Who: Members of the new Order of the Phoenix
Where: Snape Manor
Summary: The stage is set for the next conflict
The invitations had been sent. The dining hall was properly arranged. The wards had been lowered to allow only those who were wanted entrance. It was time for the first official meeting between the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army to begin.
And Severus Snape was a nervous wreck.
Sweeping a critical eye over the notes he'd drawn up earlier that day, the Potions Master gave a slight sigh. Any moment now the guests would begin arriving. They would be coming with the intent of discussing what had happened and what they were going to do about it. They would be under the impression that they were to unite together under a strong leader who would give them some hope in these dark times.
Instead, they were getting him.
"I cannot do this," the Potions Master suddenly stated, dropping the parchment on the desk and placing his head in his hands. He had been in his study for the past ten minutes, attempting to make some final adjustments to the most important topics that needed immediate attention.
However, he couldn't stop the shaking in his hands long enough to write even one sentence. How, then, was he supposed to go out and greet a group of people as their new leader? How could he expect any of them to take him seriously if he was shaking more than a first year before the Sorting Ceremony?
"I simply cannot," he repeated, his tone firm. Rising to his feet, he added, "And I am going to go directly out there and tell Remus precisely that."
"You already tried that, as I recall," Remus spoke quietly, lounging on the frame of the study door, arms crossed over his chest. "And I believe that my response was that you can."
Straightening, he walked over to the man at the desk, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder and squeezing slightly. "This is your forte, Severus. And although you may have your weak points, the fact of the matter is, we need you. We need you to do this, to be the one. I'll be behind you every step of the way, support you in any manner that I can. You know that, don't you?"
Severus gave a snort. "Of course. And just how, precisely, do you intend to stop my hands from shaking? Or my steps from faltering?" Shaking his head, he didn't wait for an answer, as he knew there really wasn't one to give.
"I know that you are right. Logically, I realize that I am the only person currently capable of truly doing what is required. However, that does not mean that I wish to do it," he stated. Looking down at his notes, he took a moment to collect himself.
"Although," he added softly, "Albus often said the same thing."
Taking a deep breath, a look of determination crossed his face. "Well, seeing as how I have little choice in the matter, I suppose I had best get on with it."
Making his way out of his office, he murmured, "Ms. Abbott is no doubt near ready to burst with either excitement or nervousness. Or possibly both."
Hannah nervously pushed a strand of hair back behind her ear as she exited the kitchens. Everything was in place, so she really had no cause for nervousness… but she was. She couldn’t help but be nervous in the circumstances, really. She’d never been hostess to anything larger than a very, very small get together… and though Mr. Snape assured her that everything would be fine, this was a major deal. The Minister of magic was going to be attending! As well as Professor McGonagall. Of course, others would be there, like Blaise and Neville and Hermione, but even Neville’s presence wasn’t enough to still the butterflies in her stomach.
"Now, Dimpy, you know the order the courses go in, right?" she asked, chewing on her lower lip. "Of course you do," she said, answering her own question before the House elf had the chance to reply. I hope everyone gets here soon… I can’t stand this much pressure…. I think I have to throw up.
Blaise appeared, not with his usual *CRACK* of Apparation, but with the *clank* of doors on the Knight Bus as they opened to allow him to step down at the end of the drive leading up to Snape Manor. As soon as his boots were on the ground, he turned, offering his hand to help Katie Bell down beside him.
Katie took the assistance gladly, even if it hadn't provided an excuse to touch him. Though the walk and drive had been charmed clean of snow, footing was still treacherous. As she slipped her arm through his, she tried to ignore the feel beneath his sleeve of the blade now strapped to his wrist.
"I'll leave you safely inside here for a few minutes, Katarina," he said, escorting her to the Manor's front door. "While I go to bring Neville."
With his free hand, he rapped with the knocker on the big front door.
Dimpy opened the door, her large eyes glancing up at the people standing there. "Welcome to Snape Manor. Dimpy is to be asking for Mister and Missus' invitations."
