Hermione looked imploringly at Tonks, wishing so much to speak her concerns but was instead hugged by a woman she immediately knew to be Ron’s mother. “Mrs. Weasley!” she whispered, returning the hug. At least she knew they were in the right place.
“Hello, dear,” Mrs. Weasley replied, releasing Hermione and looking at her with a very warm smile. She whispered greeting to Tonks as well and led the two out of the entry into what appeared to be a living room, though it was much too dark to tell for sure. “Ron is upstairs. He’ll tell you everything. Tonks and I need to be going to the meeting.”
“What meeting? Is this about the… Order of the Phoenix?” Hermione asked, glad to be able to talk again.
“Yes, dear. Ron will explain. But keep your voice down,” Mrs. Weasley warned. She waved her wand and Hermione’s trunks began to make their way upstairs. Hermione removed Crookshanks from his cage and held him in her arms as she reluctantly followed her trunks. She glanced back at Tonks and Mrs. Weasley to see them enter a room and disappear behind its door. Hermione hugged Crookshanks tighter to herself as she continued walking. Despite the comfort of knowing the Weasleys were here, the place was not any less disturbing. She almost lost her footing while going upstairs when she saw what looked like house-elves’ heads mounted on the wall. “Really!” she hissed, her distaste for the place growing immensely. She tore her gaze from the wall when she heard footsteps and saw a tall red-headed boy approaching with a confused expression on his face.
“Oh, Ron!” she gasped. She set down Crookshanks and ran into Ron’s arms, who stumbled back a bit before slowly putting his arms around her. Crookshanks meowed loudly and ran to avoid being trampled on by Hermione. “Where are we?” Hermione whispered forcefully. “Why would your family choose to come to a place like this?”
“You saw the house-elves, then?” Ron asked, smiling slightly. His cheeks were flushed when she let go and looked up at him. “It’s a long story… How much did Mum tell you?”
“Nothing at all,” Hermione whined. “Except I know it has something to do with ‘the Order of the Phoenix.’ Do you know what that is?” She gazed at him intensely, desperate for answers.
“Yeah… yeah I know a bit. Listen, come in here and we’ll all explain, ok? We don’t have to be as quiet,” Ron replied, turning toward a door a little ways from the top step and motioning her to follow.
Hermione quickly caught up, not wanting to be alone any longer in here. She followed him through the door, which also bore a serpent on the handle. She shook her head at it. Really. Why are we here?
The inside of the room was not much better, but at least it bore the familiarity of several red-headed people, sitting upon each of the two twin beds inside.
“Hey, Hermione,” the youngest, Ginny, greeted her. She got up and hugged Hermione. “All right?”
“Not at all! What is this place?” Hermione demanded, her voice now normal volume to match Ginny’s. The twin red-heads grinned and stood up to greet her also. “Liked the mounts on the wall, did you?” Fred said, and George grinned more in response.
“It’s barbaric! Who would do such a thing?” Hermione said, crossing her arms in a huff. “Can someone please tell me what we’re all doing here?” She stared down each one of them, who all looked at one another, silently asking who would want to explain.
“It’s for the Order,” Ron finally said then sat down upon one of the beds. He looked up at the others who all took their seats back on the beds.
“And what exactly is that?” Hermione asked, walking over and sitting by Ron. She couldn’t hide her disapproval of the whole situation, and she could tell from the shared smile between Ginny and the twins that they knew it too.
“Well… have you been reading the Daily Prophet?” Ron asked. He looked into her eyes and, upon meeting her fierce gaze, looked down, searching the ground.
“I don’t get it much during the summer, no. Why?” she asked, following his gaze to a messy stack of Daily Prophet newspapers.
Ron gave her a sheepish expression and placed the top paper onto her lap.
Though not sure what this had to do with anything she’d asked, Hermione picked up the paper and quickly scanned it for a worthwhile article. A headline bearing Dumbledore’s name caught her eye and she read it more thoroughly. Her eyes widened and she scoffed, looking up at Ron and then the others. “They’re not serious?” she asked.
“Of course they are! We all know Dumbledore’s off his rocker, don’t we?” George said sarcastically.
