The white tomb was clear as day, though not possible to be seen from deep within the Chamber of Secrets, but still Hope's thoughts lingered on it with a bit of morbid interest. Dumbledore's funeral had only been earlier that day, as had the three of them telling Professor McGonagall that they wouldn't be returning in the fall.
Hope rubbed over her arms, feeling uncommonly cold, despite the heat.
"So, what's the plan?" Ron's voice brought her back and she looked up. "You've got the 'I've got a plan' look."
Hope's mouth twitched, her eyes flicking between him and Hermione. She sat there for a moment, considering everything. She had a small pocket journal in her hands, spattered with various ink splotches alongside heated notes about Horcruxes.
"Dumbledore's dead," she said finally, "he's the last person that Voldemort was really afraid of…so any reason for him to wait it out died with Dumbledore…Fred and George are saying the Order thinks he won't attack until the Trace fades when I'm seventeen, but if I know Tom…he won't want to wait that long."
Hermione stiffened and Ron scowled.
"You think he'll be waiting for you when you get back to the Dursleys?" Hermione asked.
"Maybe, maybe not, but personally I'm not really planning to find out." Hope shrugged. "And I'm through with listening to what the Order says, nothing they've said, nothing they've done has made me feel any safer or any more like they weren't trying to keep information from us…"
Hope remembered months ago when she'd snapped before Bellatrix had tried to grab her. "Let me know if you need me to vanquish any Dark Lords, since that's apparently all I'm good for!" It honestly still felt like that. "At this rate we'd probably be better off making our own resistance."
"That's not a half-bad idea," Ron said after a moment.
"What? Of course, it's a bad idea!" Hope countered. "Leading a resistance? Are you mad?"
"You're the one that suggested it!" he countered. "Besides, you've been leading the DA for two years, how is this any different?"
Hope raked a hand through her hair. "Because! Because this is different! This is war!"
"That's what you've been telling us the whole time!" Ron insisted and Hermione nodded in agreement. "That it's different out there! That it's different when people are trying to kill you! We fought in the Department of Mysteries and we fought here! We know what we're doing and we're not afraid to fight for it!"
Hope found herself staring a bit bemusedly at both him and Hermione. There had been no question of taking them with her to find the Horcruxes…but this? Hope didn't know. She pressed a hand against her brow, rubbing over her scar. "I'm not saying that it wouldn't be a good idea…but where would we even start?"
"Could start by informing the masses," a voice piped up and Hope twisted wildly to see almost every DA member making their way down the stairs that led into the antechamber. Ginny, Luna, and Neville to Susan, Hannah, and Daphne and fully at the back "Fred! What're you doing here?"
"George wanted to come, but someone's got to man the shop," Fred shrugged, holding up his galleon and Hope shot a look to Hermione who grinned back shamelessly. He squeezed her shoulders comfortingly before finding a seat. "Are we rebelling again? Brilliant!"
"It's under debate," she said dryly as everyone got situated, "but this isn't a dictatorship…I'm taking everyone's decisions into account…Hermione and Ron feel it would be a good idea to form a resistance of sorts, like the Order of the Phoenix but more effective."
Fred and Angelina, two who were a part of the Order as well, snorted.
"Hell yeah!" Tracey grinned. "Count me in!"
"Anything to bring the Death Eaters down!" Colin agreed.
And Hope was more stunned that no one seemed against it. "This is dangerous," she half-heartedly tried to discourage them.
"Hope, people have been trying to kill you since you were one and you've never backed down," Ginny pointed out, "why should we?"
"Hear, hear!" Seamus squeezed her hip from where she was sitting on his lap, and the echoing agreement made warmth bloom in Hope's chest as she looked around at them all…all of them willing to follow her into a war that no one could really see the end to.
Now they were really going to need a plan. A plan and codes and contingencies. It was going to be a long day.
Hope had lied, but that was nothing new.
She'd told George she was moving back in with the Dursleys very briefly before everything got underway, and as far as everyone else was concerned, she'd been living there all along, but she lied. That wasn't part of the plan that the rest of the DA knew. The plans they'd made with the DA -soon to be firmly the Resistance because Hope hated the idea of being in an army for Dumbledore, and always had- weren't yet to come into play and the three of them needed to make sure they actually had a place for everyone to hole up in.
Hermione helped her with a complicated bit of magic to fool the Order members tailing her and Hope watched the illusion of herself enter the cab with Hermione at her side, both waving goodbye to Ron with Hedwig resting in her cage beside Pig, looking a bit doleful. She watched them disappeared before sliding a pair of obnoxious glasses onto her nose, turning her eyes brown and hair a mass of black curls, taking her bag and heading in the opposite direction.
