Harry tapped his fingers against the hardwood floor in boredom. "Have they started yet?" he asked idly to the twins who were currently propped up against the wall, Extendable Ears trailing across the floor.
"Not that I can tell," George replied.
"I think they're waiting for Dumbledore," Fred said.
"I think you two shouldn't be using those things," Hermione said haughtily. "They deserve their privacy as much as anyone else."
"Says the one who wasn't kept in the dark all summer," Harry muttered gloomily.
"Besides," Hermione continued, ignoring Harry, "Mrs. Weasley will catch you and have all of our skins, or worse, your wands."
"We talked our way out of it last time," Fred pointed out. Despite his assertions, he fingered his wand lovingly, only just gaining the allowance to use magic whenever he wanted, being of age.
"Last time," Hermione repeated for emphasis.
The squeak of a door caused everyone to scramble to their feet. The twins bolted into another room with Draco and Hermione, hiding, while Ron hesitated before following. Harry felt his pocket, feeling the bulge of the invisibility cloak there. He considered pulling it out, slipping it on and trying to follow Dumbledore into the room, but something told him he wouldn't make it in time. Therefore, he chose to make a point. Harry stayed right where he was, casually sitting on the floor in the middle of the hallway. He wanted Dumbledore to see how isolated he was and how casually resentful.
Sure enough, the gray haired man soon rounded the corner, pausing as he took in Harry slumped against the wall, staring off into space. Moving nothing but his eyes, Harry looked at Dumbledore and he stared back, saying nothing. He seemed to sense Harry's anger and withdrew into himself.
"Harry," he acknowledged evenly.
"Professor," Harry replied, managing a certain amount of contempt despite his indifferent tone.
After another searching look at Harry, Dumbledore stepped past him, entering the room in which the others were gathered. Harry glimpsed Sirius bent over a piece of parchment before the door swung shut.
"Clear," Harry called to the twins.
They emerged warily, glancing at the door to make sure it was indeed closed. Seeing that it was, the twins assumed their previous positions, the other boys moving over to join them.
"Here you are," they said, presenting Harry and Draco with Extendable Ears.
"Hey, what about me?" Ron asked petulantly.
"Keep your voice down," George scolded. "And we've only got four."
Ron scowled at them.
"Yeah, sorry, Hermione," Fred added, glancing over at her. She stood at the edge of the doorframe, arms crossed, looking at them with an air of superiority.
"I'm devastated," she said sarcastically.
"Well if you don't approve of our methods, I suppose we oughtn't share anything we learn," George told her, inserting the flesh colored string in his ear.
Hermione looked torn. Harry put his in as well, letting the other end snake under the door as it was intended. He heard voices but they were a bit muddled. Straining to make them out, Harry could hear Dumbledore speaking.
"It is fairly safe at the present moment, given the lengths we are taking to keep it that way," he said as if breaking up an argument.
"Yes, but don't you think it would be better if we moved it elsewhere? That place could be compromised so easily, it is hardly the most secure place for a weapon of such import-"
"And where would we move it to?" Severus asked, cutting Sirius off. "Hogwarts? Here? We cannot spare the people to guard it elsewhere."
"We are now," Sirius protested.
"They are already there," Lupin spoke up. "In addition, you know that it can't be removed by just anyone."
"Then we'll get the one who can!" Sirius shouted. "It's only right, fair for him."
"Keep your voice down," an unfamiliar rasp came. "Silencio."Suddenly, Harry could hear nothing. He pulled the device from his ear with a venom. "What weapon?" Harry demanded.
"This is the first we're hearing about it, too, mate," Fred said carefully.
"What?" Hermione asked. "What did you hear?"
"They were talking about moving a weapon of great importance," Draco drawled. "But apparently they cannot without someone whose name they didn't mention."
"There's a weapon that can help us defeat Voldemort and they haven't even told us!" Harry cried angrily.
George sent a wary glance at the door, seeming glad, actually, that there was a silencing charm upon it. "Why would they?"
