Chapter Two: Bringing the Meeting to Order

Interlude I: McGonagall

Minerva McGonagall took a seat in the comfortable armchair by the fire with a slight sigh of relief. She had been running errands for the past several hours and although she was almost entirely recovered from the attack by the Ministry officials, now almost three weeks previous, she had to admit that she was tired. Lately, she was sorry to say, she had been feeling her age, and not all for physical reasons. There were many new faces present in the meeting today. In the last weeks, ever since Voldemort had made his first public appearance, the urgency of the war had been brought to everyone's attention. The Daily Prophet had been running constant articles, stirring the public into a near frenzy. This had led to an increase in their membership and so many of them were her recent students. Students that had grown- up thinking that they were safe. Students that were too young to even remember the First War. As the older members recounted stories from battles past, the younger ones listened to names of people they had never met. People that had died only a few years older than some of them were now. Some of them dead younger than people like Bill and Charlie Weasley were at the moment. This made her feel impossibly old.

Twenty-year-olds suddenly seemed so much younger to her now than they had when she was in her 30s or even 40s. Minerva didn't know if she should feel sad that the war was gearing up yet again, or angry- but mostly she felt very tired.

The living room of the Burrow was still filling up but the meeting was not due to start for another quarter of an hour. For the moment, the feeling in the room was casual and friendly- acquaintances and friends catching up. Introductions were being made between new and older members. Ministry gossip was being exchanged against news of the conditions in Diagon Alley- which had seen a significant drop in customers in the past month. The Aurors among them were feeling overwhelmed, long hours were expected by all that worked for the Ministry these days and the recent attacks from the Death Eaters had led to several disappearances and strange events. Until the early hours of that morning there had at least been some comfort that there had been no large scale attacks or causalities... but they had known it was only a matter of time.

The volume in the room was increasing. Minerva could hear Ginny Weasley arguing with her mother about having to stay upstairs in her own house, arguing that after the events at the Ministry she and her brother should be more informed. This was a rather peculiar argument, in Minerva's opinion, given that that the two of them should never have been involved in that situation in the first place, but now seemed to want to be rewarded for it. And yet perhaps she truly was going senile because in spite of her better judgement there was a part of her that agreed with her young student. Or at least when it came to Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger and especially Mr. Potter. Those three students had somehow involved themselves in every single crisis the school had seen in the last five years. Given that the three of them were almost guaranteed to find their own warped answers- and were apparently spreading their influence outwards- a degree of information might not be the worst idea.

However, Minerva did not voice these thoughts aloud, she barely acknowledged them herself. War was no place for children- the older people in the room had learned that lesson the hard way but Minerva was not foolish enough to think that the teenagers would be satisfied with being told that they would regret learning things that could never be unlearned. Nearly forty years as a teacher had taught her that there were some lessons that could be lectured, there were some that worked better with a demonstration, but the best lessons- the most important ones- needed to be learned through experience. In this case it was certainly bound to be painful experience. The fact that some lessons are better off being delayed as long as possible was sadly something that could not always be controlled.

Molly Weasley won her latest battle and the noise level increased once again as more people clamored in through the fireplace and walked in from the apparition point. While everyone appeared on the surface to be calm and cheerful, there was an undercurrent of tension in the room that everyone was well aware of, however, everyone carefully avoiding speaking of it until the start of the meeting.

Voldemort had unleashed his first large scale attack the night before.

The Brockdale Bridge had collapsed during something the muggles called 'rush hour' and the causalities had been unusually high. At the same time, several wizarding families had been attacked, terrorized and some of them killed- Minerva had learned long ago that the Death Eaters never killed everyone in an attack for there was nothing better than survivors to spread horrifying tales. FEAR was their most effective tool, and they used it well. The horrible, crippling fear that they had all known nearly 15 years ago had come back and it was more intense than ever. There had been so many witches and wizards that had not dared to openly defy the so-called 'Dark Lord' and his minions due to fear of what would have to themselves and their families. Rather than have the memories of horror mute over time, they seemed only more powerful. And the worst part of it all was that the Wizarding World suddenly felt so very unprepared.

