The summer between my years of being a fourth-year and a fifth-year at Hogwarts was the summer the temperatures skyrocketed. It got so hot that I couldn't stand just hanging around the house, as airy and open as it was. I could feel myself getting more wound up as each day went by, could feel my irritation rising steadily and I just knew that it was only going to be resolved by an explosion…possibly literally…
In my defence, though, can you really blame me for getting frustrated? I mean, I witness Wuya and Chase Young murdering two of my schoolmates before giving Wuya her body back – using my blood, mind you! Then the Minister for Magic basically calls me a liar because he's too afraid to admit that I'm telling the truth for both the implications to his career and, oh, just the whole entire Wizarding world!
On top of all that, I have barely heard from any of my friends all summer and it was already August. The few messages that I did receive from the Pedrosas and Clay and Omi – who were practically family – were so cryptic that it was barely worth it.
So, it was the ever-increasing frustration brought on by all of that that led to papa coming to find me at the local martial arts studio one night in early August. I had been going to the studio most days as something to do, but after a month of it I got so worked up that I lost track of time. It was already pitch black outside by the time he came and found me, but, despite that we decided to walk home – it wasn't far and it was a nice night.
It wasn't until we had reached the outskirts of the busy city – almost home – that I started to feel that walking was a bad idea.
"Papa…" I murmured hesitantly. "Do you feel that?"
Papa frowned and glanced down at me. "I don't feel anything. Why? What is it?"
I glanced about me uneasily. "I don't know… I just…it feels like something's coming…like something's going to happen…"
The temperature – which had barely fluctuated for over a month – suddenly dropped. Papa wrapped his arms around himself, grinning. "Looks like the end of this damned heat; thank God."
"No." I muttered as I watched papa's breath fog. "No, something's not right…" Even as I said it, the unease that had been nudging at me ignited, screaming at me as I felt an all-too-familiar clammy sensation. "No." I muttered, shaking my head as I stopped dead. "It can't be…"
Papa walked a few more steps before he realised that I had stopped, stopping himself and turning towards me. "Kimiko? What's wrong?"
"We need to get home. Fast." I told him, knowing that it may not stop them, but it was worth a try.
"Okay." Papa conceded, hearing the urgency behind my words. "Okay, we'll get there as quickly as we can, but first tell me what's going-"
Papa broke off with a gasp, turning to face – what seemed to him – empty air. I, on the other hand, being a witch, was able to the dreaded shape of a Dementor. It was looming over him and I could see papa's eyes darting around the space before him, trying to spot the creature he knew was before him despite what his eyes were telling him, as he could hear its rasping breath.
"Papa, just…don't move." I said, trying to calm him down as I reached for my wand.
Okay, so I'm still underage and so not technically allowed to use magic outside of school, but the law states that even underage witches and wizards are permitted to use magic in certain situations and this…is definitely one of them.
However, as I raised my wand I felt another one approach me from behind, so I whirled to face it instead.
"Kimiko?" Papa called out from behind me. "A Dementor, that's what's in front of me, isn't it? That's why I can't see it."
My lips twitched, but only slightly. I hadn't realised just how much papa knew about the world of magic. "Yes, they are. Let me know if you think that one moves. I'll keep an eye on this one."
"There's one on you?"
I quickly tried to dissuade him, pleading "Just stay where you are, papa," but I had barely spoken when I felt him push me out of the way. I fell to the ground, grimacing as I heard my wand skittering across the ground. Thinking quickly, I glanced about, trying to gauge the position of my wand, papa and the Dementors through the darkness as the few streetlamps nearby flickered off.
"Damn it." I muttered as I quickly lit my hand. Through the small circle of light that created I spotted my wand and immediately dove for it, rolling as I hit the ground, and snatched it up. I held it out in front of me as I searched for the Dementors. I saw them cornering papa, who stood there motionless, not knowing which direction to run in.
"No!" I shouted unthinkingly, though I was glad of it when one turned away from papa and started for me. "Expecto patronum." I called out – even though I knew it wouldn't work as I was struggling to come up with a happy thought.
Panicking as the Dementor closed in on papa – I wasn't really focusing on the one closing in on me at that point – I tried again, but, again, only silver vapour came out. 'Come on!' I berated myself, struggling to pull myself together. I turned my thoughts to Rai and the others, as no matter how mad at them I was at that point in time, they still meant a lot to me and my happiest times had been with them. (So had the times when I had been in the most danger, so I drew from those memories the relative normalcy of this situation, helping to regain my Gryffindor courage.)
My mind conjured up a montage of images of times spent with Rai and the others – though mostly Rai, as I had discovered last year that I'm in love with him; which, as you might think, is particularly hard to hide from him when he can read your mind. As I had been telling myself to do all of last year, I reinforced my mind barriers enough that I could tell when he tried to get in and quickly shove any thoughts of that kind into the area of my mind which was most heavily guarded.
