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                                                    Let’s go, don’t wait 
                                              This night’s almost over 
                                               -- First Date, Blink-182

I straighten up, brushing the dust off my robes, to see our surroundings. The building, presumably the inside of the Hog’s Head, the pub Dean mentioned, is small, filthy, and packed with people. There is Remus, Molly, Arthur, Kingsley, and Tonks, all of whom look serious as they talk to the long-bearded man whom I take to be the pub owner; even bright and cheery Tonks has a small frown creasing her brow. I don’t approve of that girl. The way she always changes her appearance makes my head spin, even though it’s easy enough to pick out the distinguishing features of her face.

Looking thoroughly uninterested in what the adults are discussing, Fred and George sit with their friend Lee Jordan in a corner, talking animatedly about a new product they’re working on for the shop. Fred has a small, neon blue bit of plastic in his hand. George grasps the other end and pulls; a scream like a banshee rattles some of the glasses resting on the pub shelves, but otherwise nothing happens. Fred’s shoulders droop slightly in disappointment.

“FRED! GEORGE!” A harassed-looking Molly stomps over to them, hair sticking out oddly and face a delicate shade of red. It is far from attractive. “This is not the time--!”

“Now, Molly, we need to focus on the matter at hand,” Remus says gently, laying one hand on her shoulder and using the other to restrain her from murdering her twin sons. “Let’s not waste time fighting those who are not our enemies.”

She scowls briefly at Fred and George again, who for once in their lives look somewhat guilty for the distraction they caused, and returns to converse in a low, furious voice to the pub owner and the other Order members. “It’s not like that was what we meant for it to do,” Fred mutters.

Ginny is here as well, sitting with her elbow on one of the tables and her head resting in her palm. Luna is across from her, and Dean is next to Luna. “I want to get into the castle,” Ginny hisses in frustration. “I didn’t come here just to sit around and--”

“Then let’s go,” Dean urges, standing up and looking down at her. “Luna told me you have a way into the castle from here. Why not use it? Or will your mum not let you?”

“Whether my mum will let me or not is beside the point!” Ginny exclaims fiercely. “Fine, then, while they’re all busy.” She strides over and jabs Fred in the side. “Come on, we’re going in the castle. Everyone else can take their merry old time discussing what we’re going to do when we get inside, but we’re actually going to do something about it.”

Fred looks startled at her harsh tone. “Calm down, Ginny,” he says uncertainly. “We’ll go. Where’s this brilliant secret passageway you’ve been chattering on about since Christmas?”

She pulls them over to a portrait of a young girl with long blonde hair. After a few muttered words, the portrait silently swings open to reveal a long, dimly lit tunnel. Shooting a furtive glance at the Order members, particularly her mother, Ginny climbs in and gestures at her friends and older brothers to follow. “Quick, while they’re not looking!” Her mood seems to have lifted at the prospect of returning to Hogwarts, particularly under such surreptitious conditions.

Bill takes me by the hand and pulls me over to the crowd of Order members, standing in a way that would block Molly’s view of the portrait if she bothers looking in that direction. She is much more intent on the bartender, however, gesturing wildly and, since she doesn’t realize that there are no longer children around, hissing just loud enough to be heard, “I can’t believe you let them inside the castle! I’m thankful that you helped them, I really am, but they’re children! Why didn’t you send them straight to me?”

“I tried to turn them away,” the man defends lazily, “but they had their hearts set on getting into that school. Said it was for Albus.” He frowns, as though this does not particularly please him. “The best I might have done would have been to Stun them, and even then they would have had to stay here. I don’t know where you live.”

Molly looks furious. “Is this what they’ve been talking about the whole time?” Bill mutters under his breath to Arthur.

“No,” his father replies wearily. “At first we were discussing what to do when he shows us how we get into Hogwarts. Then Aberforth let slip that we would be going in the same way as Harry did, and, well… After Molly heard on Potterwatch today about their little adventure in Gringotts, she went a bit over the top.” He casts her a sideways glance, and I follow his gaze; she is back in that frenzied, eccentric state. I really wish she would stop doing that. It causes an ache in my head and stomach that is both uncomfortable and disgusting.

“So what do we do when we get into Hogwarts?” Bill inquires, still speaking only for Arthur and I to hear. “Dean said there was going to be a fight. Is that true?”

“I don’t know,” Arthur sighs. “That’s the issue we’re trying to resolve. It would certainly seem that Harry’s return would cause a stir large enough to start a battle… but is that what his intentions are? And more importantly, we don’t know how many people in Hogwarts will be willing to fight. Ginny has told us repeatedly that the students have been rebelling all year, but when it comes to a fight, we can’t let anyone under age risk their life.” He shakes his head. “I’m grateful to know that he’s alive, but Harry’s return has certainly complicated things.”

I have nothing to say. Frankly, I agree with Molly. The bartender -- Aberforth, as Arthur said -- should have made a greater effort to hold off Harry, Ron, and Hermione, even if he couldn’t bring them back to the Burrow. Hiding safely in the Hog’s Head would be a much better alternative to wandering the hostile halls of a school taken over by You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters.

“So I guess we’ve got no choice,” concludes Bill. I look at him wonderingly -- me and everyone else, that is. “One way or another, we’ve got to talk to Harry. We need to know what his game is.”

Arthur just nods and says, “Well then, no sense in delaying any further. Let’s all just get ourselves through that secret tunnel Aberforth mentioned, and -- oh. Oh dear.” His eyes have finally found the table where his children were sitting, now deserted. He quails slightly and chances a glance at Molly.

I can tell there’s a tantrum coming on. Molly squares her shoulders and grinds out in a dangerously low voice, “When I get my hands on them…” Her face -- no, more like her entire body -- is a shade of red I never knew existed.

Delicately, Arthur puts a hand on her forearm and squeezes. “Mollywobbles,” he says coaxingly, “for the sake of what’s happening right now, maybe just this once, it would be best to just let it go… harmless thing really, they were going to come with us in a few moments anyway…”

He falters under the piercing glare she fires his way. He is a brave man to have spoken up at all, though rather foolish. I like to think I have enough sense not to confront Molly Weasley this way.

“Just think what could happen!” she exclaims vehemently, still not reaching an overly loud volume (though of course we all know she’s capable of it). “What if the Death Eaters break into the Room of Requirement, hmm?”

“Can’t be done,” Aberforth puts in calmly.

“Oh, hush up!” Molly snaps. “We are going now. And so help those mischievous children of mine…”

Bill looks at me helplessly, and we have no choice but to follow his mother’s storming footsteps to and through the tunnel.

I hesitate before climbing into the portrait hole. Whatever is waiting on the other side is not going to be pretty in any sense of the word. Bill and I have heard countless stories of what happened to those children who remained at Hogwarts. Though Ginny tried to make her words come out as casual as possible, any fool could realize the horror she had experienced -- that the other are still experiencing.

Battle or not, I am not keen on seeing what lies on the opposite end of this tunnel. But, seeing no other option, I follow my husband and his -- our -- family into the unknown. 

A/N: Yes, a three month wait, and then there's really nothing in this chapter. It's the calm before the storm, though; the next chapter should be more interesting. Remember, reviews are appreciated!

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