Minerva, like many others, had believed that Voldemort had been gone forever. When James and Lily had died, the only consolation had been that there was an end to the war and the horror and fear that Voldemort inspired in everyone around him. Now, as Minerva gazed around the room, 15 years had passed and somehow it seemed as though nothing had really changed. A generation ago she had watched people like James Potter, Sirius Black and Lily Evans join the Order with confidence and determination. Fresh out of Hogwarts, they had been among the youngest of the Order but that did not stop any of them from being a strong threat to You-Know-Who. Strong fighters that worked well in a unit and could be an almost unstoppable force when fighting together against Death Eaters. Minerva had been shocked but ultimately relieved to learn that she had been wrong about Sirius. All three had met a tragic end and she couldn't help mourn not only the loss of such talent in the world but also the loss of the laughter they had been able to bring to others.

With no children of her own, Minerva reserved a special place in her heart for all of her students- especially her Gryffindors. She celebrated their accomplishments as they found careers, got married, started families. And she despaired for their losses. The ones that had been killed, the ones she had lost to fear when some had become Death Eaters themselves. She had seen so many lost futures.

She had seen Marlene McKinnon join them with resolve but stout fear. She had been such a sweet girl. She had been training to be a Healer, she was killed before she ever finished her final courses.

She had seen Alice Longbottom, a few years older, already an Auror, have the courage to fight against not only the Death Eaters but her own boss from the Ministry who had been Imperized. When the battle had turned too violent for half-measures she had been forced to kill a man that she had considered a mentor. Minerva wondered at times when the Longbottoms had been tortured into insanity if the strain of the war and the things they had done to protect the world had contributed to the fracturing of their minds just as much as the torture they had endured.

Now there were new young people Fred and George Weasley were attending their first meeting and though they were hardly the first wizards to join right out of Hogwarts, they still seemed too young for a war.

In fact, Minerva was very unsure how she felt about the presence of the Weasley Twins. On the one hand she had rarely had more gifted students, on the other hand- she had rarely seen two people more immature. Even Sirius and James had been forced to grow up in their last couple of years at Hogwarts as the war had escalated. They had seen things that no young person should see and it had changed them from fool-hardy troublemakers into courageous and competent fighters. James especially had grown up into such a strong and confident man, a man that could be admired for the love and sacrifice that he was willing to give to those that he loved.

It had been quite a while since Minerva had allowed her thoughts to drift to James Potter. Despite his looks and occasional mannerisms- Harry Potter was very different from his father in most ways. Oddly, for a boy who had no memory of them, there were moments that Harry represented the very best of both his parents, and yet at the same time seemed to lack the confidence that both had possessed so flawlessly.

James had entered Hogwarts as an overly arrogant, creatively destructive, bully. He considered any moment when he was not causing chaos and mayhem a wasted moment and there was nothing the boy had enjoyed more than receiving credit- good or bad- for his 'accomplishments'. Detentions never fazed him, scoldings rolled of him as though you were shouting at a brick wall. Minerva was embarrassed to admit to herself that part of the reason she had been so quick to dismiss Harry's claims about the Philosopher's Stone in the boy's First Year had been because she had assumed that he was up to the same mischief as his father. She had assumed the same only weeks prior when she had caught him out of bounds, after curfew. She remembered Longbottom and Malfoy telling her a story about a dragon that she had dismissed as patently ridiculous. She could easily see James Potter lying to try and get Severus Snape in trouble, nor would he have minded if another student had fallen for the trick and gotten caught in the crosshairs and she had assumed Harry had felt the same. As Head of Gryffindor she had learned to hunt out mischief and troublemaking with the ferocity of a bloodhound and while she had certainly exaggerated the likelihood of being caught out after curfew to the 3 First Years that she had hoped to intimidate, she had never believed for a moment that an actual dragon could have been involved.

In the intervening years, she had wondered from time to time if the story had in fact been true. Potter had a way of attracting particularly absurd events. The fact that Hermione Granger had also been involved led to the idea that it was not idle mischief, combined with the fact that to the best of her knowledge, Harry was never the one to instigate a row with the Malfoy boy. The truth was, Harry had a special knack for being both better behaved and causing even more trouble than his father.

Still, James had always been a secret favorite of hers. A gifted pupil in Transfiguration, he had possessed one of the most brilliantly creative minds she had ever encountered. Even when he had been at his most troublesome Minerva had always had a soft spot for the confident Chaser. He cared deeply for his friends and his family and had the confidence of a boy that had never doubted for an instant that his affection was not returned with fervor from both. Of course much of that came from the fact that he had no reason to worry- James had doting parents and was the type of person to inspire both admiration and loyalty from those around him.

