Hermione set down Ron’s letter and pulled out some parchment and a quill for her reply. The Weasley family owl, Errol, wheezed as it recovered from the long flight to her house. Hermione’s parents had long since gotten used to the arrival of owls that carried items in their mouth and flew purposefully toward Hermione each time they came through the window. Unlike the Muggles Harry lived with, Hermione’s parents found anything to do with the Wizarding world fascinating; they had beamed with pride at their daughter’s acceptance into Hogwarts, school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
I’ve got the message. I’ll get packed and will be ready to be picked up tomorrow morning.
Hermione sealed the letter and held it out to the frail owl, who took it reluctantly. With one last labored breath, Errol exited through Hermione’s bedroom window and into the night sky. Ron had just informed Hermione that he and his family were currently residing at a new location, which he couldn’t disclose through a letter, and that someone would be coming for Hermione to bring her there. Normally she would get to the Burrow via Floo Powder during the summer, since her parents couldn’t likely drive her all that way. It’d be so much easier if Ron could just tell her where they were to save his family the trouble of sending someone; that way she would know what to call out in the green flames of the Floo Network to arrive there within moments.
However, considering the current situation from the end of their school year, she did understand their caution. As Dumbledore and Harry told her and Ron, You-Know-Who was back – complete with his own body and his old, formidable powers. Hermione shuddered slightly at the thought and looked toward her bedroom door, which was ajar and let some light from the hallway leak into her room. She had told her parents briefly about what happened last year, but they couldn’t begin to understand just how frightening and serious it all was – not unless they were around witches and wizard who, like herself, couldn’t bear to even speak his name, let alone face him.
But Dumbledore and Harry can speak his name, she reminded herself. She took a deep breath and muttered, “Vol…de…mort…” She shook her head, but felt a little more confident as she began to pack her things in preparation for the following morning. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself. Dumbledore’s words rang in her head as she silently vowed to herself to only use his proper name from now on.
Hermione brought her things downstairs to the front entrance the next morning, with her parents’ help. They were a little bit leery of letting her go to an unknown location where they wouldn’t know where to find her, but she’d assured them that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would never let her go somewhere unsafe. After a few minutes of waiting in the living room, they heard the lock of their front door click and the door opened. Her parents jumped up from the couch, alarmed, but Hermione reminded them that wizards don’t use doorbells. She walked to the entrance where a young woman, tall, with bright purple shoulder-length hair stood, looking admiringly around the house before her eyes rested upon Hermione.
“Wotcher. You must be Hermione. I’m Tonks,” she said. She grinned and held out her right hand. “I’m your transportation.”
Hermione returned the smile and shook Tonks’ hand as her parents arrived behind her, both smiling uncertainly at the very unique appearance of the woman in front of them. Hermione admitted to herself that Tonks did capture the Muggle-appearance a bit better than some other witches and wizards she’d met, but her attire still did seem out of place next to her proper parents’ attire of slacks and button up tops. Not to mention Tonks’ eye-popping hair color.
Hermione stepped back so that Tonks could come inside and shake her parents’ hands as well. “How do you know Ron?” she asked.
“I’m actually Sirius’s cousin,” Tonks replied, grinning at Hermione’s gasp of surprise. “But I know Arthur Weasley from the Ministry. I work there, too.”
“You… you know about… Sirius?” Hermione still chose to whisper Sirius’s name. He was, after all, a committed criminal on the run: under false charges, of course. She, Ron, and Harry only permitted themselves to speak of Sirius in private, and often with the nickname “Snuffles” to avoid anyone overhearing them and assuming the worst.
“Yep. Know he’s innocent, too. And,” she added, smiling more broadly, “he happens to be where we’re headed.”
Hermione smiled more as well. She knew Harry would be happy to see Sirius once he arrived, seeing as he was Sirius’s godson. She glanced back at her parents, who wore confused expressions, but looked politely content. “I’ll write you both when I can,” she said, hugging each tightly before reaching down for one of her trunks, and the cage in which she had her orange cat, Crookshanks.
