Saturday

For her first trip to a wizarding place, Alex had decided to put on a nice pair of jeans and a flowery tunic. She pondered for a moment whether she’d look for robes there but decided against it: she was a muggle and far from ashamed at it.

She had a knot of apprehension and excitation in her stomach throughout breakfast and it was getting worse by the time she was reaching Snape’s office.

“Please, be careful when you say “Diagon Alley”, I have no wish to look for you all day.” And with that advice, Snape took some powder, spoke in the fire and went.

Alex was now positively scared, but took a deep breath, threw floo in the fire and spoke very clearly “Diagon Alley” and off she went spinning. When she stopped and wobbled out, she was glad to see Snape waiting for her.

They walked to the bank in silence. Alex gasped when they walked in but refrained from commenting. When she saw the cart they were to use to reach her vault, however, she had to.

“I’m not going on this.”

Snape raised an eyebrow but didn’t reply.

“Well, I’m scared of heights.”

“Close your eyes then.”

She reluctantly sat in it and closed her eyes, gripping the sides. When the cart started to move, however, she screamed in terror and found herself somehow hiding in Snape’s chest, clutching at him for dear life whilst he just held her there. They disentangled when the cart stopped. She blushed and didn’t say a word until the vault was open and she was looking at the strange money.

“How much should I take?”

Snape took some and handed it to her “This should do for the wand and more, that way you’ll have some if you want to go to Hogsmead next week end with the students.”

She was surprised at his solicitude. “Thank you.” She placed the money in a little pouch she had brought along for that use.

They climbed back in for the return ride and, this time, the potion master held his arms open for her to hide in. She found it to be oddly comforting.

Once out of the bank, Snape gave her her vault key and lead her to the wand shop.

“I have some ingredients to buy; I will be a little while. If I’m not back when you are done here, you can wander around.”

“But, how will you find me?”

He raised an eyebrow: “With you dressed like that? I don’t think I’ll have any difficulty.”

She was a bit annoyed at his comment, but he had a point. She just walked in the shop. The man behind the counter looked interestingly at her as she walked up to him

“Erm… Hi, Professor Dumbledore asked me to come here to buy a wand…”

The man smiled “Ah, yes, he sent me a note. You are a muggle, aren’t you?” She nodded “Ah, very strange what magic can do. Let’s see.”

He made his way around his counter and held out a measuring tape that started to measure her on its own. Alex watched it fascinated when he said “Dumbledore told me you have an affinity with oaks?”

She nodded again and he went behind the counter again, looking around in many small boxes on shelves until “Ah, there, let’s try this one.”

He walked back towards her with a wand and held it out to her. When she took it, she felt a hot current run through her. The man smiled again and she guessed that’s what was supposed to happen.

“Well, well, well. Oak and the hair of the tail of a werewolf. It seems that you are not quite a muggle after all, miss.”

Mare was just speechless. She somehow managed to pay and walk out of the shop in a daze, still holding her wand. Snape was walking back towards the shop.

“So. One chose you then.”

“Yes, oak and the hair of the tail of a werewolf.”

“How fitting. Now I need to go to the apothecary. I trust you will find some shops of interest?”

“Haven’t you gone already?”

“This is none of your business. And put that wand away, will you?”

She sheepishly put it in her bag and looked around her. “I’ll just look at the windows then.”

“Don’t get lost. I won’t be long.” And with that he set off to the opposite end of the street whilst she stopped in her tracks in front of the menagerie. It took her a while to walk all the way up to the apothecary. By that time, Snape was done and waiting for her. When she reached him, she felt something strange. There was another wolf around, she didn’t know how she knew it but she was sure of it.

She looked around until she found him. A blond man, looking rather tired. She stared at him until he looked back to her, then Snape. He nodded once at Snape, looked back at her, and then went on his way.

“You know him?”

Snape resumed walking “Who I know is none of your business.”

“He’s a wolf too.”

Snape stopped dead and turned to her “What did you say?”

“He’s a wolf, I could feel it.”