Watching him grow into the responsible, caring family man- a man that had quite literally laid down his life for his wife and child- had been one of her proudest moments as a teacher in her nearly 40 year career.

Lily Potter had been a passionate person. She loved fiercely and was unconditional in her beliefs of right and wrong. Minerva had been reminded of her many times the past school year as she learned, to her ever growing frustration, of the many detentions her son had received for continuing to bait Dolores Umbridge. James was the one that usually flouted the rules, but it was Lily that would have suffered unjust punishment for a cause that she believed in. Minerva had once told her, as a young woman fresh out of Hogwarts and determined to fight in the Order even after she had just been attacked for the first time by Voldemort himself, that there was a time to press forward and a time to hold back and wait for the right time.

Minerva would never forget the response, her former student had squared her shoulders and narrowed her blazing green eyes in determination before saying, "if you're doing the right thing, you should never back down. If you're going to wait for the 'right time' to act, you never will. We need to stand up and fight because the minute we wait for an opening that might never come, or wait for someone else to do it for us, we've already lost. And Professor, I would rather die knowing that I fought as hard as I could, than live telling myself that I'm just waiting for the right moment."

Of course Lily's greatest strength could also be her greatest flaw.

She was incredibly stubborn and at times even unforgiving. At some point in her later years at Hogwarts she had decided that Severus Snape- a boy that had once been her best friend- was irredeemable and she had ended the friendship. Minerva had never learned the exact details of the final fight between the two but from that moment on, as far as Minerva was aware, she had never looked back. Minerva didn't blame her for the decision, Severus had taken a dark path through the final years of Lily's life. Lily had seen what he was doing and could not stand by and pretend that she approved, and it had never been her responsibility to save someone from their own bad decisions.

Still, Minerva wondered what could have happened if Lily had been willing to give the boy another chance. If she had reached out just a little bit more. If there had been one person in the world that had had a chance of convincing Severus to have never taken the Dark Mark in the first place- it had been Lily Evans, of that Minerva had no doubt. She had heard, years later, that Severus had gone so far as to beg Lily for forgiveness and she had refused him. Lily had been a good person, but a stubborn one in her ethics. Minerva wondered what Harry would do if it came down to forgiving someone who had wronged him, or betrayed him. She honestly couldn't say.

"If I could have your attention please, I believe we can get started," Albus announced, jerking Minerva out of her silent contemplation. She could see that the Headmaster was looking tired and was sure that he had been working since the early hours of the morning. Now that the Ministry was finally admitting that Voldemort was back, they suddenly couldn't get enough from the man that they had painted as senile and power-hungry for the past year. The hypocrisy that Cornelius was engaged in, she believed, was entirely lost on him.

"The Ministry has already dealt with the muggles involved with the events of his morning and I'm told that there are plans in place to update their government on the situation as well as the Ministry's plans going forward from here. So for those of you that were worried about our role in the day's events, know that they are being handled," Albus explained with only the faintest suggestion in tone that the Ministry might not be as capable as they believed themselves to be in these matters.

"How is it being handled?" Alastor Moody pressed.

Albus' expression was grim, "quickly. Or perhaps the more appropriate word is hastily. Cornelius knows he has made catastrophic mistakes and is scrambling to correct them."

"I heard rumors about a call for a no-confidence vote, is it true?" Hestia Jones asked.

"There's been talk but Cornelius has spent a long time building an administration that supports him and his party rather than the wizards of Britain. I would not be surprised if he is able to maintain power- at least in the short term."

"Public opinion never did matter as much as what the richest people want..." Hestia Jones muttered bitterly.

"Which explains some of the more unusual arrests," Emmeline Vance remarked critically, her brow raised at a few of the Aurors in the room.

"All of those arrests have been made with due suspicion," Aurora Tackley, a Senior Auror who had been involved with some of the arrests herself, was quick to refute. Aurora, a small but solidly built witch that did not look her advancing years, had been in charge of training young recruits into the Aurors for the past 20 years and took the actions of her people seriously. A criticism on them was a personal attack on her own methods in her mind and she was not a woman that responded well to people seconding guessing her.

"I rather zhink that es the point of dear Emmeline's concern, suspicion es not evidence," Fleur argued, surprising quite a few people with her forthrightness, she was not known for speaking out of turn during the meetings.

