Chapter 2 : Havoc at Headquarters
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He hit the hard floor with a huge bump, and sat in a dazed heap, gazing around at the blurred hallway. He had barely recovered his balance enough to stand up, when he heard footsteps thundering from the kitchen, and he was swept up in a huge bear-hug by Mrs Weasley.
"Oh, Harry, dear! We weren't sure if you'd got our letter, or if the Portkey would work..." she let him go, and held him at arm's length, beaming. More footsteps clattered along the passageway, and Hermione threw herself onto Harry, while Ron clapped him on the back, grinning hugely.
"All right, mate?" he asked, looking Harry up and down. "Had a good summer?" His grin faded slightly as he realised the significance of the question. "Er...I mean..."
Harry looked away. He had found himself in exactly the same situation with Cho the previous year, not wanting to ask her...
Hermione let him go and she too stood back a little, a slight nervousness in her face.
Harry looked around the hall, noticing the many changes since he had last been here. The portrait of Sirius' mother- his heart gave a sickening twist as he remembered how Sirius had coming running into the room to quieten her the previous summer- had gone, and the wall was newly painted. The gruesome umbrella stand, and the house-elf-head decorations, had gone too. The house should have felt lighter, airier- but to Harry the atmosphere seemed heavy with something oppresive and dark.
"Who else is in?" he asked, as Ron and Hermione helped him lug his trunk and cauldron upstairs.
"You just missed Moody, he left half an hour ago," said Ron, almost tripping over Crookshanks as he dragged his end of the trunk onto the landing. "Dad, Tonks and Kingsley are still at work, and Lupin's staying in the house but he's been away for days, it's just been the full moon... Bill was here last week, but he's gone down to London again now, took the twins with him. They're due back tomorrow. Ginny's bringing some stuff down from the attic, she should be down any minute..."
Harry had the feeling that Ron was just talking as much as possible to cover the awkward silence that had lain between the three of them as they climbed the stairs. Ron and Hermione kept glancing at each other, as if trying to agree on something. Harry felt suddenly tired, as though he couldn't be bothered to talk to them, couldn't summon the energy to make the effort.
"There," said Ron, dumping Harry's trunk on his bed. "Home, sweet home, eh?"
"Yeah," said Harry feebly, looking round the room. It was the same one he had shared with Ron the previous year.
Hermione sat down on the end of Harry's bed. She glanced at Ron again, and Harry saw him give a tiny nod.
"Harry..." said Hermione akwardly. "We've been thinking, Ron and me, and we've decided- decided it would be best is we, you know, talked about S-Sirius..."
Harry whipped around at the sound of the name, his throat suddenly tight. "Decided, have you?" he blurted out. "I'm sure you've been having some nice conversations about me behind my back..."
"Oh, no, it's not like that at all, Harry," said Hermione, looking distressed. "It's just that, well, it's been on all of our minds. You've been on all of our minds. You can't just keep ignoring it, Harry..."
"I'm not ignoring it," said Harry savagely. They were both still looking at him.
"Stop it!" he yelled, suddenly angry. "Stop acting like you need to look after me all the time! I can take care of myself!"
He got up, and stormed back down to the kitchen, unable to decide whether he was more furious with them or himself.
In the kitchen, he found Ginny helping Mrs Weasley peel potatoes.
"Hi, Harry," said Ginny, smiling. There was a slight awkwardness about her, too, the way she only met his eyes for an instant, her smile fading. Why were they all acting like he was on his death bed? Harry gritted his teeth.
"Hi, Ginny. Good summer?"
"Yeah," said Ginny, rather hoarsley. "Bit quiet."
Harry, remembering Lupin's letter, looked at the floor.
"What were you saying, Ginny dear?" prompted Mrs Weasley. "About the attic?"
"Oh, yes... well I found an old trunk, probably full of stuff judging by how heavy it is, but I can't open it. I think there must be some kind of charm on it."
Mrs Weasley pulled a saucepan out of the cupboard. "We'll have to ask Remus to deal with it, he's off duty this week. Should be back any time now."
Harry sat down at the table, staring into space. Just as he felt that he ought to say something to break the silence, the doorbell rang and Mrs Weasley bustled out of the kitchen to answer it.
Immediately, voices filled the hallway. Harry tried to disitinguish them- Tonks, Kingsley, Mr Weasley and Mad-Eye. They were all talking in very fast, almost panicky tones. Ginny put down her wand.
"What's happened?" she said tensely. Harry shrugged. The two of them made their way cautiously along the hall.
"...about six would be my estimate," Mr Weasley was saying. He sounded very upset.
"You-know-who himself?" asked Mrs Weasley, her hands over her mouth.
"No," snarled Moody, pulling off his travelling cloak and hanging it up. "Death Eaters. Out for a bit of sport...for a laugh..." He sounded bitter.
"We have to contact Dumbledore," said Tonks, her voice shaking. Her hair, chestnut brown today, was in disarray, and she was trembling. "Alert him now..."
Kingsley hurried through to the kitchen, and Harry suspected he had gone to talk to Dumbeldore in the fire.
"What's happened?" he asked Mr Weasley nervously, dreading the answer.
"Muggles attacked." said Mr Weasley weakly. "Just outside London. Terrible mess, bodies everywhere...whole Obliviator squad's been out there, the department for Magical Catastrophes is trying to patch things up..."
Ginny, like her mother, put her hands over her mouth. Harry heard a gasp. Ron and Hermione were standing on the stairs, looking horrified.
"They've shown themselves at last," growled Moody. "This is just how it was last time, muggles first to go. It's beginning."
