Ron Weasley was not having a terrific day. Dementors always seem to do that, suck the good right out of a day. But then Ron hadn't had a good day in a long time. The Order was on the ropes. It was at a new rock bottom. Or really, it fell to the bottom that had always been there, waiting for the them. They had built it themselves when they didn't communicate, when they stopped having hope for themselves or for the wizarding world.
Ron knew that he shouldn't have been surprised that they had finally reached it when they have been heading steadily towards it all along, but that didn't make seeing it happen any easier.
The Order was in a sort of civil war, in two factions, which Ron considered impressive in a depressing sort of way, as there wasn't a whole ton of people left in the Order in the first place. There were those who thought that holding any stock in the prophecy at this point was ridiculous and those that hung on to it with an almost religious like fanaticism. Even in his own family there seemed to be mixed feelings about it. He couldn't be sure, but he thought he even heard Fred and George arguing about it.
Ron felt, perhaps a little self-centeredly, that his feelings encapsulated both sides of the argument. Ron was equally sure about both sides of it.
It was unfair and unrealistic to leave everything up to Harry Potter, who was, after all, even younger than Ron, had very little knowledge of magic, and had already died facing You-Know-You.
He was also the only shred of hope they had left.
In the quiet hours of the early morning sometimes Ron let it sink that they had lost. They lost years ago. The Order lost when McGonagall had to leave Hogwarts. His family lost the urge to fight, to really fight, when they lost Charlie and Percy. The only thing that kept a spark of hope alive, the only thing that made it so Ron could close his eyes and go back to sleep, was the knowledge that they had found him. Harry Potter was alive and apparently unkillable.
But Ron knew that wasn't true. He knew that Harry Potter could die, very easily, and because of them.
He wondered if it would have been easier if Hermione hadn't been around. If it would have been possible to persuade Harry to fight for them if Hermione hadn't been there. Ron felt pretty certain that he would have, but he couldn't feel bitter towards Hermione about it. After all, she just reminded them, forcefully, what they should have never allowed themselves to forget. That Harry is human.
And is he. In the past, when Ron thought about Harry Potter being out there somewhere still, he pictured someone who would charge into a room, magic hanging around him like a fog, and take charge of everything. He pictured someone tall and wise, someone with all the answers. Ron eventually figured out that he really just wanted a young, alive, Dumbledore. But Harry was not a young Dumbledore. Harry was, well, completely ordinary.
Ron watched him, as all the Order did, with bated breath. He had survived the killing curse. Again. Surely he would do something else spectacular during training? But he hadn't. He was smart and he was powerful, but he wasn't extraordinary. In a different life he probably would have made a good wizard, a respectable one, but not one to enter the history books.
Harry was shy and quiet and not a little sarcastic. Ron felt, when he forgot his disappointment that Harry wasn't more, wasn't better, when he forgot that he was the Boy-Who-Lived, that he was a decent bloke. When Ron let Harry just be Harry in his head he thought that they would make good friends. But as it was, when Ron looked at Harry, he mostly felt let down.
The most extraordinary thing about Harry was how he looked at Hermione. Ginny thought it was so sweet and romantic. It made Ron want to throw up in his mouth a little. Ron didn't see it himself really. Hermione was definitely cute, very smart, and quite kind, but Ron thought her a little bossy for his tastes.
All in all, Harry Potter was just an ordinary wizard in love with a girl. When they left, Ron felt an equal mix of relief and disappointment. The Order's last hope was wandering around unprotected. But at least he wasn't going to get thrown into some war before he was ready by an impatient Moody only to get killed three seconds in. He was actually probably safer in the stuffy room in that abandoned house.
Or at least he was, until Ron realized he messed up.
"You apparated away? You foolish boy!" McGonagall's nostrils flared, sparks shooting out of her wand. It was only them in the headquarters, everyone else had left to search for Ron. "You left Mr. Potter and Ms. Granger there as you apparated away, I'm sure. Have you not been paying attention in the meetings? They track where you last did magic if they get you with the spell!"
Ron felt his ears turn red. "You said that only lasted a couple of hours! I waited three!"
McGonagall took a few deep breaths and spoke quietly, her voice ice. "A few hours after you cast your first spell, idiot child. Say you apparated away, they will go to where you apparated from, but if you don't do magic again for a few hours, then they won't be able to find you."
