Chapter One - 2002
There is a character in this chapter, who shows up also in a few later chapters, named Michelle. She’s George Weasley’s girlfriend and an original character that I made up for another story that I wrote. The events of that story have nothing to do with this one, except that she and George get together right at the end, post-Hogwarts.
Also another reminder, this story does not take into account the events of Deathly Hallows. Since I wrote it before reading DH, when Snape is mentioned, he's a bad guy. I hated him until DH and this story reflects that. Sorry
Finally, I know that Gabrielle Delacour is actually a lot younger than Harry, but I like that pairing, so I'm jumping her age a little bit, a la soap opera style. DISCLAIMER
All canon characters are not my property - I own nothing from either Harry Potter
. September 2002
It was a sunny day in London, England. A young twenty-something sauntered happily down the street, a light breeze rippling through her long black hair and deep blue cloak.
Her kind normally shied away from wearing such garments in public, but this particular woman had lived among Londoners for quite awhile. She’d discovered that when the weather turned cooler, fewer people gave her rather odd attire suspicious looks. It was now mid-September and the bite in the air gave her leave to wear her more traditional clothing.
She turned down a small dusty side street bearing a faded sign that heralded it as Grimmauld Place. Ancient proud Victorian mansions rose on both sides of her. There, nestled between numbers 11 and 13, appeared a rickety door marked with a 12. It was on the wrong side of the street, but no one seemed to notice. She knocked on the door three times.
The light behind a small peephole flickered for a moment before the door was opened by a tall man with long red hair pulled back in a ponytail and an earring in one ear. His handsome face was marred by a tangle of scars and looked as though he’d been attacked by a ferocious animal. “Cho!” he said warmly.
Cho Chang smiled. “Hello Bill,” she greeted him as she entered the house and pulled the door closed firmly behind her. “How have you been?”
“Not bad, not bad,” Bill replied.
“Glad to hear it. And where’s your lovely wife?”
Bill grinned. “She’s with Mum down in the kitchen. They’re discussing top secret pudding recipes.”
She smirked. “And they say cooking is a lost art.”
“Not with my mother.” Bill led her down the hallway. “Come on, the others that are here are in the sitting room.”
12 Grimmauld Place was a very different house than it had been when the Order of the Phoenix had moved their headquarters in several years earlier. The many rooms were spotless and felt homey, the heads of the Black family’s former house elves had been removed from the walls and disposed of, and an entire room had been dedicated to members of the Order that had been lost.
Bill and Cho paused at the door to this room and glanced sadly at the photographs lining the wall. Lily and James Potter were near the top, as well as Frank and Alice Longbottom, who had finally died after years of living in St. Mungo’s. Sirius Black adorned the wall of his old home, as did Mad Eye Moody, Arabella Figg, Hannah Abbott, and Professor Albus Dumbledore himself. Others joined them in a lasting memorial and fond reminder for the ones left standing.
A voice from down the hall drew their attention. “Gabrielle!” Cho said smiling and crossing to Gabrielle Delacour. They kissed each other’s cheeks. “It’s so nice to see you! Where is your fiancé?”
“Oh, he’s around here somewhere,” Gabrielle replied in her light French accent. “How have you been? I have not seen you at a meeting in quite some time.”
“Yes, I’ve been traveling,” Cho explained as Gabrielle linked arms with her and led her toward the sitting room. “Just around Europe, nothing big.”
“Still, it must have been exciting.”
Cho was met by a chorus of hellos when she entered the sitting room. Bill’s brothers Charlie, Fred, George, and Ron were there, as well as Dean Thomas and Hermione Granger. Ginny, the only Weasley daughter, was still in Italy on a diplomatic mission. The other brother, Percy, had died in the war against Voldemort, but no one ever mentioned him because no one ever figured out which side he died fighting for. Nymphadora Tonks was seated lazily by the fire, deep in conversation with Kingsley Shacklebolt. Still absent from the impending meeting were Molly Weasley and her daughter-in-law Fleur, presumable still discussing baking in the basement, Molly’s husband Arthur, Ernie MacMillan, Justin Finch-Fletchley and his girlfriend Susan Bones, Remus Lupin, and Gabrielle’s fiancé Harry Potter.
The Order of the Phoenix was actually two organizations working as one. During the War on Voldemort, the group of Hogwarts students known as Dumbledore’s Army joined the Order to strengthen all fronts. When Dumbledore was murdered in cold blood in the Astronomy Tower of his own school, the team kept the name as a battle cry to immortalize their beloved Headmaster. Remus Lupin was named head of the Order.
