The Unexpected Visitor

Chapter 1

The streets of Grimmauld Place, Islington, London, were always deserted at night. No one who lived there seemed to venture outdoors; most of the houses from Number 1 to Number 15 did have signs of life - music blasting through stereos, television sets playing in the background as families sat down to dinner, animated conversations heard from the telephones - yes, all 14 buildings seemed to be quite normal every day and every night... until one summer night in August when everything changed. Life for all the people who lived on this street was very routine, boring and monotonous, that nobody had realized there was no Number 12 on their block. Anyone who walked up and down would notice Number 11 and Number 13 right beside it; they had long since accepted that there’d been a mistake in the numbering, never once thinking of any other possibility. They were quite wrong in that sense; a Number 12 did exist, it was merely hidden in plain sight and would remain unknown and invisible to everyone who did not know how to find the house. However, for the second time that summer of ‘95, Number 12 Grimmauld Place came into view.

Night had fallen many hours ago, the street was empty and eerily still, no breeze blowing the leaves on the trees, no cars honking their horns, no crickets chirping, no noise from anywhere around the area... and in the midst of the pavement, which had been wet with rain that afternoon, there stood a tiny figure all alone. A young girl who was but a child, with only a backpack slung over her shoulders, glanced at the identical doors of Number 11 and 13; she held a slip of paper in her hands and looked down at the words written there, remembering what she had been told to do.

"Number... Number Twelve." Her voice was but a whisper as she closed her eyes and thought of a big house with 1 & 2 written on a sign.

And almost as if it were magic, the little girl suddenly felt the stones underneath her feet start to shake; she opened her eyes and stared in wonder as the buildings seemed to move away from each other, letting a new one appear in the middle of them. Once the ground had settled again, the girl saw a set of steps in front of her and a plain, battered black door with a silver knocker shaped like a serpent.

"Knock one time and wait." Repeating the instructions that she had been given, the girl made her way up and found that she was just tall enough to reach out and lift the ring to knock on the door once.

After that, it was only a matter of seconds before something happened; there was no noise from outside where she stood, but if she leaned in closer to the door, there definitely was a sign that she was not completely alone in a strange place anymore.

"Hello?" A woman's voice called out as soon as the door creaked open, her hair was flaming red and she looked very kind.

“Hello.” Looking up to see the lady standing there, the girl smiled; she had been told there was a chance of meeting this woman and seeing her meant that she was at the right place.

“Oh! Goodness me, I almost didn’t see you there dear.” Molly Weasley was surprised to see such a young child standing outside at this late hour, she hadn’t expected anyone to show up, certainly not someone so small. “What are you doing here?” It occurred to her that since no one could find this house unless they were told, whoever the girl was, didn’t stumble upon it accidentally.

“Miss Minnie brought me here.” The girl replied, reaching into the pocket of her jacket and took out an envelope.

Molly took the letter in her hands and when she saw the familiar Hogwarts crest on the seal, she realized that this was very important. Even more so once she noticed whom this was addressed to; the handwriting belonged to Minerva McGonagall and if she had personally brought this child here to the house then things had to be serious.

“Come in child, come in!” Whatever was going on, Molly’s first priority went to the little girl as she ushered her inside the house. “Just stay close to me and don’t make a noise, okay dear? We don’t want to wake anything up.” She said in a soft whisper as she closed the door behind them.

“Okay.” Still holding onto her backpack, the girl followed Molly through a dimly lit corridor; everything smelled a little damp and dusty, but still felt homely in a way too.

In a few short moments, Molly had led the girl inside the house which would have appeared uninhabited if it weren’t for the hushed whispers that could be heard all around; for someone who was so young and practically a stranger, the girl seemed unfazed by everything she was experiencing, although she did stop and stare at the serpent-shaped chandeliers for a second longer. When they finally reached the kitchen, the little girl suddenly moved closer to stand beside Molly, seeing everyone present there pause their conversations as they stared at her.

From the famous boy-wizard Harry Potter to his friends Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and all the other redhead siblings, as well as the adults - Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, Arthur Weasley and Kingsley Shacklebolt - to say that they were taken aback by the sudden appearance of a child in this house was an understatement; but Molly knew that the girl was probably scared of all the attention and she’d only just arrived.

“Everyone, I’d like to you meet…” Molly began to say when she realized that the girl hadn’t said her name all this while.

