The Falling

The Mad House

Harry made his way to his room where he would potentially have to spend the next month with Ron. Only weeks ago this would have sounded like a great way to spend the rest of the summer holidays, but now he dreaded it. When he entered the room, Ron was already there, preparing for bed.

"Proud of yourself?" asked Ron as he tugged back the sheets of his bed, anger stinging his voice.

"Pretty much, yeah." replied Harry calmly, sitting down on his bed to remove his trainers.

"You're a real piece of work, walking in here asking questions and making trouble." said Ron, sitting down on his bed to face Harry. "What's worse is what you've done to Hermione!"

Harry could feel his anger rising however, he refused to let this git best him.

"I didn't come here to cause trouble, Ron. However, I do deserve to know what's going on." replied Harry calmly. "As for Hermione, I haven't done anything to hurt her or change her."

"I see," said Ron through gritted teeth "so you think that just because you're the Boy-Who-Lived, everyone should just do as you say no matter the danger it might cause to others!"

"What are you talking about?" asked Harry, his temper boiling near the surface.

"I want the truth and tell Dumbledore I want a word with him." said Ron in a sing-song voice. "What would you think if I came in saying things like that and acting like a prat?"

"Oh I dunno, you're doing a good job acting the prat right now!" said Harry heatedly.

Both boys stood up, glaring at each other. Harry noted that Ron had grown several inches since they last met, a little over a month ago. He was tall but lanky and Harry felt if it came to brawling, he stood a fair chance. Harry eyed his jeans where his wand was, which he had just removed in turn for pajama bottoms. Ron was also in pajamas now, his wand laid on the night table.

"At least you saved me the trouble." said Ron in a hushed voice, anger pulsing.

"What trouble?" hissed Harry.

"Now I know not to waste my time on Hermione, cause it's apparent now." said Ron in almost a whisper, hatred evermore present.

"What's apparent?" asked Harry, his anger slipping a little.

"First Krum, now you? It's apparent that Hermione has a thing for famous wizards and I'm just a Weasley." whispered Ron. "Wonder which famous wizard she'll do next?"

"YOU FOUL GIT!" shouted Harry.

The blood thundered in Harry's head as he tackled Ron, throwing him back onto his bed. Ron immediately kicked Harry off then lunged for his wand but Harry was too quick for him. He grabbed Ron before he could make his wand and tossed him onto his bed, rattling the wall and making the portrait that hung there swear loudly. Harry began to pummel Ron, hitting him with short jabs. Harry had the unfortunate experience of fighting his way out of corners more than once, while Ron was clearly stunned by this type of violence. Ron yelped in pain, a nasty cracking sound was heard as Harry's fist collided with Ron's lower jaw.

Harry heard the door burst open behind them and a pair of hands wrenching him off of Ron. Harry kicked hard, attempting to get back to Ron who was now wiping blood from his mouth.

"Settle down, Harry!" said Sirius' voice as he pulled Harry away from Ron.

"What in Merlin is going on here?" Harry heard Mr Weasley ask.

Harry saw Mrs Weasley push past them and make her way to Ron. She withdrew her wand and Ron flinched, looking scared. She waved her wand, repairing his front tooth, while looking deeply disappointed at her youngest son.

Harry shrugged off Sirius' grip but made no attempt to get at Ron. Something had died between them. He had chosen to hate Harry, not just because of Hermione, but because of his jealousy. Harry felt he could no longer trust Ron, even if he eventually came around like he did last year. Last year it was the Tri-Wizard Tournament that tore at their friendship but that was over, never to return. This however, was over Hermione and his jealousy of the Boy-Who-Lived, neither of which was ever going away. Sorrow mingled with his anger now, making his stomach hurt.

Harry turned to Sirius, "Is there anywhere else I can sleep tonight?"

"None safe unless one of the twins can swap with you." replied Sirius.

"No need." said Ron. "It was my fault but don't worry, I won't say another thing to him. That's a promise!"

With that, Ron glared at Harry before moving past his mother and climbing back into his own bed, pulling the sheets over his head. Mrs Weasley stared at Harry, searching his face before taking a deep breath then sighing. Fred, George, Ginny, and Hermione were now standing outside the door. Mrs Weasley bustled past to chivvy them back to their rooms.