Hope had learned to be cautious over the years and now, on the cusp of war, that skill was paying for itself. She'd only paid for an apartment for 3 months in advance, but she wouldn't need to use it very long, but it was a better place to hide out in the mean time since she was so doubtful about Number Four being even remotely safe.
"Did you make it fine? Were you tailed?" was the first thing out of Hermione's mouth when she called her from the apartment's phone.
"I'm fine," Hope assured her, taking a look out of the window. She was very high up, enough to see a good portion of London without much difficulty. "We're in the clear…we're going to need to start planning how this Resistance is going to work, though…everyone standing by with their galleons?"
"Yes," Hermione said with a faint rustling that told Hope she was pulling out her own, "but don't you think the Order's going to figure out you're not actually at the house soon?"
"Probably," Hope conceded, dumping her bag onto the bed, "but they've been trying to keep us in the dark since He came back so I really don't think they have the right to complain or demand anything of us…I'd say this fight is more ours than theirs, to be honest." They'd had their chance trying their way, now it was Hope's way.
"You would, wouldn't you," Hermione retorted wryly before pausing listening to something that Hope couldn't make out. "Well," she managed to say a bit strangled, "it looks like you were right."
"What d'you mean?"
"Number Four just went up in smoke," Hermione said in a would-be-calm voice, "I'd say the war's just begun."
Hope's lips thinned into a line and she almost felt something, but the Dursleys had never made her at home there, had never made her happy to be there. Her leg twinged over her old scar. "Any survivors?"
"Can't tell, it's still early," Hermione said, undoubtedly listening to the television. "Are you sure it's okay where you are?"
"I thought you weren't going to attempt the Obliviate until later?" Hope asked cautiously.
"I wasn't…but after this…" Hope could practically feel Hermione vibrating with worry. "My house doesn't have the same kind of protections as Ron's…it might be safer."
"It might be," Hope agreed carefully.
There was silence on the other end while Hermione came to the necessary conclusion. "I'll be there in twenty minutes," she told Hope before hanging up.
And, sure enough, twenty minutes later, Hope was hugging Hermione in her arms as she sobbed into her shoulder.
"Is she all right?" Ron smoothed his girlfriend's fringe away from her face as he sat on the edge of her bed, taking the cup Hope handed him.
"She's been better, I think," Hope muttered, "I think the idea that her parents won't ever know who she is again…I think that really broke her. She cried for hours." Reversing that spell…it was difficult and it hardly ever worked. It was the last option for Hermione, but that wasn't to say it didn't do the job. It did it far too well.
Ron took a drink and coughed. "Is this Firewhiskey?"
Hope winked, downing hers. "How goes it at the Burrow?"
"Well, Moody's somewhere between pissed and impressed with you, but I think that's usual for him. The Order's driving themselves mad trying to find you…they actually are staking out Grimmauld Place since they can't get in anymore…something about you upping the protections?" He noticed Hope's smirk.
"We're going to need to sack it and see if it has anything we might need," Hope muttered to herself, "books, potions, anything that could be useful…then we need to check out Pithos…"
Ron snorted. "So, the plan's changed a bit, hasn't it?"
"Not totally, we knew we'd have to get things ready before the Resistance is fully formed." Hope added tea to her cup this time and Ron downed his Firewhiskey and offered her his cup as well. "I honestly wasn't expecting them to attack the Dursleys right away, though…any word on that yet?"
"No survivors," Ron told her flatly, and Hope nodded, she'd been bracing for it for hours, expected it, but yet…
"Is it bad that I don't really feel anything?" she asked him carefully.
"Well, I'd feel poorly about a family that kept me in a cupboard under the stairs for eleven years," Ron conceded, "we won't think less of you, if that's what you're asking."
"Thanks," Hope muttered. "Hermione and I'll take a train as close as we can get to Ottery St. Catchpole on my birthday, don't tell them that, but that's the plan."
Ron nodded in understanding. Without the Trace on her, they'd be able to travel more easily. Hope didn't like much relying on wand-magic to begin with, but it made it easier to know that no one would be able to track her if she did happen to use wand-magic.
"Muggle transportation only is our safest bet," Hope added, looking out the window, unusually solemn.
"George sends his love," Ron told her in the hopes of coaxing a smile out, and her mouth did twitch, curving upwards slightly. "He's annoyed that you're only going through me, but he understands, probably more than the Order at this point…misses you, though."
