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A/N: This is a longer chapter than the previous one, but pretty boring if you ask me (I fell asleep on top of the keyboard as I was writing it), but then again I updated so quickly you can hardly blame me... It’s probably one of those ‘information chapters’. Except for the ending, which is a huge plot hint and probably an interesting twist. I’m experiencing some weird problems with hotmail and harrypotterfanfiction.com at the moment, so excuse me if things turn out strange. I haven’t been able to correct the chapters nor respond to reviews for this reason... *sigh* Please leave your reviews anyway, it means the world to me! And congratulate me for getting to Hogwarts this quickly *winks*.
Previously on Harry Potter and the Forest of Shadows: Harry works like a slave in Diagon Alley, and is annoyed to tears by Josephine. The day comes to get his schoolbooks along with his friends, and Hermione takes him aside for some interesting surprises.
* * *
Harry’s last days at Diagon Alley passed without further incident. He was very relieved when it was finally time to say goodbye, because living with Josephine suddenly put Azkaban into a much brighter perspective. Harry was curious to know where he would be taken to afterwards though, since there was still a week until the start of Hogwarts, and Privet Drive wasn’t an option anymore.
“I’ll be taking you to Hogwarts, what d’you think of that?” Tonks told Harry, helping him with his trunks.
He was still too busy busy taking in her new, and shocking appearance, to reply. When she had first entered the twin’s appartment, George had toppled back in shock. Now, after having said their goodbyes, they were walking into the busy streets of Diagon Alley and Harry had plenty of time to observe her. Tonks had replaced her bubble-gum pink hair with long dark locks, and her eyes seemed magnified under many layers of gothic make-up. She reminded Harry vaguely of Dudley’s girlfriend, not a pleasant thought.
“Huh? Oh, really? But classes aren’t starting yet, what am I going to do there all by myself?”
“You’ll have plenty of company, believe me,” Tonks replied good-naturedly. “I, for one, am staying at the headquarters almost full time, and so is Lupin.”
It was a gloomy prospect to Harry. Surrounded by Order of the Phoenix members, who all knew of the crime he had commited... He’d be judged for a week long, with nothing to do but wait.
“Come on, let’s Apparate to King’s Cross,” Tonks whispered, pulling Harry out of the crowd. Harry raised his eyebrows.
“What’s with the secrecy?”
Tonks rolled her mascara-lined eyes.
“Dumbledore made me promise him I’d take you there in a cab, but really, that takes such a long time... And you can Apparate just fine, can’t you? You won’t go somewhere else, will you?” She asked anxiously.
Harry felt a surge of anger, at the knowledge that Dumbledore didn’t even think he was capable of Apparating to the right place. He quickly shook his head.
“Alright then, hold on to your things tightly!”
For the fourth time in his life, Harry focused hard on his scar. He concentrated on getting to King’s Cross, visualizing the busy trainstation in his mind. In no time at all, Harry opened his eyes to find himself where he had wanted. It was going faster every time. Apparating was definitely his favorite way to travel...
“There you are!” Tonks said, sighing with relief. “Alright, let’s be quick about this now. There’s a train to Hogsmeade every other hour, and if we don’t hurry it’ll leave us!”
It was a strange experience, running through the barrier between platforms nine and ten on his own. There were no other students around him in the smoke-filled platform, laughing and pushing their trolleys. The last time he’d be going to Hogwarts as a student, and in a very lonely way...
There was no time to ponder this any further, as Tonks grabbed Harry by his collar and pulled him onto the Hogwarts Express, just in time. The train began moving a split second afterwards, and Tonks dropped into a seat, panting. Harry followed suit, after he had freed Hedwig and stowed away his things. He tried to ignore the wizard opposite them, leering at him from over his newspaper.
“Phew! That was close,” Tonks breathed, “Unfortunately we’re not allowed to Apparate to Hogsmeade anymore unless we have special permission from the Ministry. ‘Tightening security’, Fudge calls it. As though that will make any difference... I’m glad he’s gone.”
“Gone?” Harry asked, sitting up straight. He had been hearing fragments of the elections from the twins and customers, not really reliable sources. There was little time to follow the news when you were working like a house-elf.
“Yeah, he’s gone at last,” Tonks replied, twirling some of her black hair thoughtfully around her finger.
“Oh, I love your new jacket! It’s a bit familiar, dunno where I’ve seen it before-”
“Yeah, yeah, what’s this about Fudge gone? Who won the elections? It wasn’t Percy, was it?” Harry cringed at the thought of his least favourite Weasley brother as the new Minister for Magic.