Snape looked shocked but didn’t say anything. They went to the leaky cauldron and floo back to Hogwarts in time for lunch.

***

They reached the Great Hall at the same time as the headmaster, who positively beamed when he saw them.

“Severus, Alex! How did your trip go? Well, I assume?”

Severus reached the headmaster and whispered a few words in his ear as Alex stopped a few steps away and took her wand out of her bag.

“Really? Well, this is most strange indeed. I think it is time… Yes, you will both come to my office after lunch.” Then, turning to Alex:  “Is this your wand? Let me see…”

She handed it to him “Oak and a hair from the tail of a werewolf” She said proudly.

“I believe the oak from which the wood comes is the same next to which you like to meditate; as for the werewolf, he is a friend of mine and a good man.” He looked at her and handed her wand back “And I believe it is time you met him, along with other friends. Come to my office after lunch with Severus, we have something to discuss.”

She was so surprised she could only nod and watch him make his way to the table. Snape looked at her with an eyebrow raised

“Come, lunch.”

And turned around, not waiting to see if she followed, which she did mechanically. The morning had been quite eventful and she wondered what would come next.

It quickly seemed to the young woman that “eventful” was the day’s theme when she reached the headmaster’s office with the potion master.

He spoke a word to two gargoyles and a door sprang open. They climbed the stairs in silence and she was speechless still when they reached the office. There were books, paintings and various objects everywhere. She had seen moving portraits around in the castle but she was still not used to it, and even less when she seemed to be their focus point.

Seeing a phoenix was quite a shock for her. She spent a moment just detailing it until she heard the headmaster.

“Alex, please take a seat.”

She turned and joined Snape on one side of the desk, slightly blushing and very nervous now.

“Severus told me he explained quite a bit to you two days ago. I am very sorry I couldn’t do it myself, but I have been rather busy, not only with school but with another matter I will explain. As you now know, Voldemort has regained power. To fight him I have called back the members of the Order of the Phoenix. They are wizards who believe he is back and who are ready to do various missions to stop him gaining power. For example we have members in the Ministry of Magic who keep an eye on signs of his followers’ actions. Those are the people I would like you to meet. I believe your magic could be helpful to us.”

Alex could only nod in agreement.

“Severus, I would like you to take her along with you when you go tonight, introduce her to those who will be here.”

“What of my mission tonight?”

“That doesn’t change, of course. Alex, do you mind having to do a sleep over?”

The young woman looked at him, bemused “No, why?”

“Tonight you’ll stay at the order’s headquarter, Severus will get you back here in the morning. Does this suit everyone?”

Both Alex and Severus simply nodded. The headmaster handed a folded piece of parchment to Alex:

“Read this when Severus will tell you to, it will let you see the order. Now, you have a few hours to do whatever you want.”

The young woman turned to the potion master “Erm… Professor, when am I to meet you, and where?”

“We will go after dinner. We will walk outside the school’s ground to be able to apparate.”

“Why can’t we use the floo?”

“Because of the wards on the place; the fire can only be used once you have been there.”

“What are wards?”

The headmaster intervened “Wards are protections. I placed them so that no one uninvited could find the place or harm those within it. Now, off you go, both of you.”

The potion master and the young woman both said goodbye and made their way out. Alex was rather surprised at how the headmaster seemed to talk to everyone like they were children. Then again, they probably were, in comparison with his great age.

***

The first thing Alex decided to do was visit the oak on the edge of the forest. She went directly there, waving at Hagrid and Fang as she passed their house.

The first thing she did when reaching it, as she always did, was to hug the Oak. Then she sat and told it what had happened in the past 6 days. She told it all about Snape’s revelations, her change into a wolf, and her trip to Diagon Alley. At that point, she stood again, faced the tree and took her wand out of her bag.

“You see? Dumbledore said it was made of your wood, and the werewolf hair is from one of his friends.”

She suddenly saw a dark green mist come out of the tree and encircle the wand, as if linking them both. Her eyes widen in surprise as her wand seem to absorb some mist. After a while, the mist retreated back into the oak and she felt alone once more.