Hope's lips formed into a genuine soft smile at that. "He wants to marry me," she told Ron and Ron, who had listened to so much flirting over the years, couldn't bring himself to be surprised. "But I told him I can't right now…not with everything that's going on."
"He'll wait," Ron said with certainty. "He's never loved anyone as much as he's loved you."
Hope flushed pink and looked away.
"Mum's getting annoyed, though," he added, quieting his voice when Hermione shifted in her sleep. "I threatened to move out when she tried to keep me from leaving to meet you guys, but I don't think she's going to stop."
Hope rolled her eyes. "Why is she being so over the top? Or has she always been and I just haven't noticed?"
"Eh." Ron made a 'so-so' gesture. "She coddles and stifles us, I can't deny that. It was nicer when we were kids, but now it's just overbearing…and Percy and Ginny were always her favourites, but now Percy's gone and Ginny's more like you -reckless and not willing to follow any of the rules-…she pushed the Twins aside a lot for Percy and can't even tell the difference between the two of them, which might be part of the reason they don't get on as well with her as they do with Dad."
Hope pursed her lips. "If it's easier for you to stay, Hermione and I can handle the preparations front."
"No, I need to get out of the house," Ron grimaced, "there's only so much I can take…when did you want to tackle Grimmauld Place?"
"Give it a few days…maybe by then things will have calmed down a little, but we can go through my and Hermione's things and figure out what we should keep with us and throw out," Hope considered thoughtfully. "We'll be laying low for now, I think."
"Probably the smartest idea," Ron admitted and Hope smiled faintly, clicking their mugs together.
"Here's to starting a resistance."
"They think you know something."
"The Order always thinks I know everything about Hope," George said with a scowl, stirring an oozing cauldron with disinterest as his father looked around the apartment. There wasn't any sign that his girlfriend had been living there with him for months, none of her clothes, none of her books, nothing. "That's usually Ron or Hermione…besides, she wouldn't be stupid enough to tell me what her plans were because you lot are always interrogating me."
There was a reason why Fred had gone to that DA meeting and not him. The Order and anyone else would look to him first, if not Hermione and Ron and as long as Fred knew what was going on and told him what he needed to know, he was fine with that.
And Hope knew how to look after herself, so George wasn't too worried, but…he couldn't help but worry a little.
His father gave him a regretful look. "Feeling a bit at odds?"
"Something like that." George glanced to the small mirror beside him. It was the one that had once been connected to Hope's compact. So many hours George had seen her face framed within it, but it had completely shattered from whatever Hope had done to it on the other end. His girlfriend was nothing if not suspicious.
"I'm sorry about that."
George rolled his eyes, adding some nettles to the potion. "You're not really the interrogating type, Dad…I'm just on edge…I haven't seen Hope in weeks and I'll probably not be able to see her for a few more weeks and it's hell for me."
For some reason a ruddy flush appeared on his father's cheeks. "I realize I never really had that talk with you and Fred—"
"Oh no," George said, horrified.
"But every young man experiences urges—"
"For the love of Merlin!" George's eyes nearly popped out of his head and he flushed to the tips of his ears. "We're not sleeping together!"
Arthur paused, surprised. "You're not?"
George smacked his hand to his face. "Merlin, no! We snog and sleep in the same bed, that's it, and I'm fine with that!"
Arthur arched an eyebrow. "You are?"
But George shrugged, flustered. "We're not in a real hurry for…that. Besides, Hope was still dealing with Sirius last year that it would've been in really poor form…it'll happen when it happens."
Arthur looked like he didn't know if he was pleased about that or not, but since Hope was still sixteen, it was probably better that they weren't…active in that sense.
"All I know," George continued, "is what Ron's said, that Hope and Hermione are going to show up at the Burrow sometime before the wedding, that's it."
He didn't tell them about the DA, soon to be firmly called the Resistance (Hope had only barely stomached it being called the DA when she hated Dumbledore so much), and what they were planning, even with half the information.
George was entitled to his own secrets.
Hope was startled terribly the first moment she stepped foot in Grimmauld Place, stepping back into Ron and Hermione when they just managed to Apparate on the doorstep and push their way inside, remaining out of sight of anyone who could be watching. Hermione had to choke out a counter-curse as Ron and Hope gaped at the sight of Dumbledore, horribly wasted and sunken in.
"Fucking Mad-Eye," Hope gripped Ron's arm tightly, "remind me to kill him next time I see him." Putting a curse on her fucking house. She guessed since she'd tweaked the wards he hadn't been able to get in, but figured a curse wouldn't hurt and since it was just another protective measure, the house accepted it…fucking Mad-Eye.