“I’m Rose.” She finally spoke up softly, still holding onto the older woman’s robes.

“Hello there.” Lupin was the first to get over his surprise of seeing their new guest as he walked over to where she stood, “It’s nice to meet you Rose.” He smiled and held out his hand to her.

“Hi.” Rose sensed that this man was friendly and slowly reached for his hand to shake it. “Who are you?” She asked him quite bluntly but her tone was more curious than anything else. She didn’t seem very frightened now.

Hearing her innocent question, Lupin chuckled and noticed that everyone else was trying to hide their smiles as well.

“My name is Remus Lupin.” He answered, hoping to see the others come forward and help Rose feel more comfortable; whoever she was, she seemed all alone. “Why don’t I introduce you to the rest of our group?” Lupin could see that Molly was holding an envelope in her hand and knew they would have to discuss this matter soon.

“Okay…” Nodding to him in reply, Rose took his outstretched hand as he led her to meet the others.

It took only a few minutes and once the introductions were over, having been handed the letter by Molly, Lupin excused himself from the table as he went to read it in private. Whatever was happening, the fact that a letter had his name on it meant things were serious. In the meantime, Molly had made Rose settle down in the dining room while the others decided to give her some space as they all tried to figure out who this new mystery guest was. And why she had arrived here at the Headquarters of the Order.

“Are you hungry dear? You must have something to eat!” Molly had only one thing she needed to worry about, making sure that this child was comfortable until she was told otherwise.

“I’m not hungry. I ate dinner at the school.” Rose smiled as she answered Molly politely, “Thank you.” She added almost immediately, not forgetting her manners.

“Well, that’s good to know… have you been staying at Hogwarts for long dear?” She asked, hoping to find some answers which would help them be able to help her..

There was no chance for Rose to reply back for Lupin returned almost immediately, looking worried about something. Whatever he had read in the letter had troubled him; after whispering something to Kingsley and Moody, Lupin went over to Arthur. Everything else that happened next took place in a matter of several seconds, it was almost impossible to gauge what the seriousness was all about. As soon as Molly was informed of the situation, things changed very quickly.

“Goodness me! Look at the time!” Molly exclaimed as she jumped up from the chair, “Rose, you must be tired after the long trip, why don’t we get you to bed?” She ushered the girl to her feet and went over to Hermione and Ginny who were quietly watching everything play out. Harry, Ron and the twins were beside them and very confused.

“Mum? What is it?” Ron asked her, it was no secret that something had happened for all of the adults to suddenly gather around the table as they started to talk in hushed voices.

“Nothing, nothing at all Ron. Don’t you worry, this is just Order business.” Her voice sounded different to them but Molly couldn’t say anything else yet. “Come on now, it’s bed time for you lot! Fred, George, off you go.”

“But… what about dessert…?” George spoke up, knowing all too well that his mother was trying to send them away from an important discussion.

“Tomorrow night.” Was all Molly said to him before turning to Hermione again, “Girls, would you please show Rose to her bedroom for the night?” Her hands rested on Rose’s shoulders as she spoke. “Remus said that there’s a spare bed made up already in your room.”

“Mrs. Weasley...” Harry started to say but Fred nudged him in the ribs.

“C’mon Harry, let’s go. We know when we’re not wanted.” Fred made a point of talking loud enough for the whole floor to hear his voice.

In the midst of all this, Rose stood where she was, by the foot of the staircase; she had absolutely no idea what was going on but when she turned around to look back to where Lupin was seated, there was a name which he spoke of that she didn’t recognize… but clearly the person did not seem to be sitting at the table with the others. The next thing Rose knew, the girl called Hermione who didn’t have red hair but rather brown hair like hers, held out a hand for her to take and they were all headed up the big staircase within moments.

“Oi, Fred! D’you still have the Extendable Ears on you?” George asked his twin once they’d all reached the second floor landing.

“Course I do George. Brilliant idea!” Fred grinned as he slid out a whole string of… ears… hanging by a thread; Rose could only stare in silence as she watched the five teenagers, minus Hermione, picked one up and listened in to the conversation that was going on downstairs.

“Blimey! This is serious, I can barely hear anything.” Ron exclaimed in surprise, “They’ve never done that before.”

