Vulnerability

"To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength."

Phoenix Lancaster is just as extraordinary as she appears, she is a muggle-born metamorphmagus, and she has never had a quiet life. Thanks to her courageous and troublesome best friends, Fred and George Weasley.

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35. The Secrets of the Order

"Tonks!" Phoenix beamed as she and Ginny entered the warm kitchen. Her fellow Metamorphmagus smiled warmly at her, "Nice meeting?" she added with a wink.

"Keep your little nose out of it Nix," Tonks said with a wink.

"Journey all right, Harry?" Bill Weasley's voice called loudly across the kitchen. "Mad-Eye didn't make you come via Greenland, then?"

"He tried," remarked Tonks, walking toward the eldest Weasley and straight away upsetting a candle over a piece of parchment left upon the table. "Oh no – sorry –"

Phoenix looked exasperatedly at her cousin, Merlin she could be clumsy at the best of times.

Fred and George entered the room, looking perfectly innocent as they did so. Phoenix raised an eyebrow at her boyfriend, who shot her a wink in reply.

"Here, dear," Mrs. Weasley sighed, repairing the piece of parchment with a wave of her wand as Tonks apologised profusely for her clumsiness.

George sat beside his girlfriend, giving her a sweet kiss on her temple as he did so. Phoenix blushed lightly, her mousy brown hair deepening in colour as she did so. She grabbed his hand under the table and he allowed for them to intertwine and Phoenix's hair turned a soft rose colour.

"Those parchments had maps on," Fred whispered to Phoenix and George. "The ones that Tonks set on fire."

"What do they need maps for?" Phoenix replied in a hush tone.

George shrugged, "Who knows."

Their conversation was silenced by Mrs. Weasley stern voice, "This sort of thing ought to be cleared away promptly at the end of meetings!"

As Molly Weasley busied herself with unloading dinner plates from the ancient dresser, one of the members of the Order, Mundungus Fletcher, who was still situated around the table, cast her a furtive look as he pulled a grubby black pipe from his pocket. Phoenix elevated an eyebrow as he placed the pipe in his mouth and, with his wand, ignited the pipe's end and gave it a deep pull. Clouds of emerald green smoke billowed around him and people whom sat close to him.

"Mum's going to go mad," Fred mummed.

"For the last time, Mundungus," bellowed Mrs. Weasley, "will you please not smoke that thing in the kitchen, especially not when we're about to eat!"

"Ah. Right. Sorry, Molly."

The smoke vanished but a pungent smell of burning lingered around in the air.

"And if you want dinner before midnight I'll need a hand," Mrs. Weasley called, looking around at everybody sat down at the table. "No, you can stay where you are, Harry dear, you've had a long journey–"

Phoenix nudged Fred and George and they all stood up, Phoenix taking a few plates from Mrs. Weasley.

"What can I do, Molly?" Tonks enquired eagerly, a spring in her step and narrowly avoided knocking the plates out of Phoenix's hands.

"Er – no, it's all right, Tonks, you have a rest too, you've done enough today."

"No, no, I want to help!" Phoenix could distinctively hear the sound of a chair hitting the floor as Tonks busied herself with helping Mrs. Weasley with dinner.

Knives were soon cutting and chopping meat and vegetables, Mrs. Weasley tending to a cauldron of stew that smelt delicious, the smell danced around the kitchen as the Weasley children, Lupin, Tonks, Hermione and Phoenix collected, plates, goblets, cutlery and collected food from the pantry.

"Fred, George, would you mind carrying the stew to the table?" Mr. Weasley asked kindly, handing Phoenix an iron flagon of Butterbeer.

"No worries Dad," said Free offhandedly.

"We'll do one better," beamed George.

They waved their wands in unison and the large cauldron full of stew, the iron flagon that had been in Phoenix's hands, a heavy breadboard and large knife all lifted into the air.

"Oh dear."

"Fred, George – NO, JUST CARRY THEM!" Mrs. Weasley yelled, as the heavy objects flew through the air towards the table. The kitchen watched in both horror and awe as the cauldron slid dangerously across the long table, a black burn hot on its tail. It stopped just before reaching the end of the table; the iron flagon toppled to the floor with a loud crash, Butterbeer drenching the floor; the bread knife tipped off the breadboard and landed in the exact position where Sirius's hand had been only moments before.

"FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!" shrieked Mrs. Weasley. "THERE WAS NO NEED – I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS – JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE ALLOWED TO USE MAGIC NOW, YOU DON'T HAVE TO WHIP YOUR WANDS OUT FOR EVERY TINY LITTLE THING!"

"We were just trying to save a bit of time!" Fred called as he yanked the bread knife out of the table. "Sorry, Sirius, mate – didn't mean to –"

But Sirius and Harry were both laughing, evidently in all the commotion, Mundungus had fallen backwards off his chair.

"Boys," Mr. Weasley said in a calm voice as he lifted the cauldron from the end of the table into the middle, "your mother's right, you're supposed to show a sense of responsibility now you've come of age–"

"–none of your brothers caused this sort of trouble!" The flagon of Butterbeer she slammed onto the table wobbled and spilled its contents over. Phoenix could almost feel Mrs. Weasley's rage radiating through the air. "Bill didn't feel the need to Apparate every few feet! Charlie didn't charm everything he met! Percy–"

The air seemed colder at the mention of Percy's name. Fred and George blanched; Ron's eyes widened; Ginny and Phoenix let out a breath they both appeared to be holding in; Bill was looking between the twins and their mother; Mr. Weasley's expression looked stony as his wife cast him a fearful look.

"Let's eat," said Bill, breaking the horrible silence.

"It looks wonderful, Molly," Lupin encouraged, spooning a reasonable amount of stew onto her plate.

Phoenix casted a few furtive looks over at Fred and George, who were both being uncharacteristically silent after Mrs. Weasley's outburst. She knew that they felt guilty, she knew that their mother's words had resonated with them, hurt them even. Her hands found George's and she gave him a soft, reassuring squeeze. He turned to look at her, blue eyes meeting brown. He gave her the smallest of smiles before kissing her on the cheek, letting her know he was thankful for her being there.

Fred made choking sounds but winked at Phoenix as he did so, which only made her smile widely.

"I've been meaning to tell you, Sirius," came Mrs. Weasley's voice after a few minutes of silence, "there's something trapped in that writing desk in the drawing room, it keeps rattling and shaking. Of course, it could just be a boggart, but I thought we ought to ask Alastor to have a look at it before we let it out."

Sirius gave a shrug, "Whatever you like."

"The curtains in there are full of doxys, too," Mrs. Weasley continued. "I thought we might try and tackle them tomorrow."

"I look forward to it," Sirius replied, Phoenix could distinctively hear a hint of something in his voice, but she couldn't quite put her fingers on it.

Phoenix wasn't quite sure what she thought of Mundungus Fletcher quite yet, but Fred, George, and Ron seemed to be his biggest fans. Mundungus rarely stayed for dinner at Grimmauld Place but when he did, he always told the boys some story where he's ripped someone off, conned some money out of somebody, and what not. Phoenix never paid close attention to the stories, instead she decided to join in conversation with Tonks, Ginny, and Hermione, whom were not as loud.

Tonks, whom was much more advanced in her Metamorphmagus abilities than Phoenix (who was still struggling to control her emotions at the best of times) always entertained them by transforming her nose between mouthfuls of food, going from a cat, to a duck. Even Phoenix who was used to Tonks' antics couldn't help the laughter from escaping her lips.

"Do that one like a pig snout, Tonks!" Ginny requested, to which Tonks obliged, her duck beck merging into a perfect pig snout.

"Why can't you do that Phoenix?" Hermione asked curiously.

"Because I'm mature, Hermione," Phoenix replied with a smug look.

"Oh," Hermione said, taken aback.

"Only pulling your leg," Phoenix said with a laugh, "I can, I just choose not to. I'm yet to perfect my Metamorphmagus abilities, the key is controlling and balancing your emotions, and I, for some reason seem to–"

She was interrupted by a dribble of Butterbeer landing over her arm. Phoenix looked at George in disgust as he was hiccoughing, holding his mouth and looking apologetic.

"Merlin's beard," Phoenix muttered, a small smile cracking across her face as George gave her a quick kiss on the lips as an apology.

