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Somewhere along the line Lilianna and I had switched our daughter and mother roles.  We both knew—and often acknowledged—that she took care of me just as much as I took care of her.  I like to think that being an encouraging and approachable mother to her turned her into the well-adjusted person she is, but really I’m fairly sure it came from her and her alone.

 

They transferred me to one of the regular rooms which, though even tinier than my last room, held another person squished on a bed against the opposite wall, with only about three feet of space between us.  We were smack in the center of the Potion and Plant Poisoning Wing, where I had used to work.  It felt strange and raw to be back here again, again on the wrong side of things—on the patient side.

 

My roommate was an older, dark-haired woman with strong, elegant features, though they sagged slightly in sleep (which I figured out later was actually unconsciousness).  When no one was looking, I peeked at her chart.  Her name was Emmeline Vance, and they had diagnosed her with chronic venumorbus from exposure to a bad potion reaction.

 

I didn’t like being in the same room with her.  She reminded me of a dead body, and for some reason I kept checking her eyes to see if they would open.

 

Phyllis visited, Lili visited, other Healers came to discuss treatment options.  The irony with potion overdoses is that the potion used to quell the cravings is addictive itself. The Healers try like anything not to give it to you, but a Healers greatest weakness is an illness that can’t be solved by magic.  Really all they could do for me is purge my body of the built-up toxins and monitor my reactions, and, of course, keep me away from those perfect little potions that I wanted so badly.  It infuriated me that, despite any concrete treatments, they planned to keep me there for at least three months.

 

None of them would say the word.  Addiction.  But that’s what I was, one of the potion addicts who cycled through the hospital, and then usually came back within a few months.  I wouldn’t come back, though, I told myself.  I had left this place for a reason.  We were doing okay in America.  As soon as they discharged me, we were going back.  Not that I had a job anymore, and we were probably about to lose the apartment if I couldn’t make my payments.  And just thinking about it made my mouth, mind, and body itch for something that would make all the confusion disappear.

 

But everything derailed, for better or for worse, when Albus Dumbledore walked into my tiny hospital room.

 

I was lying in the semi-dark, staring at the ceiling, when there came a knock at the door.  I was in one of my antisocial moods, and I knew it couldn’t be Lilianna at this hour of the morning, so I stayed silent.  The door opened anyway.  At first all I could see was an ostentatious purple flower arrangement poking its way through the door, but its owner soon appeared behind it, in all his larger-than-life glory (and of course, no less purple): Dumbledore.

 

I suffered the usual awkwardness of recognizing a person who in all likelihood had no idea who I was.  And then there was just that good old Dumbledore aura, guaranteed to intimidate, comfort, and confuse you every time.  I wished I had washed my hair in the last two days, and tried to shift my cramped body into a sitting position.

 

He lit a lamp.

 

“Still out, I see,” he said, staring at Emmeline Vance with his usual serenity.  That voice brought back so many memories.  Everything about him was so unchanged.  Timeless, if you will.

 

He set the flowers down on Ms. Vance’s bedside table.

 

“Hello, Headmaster,” I said nervously, “I’m sure you wont remember me—“

 

“Hestia Jones,” he said, nodding his head politely, with that enigmatic smile.  I wasn’t convinced that he hadn’t just peeked at the name on my chart at the end of the bed, but it was a nice gesture anyway.  I was at a total loss as to what to say to a man so legendary, so much greater than I, yet right there in the flesh in front of me, with a little bit of flyaway white hair sticking up out of place.

 

“What brings you back to England?” he asked.  I stared at him.  How had he known that I was gone?  He couldn’t possibly keep track of all his students that closely.

 

“Well…” I began, “This hospital did, really—best in the world, isn't it?  I got into a bit of trouble in the States, to be honest.  It’s strange to be back, I’ve been so out of touch.” I laughed nervously.  “How’s Hogwarts getting along?”

 

“Not so well, since we’re both being honest,” he said, his blue eyes and his half-moon glasses staring at me intensely.  “We had quite a scare this past June.”

 

I vaguely remembered seeing something in the newspaper a few weeks before about Dumbledore losing his credibility—going senile, or something.  The word “fearmongering” lingered in my mind.  I hadn’t believed it at the time, and I didn’t believe it now.  All you had to do was look at the man to believe him.

 

“What happened?” I asked.

 

“To make an endlessly long story short, Miss Jones, Voldemort has returned.”

 

I started.  My first instinct was that it shouldn’t be said like that, so abruptly, in a dinky little hospital room.  It was wrong.  I hadn’t even heard that name in so long, I almost forgot what it meant.

 

“Impossible,” I said instantly.