“Was that you, Deva of the Oak?” asked a very surprised young woman, not really expecting a reply.

The dark green mist came out of the tree once more, this time taking the shape of a woman. Alex forgot to breathe.

“Hello, child. I am very glad you are the one the wand chose. It will protect you well. Remember: the trees will always welcome and help you, as they do all followers of the ancient ways. May the Goddess be with you.” She had disappeared back into the tree before her voice had stopped.

The sound of hooves brought her back and she turned around to see a centaur watching her.

“The Deva spoke true, you will always be welcomed and helped in the forest, as you love and respect those who dwell here. We welcome few humans, but if one of your true friends ever needs help, we will see to it.”

“I don’t know how to thank you for your trust and welcome.”

“Don’t change your heart.”

“I don’t think I could if I wanted to, and I definitely don’t.”

The centaur smiled at her, bowed his head, turned around and left her. She could see the “eventful” trend was still strong. She sat, her back against the oak.

“I wonder what will be next. After all, I’m meeting a group of wizards tonight and sleeping over…”

She closed her eyes for a minute… And woke up with a start when the bell sounding for dinner rang. She got up and walked back to the castle with haste, intending to eat before going. She had been dreaming and had a strange feeling as a vague memory lingered with her, of black, fur and tenderness. It didn’t make any sense but it felt comfortable.

***

Once dinner was over, she caught up with Snape.

“Professor, could you give me a minute, please? I didn’t go back to my room after seeing the headmaster and I need to get a couple of things for the sleepover.”

The potion master raised an eyebrow “Which part of “as soon as dinner’s over” did you not get? I’ll start walking, if you haven’t caught up with me by the time I’m out of the grounds, I’ll go without you.”

Alex watched him leave, horrified, before rushing to her room. She grabbed clean undies, her pyjamas, and a bigger bag in which she dumped the smaller one and her clothes and ran out again. Some students looked at her in surprised as she ran past them in the corridors and outside the castle. Soon, however, she found Snape waiting and looking at the sky. She stopped next to him, trying to catch her breath.

“Sorry … about that… Thank you…for waiting…”

He didn’t look at her when he replied “I wasn’t waiting for you, merely enjoying the stars.”

But when he started walking, he made sure he was walking slowly enough for her to finish catching her breath. She smiled to herself when she noticed. When she could breathe again, they picked up pace. He was clearly adjusting his speed on hers and she felt warm and fuzzy inside for it.

Once outside the gates, they stood face to face for a second before he took her in his arms, just like in Gringotts. She held on to him and almost didn’t feel the disapparition. All she could hear was his heartbeat.

When they reached their destination, a few seconds later, she reluctantly let go of him. He kept his right hand on her left arm and stayed close as he instructed her to read the paper the headmaster had given her earlier.

The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimauld Place, London.

“Do I have to read it aloud?”

“No, just say it in your mind.” He set fire to the parchment with his wand.

As she did as told, she saw the houses move in front of her and soon a new house was there. He had to squeeze lightly her arm before letting go for her to react and follow him towards the door.

Once inside, she thought the house reminded her of those “haunted houses” you could hear about on tv. That is, until a witch with pink hair, who must be around her age, came to welcome them in. She ushered them to another door, further down the corridor. Just as they reached it, she tripped when opening the door.

“Are you ok?”

The young woman turned back “Oh, yes, don’t worry! I’m really clumsy, you’ll get used to it.” She smiled at Alex and they walked in.

Several people were sitting around a table, visibly in the middle of a meeting. Alex fought hard not to grab hold of Snape and grabbed her bag’s strap instead, trying to remain calm. Meeting new people always did that to her.

The potion master must have sensed it, however, as he cleared his throat and interrupted the meeting.

“Sorry for the late arrival. Black, could you tell me where Alex will be staying for the night and I can show her to her room, or perhaps, Mrs Weasley, would you be kind enough?”

A motherly-looking woman stood up, then, as a dark-haired man, sitting next to the werewolf Alex had seen before, replied: “Molly, she can stay in the room the girls had.” And turning to her: “It’s very nice to meet you. The meeting will be over soon and then we will have a chance to chat.”