I couldn't help the small smile that came to my face then, so I raised my wand confidently, knowing that these memories were strong enough, and shouted "Expecto patronum!" My stag patronus erupted from the end of my wand and charged down the Dementor bearing down on papa before I turned my wand towards the one which was now almost on top of me.
The two Dementors fled after that and as the streetlamps flickered back on, I sprinted towards papa, dropping to my knees beside him. "Papa? Papa, are you alright?"
Papa groaned and pushed himself up from the ground. "I'm fine." He said, but his actions belied his words as he staggered, almost falling to the ground again. I caught his arm and pulled it around my shoulders.
"Come on, papa. We need to get you home." I started towards home, supporting papa, when I saw a middle-aged woman, who I recognised as one of my neighbours, who used to babysit me, scurrying down the road towards us.
She reached us, looking rather out of breath, and looked us over. "Are you alright? Yes, dear, we'd better get your father home; then both of you should eat some-"
"Chocolate." I finished for her, and I saw her smile grimly as I did. "Mrs Figg? How do you know that? You're a witch?"
"Not quite, dear. I'm a squib."
"Oh." I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. Squibs are the opposite of muggle-borns: someone with magical parents, but they are unable to do magic themselves, or if they are, their magic is rather feeble.
"Oh, don't worry about it." She smiled at me, no doubt knowing what I was thinking. "I got over it a long time ago."
"Uh…Mrs Figg? How did you know we were out here?"
Mrs Figg raised an eyebrow at me, as if the answer should be obvious, and in that moment I understood. "Master Fung's been having me followed?"
"Of course, dear." She smiled from papa's other side, where she had pulled his other arm over her own shoulders so we could reach home faster. "You didn't think that he would let you stay here unprotected after what happened in June, did you?"
"I hadn't really thought about it." I admitted sheepishly.
"Well, never mind. There are a few of us, I keep an eye on you and usually there's someone else with me – it was supposed to be Mundungus Fletcher tonight, but Mundungus took off about an hour ago, heard something about a good deal on cauldrons. Oh, when I get my hands on that Mundungus-" she growled, but was cut off when a familiar crack echoed through the quiet neighbourhood, the crack of someone apparating or disapparating.
A small, greasy man stood before us, and from Mrs Figg's expression, I took this to be Mundungus Fletcher. "Where have you been!" she demanded of him.
"Oh, come on, now, Figgy." He laughed. "Nothing's been happening. You don't need me."
"You very well know I'm a squib, Mundungus." Mrs Figg hissed back. "How was I supposed to deal with a pair of Dementors?"
"Dementors? Here?" he scoffed, but then he took a closer look at papa and his eyes widened. "Blimey!"
"Exactly. Now, make yourself useful and pass on the message." Mrs Figg seethed as Mundungus disappeared. "What Master Fung was thinking putting him on protection duty, I'll never understand…" I huffed a laugh at that. I don't think there are many people who could understand what Master Fung thinks about anything.
We reached the house then and Mrs Figg glanced around. "Go on, get inside, but keep an eye out. I'm sure you'll be seeing more of us soon." She turned and left, and though I was tempted to call after her, to ask what she meant by that, something told me that I wouldn't get an answer. Instead, I helped papa through the door and set about making us a hot chocolate drink each.
I had just sat down in the living room with mine when a letter dropped through the letterbox. Putting down my hot chocolate, I scurried to pick it up, sure that it would be for me, as muggle post didn't come that late. I was right, it was for me, and it was a letter from the ministry.
I curled up in the armchair opposite papa before I opened it, unsure what it could be, though my instincts were filling me with dread. Opening it, I was only able to stare at its contents.
"Kimiko?" papa asked upon spotting my expression. "What's wrong? What does it say?"
"They…the Ministry has expelled me from Hogwarts…" I whispered in disbelief.
"They've expelled me…" I blinked in confusion and shook my head to clear it. "But…they can't do that." I said weakly, looking up at papa and letting the letter fall into my lap. "The ministry doesn't have the power to expel Hogwarts students. Besides, Dementors count as an emergency situation, and the laws for the Restriction of Underage Sorcery clearly state that even an underage witch or wizard can perform magic in an emergency. As for 'performing magic before a muggle', well, you're my father, that doesn't count. That law is for using magic against muggles or revealing the existence of magic to muggles. This is…I don't understand…"
Papa lifted the parchment from my lap and read over it once before looking worriedly at where I was leaning back in the armchair clutching my hot chocolate. I glanced at the sofa, remembering how, almost three years ago, Hagrid had sat there, too large to sit anywhere else, and told me about magic, about my magic, and about Hogwarts. Was this to be how my magical education ended? Expelled falsely after three years, just as Hagrid was?