"You okay, Harry?" asked Sirius, concern in his voice.

"I'll be alright." replied Harry, looking up at his godfather.

Sirius patted Harry on the shoulder, a slight smile on his face, then turned and left the room. Mr Weasley gave Harry a curious look then left the room also, closing the door behind him. He imagined that having five boys, Mr Weasley had dealt with this type of behavior before. Harry walked over to his bed, eying the lump in Ron's covers indicating where the brooding git laid. He took his wand out of the front pocket of his jeans and placed it under his pillow, just in case.


The next few weeks were a mixture of work, rest, worry, and awkward moments. Fun, was not on the calendar for Hermione, no matter whom she was with. The twins had immediately began their persistent eaves dropping on Order meetings. Dumbledore had shown up once but, left without even attempting to speak with Harry. This had made Harry very angry and irritable, as Hermione had expected. She had also made extra effort to avoid the hallways or be alone at all when Snape was present within the house.

Mrs Weasley had put all of the children to work cleaning up the many rooms of number twelve Grimmauld Place, no doubt hoping to keep them too busy to meddle in the Order's business. The house was so overrun with pixies and every other manner of magical vermin that Mrs Weasley had resorted to mixing stunning potions, as she did not permit Ron or Ginny to perform magic, no matter what Sirius had said. She could not, however, prevent Fred and George, whom had come of age, from performing magic. Hermione and Harry refrained from magic in front of her, as they did not welcome the argument that would ensue.

Alone time with Harry was all but impossible. A kiss good morning and a kiss goodnight was the only thing close to romance for them, so far. Every time they tried to slip away, Mrs Weasley would find them and set them to work.

Ginny had only pried once about Harry and Hermione's relationship, as it was obvious she was curious but not necessarily jealous, as Hermione had feared she might be. Instead, Ginny expressed one night, as they were going to sleep, of a crush she had on fellow Gryffindor, Dean Thomas. She was searching for advice about how to talk to Dean when they returned to school.

Harry and Ron were civil at best. After attempting to do each other in the first night, surprisingly they were still sleeping in the same room. Hermione had told Harry to speak to Ron and try to work out their differences. However, she had long since given up on understanding how boys communicated. She just didn't want her silent issues with Ron to spill over to Harry.

Hermione had just finished dressing and was about to head down for breakfast when a low rumble below was followed by the screaming of Mrs Black's portrait.

"FILTH! DISGRACE TO THE HOUSE OF BLACK!" screamed the portrait of Mrs Black.

She ran down stairs but pulled up before reaching the first floor, mouth gaping at the view in front of her. Lupin and Mrs Weasley had run into the hallway to silence Mrs Black's portrait but were frozen by the sight that they saw above them. Harry was backing into the hallway from the drawing room bobbing and weaving as he dueled Sirius! Hermione brandished her wand and was about to hex Sirius when she heard him cry, "Very good Harry! Excellent motion!"

"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!" screamed Mrs Weasley over the screams of Mrs Black, climbing the stairs.

Lupin pointed his wand at Mrs Black's portrait causing the curtains to close with a swift finality, silencing Mrs Black. Harry and Sirius both dropped their wands to their sides, smiling as Sirius made his way over to Harry, placing one arm around his godson. They strolled back into the drawing room, leaving Lupin, Mrs Weasley, and Hermione to follow after them.

"What seems to be the trouble, Molly?" asked Sirius as he leaned against the fireplace mantle.

Harry stood next to him, smiling and looking pleased with himself.

"The trouble, Sirius? You're teaching a fifteen year old boy to duel. That's the trouble." replied Mrs Weasley, registering as much restraint as possible.

"I was fourteen when Harry's grandfather first taught James and myself to duel while visiting the Potters. I'm just passing on knowledge that he should already have." said Sirius coolly.

"I'm sorry we awoke Mrs Black, Mrs Weasley, but one of my jinxes missed and hit the wall rather than Sirius' shield charm." said Harry apologetically.