Alex smiled shyly at him, not missing the scowl on Snape’s face as she turned to leave the room. He gently grabbed her arm and murmured in her ear “Be careful of Black. Dumbledore trust him, but I do not.” And louder “I will be back at dawn.” She nodded and followed the woman out of the room.

The woman motioned to follow her in silence up two flights of stairs into a room with two single beds.

“I’m Molly Weasly. It’s really nice to meet you. Dumbledore has told us all about you.”

“Has he? What has he said?”

“Well, he told us how you tried to help Beatrice, how you have been helping Minerva… professor McGonagall. He also mentioned your surprising discovery.”

“You mean the transfiguration? Oh no! I forgot the potion!”

“What potion?”

“I take a potion every night to make sure I don’t change in my sleep. I left in a hurry and forgot it.”

“Sirius is also an animagus, you’ll be fine if it happens. I will tell him to keep an eye on you. Now, I must go back to the meeting. It’s almost over so I will come back to get you soon; then we’ll have dinner.”

“Oh… I er… already had dinner at Hogwarts…”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, you can have a little something if you want, or just a cup of tea. OK?” When she saw her nod, the witch relaxed “Good. I know they must seem scary, all around that table, but you’re safe here. Right, I’ve got to go, I’ll see you in a bit.”

And with that, she left her.

Alex dropped her bag on a bed and took the smaller one out of it. She was glad she always carried a book in it. She took of her shoes, sat against the headboard, a pillow against her back, and started reading.

***

When the door opened, later, it wasn’t Molly who walked in but a big black dog. Alex put her bookmark back in her book and put it aside, whilst moving to sit on the side of the bed.

“Bonjour toi!” she greeted the dog, switching back to her mother tongue as she had been reading in French.

The dog wagged its tail and came to her, putting its big head on her knees. She scratched behind its ears and petted it until Molly came in.

“Sirius, what are you doing?”

The dog walked a little away from her and morphed back into the dark haired man who had talked to her downstairs.

“I was being friendly, like most dogs do.” He looked from one woman to the other with a smile.

Alex, feeling the tension, stood up and called the wolf. A couple of seconds later, Molly was staring at a European wolf, with a beige fur. Immediately, Sirius changed too and the canines started playing, ending up chasing each other down the stairs to the kitchen. Before they reached it, however, one of them bumped into a curtain, which opened as a painting started screeching.

Alex was so surprised she just sat there looking at it, as Molly reached them. She started scolding them but the werewolf reached them and helped her close the curtain. Sirius nudged Alex with his nose and led her back to the kitchen.

When she saw her, the pink-haired witch quickly reached her and started scratching her behind her ear.

Molly, followed by the werewolf, came back in.

“Tonks, what are you doing?”

“Petting the wolf? She’s so cute!” At that, Alex licked her, setting her into giggles.

Sirius seemed to think this was a good idea and joined in the fun. At that point, however, Molly decided to intervene.

“It’s high time we settled for dinner, would you two mind to change back?”

Sirius was first “Molly, why did you spoil our fun?”

Alex moved back a bit and closed her eyes. After a few deep breath she was able to change back.

Tonks was looking at her slightly worried “Are you ok?”

“Yes, It’s just… I’m not used to doing it in front of people and I was feeling nervous at meeting you so… It was a bit harder.”

She smiled at her “Don’t worry; none of us are going to bite you!”

Sirius added, with a wink “Well, unless you ask, of course.”

Alex had to supress a giggle when Molly glared at him.

Tonks seemed to have taken a liking to her and introduced her to the rest of the members still here. There were Arthur and Bill Weasley and the werewolf who, Alex found out, was called Remus Lupin.

Over dinner they only talked about Alex’s experience with the wizarding world and their own with the muggle world. Arthur Weasley, Molly’s husband, appeared to be fascinated by it, asking Alex many questions, half of which she couldn’t reply but promised to look into it for him.