"Get in line," Ron rasped and Hermione couldn't help but whimper, "let's just get what we need and leave, yeah?"
"In and out and never again," Hermione agreed and they all gave each other a nod before splitting off. Hermione went to the library, Ron went to search the rooms, and Hope looked for what she could.
Her fingers danced close to the spindly many legged instruments that had once tried to puncture her skin so long ago but now remained so unmoving, the music box that made such sleep-inducing music that it had almost knocked them out last time.
Hope kept the bunch of rusty daggers she found -they'd be decent once she cleaned and sharpened them, Sirius had taught her how back when he'd given her one as a gift- if nothing else, it would give her something to do in the coming weeks, but she left the Black signet ring that had once been offered to her by Dumbledore since she was Sirius' heir but it been a gesture done in poor taste at the time that Hope had refused…Hope had enough rings, if you asked her.
She collected up the daggers, several potion bottles of varying sizes and shapes, and some cauldrons that might find some use in the Resistance before finally heading upstairs, starting first with her old room.
Somehow, despite most of the house being a bit in disarray -Hope didn't know if that was from them or someone getting around the wards and she didn't want to find out-, Hope's room had remained untouched. Hope had left a few articles of clothing the last time she'd been there, and she added them to her box, before taking note of something new, a white box pushed half-under her bed. On it, in Sirius' hasty scrawl, was written only two words: For Hope. She pulled the strings that bound it loose so that she could look within.
If she had been expecting some kind of deep letter about all the things Sirius wished he could have done, in the event that he died before he could give her the package himself, she would have been sadly mistaken, but Hope knew better. Sirius just wouldn't have been the type.
He would have wanted to give it to her himself.
Hope shook her head to clear it of the dark thoughts before she lifted the first thing out of the box. It was a red leather-bound book with a lion's head sewn into the cover. Upon opening it, Hope wasn't at all surprised to discover that it held pictures of the Marauders (Peter Pettigrew, thankfully, had walked out of each of the frames) and Lily and her friends.
She already had one photo album, but it was more focused on her parents, and it had mostly from their last year and up until a little after Hope had been born. This one, by contrast, started with them young and progressed with a few pictures of her mother and her friends thrown in. The last few pages where of her recent years, standing in her robes before the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament with Remus, another was of when she had fallen asleep in Grimmauld Place's sitting room with her head resting on Sirius' shoulder…
Hope closed the album with a forlorn sigh before pulling the second item towards her. It was a small package, like the kind that usually held jewellery.
She lifted the lid to see what he had left her, and she couldn't help but gasp softly at what lay within.
Sirius knew better than most people how proud she was of her lineage and his gift reflected that. It was a coiled silver snake with an emerald clutched in its jaws. It was truly a beautiful gift. Hope pricked a finger slightly on one of the sharp fangs with interest.
In the back of her mind, Hope could see her wearing it in her wedding, if she survived long enough to actually agree to marry George…but it was a passing fancy; the only thing ahead of her was Voldemort and with how badly he wanted her dead, that wasn't likely to change anytime soon.
Was it really that he wanted her dead because of some half-baked prophecy…or was it something else, too, that had caused him to hunt her down so fiercely after she'd been born?
Hope pinched the bridge of her nose, thinking back to that night she had looked through that veil in the Department of Mysteries and seen those dark eyes staring back at her. There was something familiar about them, more than the bleary figure she remembered from when she was ten who had touched her arm with an ice-cold hand that jarred her back to life, forcing her from what Hope could only assume was Death himself.
She looked up, her image catching in the mirror and she paused, because, for a moment, there seemed to be something more to the reflection than what she saw; more than a hastily braided crimson plait down her back, cheeks pale and lined with tension, green eyes weary. For a moment there seemed to be something more, almost something that glowed, but an instant later it had gone and Hope was only left feeling befuddled.
Ron's voice suddenly called out: "Hey, I think you two need to come see this." And Hope and Hermione left their respective rooms to see Ron staring at a plaque on a door.
"What is it?" Hope asked, befuddled, looking up to read the neatly etched words: Do Not Enter Without the Express Permission of Regulus Arcturus Black.
"I think it's R.A.B," Ron said and Hermione's mouth unhinged and Hope's eyes widened, thinking about the note within the fake locket.
"Sirius' brother?" Hermione murmured.
"Sirius told me he joined the Death Eaters," Hope told them, "but after a while he tried to back out and they killed him for it."