"The Ministry has to be seen to be doing something. It might not be… pleasant but the truth of the matter is, a public panic can cause more harm than the Death Eaters if we're not careful," Aurora argued, her voice carried a hint of condescension. She happened to have more years of experience at fighting and catching Dark Wizards than Fleur had been alive and it obviously rankled for her to be contradicted.

"Perhaps the Ministry should be less concerned with its image and more concerned with actually getting the job done. Right now they're more concerned with grabbing the right headlines than taking any real measures to stop this war from escalating!" Emmeline argued, her face growing red with her anger.

"It's not laziness Emmeline, they don't know what to do. They have no idea how to stop Voldemort so their philosophy for the moment is 'better something than nothing', which I suppose is marginally better than last year's attitude is 'see no evil, hear no evil and all is right with the world!" Bill Weasley chimed in, looking rather disgusted himself.

"And I suppose a boy that barely remembers the First War and has no experience fighting against Dark Wizards is just simply full of advice?" Aurora asked Bill pointedly. She was a staunch defender of both the Ministry and protocol. She had little patience for innovation or youthful arrogance, and that was not simply because she was starting to get up in years- Aurora had been a Third Year when Minerva had been Head Girl and Minerva knew from experience that she had been one of those children that was born old. Thirteen going on 40 back then, much like Hermione Granger had been but unlike Miss Granger, Aurora Tackley had never managed to find the right friends in her youth to balance out her rather…intense characteristics.

"I don't think conducting actual investigations is suggesting anything particularly radical," Bill answered acidly, his eyes narrowing in growing anger. "If it is, than I would say that the Ministry could use my advice."

"That es right Bill! What es the Ministry zinking? Zhey should be ashamed of zhemselves," Fluer declared, glaring at the older woman with fury.

"The Ministry has a way of conducting business that has worked for a long time," Molly cut in.

"Yes but that's the point that's being made, has it worked?" Fred Weasley spoke up, with an uncharacteristically serious expression that surprised Minerva. She had never seen either of the twins offer an opinion that didn't have to do with a prank of some kind. "George and I were talking to Harry last year before we… left," he shot a glance at his mother who raised an eyebrow of disapproval but apparently was not going to lecture her sons on their dramatic exit at the moment. "The thing is, a huge part of the problem that we have now is that things after the First War were handled so badly."

"Badly?" Hestia Jones asked as several others looked around in surprise. "Things were confusing for a bit after Voldemort was destroyed... incapacitated... whatever you want to call it, but in the coming months dozens of Death Eaters were arrested. Everything went back to normal."

"Right," George answered shaking his head, "except that dozens of Death Eaters got off free and clear without even a decent trial. Lucius Malfoy got off by claiming the Imperious Curse, along with a bunch of others. According to Harry, all Kararoff had to do was name names and he got off scot-free."

"They let him run a school full of kids for Merlin's sake," Fred muttered.

"Meanwhile, Sirius was never given a trial and was sentenced to life for something he didn't do, if it happened to him, chances are it happened to other people. Why weren't the suspects given Veritaserum? Why wasn't everyone given a fair trial?" George asked

"They could have use pensieve memories both from the accused and the victims and witnesses," Fred added.

Aurora blinked, before a scowl crossed her features, "that has never been used in the past and memories can be altered."

"True although usually not without some evidence of being tampered with," Albus commented thoughtfully. "Mr. Weasley, were these ideas yours or Mr. Potter's?"

The twins looked at one another before shrugging a bit, "a bit of both actually, Professor. We were just talking one night… Harry was upset that Sirius was locked up at Grimmauld Place when everyone knew that he hated it so much and…"

George picked up where his twin had trailed off, uncharacteristically uncertain of speaking in front of everyone, "we started talking about how wrong it was for the Ministry to be hunting down Sirius when You-Know-Who was running around without a target on his back and Fred and I realized just how messed up the Ministry really is."

"It's because people like Malfoy and his pals bribed their way out, just like they were bribing Fudge all last year. Harry even told us that he saw Malfoy handing Fudge something after his trial last summer," Fred answered seamlessly. Obviously these were questions the two of them had discussed before.

"Mr. Potter certainly seems to have a lot to say about the Ministry," Aurora commented with distaste.