Hermione had convinced Harry to try and regain Sirius' trust. An ally within the Order might prove useful to their cause however, she never considered that Harry would progress this fast in his endeavor. It really told of Sirius' longing for his godson to be the family he never truly had; the family that Harry's parents were once close to becoming for Sirius.

"He's too young to be learning this, Sirius." pleaded Mrs Weasley.

"Teach your children your way, Molly, and I'll teach Harry mine." replied Sirius pushing past them, Harry right beside him.

Harry winked at Hermione as he passed. Lupin tugged at Sirius' arm and Hermione clearly heard him whisper to Sirius, "What will Dumbledore say?" Sirius however, pulled his arm away from Lupin and continued on without saying a word.

Breakfast that morning was a very quiet affair, indeed. Aside from the sound of scraping knives and the tinkling of glasses, you would have never known from listening that ten people sat at a table in the kitchen eating. From time-to-time Moody, Tonks, and other Order members would join them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner however, this morning was not the case. Mrs Weasley was still brooding over her failed encounter with Sirius, while he sat quietly, smiling while he ate. Kreacher, the old and, Hermione felt, misunderstood House Elf came into the kitchen at Sirius' orders to help clean up. Kreacher did as he was told, while mumbling insults at the inhabitants of number twelve. Harry shot Hermione a, don't say anything, look. Fred and George stifled yawns as they finished their biscuits before excusing themselves.

After breakfast Hermione and Harry joined the twins in their room to see if they had gathered any new information from last night's Order meeting. So far, nothing useful had been heard that would help them find her parents. Hermione had started a journal of the twin's reports, in hopes that their findings might be useful later on. Harry was her constant source of encouragement, always telling her, "This could be the morning."

George waved his wand, sealing the door with a silencing charm, as Hermione and Harry took a seat on the left side bed. George yawned again as he sat down next to Fred, across from Harry and Hermione.

"So, anything new?" asked Harry.

Fred glanced at George darkly then said, "The Ministry is after you, mate."

"I don't understand." replied Harry quickly. "What do you mean by, after me?"

"Moody said that they want to evaluate you, mentally – then remove you from the Dursleys and place you with a Ministry family." said George.

"The Dursleys would love that." replied Harry, nodding his head.

"What do you mean by, Ministry family?" asked Hermione, frowning harshly.

"According to Moody, it's someone the Ministry can control." said George.

"Like a high ranking Ministry official's family." said Fred, a foul look on his face.

"So is Dumbledore doing anything?" asked Hermione, feeling very strange.

"Well, it sounds as though he's arguing against them performing any kind of mental evaluation on Harry and that the muggles are his blood family." said Fred.

"Sirius looked extremely upset, chucking a goblet across the kitchen and all." said George.

"Yeah, his fugitive status prevents him from being recognized as your godfather, mate – else you could live with him." said Fred, looking at Harry sadly.

"Who says I'd wanna live here?" asked Harry, nudging a sinister looking firework with the toe of his trainer.

"Sounded like you two were getting 'long alright this morning, mate." said George cheerfully.

"Haven't seen mum that mad in weeks." said Fred, raising his eyebrows.

Harry smiled and Hermione knew he was enjoying Mrs Weasley's frustration.

"He's okay, but like you said, he's still a fugitive." said Harry. "Anyway, any other news?"

"Just that Dumbledore can't find anyone willing to take Defense Against The Dark Arts." said Fred.

"Snape wants the post but Dumbledore won't give it to him." said George.

Hermione could see her own disappointment mirrored on Harry's face. While information that the twins brought was important, it was not what they so desperately needed. With only a few weeks until start of term, they were running out of time. She knew they would be expected to return to Hogwarts and if they didn't, her parents lives would be in great peril. Harry gripped Hermione's hand, squeezing it trying to reassure her.

"Why such the long faces, mates?" asked George.

"Yeah, we'll find out where they're keeping them." said Fred encouragingly.

A knock at the bedroom door quickly silenced the room. George had sealed the door with a silencing charm however, Hermione knew that listening wasn't the only way to spy and if Mad-Eye was here, everyone would know where they were.

