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Chapter 1: An Offer of the Phoenix
--Kreacher, describing the Order, OotP
The rain was intolerable, but she had to keep running. The black cloaked figure was not far behind her. And he was catching up. She thanked Merlin that she had already disarmed the wizard. His wand felt heavy in her pocket.
Why did she not Apparate? It would have saved her the trouble of running so fast in a place so dreary and wet. But she refused to lead him to her home. If he had known that she was going to be here today, then he certainly was following her. Perhaps there was someone near her home, ready to attack, waiting for her to appear into the trap.
No. She was not going to give in. She had too many things to live for, to fight for.
Though branches were tearing at her favorite cloak, she could see a clearing up ahead with a significant hill, a chance for her to put more distance between her and her pursuer, a chance for her to gain the upper hand; even though she was with a wand, he was physically stronger than she was.
Through her heavy breathing, she could hear a branch snap from almost directly behind her. She chanced a quick peek behind herself. How could he have gained so much ground on her without her noticing? She was furious with herself.
She reached and felt the top of her head, only to find her dark hair flying loosely behind her. Sometime in the struggle, she had lost her tam.
Suddenly, pressure came from around her neck. So he wanted to choke her. Well, she wasn’t going down without a struggle. She swallowed and quickly loosened the cloak she was wearing. With a pang, she sprinted ahead without the cloak. It had been her favorite one.
Finally, the clearing. All she needed to do was get up that hill. All she needed to—
She never finished the thought. A force hit her from behind and she fell forward. The ground was soft with the heavy rain, but her clothes were muddy. However, that was the least of her worries.
“Ugh,” she coughed as she rolled over, searching desperately for a wand. Her vision was blurred; she could hardly see anything.
“My, my, you’re a tough one to catch,” her pursuer commented as he finally caught up to where she was lying.
She tried to find words, but she couldn’t speak. Her lungs were too busy trying to calm down. There was an odd ringing in her ear.
“But we got you,” he said.
She looked up at him. To her horror, there were two of them. Was she seeing double? What kind of hex did she just get hit with?
“It’s time for you to have a little chat with someone you very well know,” the one on the left said.
“He’s been expecting us for fifteen minutes,” the right one said, putting away his pocket watch. She shook her head, unable to decipher if there were one or two men standing over her. They sounded the same, but she was seeing two.
“D-don’t t-touch me,” she gasped, finally finding her wand. She fumbled with it, but one of the hooded figures snatched it from her.
“If you hex as fast as you run, that wouldn’t be a good thing,” he said. “C’mon, love. Time to go.”
She felt four hands grab her arms. So there were two of them. One was probably acting as post in case she got that far. Before feeling the effects of Side-Along Apparation, she wondered if there were any more hooded figures waiting out there in the pouring rain.
“You’ve been trickier to catch than I had thought. But that’s a good trait, I suppose,” a deep voice said.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood. Goose pimples erupted on her arms. She was sitting in a chair, unable to see, but with no blindfold or any other restraints. Her wand was nowhere on her person.
“But I still was caught, wasn’t I?” she asked in a small voice.
“Are you still as stubborn as you were when you refused to accompany the two brothers?”
She had only disarmed one of them. The second must have slipped into the chase. He must have been the one to catch her. She sat up indignantly.
“Two against one is hardly fair. But if you really wanted me here, then I suppose you’d go through any means.”
There was a light chuckle. Where had she heard this voice before? She wished she could see.
“Perhaps, though I would probably leave out the most extreme.”
Why wasn’t this man trying to kill her? Then again, she believed that she didn’t do anything to warrant a killing. Nor did she know anything significant to help any side of the so-called war that was brewing everywhere in the wizarding world.
“You’re wondering why I summoned you here,” the voice said.
So the man could read minds. No, she felt no presence in her mind. So he must have been an uncanny guesser. “This isn’t exactly a tea party,” she said before she could stop herself. Great. Now her death was certain.