The scrupulous stew was followed by a helping of rhubarb crumble for desert. Phoenix felt awfully well rested and relaxed, though she loved studying and working hard, she was grateful for the time that she could relax. She thought about her year at Hogwarts' and thought sadly how this would be her last and final year, she was determined to make the most of it. While of course studying until her hands were screaming in protest.

Mrs. Weasley gave a loud yawn, "Nearly time for bed, I think."

"Not just yet, Molly," began Sirius, turning to look at Harry. "You know, I'm surprised at you. I thought the first thing you'd do when you got here would be to start asking questions about Voldemort."

The calm that had been in the room only moments ago had left, and in its place, was tension.

"I did!" Harry retaliated, "I asked Ron and Hermione but they said we're not allowed in the Order, so–"

"And they're quite right," Mrs. Weasley shot back, her relaxed composure disappearing as she sat up straighter in her seat, her warm brown eyes narrowing at Sirius. The hands gripping on the arm of her chair, knuckles almost white.

"Since when did someone have to be in the Order of the Phoenix to ask questions?" Sirius questioned, his eyebrows furrowed. "Harry's been trapped in that Muggle house for a month. He's got the right to know what's been happen–"

George's mouth fell open slightly, "Hang on!" he shot.

"How come Harry gets his questions answered?" Fred asked, evidently annoyed.

"We've been trying to get stuff out of you for a month and you haven't told us a single stinking thing!" George objected, like his mother, he was sat up much straighter in his chair.

Mrs. Weasley opened her mouth to respond but Fred bet her to it, "'You're too young, you're not in the Order'," he sung, in a high-pitched voice that mimicked his mother. "Harry's not even of age!"

Phoenix saw both sides of the arguments; she understood why Molly did not wish for her children to be involved with the Order, she was fiercely protective of her children (what mother wasn't?). Molly did not even particularly like that Bill and Charlie were in the Order, she was merely protecting her children. Cecilia wasn't comfortable with Phoenix being a part of the Order either, since she was still at Hogwarts, Phoenix had fought her ground but ultimately, she was in the same boat as Fred and George. However Phoenix, Fred, and George were all of age, able to make their own decisions and they were all fully aware of the danger, but all were, equally, prepared to fight.

"It's not my fault you haven't been told what the Order's doing," Sirius spoke in cool voice, "that's your parents' decision. Harry, on the other hand–"

"It's not down to you to decide what's good for Harry!" counted Mrs. Weasley, she had a rather vicious look upon her face. "You haven't forgotten what Dumbledore said, I suppose?"

Sirius' face looked awfully stony, it was as though he was steeling himself to bite, "Which bit?" he said in a voice of up must calm, but a voice that plainly told them all he was ready for an argument.

"The bit about not telling Harry more than he needs to know," said Mrs. Weasley, folding her arms across her chest.

Phoenix could almost taste the tension in the air; she felt uncomfortable, but as though this was a conversation that needed to happen.

"I don't intend to tell him more than he needs to know, Molly," Sirius' voice still, somehow, remained rather calm. "But as he was the one who saw Voldemort come back, he has more right than most to–"

"He's not a member of the Order of the Phoenix!" Mrs. Weasley interrupted, all sense of calm disapparating. "He's only fifteen and–"

"–and he's dealt with as much as most in the Order, and more than some–"

"No one's denying what he's done!" snapped Mrs. Weasley, she appeared to be quivering with anger, "But he's still–"

"He's not a child!"

"He's not an adult either! He's not James, Sirius!"

"I'm perfectly clear who he is, thanks, Molly."

"I'm not sure you are!" Mrs. Weasley quipped, with the air of a woman who had lost all patience. "Sometimes, the way you talk about him, it's as though you think you've got your best friend back!"

Harry frowned slightly, narrowing his eyes towards Mrs. Weasley, "What's wrong with that?" he asked.

"What's wrong, Harry..." Mrs. Weasley began, her cheeks hot with a red, angry, flush. "Is that you are not your father, however much you might look like him! You are still at school and adults responsible for you should not forget it!"

Sirius riled up immediately, sitting up straighter in his chair, his eyes gleaming darkly. "Meaning I'm an irresponsible godfather?"