George waved his wand, removing the charm, then said in a sing-song voice, "Come i-n."

The door swung open and Ginny entered the room looking flustered.

"What's wrong, Ginny?" asked Hermione.

"Letters from Hogwarts have arrived and you won't like what's come." replied Ginny before spinning on her heel and heading towards the stairs.

Fred and George exchanged dark glances before saying in unison, "Shall we go then?"

Harry and Hermione nodded, Hermione wondering what could be in their letters from Hogwarts. Surely they wouldn't expel her and Harry for their actions this summer, she thought. She tightened her grip on Harry's hand as they headed downstairs to see what was so awful.

Upon descending the stairs into the kitchen, she immediately saw the smug look on Ron's face and the gleam of delight on Mr and Mrs Weasley's faces, then comprehension dawned like a light. Ron was a prefect.

"What you so smug about, ickle Ronnie?" asked Fred darkly.

"Isn't it obvious? He's been made a prefect." said Hermione in a matter-of-fact tone.

"You take the fun out of everything." said Ron smirking slightly.

"Not everything." said Harry offhandedly, glancing at Ron as he picked up his own envelope.

Hermione felt herself flush, looking wildly at Harry as Ron's ears burned red, Fred and George bit their lower lips to keep from laughing. Mrs Weasley was humming merely and missed Harry's comment, while Mr Weasley and Ginny were too far out of earshot to hear him. Hermione made a mental note to slap Harry the next chance she got.

Hermione picked up her envelope and immediately noticed an extra bulge. She withdrew the contents to see the gold and scarlet badge with the letter P on it tucked inside her letter.

"Congratulations." said Harry, spying the badge.

"Oh good." said Ginny, waltzing over to them. "I was hoping you'd be prefect."

"Excellent." said Fred. "At least there'll be someone to keep ickle Ronnie in line."

"Hush now." said Mrs Weasley as she approached the group. "I was worried that Charlie might be the last but Ron has redeemed us."

"Oh yes, ickle Ronnie will bring honor to the family." said George in disgust.

"So what would you like as your reward, Ronnie?" asked Mrs Weasley, ignoring George.

"Reward? I get a present?" asked Ron, clearly surprised.

"Of course!" said Mrs Weasley. "How about some new dress robes?"

"We just bought him new ones!" said Fred, rolling his eyes.

"Can I get a new broom?" asked Ron hopefully.

Mrs Weasley paused a moment before saying, "I don't see why not!"

Mr Weasley walked over and patted Ron on the shoulder, beaming with pride.

"I'll take everyone's book lists and collect your supplies from Diagon Alley." said Mr Weasley. "It's just too dangerous for us to go there as a group."

Hermione wondered if he was worried more about Death Eaters or the Ministry. Mr Weasley extended his hand as each of them handed him their book and supply lists. As Hermione handed him hers, he spotted the prefect badge in her other hand.

Mr Weasley smiled and said, "Well done Hermione. We have two prefects with us."

Hermione returned his smile and replied, "Thanks."

"Hermione, with your parents in hiding, may I ask how you will be paying for your books and supplies?" asked Mr Weasley, concerned.

"You have my permission to withdraw money from my vault to cover her expenses, Mr Weasley." said Harry. "And don't argue, Hermione." he added.

Mrs Weasley looked at Hermione, then at Harry with suspicion in her eyes. Mr Weasley however, smiled at Harry and nodded in approval. At this, Mrs Weasley turned her back on them and continued to makeover Ron's prefect status, ignoring Hermione's completely.

"Be a little kinder to Ron, boys." said Mr Weasley. "This is a big honor."

"Why? What's the big deal?" asked George, still clearly disgusted.

"IT'S A FAIR BETTER THAN YOU TWO HAVE DONE!" shouted Mrs Weasley, shaking her finger at the twins.

Crack

Twisting in unison the twins disapparated from the kitchen. Mrs Weasley huffed loudly then looked approvingly at Ron who was clearly irritated.

"What's the commotion about?" asked Sirius as he entered the kitchen.

"Ron's been made prefect!" said Mrs Weasley beaming.

"Hermione has been made a prefect too." said Harry loudly.