“Now I know why you were put in detention when you were at Hogwarts, Miss Meadowes.”
Then it hit her.
“Dumbledore?” she gasped.
“You’ve guessed correctly,” the voice said lightly.
Suddenly, there was a flash of light, and she could see again. Her eyes watered even though she was in a dimly lit room.
“Where are we? And couldn’t an owl have sufficed?” she asked as she wiped her tears.
“We are in a room located above the Hog’s Head,” Dumbledore answered as he took a seat across from her.
That would explain the smell, then.
“As for the owl, Miss Meadowes—“
“Dorcas. You can call me Dorcas.”
“—as for the owl, Dorcas, it would have been a letter that would have been too valuable to fully word and too worthless to be vague. Mind you, running away from the Prewetts was not a part of the plan,” Dumbledore answered. “Tea?”
Dorcas nodded, and he began to fill two cups. “The Prewetts? Gideon and Fabian?” A cup was placed in front of her, but she didn’t touch it.
“Yes. They were supposed to fetch you for me.”
“But…but I thought they were Death Eaters! For You-Know-Who!” Dorcas exclaimed as he took a sip of tea. “They were wearing hoods. Both of them came out of nowhere. What would you have me do?”
“I’m not saying what you did was wrong. In fact, I wouldn’t have wanted you to have come any other way.”
This answer stumped Dorcas. “Sir?”
“It seems to me that you didn’t want to encounter two hooded men, so you tried fighting them off, thinking they were Death Eaters. You stood up to them.”
Dorcas let out a bitter laugh. “Hardly. They overpowered me. I ran from them.”
“You still fought for your life, Dorcas.”
“But my life wasn’t in danger.” There was a pause. “Was it?”
“Yes,” Dumbledore said sternly. “Nowadays, everyone’s lives are in danger. But the Prewetts did not mean to seem like Death Eaters. They told me it was because of the rain they had their hoods up.”
“Figures,” she muttered under her breath.
“Dorcas, the reason why I sent them after you was because I wanted to ask something of you.”
“And an owl wouldn’t have been easier?”
“What I ask of you is no easy task. In fact, I may be asking too much of you, too much of everybody.”
“How’d you mean?”
Dumbledore sighed, and for the first time in her life, Dorcas saw that he was old, truly old. He must have been older than her grandparents, all of whom were dead. “As you know, there is a war going on in the wizarding war. And I fear that Lord Voldemort—“
Dorcas jumped in the chair, nearly falling over. If there had been one person she knew would say You-Know-Who’s name, it would have been Dumbledore. But still, she wasn’t prepared for hearing it.
“—has been spreading it to the Muggle world as well.”
“Isn’t the Ministry of Magic fighting…fighting against him?” she asked.
“Yes, they are. Well, most of them,” Dumbledore said. “I feel like we need to put a stop to this destruction before it is too late. Soon Lord Voldemort will have more power than anyone could have ever imagined. And I need your help.”
“M-me?” Dorcas’ throat suddenly went dry. How in the name of Merlin could she ever help the Albus Dumbledore?
“I’m putting together a resistance. The Ministry of Magic is not doing enough to stop Voldemort. I want you to be part of it. It’s called The Order of the Phoenix.”
Dorcas shook her head, unable to believe the words she was hearing. The Order of the Phoenix? Dumbledore raised his white eyebrows.
“Oh no, Professor. It’s just—“
“You are graduated from Hogwarts, Dorcas. Call me Albus,” he said kindly.
“Okay, Albus.” The name felt funny on her tongue. “It’s just… why me?”
“You think you’re not qualified to fight?”
“To be honest, yes.”
“Dorcas, no one can ever be fully qualified to fight in a war. Especially one like this.”
Dumbledore’s words were heavy. They filled the small room, reverberating in her chest. She twirled a strand of dark hair nervously with her index finger.
“And if I should refuse your offer?”