"It'll be alright, Kimiko." Papa soothed, coming to sit on the arm of my chair. "You said it yourself, they can't expel you. We'll fight it…I'm sure the Pedrosas will help – Antonio works in the Ministry, doesn't he? And Master Fung too…"
He trailed off as we heard another letter drop through the letterbox. Papa went to get it this time and when he returned, he passed me a small, folded piece of parchment. I opened it and soon saw the hurried scrawl of Antonio Pedrosa. "'Don't worry. Master Fung is fixing everything now. You're not expelled. Stay in the house and keep safe. Antonio.'" I read aloud. "'P.S. Everyone is very glad you're alright.'" And in the bottom, underneath the post-script, were five scribbled words, as though the writer had had very little time before Antonio folded and sealed the parchment: 'Well done – see you soon!' in Rai's distinct handwriting.
"You see?" papa said after I showed him the letter. "Master Fung will sort it out. Now, go and get some sleep – you've had a long day."
I got up and put away my cup in the kitchen, hesitating at the bottom of the stairs. "You'll wake me if there's any more post?"
"Promise." Papa smiled. "Now off you go." I headed upstairs and changed and – as was unusual as of late – was asleep almost as soon as I crawled into bed.
Papa knocked on my door a few hours later and I opened it to see him holding another letter. It was another from the ministry and I opened it with trepidation and trembling fingers. Reading the contents I let out a sigh of relief, though some of the confusion from before remained.
"Well?" papa asked anxiously.
"I'm not expelled." I started and papa grinned widely in relief.
"You see? There must have been some sort of mistake. Like you said, what you did was perfectly legal-"
"Yeah, and I have to attend a hearing."
"It's right here." I said, showing him the letter. "They've only revoked the expulsion because only the headmaster or headmistress has the power to expel students."
Papa looked at a loss for words for a moment, before he pulled himself together. "Well then, they'll sentence you exactly as you are at the hearing: not guilty. Now, back to bed and stop worrying and get some sleep."
I shot papa a small smile before heeding his words and insistent guiding hands.
I eventually managed to get some more sleep, though I was woken up again a few hours later. This time, when I opened the door, it was to see a group of people with papa, amongst which were one of my godfathers, Remus Lupin, and another of my ex-professors, Alastor Moody, though he didn't actually teach me, given that he was trapped in a trunk by a Death Eater impersonating him. For a moment, flashes of memory from the end of last year at school filled my head. The graveyard. Cedric and Cho. Wuya and Chase. The Moody-imposter. I shook it off quickly and grinned at them along with the few others; a woman and two men, none of which I recognised.
"Hi Lupin!" I started forward to hug my godfather but Moody held up his wand to stop me.
"Wait just a second." He said in his usual growl.
"Alastor, this is ridiculous!" Lupin sighed, but Moody didn't lower his wand.
"Just ask the question, Remus."
Lupin shook his head in exasperation, but turned to face me anyway. "What creature was in a tank the first time you set foot in my office?"
"A grindylow." I answered without hesitation. That had been the time that Rai took me to Lupin's office to ask for help dealing with Dementors after the disaster that was the match against Hufflepuff.
"It's her." Lupin grinned and as Moody lowered his wand I moved forwards and hugged my godfather.
"What are you doing here?" I asked as I stepped back from him.
"We're here to take you to safety." Moody replied, and I wondered 'why now? Summer is half-over.' They'd left me cut off from them for a month, why not just wait another?
Something of what I was feeling must have shown on my face as Lupin elaborated. "We had thought you would be safest here – with your father, away from out world. However, considering tonight…" he trailed off, but I could easily follow his train of thought.
"You figured 'if these could slip through our notice there may be more' and so you need me close by." I finished for him. I'm sure Lupin could tell that I was less than impressed with that as he looked as though he was about to speak up but Moody spoke before he could.
"This is Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks." He introduced the two unfamiliar faces.
"They're Aurors at the Ministry." Lupin added in an undertone.
"We need to move quickly. Nymphadora will help you pack." The woman grimaced before moving into my room and closing the door behind her.
"So. Let's get packing, then." She grinned and looked around the room that, at that moment, I was very glad I generally kept tidy.
"So," I mimicked, "how long am I packing for, Tonks?"
"The rest of the summer." She replied, still glancing about my room. Seemingly realising what I had said, she turned to face me, eyebrows raised. "How did you-?" I tapped my right temple with a grin. "Forgot you could do that." She replied with an answering grin. "Is it hard?"
"No," I replied, fishing out my trunk and opening it out on the bed. "But it was hard to control at first." She tilted her head quizzically at me so I searched for a way to explain it. "Hearing what's in people's heads, searching their thoughts, memories… It's effortless; instinct. But stopping it? Means blocking out everyone, building mental barriers strong enough to keep the entire population of Hogwarts at bay and yet being able to drop them in a flash when needed."
"Like Occlumency." She ventured.
"Yes," I replied with a smile. "Just like Occlumency." Tonks took out her wand and I grinned. "I assume you're about to dramatically decrease the delay?" I added with a raised eyebrow. My answer was a wink. Tonks waved her wand and the clothes in my wardrobe began to float towards my trunk.
