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Chapter 3 : On Familiar Ground
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Many people were already dancing back and forth across the road between the shops and houses. Everyone was wearing heavy cloaks to protect against the chill morning air, which made it all the simpler to pass by unnoticed. No-one gave them a second glance as they turned down the lane just before The Three Broomsticks. The smell of cooking drifted from the inn on the light breeze winding through the open streets. Small spirals of dust were kicked up around their ankles as they continued down the road, house thinning out on either side.
After several quiet minutes only one building was visible, standing on its own at the end of the road. The building seemed to sway gently back and forth in spite of the breeze. A soft creaking came from the building as the wooden boards rubbed against each other, the area was completely devoid of animals and trees. Despite the fact the building had been empty and silent for years, the locals still avoided it.
“Do you think it’s still there?” Hermione asked softly as they approached the Shack.
“I hope so. If they found it then this will be a whole lot harder.” Harry replied.
He walked up a small incline that lead around the back of the Shack. He withdrew his wand and softly tapped the third plank from the ground as he walked around looking for a small imperfection in the wood. Suddenly, about half a metre from the edge of the wall, his wand passed straight through the wood all the way up to his fingers.
“Thank Merlin for that.” Hermione said as Harry followed his wand through the wall, disappearing into the Shack.
They both lit their wands as they entered and started searching all over the place. Harry quickly and quietly ascended the stairs while Hermione continued searching downstairs. There were still deep gouges in the walls and furniture scattered all over the place. Harry felt a sinking feeling in his stomach as he remembered the man who had made those gouges. Waves of nostalgia washed over him as he entered the upstairs bedroom where he had gained a godfather.
“Harry!” Hermione called up the stairs.
“Coming.” Harry replied loudly not moving for several moments.
Hermione waited for him at the bottom of the stairs with a small envelope in her hand, lit by the soft glow emanating from her wand. “Is this it?” She questioned as his face appeared out of the darkness.
“It must be. Open it up and have a look.” He responded moving around behind her so as to read the parchment.
“That’s it.” He said as Hermione unfolded the yellowing paper. “Suffolk. I wasn’t expecting them so far south. Oh well. You ready to go?”
Hermione quickly incinerated the parchment as Harry moved back to the wall and began tapping again. Disappearing after a moment. Hermione popped out of the wall after a few seconds, extinguishing her wand. “Well that was lucky. I thought McGonagall might have found that little gap we made. I didn’t really feel like visiting the Whomping Willow today.” Hermione chimed as they moved back down the road away from the Shrieking Shack.
Harry just nodded as they walked along turning a corner with only a couple of short trees. Harry looked up and stopped as he laid eyes on the distant castle, owls fluttering about its roof ducking in and out of windows. Harry missed it so much. He hadn’t even seen Hogwarts since he left after defeating Voldemort over a year ago. It had been completely repaired since then and seemed to gleam slightly. Hermione waited for a few moments looking up at the castle herself before tugging softly on Harry’s arm.
“Come on Harry. Kreacher is waiting.” She said slowly leading him forward as he tore his gaze from the school.
“This should be far enough away.” He said as the pair stopped once more and checked for anyone nearby, pulling out their wands and twisting away once more.
Kreacher looked delighted as Harry and Hermione walked back in the back door. Hermione stopped them both for a moment while she restored their appearance before turning to Kreacher.
“Hello mistress.” Kreacher said as he rushed forward to take their cloaks. “Your lunch is prepared in the kitchen.” He said dancing out of the room with their clothes.
“We need to work on him later. He is still too eager to do simple tasks.” Hermione commented sitting at the table and starting on her meal.
Kreacher must have spent every moment since they had departed preparing the meal laid out on the table. There were sandwiches, potatoes, sausages, chops, eggs, salads, and a dozen other things spread over the entire surface of the table. The only spare space was taken up by several bottles of Butterbeer. A moment later Kreacher bounded back into the room and stared at Harry as though waiting for further instructions.
“Kreacher I’m not going to tell you again so this is a recurring order. Sit down and eat some of this stuff with us. You made too much for the two of us to finish ourselves.”
Kreacher sat and the three ate in silence, though Kreacher kept looking at the other two as though hoping one would initiate a conversation. He had noticed that his master and mistress had been somewhat subdued. Neither spoke much unless it was about their long trips out and about, and their moods had only improved slightly over the last year. But Kreacher didn’t mind. He was quite happy with the way things were. He ate his fill quickly and sat silently watching Harry and Hermione eat, waiting anxiously for them to finish. As soon as they were done he whisked the plates away even as Harry got up to clean the table himself.