"Meaning you have been known to act rashly, Sirius," said Mrs. Weasley. "Which is why Dumbledore keeps reminding you to stay at home and–"

"We'll leave my instructions from Dumbledore out of this, if you please!" Sirius snapped, his gaze was a dagger, cutting into Mrs. Weasley's eyes. Phoenix could tell she had struck a nerve with the ex-prisoner. From what Phoenix knew, Sirius was fundamentally under house-arrest, since he was still very much a wanted man to the Ministry and the Magical community. Phoenix understood this as the risk of Sirius being caught would be very high if he was to step outside, but one needs their freedom.

"Arthur!" Mrs. Weasley said, looking at her husband, her eyes wild. "Arthur, back me up."

Phoenix loved Mrs. Weasley to death and understood that she was simply trying to protect Harry, whom she cared for almost as much as her own children, but Sirius was right; Harry had been through enough last year (and the years prior) and had every right to know what You-Know-Who was doing and what the Order were doing to fight back.

Mr. Weasley took off his glasses before speaking, he rubbed the material of his robes over his lenses, he appeared to be mulling over both Sirius' and Molly's points in the argument. "Dumbledore knows the position has changed, Molly. He accepts that Harry will have to be filled in, to a certain extent, now that he is staying at headquarters–"

Mrs. Weasley didn't appear to be too impressed that her husband did not "back her up" as she had requested, "Yes, but there's a difference between that and inviting him to ask whatever he likes!"

"Personally," began Lupin gently, speaking for the first time in the argument, "I think it's better that Harry gets the facts – not all the facts, Molly, but the general picture – from us, rather than a garbled version from... others."

Phoenix and the twins shared a look, a hidden smile shared between them all. Lupin evidently was quite aware of their attempts of eavesdropping with the Extendable Ears.

Mrs. Weasley's nostrils were flared, "Well," she said, releasing a breath she had appeared to have been holding in, "well... I can see I'm going to be overruled. I'll just say this: Dumbledore must have had his reasons for not wanting to know too much, and speaking as someone who has Harry's best interests at heart–"

"He's not your son," Sirius muttered.

"He's as good as," said Mrs. Weasley, her chest rising as she did so and Phoenix's heart swelled at the immense love this woman had. "Who else has he got?"

"He's got me!" Sirius replied, his fists clenched upon the kitchen table.

"Yes, the thing is, it's been rather difficult for you to look after him while you've been locked up in Azkaban, hasn't it?"

Even Phoenix had to admit that was a low blow. She flinched slightly as Sirius stood up, his chair crashing to the ground as he did so.

"Molly," shot Lupin, his voice now stern. "You're not the only person at this table who cares about Harry," He shot a look at his old friend, "Sirius, sit down."

Sirius did as Lupin said, slowly but surely, he sat down, glaring at Mrs. Weasley, whose bottom lip was quivering.

"I think Harry ought to be allowed a say in this," said Lupin kindly, "he's old enough to decide for himself."

Harry looked as though he had lost his voice, evidently he was shocked at the argument he had just witnessed between two adults who both cared fiercely for him. He regained he composure and said, "I want to know what's been going on."

Molly Weasley looked thoroughly defeated, "Very well," she said, her voice breaking slightly. "Ginny – Ron – Hermione – Phoenix – Fred – George – I want you out of this kitchen, now."

The response was immediate.

"We're of age!" yelled Fred and George, and Phoenix couldn't help but wish she had joined in.

"If Harry's allowed, why can't I?" bellowed Ron, his face as red as his hair.

"Mum, I want to hear!" cried Ginny.

"NO!" Mrs. Weasley stood up from her chair. "I absolutely forbid–"

"Molly, you can't stop Fred, George and Phoenix," called Mr. Weasley bleakly, rubbing his tired eyes. "They are of age–"

"They're still at school, Cecilia wouldn't want–"

"But they're legally adults now," Mr. Weasley countered.

"I – oh, all right then, Fred, George and Phoenix can stay–" Fred beamed brightly at his younger brother and sister who were both scarlet in the face. "–but Ron–"

"Harry will tell me and Hermione everything you say anyway!" Ron shot back fiercely. "Won't – won't you?" He met Harry's eyes for a moment.

There was something in that look that Phoenix couldn't quite put her finger on – uncertainty perhaps? Ron looked nervous and Harry appeared to be torn, perhaps the Boy Who Lived was still angry at his best friends for their lack of communication over the summer.

"Course I will." Harry said finally and his best friends smiled brightly at him.