"So you know what I prefer to be called," Tonks started as she turned towards the mirror to scrutinise her reflection. "Do you know what I am?"
"Metamorphmagus." I called over my shoulder as I grabbed a few of the floating clothes to change out of my pyjamas.
"Impressive." She flicked her wand again and erected a screen, which I quickly ducked behind after shooting her a grateful smile. "But do you know what it means?"
I poked my head out from behind the screen to give her a look, to which she simply raised an eyebrow. I rolled my eyes and ducked back to continue changing. "Of course I do. I do read, you know. Quite extensively."
"Oh, yes. Lupin mentioned you were top of your year at school."
I couldn't help but smile a little at that, though I'm sure that if I had a mirror in front of me I would see I was blushing.
"I…uh…I don't know if I'd say…" I fumbled words as I stepped out from behind the screen, which vanished with another flick of Tonks' wand, to sit on the edge of the bed, pulling on my boots. "I just…read a lot." I finished lamely.
To another girl – an ordinary girl – this would probably be quite unsettling; sitting on my bed next to my open trunk with the contents of my wardrobe floating into it. I guess three years at Hogwarts will do that to a person.
I felt a fond smile tugging at my lips at the thought of the castle I called home for the school terms the last three years. This was the lightest I'd felt in a month. I knew the pent-up anger, fear, pain…it wasn't gone, and I was still on a pretty short fuse, liable to explode at the slightest provocation, but for now I was calmer than I had been since leaving King's Cross station.
"Well, that's all the clothes – books now." Tonks piped up, startling me out of my reverie. I felt another grin grow when I realised her hair was now short and bubblegum pink.
"They were already in the trunk. I repacked them when I finished my homework last month."
"Of course." Tonks grinned wryly. "Pets?" I soon had Hanabi in her basket and Sakura her cage. "Alright, just need your broom."
I lifted my broom from the corner I kept it in and was ready to go.
"Oh, wow! A Firebolt!" Tonks gasped, staring appreciatively at the broom.
I smiled. "Present from my godparents."
"Well c'mon." She said, tearing her eyes away from the broom and moving towards the door. "Don't want to keep Moody waiting."
We met up with the others in the living room, Tonks carrying my trunk and me Sakura, Hanabi and the Firebolt. Despite the fact that we both knew I was physically stronger, she still insisted.
"Sayonara papa." I mumbled into his shoulder as he drew me into a hug.
"Keep safe. I'll see you next summer." He said, pressing a kiss to my forehead before stepping back and headed back upstairs to bed.
"So, how are we getting to…wherever we're going." Halfway through the question I realised that I had absolutely no idea where we were going.
"Brooms." Kingsley Shacklebolt said, the first I'd heard him speak all night.
I grinned. I'd missed flying. No matter what was going on, I always felt better after flying; it never failed to bring a smile to my face. I feel happy up in the air. Safe.
I try not to think too much about why.
"Circle formation." Moody told me. "You'll be in the middle, of course, and we'll hang a net between our brooms to hold your things."
"First things first:" Lupin said, pulling out his wand, "Disillusionment charm."
I nodded and stood still. From what I'd read I knew it would be unpleasant, but would make me invisible. The same as the cloak would, but there was no guarantee that the cloak would stay on while flying. Plus, only a few people knew about the cloak, and it was probably for the best to keep it that way.
The books were right: it was not pleasant. Unless you like the feeling of something cold dripping down your head, neck…almost like a raw egg. But it worked.
Once disillusionment charms were placed on everyone and the net set up, we mounted our brooms and took off.
Once in the air I felt the tension that had surrounded me since the end of June fade – but not disappear. I knew it would return once I was back on the ground.
I tried to fight the feeling. It was something I was used to after all; I'd been fighting them since I figured it out. Falling in love with my best friend was not something I could afford to do. I mean, it's doomed to be one sided – there was no way he could ever fall for someone like me.
No. It would only end in heartbreak.
After a while we landed on a street in what looked like England, though I couldn't be sure.
"Read this." Moody said gruffly as he handed me a scrap of parchment. 'Number 12 Grimmauld Place' was written on it in looped handwriting that I recognised as Master Fung's. Moody took the scrap back as I glanced up at the houses in front of us, feeling more than seeing Moody burn the parchment. "Concentrate on what you read." I heard him say as I read the numbers 11 and 13 on the houses before us, noting the sign announcing the street as Grimmauld Place.
Fidelius charm, I thought to myself as I did what Moody asked. With Master Fung as Secret Keeper.
As I watched, numbers 11 and 13 began to move apart to make way for another – number 12, I guessed – to squeeze through the gap. I looked to the others once the house fully appeared a faded brass number 12 on the door.
Moody stepped forward first, opening the door and ushering me through. The hallway that I stepped into was dark and a bit damp, with wallpaper as faded as the number on the door, peeling in places. It was narrow too, so we had to walk in single file, passing a set of tatty grey curtains on the way to the main part of the house.