"Yes, I mean, it isn't our job, necessarily, to destroy Voldemort," Hermione pointed out.
"And we're not in the Order," Ron added bitterly.
"But we've done more than most of them have," Harry complained. "I've fought him three times already! What happens if I get stuck with him again and I don't have the weapon to destroy him?"
"I don't know, Harry," Hermione admitted, looking a bit concerned. "But if I were you, I wouldn't let on to Snape that you know. That can only end badly."
Harry scowled. "We'll see."
"I'd like to tell Harry," Sirius said simply, alone with Severus and Dumbledore after the meeting.
Dumbledore frowned. "Why do you feel it necessary?""The poor kid is beginning to think we all hate him and that's why we're keeping him in the dark," Sirius said with dismay. "If we don't tell him, he might become so detached that he'll never come fully back. He'll start to hate us. We've got to make him understand why we're not saying anything."
"So tell him enough to give him a taste of what he is missing, only so he understands why he can't know more? That is foolish and I quite disagree," Severus stated. "I think that he should remain as sheltered as possible."
Dumbledore considered this before turning back to Sirius. "What do you propose we tell him? How much?"
"Albus-" Severus began.
"Severus," Dumbledore stopped him. "Let me hear him out."Looking the slightest bit smug, Sirius replied, "At least that his scar is a connection with Voldemort. I understand that he can't know about the prophecy, but I think he should be allowed to be told a little more about the Order."
"Telling him that he is a gateway to the Dark Lord will only freak him out and increase his already substantial misplaced guilt," Severus snapped. "And what would you tell him about the Order that would not be compromised if the Dark Lord were to invade his mind at any given moment?""He deserves to know what his parents died for, Severus," Sirius growled.
Severus glared at him. "He does know. He knows enough, why add to his pain at the moment?"
"Gentlemen," Dumbledore interrupted. "Please. As much as it hurts me to see Harry in distress-"
Sirius scoffed lightly.
"-and yes, it does hurt me to see him in distress, I am not sure I can consent to telling him much of anything," Dumbledore said gravely. "Even at the cost of his resenting me."
Severus opened his mouth to speak but Dumbledore waved him off.
"I realize that he blames me for this, Severus, and it is not unjustified in his eyes," Dumbledore said calmly. "I met him in the hallway on the way in here and he was... 'cool', shall we say, to me."
"I will speak with him, if you wish, Headmaster," Severus offered.
"Do not worry about it, Severus. I understand that teenagers are quick to accuse and quite capable of holding grudges. It will, I believe, pass, in time." He folded his hands carefully. "And I would not give him more to hold against you."
"So you won't let us tell him a blasted thing?" Sirius demanded, growing angrier at the old man by the minute.
"I maintain what I told you earlier this summer. Harry is only to be told what he needs to know," Dumbledore said, pacing to the window. He folded his hands behind his back and looked out passively. "I can only hope that our precautions will not be necessary."
"Harry's scar is still bothering him," Severus pointed out.
Dumbledore turned back gravely. "That does not bode well; it only serves to prove my point. Once Voldemort discovers their link, Harry, and his mind, will no longer be safe. It is regrettable, but unavoidable, I fear."
"And there is nothing we can do?" Severus asked.
"Occlumency, Severus. I believe that is his best chance. Has he been practicing?" Dumbledore asked.
"I am not certain. Not when he is around me, at least. I will look into it," Severus promised.
"Good. Are we done here, then?" Dumbledore asked, throwing a glance at Sirius who was still obviously peeved.
"I believe so," Severus supplied.
Dumbledore nodded. "I will see you both at the next staff meeting, then."
Severus nodded. Sirius, on the other hand, replied curtly. "Yes, sir."
Dumbledore spared him a sympathetic glance. "I am sorry, truly. But this is the way it must be."
After dinner, Harry lingered for a few moments at the table. Mad-Eye Moody eyed him with his odd blue eye, unnerving Harry greatly. They had been introduced only after the meeting and Harry was unsure whether he would ever get used to the darting eyeball or the grotesque scars that marred Moody's face. As it was, he tried not to make eye contact with either of the man's eyes.