 

“A common reaction,” he sighed, and turned a bit coolly back to gaze at Emmeline Vance.

 

“No—well, I mean, but how can you know?  He—I thought—“

 

“It was witnessed,” he said, “I’m sure you remember Harry Potter.”  He turned his keen eyes back to me.

 

I didn’t want to remember Harry Potter.  I didn’t want to be here again.  Lilianna and I had to leave.  How could he be back?  How could everything be dredged up again that was so rightfully forgotten?  I almost laughed as I realized that Lili and I were a sort of war-torn family.  And we most definitely didn’t need this.  Why would Dumbledore even tell me this?

 

“Wouldn’t—“ I tried, “Wouldn’t it be in the news?  Wouldn’t everyone be panicking?”

 

“One would think.  But the Ministry’s done their part to discredit me.”

 

“Yeah—I saw…Professor?”

 

He smiled and eyed me ironically.  “Professor?” he asked.

 

I laughed, “You’re right, how old am I?  Er—Mr. Dumbledore, sir?”

 

“Albus, if you please.”

 

But I didn’t please.

 

“Yes—well, are you quite sure?  About—him?”

 

“Quite, quite, all too sure, Miss Jones,” he said sadly.

 

“Well, in that case…”  I got my nerve up. “Is there anything I could do?  To help?  I need—I need a cause I guess.  And I feel—I have a bit of a debt to be paid.”

 

He looked at me, almost as if he knew exactly what that debt was.  I, on the other hand, had no idea what I might be getting myself into.  But I guess it felt a little right, to offer myself up that way, to finally stop running away.  And it also felt like everything was going way too fast.

 

Dumbledore flicked his wand at the door, almost imperceptibly, to seal it, no doubt.

 

“We always need more people.  With so few, you could be endlessly useful.”  He thought for a moment, “And you, with absolutely no connection to us—yes, Miss Jones.  But only if you are ready to fully commit yourself.  This is nothing to be taken lightly, as I’m sure you understand.”

 

I hesitated.  “Is it—is it still called the Order of the Phoenix?”  I almost added, Just like when Peter was in it?

 

“Of course,” he said.

 

I stopped for a moment.  I had passed it up before, but maybe this was the right thing to do.  Not because I was brave.  I obviously wasn’t.  But just to give back.  And for selfish reasons.  To make me feel better.  To dispel some of this guilt.

 

“I’ll do it.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it.”

 

“But I just have to say, there are—complications.”

 

I went on to tell him how I didn’t have a place to stay, how I had a daughter who I couldn’t take care of because I was confined to this hospital for months to come, and how my life really, really needed a change.  He drew up a chair, and listened unobtrusively.  

 

When I came to an awkward conclusion, he told me that he could not only offer Lili and me lodging in some place he called “Headquarters,” but also a full-time job and, if he pulled some strings, an early discharge from St. Mungo’s.

 

“We have a potioneer who’s a bit of a young star in the potions world.  If he agrees to overlook your treatment, they will release you by next week.  And it just so happens he will be living at Headquarters as well this summer.”

 

I stared at him like he was some sort of personal savior, which, of course, he was.  I could finally feel like my life was taking some sort of direction, which, of course, in all likelihood, it wasn’t.

 

Emmeline Vance soon recovered from her less-than-talkative state.  The moment she discovered that I was newly ordained into the “Order,” she began having some very serious talks with me—to the point of discomfort.  It took her about a minute to find out what brought me to the hospital in the first place, then half an hour to gather all the particulars of my family and life history—some harder, some easier to extricate—and of course with a few holes I obstinately avoided filling.  She did it all with such a motherly, do-gooder forwardness that I hardly minded her gentle nose probing into my personal business.  I was running out of people who genuinely cared anyway.  And, with her serene, faraway look and slow continual head-nodding as she spoke, she managed to plan all the aspects of my life that I’d been steadfastly ignoring.

 

“Lilianna must have proper instruction before she starts at Hogwarts,” (of course she had fallen in love with Lili the moment she saw her) “Those American schools just don’t measure up—I know exactly the person—she’s an angel, right here in London, named Caramela Carr.  How are your funds?”

 

She looked at me over her glasses, politely, yet at the same time with full expectation that an answer would be forthcoming to even such a personal question.

 

“I’ve a decent sum—for our lifestyle, anyway.  I don’t know what it is in Galleons.  But I kept a steady job in the U.S.—well, mostly—.” I momentarily fought an embarrassing memory from invading my head.  “I taught preschool.”

 

Emmeline Vance kept nodding, but I saw her contract into her head, thinking.

