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CHAPTER 9
Emergency Meeting



Attack on St Mungo’s. Severus Snape dead. Charlie Weasley hurt but alive. Emergency Order meeting at eleven o’clock, Grimmauld Place. All members will be warned.
AD


That was Dumbledore’s style: short, concise messages. Remus ran a hand through his hair wearily, his sleepy eyes following Dumbledore’s words once again. He read the message a second time, somehow failing to understand the gravity of what he had before him. Then it finally sunk into his mind─ and he winced, thinking he’d had better morning presents.

Snape was dead. Dead.

“Molly! Arthur!” Before he knew it, Remus was banging on their door. “Open up!” He shouted, oblivious to the fact that it was five in the morning. The entire house was silent and he had trouble understanding why nobody was awake. God, Snape was dead. “Arthur, Molly!”

Someone behind the door grumbled. Remus heard footsteps and he had to wait until a face finally appeared in the doorframe. “ ‘s’going on?” Arthur raised an eyebrow at him. He seemed both irritated and slightly worried, as if he already knew he was about to hear a terrible truth.

Wordlessly Remus handed him the parchment. Arthur’s expression quickly switched from annoyance to incredulity, and then to concern. “Merlin─” He muttered. “Charlie…” Arthur looked up at Remus, a sudden note of dread in his now wide-open eyes, before he called his wife. “Molly! Molly, wake up─”

Remus turned away to allow them some privacy. He realized he wasn’t even dressed, so he went back to his room only to find Harry’s door ajar.

“Er─ Remus?” Harry swallowed. “Anything wrong?”

Remus stared at him. He felt a sudden urge to tell Harry to go back to bed; the boy seemed so fragile, shivering in the cold morning air. He was leaning against the wall, barefoot, obviously wondering why on earth Remus had made so much noise. “Harry─”

“Don’t tell me to go back to bed and that nothing’s happened, I know that’s not true.”

A smile Harry couldn’t see reached the corners of Remus’s mouth. Harry sometimes sounded so much like his stubborn father… “All right, not this time then,” Remus agreed. “Actually we can use your help. Can you wake up the others?” He didn’t wait to see Harry nod before he added, “Tell them to get down to the kitchen at once.”

Harry had already turned around and had a foot on the first step. When he had disappeared from view Remus sighed and quickly went to his room to get dressed. He didn’t yet know exactly all that he would have to take care of during the following hours─ but it would be a long day.

***

“Erm, kids?” Remus said quietly when they were all seated in the kitchen. Four heads turned to him. There was a mixture of eagerness and also dread in their expressions, and that, more than anything else, made Remus despise the war. How could you stand seeing such young people having to grow up and hear bad news, when they shouldn’t be worrying about such things? “There will be an Order meeting here this morning at eleven, and therefore everyone will start arriving around nine or ten. You need to be upstairs by that time and remain there until it’s over. It’s five thirty, but we need to get this place tidied up. Understood?”

Ginny and Ron nodded but Harry seemed to want to know more. Hermione felt she knew what he had in mind; usually they were informed of upcoming Order meetings at least three or four days in advance. Personally, she kept quiet. Had it been someone else, like Ron’s mother for example, she might have asked more questions─ but with Remus in front of her, she felt at a total loss for words.

“How come we’re being warned on such short notice?” Harry frowned.

“It’s an emergency meeting,” Remus replied grimly.

“Emergency as if someone died or something?” Harry’s tone was almost eager, making Remus feel sick. He made no answer and instead attempted to prepared breakfast, handing over porridge, corn-flakes, toast and a leftover of fudge, then orange juice and milk.

***

“You see anyone else?” Ron asked impatiently about fours hours later. He was in a squat position directly behind Ginny, who was watching the Entrance Hall from the top of the stairs. Although no one could see her there from downstairs, she had been spying for the past few minutes.

“Yes… Here goes Kingsley…” Ginny muttered. “That’s Charlie… Fred and George... Tonks…”

“You seen Snape?” Harry asked in a whisper.

Ginny didn’t reply immediately, scrutinizing the scene attentively. “Er─ no. Snape’s not there, that’s strange.” She carefully turned back to her brother. “I think that’s it─ Hang on, here comes someone else.” She listened intently, gazing once more past the railway. “It’s Moody. And─ oh no, Mum’s coming!”