“Then I would wipe your memory of this afternoon and hope that you would survive this war.”
“Oh, just that then.” Dorcas gave a nervous laugh. “But…but I still don’t understand. Why choose me?”
“You had very good marks in school, along with a few detentions. That shows you have intelligence and are willing to break rules. You also have a knack for Legilimency. And, well, because of your business.”
“What about it? And how do you know I can do Legilimency?”
“You have access to some wizarding households. And I hear that you’re starting to become very popular. As for Legilimency, I could not penetrate your mind when you first arrived.”
“Well, I guess more people are starting to consider having a witch do their laundry for them, considering House-elves can’t,” Dorcas said sheepishly. Suddenly, it clicked. “Oh. You want me to spy on people.”
Dumbledore’s blue eyes looked at her sadly as he finished his cup of tea. “Essentially, yes. But it’s more like keeping an eye and ear out for anyone suspicious.”
“And if I get caught?” The thought horrified Dorcas. For all she knew, she could be working for some of the scariest Death Eaters… or the unknown ones.
“There’s risk in everything, Dorcas. I wish I could tell you otherwise.”
Dorcas sat there for a moment, staring at her untouched tea. It must have been cold by then. He wanted her to join a resistance against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
“What about Dalia?” she asked slowly.
“I thought she was going to University?”
“Precisely. You know that, so that means they must know.”
“She can be protected. But I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. If it gets too bad, she might have to take off of school and go into hiding,” Dumbledore said.
“Take off of school?” Dorcas said loudly. “How can I ask her to do that? She was already denied Hogwarts because of her lack of ability!”
“But she is a part of the wizarding world nonetheless, Dorcas. Her name will appear on the list of Squibs in the Ministry. Besides, joining me will not guarantee her taking off any school. I was merely referring to a period of darker days.”
Darker days? Was there no end in sight? Dorcas sighed, resting her face in her palms.
“But you can help make a better world for her and those like her. You can help make a better world for wizarding kind, if you agree to join me. I cannot promise you safety, Dorcas. I cannot promise that you will live, as well as your family and friends.”
“And if no one shall fight? What then?”
“There will be little hope left in this world. Voldemort cannot win.”
Dalia’s face swam beneath her eyelids. With both parents gone, her sister was all she had left. And Dorcas would do anything for her.
“Okay,” she finally said, lifting her eyes to meet Dumbledore’s. “Count me in.”
The set of robes Dorcas was trying to mend was being particularly stubborn. The lace collar would not fully align with the navy blue torso.
“Blast!” she breathed. Putting the robes on her worktable, Dorcas grabbed her wand and magically vanished the string that was holding the collar in place. She had to start again.
Her workspace was cluttered enough, with spools of thread sprinkled throughout mounds of cloth, work orders and bottles of her detergent. Somewhere in the mess, there was a radio playing the most screechy hit of the day. Nonetheless, Dorcas tapped her foot to the music, picking up a new thread and needle to fix the lace collar.
She looked up, seeing Madame Malkin in the doorway. A measuring tape was hanging hazardously around her neck.
“Didn’t you hear me calling you from the front? Merlin, girl, sometimes I think there’s a little too much going on in your mind for you to truly function.”
Dorcas knew she meant well, but it was a busy time a year. Many eleven-year-olds were coming into her shop to try on Hogwarts robes.
“Sorry, mum. I’ll try to listen better. What’s going on?”
“You’ve two visitors,” she said suspiciously. “And if they’re here for this new laundry business of yours, please don’t have them crowd the place. The lunch hour’s nearly over. There’ll be lots of customers this afternoon.”
“Will do. You can bring them back here,” she said pleasantly. Perhaps she needed a break on the dress robes in front of her. But maybe she could just find the right spot to anchor the lace collar before chatting, she’d feel better.
“Hello, Meadowes.” The two wizards staggered awkwardly into her workshop. Most men who came here acted the same way.