***

After dinner, everyone left, leaving Alex and Sirius alone. She finally dared asking the question that had been in her mind half the night.

“I saw Remus Lupin in Diagon Alley when we went with Professor Snape to buy my wand and I felt he was a werewolf. Professor Snape wouldn’t answer me about it. But he is, isn’t it?”

Sirius looked rather surprised at this. “What did you make think he might be a werewolf?”

“I have no idea. I just felt a wolf, looked around, saw him and it felt right.”

“Did you feel anything when you looked at me the first time?”

“No. But then, there is so much energy…sorry, magic around and I was so nervous that I’m not sure I could have.”

“Or maybe it’s due to the animal…”

“So, he is then, isn’t he?”

“Yes, but don’t talk to him about it, I’m not sure he’d appreciate me having told you.”

“I think I have one of his tail’s hairs in my wand.”

Sirius spluttered “Sorry?”

Alex laughed “I have the hair of the tail of a werewolf in my wand; the headmaster said it was from one of his friend. I’m guessing it’s him.”

“Ah. Well, probably.” Seeing Alex stifle a big yawn, he suggested “Maybe you should go to bed. Snape will be here really early in the morning.”

Instead of getting up, she blurted out “Why doesn’t he trust you, since Professor Dumbledore does?”

Sirius raised an eyebrow, not unlike Snape “He told you that? It’s a long story. We were at Hogwarts in the same year, him in Slytherin, me and Lupin in Gryffindor. We used to fight a lot. I did something stupid one day and he’s never forgotten me for it. Now he makes me pay by showing off all his hard work for the order when I’m stuck here.” He sounded bitter.

“Why are you stuck here?”

“I was wrongly accused of murder in put in Azkaban… the wizarding prison. I broke free and now the ministry is after me.”

“Since there is a fireplace here, can’t you floo to Hogwarts from time to time, you’d be safe there I bet.”

Sirius sighted “Unless a student saw me there. And now that You Know Who knows that I’m an animagus, the slytherins would recognise me in dog form too.”

“You Know Who? Do you mean Voldemort?”

The man flinched “Can you not say his name please? I know Albus… Dumbledore does but the rest of us are still too scared to do it.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Professor Snape says “The Dark Lord” and he’s never said anything about me saying his name.”

“Why do you call him “Professor”? You are an assistant, a member of staff.”

“Well, how am I supposed to call him? I can’t see myself calling him “Severus”!” She laughed at that, and Sirius with her

“That’d surprise him! How about Snape, like the rest of us?”

She thought about it “You’ve known each other for a long time. I don’t feel it’s quite proper… I’ll keep the “professor” for now I think. Now, if I had a solution to the possibility of students seeing you, would you come to Hogwarts?”

“You really want to see me again, don’t you?” There was a cocky grin…

“I really want to get you out of here. I had a vision of you before meeting you and a centaur gave me a stone with Canis Major drawn on it. Somehow I think I’m supposed to help you for something, and right now I feel you need to get out of here.”

He was stunned “You had a vision about me?”

“I saw the table and the people around it, I saw Tonks, I saw a wolf, which might have been me thinking of it, I saw you in dog form, I saw Snape, Death Eaters as I learnt they’re called and a wand, my wand.”

“When did you see that?”

“Monday. We are Saturday and already I’ve met you, Tonks, saw the people around the table, got my wand, changed into a wolf. I see Snape every day and the Death Eaters are what got me here in the first place.” She added as an afterthought “Snape got me here, actually. He’s the one who brought me to Hogwarts.”

Sirius was staring at her. “Now I understand why Dumbledore thought you could help us. Well, he thought it from the beginning, something about muggle magic being stronger than we thought. Now I’m starting to see what he meant.”

Alex had a big yawn, then.

“Go to bed, pup, or you’ll never be up when Snape comes back.”

“Ok, but come with me, this house is scaring me. Seriously, if I can find a solution, I’m getting you out of here; this place is scary and depressing.”

Sirius laughed again, and she realised she loved hearing him. “Ok, find a solution and I’ll come.”