“Percy? Good Merlin, no! Certainly not after the events last year, I don’t think anyone voted for him. It was silly of him to enter, in the first place.”
“Then who?” Harry asked impatiently.
“He’s right in front of you,” Tonks replied softly, pointing at the Daily Prophet that the wizard opposite them was reading.
Harry’s eyes scanned the first page. It was entitled “Fletcher Victory Takes Fudge To The Limit”. A long text and a black and white photograph followed.
“Fletcher?!” Harry turned to Tonks in disgust. “Mundungus Fletcher? He’s a criminal!”
Tonks shook her head.
“Viscerus Fletcher, Dung’s brother. Although he isn’t too different from Mundungus, I must say... He’s been involved in suspicious handlings before, but no one’s ever proven anything. He’s the Head of the Hit Wizard Squad, and Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”
“Sounds nasty,” Harry remarked, and his eyes landed on the black and white photograph. What he saw turned his blood to ice.
Tonk’s watched him worriedly. “Are you alright, Harry? You look a bit sick.”
Harry just shook his head numbly. He would recognize that face anywhere, because it was one that had haunted his nightmares for seven years. The man staring back at him, no trace of a smile on his face, had a flat nose and barely visible lips. His eyes were very strange; shaped like a cat’s, and of a colour difficult to make out. The only difference between him and Lord Voldemort, was the hair that covered his head.
“Have a cupcake! It always helps me when I’m sick,” Tonks said, offering Harry something from the inside of her robes.
“No, thanks, I feel fine. And that’s a Canary Cream, I wouldn’t eat it if I were you,” Harry said, still staring ahead of him dully. Then the wizard folded up his newspaper, and the horrible face was gone.
Why did this Viscerus Fletcher have a face so much like that of the Dark Lord? It was ironic, when you thought about it. It was almost suspicious, in fact. He could have been his twin. How many people existed with that type of face? Harry suddenly felt nauseous. What if it was more than a freak coincidence? What if Voldemort and Fletcher were related somehow?
Harry tried to shake the thought away.
“Those bloody Fletchers are everywhere, eh?” He said, faking a grin.
Tonks grumbled something darkly.
“You’re completely right, I’m afraid. I still adore Mundungus, he’s a bit of an idiot but certainly the best out of the three. I can’t say I’m too happy with his daughter. And now this psycopath as a Minister...”
She bit ferociously into a Canary Cream.
“What do you mean? Does he support the Dark Arts?” Harry asked warily.
“No, I don’t think so. Or maybe he does, I wouldn’t be surprised. The thing about Viscerus Fletcher is that he handles in lies. He’s been to at least three enquiries on suspicions of corruption. I thought for sure he’d become a Death Eater in the first war, since he’s really the type to follow those he thinks are the most powerful. And he likes inflicting pain, that one. I remember, when we caught up with Demetrius Jugson last year at the raid on Azkaban...” Tonks shuddered.
“Why would someone like that get elected?” Harry asked, astonished.
“Well, for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, Fudge is completely incompetent, and everyone knows it. The only real competition was Fletcher, and the people want someone confident, who knows what they’re doing-”
The wizard infront of them jumped up surprise, as suddenly a huge yellow bird was sitting in Tonks’ place. Harry shook his head, grinning. He knew better than anyone, after weeks of living with the twins, that they couldn’t be trusted.
* * *
The train ride to Hogsmeade had never been so boring before. Tonks was fine for company (at least, after she had shed her feathers and was capable of talking again) but Harry was used to a large crowd of students. People to play Exploding Snap with, Malfoy and his cronies to hex, and the general tales of the holidays to listen to. Without them, the hours just seemed to drag by endlessly.
Finally, as the night cloaked the Hogwarts Express in darkness, Tonks woke Harry up and told him to get his things. He put Hedwig back into her cage and groggily followed the other passengers off the train, into Hogmeade station. This was new too; there were no carriages waiting for them, ready to pull them into comfort.
“We’ll have to walk,” Tonks said, and Harry grumbled in protest.
Luckily, the walk to the castle didn’t seem as far as it did when you were walking through secret tunnels under the ground. It still wasn’t exactly pleasant, because the Forbidden Forest to their left was ever towering above them. Before Harry knew it, they were passing Hagrid’s pumpkin patch and seeing the lights twinkling inside his hut.
“Let’s go in and say hello!” Harry said enthusiastically, but Tonks refused.
“I’ve got orders to take you straight up to the castle.”