 

“You can do better,” she said, “The Order will open things up to you.  Everything’s on the verge of crisis right now of course, but assuming the world doesn’t end—“ she gave an uncharacteristic nervous laugh—“Very smart, connected people in this group.  Good people.  And some just affiliated—the head of St. Mungo’s, Harper Fill, for example.  You wouldn’t catch her near a meeting, but she’s always there when we need her.  Of course I’m speaking in terms of decades ago, we’re just gathering our forces as of yet.  Lots died the last time around.  Or worse.  I hate to say it.”

 

I tried not to think about what worse could be—nor about the people who I knew very well had died the last time.  Emmeline Vance launched into her next topic.

 

“I’m thinking—there are plenty of nice young single men—well maybe plenty’s an overstatement, but Remus Lupin just reappeared out of nowhere—the nicest you’ll find and very near your age—though you wouldn’t know it to look at him—or, for Goodness’ sake, Eddie Bobbens—of course these names mean nothing to you, but he works for me—“

 

“No!” I interjected, “Remus Lupin—I know him!  We went to school together.”

 

I filled with excitement or panic—old names, old faces; it would be too strange to see those young teenagers slackened and jaded, Remus Lupin more so than others.  We had almost been friends, but only through Peter.  And we had sustained very similar losses, to say the least.

 

For the hundredth time I wondered what I was getting myself into.  And, worse, I hadn’t yet told Lilianna.  She had a school back home, Magic Academy, that she pretended to hate but really loved, and the last thing I wanted to do was take her away from her life and her friends.

 

But it had to be done.  I planned it out in my head, recited the words—though of course they never come out right when the time comes.

 

“Lils, you’re not going to like what I have to tell you.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, did you ever hear about Voldemort?”

 

“Yeah, ‘course.  But we didn’t cover him in history yet.”

 

“Well, when I left England after you were born, we all thought he was gone, see.  But I had a talk with Albus Dumbledore recently—“

 

“You talked?  With Albus Dumbledore?  But—I did a project on him!”  She looked at me in awe.  It was the “cool mum” look, and I suddenly forgot all my prepared speech and knew exactly what to say.

 

“Yes, he was here.”  Lilianna looked around the room in newfound appreciation.  “He used to be my Headmaster—er, principal—at my school, Hogwarts.”

 

She giggled, whether from being starstruck by Dumbledore or from the ridiculousness of the name ‘Hogwarts,’ I don’t know.

 

“Dang, mom, there’s so much I don’t know about you.”

 

“Not really,” I said, laughing, “Anyway, he told me something very serious.  He said that Voldemort has returned.”

 

“You’re right, I don’t like this news,” she said, her little brown eyes wide.

 

“No—well—it gets…worse.”

 

“What?”

 

“Dumbledore needs people.  To help him.  It’s a bit like a resistance, really, before a full war breaks out.”

 

Her eyes narrowed, “So?”

 

I faltered, “So…I told him I would—that we would.”

 

“And why did you do that?”

 

“Sweetie, because—“

 

“Didn’t you even think of asking me first?”  She donned her little angry-and-hurt look that she’d been perfecting since the age of three.

 

“You don’t understand.  We’re like soldiers now, babe.  Even you.  And we’re fighting against the worst Dark Wizard, possibly of all time.  Don’t you think you could take a little inconvenience for that?”

 

She still looked mad, but I could tell she was listening.

 

“And the best part—guess where we’re going to go stay?  A totally untraceable place that they call only ‘Headquarters.’  It’s like a book or a movie.  You won’t be in any danger, but you’ll have the best stories to tell your friends when we get back home.  So…will you do this for me, please?  This little adventure?”

 

She said nothing to me for a long time.  We both knew that my mind was made up, but we also knew that she could make this a whole lot harder or a whole lot easier for me.

 

“You’re going to be like…a spy?” she asked eventually.

 

“Yeah.  Pretty cool, huh?”

 

“Or scary,” she said, but she was smiling now, “I never saw you as the spy type, Ma.”

 

“So you don’t mind?” I asked.

 

“For how long though?”

 

I sighed, “I don’t know.  Until it’s done, I suppose.”

 

She looked at her hands for a bit.

 

 “Alright,” she said finally, “Okay.  For the good of the universe, I guess.  And for Albus Dumbledore.”

 

I relaxed, sort of.  Now the plan had nothing in its way.  And for some reason that scared me most of all.


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A/N--I had a bit of a mix up a few chapters ago, and I inserted a new chapter from Peter's perspective (I think it's Chapter 14 now called "Wormtail and I").  If you missed it, you should go and check it out!  I say this only because it hasn't gotten many reads and zero reviews, and I'm curious to see what you guys think of it.  Thanks, as usual!

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