiet without any weirdness is exactly what we deserve.”
Harry walked quickly down the hallway, Ron and Hermione were already walking down the garden path, presumably to hail the Knight Bus or whatever form of transport they were taking to Grimmauld Place. A slight tap on his shoulder caused him to spin round in the hallway and he found himself face to face with Petunia.
“Harry,” she began, sounding almost strained from having to remember his name; it had been a long time indeed that he had not been referred to as ‘boy’, “this was left to me by your mother. I don’t know what it is but…”
She brought out a small key from the pocket on her apron. It was attached to a small silver chain and it seemed very similar to those of Gringotts, except that Harry’s key was gold. Upon inspection Harry saw the small seal of the Wizarding bank shimmering at the end of it although there was no clue as to the vault to which it belonged.
“It looks like a key to a vault in Gringotts,” Harry told her and Petunia nodded, seemingly understanding the reference to the Wizarding bank. “Don’t you want it?”
“And enter that Alley with all your kind? No, not a chance,” she snapped, suddenly the same magic-fearing woman Harry had always known. “Take it, there won’t be any money in there anyway.”
“Thanks,” Harry said quietly, pocketing the key and glancing back up towards his aunt. She seemed somehow less imposing today than she had ever done before. Then again it was probably the last time he would see his only remaining family member by blood, whether there was no love between them or not. “Take care,” he added, without really knowing why he said it; they would be careful of everything except overindulging their son it seemed.
“Good luck,” Petunia replied as Harry turned away without really knowing why she said so. The last link to her sister was leaving her, the last of her family and she almost felt something at seeing him disappear. The door shut behind him and she stood frozen in the hallway.
“Mum, where are the biscuits?!” Dudley yelled sounding absolutely outraged from the kitchen.
“They’re on the third cupboard to the left of the cooker, sweetums,” she replied. Already the thoughts of family and her only nephew had disappeared, replaced with an insatiable desire to fill her son fit to bursting. Magic was something for other people, not something which invaded her life any longer. It was something for the freaks and the weirdoes out there but she, along with her family, was perfectly normal, thank you very much.
“Did Harry speak to you?” Minerva asked Remus as the young man took a seat in her office. Well, he was hardly young any longer but, in comparison to herself, she considered him so. She considered all her students, past and present, as ‘young’.
“Yes.” She raised an eyebrow as she observed him across the desk. He seemed calm but there was something in the way he carried himself that made her sense he was otherwise. She could not pinpoint it exactly but perhaps it was the way he slumped slightly in his chair, the way he didn’t even bother to try and conceal the fatigue in his face or his nervous tapping of fingers on the arm of his chair.
“What did he say to you? Did he accept our assistance?” she asked him, almost praying for a positive answer whilst the portraits on the wall around them listened with closed eyes.
“He did,” Remus replied. Minerva did not respond; there was more to be told and she would not interrupt whilst the information was relayed to her, “but there was a lot more said between us. I think it better that you hear it from Harry himself – I don’t think I can field all the questions you’ll have on my own.”
Now that was intriguing if nothing else. Something questionable, most likely Dumbledore related as she was not already aware of it. Perhaps it concerned where he and Dumbledore had gone before Dumbledore’s untimely demise or what they had been doing. Minerva had a strong feeling that Weasley and Granger were aware of the events that had taken place and that did more to unsettle her than anything else. That Harry would have confided his and Dumbledore’s goings on to them but not to herself was not a good sign.
“Very well,” she said after some thought. “What happens now?”
“I’ve persuaded Harry to take up residence at Grimmauld Place once again; I feel it would be safest for him,” Remus told her. Minerva nodded, although she was aware that things would make much more sense when she had spoken to Harry. At the moment it felt as if she was listening to someone speak after removing half the nouns from their speech; the words she was hearing made sense but the overall information meant very little to her.
“I would like to speak to him as soon as possible,” Minerva announced as she rose from her chair, casting a cool glance towards Phineas’s portrait as she crossed the room to the large window on the other side. “Would you be able to persuade him to visit here?”
“I don’t think any persuasion will be necessary; you’re the new Secret Keeper of headquarters so he’ll need to speak to you before he can enter. I got the impression that a prolonged stay at the Dursleys’ was not what he had in mind…” Remus said. He didn’t follow her to the window but instead cast his gaze around the room, soaking in all that Dumbledore had left and the little ways in which the room was already changing towards that of Minerva’s previous office. They would need a new Transfiguration teacher that year as well as someone to take the Dark Arts post – neither of which would be particularly easy to fill but then again there were bigger problems brewing without the worry of a lack of staff.
A thud caused both of them to look towards the fireplace through which Harry had just fallen, pushed by Ron who was close behind him. Hermione stepped calmly over the hearth and the two boys who lay in a heap on the floor.
Before either Ron or Harry could speak, Hermione apologised for their intrusion and explained their errand there was to give Harry the address for the Order headquarters.
“I know where headquarters are,” Harry muttered darkly as he got to his feet, brushing soot from his clothes.
“I’d like to see you trying to get in without having spoken to the new Secret Keeper,” Remus said mildly, knowing that it could be highly amusing to watch.
“The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix are located at number twelve, Grimmauld Place,” Minerva stated matter-of-factly to Harry who nodded and moved towards the fireplace again. “Not so fast, Harry. I’d like to talk to you if you please.”