Harry didn’t point out that she had ignored the orders not to Apparate, but he would have liked to. It went to the back of his mind, however, when he saw the castle looming up ahead of them. It was as large and intimidating as usual, but Harry instantly felt that he was home. A smile spread across his face, and he quickened his pace.
“Ah, Hogwarts. Who doesn’t love this place? I’m glad the Order of the Phoenix has it’s headquarters here now, I’ve always felt comfortable here,” Tonks said airily.
She led the way up the stone steps to the great front doors, and rapped as loudly as she could. Harry was used to them being opened, with Professor McGonagall waiting for them in the entrance. Did the teachers hear the knocking when they were all the way in the Room of Requirement, on the seventh floor?
“Hello! We’re here!” Tonks called out, cupping her mouth with her hands. A few moments later they heard footsteps on the other side.
“They’re unlocking the door,” Tonks hissed.
Harry heard some alarming banging and removing of padlocks. He’d never known the front doors were so heavily guarded in the holidays. Or was it only because of Voldemort’s return?
At last, the doors swung open and they were faced with McGonagall, her hair falling unprecedented onto her shoulders, and wearing a frilly purple nightgown.
“Mr Potter! Nymphadora! Please, come in. We weren’t expecting you for quite some hours, those Muggle taxis are fast, are they?”
“Oh yes, very fast,” Tonks lied, without blushing. “And please don’t call me that.”
McGonagall pursed her lips, and let them through. When they were all standing in the Entrance Hall (which looked enormous due to lack of people), she locked the doors behind them once more.
“Well? What are you waiting for? Up to the headquarters!”
Harry and Tonks quickly set into motion, climbing the marble staircase.
“She still treats me as though I’m a child,” Tonks told Harry in an undertone.
“Yeah well, compared to her everyone’s a child, including Dumbledore,” Harry replied. Behind them, McGonagall cleared her throat significantly.
* * *
When Harry, Tonks and McGonagall came through the door to the headquarters, they were greeted by a delicious smell. About a dozen witches and wizards looked up from a table loaded with food. Harry recognized Lupin, Mundungus, Mr Weasley, his son Bill, and a few other Order of the Phoenix members from christmas the year before. Apparently they had been discussing something he wasn’t supposed to hear, because all talking stopped the moment he entered the room.
“Wotcher, Lupin! Scoot over, will you? Harry and I are hungry,” Tonks said eagerly. Lupin moved over to make place for them.
“How were your three weeks in Diagon Alley, Harry?” Lupin asked kindly. Some of the wizards at the table exchanged meaningful glances.
“It was alright,” Harry said. He watched the rich potatoes covered in gravy hungrily, and was reminded strongly of Mrs Weasley’s cooking.
“Mum wanted us to bring this along with us tonight, because you were coming,” Bill told him, as though guessing his thoughts. “She doesn’t trust Hogwarts food to be good enough for you.” He chuckled.
Harry helped himself to the potatoes, grinning.
“Were Fred and George behaving?” Mr Weasley asked. “Molly was pressing me to ask you.”
“Oh yeah, they were great.”
“That girl still with them?” Mundungus asked darkly. Harry looked up at him in surprise. What girl was he talking about?
“You mean Katie Bell?” he asked, politely puzzled. Some people around him were shifting uncomfortably in their seats, and McGonagall muttered something dissaproving into Mundungus’ ear.
“No, not her. The other one,” Mundungus said through gritted teeth. “The one working with the bloody son of a Death Eater, Malfoy.”
Harry quickly took a bite out of his potatoes to keep himself from having to answer. So he meant Josephine? Of course, George had told him about the problems with her father.
“Yes, we’ve established that Josephine is staying with Fred and George,” Mr Weasley said wearily. “Now let’s talk about something else, shall we?”
Harry couldn’t be more grateful.
Luckily, the rest of dinner passed by smoothly. Harry’s use of the Unforgivable Curse on his uncle was carefully avoided, and there followed heavy discussions of the election of Viscerus Fletcher as Minister of Magic. As they were getting ready to leave, Mundungus, slightly tipsy from something he had slipped into his pumpkin juice, cursed his whole family to Azkaban.
“Where will I be sleeping?” Harry asked Lupin, as Mr Weasley, Bill, and a few others were saying their goobyes.
“Here, in the Headquarters,” Lupin replied. “The dormitories are sealed off in the holidays, and I daresay you wouldn’t want be sleeping there all on your own?”
Harry shook his head, and Lupin took him to a side room. It was very small, and had no other furniture but a bed, but Harry honestly didn’t care. He was so tired he would have slept in the cupboard under the stairs if he had to.