Next thing I knew my name was being called a split second before I was pulled into a warm hug. Smiling, I immediately hugged back. No matter how keyed up and ready to explode feel, you can't help but relax into a Carla Pedrosa hug.
"It's so lovely to see you again, dear." She gushed drawing back and holding me by my shoulders, eyeing me speculatively. "You look even thinner than last year! Right, Maria will take you up to your room. You unpack and then come straight down for dinner, you hear me?" she said sternly. I nodded quickly before heading to where I could see Maria waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
Maria took Hanabi and Sakura from me, allowing me to pick up my trunk and follow her up the stairs. We stopped at a door on the first landing – the only door, I noted – which I gathered was to be our bedroom. Inside it was obvious that the room was partially occupied – one of the two beds unmade with clothes, shoes, books and other paraphernalia strewn across it.
Maria blushed when she noticed my line of sight. "Sorry it's so messy. I didn't have time to tidy it."
Knowing Maria, it was more likely that she just kept procrastinating until it was too late. I smiled; I had missed her. "That's okay. No need to tidy for- oomph!"
I was cut off as Maria launched herself at me in a hug after placing my pets on the empty bed.
"I'm so glad you're okay!" she spoke from where her face was pressed between my shoulder and neck, which I wasn't sure was comfortable with me at least a head shorter than her.
"Kimiko!" We both jumped and Maria let out a small shriek when twin voices suddenly shouted next to our ears, and two bodies suddenly joined our hug, lifting us both into the air.
"Boys!" Maria shouted, sounding so eerily like her mother for a moment that the twins immediately set us on our feet again.
"Good to see you again too, boys." I snickered. "I see you got your licences."
They grinned and opened their mouths to respond but were interrupted by a thundering of footsteps coming down the stairs.
The door burst open and four boys tumbled in, Alejandro landing on top of Clay and Omi. Rai wriggled his head out from the bottom of the pile to glare at the twins. "What did you disappear like that for, you assh-" Clay covered his mouth on the last word, cutting him off with a quick glance at Al, but Al was paying Rai no attention, having noticed me.
"Kimiko!" he squealed, scrambling from the top of the pile to leap at me and hug me around the waist.
"Look at you! You're getting so tall!" and he was – eight years old and already almost up to my shoulders.
"Nah." Ricardo grinned, sitting on Maria's bed. "You're just short."
"Ha ha." I snarked back, feeling a flare of triumph as he winced, knowing the small burn had reached its mark.
"Come on, Al." Maria tapped her brother on the back, drawing his attention. "Let's go help mum with dinner."
"But-" he protested, clinging to me with a pout.
"You can see Kimiko at dinner." She wheedled. After silently studying her for a moment, Al reluctantly let me go, moving to stand beside Maria.
Ricardo and Fernando exchanged glances. "Yeah, we think we'll join you." The four left the room then with a quick 'see you at dinner' tossed over their shoulder.
Rai snorted. "Yeah, real subtle guys." I caught his eye and we both broke out in ear-splitting grins. Suddenly the four of us were hugging, and by that I mean they pretty much tackled me, as though those three words had broken the ice.
"So is this where you've been all summer?" I asked as we pulled away.
"Not all summer, no." Rai answered. "My family's been here two weeks, and Clay and Omi got here the day before yesterday. The plan was to come and get you sometime mid-next week but, well," he shrugged, "considering the circumstances…"
"Was it really necessary to make me wait so long?" I grumbled. I could see the corner of Rai's lips twist up into a smirk.
"You're about ready to explode, aren't you?"
"You have no idea!" I groaned, falling backwards onto the bed and covering my face with a pillow in order to scream into it.
Rai cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably. "Sorry our recent letters were rather vague. We were told not to put much information into them – it's not safe now. We don't know who's reading them."
That…was a terrifying thought actually. Wuya or Chase Young reading your mail…
"Yeah, okay, I won't deny that it was pretty damn frustrating and that I was about ready to castrate you by fire yesterday," I inwardly snickered as the three of them flinched, "but that actually makes a lot of sense." I finished grudgingly.
"Master Fung assures us that he has his reasons." Rai sat on the bed next to me, rolling his eyes. "Of course he won't tell us what they are, but he insists they're important."
And that was that. I trusted Master Fung and knew that if he said it was important for me to be kept out of the loop and wait that long before joining everyone else, it was necessary. Though it didn't mean I necessarily liked it.
We spent the rest of the evening catching up, until Carla called us for dinner. We trooped into the kitchen, still laughing and joking, where Al pulled me to sit beside him as I reacquainted myself with Pedrosa family food, feeling at home in the warm atmosphere of the kitchen.
After dinner the adults sent us upstairs so they could prepare for a meeting of the Order that was to take place that night. As they cleared the kitchen and gathered extra chairs, the eight of us grudgingly headed up the stairs, apart from Al, who skipped merrily up, uncaring of the important meeting.