"Excellent." replied Sirius, clasping his hands together. "Never was one myself. Too much of trouble, I guess. Remus was our year – to keep an eye on me and James, I suppose."

"Load of good it did, too." said Lupin, walking in behind Sirius. "Congratulations, both of you."

Hermione smiled at the genuine looks on their faces. It made her feel warm inside to know someone, besides Harry, actually cared.

Then a tiny voice in the back of her mind said, "Too bad it's not real. Remember, they are Order members and they will do or say anything to gain your trust so they can tear you away from Harry. You can only trust Harry."

The thought made Hermione's gaze fall to the floor, feeling very confused and saddened.


At Mr Weasley's request, Harry wrote out a letter authorizing him to withdraw money from Harry's vault. He wanted to go to Diagon Alley but did not want to cause unnecessary friction between him and Sirius by arguing the point.

Roughly a week later, Moody arrived shortly before lunch, bringing Tonks and Kingsley Shaklebolt with him. Tonks looked completely worn out during lunch and, as on many the occasion, she tripped over a troll leg umbrella stand as she left the kitchen, waking Sirius' mother. After silencing the portrait, Harry saw Tonks follow Lupin into the drawing room. He and Hermione were heading upstairs to begin the daily task of ridding the house of vermin when Lupin called to him.

"Harry, might I have a word?" called Lupin's voice.

Harry turned back towards the drawing room, still holding Hermione's hand, as Tonks appeared at the doorway.

"Hey Hermione, would ya give me a hand upstairs?" asked Tonks cheerfully.

Hermione looked mutinous but Harry nodded for her to go with Tonks. It appeared that Lupin wanted to deal with him alone and Harry was looking forward to it. The room was still musty, even after all the cleaning they had done. The tapestries that hung on the wall were old, many had been purged of mold though the oder still lingered. Lupin stood in the middle of the room when Harry entered. He looked apprehensive but determined and Harry knew that meant this was going to be an unpleasant talk.

"Ah, Harry," started Lupin "thank you for joining me. I wanted a word with you, away from the others."

"What would you like to talk about?" asked Harry, though he thought he could guess the topic.

"If you'd indulge me, I would like to discuss yours and Hermione's relationship." said Lupin, cautiously.

"What about our relationship would you like to discuss?" asked Harry playfully, folding his arms.

Harry saw that this made Lupin even more uneasy, as he swallowed hard before continuing.

"Tonks has conveyed to me the situation as it was while her and Mad-Eye were at Hermione's residence to collect you two." said Lupin, folding his hands together.

"The situation?" asked Harry, wondering what Tonks saw or thought she saw while they were there.

"Yes, and that combined with your sudden disappearance from Privet Drive, leads myself and Professor Dumbledore to wonder if this relationship is healthy, given the circumstances." said Lupin, staring Harry in the eyes.

"Healthy?" retorted Harry, barely keeping his anger in check. "Given what circumstances? That Voldemort has returned? Or is it that I left Privet Drive without permission? Cause it surely isn't the notion that you didn't know where I was! I know the truth Lupin! I know that ol' Dung was following me and everyone knew where I was every minute of every day!" Harry kicked over a foot stool in his anger. "AND IF DUMBLEDORE HAS A PROBLEM WITH SOMETHING I'M DOING, HE CAN TELL ME HIMSELF!"

Harry shouted so loud that he woke Sirius' mother, who started screaming at the top of her lungs. Moments later there was a bang, silencing Mrs Black, as Sirius entered the room, shutting the door behind him.

"What the bloody hell is going on in here?" roared Sirius.

"Harry and I were having a discussion." replied Lupin calmly.

"A discussion?" asked Sirius sarcastically. "I was in the kitchen and could hear Harry quite plainly."

"Lupin, what do you mean by, Tonks conveyed to you the situation? What situation? What circumstances?" asked Harry, barely acknowledging Sirius' arrival, his temper flaring.

Sirius glared at Lupin, his old friend. Harry could tell, this time, that Sirius was seriously weighing his words before speaking.

Lupin sighed, "We are only worried about you, Harry."