The rest of the Order was looking thoughtful, the twins had raised important questions, things that should have been addressed after the First War and had been ignored and suddenly Minerva felt a bit renewed. She had forgotten the other side to having younger faces in the Order. While she hated the fact that teens barely out of school would have to fight in a war, it was refreshing to get a new perspective on things. After all these years she was still surprised and yet delighted when her students came to a solution that had eluded her.

"Yeah well, last year the Ministry wasn't Harry's favorite place, can you blame him? There were a lot of things that bothered him but mostly he hated that so many Death Eaters got off when innocent people were getting railroaded," George defended.

"After zhe horrible way they treated him? I would zhink so!" Fleur huffed impatiently. "Ma cherie Harry deserved better!"

"Harry had a lot of good reasons to be hacked off at the Minsitry last year but if you know Harry then you know that he always worries more about other people than himself and it bothered the hell out of that they were going after Sirius when he was innocent," Fred put in.

"The Minister was wrong to ignore the facts of the return of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, we are all in agreement in that regard, but to call into question everything that the Ministry has done for the past five centuries is uncalled for," Aurora argued. "These are procedures and protocols that have been refined for centuries."

"It's as if nothing has changed in five centuries," Emmeline muttered, not-quite-subtly.

"Then what exactly should we be doing?" Severus asked acidly. "It's one thing to criticize but do any of you have any actual suggestions?" Severus was a practical man. He was cynical enough to recognize that no solution would be perfect but compromises needed to be made in order to keep people safe. It was something that Minerva agreed with in theory but also deeply saddened her. It seemed as though the people of their world had long ago agreed that things were 'good enough' and had no desire to see advancement or improvement. Change was a dangerous concept to people that prided themselves on centuries of customs and traditions.

"What we really need to do is build better relations among the non-human magical creatures," Kingsley interjected before the argument could grow too heated. He too was an Auror and respected the law, but unlike many of his older colleagues, Kingsley recognized the failings that the Ministry had and wanted to work towards fixing them.

The new topic was quickly picked up and the criticisms of the government were left undiscussed, but certainly not forgotten by those present. The talk of Ministry politics was typically exhausting. Minerva was not a young woman and she had already lived through more than one war in the past, which meant that very little surprised her about power hungry politicians. When politicians felt cornered their first reaction was to find someone to take the blunt of the blame. Lately it had been werewolves, vampires, centaurs and goblins. There had been a concerted effort to blame the darker creatures prematurely for supporting the Death Eaters as well as clearly taking control away from any sentient being that might challenge wizard authority. While the younger members varied between surprise and outrage at the Ministry's latest measures to protect their image rather than protect the people, Minerva was sad to note in herself a more cynical resignation.

And of course the Ministry was only making things worse.

News that the Dementors had left Azkaban was expected.

News that the giants had also joined the enemy was not…but hardly shocking.

The Vampires were surprisingly holding out against joining the enemy, but no one was particularly confident that their loyalty to the Ministry would last. They had been given no reason to trust in the Ministry that had stripped them so many rights.

However there were quite a few deaths in the low country that were unaccounted for, the bodies had been ravaged more than was usual leaving the Ministry to draw the most logical conclusion and their new policies showed their stance quite clearly.

"You can't be serious? The Ministry's already blaming the werewolves? They haven't picked a side yet but now they have no reason to help us!" Tonks cried angrily.

"Tonks, most werewolves were very likely to side with Voldemort anyway. People that are truly on our side will not be easily swayed, even with these new policies," Remus Lupin explained, his voice rather tired. Minerva felt for the younger man, he was struggling and from the shabby clothes, gaunt face and miserable expression, it clearly showed. He had lost his best friend and now was having to deal with the increased discrimination of the Ministry. In the last few weeks, any and all non-humans were quickly being held under unusual suspicion. Fudge was in the process of shifting blame. He could not allow the public to blame him for delaying in going after Voldemort, and Dumbledore and Harry were no longer viable punching bags. In fact, Harry especially had returned to celebrity status so quickly one might be concerned the boy might suffer from whiplash.

"Doesn't make it right professor," Fred Weasley said, his expression angry.

"Sounds like Umbridge is still around there. Something like this has got her name all over it," George added.

"Boys these decisions are complicated and to blame someone simply because she gave you some problems in school-" Molly started.

"Actually Molly, Mr. Weasley is right. Most of this legislation did originate with Delores. Now that she has left Hogwarts, she has returned to her position with the Ministry and has wasted little time in jumping back into the fray, as it were," Albus explained with distaste. "A rather astute observation Mr. Weasley."