We gathered in mine and Maria's room, since it was the closest, and Al went straight to the corner of the room, where Hanabi and Sakura were resting, and amused himself with feeding and grooming them, leaving the seven of us to discuss the Order.
"So, I've heard of it of course, but what exactly is the Order of the Phoenix?" I prompted once we were settled on the two beds.
"Its members work to counter the Heylin's attacks on our world and prevent them from gaining the support they need to gain total control." Clay spoke up, giving me the answer he had undoubtedly wrangled from one of the members since he arrived at headquarters.
"It's basically the anti-Death Eaters." Rai offered from where he slouched on the bed.
Clay huffed a laugh, rolling his eyes, but conceded, amused. "Yes, I suppose it is."
"Do you know what they're doing? What's happening?" I asked eagerly. I had continued to receive the Daily Prophet at home, but there had never been a mention of the type of behaviour I'd expected the Heylin to get up to now that Wuya was back. Just mundane front-page headlines. "The Daily Prophet hasn't been reporting anything unusual. Is that because nothing's really happening or because Fudge is still refusing to believe She's back?"
"They won't let us in on any of the meetings, of course, so we don't know all the details." Fernando started, sharing a grin with his twin.
"However, they didn't know about our new product: Extendable Ears. Basically made for this sort of thing." Ricardo winked at me as attention shifted back to his twin, who had begun talking again, and I knew then that they had been funded by the Triwizard winnings Rai and I had gifted them with at the beginning of the summer.
"Couldn't last forever though, I suppose." Fernando sighed, shrugging a shoulder. "Mum found out about them; you can imagine she wasn't too pleased. Confiscated the lot of them. And they make sure to hold the meetings outside of you lot's hearing range."
I could see the others shifting uncomfortably as they remembered my second question. I narrowed my eyes at Rai, raising an eyebrow expectantly. He looked at me for a moment before sighing in resignation.
"You've only been reading the front pages?" he asked tentatively.
"Yeah." I drew out the word in uncertainty, squinting at him. "That's where any news of them would be, wouldn't it?" He fidgeted, and the others once again cast glances at each other. "What?" I looked around at them in suspicion.
"Well…" Rai began reluctantly. "You're right. Any big stories would be on the front page, but there haven't been any. The Heylin seem to be keeping a low profile for the time being."
I nodded, though by their expressions I could tell there's more. "But…?"
Rai started to wring his hands, worrying his fingers. "Fudge is still denying that She's back. He's sticking by what he said last year in the Hospital Wing."
And then I understood what he was struggling to tell me. "He's still saying we're mad."
Rai nodded slowly with a bitter smile. "He's…uh…if you look near the back of almost every issue…he's got them writing about us." He shrugged. "I believe the exact words were traumatised, attention seeking children."
I sighed, more upset than angry about it. It had been going on for a month now, it wasn't as if I could erase it from existence. "Do you think people believe it?" I asked quietly, not able to look him in the eye.
"Some people probably do." He answered, equally as quietly. "But the people who matter don't. We've just gotta remember that."
I nodded, raising my head to look him in the eye. "The worst part is that no one is being warned that She's back. That they're together again. Strong again. They're totally unprepared for whenever She decides to make her move."
"I think that's what the Order is working on at the moment." Maria piped up. "Getting information out. But it's slow going as they can't just let everyone know. It has to be specific people, at certain times. They're starting with the old Order. Well, those that are alive."
I nodded thoughtfully, before a thought hit me. "Where's Pedro? I didn't see him at dinner."
It didn't escape my notice that the four Pedrosas tensed at my words. I watched in confusion as Ricardo glanced over his shoulder to where Al was chatting away to Hanabi, before leaning forwards and lowering his voice. "He stood by his precious Minister."
"What!?" I blinked, unable to comprehend what he was implying.
"Yeah." Maria agreed lowly. "He and dad had this huge fight when they started to reform the Order. He stuck by the Minister, because of course he can do no wrong, and dad stuck by Master Fung. P…Pedro said that Master Fung was a senile old fool who was stupid to believe the fanciful tales of two attention seeking students."
I shook my head. "But-" I glanced at Rai, who was staring intently at his hands, tightly balled into fists in his lap.
"Yeah." Fernando sneered. "He chose that idiot Fudge over his own family. Said a few choice words about dad and his place in the Ministry too. He moved out that night. Just ignored mum when she ran after him. Just disapparated. We haven't seen him since."
I bit my lip. I had been sure that the Pedrosas were someone I could rely on to believe me; all of them. Sure, Pedro and I had never been close, but he was still someone I would call, at least, a friend. And Rai, his own brother… I couldn't imagine how horrible it must've been for him to hear such things about him coming from his big brother's mouth. And he would've heard it, no doubt. If Pedro had said such a thing about his brother, there would've undoubtedly been a screaming match between him and Antonio, and Rai could've heard that from anywhere in the house…
"Just…don't mention it to mum or dad?" Maria muttered, glancing back at Al. "Or Al. We're just lucky he was asleep. We told him Pedro went away for work. Just like Juan and Carlos."