They all scattered; Harry and Hermione hurried into the drawing room, which was at the end of the corridor, and Ron and Ginny stormed headfirst into Ron’s room.

When Molly opened the door Harry and Hermione pretended to be deep in conversation, bent over the Marauders’ map. Harry had forgotten to put it away the day before when they’d had a look at it with Ron, and therefore it was a perfect excuse.

“The meeting will start shortly,” Molly said severely. “Whatever you do, stay here and keep quiet.”

“Is everyone here?” Hermione seized the opportunity to ask, putting on the most innocent expression she could muster.

“Yes,” Ron’s mother replied distractedly.

“Everyone?” Harry insisted.

Molly’s brow furrowed in suspicion. “Yes.”

It didn’t take long for Ron and Ginny to come back after she’d left. “So where’s Snape?” Ron questioned. He sounded unconvinced by their former teacher’s absence; as if anything concerning Snape had to be abnormal. “Are you sure you haven’t missed him, Ginny?”

Ginny eyed him with irritation. “Of course not, I saw everyone.”

“But─”

“He didn’t come!” Ginny cut in loudly.

“So where do you think he is then?” Ron replied angrily. They were all in a rather despicable mood; the result of never-ending hours spent cleaning the place instead of being in bed.

“Maybe he’s dead,” Harry suggested.

Hermione froze. The idea didn’t seem to upset Harry too much─ but this was a human being they were talking about. And besides, if she had understood well, Snape was injured. “That’s not funny,” she said coldly. She was sick of them talking of Snape as if he was some kind of monster or plague that had to be eradicated.

“What? You know something we don’t?”

Hermione didn’t hesitate too long, lest they glimpsed her embarrassment. “No. But he’s an Order member, you could at least respect him.”

“It doesn’t explain why he isn’t here.”

Hermione looked away. When silence stretched on, Harry shrugged before taking out a deck of cards. “Fancy playing?”

***

“They’re eighteen now,” Remus interrupted the talks. Dumbledore glanced up at him for an instant, and then went back to his passive position at the end of the long table while the rest of them went on arguing.

“So you think they should be in the Order,” Arthur said nervously. He made it sound more like a statement than a question. Remus was well aware that he had better answer cautiously; Arthur didn’t want to have his kids in the fight, but he knew that if he agreed it might make him change his mind.

“I’m just saying we’ve kept them out of everything for too long. They’ll end up doing something stupid if they have the impression we don’t trust them─”

“They’re too young, Remus,” Molly interrupted categorically.

“He almost sees them as much as you,” McGonagall said with an apologetic glance to Molly. “We should consider it.”

Kingsley glanced at Fred and George, who were curiously quiet, as if uneasy for the first time in their lives with so many grown-ups around. “We don’t hear you two talking much,” he commented.

Everyone turned to them, most members putting down their goblets of wine on the table and leaning closer to hear better what the twins had to say.

“Harry, Ron and Hermione are of age,” Fred was the first to say something. “We waited longer than them before entering the Order, but we also know what it’s like to be confined here without knowing what’s happening.”

George spoke with an unusual gravity, “They have to sit around all day as we come and go out to fight. We all change because of the war, we come back upset, and they have to watch us leave again. None of you have any idea what it feels like to be so powerless.” George paused before he added slowly, “Personally I would have ended up doing something stupid if we hadn’t been allowed in.”

There were five long, uncomfortable seconds. “Well, thank you for being honest,” Molly finally told her son quietly. She seemed thoughtful─ probably, Remus mused, because she was anxious to know what Harry and Ron might come up with.

A few minutes later Dumbledore got up─ the discussion was starting to take a little too much time─ and everyone fell silent. But he didn’t have the time to speak; there was a rather aggressive knock on the door. A deep, unsettling silence greeted it as they all stared at one another.

“Only the kids are here,” Arthur finally broke the tension in the room. “They know they’re not supposed to disrupt us…”

Hermione’s face came into view when Molly went to open the door. She was blushing slightly at the idea of interrupting an Order meeting, so she didn’t linger. “Ron’s sick,” she said quickly to his mother, doing her best not to peer inside and give the impression that she was nosy.

Remus had turned around automatically when the door had opened. He wished he hadn’t; Hermione was precisely looking at him, looking troubled. His hands clutched the arms of his chair, trying to behave normally. At any rate he had to stay seated─

“Remus,” Molly called over her shoulder. He was the closest to the door. He reached it quickly, knowing the Order still had many things to discuss. As he arrived Hermione stared at her feet, anywhere but at him, and had she been able to Disapparate she probably would have.