This time a feeling of indignation did well up inside of Minerva. She had rarely dealt with a more detestable woman in her life. The things she had done to Hogwarts, the ways she had gone after the students- Harry Potter in particular. She had made things nearly untenable in the school and it was with a distinct feeling of relief that Minerva knew that when she went back in the fall, the halls would be absent of Delores Umbridge.

"Speaking of Dolores and the school, what is the Ministry's response to the rumors in the Prophet?" Emmeline Vance asked. This grabbed everyone's attention. The Daily Prophet had been running article after article speculating on the reasons as to why Harry Potter and 'He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named' were both found in the Hall of Prophesy. Most had come to the rather hasty conclusion that it meant that a 15 year old boy was destined to defend them all. Minerva found the sensationalism of it all disgusting. Potter was a teenager, not a warrior and to expect him to solve all of their problems because of a freak magical occurrence from when he was a baby was absurd in her opinion.

Albus sighed, "At the moment…they are quite interested in Harry. I believe that most of the top people in the Ministry now realize that in actuality the real mistake that was made last year was not in denying Voldemort's return but in distancing themselves from the one person that may have a chance of stopping the conflict. They want very badly to been seen as not only allies of Harry- but in control of him. It will not be an easy year for him, I fear."

"The latest word around the Ministry is that they want to award Harry an Order of Merlin for his fight at in the Department of Mysteries, and to do a very public ceremony," Kingsley spoke, his deep voice betraying a trace of disapproval.

"Harry will love that," Fred said with a laugh.

"Potter will love that," Severus Snape said at the same time but with condemnation.

"Severus," Remus sighed with exasperation.

"Potter loves nothing more than being the center of attention. Never mind the fact that far from being rewarded for his reckless actions he should be made to suffer the consequences of putting the entirety of the Order in danger. I find it bad enough that Minerva actually rewarded Potter and the other sidekicks 50 points a piece, but now he will be receiving our world's highest honor for refusing to apply himself to the study of Occlumency and recklessly disregarding his safety and the safety of everyone around himself," Severus declared harshly. His eyes were dark with anger and his left hand had balled itself into a fist.

"That's not a fair thing to say Severus, Harry did what he thought was right. According to Ron and Ginny he had even tried to tell Minerva about his vision but she was in St. Mungo's and Dumbledore wasn't at the school either. He felt he was out of options," Arthur explained fairly.

"Potter is perfectly aware of my position in the Order, his own stubbornness kept him from informing me. Instead he launched a ridiculous plan to use the fireplace in Delores Umbridge's office and managed to get himself and all of his little friends caught to boot."

"You have done nothing to show Harry that he can trust you from the first day that he met you. You treated him like he was James- Harry's not his father, Severus. You can't spend five years showing him every reason in the world to distrust you and then be surprised that it worked," Remus answered, his normally calm voice for once colored with anger.

"I don't want to go around casting blame, what's done is done, but I tend to think that Harry should have known better than dragging five students into a secure Ministry where he knew that not only Death Eaters were present but he believed that You-Know-Who was there as well. Even if his vision had been accurate and not a trap- what in the hell did the boy think he was going to do against You-Know-Who of all people?" Donald Farley asked them stoutly. He was a newer member that had once worked as an Unspeakable himself in the Department of Mysteries, one that had never met Harry face to face before. Minerva found the familiarity of his address towards the boy strange and a bit presumptuous.

This was met with a mixture of muttered agreement and sound protests on Harry's behalf. Most of the adults, especially those that did not know Harry personally, felt that he had acted recklessly and had endangered the Order as a whole. A few even called for the boy to be held accountable for his actions.

"I rather think that Harry has been punished enough for his actions. He lost his godfather, there is no consequence that he could suffer from us that would have a greater impact on him," Albus said quietly.

"That poor boy," Molly Weasley sniffed. "He has been through so much and I don't like that he's so isolated with those relatives of his. He's barely written to Ron this summer and when he's written to the Order its clear that's he not handling things well. Something needs to be done Albus. We can't expect Harry to be left with those awful muggles so soon after losing Sirius."

"The boy is safe under the Blood Wards- and the guards have reported no disturbances," Moody countered.