They walked back up in silence and stopped in front of her room.

“Well, goodnight then.”

“Goodnight. Oh, can you or Snape wake me up when he gets here? I’ll never wake up on my own…”

“Don’t worry, we’ll wake you up.”

“Thanks.” And without thinking, she stood on tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek.

He hugged her, then, and they stood in each other’s arms for a moment, until he reluctantly let her go.

“Go to bed. Sleep well.”

“Thanks, you too.” And she closed the door of the room behind her.

The room was lit by the light of the street lamps coming through the window. She quickly put on her pyjamas before closing almost fully the curtains and sliding in bed. She started to play over the evening in her head but soon slipped into sleep.

***

“Alex? Alex? Come on, it’s time to go.” Was saying a very nice Severus Snape.

“Sev? Wha?” She opened her eyes to a two-eyebrows raised Snape “Uh… Hi, Professor Snape…”

He walked away from the bed, “Come on, it’s time to go back. We’re flooing this time.” And, just as he made to leave the room: “And, for Merlin’s sake, don’t let any student hear you call me “Severus”, or even worse “Sev”, or I will change you into a wolf permanently.” Seeing her wide eyes he added “Not that I mind hearing you say it.” With that he walked out of the room, leaving a very puzzled girl behind.

She jumped into her clothes and made her way downstairs, still groggy from sleep.  Sirius and Snape were waiting for her in the dining room, not talking to each other. As she entered the room, they both turned to look at her and she felt like hiding for a moment. Sirius took a couple of steps towards her and hugged her, kissing her on the cheek.

“I’ll see you soon, and if you need anything you’re welcome to ask, ok?” He told her, holding her still.

“OK, thanks Sirius.”

When he pulled back, she saw Snape’s face and felt a pang of pain: the man was glowering. He just turned back to the fire, took some floo and threw it in the fire, saying “The dungeon of Hogwarts”; and off he was. Alex didn’t think, she just did the same.

When she arrived, Snape walked towards the door. “I trust you’ll find your way back from here?” And, without waiting for an answer, he just opened the door.

She stood for a moment, staring at him and then walked over to the door. “Yes, I will, but I’m not leaving just yet.” She closed the door before an astonished potion master.

“What do you mean, you’re not leaving? In case you haven’t noticed it’s very early morning and I would like some sleep!”

She let him speak, not reacting. Once he was done, she walked up to him and, stopping right in front of him, warned him “I am about to hug you.” And then, she did.

She felt him tense at first, but she didn’t let go. After a few seconds he relaxed, and even awkwardly hugged her back. Hidden in his chest, she smiled. Then, he pulled back.

“Why did you do that? Why did you hug me?” He didn’t look annoyed, just surprised.

“When Sirius hugged me you looked… I’m not sure what it was, was it pain or jealousy? Anyway, I just wanted to hug you so I did.”

He passed a hand on his face and sighed. “Where did you get such a ridicule notion that I might be jealous of Sirius Black? And why are we having this conversation now, when I need sleep?”

“You looked jealous of me hugging him. I hugged you, now you’re square. Right, I’m off. Sleep well, Severus.” She smiled at his raised eyebrow ad walked out.

***

“There you are! So, how did it go?”

The magical portrait was still awake when she walked in her room. She fumbled with her muggle torch for a second before lighting it.

“Hello sir! Still awake?”

“Yes, the headmaster wanted to be warned once you and professor Snape were back. How is he?”

“He looked well enough when I left him, although tired. You should let him sleep I think.” She lit a magical candle with a match, lighting well enough the room. “And I’m going to do the same, too. Good night!”

She entered her bedroom, put the candle holder down on the bedside table and went over to the window to close the curtains. She stood by it for a while, thinking about what she had just done. She had hugged Severus Snape, bane of all students but his own house, and was still alive and well enough to tell the tale. Not that she would, she wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.

Since when do I care? She wondered. Why do I want to protect him so much? Because he saved me?

She didn’t have the answer, or maybe she didn’t want to face it. Either way, she decided to leave it to later and finish her night.

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