I nodded, reaching over to take Rai's fists in my hands. His knuckles were white with the pressure he was exerting and his eyes, when I managed to see them beneath his fringe, which fell over his downturned face, looked suspiciously wet. I squeezed it gently, rubbing over the knuckles with my thumb until they loosened, Rai looking up at me with a tiny smile.
"Is there anywhere we can blow off some steam?" I spoke up once Rai was relaxed again, glancing around at the others and ignoring their expressions. I knew if I dwelt on it too long I would start blushing, and Rai would get suspicious and look into my thoughts and… "You know, spar, use our elements…or something."
"Mum's been nagging us to help clean this place since we got here." Fernando piped up, still looking at Rai and I with a strange softness in his gaze. "Sirius' parents were rather into their Dark Arts and so there's more than a few dangerous, or just plain nasty, bits and bobs in this old place."
"There's this large room, like a ballroom or a dining room or something." Ricardo added. "It's got a large empty space, a wardrobe whose clothes we're pretty sure are enchanted, and curtains possibly full of Doxys. Does that sound like the sort of thing you're thinking of?"
I glanced at Rai and caught his usual smirk twitching at the corners of his mouth. "Mum would be pleased to know we're finally starting to help, I suppose. Then again, it'd just be more proof that you're a good influence on us. I'm pretty sure that's what she's been thinking all along."
I grinned. "What are we waiting for then? Let's go."
We headed back down the stairs, tiptoeing past the stairs that led down to the kitchen – lest the adults thought we were trying to eavesdrop on the meeting – and along a narrow corridor. Apart from the door on the end, which we were headed for, there was only one other, a small, shabby door which could be easily overlooked. I made a note to ask Sirius about it later.
When we entered the room I had to agree with the others' guesses as to its function. It was opulent and large, easily of adequate size to hold dinner parties or for a ballroom. However, it looked as though it hadn't been used in quite some time; the chandelier was covered in cobwebs, the paint was peeling on the walls and the floorboards creaked loudly in some places. I soon caught sight of the wardrobe Ricardo had mentioned, an enormous piece of furniture, whose panelling was faded and looked a bit run down.
I imagined it would have been quite beautiful when new and cared for – mahogany, I'd guess.
A rustle from the corner of my vision drew my gaze towards a pair of ripped curtains that hung before a floor-length window. I saw the curtains move again, and head some faint high-pitched squeaking coming from behind them.
I turned around, raising my eyebrows at the others. "Doxys?" They shrugged. "Do I want to know how they got there?"
"Probably not." Rai shrugged with a grin. "Like Fernando said; Sirius' parents were pretty into their Dark Arts."
"Alright then." I conceded. I'm pretty sure I agreed with Rai. I didn't really want to know what the Black family would need to have small, poisonous pixies in their house for.
"So." Maria spoke up from where she was sitting with Al, over against the wall furthest away from the dangerous, possibly cursed objects. "Why don't we split up? The twins can work on the curtains, I'll take a look at the wardrobe, and the four of you can take it in turns to spar? Whoever isn't sparring can help me with the wardrobe."
Everyone nodded. "That sounds fair." Clay agreed. "Why don't you and Kim spar first, Rai? I reckon the two of you need it the most." Rai glanced at me and nodded. I hid a smirk. This was going to be fun.
"So it's settled then." Maria nodded, satisfied. "The twins work on the Doxys, Rai and Kim spar, and Clay and Omi help me with the wardrobe."
"What about me?" Al piped up from beside her, looking up at her with wide eyes.
"How about you be the referee for Rai and me?" I suggested, getting an answering grin from Al.
"Aww, no!" Rai mock-moaned from beside me. "Now you're going to win 'cause he likes you better!" he whined. Al giggled and stuck his tongue out at his brother while Rai pretended to sulk.
Everyone started to split up to do their separate jobs but I stopped the twins before they could head over to the curtain. "Do you even know how to deal with Doxys?"
The twins grinned in that synchronised way that only twins ever seem to be able to do. "Of course we do." Fernando said smugly as both of them pulled spray-cans from their pockets.
"Doxy spray." Ricardo informed me. "It's usually a potion, but dad came up with the idea of using one of these muggle spray cans. I guess they have some good ideas." He shrugged with a wink before they both turned away, pulling their collars over their noses and mouths as they readied the spray-cans in the other.
"Ready?" Rai called from across the room, raising his eyebrows. I grinned and dropped into my preferred stance, slipping back into the routine as if no time had passed since the last time I had done it.