"I best be going," he barked to Mrs. Weasley. "Thanks for dinner."
"Oh, certainly. Glad you could stay this time," she said graciously. "I really wish Tonks and Minerva could have as well."
"Yes, well, there's work to do," he said shortly. "I intend to go do it."
With that, he exited the room, heading for the outside to apparate away. Harry waited until Kingsley had also excused himself before finally speaking. Only Severus, Lupin, Sirius and Mrs. Weasley remained within hearing distance. Even Harry's friends had left, figuring correctly that Harry needed a bit of time to himself. Mrs. Weasley busied herself with dishes while the others remained at the table.
"You know I could get Kreacher to do that," Sirius offered.
"Goodness, no," Mrs. Weasley replied immediately. "I'm just fine, thank you."
"Well he might as well be doing something around here," Sirius grumbled. "I mean, the kids are doing more cleaning around here than that elf."
"They are hardly kids, Sirius," Lupin said quietly.
"That's true, I'm sorry," Sirius replied, glancing over at Harry.
Harry saw his chance. "On that note, being that we're not kids, I would like to know what's going on."
"Haven't we been over this?" Severus said, sounding a bit annoyed.
"I seem to recall the conversation but not the answers to any of my questions," Harry replied coldly. Severus's eyes narrowed. "How was the meeting?" he asked Sirius.
Sirius glanced at Severus. "Er, good."
"Did you guys talk about anything that I should probably know? You know, being that I have the greatest probability of facing Voldemort again, 'cause he sort of has it our for me," Harry said snidely, voice dripping with accusation.
Sirius clearly didn't know how to respond to this, but judging by Severus's glare, Lupin's neutrality and Mrs. Weasley's preoccupation with the china, he seemed to be Harry's best bet.
"Sirius? Anything I should know that will help prevent me from getting killed?" he prompted, pushing at the weakest link, his godfather.
"Blast it, Harry," Sirius said, giving in. "They don't want me to tell you but-"
"Black!" Severus said sharply, cutting him off. In a low voice, he continued, "You heard what Dumbledore said. Only what he needs to know."
"And I think this qualifies!" Sirius replied hotly.
"Harry did make a good point," Lupin seconded.
Harry kept carefully still, not wanting to push his sudden luck. He watched as the dark glare previously focused on him switched to the pair of marauders.
"It is not your choice to make," Severus told Lupin sharply.
Lupin tilted his head in concession. "Fair point."
"But it is mine," Sirius argued. "What with being his godfather and all."
"Being his father, the ultimate decision, however, is mine," Severus shot back. "And I say that Harry is not to know, as per Dumbledore's orders."
"For once, I must agree with Severus," Mrs. Weasley piped up. "Dumbledore was quite clear on the fact."
Harry could feel the tide turning against him. "But shouldn't my opinion matter? Or are you just going to keep talking about me like I'm not here?"
"And you shouldn't be," Severus said immediately, impulsively.
A look of hurt passed over Harry's face before it hardened. "Well if that's what you think." He stood, making to leave.
"Harry-""NO! You don't tell me anything, you bring me here and don't tell me anything, and now you say you don't want me here?" Harry demanded. "Well, if that's how you feel, then I'll be going."
"Just because you shouldn't be here doesn't mean I don't wan-"
"Right," Harry snapped. He looked at his godfather. "Bye Sirius, Lupin," he said pointedly.
Spinning, Harry bolted from the room, heading down the hallway and pulling the invisibility cloak from his pocket as he ran.
"Harry!" Severus called in a mix of anger and panic from the kitchen. Harry heard the scrape of a chair on the floor and his guardian's heavy footfall as he hurried after him.
Harry freed the cloak from his pocket and slipped it over himself just as Severus rounded the corner.
"Harry!" he called again. "Wait, please!"
But Harry had already turned the knob, opened the door. Harry was already gone.