“Remus,” Molly whispered. “Could you tell Dumbledore that Ron’s sick and that I’m going to see what it’s about?”

Her voice was lost in the distance. Remus remained frozen on the threshold, feeling that maybe his legs might give away. As he realised what Ron’s mother had said he came out of his reverie and shook himself. Everyone, he hoped, would think his reaction was due to the news. Then he turned around and crossed Dumbledore’s inquisitive glare at the end of the long wooden table. The headmaster seemed a little surprised, as though he had just found out something he had been totally unaware of, and that only made Remus more uncomfortable.

He walked around the long wooden table, going around Dedalus Diggle, Tonks, Kingsley, and the rest of them, very conscious of the fact that his footsteps were the only sound in the room.

Still uneasy that so many people were looking at him this way, he bent down to Dumbledore at the end of the table. “Ron’s sick,” Remus muttered to Dumbledore. The old wizard didn’t react; instead he stared at Remus curiously, as though he wanted to hear something else. Remus felt himself redden. He crossed Dumbledore’s cold glare, crestfallen, but nonetheless looked up in defiance.

Now he knew Dumbledore had seen how strangely he had reacted in Hermione’s presence.

“Very well,” the headmaster said as soon as Remus had sat back down. “Ronald Weasley is sick. Arthur, maybe you want to help Molly with it?” Arthur walked out. “Now where were we? Oh─ right, letting Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny in the Order. As it’s still not settled, I suggest we all think about it and vote for it during the next meeting. Some more important issues have to be addressed.”

Dumbledore straightened his half-moon spectacles, peering at the parchment in front of him. “First, Charlie, you will stay here for the night,” Charlie nodded silently. His broken leg had been healed, but he still looked very pale. “Tonks, Fred, George, so will you. Kingsley, Moody, you continue tracking down Voldemort’s Death Eaters and find their lair. Diggle, you keep bugging your source for information on the attack. The rest of you, resume your different missions. And you three─” he gestured at two Order members that Remus didn’t know very well and at Tonks, “─are to tare care of organising the funeral.”

Everyone looked at his or her feet. “Every one will assist.”

There was a collective murmur at these words. It was common knowledge that whatever the situation, however terrible events had been, the Order was to keep functioning: those who tracked Death Eaters kept tracking, those who fought kept fighting. Remus didn’t recall Dumbledore ever asking for everyone to be in the same place at the same time─ even if it was a burial. If the gathering was discovered, the safety of the entire Order of the Phoenix would be compromised.

“I assume you have found a safe place for it then?” McGonagall asked slowly.

“Hogwarts,” Dumbledore replied shortly.

Remus considered the news. It was a strange idea, that Snape was to be buried at Hogwarts. On the other hand─ Snape had taught there, and Hogwarts remained one of the safest places in the country. Moreover, no Ministry officials came.

“Remus,3 Dumbledore called before he left. “Please inform Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny that they are to assist too.”

On these words Dumbledore took a last sip of wine, gave an approving nod at the bottle, rolled the parchments in front of him, waited for the room to clear a bit, and Disapparated noiselessly as only he knew how to.

Remus hastily climbed the stairs to Ron’s room. It was already crowded. There were Arthur and Molly, bent over Ron (Remus couldn’t see him properly), then Harry─ holding hands with Ginny─, Hermione, and finally Tonks and Moody, conversing in a low voice beside the door, taking glances from time to time at the bed on which Ron rested and looking seriously concerned.

“What’s happened?” Remus came forward to them. Moody and Tonks exchanged a glance, before Tonks said quietly, “We’re not sure.” She seemed hesitant to say more.

“Well what’s wrong with him?” Remus asked again, trying to peer inside the room, but all he could see were Arthur and Molly’s backs.

“He’s in a sort of conscious coma. Talks to himself but doesn’t recognise anyone, then starts yelling as though having a nightmare. But he’s not asleep.” Moody gave a low growl. “The one person who would know what to give him would be Snape. Unfortunately…”

Remus looked away and finally got a glimpse of Ron. He was sitting on the bed with his back very straight, his eyes were strangely unfocused, and he seemed to be muttering to himself.

“How did he get like that?” Tonks asked Harry, who had come to them.