Once Blaise had shown them to her, she gave a quick nod of her head. "Please come in," she said, stepping aside to allow them room. Once they were in, she added, "Dimpy will tell Mistress Hannah you are here."
And with a snap of her fingers she disappeared.
Hannah greeted Blaise and Katie in the entrance hall a few moment’s later, a huge smile plastered onto her face. "Good evening, Mr. Zabini, Miss Bell," she said, shaking hands with Blaise and giving Katie a brief hug. "I’m glad both of you could make it tonight. Please come with me to the sitting room. We’ll wait for everyone else to arrive there."
Katie disengaged her hand from Blaise's arm as the tall wizard gave a slight shake of his head. "I'm going to join Neville Longbottom, to ensure he gets here safely. Miss Bell will remain here, and I will rejoin you shortly."
Hannah nodded, smiling. "Of course. I'll inform Dimpy."
Blaise inclined his head and withdrew, not without a lingering look at Katie, to just outside the wards. With a *CRACK* he was gone.
Hannah led Katie to the sitting room to chit-chat while they waited for the rest of the guests to arrive.
Hermione was rather late but it couldn't be helped. She'd wasted time trying to get Harry to come with her, but he'd given the excuse of not being well enough and nothing she could say or do would change his mind. And truth to tell, he did still look rather ill.
She nervously adjusted the sleeve of her robe and did a mental check. Yes. she had everthing and was ready to proceed. She firmly grasped the door knocker and rapped sharply.
The door was slowly opened and a bulbous eye peered out cautiously.
'Hullo there,' she told Dimpy kindly. 'I'm Hermione Granger, and I'm here for the meeting.'
She showed Dimpy her invitation.
'Oh, yes, Miss, they're expecting Miss Hermione!' the tiny elf squeaked. She pulled open the heavy wooden door, and Hermione stepped into the foyer. She could hear the murmer of voices in another room.
She gave Dimpy her cloak and walked down to the room where the voices were.
Katie and Hannah were sitting on a sofa, chatting, and she idly wondered where everyone else was.
Only a few moments behind Hermione's arrival, Dimpy showed Minerva McGonagall and Arthur and Molly Weasley into the sitting room. The Headmistress looked around, nodding to her former pupils - with a particularly soft smile for Hannah Abbott - before taking a seat on a chair.
"So... where are Severus and Remus?" she asked brusquely.
"Hello, Minerva," Severus commented, entering the room through the side door. Nodding at the others, he raised an eyebrow. "I take it that Blaise is currently in the process of getting Mr. Longbottom?"
Then, his eyes landed on Hermione. "And Mr. Potter was unable to attend?"
Of course, he had known that would be the case. If the young man was in half the pain that Remus had described from a few days before, there was no way he was going to venture out past the comforts of his new home.
Especially not to Snape Manor.
Hermone flushed and said, 'No, Professor Snape, Harry's not coming. He's too ill. But don't worry,' she added hastily. 'I made sure the wards were up and the place is as well-protected as I can make it.'
Speaking of well-protected, Neville was preceded a few moments by Blaise, who did a complete 360 scan before the Gryffindor arrived, and then followed him up the walk.
Neville blinked as he looked up to the imposing building that was Snape Manor. Okay... Steady, Neville. It's just a meeting. That's all. He cleared his throat nervously as he approached the door.
Neville raised his hand, knocking, and the door was almost immediately opened by a house elf. "Can Dimpy help you, sir?" she asked.
"Yes," Neville replied, presenting her with his invitation. "Captain Neville Longbottom to see Severus Snape."
Dimpy nodded, glancing over the invitation once before she opened the door to allow him entrance. "Dimpy will show you to the sitting room, sirs," the house elf said, nodding to Blaise. "Please follow me."
Blaise followed the house-elf, and Neville, into the parlor, waiting until his charge was seated before he found himself a place near Katie.