“Kreacher.” Harry droned as the elf darted about the kitchen cleaning plates and pans and in a couple of minutes the entire room was spotless again. Harry shook his head before heading back upstairs.
“Would mistress care for anything else?” Kreacher asked walking over to where Hermione was still sitting.
“I’m sorry what was that Kreacher?” She said shaking herself out of her daydream. “No I’m fine thank you. Why don’t you go have a break? You’ve earned it.”
She too vacated the room leaving the eager elf to try to find some way of entertaining himself until dinnertime.
Hermione was still surprised at just how bright the shop was, standing out violently from those around it. Both windows were now uncovered showing hundreds of products bouncing and swooping just behind the glass. It looked as though a new coat of bright orange paint had recently been applied to the rest of the shop front with the letter WWW surrounded by stars stencilled everywhere. The large sign above the door read Weasley’ Wizarding Wheezes, but changed every now and then showing a tongue poking out and several other semi-rude gestures.
Hermione smiled as she stepped inside while Harry waited out the front, gazing down the street at the owls outside Eeylops Owl Emporium. He still hadn’t gotten over the loss of Hedwig, and as such hadn’t bought a new owl. Her attention was drawn back to the shop she was in as people shot around left and right. Several witches and wizards in magenta robes chased about after orders and customers, or ran after products that were attempting to flee from their shelves. Hermione giggled at the sight.
“And how may I help you madam?” Asked a voice behind her.
Hermione turned and swallowed a gasp as she saw George Weasley watching her. He hadn’t changed much since last she’d seen him. His hair had grown out again, partially covering his missing ear. He still bore a few other scars of the war but the one Hermione noticed the most was only visible in his eyes. He obviously still missed Fred and the others deeply, though he put on a brave face in front of the customers.
“Um, I was ah,” Hermione mumbled.
George gave a soft laugh before leading her further into the shop. “Well we have all sorts of little trinkets. We even have a lovely WonderWitch section that might interest you.” He said leading her toward the pink section of the store.
“Actually,” Hermione said, putting on a heavy and somewhat silly accent, despite the fact she had already changed her voice. “I was looking for some Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder; I heard that you sell a few items like that.”
“Ah yes, we just got a new batch in yesterday. They’re through here, follow me.” He chimed ducking into a curtained off room. The gold lettering above the doorway read Defensive Gear. Hermione followed and saw George coming toward her carry several small black boxes with slender silver writing all over their surfaces. “Here we go. Was there anything else you were after? Maybe some Shield Hats, or Temporary Invisibility Gloves?”
Hermione smiled at him. “No thank you, just the Darkness Powder.”
“Alright let’s tally it up for you. It’ll be 34 Galleons. You sure you need that much? It’s pretty powerful stuff.” George added raising a questioning eyebrow.
“Yes, thank you. Can’t have too much you know. Never know when it might come in handy.” Hermione replied trying to look innocent, though from the look George was giving her, she assumed she wasn’t doing a very good job.
“Alright then. You have a nice day, and don’t forget to come back now.” He said handing her the large bag.
“Thank you.” She chimed quickly heading for the door.
She tapped Harry on the shoulder a she exited the shop and he quickly followed her back down the street. “Any trouble?” He asked as they walked.
“Ran into George.” Hermione stated quietly. “It was kind of weird, seeing him like that. It was like he suspected me of something. I guess that must be what I always looked at him and Fred like.”
“Yeah, but with those two it was almost always justified. And the same in this case too.” Harry replied as they turned the corner and the light immediately dropped to a dull glow from the nearby lamps.
This entire street was covered over preventing any natural light from entering. Many of the shops had boarded up and there was a lot less people hanging about in alcoves than last time they had come down here.
“I know it’s not as bad down here as it used to be but let’s hurry just the same. This whole street gives me the creeps.” Hermione stated as they stopped out front on Borgin and Burkes.
They both entered the shop, looking around hoping that they still had what they were looking for. Hermione located it inside a tall glass cabinet next to the counter.
“May I help you?” A thick greasy voice asked, frightening Hermione.
“Yes,” said Harry walking forward confidently. “I would like to purchase that.”
Harry indicated the old rotten looking hand in the cabinet Hermione had been looking in.
“An excellent choice sir.” Borgin replied, retrieving the item and placing it in a medium sized box. “Would you care for anything else sir? A shrunken head perhaps or...”