Harry came in then and, after stopping to kiss Gabrielle, greeted Cho. “Nice to have you back,” he said. The young crushes that he and Cho had harbored on each other while in school had long since matured into a strong, completely platonic friendship.
“It’s nice to be back,” Cho replied. “It feels like a lifetime since I’ve been in London.” Her eyes lit up again when she saw someone over Harry’s shoulder. “Professor Lupin!”
The older man laughed. “It’s been years, Cho. Please call me Remus.”
She laughed as well. “Old habits, you know.”
Remus chuckled. “Well, it’s nice to see you back at any rate.”
It wasn’t long before the other members arrived and Remus called the meeting to order. “I’m sorry my friends, but we have a matter of urgency to discuss today. First, I’d like to hear the report from Hogwarts.”
A young woman who Cho recognized as George Weasley’s girlfriend stood. “Nothing out of the ordinary, Remus. Whatever’s going on, the Slytherins don’t seem to know anything. I don’t sense any secrecy.”
He nodded. “Thank you, Michelle. Unfortunately, my news is much grimmer. I have received word that several former Death Eaters have been gathering. We know that one person seems to be calling the shots, but not who that seems to be.”
“Remus, Death Eaters have been gathering all the time since Voldemort’s defeat,” Harry pointed out. “But it always turns out to be some crackpot plot to resurrect him. Again.”
“Yeah, what makes this time any different?” Ernie asked.
“Because this time, our spy has been killed,” Remus said calmly.
He was met with stunned silence. It was Michelle who finally spoke. “Blaise is dead?” she asked.
Sadly, Remus nodded. “Last night he came to me to tell me that his Mark was burning.” A gasp of surprise rippled through the Order. No one’s Mark had ever burned since Voldemort’s death. “Early this morning I received a rather grisly package containing the remains of his forearm bearing the Mark.” He paused and took a deep breath. “It has changed.”
The Order looked around nervously. “What do you mean, changed?” Charlie Weasley asked.
“I mean that it no longer is a skull and snake,” Remus explained.
“Well, what is it?” Ernie asked.
Hermione cut off Remus’s answer. “How could the Mark be different? It was given to each Death Eater by Voldemore himself.” Several Order members flinched. She ignored them. “The Death Eaters couldn’t alter them, could they?”
Remus shook his gray-streaked head. “No. He controlled the Mark. Now apparently someone else has assumed that control.”
“Would have to be someone pretty powerful,” Bill commented.
“Which explains the worrying,” Tonks said with a wry smile.
“Right now we don’t know enough to do anything,” Remus said firmly. “We have to find whatever information we can. Unfortunately, our best source is gone.”
Everyone in the room was silent for a moment. After Severus Snape’s betrayal and subsequent murder, the Order was left without a double agent. Blaise Zabini had stepped up bravely to the task. He was always the quiet Slytherin boy, according to George’s girlfriend Michelle, who had also been a Slytherin. The Order and Dumbledore’s Army would miss him greatly.
“Michelle,” Remus finally said. “Keep alert at the school. If you can, maybe see if the new Head of Slytherin House knows anything.”
“I’ll try,” Michelle replied. “None of them seem to have much respect for Charms, but I’ll do my best.”
Remus nodded. “Good. Cho, did you hear of anything suspicious while you were abroad?”
She shook her head. “But, then again, I wasn’t looking for it either.”
“Well keep in contact with anyone you might have met?”
He turned to Bill. “Bill, maybe the goblins know of something we don’t.”
“On it,” Bill said.
“Everyone else, just stay alert. Watch Muggle news too if you can. Sometimes they report on more than they know.” He smiled sadly. “Constant vigilance.”
Cho saw Harry return the sad look. Remus dismissed the meeting and began the systematic exiting of the house. Not everyone could leave at once because no one wanted the old Muggle at 8 Grimmauld Place for example to be looking out the window and see an entire crowd appear in front of a door he couldn’t see.
As much as Cho would have liked to stay and talk with old friends whom she hadn’t seen in a while, her supremely disorganized apartment screamed to be cleaned. Reluctantly, she bid farewell to Harry, Gabrielle, Bill, and all of the others and slipped out the front door back onto Grimmauld Place.
Taking advantage of the beautiful September afternoon, Cho walked leisurely toward the center of London where she could get to Diagon Alley and from there, apparate home. She made it halfway through the city when she heard a voice behind her.
“Look what I found. A little Orderling.”
“What?” Cho spun around and found herself face-to-face with a wand.
The beam of red light hit her square in the chest and Cho crumpled to the ground in darkness.