Entering from the same side door Severus had, Remus came into the room. "Hello, everyone," he said, his face containing no trace of his normally good natured expression. He looked grimly determined as he came up to stand behind Severus' right shoulder. "Is this all of us, then?" His jaw clenched slightly. So few left. And so much against us.
Severus allowed his eyes to sweep over the room, scarcely able to believe this is all there was. Granted, there were a few missing Weasley's. Charlie was undoubtedly stuck in Romania a bit longer. Fred and George were … well, he didn't really care where they were. And, according to Remus, Bill was sick.
Also, neither Tonks nor Kingsley had been able to escape their duties as Aurors to attend. But both promised to check in as soon as possible.
Still, even with all of them included, that didn't leave many people. It was obvious they had a lot of work ahead of them.
And the first place to start was with him.
Clearing his throat slightly, he forced his voice to remain firm yet not hostile as he began speaking.
"As everyone here obviously knows, there was a massive breakout from Azkaban Prison on New Years Day. All Death Eaters that were imprisoned there have now escaped. The Ministry has had no luck in locating them, nor do I, for one, believe they will. And, it is for that reason that I have called you all here this evening."
Taking a breath, he met the faces of each person present before continuing.
"It is believed that, aside from their previous agenda of ridding the world of Muggles and Muggle-borns, they are also going to be targeting several people. Of course, Mr. Potter is at the top of this list. As is Mr. Longbottom, considering his position as captain of the new Dumbledore's Army. Both Blaise and Draco will undoubtedly be sought out by, at the very least, their fathers."
Pausing, he finally spoke out lout what he had only thus far thought about.
"And, considering my new status as the leader of the Order, as well as the choices I made during the war, I will also be in danger."
There. The difficult part was over. Now all he had to do was sound as reassuring as possible.
Drawing in another breath, he stated, "Yesterday evening the Order of the Phoenix was reactivated. We have every intention of finding and exterminating the problem."
Fortunately, no one seemed too shocked at his use of the word 'exterminating'. In fact, some almost looked relieved. Feeling a bit surer of himself, he kept going.
"We are going to be searching tirelessly for the convicts, as well as preparing ourselves for another potential war. And we are also asking for assistance from both the new and old members of Dumbledore's Army."
Here, he looked directly at Neville.
"Each of you proved yourselves more than adequate during the war. If it comes to that again, the Order could only benefit from your alliance. But, as their captain, the choice ultimately falls to you."
Neville took a deep breath, hoping to calm his nerves and the butterflies in his stomach. I can’t do this, he thought briefly before giving himself a mental shake. Get a hold of yourself, Longbottom. You can and will.
"Dumbledore’s Army was created to protect the citizens of Wizarding Brittain, and that’s exactly what we intend to do. " He stole a glance to Blaise, who nodded once in approval. "We’re willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve those ends. You have our allegiance."
The Potions Master nodded. "Good. Now that has been decided, are there any questions?" When no one spoke, he stated, "Very well. I suggest we take this opportunity to venture to the dining hall. We can discuss what is to be expected of everyone while there."
Turning, he led the way to the room adjacent to the sitting area. Taking his seat at the head of the table, he waited for everyone else to find their assigned seats before looking at Hannah.
"Ms. Abbott? Would you care to summon the food? This is, after all, your doing."
Hannah was one step ahead of the game. She’d signaled to Dimpy that they were ready for the food as soon as the guests had exited the sitting room. Hannah smiled warmly from her seat at the opposite end of the table as Dimpy appeared.
The dining table was set with the finest china, silver, and linen. The chargers set at each place were jet black, the Snape family crest standing out in full color and relief, the family motto in resplendent gold leaf.
Sæpius in auro bibitur venenum was visible through the clear, glass dinner plates. With a snap of Dimpy’s fingers, the table was filled with food, each plate generously heaped to overflowing with prime rib, baked potatoes with all the sides, soups, and salads.
Hannah was pleased with the results as everyone began to eat, quietly, and stole a glance to Neville, who'd grabbed the seat to her right. "Bon Appetite,' she said quietly.