“No.” Harry stated firmly. “Just the Hand of Glory.”
Borgin looked angry but it didn’t come through when he spoke. “Very well. It’s 130 Galleons.”
Hermione was appalled as Harry calmly handed Borgin the money and grabbed the box off the counter turning briskly and heading for the door. Hermione glanced at Borgin, who leered at her as she quickly followed Harry.
“Well done.” She complimented as they returned to Diagon Alley. “I almost believed you were a dark wizard then.”
Harry just smiled. “I just remembered how Lucius Malfoy treated Borgin when he was in there. Come on let’s get out of here.”
The pair apparated back to the open field and began trudging their way home with their shopping. There was a light rain falling as they walked along in silence. Hermione watched Harry as he walked along, occasionally hopping over some of the larger puddles. Things had changed between them lately. They never really talked anymore, not like they used to. Hermione could tell that Harry blamed himself for every single death that Voldemort had caused. She had tried to comfort him time and again but nothing seemed to work. The harder she tried the stronger his resistance became. It was like he wanted to shut himself off from the entire world, to live alone inside himself.
“Master.” Called Kreacher, pulling Hermione from her thoughts. “Come master, mistress, get in out of the rain.” The elf was standing just inside the back door watching as the pair meandered up the path.
“I’m gonna go have a shower.” Harry said as he threw his cloak aside when he walked inside.
Hermione just nodded as he headed up the stairs.
“Harry wait.” She called after him.
Harry stopped on the stairs but didn’t turn around. Hermione climbed the few steps between them and grabbed his arm turning him back towards her. Harry looked down at her from above and she could see a pain hiding just behind his eyes.
“What’s the matter?” He said, his voice not carrying any of the pain she could see so evident in his gaze.
“Disguise.” She whispered after a moment running her wand over his face and restoring his original features.
Harry just watched her for a moment, the smallest sign of a tear forming in the corner of his eye. He turned back and continued up the stairs leaving Hermione standing there alone once more.
The sun crept down over the horizon, dipping past the see as Harry crept silently towards the camp. The fire licked the figures sitting around it with an eerie light in the dimming twilight. The smell of sausages cooking drifted towards him as he tapped Hermione on the arm. She passed him the withered hand, which he lit while she opened the small black box she was holding. They approached from behind the handful of tents hoping to avoid being noticed until the last moment.
Harry looked up at Hermione, silently asking if she was ready. She nodded and lifted her wand levitating the powder from the box and allowing it to drift out from under the cloak and over the campsite. She wrapped her hand over Harry’s holding the Hand of Glory with him as he pulled out his own wand. He raised three fingers and slowly lowered them counting down.
As his final finger dropped Hermione released the powder from the grasp of the spell and the world changed in an instant. The twilit sky vanished and all their surroundings disappeared as Harry removed the Invisibility Cloak. Harry could hear the figures gathered about the fire all jump up and started arguing and calling in the dark. Harry knew they were scared to move as they must have twirled around several times since standing up searching for their assailant and none of them could recall in which direction the fire lay.
Harry felt Hermione lift the Hand of Glory and the world changed. All of a sudden he could see everything though it came as though through a thick veil. Details were difficult to make out, but he could clearly see the figures rushing about knocking into one another, searching for their wands. Harry grinned to himself as he moved closer, making sure not to let go of the Hand.
The pair lined up their first targets, those closest to their wands, and fired their stunners. Both figures dropped without a sound and two others fell over their limp bodies. Unfortunately they fell straight onto their wands. Harry lined up the first of the two and Stunned him just as Hermione fired the same spell at the same figure. The second Death Eater must have heard the spells whizz past him because he pointed his wand towards the pair and fired several curses in rapid succession.
Harry ducked left as Hermione ducked right and both lost their grip on the Hand. Harry’s world instantly disappeared again as he landed hard on the ground. The Death Eater was now firing random spells and curses in all directions yelling loudly as he went. Harry shuffled about on the ground searching for the Hand. His heart stopped as he heard a twig snap just to his right. His fingers closed over something on the ground and the world illuminated once more upon a terrible sight.
The Death Eater spun about as he heard the sound. Hermione had broken the twig searching for the Hand as Harry had. The Death Eater took aim and Harry could see the grin on his face as he formed the words.
“Avada...” Was all the Death Eater managed as Harry leapt up.
“AVADA KEDAVRA!” He yelled feeling his arm tingle as the spell sped out from him rocketing into the Death Eater who turned to face the new sound.