"Who? Who's worried about me? You and Dumbledore? Why?" asked Harry, fuming.

"We're trying to keep you safe." replied Lupin. "Leaving Privet Drive and going to Spencer Chase? Taking the Knight Bus without concealment or disguise? Claiming you helped Hermione hide her parents from the wizarding world? These actions show a real lack of judgment on your part."

"Going to Hermione's aide was a lack of judgment?" asked Harry, clearly recognizing Lupin's accusation. "Like Privet Drive was so safe, with Dementors jaunting up the street and only a squib and sneak thief for protection! Think I would have been just as safe if I had gone hunting for Voldemort himself!"

"Yes, but going to Hermione's aide gave you purpose and I'm afraid that you're mistaking that feeling for other feelings; feelings that will cloud your judgment and make you see things that aren't really there." said Lupin imploringly. "Better and much older wizards than you have made this mistake."

Harry stood there, anger filling him, his fists clinched tight, eyes locked with Lupin's. He was not about to entertain this discussion any further. The only thing keeping him from jinxing Lupin was his respect for his old defense teacher, whom he was sure could stun him before he could draw his wand.

Sirius cleared his throat, "Ah-hm. Lupin, might I have a word with Harry, alone?"

Lupin did not look away from Harry but said, "Very well, Sirius, I will leave him to you."

Lupin left the room, his face serious, his eyes fixated continually on Harry's face. Lupin closed the door behind him, leaving Harry and Sirius alone in the drawing room. There was silence for several minutes before Sirius spoke. He wasn't looking at Harry, but studying the Black family tree tapestry.

"Do you love her?" asked Sirius as he studied the Black family tapestry, still not looking at Harry.

The question was so strait forward that it caught Harry completely off guard. He felt as though the air was caught in his chest, thus rendering him unable to speak. He wanted to protest, but he couldn't find the words. Love wasn't something Harry was familiar or comfortable with, so expressing such felt alien to him.

"I-I dunno, I think I do." replied Harry sheepishly.

Sirius chuckled, "It's okay if you don't know the answer, Harry. I believe that your father, James, said the same thing to me when I asked him about your mother, Lily, during one Christmas holiday when we were about your age."

"W-What?" asked Harry shocked.

"Yes," said Sirius turning to look at Harry "I had been teasing James about his obsession with showing off every time Lily Evans was around. Back then, of course, Lily would barely acknowledge his existence, thus forcing James to do something, often foolish, in order to gain her attention."

"So when did he finally ask her out?" asked Harry, his anger dissipating.

"Finally?" retorted Sirius, clearly mused. "He only asked her out about thirty times before she said yes."

Harry smiled, "So what did you say when he told you?"

Sirius laughed, "I told him he was barking mad! I told him there was too many witches at Hogwarts to be making choices so early, but clearly I was wrong. Your mother and father were the perfect balance, complementing each other completely."

"They were happy, weren't they?" asked Harry, still smiling.

"In the end, yes." said Sirius, scowling slightly. "It takes work to be happy. I was never so lucky. They were robbed – cut short by that monster."

"Why did Voldemort hunt down my family?" asked Harry softly.

"I don't know, Harry." said Sirius flatly. "Something drove him to mark them, and you, for death. Now, he is obsessed to finish the job."

Harry thought how love and hate are such powerful emotions, capable of driving people to do things beyond comprehension. Hatred, ever since he rejoined the wizarding world four years ago, had driven him to willingly face Voldemort, in what ever form he took. Now, his feelings for Hermione, whether it be love he wasn't sure, was driving him to find her parents and, he was sure, eventually face Voldemort again.

As though Sirius could read Harry's mind he walked over to him and placed his hands on Harry's shoulders, then said, "Someone once told me that the man you never want to face is a man that has nothing to loose and the world to gain. I however, disagree. I believe that a man who loves, and fights for love, is the man that will do anything to preserve it. For that man, even in death, he will have won."

Harry could not help himself. He embraced his godfather, who in return, patted Harry on the back and head. Harry pushed back and looked at Sirius.

"My father tried to save us, didn't he? He stood in Voldemort's way instead of running, didn't he?" asked Harry.