“We─ we’d started to play wizard chess… we were tired of Exploding Snap… well anyway─” Harry sounded exhausted. “Suddenly he… well he started shouting that he was tired of it all, then he collapsed on the floor. Nothing seemed wrong with him… I mean no one’s hit him or cursed him or poisoned─” Harry drew a breath, running a hand over his sweating forehead. “Hang on…” he said slowly. “He asked me if I wanted some of his Chocolate Frogs and I said I didn’t feel like it so he started eating them by himself─”

Where did he get them?” Moody said urgently.

“Er─ no idea,” Harry shook his head. “I’ll get them for you,” he sped past them. When he came back he handed Mad-Eye a bag of treats. Moody sniffed it before carefully retrieving a Chocolate Frog with a gloved hand. “They’re poisoned,” he muttered finally.

Remus noticed that there was a hand-written card attached to the bag. He retrieved it. It was signed Neville Longbottom. “Just a present from Ron’s friend.”

Arthur had overheard their last sentences. Feverishly, he took the card from Remus’s hands. Then he closed his eyes and shook his head slightly. “Ron knows better than that…”

“Better than what?” Harry asked tensely.

“The handwriting is Malfoy’s,” Arthur said. “Not Longbottom’s. Lucius is after me these days and dreams of finding out our headquarters. This─” he gestured at the note, “─doesn’t mean they know where Grimmauld Place is. It’s a warning,” he finished grimly.

“Does this have anything to do with the meeting?” Harry asked.

Arthur stared at him for a while. He seemed about to answer when Remus interrupted him. “No. The meeting wasn’t about Ministry problems.” He didn’t add what the meeting had been about. He didn’t have the heart to tell them all that Snape was dead. Not just yet.

Arthur was still looking at Harry. “While I’m thinking of it, I’ll tell the Ministry to postpone your Apparition tests. You’ll take them when Ron’s better.”

Remus went down the stairs trying to find something that would improve Ron’s condition, but he could think of nothing. He headed for the kitchen but decided for another direction when he heard voices. He didn’t feel like talking much, even if everyone but Charlie and the twins had left by now. The living room was most likely empty.

Hermione turned her head toward him. She was crying. For all that he wanted to get out of the room, and quickly, he found himself strangely rooted on the spot. He just couldn’t turn away now that he’d seen her; it would really be rude to go now.

He bit his lip, berating himself for being unable to get his mind off her. “Are you all right?” God. Was that the only thing they could ever manage to say to each other? “Is it Ron?” he asked quietly.

She nodded. Of course it wasn’t just Ron. It seemed like a good excuse though.

“He’ll be fine,” Remus came forward to her. Whether he and Hermione would ever be fine, though, was another story. “Ron will recover,” he tried to reassure her. Just for once in his life, he could at least forget everything else and talk to her normally, couldn’t he?

She sobbed. She felt so stupid, crying there in front of him.

“It was just a bag of treats, we’ll find something,” he said gently.

Hermione didn’t answer. She would have preferred if he had shouted rather than tried to console her. Maybe it would be better for both of them if he left.

He didn’t know what else to say. Words of comfort again, maybe? She probably didn’t want that. It wasn’t what he truly wanted either, in truth. “Hey─” he whispered, and then, in a moment of total recklessness, he pulled her into a hug.

She fell into his embrace, crying in silence on his shoulder, her mane of brown hair shimmering in the morning’s golden light. The door was ajar but nothing mattered anymore as Remus held her close, utterly convinced that they shouldn’t be doing this but unable to pull away.

Footsteps. They seemed to ricochet on the corridor tiles, coming in a measured cadence. When Arthur opened the door Remus and Hermione were already a good foot apart from one another.

Ron’s father came in frowning slightly, but he didn’t comment on what he had─ or not─ seen. “Remus,” he said instead, “Dumbledore wants to see you.”

Remus blinked. “Right now?” His voice scraped. When Arthur nodded, he followed him outside.

Hermione watched him go, drying a last tear with her sleeve. She could still feel Remus’s shoulder against her head; she could hear his voice trying to soothe her.

And she wondered what on earth had got into her, the day she had fallen in love with him─ because in love she was indeed.


*****

A/N: I know you must hate me by now for not posting more lol. I still thank Rosie a lot for all her help as a beta-reader; thanks also to everyone still reading and reviewing this story... I'll post more soon, I promise!

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