Dinner was an almost silent meal. Harry could sense the Order members waiting on the edge of their seats, tense and watching the fire as though expecting someone to appear in it at any minute. Tonks managed to start a conversation after about ten minutes, but it was slightly forced, and Harry was under the impression that it didn't have anyone's full attention.
"Things been better back at Privet Drive then, Harry?"
Harry swallowed, and nodded. "Much better, thanks. They're scared of what you'll all do to them if they're horrible to me."
Moody gave a low, satisfied chuckle. Harry looked around at them all.
"Where is everyone?" he asked on impulse. "When I arrived last year, there were about fifty people here."
"It's been...quiet," agreed Mr Weasley, with a trace of awkwardness. "The next meeting's not until Thursday, so it's only those of us who are staying in the house around. We've been carrying on last summer's work, trying to make the place fit for habitation."
It occured to Harry to wonder, suddenly, who actually owned the house now, but he didn't dare ask.
It wasn't until much later in the evening, when the adults were sitting around the fire talking in low voices, and the others were playing exploding snap on the kitchen table, that Lupin arrived. Everybody jumped upon hearing the front door click, and Mrs Weasley grabbed her husband's arm.
"Do you think it's Dumbledore?" she asked anxiously. "I thought he might come down after Kingsley told him about..."
"Hello?" called a slightly hoarse voice from the hallway. "Anyone in?"
"In here, Remus!" called Tonks, jumping to her feet.
Lupin entered the kitchen, shabby as ever in a threadbare old cloak, his face grey with tiredness and his eyes shadowed. He caught sight of Harry, and his exhausted face lit in a smile.
"How are you, Harry?" he asked, shaking Harry's hand.
"Fine," muttered Harry. "Just fine." For some reason, he couldn't bring himself to look directly at Lupin.
"What took you so long?" demanded Tonks tensely, her eyes fixed on Lupin's face as she pulled up a chair for him. "You were due back hours ago. Didn't you hear what happened this afternoon?"
"I came via Hogwarts," said Lupin quietly, sinking into the chair and muttering thanks as he accepted the plate of food Mrs Weasley offered him. "Of course I heard about it. Snape contacted me..." he glanced suddenly at Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny, who were listening avidly.
"Carry on," said Ron, looking nervously at his mother. Mrs Weasley pursed her lips and shook her head.
"Oh, mum!" wailed Ginny. "You can't make us..."
"Bed," said Mrs Weasley firmly. "Now."
"It's all right, Molly." said Lupin wearily. "It's nothing top-secret, and they'll find out anyway."
Mrs Weasley didn't reply, but her frown deepened.
"Snape contacted me early this afternoon," continued Lupin heavily, "To tell me that Lucius Malfoy and Rodolphus Lestrange were out of Azkaban."
There was a long silence. Moody swore softly.
"So it was them," whispered Tonks. "They attacked the muggles."
"A defiant gesture," snarled Moody. "Just thought they'd remind us what they're capable of."
"I've spoken to Dumbeldore." said Lupin, running a hand through his greying hair. "I went straight to Hogwarts as soon as I heard about the attacks to try and find him."
"What did he say?" asked Kingsley gravely.
Lupin looked around at the assembled group. "He said the most important thing was not to panic, and to stick together. He said that if Voldemort's coming out into the open at last, the Order will have to be stronger than ever. Look out for each other. Keep your eyes and ears open."
"Constant vigilence," muttered Moody, more to himself than to anyone else.
"The Ministry could barely contain one, small attack," said Mr Weasley, shaking his head. "What's it going to be like when there are mass killings? It'll be just like last time...the ministry won't be able to hide it from the muggles..."
"Dumbledore says sit tight," said Lupin. "There's nothing we can do except carry on as normal."
"More cleaning, then?" said Ron glumly. The expression on his face made Tonks laugh, and the tension in the room lifted slightly.
"Yes," said Mrs Weasley. "Oh, and that reminds me...Ginny found a locked trunk in the attic. You wouldn't mind having a look at it, would you Remus? Because it probably belonged to Si-"
Harry dropped his empty tea mug with a loud clatter. Everyone turned to look at him, and there was a silence in which Harry fought embarresment and wild grief. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry could see that Lupin had turned away from the firelight, the shadows deepening the lines on his pale face.
Mrs Weasley bent and picked up the smashed teacup, her hands shaking as she did so.
"Bed," she said shortly. "Bed, Ginny. And you, Ron. Harry and Hermione, I think you'd better..."
"Maybe Harry would like to see what's in the trunk," said Lupin quietly, looking up. Harry stared at him, his throat constricting. He felt as if he couldn't breathe, as though any minute now the tight knot in his throat was going to fight its way out in one great howl of sadness...how could Lupin suggest that he, Harry, might want to look through a trunkful of Sirius' old things? It was bad enough seeing it again and again every night, Sirius falling through that veil...it was bad enough being back in this house, Sirius' house, surrounded by people who missed him too...
"Harry," whispered Mrs Weasley, "It might- it might help, you know."
Everyone was looking at him now.
"No." said Harry jerkily, getting up out of his chair. "I don't want to."
But did he? A small part of him desperately wanted to cling onto any shreds of Sirius that were left, to take anything that had belonged to him and treasure it...
He barely noticed the others filing quietly out of the kitchen, leaving only Lupin sat in his chair by the fire, the flames casting shadows on his patched old robes.
Finally, Lupin stood up, and pointed his wand at the fire to extinguish it.
"Coming?" he asked Harry quietly. Harry nodded mutely. He wasn't quite sure why he was agreeing to do this, only it had just occured to him that if anyone understood how he was feeling right now, it was Lupin. Harry felt hisn insides squirm with surprise and sudden guilt. Why had he never considered that before? He'd been selfish...after all, Lupin had known Sirius for more than twenty years- Harry had barely known him two.
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