Ron stared at her, his stomach dropping in panic. "Tell me where they are at once, Mr. Weasley. We'll go help them."
Ron opened his mouth to speak but couldn't. His mouth fell open in horror as Ron remembered. "I-I can't. They made me promise not to tell anybody in the Order where they were. I did a wizard's oath."
McGonagall stared at him, seething in fury, something like worry entering her eyes. "Then you must go help them, Mr. Weasley."
Ron shook his head, almost dazed in his panic. "I'm part of the Order, I think it was implied, at least it feels like it, that I was also included in that promise not to come around."
McGonagall shook her head, her face shifting from anger to concentration. "I will call the Order back, since you are here. And then we will keep an eye out for any reports on strange activity."
McGonagall's patronus burst out of her wand and fled. Ron stared at her, uncertain what to say. McGonagall gave him one last look of disgust before turning her back on him and leaving the room.
All the Order was in the living room, looking over scrying bowls and maps that took up whole tables that had strange symbols on them. They were looking for any burst of strong magic. Usually they did that trying to find Muggleborns in danger, but there hadn't been any in a long time.
After all, the Order was hardly the only one with those types of maps and the Death Eaters had more resources. They were usually too late.
There had been a lot of Dementors out that night, and a lot of people were using their Patronus. It seemed to have happened in a flurry. The Order stared in panic as there were scatterings of symbols bouncing around the map until there were none. They had no idea if any of them had been Harry and Hermione. It seemed doubtful that they even knew the Patronus charm.
Early morning had come by the time Order sat back, everyone looking at the wall, or the floor, anywhere but each other, knowing that they had failed, once again, to help anyone.
The somber silence was broken by the front door opening and closing and someone making their way in a hurry to the living room.
Tonks burst in, her hair changing rapidly between a fiery red and a neon green. "I found him. Them."
Everybody stood at once, giving her their full attention. Tonks pulled out a newspaper, unfolding it to the third or fourth page and started reading.
"London can sleep a little easier tonight knowing that there is a suspected killer off the streets. Last night two police officers were called to Wayfield Park on the report of two teenagers unconscious in the middle of the lawn. Upon discovering the two teenagers the police recognized them at once as Harry Potter, the prime suspect for the murder of his own family, and his girlfriend, Hermione Granger, also wanted for questioning on the whereabouts of her missing parents. The police called for backup and have brought them in for questioning. It is not clear yet why they were in the park. We have not yet been able to get a statement from the police. We will continue to update as we learn more." Tonks read quickly, then turned the page towards them, showing them the short article which included grainy black and white photos of Harry and Hermione beneath the title.
Moody spoke from the corner. "We need to go to that police station immediately. All of us. I wouldn't be surprised if He showed up himself. Fred, George, grab the darkness powder and some of your other tricks. Everyone disillusion themselves, we leave in two."
The police station from the outside all was quiet and seemingly normal. However, they all knew immediately not all was well when they felt a strong muggle repelling charm encasing the whole building.
They made their way silently through the front, vanishing the doors so that no one noticed them opening. Inside was chaos. There were police officers lying on the floor everywhere. One was in the corner, behind an overturned desk, occasionally popping out from behind it, aiming his weapon and shooting at the five black clad, masked figures who were standing in the middle of the room.
The death eaters laughed at his attempts each time, standing relaxed in a loose semi-circle. Eventually the police officer ran out of bullets. "Are you finished now, you monkey with a pointy stick?" They all chuckled lightly, as though they were teasing a friend at the bar. "Where is the Potter boy?"
The police officer glanced around the room, trying to find something, anything to help him. He stalled for time. "Why? What do you want with him?"
"I can't imagine why you'd care, beast. He is just a killer anyway. Tell us where he is and we might let you and some of your fellow primates live."
The police officer glanced about the room frantically, his eyes wide, his face very young looking. The death eater started counting down from five. "F-fine! Fine! He is in the back, sixth cell from the gates. The keys are in the drawer by the filing cabinets."
"What an obedient little ape you are. But we won't be needing the keys." The death eater flicked his wand and the desk the police officer was hiding behind flew forward, slamming the police officer into the wall with a sickening, crunching thud.