The rest of the evening seemed to fly by, at least for me. I was finally feeling at ease with myself again. No more energy bubbling at the surface, trying to break free. I worked most of that out in that first fight with Rai; flinging fire and wind at each other as we danced around the room, occasionally meeting in the middle for a brief bout of hand-to-hand, before one of us dodged again. Throughout the whole session, we both sported massive grins, as we basically 'goofed off'. If we'd really been trying to fight we would've ended up wrestling on the floor, bruised and bloody, but we were more playing this time. Ducking and dodging, tumbling and somersaulting out of the path of each other's attacks, Al giggling and applauding us as we went.
Eventually we called it a draw, after exhausting each fighting technique and style we had learnt with Master Fung and moved to help Maria, letting Clay and Omi take the floor.
The wardrobe, when closed, looked like nothing more than a broken piece of furniture; faded with cracks running down the doors. Once opened, it became clear that it was nothing like it appeared. The wardrobe reeked of mothballs, a few falling out at Maria's feet as she opened it. It would seem that it was cursed, the ancient, musty robes stored inside it stirring to life as Maria reached out to touch them, and 'investigating the wardrobe' soon turned into 'try not to get strangled by the robes before you can destroy them'.
Maria, Clay and Omi had been using whatever spells came to mind when you had a pair of robes flying towards your throat – from what I could hear: 'flipendo' to get them away from your throat, and 'incendio' to destroy them. When Rai and I started helping, he and Maria mostly tried to direct them towards me so that I could burn them.
Once all of the robes were destroyed, we contemplated the wardrobe. "Well, we can't burn it." Maria shrugged. "Not without risking burning the whole room, the house too, maybe."
I hummed thoughtfully. "It's old, and all the furnishings in here seem to be pretty flammable. I think we can cross burning off the list." I furrowed my eyebrows as an idea came to me. "…I wonder if…" I pulled out my wand, aiming at the wardrobe. "Reducto!"
The wardrobe exploded with a small 'boom', tiny pieces fluttering to the floor. "Think that worked?" I asked innocently in response to Rai's raised eyebrows and Maria's wide-eyed stare.
"Uh…yeah, probably." Maria nodded, blinking at the splinters on the floor. "It seems pretty gone."
"Why is your first thought always to blow it up?" Rai teased, earning himself a punch to the arm. He grimaced, rubbing his arm, having learnt by now that whining only ended in me calling him a baby.
The twins were finishing up with the Doxys too, the spray-cans paralysing them, after which they disposed of them in a small box, which I had never seen before, but I assumed was designed for such a task, as the spray-cans were.
As Rai and Maria turned to watch Clay and Omi, I noticed Ricardo sneak a paralysed Doxy into his pocket. He caught my eye and I raised an eyebrow at him. He replied with a smirk and a mouthed "Research."
Grinning as I remembered their joke shop idea, funded by the money Rai and I had won in the tournament last year, I turned my attention to Clay and Omi, where Clay kept getting drenched by waves that appeared everywhere he turned as Omi cackled, only to leap to the side with a shriek as a large boulder came flying at him.
We settled beside Al to watch them at it, which was where we were when Carla found us.
"There you are! I've been looking everywh-" she paused as she took in her surroundings. "Have you been clearing this room?"
"Ah huh." Al piped up, running to his mother, who picked him up, a slightly shocked look on her face. "Fernando and Ricardo got rid of the Doxys, and the others took care of the flying robes and Kimiko destroyed the wardrobe!" he gushed excitedly at his mother, who wore a rather bemused expression.
"Well, it seems you have been busy." She smiled. "Let's get you to bed – it's very late. The meeting's over," she said to the rest of us. "You'd best be off to bed now." Her eyes landed on me. "I never thought I'd see you lot cleaning a room without being asked." She shook her head, laughing at her children's indignant expressions. "You must be a good influence on them, Kimiko."
My mouth twitched as I caught Rai's eye as he quirked his eyebrow in a 'what did I tell you?' sort of way.
I could hear the others stifling laughter as Carla left, carrying Al on her hip, who was still chattering at her, telling her everything we'd been up to. As soon as Al's voice faded away, the twins collapsed into laughter, leaning on each other for support.
"Well, you called it, Raimundo." Maria said with a grin as the twins sobered up and we all headed off to bed. "Though now she'll probably expect us to help some more tomorrow."
Rai made a face. "Ugh. I didn't think of that."
I shrugged. "Ah well. At least we won't get bored. And it'll stop me thinking too much about this damn hearing."
Rai scoffed at the mention of the hearing. "It's absolutely nuts! They can't convict you of anything, you haven't broken any laws!"
"Maybe they just want to put something on me." I shrugged, thinking back to the articles they'd told me about. "Discredit me, or something."
"Maybe." He admitted reluctantly. "But hey, Master Fung won't let that happen, right?"
"Right." Clay and Omi echoed from behind him.
"Thanks guys." I grinned, following Maria into our room. "Goodnight." They echoed it back and I was asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow, relaxed and, for almost the first time since summer started, not too wired to sleep.