Phoenix could tell what was coming next.

"Fine!" Mrs. Weasley bellowed, her hair appearing to frizzle in her anger. "Fine! Ginny – BED!"

Ginny, as Phoenix knew she would, make her displeasure known. She stormed up the stairs, her mother following closely behind, shouting at Mrs. Weasley ("It isn't fair Mum!" "Why is everyone else allowed to know and I can't?" "You can't protect me forever, I want to know!") before she and her mother reached the hall and her storm was replaced by Mrs. Blacks deafening screeches.

"Mudbloods! Children of filth! Blood traitors!"

Phoenix learnt a few days prior about Mrs. Black's portrait, the hard (and rather alarming) way. She and Tonks were leaving for Lavender Cottage after a rather long day; Tonks, being awfully clumsy, had somehow managed to upset one of the lights in the hall. Suddenly, the dark emerald curtains covering a portrait had flown open. Walburga Black had screamed at the top of her lungs at her disgust of the Mudbloods in her home, the blood traitors sleeping in the rooms, the dishonour and betrayal of her son Sirius. It had left Phoenix rather taken a back.

Lupin left to tend to Mrs. Black and restore the quiet in the house. He returned a few minutes after, making sure to close the kitchen door behind and returning to the kitchen table.

Sirius turned to god son, "Ok, Harry... what do you want to know?"

"Where's Voldemort?" The table seemed to all wince and shudder simultaneously as Harry said You-Know-Who's name. "What's he doing? I've been trying to watch the Muggle news, and there hasn't been anything that looks like him yet, no funny deaths or anything–"

"That's because there haven't been any funny deaths yet," explained Sirius, folding his fingers together and leaning forward. "Not as far as we know, anyway... And we know quite a lot."

"More than he thinks we do, anyway," added Lupin, with a small smile.

Harry furrowed his brows," How come he's stopped killing people?" he asked.

"Because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself," explained Sirius. "It would be dangerous for him. His comeback didn't come off quite the way he wanted it to, you see. He messed it up."

Phoenix shuddered slightly as she thought of the Third Task, the horror, and Cedric. She still had nightmares, envisioning Cedric dying as her mother had done, falling to the ground, limp and lifeless.

"Or rather," said Lupin, his small smile returning, "you messed it up for him."

Harry looked rather puzzled by this, "How?" he asked, Phoenix thought that the answer was rather apparent.

"You weren't supposed to survive!" Sirius grinned. "Nobody apart from his Death Eaters was supposed to know he'd come back. But you survived to bear witness."

Phoenix thought for a moment what would have happened if Harry didn't survive. Would his and Cedric's bodies be returned to the Quidditch pitch? Would Mad-Eye's imposter have revealed the fate of the Hogwarts Champions? She did not wish to dwell on those thoughts for too long.

"And the very last person he wanted alerted to his return the moment he got back was Dumbledore. And you made sure Dumbledore knew at once," said Lupin.

Harry seemed to be frowning even more deeply, "How has that helped?"

"Are you kidding?" called Bill, his tone disbelieving. "Dumbledore was the only one You-Know-Who was ever scared of!"

Phoenix smiled to herself as she envisioned You-Know-Who (who resembled a tall, snake-like Dementor) cowering as he opened his Chocolate Frog box to reveal the Albus Dumbledore card.

"Thanks to you," began Sirius, "Dumbledore was able to recall the Order of the Phoenix about an hour after Voldemort returned."

"So, what's the Order been doing?"

Sirius leaned back, shaking his head of hair as he did so, "Working as hard as we can to make sure Voldemort can't carry out his plans," he said.

"How do you know what his plans are?" Harry enquired.

"Dumbledore's got a shrewd idea," explained Lupin, "and Dumbledore's shrewd ideas normally turn out to be accurate."

"So, what does Dumbledore reckon he's planning?"

"Well, firstly, he wants to build up his army again," said Sirius darkly and Phoenix's stomach could not help but turn unnervingly, the thought of You-Know-Who rising to power once again was frightening. The prejudice and the downright abuse Muggleborns had been through twenty years ago was great; Phoenix, of course, was prepared to fight, but it did not mean she wasn't at least a little bit nervous. "In the old days, he had huge numbers at his command: witches and wizards he'd bullied or bewitched into following him, his faithful Death Eaters, a great variety of Dark creatures. You heard him planning to recruit the giants; well, they'll be just one of the groups he's after. He's certainly not going to try and take on the Ministry of Magic with only a dozen Death Eaters."