Moody touched the outline of Tonks and Remus on the shoulder, pushing them towards the gates. He then tapped Fred and George on the shoulder, slapping their bag. He bumped shoulders with McGonagall. They waited until Remus and Tonks were by the gate. Then Fred opened his bag slowly, as not to bring attention to their outlines. The death eaters were talking in the middle of the room, apparently unhurried. George took out a small wind up looking toy which he then threw to the other side of the room. When it landed it made long, extremely loud, irritating screeching sound. The death eaters all turned at once except for one, who after a second turned towards them, pointing his wand. Remus and Tonks opened the gates just as Fred and George let out the darkness powder and McGonagall and Moody started firing into the crowd.
Tonks and Remus disappeared down the hall as the room become impenetrably dark.
All was silence, blackness and shots of different colors. Moody, McGonagall, Fred and George all remained close, touching elbows to not lose each other. Through the darkness the death eater who turned the right way yelled. "Close ranks!" He felt two of his fellows move to his shoulders, one tripping over one of the fallen. The barrage of spells narrowed in on them at his yell. He aimed his wand towards where the spells were coming from.
"Avada Kedevra!" He heard the satisfying thud of a body hitting the floor before he saw a red light hit him and all was darkness.
The spells stopped coming. Moody bellowed, "Behind the wall!" Together, shuffling, they went into the entrance. "On three, lumos maxima. One, two, three..."
Three strong lights came together, piercing through the darkness, which bleed away slowly like water falling through cracks. In the back of the room Tonks and Remus lead a pale Harry and Hermione through the gate, in the center of the room lay slumped the five death eaters. In the front of the room, where everyone's eyes landed, was McGonagall, staring at the wall with blank eyes.
The dark, grimy, bleakness of the room matched the atmosphere well. Hermione felt sad, uncomfortable and closed in all at once. Every few minutes she would trade glances with Harry, who was, like her, staring out into the room with a somber, awkward look on his face. The silence was a like a weight, making people bend their heads and hunch their shoulders against it.
Eventually Tonks spoke softly from the corner. "Where is he taking her?"
Mrs. Weasley answered in a choked whisper, "To rest with the others, with everybody."
The room gave significant glances at each other over Mrs. Weasley's head until the silence once again dominated the room, bowing everyone's head and causing eyes to move into different corners.
Hermione swallowed thickly, trying to fight down the wave of guilt that was trying to raise in her stomach.
The front door opened and the sound of a thunking gait made it's way down the hall. There was a pause as it reached the door. Everyone stood, waiting, giving each other nervous glances. One moment, then another, passed but no one came through the door. Remus took a few, uncertain steps toward it when the door burst open and Moody appeared, his face pale and empty.
He glanced at every person in the room with his normal eye, his magical one swirling from face to face at twice the speed. "It's done."
"Thank you for taking care of her, Alastor, who did you lay her to rest by?" Mr. Weasley looked grimly into Moody's face, his white knuckles clutching at the hat in his hand.
Moody clenched his teeth, shaking his head once, then twice. His voice came out more gruff than usually, sounding like a growl. "No, you don't understand me. It's done. We're are done. The Order is done."
The room stared back in him in a shocked silence. Ron, who had been standing at the back of room, pale and slouching, let out a strange noise, a mix between a groan and a whimper.
Tonks bit her lip and took a hesitant step closer. "Mad-eye, we can't just…"
"Yes we can. We should have a long time ago. We don't help anyone and we just get ourselves killed. We lost, they won, it is time we accept that." Moody didn't yell or get louder, but his breaths were heavy as he finished talking. Moody closed his eyes, both of them, and whispered, almost like a prayer, "I need to accept that."
More silence as everyone looked at each other uncertainly. Moody kept his eyes closed. Hermione and Harry looked at each other, once again echoing each other's looks of confused sadness. The guilt that Hermione had been pushing down would no longer listen and came up miserably, coming out of her mouth in a scratchy whisper.
"I-I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I know we all didn't part as friends but you still came out to help us, sh-she came out to help us, and…"
"Be quiet!" Moody barked out, making everyone in the room jump. Both of Moody's eyes were open and glaring at Hermione. He opened his mouth several times to speak but couldn't, his fury catching in his throat. Eventually he hissed out, his eyes flashing to Harry, "You. You were a misplaced hope. A mistake. A mistake that cost us a valuable person, you, you useless…"
"Alastor!" Remus yelled, horrified, over the end of Moody's speech. "Literally none of this is their fault. It is unfair to…
Moody's head snapped over to Remus, his face turning red. "Unfair? Unfair!" He bellowed back, his magical eye swinging from face to face, his normal one snapping from Remus to Hermione to Harry, then back to Hermione. "Just. Imagine. Just imagine life being unfair."