Dorcas looked up, seeing the Prewett brothers. “Ah, hello. How nice of you to pop by,” she greeted. “Hold on, just let me get a few more stitches in here.”
“What an establishment you have here,” one of them said. Dorcas couldn’t tell who was who.
“Well, it’s not mine. Madame Malkin’s helps pay the bills.”
“Oh, so then what’s your business?” the other asked.
“Laundry. I mend clothing on the side,” she replied. Dorcas finished with her few stitches, with a promising outlook. She stood up, looking around for a couple of spare stools for them to sit on.
“Laundry? So you go into people’s houses and do their laundry?”
“Essentially,” Dorcas replied. She magicked over two stools. “Here, have a seat.”
Only one of them sat down.
“But why?” the other twin asked. His brown eyes were scanning her work table. “Are those all of your potions?”
“To answer your first question, House-elves can’t do laundry for witches and wizards, so I figured I can get some business with the richer folk. And for the rest of wizarding kind I can mend clothes, then wash them. As for your second question, yes. I have come up with a secret detergent to wash my clothes with.”
“How is it secret?” the seated twin asked, furrowing his brow.
“Here. I’ll just let you smell,” Dorcas said. She grabbed the closest detergent bottle and popped off the cork. The first twin gave a whiff.
“Merlin, that’s amazing,” he said. He gave a second sniff.
“Let me have it,” the other said, standing up and grabbing the bottle from him. “Wow. That is amazing.”
Dorcas laughed. “That’s the general reaction.”
“Are you sure this isn’t a perfume?”
“Quite. If not used with water, the soap is just soap on dry skin—sticky and kind of gross.”
“What’s in it?” the first twin asked.
“Can’t tell you. It’s a secret.”
“But what about this scent? It’s wonderful. I feel like I’ve smelt it before, but I can’t place where,” the other said.
“Perhaps one day you will figure it out.” Dorcas gave a friendly wink. “Now, for what do I owe you the pleasure of you two coming out here?” She shoved the cork in her bottle, setting it down. Leaning against her work table, Dorcas began putting up her long, dark hair into a bun.
“We wanted to congratulate you for, well, you know,” the first one said.
“And to apologize for giving you a bit of a scare,” the other finished.
“Oh, well you didn’t have to do that,” Dorcas said. But she smiled anyway.
“Let us properly introduce ourselves,” the first twin said. “I’m Gideon Prewett. And this prat is—“
“Fabian Prewett, unfortunate twin of this git here,” the other said. They both shook hands with her.
“Dorcas Meadowes,” she introduced.
“Glad to meet you. And glad to have another soul in the cause,” Fabian said. “Oh, before I forget. You lost your hat.” He extended her colorful tam. Beaming, she took her tam from him and placed it on her head. He smiled and scratched the back of his neck absentmindedly.
“Fabian and I were wondering if you wanted a Butterbeer, or a shot of Firewhiskey. It’s the least we can do, after the little scare,” Gideon said kindly.
“My break’s in ten minutes, and I think a drink sounds nice. But I think I owe a Firewhiskey to the one I hexed,” Dorcas replied.
“That’d be me,” Fabian confessed. “And that bloody hurt, for your information.”
The three shared a laugh. Dorcas saw them out of the shop, excited for the first time in ages. As she walked back to her workshop, she had no idea of knowing what was in store for her within the next five years. Joining the Order of the Phoenix was probably the bravest thing Dorcas Meadowes ever did. But it was also the thing that would ultimately unhinge her.
This is part one of a three part story, though some parts will be more than one chapter long (hint, hint). I hope you've enjoyed the first chapter thus far!
As I've stated in the summary, this story is very canon. It may not be exact, but this is my idea of what might have happened back in the First War (though Dorcas Meadowes probably didn't have a laundry service).
Please take a moment of your life to leave a review! Any comments, questions, critiques or concerns are most welcome.