"I rather think that Molly is more concerned about Mr. Potter's emotional well-being," Minerva threw in. She happened to be in agreement with the woman. Potter was one of the most headstrong students she had ever had. When Minerva had become the Head of Gryffindor, she had quickly learned that her House produced the most troublesome, stubborn and independent students there were. Children that valued bravery before forethought or caution were the least likely to want to be dependent on others. It was a strange irony for her Lions, for people that rarely hesitated to show loyalty or give help to others, they were often reluctant to seek it out. Many people expected the Slytherins to be known for their independence- and they certainly could be, but in the end their sense of self-preservation usually won out. A Slytherin would sell their own soul to get what they needed to survive, a Gryffindor would die trying to make do with what they already had.

Twenty-eight years she had served as Head of House and in that time she had run across every kind of childhood problem. Homesickness, death of a loved one, family troubles and abuse, bullying, trouble with academics and just the everyday stresses of being an adolescent and in all of her time she had never met a student less inclined to ask for help. In his five years as her student Potter had never once knocked on her door uninvited. In fact, she was ashamed to admit to herself, the one time that Potter had ever come to her for help was the only time she could remember turning away a student in need. Of course at the time she had no idea that three First Year students had known so much about the Philosopher's Stone but the fact that she had not questioned them further, had not ensured that they were kept out of harm's way, had haunted her ever since. What concerned her about Harry now was not only the loss he had suffered or even the burden that was currently being forced upon him by the greater Wizarding World, but the troubling thought that he would attempt to go it alone.

"Harry cannot leave his Aunt's house at the moment. I know it is unfair to make him stay in a place he is uncomfortable but it is unsafe to move him at this time," Albus said, not without regret.

"All teenagers complain about not being able to do as they please during the summer holidays, Albus. I don't quite understand the urgency with these muggles," Aurora Tackley asked with a frown.

"Potter is accustomed to getting whatever he wants and the people in this room are infamous for giving it to him," Severus answered divisively.

"Molly said that they were awful muggles," Hestia began.

"They are!" Molly insisted. "They have never cared for Harry the way a family should care for a young boy."

"Potter comes back each year healthy and intact. The fact that they don't cater to his every whim is a good thing. Personally I'm surprised they show him any restraint at all- you wouldn't think they have in the past with the way he expects the world to bow at his feet."

"Severus really! That is an uncalled for assessment," Minerva shouted out, surprised in spite of herself that Severus would speak so contemptuously of Potter in front of the entire Order. "Harry Potter is more than considerate of others and cares deeply for their needs. When you're determined to see the worst in someone, it will always be there to see."

"Wise words Minerva, and ones worth considering for everyone," Albus answered calmly but his gaze was still on Severus, his eyes clearly disappointed in the younger man.

Albus sighed but returned his attention to matters at hand. "While we are the topic of Harry, I think now would be a good time to bring up the fact that the Ministry has seen fit to officially pardon Sirius of his crimes."

"Really? After everything they've been forced to admit to, they were really willing to admit to this as well?" Bill asked in surprise.

"Ah…well I might have strongly implied that the first step to even an attempted reconciliation with Harry Potter would be to grant the godfather, whom he had tried to speak to the Minister about two years previously, full clemency. I also think that by admitting it quickly and relatively quietly in the wake of so many other events the Ministry was rather hoping the news would slip by most of the public. Most people are more concerned with Voldemort's return than about the innocence of one supposed Death Eater. So far this has unfortunately been proven correct. But more to my point, with this pardon, Sirius' will becomes public. I believe Harry will be receiving a notice from Gringotts in the next day or so about the reading and there have been notices for a few people here as well. Remus of course, but Molly and Arthur I believe you are invited as well?"

Arthur spoke up, "actually it was Ron that was mentioned, I believe Hermione Granger was also mentioned but I believe that she will be away with her family during the reading and won't be able to attend."

"I'm not sure about Ron attending either, with the state of things and all..." Molly fretted.

"I'm sure things are quite safe at the moment and no doubt Harry would enjoy seeing his friends at a time like this," Albus said with compassion.

The Weasleys nodded but Minerva could see that Molly at least looked uneasy and she wondered if it had more to do with the fact that her son had been named as beneficiary in a Black family will that concerned her rather than the presumed danger of venturing out of public, even in broad daylight.

"Very well," Albus continued, "Minerva as Harry's Head of House, I would ask that you attend as well?"