“I’m in the room next door, so just call if you need anything,” Lupin told him, and closed the door.
Finally, Harry was on his own once again. He hadn’t been alone since that horrible night, when Bellatrix had come for him. One of Voldemort’s weaknesses, Harry decided, was having others do his dirty work for him. That never went well... But it turned out alright for Harry. What did Voldemort have in store for him this year? He’d be trying to kill him again, as usual. The Green Flame Torch had failed, and he would have to try some other way. For some reason Harry felt that it would have something to do with that Viscerus Fletcher...
* * *
Hogwarts was a different place altogether without the hundreds of students constantly walking through the halls, chattering animatedly, hexing each other, or simply being noisy. Even after lessons had started, you could always hear the faint scraping of chairs and whispering voices behind classroom doors. Without the students, Harry felt out of place and alone.
He visited Hagrid’s hut as soon as he got the chance to, and left somewhat dispirited after Hagrid had told him how dissapointed he was that Harry had lowered himself to the use of an Unforgivable Curse. It was painful, because although Hagrid was a renowned rule-breaker himself, he was also a very good person and usually had nothing but the best to say about Harry.
For the rest, time in the Headquarters wasn’t as interesting as it may have sounded. Members came and went, held hasty meetings and received orders from Dumbledore. Harry rarely knew what they were up to, or what the topic of their discussions was, but it wasn’t hard to guess. He was almost sure that his name came up at every single one of their reunions, and it annoyed him beyond reason that he wasn’t a part of them. Before, he’d understood. Fifteen, or sixteen, was too young to be a member. But he was overage now. And even though he was still at school, he wasn’t an ordinary student! The Prophecy was about him, and he had more right than anyone to be in the Order of the Phoenix.
This was what Harry would tell himself every night as he went to bed, and everytime he watched doors closing for a meeting that he wasn’t admitted to. He told Lupin about what was bothering him, but had the feeling that his old professor didn’t take it seriously. So one morning when Dumbledore came in for one of his usual visits, Harry decided it was time for action.
“Professor!” Harry called, hastily getting up from the armchair he’d been sitting in. He had to take his chance, now that the hall was deserted. If Lupin or Mr Weasley suddenly barged in with an important message, it could be ruined.
Dumbledore turned to watch him thoughtfully.
“Yes, Harry? Is there something you need to talk to me about?”
“I know you don’t agree with this, but I’ve decided it’s essential that I become a member of the Order of the Phoenix,” Harry said raptly, praying that the use of a large word would increase his chances. Stupid, really.
“Essential?” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled behind his spectactles.
“Yes. I’m seventeen now, and the twins were seventeen when they became members.”
“Eighteen,” Dumbledore corrected him softly.
Harry shook his head, frustrated.
“Alright, eighteen, but I’m not them! I’m different, I- I’m special,” he said lamely.
“I know you are, Harry,” Dumbledore replied quietly. He sighed deeply, stroking his beard. It looked as though he’d known this moment would come for a long time, but had wanted to avoid it.
“You’re, perhaps, the most special person ever to have lived since Merlin himself. But then again, Professor Trelawney is rather- unique- and you wouldn’t want her herding a pack of buffaloes, would you?”
Harry blinked. He didn’t understand whether he was being complimented, or compared rather unfavourably to a lunatic. Whatever it was, it wasn’t really getting them anywhere.
“What I’m saying is, do you really think that your being a part of the Order of the Phoenix will make any difference?”
Harry considered this for a moment. He hadn’t really thought of himself in that way, since the real reason was that he simply wanted to be let in on what they were discussing all the time.
“Well... Yes. You let Percy become a member, and what good did he do? I’m sure I could be more useful than that.”
He suddenly regretted ever saying it. Mentioning Dumbledore’s errors wasn’t going to help anyone, it would only hurt him.
“I just mean, I think I can make a difference. If I know about what’s going on, I can be protected from them. I’ll also be alert to my surroundings. Strange things always happen around me, I’m bound to pick up something of importance.”
Feeling rather proud of himself, Harry watched Dumbledore in search of a change in his expression. But his ancient professor remained frustratingly quiet, and observant.
“You are giving me valid reasons. However, it isn’t only for me to decide,” Dumbledore began, “I will consult all members, and once we have reached a decision, I shall tell you.”
Harry’s face lit up. He felt butterflies invading his stomach as he realized that finally, he stood a chance. They would consider him.
Dumbledore suddenly seemed impatient.
“Now, let me get to my tea. They tell me Molly has baked a cake?”