He brought his staff down with a thud that reverberated around the room. He took a few deeps breaths, his voice still shaking in anger when he spoke again. "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. They won't fight for us. They are of no use, anyway, even if they did. Our last hope is hopeless, our numbers are dismal, we are of no help. We need to disband. Take your things and your loved ones and go to different safe houses, we can see what scrap of a life we can all make for ourselves now."
There was a shocked silence once again ringing throughout the room. Mr. Weasley spoke nervously, turning his hat in his hands. "Why-why would we need to disband? Separate safe houses? Is that really necessary?"
Moody considered him for a minute, he looked again from face to face, save Hermione's and Harry's, and let out a deep, tired sigh, one that seemed to be from someplace deep inside Moody's heart. He spoke wearily. "We can't all stay here together. We will just continue to do the same things, sacrifice and sacrifice, try and try, only to die, all of us. No, we need to split, to try our fortunes separately. We need to try to live and we can't do that together, we are too use to pushing each other, too use to having a cause."
Mrs. Weasley tucked her hand into Mr. Weasley's arm and he looked down at her. They had a long silent conversation, Mrs. Weasley nodding her head once after a few minutes, a strange gleam in her eye. She whispered, "We'll go."
Remus sat down in shock. Tonks covered her mouth with her hand. All the Weasley children yelled out at once, "Mum?" "What!" "No!" "We can't just…"
But Mrs. Weasley just shook her head, her eyes bright, and pulled her children towards her. "Enough. That's enough, now."
The Weasleys stared at each other for a long minute, so many emotions across all of their faces. Ginny, whispering, asked, "Where will we go?"
Hermione stood, silent, next to Harry for hours, while the Weasley's and Remus and Tonks moved about the house, taking their always pre-packed bags and a few extras and putting them downstairs in separate piles. She watched as they talked about who would get what safe houses, logistics, concerns, worries. She watched as Remus and Tonks hugged all of the Weasley's goodbye. She nodded at Tonks when she gave her a small, watery smile. She shook Remus's hand after he shook Harry's and felt a strange swell of emotion as she heard them crack out of the hallway into an unknown future.
The Weasleys gathered, all their worldly possessions in small piles around them. They all looked at Harry and Hermione for a long moment before Harry choked out, "Th-Thank you for everything, I wish…" Harry trailed off, uncertainly, his face vulnerable.
Mrs. Weasley nodded, her face crumpling in a quiet pain as she walked forward and took Harry's face between her hands. "This is not your fault, dear. You're a good boy. You two be safe and look after each other, you hear?"
Mrs. Weasley moved away from Harry and grasped Hermione's hand between her own, giving her a small smile. Hermione squeezed her hand back and give her own watery smile to the rest of the Weasley's. Harry waved as they all reached forward and touched a newspaper, waving back at him, until they popped out of existence.
Moody, Harry and Hermione looked at each other, Moody's face hardening, Harry and Hermione's smiles slipped away.
"Where will you go?" Harry asked, emotionless.
Moody smirked at them, "Aye, I think that you all will be able to tell, soon enough."
He clunked to the edge of the room, his hand on the knob, when he turned to look at them with a grim smile. "The house is all yours, now. Enjoy." He then left, opening and closing the door softly behind him.
"What does that mean? How will we tell where he is going to go?" Harry asked, tense.
Hermione looked at him, frowning. "He didn't take anything with him."
Hermione felt wrong putting her things in the newly abandoned room upstairs. "It just feels, I don't know, cold, moving in like this right after they left, right after she died."
Harry sat down on the bed with a sigh. "I'm more worried about them coming back, honestly. Especially Moody, I still say he sounded vaguely threatening."
Hermione looked over at him with a frown. "He had perfect opportunity right then and there if had wanted to harm us, Harry."
"I know." Harry was still staring down at his hands blankly. Hermione watched him as he collected his thoughts. Eventually he looked over at her, a strangely vulnerable look on his face. "Is this my fault?"
Hermione considered him for a minute, remembering her own feelings of guilt earlier. "No, I don't think so."