Minerva nodded, it was not unusual for the Head of a student's house to attend such events on their behalf- particularly ones that did not have other dependable family. She knew without asking that the Dursleys would not be attending and although Remus would be there, they would need additional Order members anyway.

"Remus I hope you don't mind my perhaps speaking out of turn but it is my belief that Sirius has placed a provision in his will that will in effect make you Harry's custodian."

The grey-haired man looked a bit startled at that announcement, apparently unprepared for such a statement. "But-"

"Yes Remus I am aware of what the law says in regards to werewolves taking custody of fully human children, which is why I say 'custodian' and guardian. Harry will remain at his Aunt and Uncle's house but he will still need the advice and guidance of an adult in our world. Sirius knew that, I discussed as much with him myself when we spoke of his affairs. I spoke with him at length about the importance of providing Harry with solid support should the worst happen to him. I wanted to mention this to you now so that you were prepared during the reading. It will most assuredly be an emotional time for Harry, a confusing one as well. He has now lost both of his parents and his godfather, it would not be unusual for him to attempt to pull away from us. For him to feel… jaded by the idea of having another person in a parental role that he can potentially lose and I wanted to make sure you were both ready and willing to take on this role before Harry discovers it. If you do not want the responsibility, I think we can all understand but I would rather we settle that privately and not let Harry know that there was another option."

There were a few uneasy glances but most people were nodding their heads. The last thing that a child needed after losing an authority figure in their life was rejection. Remus looked uncertain and Minerva knew that the idea of taking a more active role in Harry's life made the man nervous. He had spent a long time distancing himself from others and, to a certain extent, Harry in particular after the tragic end of the last war. The last years of the First War had been dark times, a constant fear had prevaded every facet of their lives. It had poisoned even the closest of friendships, leading to mistrust. The closenss of the 'Marauders' had shared at Hogwarts had dissolved into distrust, and Remus had not been singled out on mere whim. Once again Minerva did not know of all the specifics but she knew that there were secrets that her former students had taken to the grave. Secrets that had more than likely never been fully resolved. She could see that the idea of creating a closer bond with the son of late friend unnerved Remus more than Albus had perhaps suspected it would.

Nevertheless, Gryffindor traits ran deep and Remus had never been one to shrink from duty, particularly one bestowed upon him by the man that had once given him the chance to attend the school of his dreams and offer him a future of something more than only constant injustice.

"No Albus, I would be honored to help Harry if that's what Sirius wanted," Remus agreed cautiously. "I think…I think he needs someone in his life to give him advice," he added thoughtfully and although no more was said Minerva didn't think that she was the only one that noticed that Remus seemed to be addressing much more than the current situation.

Albus addressed the room at large. "I think it goes without saying that Harry is going through a difficult time. Much is expected of him and much more will be asked of him- I trust that everyone here will try and ease that burden for him. We are all here for the same reasons, to make a better world- one that is not threatened by Voldemort and his Death Eaters but we must not lose sight of the trees for the view of the forest. Harry is not yet 16 and will not be above making mistakes. He needs guidance but he very much needs our support as well."

There were nods from the other members. "Excellent. There is one other piece of information that I am happy to announce. After several years of dodging my requests I happy to say that Aurora has finally agreed to take the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."

There was a moment of surprise before the applause broke out and Aurora Tackley smiled graciously. She was a new member- one that had worked for the Ministry as an Auror trainer for many years and until recent events had been known to have always been loyal to them. She still was in many ways. She would not go against their policy but she recognized that if action was needed to be taken in the war, the Order was more likely to act and she wanted to be in the thick of it.

Frankly, in spite of her rather impeccable reputation, Minerva had a few doubts about the woman. She was a very ordered woman, known to follow the rules religiously. I trait that Minerva respected on principle and yet worried about in application. As much as her heart appeared to be in the right place, and as much as an asset she could be in the field (she was an almost unparalleled dueler) she worried that if push came to shove the Auror would put her job or her supposed duties before doing what was ultimately right.

"Thank you all for your support. I don't take this job lightly, after looking over the curriculum that has been taught over the course of the last few years I can say that I am far from impressed. There are significant gaps that need to be filled and I have a few ideas on where to start..."

Thank you all so much for continuing to read. Most of this story will be from Harry's POV however there will be random chapters from other characters to give a hint of what others experience. Any suggestions I would be happy to hear from.