Chapter 2 : One Year Later
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“Welcome students, to Hogwarts.” She looked about, recognising many of the young faces, “Tuck in.”
And with those words the tables spread with food and at that moment there was nothing in the world McGonagall could do to make the students turn their attention from their plates. McGonagall sat once more looking about as the other teachers also began eating their meals, though in somewhat more civilised manner than some of the students were. Most of the old faculty had returned at her request, though there were many casualties among their ranks. Hagrid had leapt at the chance to return and had even taken up her old role as Head of Gryffindor house; though he’d been disappointed he had to give up his Groundskeeper position.
Defence Against the Dark Arts had been the most difficult position to fill as many who were qualified for such a position were busy rebuilding the rest of the wizarding world, but somehow McGonagall had found Professor Nubilius to take up the role. And Professor Diffingo had leapt at the chance to follow in her own footsteps as the Transfiguration teacher. McGonagall sighed as she thought of how much she would miss teaching this year; though in some ways she was glad for it. The school felt so different now that she didn’t feel right in her old position.
“A fair turn-out wouldn’t you say Professor?” Asked Lee Jordan, from the seat beside her. “I didn’t think so many would return so soon.”
McGonagall nodded as she picked lightly at her food. While many had returned, there were several faces still missing from the sea of students. Some passed away while others had too much to do assisting in rebuilding their world. But two faces in particular pained McGonagall. Nothing had been seen or heard of Harry or Hermione since Voldemort’s defeat. They had simply vanished during the celebration, without any explanation. Of course people had claimed to see them all over the place but never had anyone been able to prove their claims. Sometimes McGonagall wondered if Albus had not left them with some secret mission to attend to but he always avoided questions about Harry when she spoke with his portrait in her office, feigning sleep or rushing from his portrait.
The deserts soon vanished from the plates spread before her and McGonagall stood once more as the chatter died away almost instantly again. “Well that was certainly a wonderful meal. However I must ask your attention for a little longer. Mr. Filch has asked me to remind everyone that magic is forbidden in the corridors and a full list of banned products can be found outside his office. First Years are to remember that the Dark Forest is off-limits to all students. Dates for Quidditch tryouts will be posted on your common-room noticeboards and timetables for all students shall be handed out tomorrow morning.”
There was a slight murmur across the room at the mention of Quidditch but it died out as quickly as it started. “And now I would like you all to welcome our returning staff, and to welcome our new staff members. Lee Jordan will be taking up the post of Muggle Studies.” Lee stood and bowed jovially to the students who cheered loudly. “Cimmer Nubilius shall take over Defence Against the Dark Arts,” Professor Nubilius stood and nodded briskly to the gathered students who clapped, though not as enthusiastically as they had for Lee, “good luck Professor, and Miss Daphne Diffingo shall be taking up the Transfiguration class.” The applause was mixed as Daphne smiled and waved to the students. “And I can assure you all she is well up to the task.” McGonagall added eyeing several of the students who seemed to think Daphne may be somewhat more lenient than she had been. “And now, off to bed with you all.”
The staff slowly filtered out as the students worked their way from the Hall. McGonagall sat until the Hall was completely empty before heading up to her office. The gargoyle still bore several marks from when it was blasted aside and often moved with a slight stiffness. A couple of times McGonagall had stopped halfway up the staircase when it had jammed in place. This time however it moved smoothly all the way to the top.
“Evening Headmistress,” greeted the doorknocker.
“Evening.” She replied wearily as she stepped into the office, glancing about. The room had changed so much since Dumbledore’s departure. All of the small tables and their instruments were gone. Fawkes had left, though McGonagall left his perch in place, in case he ever wanted to return. All of the portraits remained staring down at her as she crossed the room. There was a large case on the wall above the desk which contained the remains of the four founders’ relics, all gleaming in the candlelight despite their injuries.
McGonagall plonked down in the large armchair behind the desk and sighed as she glanced absent-mindedly over some paperwork.
“Something on your mind Minerva?” Came a soft voice from her right.
McGonagall turned to face Dumbledore’s portrait. “I just wish I knew what had happened to them. Potter certainly wasn’t a model student, but I had grown quite fond of him. And I always had a soft spot for Miss Granger; she knew exactly how to butter me up.”
“They will reappear in time Minerva. I’m sure whatever made them leave was very important.” Albus smiled back.
“So you did send them off on another errand.” McGonagall asked, staring down at the portrait over her glasses, her sternest look boring into Dumbledore.
“I don’t recall saying as such.” Dumbledore replied plainly, a smile twitching the ends of his mouth ever so slightly.
“You can be so frustrating Albus?” She scolded turning away.
When she turned back to face him once more his portrait was empty and none of the other portraits would look at her. Please let them be alright. She thought as she gave up on the paperwork and headed off to bed.