Tonks grabbed the remaining trunks and nodded to Hermione’s parents. “Nice meeting you lot.” She motioned Hermione to come closer. “Have you Apparated before?” she asked.
“No but I’ve read all about it,” Hermione replied matter-of-factly. She could feel her excitement growing at the thought of getting to try it. “It’s a bit like traveling by Floo powder or Portkey, isn’t it? But you have to be a licensed and skilled wizard to do it.”
“S’right,” Tonks replied, seemingly amused by Hermione’s know-it-all attitude. “You can Apparate as well as long as you keep contact with me. And you’ve got your wand, too, right?”
Hermione set down her trunk and pulled her wand out.
“Well you’ll be needing that, so keep it close. Bye Mr. and Mrs. Granger,” Tonks said, grabbing Hermione’s arm. The second Hermione retained her trunk in her hand, the two were transported. It was a bit like traveling by Portkey, which Hermione had done during her previous summer, but that didn’t make the sensation any less exhilarating and nauseating. They hit the ground hard in a dark, deserted area and Hermione had to lean forward and take deep breaths to prevent herself from being sick. Crookshanks yowled softly, informing Hermione that he did not enjoy the journey either. Once she came to her senses, she glanced around, not recognizing anything. “Where are we?” she whispered, feeling the situation called for precaution and silence.
“Just outside our destination. Couldn’t arrive somewhere where Muggles might see us appear out of nowhere, could we?” Tonks replied, her voice also low, though looking very well for someone who was just spun around and thrown onto the ground. “You ready?”
Hermione took one last breath and stood up straight, nodding. She followed Tonks forward into what looked like a run-down Muggle neighborhood. She assumed it was Muggle-inhabited because of Tonks not wanting to Apparate in direct sight, but also because it literally reminded her of the town over from hers. That is, a much dingier and worn version of the town over from hers. The houses were very close together, each bearing a number on the front, but the paint was peeling, some of the windows’ glass panes were shattered, and it looked as though no one owned a rubbish bin the way it was strewn all around the porches and lawns. Hermione blinked and looked around as one of the street lights went out, then another, and another. She noticed the balls all floating back to one location, right where Tonks was standing.
“That’s a Put-Outer, isn’t it? Like Dumbledore has?” Hermione asked, almost forgetting to keep her voice low.
“The very same one,” Tonks whispered, winking at her. “We don’t want anyone looking out at us.”
Hermione nodded, suddenly more nervous. They certainly were taking a lot of precautions. She was gazing at the numbered houses when she noticed the absence of number twelve between eleven and thirteen. All of the other numbers were present, she saw as she glanced side to side and even behind her. Just as she was about to comment on this peculiarity, Tonks held out a scrap of paper in front of her. She looked up at Tonks to inquire about its importance but saw her holding a finger to her mouth, and winking once more. Hermione glanced back down:
The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.
“But, number twelve is—” Hermione began, to be interrupted by Tonks’ “Shh!” Tonks merely indicated the space between eleven and thirteen. Hermione resisted the urge to protest once more and merely bore her eyes into the miniscule space between these two buildings, now taking in the rest of the note. The Order of the Phoenix? she wondered. Hermione blinked hard when a door suddenly popped out between numbers eleven and thirteen, followed by the walls of a building identical to its neighbors, except that a number twelve was on the front of this one. The growing building pushed the others out of the way to make room for itself and, as the panic-stricken Hermione realized, none of the inhabitants of the other buildings seemed to notice. The music she had heard coming from number eleven, muffled from the walls, but clearly loud, did not cease, and no one rushed to the windows to look outside at what would seem to be an earthquake of sorts.
Hermione’s mind buzzed with questions, as well as possible theories, but she kept silent. Tonks placed her hand on Hermione’s shoulder and led her toward the newly emerged building. She opened its black door with her wand, instead of utilizing its silver serpent door handle. As they stepped into the dark entry way, Tonks released the lights from the Put-Outer and Hermione looked around. Something was very wrong about this place. For one thing, the musty, damp smell from everything around her suggested the place was, or had been, uninhabited for a very long time. Not only that, she thought, noticing more snake décor, but it had definitely once belonged to Dark wizards. This she was sure of.
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