Tears filled Sirius' eyes, "Yes Harry, your father stood his ground, knowing he had no chance. I don't think he even had his wand with him at the time. He faced death to try to save you and Lily."

"But he failed to save us." said Harry.

"No Harry, he won." said Sirius, patting Harry on the shoulders. "Now, head on upstairs and rescue Hermione from Tonks. I imagine Tonks has destroyed more, 'precious Black heirlooms', so tell her thanks from me. I have to go meet with Kingsley and Mad-Eye before they leave."

Harry nodded and headed upstairs feeling that things could not have turned out any better if he had planned it. With the return to Hogwarts on the horizon and no real clues yet to where Hermione's parents were being held, he felt uplifted to know that, just maybe, Sirius was on their side.


Sirius stormed into the kitchen, backing Lupin up against the table, fiery rage burning in his eyes. Shacklebolt and Mr. Weasley looked alarmed at Sirius' entrance however, he completely ignored them.

"How foolish can you possibly be?" growled Sirius, his nose inches from Lupin's. "Attacking Harry and Hermione's apparent courtship! You've clearly lost your senses!"

"Dumbledore asked us to reason with Harry – convince him that it's not a healthy endeavor." said Lupin, straightening his clothes and pushing away from Sirius.

"So the direct approach was your first choice?" growled Sirius. "Bloody hell, he's James' son! Would that have worked on him?"

Lupin took a seat at the table, staring up at Sirius who was still glaring at him. The mood in the room had gone sour, the jesting that had been occurring before Sirius' entrance was no more.

"So how do you propose we deal with this before it gets out of reach?" asked Lupin calmly.

"Has anyone taken into consideration that this might not be a bad thing?" asked Mr Weasley defiantly.

"No offense Arthur but, if it had been my choice, I would have made Potter a prefect." said Shacklebolt. "Would have shown confidence in the boy and maybe he wouldn't need to seek it elsewhere."

"I'm sure that Dumbledore had his reasons, Kingsley." said Lupin, still staring at Sirius.

"From now on, let me deal with Harry." growled Sirius, taking a seat at the table. "Is everyone clear on this?"

Shacklebolt and Lupin nodded while Mr Weasley merely bit his lower lip. It was clear that Mr Weasley wasn't satisfied. Sirius stared at him, uncertain of how to convince him that he knew what was best for Harry.

"All of you, SHUT IT!" growled Moody, stumping into the room. "We have non-Potter business to discuss."

"What news do you bring, Mad-Eye?" asked Mr Weasley, sounding concerned.

Moody casted a charm towards the entrance of the kitchen, sealing it, before speaking.

"I'm afraid Arthur, it's the worst." replied Moody. "One of our scouts that was tailing Hagrid and Madam Maxime, providing protection case things went bad during their mission, has disappeared. I'm sorry Arthur, it's Charlie."

"Disappeared!" shouted Mr Weasley, standing up. "What do you mean, Mad-Eye?"

Shacklebolt stood up and placed a hand on Mr Weasley's shoulder to steady his friend.

"They were camped out near the mouth of the entrance to the valley, watching Hagrid and Madam Maxime from a distance. Charlie took first watch but never woke Dobbs to switch out. Morning had come before Dobbs knew he was missing. He searched the mountain side completely however, there was no sign of Hagrid, Madam Maxime, or Charlie." finished Moody, taking a seat at the table.

"I must go immediately and look for him!" said Mr Weasley looking desperate.

"Arthur – Dumbledore has Dobbs, Vance, and Jones all out scouring Europe looking for them." said Moody, trying to sound assuring.

"HE'S MY SON!" shouted Mr Weasley.

"He's a man and he knew the risks, Arthur." said Sirius. "Now, we'll find him but Molly is going to need you."

Mr Weasley slumped into his seat, tears streaming down his face. "Find him, Mad-Eye. Find my boy!"

"If he can be saved, Arthur – I will." growled Moody.

Knelt down next to the air shaft opening on the fifth floor, Fred and George recoiled their Extendible Ears from the shaft and exchanged dark, tearful looks, filled with determination.

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