"So, you're trying to stop him getting more followers?"

"We're doing our best," Lupin said simply.

"How?"

"Well," began Bill, "the main thing is to try and convince as many people as possible that You-Know-Who really has returned, to put them on their guard. It's proving tricky, though."

"Why?"

"Because of the Ministry's attitude," Tonks chimed in, speaking for the first time. "You saw Cornelius Fudge after You-Know-Who came back, Harry. Well, he hasn't shifted his position at all. He's absolutely refusing to believe it's happened."

"But why?" said Harry in exasperation, evidently frustrated with the Minister and his stubborn attitudes. "Why is he being so stupid? If Dumbledore–"

"Ah, well, you've put your finger on the problem, Dumbledore." Mr. Weasley said in an amused voice.

"Fudge is frightened of him, you see," explained Tonks.

Harry let out a small laugh, "Frightened of Dumbledore?" he spluttered.

"Frightened of what he's up to," explained Mr. Weasley. "Fudge thinks Dumbledore's plotting to overthrow him. He thinks Dumbledore wants to be Minister for Magic."

Phoenix raised an eyebrow, Dumbledore as Minister? She could envisage no such thing.

"But Dumbledore doesn't want–"

"Of course he doesn't!" affirmed Mr. Weasley. "He's never wanted the Minister's job, even though a lot of people wanted him to take it when Millicent Bagnold retired. Fudge came to power instead, but he's never quite forgotten how much popular support Dumbledore had, even though Dumbledore never applied for the job."

"Deep down, Fudge knows Dumbledore's much cleverer than he is, a much more powerful wizard, and in the early days of his Ministry he was forever asking Dumbledore for help and advice. But it seems he's become fond of power, and much more confident," Lupin reasoned, frowning slightly as he did so. "He loves being Minister for Magic and he's managed to convince himself that he's the clever one and Dumbledore's simply stirring up trouble for the sake of it."

"How can he think that?" Harry spat, his fist slamming harsly on the kitchen table. "How can he think Dumbledore would just make it all up – that I'd make it all up?"

"Because accepting that Voldemort's back would mean trouble like the Ministry hasn't had to cope with for nearly fourteen years," sneered Sirius acidly. "Fudge just can't bring himself to face it. It's so much more comfortable to convince himself Dumbledore's lying to destabilise him."

Phoenix shook her head in disbelief, the man in power of the Ministry was a pure coward. Scared of the truth, scared of Dumbledore, scared of believing what was so plainly obvious. Attempting to discredit the Hogwarts Headmaster made her blood boil, Dumbledore who was wise, courageous and above all cared, was someone whom Phoenix would trust with her life. For Cornelius Fudge not to trust Albus Dumbledore was foolish.

"You see the problem," said Lupin with a deep sigh. "While the Ministry insists there is nothing to fear from Voldemort it's hard to convince people he's back, especially as they really don't want to believe it in the first place. What's more, the Ministry's leaning heavily on the Daily Prophet not to report any of what they're calling Dumbledore's rumour-mongering, so most of the wizarding community are completely unaware anything's happened, and that makes them easy targets for the Death Eaters if they're using the Imperius Curse."

"But you're telling people aren't you?" called Harry, looked around at the members in the Order sat at the table. "You're letting people know he's back?"

Mr. Weasley, Sirius, Bill, Tonks, Lupin and Mundungus all laughed.

"Well, as everyone thinks I'm a mad mass-murderer and the Ministry's put a ten thousand Galleon price on my head, I can hardly stroll up the street and start handing out leaflets, can I?" said Sirius, a slight twinge of amusement.

"And I'm not a very popular dinner guest with most of the community," smiled Lupin politely. "It's an occupational hazard of being a werewolf."

Phoenix couldn't help but let out a small laugh, she had always loved Lupin's polite, dry humour.

"Tonks and Arthur would lose their jobs at the Ministry if they started shooting their mouths off, and it's very important for us to have spies inside the Ministry, because you can bet Voldemort will have them," said Sirius, ignoring the various winces and gasps that rippled around the table.