Harry knew that this could only mean Remus had let slip at least some of the information he had received from himself earlier on that evening. Harry supposed that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; it prevented any possible procrastination on his part when it came to initiating this particular conversation but a part of him rebelled against being pulled into it against his will.
He sat down in one of the chairs next to Remus whilst McGonagall seated herself opposite him, across her desk. She looked quite out of place in the room, as if she herself was merely there to see Dumbledore.
“Well, Harry, just what do you have to say?” she asked.
Harry spoke, explaining the lesson’s he’d been having with Dumbledore the year before and the way in which they had delved into Voldemort’s past in order to understand him better. Minerva presumed that the memories could well be still in the office somewhere should they be needed for any extra scanning and listened on. He spoke, uninterrupted by anyone as Remus listened to the information he had omitted from their conversation earlier and Ron and Hermione stood behind him, listening. However, when one word was mentioned Minerva had no choice but to speak out.
“I’m sorry, Horcruxes?!”
“I’m afraid so,” Harry said. “Voldemort wanted six of them so that his soul would have been in seven pieces.”
“Of course,” she murmured, more to herself than to anyone else in the room. “The most powerful magical number but the sacrifices involved…”
“I was to be one of the sacrifices,” Harry said quietly, “or at least that was what Dumbledore believed. That one clearly didn’t work but six were still created.”
“Do you know their locations?” Inside she was hoping against hope that Dumbledore had shared such information with him but had he known before his death then surely they would have been destroyed long since…
“Two of them have already been destroyed – one which was the cause of Dumbledore’s blackened hand last year and the other in Riddle’s diary,” Harry regretfully informed her, knowing that the information he provided was not as much as she would have wished for. At least two of six had already been destroyed and that was something to be thankful for at the very least.
“And the other four?” This time it was Remus who had spoken. Their earlier conversation had been more to the point of persuading Harry to accept help; it had not been more specifically on the topic of the Horcruxes themselves.
Harry quickly explained about the Horcrux he and Dumbledore had gone to retrieve at the end of the year before pulling out the small note he still had with him signed by the enigmatic R.A.B. along with the fake Horcrux.
“Clearly it must be very similar to this then,” Minerva said, examining the locket and running her fingers over it. She had the feeling that she had seen such a locket before although she could not place where and Remus had a similar feeling of familiarity with the locket.
“Do you have any idea who R.A.B. could be?” Hermione asked the adults once it was clear that a discussion was about to arise between them. Sadly, neither Remus nor Minerva appeared to have any idea as to for whom the letters stood.
“It says that the writer believed they would already be dead when they wrote it,” Ron said, “so it won’t be anyone we know.”
“If they were alive then surely they would have come forwards to Dumbledore and we’d know of them,” Hermione said rationally. Remus hated to admit it but it seemed as if she was right and there was no telling how long ago the Horcrux had been taken or else they could have been able to guess after what time the thief (and that was surely what they had been) had died.
“Dumbledore said that the other two would have most likely been property of the other founders since he liked to collect trophies,” Harry told them. They all looked slightly puzzled by this, although Minerva briefly remembered the memory Harry had described of Riddle as a young boy and the things he had stolen from other children. “And the last and most recently created Horcrux will probably be Nagini – Voldemort’s snake.”
“I’m very glad that two of the Horcruxes have already been disposed of,” Remus sighed as he ran a hand through his hair.
“It’s a pity there isn’t just the one really,” Ron said but Minerva shook her head.
“One Horcrux would have been very carefully guarded indeed and it would have been doubtful that even Dumbledore could have reached it,” she told him. “Perhaps the fact that there are four of them remaining is a good thing.”
Silence stretched out between the five of them, seeming strange and foreign after their long discussion which had Minerva and Remus wanting to hit their heads hard on the wall and at points, burst into tears and resign themselves to the inevitable doom that would befall them. Still, they were the Order of the Phoenix- if they didn’t stick up for the Wizarding world and discover and destroy the Horcruxes then no one else would.
“Silence is golden after such mindless ramblings,” Phineas yawned from the wall and the other portraits glared at him, clearly not caring for his attitude towards the headmistress and her guests. “Still, I suppose it takes a lot of talking to get the most simple of concepts across to some of the more simple students.”
“That’s enough, Phineas!” Dilys snapped at him whilst the other portraits continued to stare disapprovingly.
With their silence came the end of their meeting and Harry, Ron and Hermione moved back towards the fireplace, meaning to travel to Grimmauld Place. Minerva stopped them with three envelopes.
“What are these?” Ron asked, glancing them over. Hermione’s eyes widened as she realised what they’d failed to explain to their new headmistress.
“I’d have thought after receiving one of them before every new school year you would recognise them by now, Ron,” Remus said lightly.
“School letters?” Ron asked and Minerva nodded, raising an eyebrow at his odd reaction to something which was hardly out of the ordinary. “Professor… uh, well we aren’t coming back to school next year.”
As the expressions on Remus’s and Minerva’s faces hardened, Harry began to wish that he’d been halfway into the fire when such information had been disclosed. Sadly that was not the case. He readied himself for what was likely to be quite a fierce argument from two educators.
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