The sun felt warm as it kissed his skin, filtering in through the crack between the blinds, and a heavy ball-shaped object lay across his feet warming them as well. Harry tried to ignore the chirping of the birds outside as he attempted to recall his strange dream, but it slipped away as he resigned himself to the morning. He sat upright, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and reaching for his glasses, before gently shifting out from under the lump of fur bundled on his bed.
He walked across to the window and opened the blinds fully allowing the morning light to flood the room. It was a small room for most, but after Harry’s internment at the Dursleys it felt quite large to him. There was a small desk tucked just to the left of the window littered with parchment and lolly wrappers, several pictures sat in frames on its dusty surface. A large bookshelf sat in the corner with a handful of books strewn throughout its reaches, and several more on the floor at its base. And a big king sized bed, much like the one Harry had had back at Hogwarts, took pride of place in the very centre of the room. It was covered in same crimson hangings and sheets he loved best which made it easy to make out the orange ball of fuzz stretching out on the doona.
Harry grinned as he watched her before looking back out over the grassy plains outside. The leaves on the trees were beginning to change, some already littering the ground as a soft breeze caught at them. There was only a single dirt path leading up to the house and it contrasted nicely with the grass around it. A solitary figure was running down it heading away from the house. Harry glanced at the clock and laughed to himself before stepping away from the window. He walked around the bed and opened the door on the far side of the room. The bathroom was also fairly small only containing a toilet basin and shower tucked in together. The room was a pale green and Harry’s red towel stood out on the wall.
The water heated up quickly as Harry stepped into the shower feeling the last fingers of sleep sliding off his body with the water. His long hair hung down, clinging to his face as he washed himself. He had become rather muscular since the final battle, though he did miss playing Quidditch. And Hogwarts, which he had not seen since leaving that day so long ago. He sighed as he turned the water off and dried himself off. He wandered back into his room and chucked on some pants turning back to his bed.
“Alright you,” he said tapping the fur ball several times until it woke, “off you get. She’ll be home soon.”
Crookshanks just glared at him for a moment before leaping off the bed and rushing from the room. Harry smiled at the cat as he made his bed and wandered downstairs to the kitchen. Unlike his bedroom the kitchen was quite large, sidled against the back wall of the house. Harry fired up the stove and began grabbing food from cupboards and the fridge, throwing them together in a pan and filling the house with the delightful smell. He didn’t even flinch at the loud crack behind him moments later.
“Master, why do you insist on doing that every morning?” Kreacher called walking up beside him. “Kreacher is more than happy to do it for you sir.”
“That’s alright Kreacher, I appreciate that but I enjoy doing it myself. Though it always tastes better when you cook.” He said smiling at Kreacher as the house elf cheered up and trundled off out of the room. The years had been very kind to the elf, who had filled out since his time at 12 Grimmauld Place. His skin was no longer sullen and stretched but bright and matched his attitude as he danced about doing any job he could beat the others to.
It wasn’t long before all the food was ready and Harry divided it over three plates and set them on the table just as the back door opened. Hermione closed the door behind her before standing there and checking her pulse against her watch. Harry watched her as she realised he was there. She turned and smiled at him before ducking off and heading upstairs. Harry shook his head before settling down at the table. “Kreacher.” He called starting on his breakfast.
“Yes master.” Kreacher chimed stepping back into the kitchen.
“Come, sit. Eat.” Harry said through half a mouthful, indicating one of the other plates on the table.
“Of course, master. Thank you sir.” Kreacher replied taking a seat by Harry.
“You are always running around here after us, it’s the least we can do.”
Kreacher smiled at Harry, starting on his own food as Hermione came striding down the stairs several at a time. “Morning.” She chimed taking the remaining seat and starting on her breakfast almost before she was completely seated.
“Morning.” Harry replied.
“Good morning mistress.” Kreacher chimed looking positively delighted.
Harry and Hermione both chuckled into their plates. Life had changed so much since the Horcrux hunt. Yet many things were still the same. They still hid away from the general public, and avoided those they wished to see the most. Occasionally they would see an old friend out on their travels, but they would never greet them, always retreating quickly back to the shadows. But Kreacher always managed to cheer them up and make them forget their troubles, ever since he had found them.
“Hello master.” Kreacher called as Harry looked up still recovering from the feeling of Apparating.
“Kreacher?! What are you doing here?” Harry replied looking puzzled as he sat Hermione on the ground and knelt down himself.
“Kreacher wishes to serve you sir. On your new quest sir.” Kreacher replied matter-of-factly.
Harry was amazed as he looked at Kreacher then turned to Hermione hoping she would have some explanation. Hermione looked up and just shook her head at Harry. “You never pay attention do you Harry?” She said quietly as she sat up. “The magic linking a house-elf to his master is incredibly strong. You must have desired his assistance, so he came. Where exactly are we?” she asked standing up.