“How could they… There’s no other logical explanation!” Hermione said, glaring back at the article as if reading further would reveal this all to be a joke.
“Fudge isn’t a logical person, apparently. Would rather think anything than think that the most powerful Dark wizard in the world, who everyone thought was dead, is suddenly back and vengeful,” Fred said, smiling darkly at Hermione.
She read on to another article which similarly belittled the intelligence of Harry. After all, Harry was the one who told Dumbledore what happened to him at the end of the Tri-Wizard Tournament last year – how he saw Voldemort’s return to power with his own eyes.
“So…” Hermione began, folding the paper and closing her eyes to keep herself calm. “The Ministry has decided that despite everything Dumbledore and Harry said… Voldemort has not, nor will he ever have, returned?”
Upon hearing no response, she looked at Ron who looked a bit more nervous, but nodded. She remembered she’d never said Voldemort’s name in front of them. “Well…” Ron said. “Since the Ministry is making Dumbledore seem nutters, he had to tell as many people as he could about… You-Know-Who…” He glanced at her nervously before continuing. “That’s what the Order is.”
“So the Order of the Phoenix is… a group of people who believe Dumbledore?” Hermione asked.
“As far as we know,” Fred said. “Course we can’t go to any of the meetings so we don’t know what else they do.” Hermione didn’t miss his bitter tone.
“But then… why are we here? I’m fairly certain this house was owned by Dark wizards!” Hermione exclaimed, ready to finally get some answers.
“You can see why something like the Order would have to stay secret. If anyone is known to support Dumbledore, people will think they’re nutters, too,” Ginny said. “They could lose their reputations, their jobs…”
“And that’s why we’re not meeting at your house?” Hermione asked.
“Yeah… no one knows about this place, and we can’t tell anyone about it either. That’s why you had to see that piece of paper before you could get in,” Ron said, answering another one of Hermione’s questions before she could ask it. “Only members of the Order can find it.”
“It used to be Sirius’s house, when he was little,” Ginny added, again answering Hermione’s unasked question of how they ended up choosing this place as the secret location.
“So, he is here then?” Hermione asked, now more relaxed than she had been since she left her parents’. “Tonks told me she’s his cousin.”
“So that’s who picked you up?” Ron asked.
“Great fun, isn’t she?” George asked, laughing with Fred and Ginny at some shared joke.
“She certainly is… interesting,” Hermione said honestly. She liked Tonks fine, but wouldn’t pick “fun” as the first adjective to describe her. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone with purple hair before.”
“Just wait till it turns pink,” Ginny giggled.
“What?” Hermione said. “Does she Transfigure her hair?”
“Try her whole body, mate,” Fred said, and the three of them went into detail of all of the many forms Tonks hair, face, and body had taken for what seemed to be solely for their own entertainment, with a few interjections and laughs from Ron.
Hermione smiled, but mainly in admiration of Tonks. You would have to be a great wizard to be able to Transfigure yourself. “When is Harry getting here?” she asked the group, the mood in the room definitely lighter. She saw Ron’s smile fade before Ginny answered.
“We’re not sure yet, but it’ll be soon,” she said, sharing a secret smile with Hermione who was well aware of her unyielding feelings toward Harry. The two conversed a lot about the best methods for her to become more open to talking to him.
“Oh, I hope he doesn’t feel too horrible about what the Daily Prophet is writing about him,” Hermione whined. “I only wish there was something I could do, but the articles aren’t being written by that horrible Skeeter woman, so I can’t.” Ron shifted beside her, his gaze on the pile of newspapers again.
“If you haven’t been reading the Prophet, I highly doubt he is,” Fred said.
Just then Mrs. Weasley called from downstairs alerting them about lunch being ready. Fred and George quickly got up and out the door, gazing downstairs.
“Already gone,” Fred said bitterly as the rest of the group joined them. He then placed something in his pocket that Hermione couldn’t see.
“Have to get there earlier next time,” George said, also gazing down at the doorway through which Hermione had seen Tonks and Mrs. Weasley enter earlier, with a look of disappointment on his face.
“They really want to catch a bit of the meetings,” Ginny informed Hermione as the five of them made their way downstairs, Ron trailing a bit behind.
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