* * *
A few days before the start of Hogwarts, Harry was feeling more impatient than ever. Dumbledore still hadn’t given him a reply as to whether or not he would be accepted, and Harry wanted to know desperately. On one of his walks around the lake, he suddenly came up with an idea. Silly, really, that he hadn’t done it before. He’d ask Trelawney. She might have been considered as an old fraud, but Harry had experienced a real prophecy of hers on two occasions. Why wouldn’t it happen again?
Some part of him knew it was ludicrous, but the other, large impatient part, simply wanted to squeeze a prediction out of her. So Harry visited her at the Divination tower, hoping that she wouldn’t be asleep. It was already close to ten, after all.
“Er... Hello? Professor Trelawney?”
Harry approached his old Divination classroom carefully. It looked more eery than usual, maybe because the fire was the light in the place, or maybe because he hadn’t had a Divination lesson for so long.
“Harry Potter. I knew you were coming.”
A shadow in a corner of the room got up ever so slowly, and floated his way. Professor Trelawney smiled at him, be it in a strange way due to her aura of complete battiness. Frizzy hair framing her face, and magnified eyes giving her a perpetual surprised expression, she looked like what Harry considered would be Luna Lovegood in twenty years time.
“Of course you did,” Harry said wearily.
“You stopped coming to my lessons,” Trelawney said, in a voice as though she’d been deprived of her favourite toy.
“Yeah, well, I don’t need Divination to become an Auror. I wish I did, though,” Harry lied. “Oh, and I failed my OWLs.”
Trelawney nodded somberly.
“Yes, I knew you would,” she said mysteriously. Harry doubted it had anything to do with her Seer abilities; anyone in their class could have seen Harry was lousy at Divination.
“I’ve come to ask you a question,” he said, raising his voice. Suddenly something odd caught his eyes behind Trelawney. It was a rather fat doll with a lot of pins stuck into it.
“Really, my boy? What is it?” Trelawney asked, quickly blocking his view. Whatever that doll was meant to do, she didn’t want him to know about it.
“I want you to tell me whether I’m going to become a member of the Order of the Phoenix,” Harry demanded.
Trelawney furrowed her brows, and tutted.
“What sort of question is this? Of course you won’t be, you’re far too young. And before you reach the age to be...” She lowered her voice and her eyes widened. “You will meet your end.”
Harry sighed loudly. He was tired of Trelawney predicting his death, and unfortunately it was a hobby of hers. Since it didn’t seem as though he’d get a straight answer out of her, he decided to make one other question and then leave.
“Fine. Can you at least tell me who’s defeating who; Voldemort or me?”
Trelawney laughed, harshly and fakely.
“My boy, what do you expect me to do? Predict something as farfetched as that? I will not even attempt to respond to such a question, and I feel insulted that you would disturb me at such an hour for something of the sort.”
“Yeah?” Harry asked angrily. “Then what exactly is it that you’re doing that’s more important than defeating Voldemort?”
He pointed wildly at the doll, and was satisfied to see Trelawney redden with embarrasment.
“If you must know, defeating that- that woman Dolores Umbridge, is far more important!”
Harry’s mouth gaped open in surprise as he realized that the doll had a toad-like face and was wearing an Alice band. He remained surprised while Trelawney pushed him down the stairs to her classroom, and shut the door over his head.
But now, Harry knew what he needed to do. He would go to the only person who really seemed to know what they were doing in the paramormal field; the other Divination teacher, Firenze.
“I can’t help you with such a question,” the centaur replied, when Harry had questioned him about the Order matter.
He stood majestically in the miniature forest that Dumbledore had made for him, staring up at the stars rather than facing Harry. They reflected off his silvery flanks, creating an awe-inspiring glow around his body.
“No, apparently no one can,” Harry muttered bitterly.
“You cannot force the messages that the stars give you, Harry Potter,” Firenze said sincerely. He was so calm that Harry experienced a sudden urge of strangling him. Anything to get an answer. Was that his ‘Voldemort side’, as Ron called it, coming to the surface?
“D’you at least have any clue, any tiny hint, of what will happen in the end? Between me and Voldemort?”
Firenze’s eyes narrowed. His face tilted upwards once again, and he raised one of his hands to the sky. As though he was stroking the dark ceiling above him, his fingers traced the dotted outlines of the celestial bodies. Suddenly he froze, and his hand dropped back to his side. When Firenze spoke, his voice was cold and unwavering.
“The stars are unanimous, Harry Potter. It has never been so clear to me before. A shrouded moon will seal your fate, and those your death frees shall rise into the heavens.”
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