Chapter 1 : The Order
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She sat, nose pressed against the cold windowpane as she watched the rain fall like rivers on the other side. The world outside was cold, grey and wet, and an unseen foreboding had settled across the land that seemed to dim the very colours of the summer flowers in the garden.
Athena Selwyn knew the worst had not yet begun.
It had been six weeks since Albus Dumbledore had fallen, six weeks since the Dark Lord’s forces had infiltrated the castle she had once believed safe, six weeks since she herself had nearly died fighting for the Order of the Phoenix.
And yet for her, the past seemed preferable to the future. The Death Eaters were growing, not just in number but in power and influence. The Ministry of Magic, the Order of the Phoenix, they were on the back foot, defending, not attacking. She knew it. With Dumbledore gone, it would only be a matter of time before the Ministry fell and the entire world plunged into darkness.
She held little faith in Harry Potter, her automatic contempt for any who achieved at a lower level than her standing in the way of her ability to believe in him. Nevertheless, she understood his importance. He was a beacon of hope, however small, and though she would not subscribe to the belief that his being the Boy Who Lived meant he was the wizarding world’s saviour, she would do her duty as part of the Order to protect him.
Athena caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window and found herself staring at it. She had not changed in the last few months. Hair, just as long and deep red as ever. Eyes, still as blue and piercing as ever. Skin, still as pale as ever. But she felt different. She was different. She had seen war and seen death, though she dwelt not on the memory of it. Somehow, when she had left Hogwarts six weeks ago, she had left behind her identity as a student, even though she would return for her seventh year in September. Because the student Athena stayed up late writing essays, walked the corridors at night as a Prefect on duty, stressed about exams as if they were the end of the world. Those days were over, and in their place…what?
She turned from the window, crossing the room and absently running her hand along the spines of rows of leatherbound books upon the shelves. Reading would be futile; she was too restless to concentrate.
“Are you going to an Order meeting tonight?” her sister Artemis asked, entering the room.
“I think so.”
“At the Weasleys’ place?”
“Can I come?”
“It’s not up to me,” she replied, though she knew Artemis wasn’t asking for permission, more to back up her request to their parents.
“I know that. But they listen to you, and they don’t listen to me.”
“That’s not true. What do you want to go for anyway?”
“Because I’m bored shitless here,” Artemis replied with sudden vehemence, kicking at a piece of parchment lying on the floor. “I’m not allowed anywhere by myself, I can’t Apparate anyway, and half my friends have closed off their Floo Networks because their parents are too paranoid about You-Know-Who.”
“You’re not the only one,” Athena replied.
“At least you have Cassian,” Artemis pointed out sulkily, referring to Athena’s boyfriend.
“Don’t you have Perseus?”
“He falls into the category of those with paranoid parents whose Floo Networks have been closed off.”
“Oh.” That, at least, explained Artemis’ foul mood over the past several days. “Do you want to see him?”
“What do you think?”
“Just confirming what I already knew. I could take you there, Side-Along Apparition.”
Artemis’ eyes widened at this proposal from her normally law-abiding sister. “But you’re not allowed to take me, you haven’t had your licence for a full year yet.”
“I highly doubt the Ministry’s going to come after a seventeen year old for Apparating with a passenger when they’ve got Death Eaters on the loose killing people. There are some advantages in times of war, and I intend to make the most of them.”
“I’ll come!” Artemis said excitedly. “Wait, give me fifteen minutes, I have to do my hair, and get changed, and everything—” She bolted from the room.
Athena watched her go with mild amusement. It had been a long time since she had bothered about her appearance around Cassian; he had seen her at her worst, lying half-dead in the hospital wing at Hogwarts, and such trivialities were usually below her anyway.
She was going to see him tomorrow. It had only been a few days since she was last at his house, but those few days had dragged by, and she missed him more than she cared to admit. She dreaded returning to Hogwarts; he was a year ahead of her and had finished school, and she wouldn’t see him for months on end.
“Ready,” Artemis declared, poking her head around the doorframe. “Come on, come on, let’s go.”
Shaken from her thoughts, Athena seized her cloak from the kitchen table and strode across the courtyard of the house, head ducked against the rain. She felt strangely nervous; she had never Side-Along Apparated anyone before, and she didn’t know whether there was any special procedure. What if she Splinched Artemis?
“You won’t Splinch me, will you?” Artemis asked, as if reading her mind. It was an unsettling thought; Athena was an Occlumens for a reason.
“I’ll endeavour not to,” she replied crisply, reaching the gate and lifting the latch, cautiously looking both ways across the street. The fence served as the property boundary of Selwyn House, and here the many security charms ceased to take effect.