Harry watched his face contort as the spell caught him as he attempted to dive aside. The force of the blast knocked him backwards onto the fire and his robes immediately caught ablaze even as he rolled out of the fire itself. Harry winced at the sight before turning to help Hermione up. The pair quickly checked the remaining Death Eaters who all seemed to have been knocked out by the various spells the dead Death Eater had been firing. They pulled them all together and bound them tightly with some rope Hermione had brought.
Harry threw their wands onto the fire watching with a strange pleasure as they burned up in the flames. He turned back to the Death Eaters as Hermione revived the smallest of the group. He looked about fearfully as his world was still bathed in darkness. Harry watched him for a moment before speaking.
“Where are the other Death Eaters.” Harry asked forcefully.
They had brought Veritaserum but Harry was hoping that they wouldn’t need it.
“Go to hell.” The Death Eater called back viciously struggling against his bindings.
“You’re wasting your time there. You’ll never get that rope off. My friend has enchanted it to tighten every time you struggle so unless you want to be cut in half by it I would suggest you stop.”
The Death Eater continued to writhe about as the ropes started clenching about his chest. He screamed loudly as the rope pressed in on him.
“Tell me where I can find the other Death Eater’s and I’ll stop it.” Harry told him watching as the pain became evident on his face.
“NEVER!” Screamed the Death Eater.
Harry just shook his head and looked at Hermione. She pulled a small bottle from her pocket and popped the cork from it. She poured several drops down the Death Eaters throat as he screamed, causing him to stop struggling as he coughed and spluttered. He shook slightly as the Veritaserum took effect.
“Ready to talk now?” Harry asked.
The Death Eater’s head slowly nodded as he struggled to beat the potion.
“Good. Now where are the other Death Eaters hiding?”
The Death Eater opened his mouth to speak but immediately began to choke.
“Harry the ropes.” Hermione called as she struggled to release them.
Harry moved to cut the ropes but they fell loose as Hermione undid them. The Death Eater fell forward and clutched at his throat, still gagging and choking.
“What’s wrong with him?” Hermione yelled to Harry as she tried to stop it.
“It looks like whoever is leading the Death Eaters now is just as vicious as Voldemort. He must have cursed them all so that if they were ever interrogated that they would take his secrets to their grave.” Harry replied watching as the Death Eater finally stopped struggling and lay on the ground, perfectly still.
Harry stood up lifting Hermione from the ground. “We should go just in case he has put any other nasty spells on them.
“But what about them?” Hermione asked pointing to the other Death Eaters still tied up and stunned on the ground.
“Kingsley can have them.” Harry said pointing his wand up in the air. “Have you got everything?”
Hermione quickly gathered everything they had brought with them and Harry grabbed her arm. A bright silvery light erupted from the tip of his wand and flew into the air as he twisted on the spot and Apparated away.
A loud crack rent the air as Kingsley Shacklebolt appeared in the open campsite.
“Harry?” His deep voice echoed through the camp. “Hermione? Are you still here? I just want to talk!" he called, turning about to see if they were visible.
He sighed deeply as he realised they were gone. The Darkness Powder had vanished with them and Kingsley surveyed the scene. Two Death Eaters were lying unbound and apparently dead on the ground, one still smouldering by the fire. Five more were tied up near the second dead Death Eater. There was a series of loud cracks as fifteen Aurors Apparated beside him and quickly moved out to secure the campsite. Kingsley looked up into the sky and watched as the great silver lightning bolt lit the scene below with an eerie light.
“Interesting.” Kingsley mused as he watched the sign disappear. ‘He must have taken the idea from Voldemort and Dumbledore.”
“What do you mean sir?” Asked Dawlish as he walked over to the minister.
“Nothing. What’s the situation Dawlish?” He asked.
“Two dead, one by the killing curse, the other we aren’t sure just yet. Seems that he choked to death. The other five are fine, just stunned. Shall we take them straight to Azkaban sir?” Dawlish responded.
“Yes, take them now. Simmons, Carter, and Finnigan can finish up here. The rest of you can escort the prisoners.”
Kingsley turned away and looked about the camp. For months he had been trying to catch up with Harry, but every time he arrived too late. He heard the Aurors Disapparate with the prisoners, as he walked out towards the cliffs. Harry always allowed him to take the Death Eaters in though he had never left such a unique signal before. He had previously alerted him with his Patronus. This was also the first time there had been casualties.
“I hope you know what you’re doing Potter.” He said, sighing before Disapparating himself.
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