"And that makes sense," Hermione agreed, bobbing her head. "If he was a Death Eater he had access to Voldemort, and if he became disenchanted, then he would have wanted to bring Voldemort down!"
"D'you think the locket's in there?" Ron asked them.
None of them were speaking above a whisper, almost as if apprehension was silencing them.
"I guess there's only one way to find out," Hope conceded, grasping the knob and twisting it open carefully as if she was expecting it to be booby trapped, but it was not, so Hope swung the door completely open so that they could see the room.
It was smaller than Sirius', that much Hope could tell, even though she'd only been in her godfather's room a few times, no doubt owing to Regulus being the second born, and he had clearly been very proud of the House he had been sorted into, and of the Pure-blood ideology his parents had thrust upon him from an early age, the same ideology that Sirius had rejected. There were a number of yellowing parchments fastened to the wall that Hermione went to inspect.
"They're all about Voldemort," she told them as the other two eyed the room cautiously (Ron actually knelt on the ground to see if there was anything under the bed). "Regulus seems to have been a fan for a few years before he joined the Death Eaters..."
"Aren't they all?" Hope asked with a frown as Ron moved carefully around the wardrobe, careful of the stray robes within, since the last set of robes he had disturbed in the house had nearly strangled him during their fifth year.
Hermione had to make a small noise of agreement.
"Shouldn't we just summon it?" Ron asked suddenly, but Hope shook her head.
"No, it's probably enchanted so it can't be summoned," she said, "the fake actually had Inferi guarding it."
"Great," Ron drawled out.
"I'm sure it won't be that drastic," Hermione told him, "since Regulus removed the real one."
They all picked a corner of the room and began to search rather diligently, but had to reluctantly agree that everything in the room was relatively worthless.
"Just because it's not in his room doesn't mean it's not in the house," Hermione said seriously, tapping her chin thoughtfully as she did so. "Whether he'd manage to destroy it or not, he'd want to keep it hidden from Voldemort, wouldn't he? Remember all those awful things we had to get rid of when we were here last time? That clock that shot bolts at everyone and those old robes that tried to strangle Ron; Regulus might have put them there to protect the locket's hiding place, even though we didn't realize it at...at..."
Hermione went stock still and Hope and Ron had to stop and stare at her.
"Hermione?" Ron asked in concern, raising a hand to cup her cheek as Hermione's dazed eyes drifted towards him. "What's wrong?"
"There was a locket," she all but whispered.
"What are you talking about?" Hope asked.
"In the cabinet in the drawing room. Nobody could open it. And we...we..." Hermione grasped Hope's arm. "And you! You had an intense headache and you had to leave, don't you remember? You and Ginny helped clean the kitchen while we did the drawing room."
"You think she was sensing a Horcrux?" Ron asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"What else could it be?" Hermione was positively beaming as she turned towards Ron this time. "She's got a connection with Voldemort that none of us understand! What if when she's in close proximity to a Horcrux, it sends off some kind of signal!"
"You're forgetting something," Hope reminded her. "I had Tom Riddle's diary with me and I didn't get a kind of headache like with that locket."
"But you were more irritated," Ron pointed out, frowning as he recalled it, "and a little off-balance, like you were dizzy…Ginny thought you couldn't stand to be around her back then, it really upset her."
Hope frowned, feeling a spike of regret at that.
"The locket isn't in the room anymore, though," she told them, "I just went through it, it's not there."
"What about Kreacher?" Hermione pressed. "Wouldn't he know something?"
Hope's lips twisted. "If he knew anything, he took it to the grave."
Hermione and Ron started in surprise at that. "He's dead?"
Maybe it was bitterness, maybe it was anger, maybe it was something else entirely, but Hope couldn't bring herself to care. Kreacher was the reason her godfather was dead, he was the one that had been passing secrets to the Malfoys for the year leading up to his death and she couldn't bring herself to be sad. "Everyone dies," she said instead. "Kreacher was old."
Death was something that most people feared, but not Hope, never Hope. Hope had seen Death and she wasn't afraid; Death was in her bones, in her veins, and no matter what, death always made sense.
"Looks like we're on our own in this," she said with steely eyes. "No more handouts, no more shields…if we want to destroy the Horcruxes, we'll do it on our own. No more hiding and no more lies."
Hermione and Ron nodded seriously, as one.
"Well," Ron amended, "not entirely alone."
A grin cracked briefly across Hope's mouth.
"No," she said, "I guess not."
Not alone, not anymore.
The Resistance would stand tall as the world crashed and burned around them.