“First place I thought of.” Harry replied standing next to her.
They both looked down at the stone in front of them. “Oh, Harry.” Hermione whispered as she reread the inscription on the Potter’s graves.
“I just needed to come and tell them what had happened. Then we can go.”
Hermione hugged him tightly, tears escaping her eyes once more. Harry was starting to wonder if girls had an endless reserve of those things because he surely would have dried out if he had cried as much as she had in the last few hours.
“Kreacher, can you do something for me.” Harry asked letting Hermione go. “I need somewhere new to stay. We can’t go back to the Burrow and the Death Eaters can all enter 12 Grimmauld Place.”
“I’m sorry master, but Kreacher doesn’t know of anywhere else.”
“That’s what I thought. Well I need you to go and get enough money from my vault so that we can buy a place. I’d go myself but I don’t want to be seen right now.”
“Of course master.” Kreacher replied disappearing a moment later.
Harry and Hermione looked all over the place for days before eventually finding the great blue house in the middle of an open countryside, miles from anywhere and anyone. Hermione had worn a disguise and used an alias to purchase the house and then set about casting all kinds of charms over the house protecting it from any unexpected visitors.
Many months had passed between then and now and the house was even grander than when they had arrived. Hermione had immediately filled almost all of the bookcases in the house with books she thought could help, the only one that remained close to empty was the one up in Harry’s bedroom. Kreacher had applied his own touch to the house even accepting a whole room Harry had insisted he use rather than a small cupboard in the kitchen he had wanted. Kreacher had broken down for hours after this and it took both Harry and Hermione to finally settle him down. All in all it had become quite a cosy little house.
“Harry about later, I think we really need to consider a few more things before we rush off.” Hermione called over the table, breaking Harry from his little reverie.
“Ok.” He replied getting up from the table and rinsing off his dishes.
“Please master.” Kreacher begged pulling at Harry’s pants leg and looking up at him with his big eyes.
“Alright Kreacher.” Harry conceded allowing the elf to finish the cleaning up.
Hermione tisked before allowing Kreacher to take her now empty plate, but Harry just shrugged and gave her a he-wanted-to-do-it look. She shook her head and walked off towards the study. Harry just smiled at the both of them and followed her out.
“You shouldn’t do that Harry.” She chided as he entered the study.
“He begged me Hermione. You saw the look on his face. It’s not like I mistreat him. He loves helping out, and gets upset when we do things for ourselves. And I’m paying him as well, though I’m fairly sure he is just taking all of it and stuffing it in the cupboard in his room.” Harry mused.
“Still.” Hermione began but Harry cut her off.
“So what is it you think needs changing?”
“Not changing so much as slight revision.” She replied looking innocent.
Harry stifled a laugh and walked over to the desk to see the plans they had laid out. “I know we need to go there for the information but I don’t see why we can’t go directly there. I don’t like the idea of having to go all through the village to get there.” Hermione stated.
“I know it’s risky but I fairly sure she has put all his old defences back up which means we can’t just pop in and pop back out undetected. As it is I think our entry might set of some kind of alarm but we don’t have a choice. Besides we will be in disguise the whole time.” Harry argued as Hermione agreed.
“When do you think we should leave?” Hermione asked stuffing the parchments into a already over stuff drawer.
“As soon as we can. The earlier we go the less likely we are to be noticed. Just let me finish getting ready.” Harry replied indicating his lack of a shirt and ducking out of the room. He hopped up the stairs and quickly found the right clothing for their activities. Hermione met him back down by the back door in a long thick cloak that obscured her body. Her face was different too. She now had blue eyes and blond hair and a somewhat large nose.
“Come on and I’ll do you too.” She said, her voice much lower than before.
Harry stepped forward and watched as her wand drifted back and forth in front of his face. Harry had no idea what he now looked like but trusted Hermione when it came to their disguises. She had become very adept at adjusting their features, making them completely unrecognisable.
“Will sir and madam be back for lunch today?” Kreacher asked handing Harry his wand.
“Yes Kreacher. We won’t be gone long.” Harry confirmed.
Kreacher’s smile stretched almost from ear to ear as he turned and rushed back into the kitchen to begin preparing a marvellous lunch. Harry just laughed as Hermione shook her head and they walked out the door. They had to walk about two miles before they could Apparate as they had put up defences for some distance, which while keeping away everyone else, meant they couldn’t Apparate in or out of the house or property itself. Harry made a mental note to ask Kreacher about house-elf Apparation when he got home, as the elf could still appear and disappear all over the house at will.
“Here we go.” Hermione said and Harry felt as though he had walked through a field of static electricity. He grabbed Hermione’s hand and with a turn they Apparated.
A/N: There we go, chapter two. This story is taking my be surprise at the moment. It is just coming out on its own. I have no idea where it’s going so let me know whether you like the direction or whether it needs some tweaking.
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