“Clearly we’re not supposed to be listening to any of it.” Hermione sounded disappointed, “They must have added extra enchantments to the room so that even an Extendable Ear wouldn’t be able to listen in.”

“Ssssh… I think I hear something.” Both Fred and George spoke in unison as they leaned over the banister, their eyes going wide as they caught snippets of someone talking.

“He’s definitely angry about something, Mad-Eye.” Ginny suddenly piped up, realizing that the magic wasn’t enough to keep his loud voice down.

“Dead?”... How is this possible?”... “Sirius?”... “But what does it mean?”... “Sirius doesn’t know”... “And the girl?”... “Is she really…?” “Sirius has to...?”

“What? What is it?” Ron poked one of his brother’s shoulders, before turning to see Ginny looking at Rose; she also heard what Fred and George had.

And in the moment of silence, they all noticed that Rose was holding on to the last Extendable Ear that Hermione chose not to use. The six of them - Harry, Ron, Fred, George, Ginny and Hermione had only just met this girl, but even though they didn’t know Rose at all, there was one thing they could agree on without needing to say the words… no one should have had to hear that. Whatever it was.

“Rose…” Hermione decided to speak up, “Are you okay?” She asked the girl, knowing that she was probably scared.

“Yes, I… I’m just sleepy now.” Rose showed no signs of being affected by the words, but could see that all of these new people were watching her carefully, and they looked worried.

“We should go to bed.” Ginny said, “Mum was right, it’s getting late and we all have to wake up early again.” It was obviously worrying for her to have listened to those bits and pieces of the talk, and maybe she wanted to talk to Hermione about it in private, without her brothers and Harry around.

“Yeah, we should sleep too.” Fred agreed with his little sister and started to tug on Ron’s t-shirt, “Let’s go Ronald.” He stressed on his full name as he and George bowed to the girls dramatically.

None of them understood what they’d heard but there was no point in trying to ask questions at that moment, not when they were supposed to have been in bed by now. Harry sighed as he rubbed his scar, while Rose looked on curiously as she had when she first met him, but never asked him about it. She knew it was rude to stare and when Harry caught her, she quickly averted her gaze, feeling her cheeks turning red. There was not much to say to any of them as they all mumbled goodnight to one another and went their separate ways; leaving Hermione and Ginny to walk to their room with Rose tagging along behind.

“Here we are Rose, you can sleep with us tonight.” Hermione said when she closed the bedroom door behind her, “Do you want to pick where you would like to sleep? She asked, gesturing to all three of the beds set up for them.

“Umm… I like to sleep near the door.” Was all Rose said in reply, looking up to Hermione and seeing her smile.

“Okay. Ginny and I will be right here if you need us.” She told the little girl; that was the spare bed which someone had already made up, which meant that she and Ginny didn’t need to move their stuff.

“Thank you.” Rose said as she let go of the backpack, sitting down on the bed and taking a moment.

The room was big, at least in her eyes, considering that there were 3 beds fitted quite comfortably, with enough space for them to move around as well. Rose watched quietly as the other two girls started to get ready for bed and decided she needed to the same; traveling from the school till here, even by magic was tiring and though she was still a little hesitant about this new house, it felt good to know that Hermione and Ginny were there. Her backpack, which had been modified by Professor McGonagall, held quite a few of her clothes among other personal things she didn’t want to leave behind; most of her other stuff would reach the house in a day or two, but Rose had all she needed for now. It didn’t take her more than a few minutes to change into her night clothes and tucked herself into bed.

“Goodnight Rose.” Ginny said first as she turned off her light. “Goodnight Hermione.”

“Goodnight Ginny, goodnight Rose.” Hermione said and turned the light off on her side as well.

“Goodnight.” Rose said to both of them; the room had fallen into darkness now and she let out a soft sigh, staring up at the ceiling above.

It wasn’t enchanted by magic like the ceiling at Hogwarts, in the Great Hall, but Rose knew that was a special thing which did not happen everywhere. A part of her missed the school already, another missed her own home, and yet, the one thing that Rose couldn’t get out of her mind was what she had heard through the Extendable Ears; all of the adults knew about her by now and the story behind her appearance here at Grimmauld Place, but they seemed to be nice and concerned about her so maybe there was no need to feel scared. The thoughts floated in and out of her mind as Rose closed her eyes at last, wishing that perhaps tonight she would be able to sleep peacefully.

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