Harry sighed, his face trying to smile and frown at the same time, ending up in a grimace instead. "I've never really had anyone on my side before, the way that you are Hermione. I don't think that you know how much I… but I need to know the truth, you can't spare my feelings."
Hermione smiled at him, feeling somewhat amused despite everything. "You think that I'm sparing your feelings? I've never been accused of that before." Hermione paused, thinking, the grin slipping of of her face into something more thoughtful. "No, I feel, I feel bad that McGonagall was killed trying to save us. I truly do, but I don't think that guilt is quite the emotion."
Hermione leaned back onto the bed with a sigh. "She wouldn't have died if she hadn't come to save us. But then we wouldn't have needed saving if Ron hadn't attracted the dementors in the first place. Still, this isn't Ron's fault either. I suppose, really, it is the person who killed her's fault. What happened to them anyway?"
Harry looked down at her, his brows knit, his expression grim. "I think they killed them. Moody took away McGonagall, Tonks and Remus took us back here. I think Fred and George stayed behind and killed anyone who wasn't already dead."
Hermione felt sickened. Harry looked at her face and took her hand. "I know. I know. But I don't suppose I blame them. They weren't going to be thrown into jail. They would just escape from a muggle prison and they aren't considered criminals in the wizarding world, so…"
Hermione curled into a ball on her side, her knees drawn to her chest. "Everything is so dark."
Harry patted her hair, his expression far away. "I'm sorry."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's not your…"
She sat up suddenly with a gasp, her expression changing at once into one of raw panic. "Oh god, oh no!" She jumped from the bed and ran over to her rucksack, pulling things and tossing them to the floor until she found the small mirror.
"Hermione, what's happened? What's wrong?" Harry knelt down beside her.
"Neville! Neville Longbottom, please! Neville!" Hermione yelled at the glass.
Neville's face swam into view, pale and worried. "Hermione! What's happened, it's the middle of the night!"
"What happens to memory charms when the person who cast them dies? Are they permanent?"
Behind her Harry let out a low groan of understanding.
Neville looked confused and alarmed. "What is this about? I don't…"
"The Order of the Phoenix, McGonagall, actually, changed my parent's memory so that they wouldn't remember me and so that they thought they wanted to move to Australia. McGonagall is now dead. What happens to my parents?"
Neville stared at her in amazement, "McGonagall is dead? I...When did that...dead?" A strangely conflicted look stole across his face, he looked a little lost, staring into the distance.
"Neville, please, my parents!" Hermione burst out, her voice high, slightly hysterical.
"I-I'm sorry, Hermione, I'm not sure. I'll have to ask. I'll ask professor Flitwick, he-he'll know. I'll ask him first thing tomorrow." Neville looked at her, worry and apprehension of his face.
"Thank you Neville, let me know as soon as you can, please?" Hermione's voice was thick. Neville nodded solemnly and the mirror went dark for a second, then only showed Hermione's frightened face, tears starting to drip down on her cheeks.
Harry scooted in closer and wrapped his arms around her middle as she let out a shaky, fearful breath.
Everyone at the rally started speaking in quiet whispers all at once at the announcement of them having a member of the Order the Phoenix. Charlie Mendacium smiled more genuinely at the interest.
Harry and Hermione looked at each other across the courtyard, horrified. Harry's heart, already beating fast, started to pound in his chest. He didn't want it to be any of them, not any of the Weasley's, not Tonks, not Remus. His mind started a panicked mantra of no, not them, no, no, no, no, no.
"Yes, let's bring out our lovely guest."
Two burly wizards brought out a man with a hood over his head, dragging him in between them. They threw him down on the stage to his knees. One reached over and pulled off the hood on his head.
A young man, brown hair and dark eyes blinked at the sudden light. He stared out at the crowd, tears starting to stream down his face all at once. "Please, please, I haven't done anything, I promise I won't do it again, please, please! I-I love the dark lord." He let out a desperate gasp and started rocking back and forth. "Please, I'm a pureblood! A pureblood! Second class, but still a…"
The woman in pink slashed her wand, a malicious smile on her face, and the man was silent, his mouth still moving. He realized he was no longer making sound and started rocking back and forth again, crying harder.
Harry and Hermione looked at each other once again, confused. The man on stage was not a member of the Order of the Phoenix.