“Endeavour not to?” Artemis repeated, following her out of the gate without a moment’s hesitation. “That’s not exactly comforting.”
“Honesty is my policy, not comfort. Grab my arm.”
With Artemis tightly gripping her arm, Athena turned on the spot, Disapparating with a loud crack and arriving in the middle of the street outside a modest-looking wooden house with a white picket fence and garden.
“Hold it,” Athena said sharply as Artemis made to run towards the house. “How are you getting home?”
“I hadn’t thought about that.”
“Evidently not.” Athena glanced quickly up and down the street; standing in the open was making her uneasy, and the gloom of the rainy late afternoon wasn’t helping matters. “When do you think you’ll be done here?”
“What’s the time now?”
“Twenty past four.”
“And Mum and Dad will be home at around six.”
“They’ll be working late tonight, they’re going straight from work to the Weasleys’. The meeting starts at seven, I can come and get you at quarter to, and you can sit at home and pretend you haven’t been anywhere.”
“Deal,” Artemis replied hurriedly, and jogged across the road. “You’re the best, you know that?” she called over her shoulder.
“Oh, I do,” Athena replied. “You don’t get an ego as big as mine without knowing such things.”
“Our plans to move Harry have fallen through,” Mad-Eye Moody said abruptly, seated in the kitchen of the Burrow. “Pius Thicknesse has gone over—”
“Changed all the laws on us,” Athena’s father Carcius said. “One can now be thrown in Azkaban for connecting Privet Drive to the Floo Network, Apparating in and out of the property or setting up a Portkey. Our hands are tied.”
“They are not,” Athena said impatiently. “There are plenty of other ways to get him out.”
“And what might they be?” Moody asked.
“Well, he’ll still have the Trace on him. So we could go all Muggle and drive him out—”
“You’re onto something,” Remus Lupin agreed. “But not for Harry, it’s too risky. For the Dursley family. I imagine they’d be much happier in a car anyway.”
“We’ll need some Order members to accompany the Dursleys,” Moody said. “Any volunteers?”
“I’ll go,” Dedalus Diggle offered. “Hestia, will you come too?”
Hestia Jones nodded.
“Good, that’s sorted,” Moody said abruptly. “So how will we get Potter out?”
“Fly him,” Fred Weasley suggested.
“Oh, I dunno. Maybe with one of those whatchamacallits—broomsticks, that’s the one!”
“Just going to fly over there and hand Potter a broomstick, Weasley?” Moody asked.
“Obviously there are a few more details to be worked out, Alastor,” Carcius said patiently. “But I don’t see why it couldn’t work.”
“Disillusionment Charms,” Athena said suddenly. “We could at least fly to Privet Drive under cover of Disillusionment Charms, obviously they’ll break on contact with the boundary of the property and we can’t recast them, but at least they can get us there virtually undetected.”
“We’re going with broomsticks, then,” Moody said.
“What about those of us who can’t fly?” asked Hermione Granger pointedly.
“Thestrals,” Reubus Hagrid boomed from the corner. “Whole lotta them out in the forest at Hogwarts. Tame as anything, we can ride them.”
“One small problem,” Moody interrupted. “How are we going to get Potter out of there? Even if we leak a false trail to the Death Eaters regarding the date, they’ll still have a few scouts around the place even now. We’ll be flying straight into them.”
“Wha’ if,” Mundungus Fletcher began with a loud belch, “Wha’ if there are so many Potters, the Death Eaters dunno who the real one is?”
“Polyjuice Potion,” Hermione whispered.
“And have them after us all?” Athena asked.
“And what do you suggest, Selwyn?” Moody asked, turning to her. “If you don’t want to risk your pretty little neck—”
“Don’t talk to my daughter like that,” Carcius said sharply.
“Dad, I can handle it. It doesn’t make sense, does it? How will having multiple Harrys help us evade Death Eaters and get him out?”
“They won’t know which ones to chase after, see,” Dung said with a toothy grin. “And unless them Death Eaters got wind of when we’re movin’ ‘im and got the whole lot of ‘em out waiting, they couldn’t chase us all. We just gotta make sure they don’t chase the real one, is all.”
“They’ll expect the real Harry to be on a broomstick,”Athena said thoughtfully. “And with the most powerful Aurors. So, we put him with…”
“Hagrid,” Moody finished.
“Me,” Hagrid said. “Wait, what?”
“Still got that motorbike, Reubus?” Dad asks.
“Well, yeah, sure, but—”
“Potter can go in the sidecar.”
Hagrid looked a bit gobsmacked, shaking his head slightly. “I won’t let ye down, Alastor,” he said determinedly to Moody. “Harry’ll be safe with me, I’ve taken ‘im before.”
“Sixteen years ago,” Carcius muttered.