"We've managed to convince a couple of people, though. Tonks here," said Mr. Weasley, indicating across the table to Tonks who beamed, making Phoenix chuckle, "for one – she's too young to have been in the Order of the Phoenix last time, and having Aurors on our side is a huge advantage – Kingsley Shacklebolt's been a real asset, too; he's in charge of the hunt for Sirius, so he's been feeding the Ministry information that Sirius is in Tibet."

"But if none of you are putting the news out that Voldemort's back–"

"Who said none of us are putting the news out?" countered Sirius, raising an eyebrow at Harry. "Why do you think Dumbledore's in such trouble?"

"What do you mean?"

"They're trying to discredit him. Didn't you see the Daily Prophet last week?" Lupin asked, Phoenix rolled her eyes slightly as she remembered the rather absurd article on how Dumbledore was apparently losing his marbles and getting senile. "They reported that he'd been voted out of the Chairmanship of the International Confederation of Wizards because he's getting old and losing his grip, but it's not true; he was voted out by Ministry wizards after he made a speech announcing Voldemort's return. They've demoted him from Chief Warlock on the Wizengamot – that's the Wizard High Court – and they're talking about taking away his Order of Merlin, First Class, too."

Bill seemed to be laughing secretly, "But Dumbledore says he doesn't care what they do as long as they don't take him off the Chocolate Frog Cards," he said, chuckling. Phoenix held back a laugh, Albus Dumbledore surely knew his priorities.

"It's no laughing matter," snapped Mr. Weasley. "If he carries on defying the Ministry like this he could end up in Azkaban, and the last thing we want is to have Dumbledore locked up. While You-Know-Who knows Dumbledore's out there and wise to what he's up to he's going to go cautiously. If Dumbledore's out of the way, well, You-Know-Who will have a clear field."

"But if Voldemort's trying to recruit more Death Eaters," Harry said slowly, his eyes moving from Mr. Weasley to Lupin, then to Sirius. "It's bound to get out that he's come back, isn't it?"

Sirius thought carefully before he spoke, "Voldemort doesn't march up to people's houses and bang on their front doors, Harry. He tricks, jinxes and blackmails them. He's well-practised at operating in secret. In any case, gathering followers is only one thing he's interested in. He's got other plans too, plans he can put into operation very quietly indeed, and he's concentrating on those for the moment."

Phoenix and the twins shared a fleeting, significant look with another; plans? They hadn't overheard anything about other plans through the Extendable Ears. What plans could the Dark Lord quite possibly have? Whatever those plans may be, they could not be good.

"What's he after apart from followers?" Harry questioned immediately, narrowing his green eyes with interest.

Sirius appeared to be thinking very quickly, almost as though he was choosing his next words very carefully. "Stuff he can only get by stealth. Like a weapon. Something he didn't have last time."

George leaned forward carefully, his eyes watching Sirius unblinkingly; out of everything that had been said thus far, the mention of a "weapon" was most intriguing. The few meetings that had manged to overhear before Molly found out about the Extendable Ears had told them everything else – the Ministry refusing to believe Dumbledore, rounding up new members, You-Know-Who not yet moving out in the open but there had been no mention of a weapon of any sort.

"When he was powerful before?" Harry asked.

"Yes." Said Sirius.

"What kind of weapon? Something worse than the Avada Kedavra–"

"That's enough!"

Mrs. Weasley's shout left Phoenix's bones feeling weak, her hair turning an icy blue. Mrs. Weasley was visibly enraged, Phoenix had never seen her look so angry, even after all the mischief and chaos Fred and George created.

"I want you in bed, now." She almost growled, her eyes darting to Fred and George as she added, "All of you."

Fred's jaw clenched, "You can't boss us–"

Mrs. Weasley's noses flared and angry crimson sparks flew from her wand, "Watch me," she growled, mirroring the dark glare Fred was giving her before her eyes met Sirius' cool ones. "You've given Harry plenty of information. Any more and you might just as well induct him into the Order straightaway."

"Why not?" Harry asked fiercely, looking pleading at his godfather. "I'll join, I want to join, I want to fight."

Phoenix couldn't help but agree with Harry. She too, having lost one of her parents to Voldemort's movement was more than ready to fight back with vengeance. Her skin crawled as she once again thought of Jane Lancaster, the beautiful, caring mother that she could not remember, who died because of the Death Eaters hatred and disgust of Muggles, died staring into the dark eyes of Bellatrix Lestrange.

"No."

Lupin's voice was grave, and final.

"The Order is comprised only of overage wizards–"

"We're of age!" declared Phoenix fiercely, motioning to herself and the twins, "And I for one would love to see Bellatrix Lestrange subjected to the Dementors kiss."

Sirius gave the smallest of smiles.

"Wizards whom have left school, Phoenix," Lupin added apologetically, Phoenix knew that he sympathised with her, knew of her reasons and longing to fight back. "There are dangers involved of which you can have no idea, any of you... I think Molly's right, Sirius. We've said enough."

A few yards and a few clumps of trees away from Lavender Cottage was a beautiful large, deep lake. It was otherwise known as Qlep Lake to the Lancaster family and the Lake's other nearby neighbours. It was a peaceful, beautiful place. The lake itself was perfectly well-kept, the Lancaster family had the upper hand, using their magic to keep the lake clean and clear of rubbish and litter. Phoenix often spent her summer nights there, sitting on the ledge that overlooked the beautiful lake, where the makeshift sign that she and Will had made so many years ago was still standing strong; where a rope swing that Phoenix's father had made was tied (magically by Cecilia's handiwork) to a strong branch of a nearby tree was dancing slowly in the cool breeze.

It was so peaceful, the stars acted as a blanket to the night sky above, a cool breeze slipped over Qlep Lake and rustled the nearby trees and bushes. The only sounds that could be heard were the whispers of Phoenix and George as they sat on the ledge, in a warm embrace.

"How come you've never taken me here before?"

Phoenix smiled, "Because you don't deserve it."

"Funny," George chuckled before giving his girlfriend a quick kiss on the cheek.

The witch, whose hair was a light auburn, relaxed in her boyfriend's arms, feeling warm and at peace as they encircled around her body, "I'm not sure... I've never thought to bring you or Fred here, it's kind of my place to escape."

"Escape from us?"

"Naturally."

They sat in silence for a few more minutes. Listening to the sounds of the night; the pitter patter of small creatures, the gentle ripples in the water and the fish in the lake disturbed the calm surface, the distant sounds of cars travelling in the town that were miles away.

"Do you reckon Sirius meant to mention the weapon?"

"Hmm?"

"I mean," George frowned slightly as he considered his words. "Something tells me he let it slip. When Sirius mentioned the 'weapon', the atmosphere seemed to change, even Mundungus looked nervous."

"I thought that too," Phoenix agreed, turning her face to look at her boyfriend's freckled face. "He was choosing his words very carefully."

"What do you think the weapon could be?"

"I don't know," Phoenix said. "Could be anything."

"A spell?"

"I don't believe so, he already has the Unforgiveable Curses... Perhaps he's discovered some dark, ancient spell that causes mass pain and death, but again, I doubt that," Phoenix thought for a moment before adding, "Sirius said it was something he could only get by stealth..."

George nodded, "Something currently out of his reach then, perhaps it's something at Hogwarts?"

"Maybe," said Phoenix. "He did try to get the Philosopher's Stone from Hogwarts and did not succeed, but he only had Quirrell as a sort of terrified accomplice, from what Harry told us about what happened when You-Know-Who returned, he still had followers who were willing to return to him."

"I bet Malfoy would be in on it," sneered George.

"Well, his father is," considered Phoenix. "Lucius is a coward and so is his son. They would dance if You-Know-Who wanted them to dance."

George laughed, resting his head gently against Phoenix's. Her heart warmed at his touch. How she missed him. The tips of calloused fingers traced over her cool skin, giving her Goosebumps and leaning further into his touch.

"I can't wait to be a part of the Order," said George with a sigh. "Fighting back against those bastards, will sure feel good."

Phoenix smiled, "Me too. The world is better off without Death Eaters and You-Know-Who. Neville could have parents who remember him, you could still have your Uncle Fabian and Uncle Gideon, Harry could still have his parents and I could still have my mother."

George did not say anything, he simply pulled Phoenix in closer, placing a fierce kiss on the top of her head.

"Thank you," she said.

"For what?"

"For being here."

"Anytime, smelly."

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