The sun was just setting over London, its last rays reaching out as though to embrace the city. Pink and gold washed over the vast sprawl of buildings, painting it in an almost serene glow. Deep in the forest of civilization, a hidden house unbeknownst to any without the secret kept a family of three safe and warm.
“Grgh,” James gurgled, reaching for the dancing hangman Harry held above his head.
“Harry, don't tease him,” said Hermione from the kitchen. “You know he's got the most horrible habit of sticking toys in his mouth.”
“Lavender said it's healthy,” Harry replied, jiggling the magical toy. James giggled and did his own childish impression of clapping. “Part of learning, she said.”
“He's learning to choke on his playthings.” Hermione entered the room with a platter of muffins and tea.
“He's not even touching it,” Harry protested.
Hermione sighed. Setting the platter on the coffee table, she walked over and gently tugged the animated figure from Harry's hand. The little man went still as soon as it hit the wooden surface beside the plate.
With a flick of her wand, Hermione conjured a cluster of butterflies, which commenced chasing each other above James' head. Sufficiently distracted, he gurgled and giggled, his hands waving.
Her next words were lost as Harry kissed her gently. The last week has been very heated between them as they celebrated being a family again. Harry was often exhausted in the mornings, courtesy of a high enthusiastic Hermione during the nights. It was a price he was willing to pay for happiness.
She pulled away a moment later and said, “Don't distract me.” Her eyes sparkled with amusement.
“D'you have any plans?” Harry asked. It was a layered question.
Hermione smirked. “Maybe,” she answered. Then she became serious. “I need to talk to you about something.”
He sighed. Whenever they weren't otherwise preoccupied, Hermione constantly grilled him with questions regarding his upcoming trial. Unlike his previous encounters with the Wizengamot, Harry wasn't innocent this time. Not entirely.
“You said,” Hermione begnam doggedly, “that there is one more Voldemort...”
“I think there is,” Harry replied. “Probably the original, if your research is right.”
“The original...” she murmured. “How in the world did he come back?”
“I dunno,” Harry said. “He didn't tell me. The only thing I can think of is Hannah...” His voice broke when he said her name. Hanna, his sister, still brought painful memories to mind. She had been his last remaining blood relative, and he had been forced to kill her due to the corruption left by Voldemort's soul.
“What about her?” Hermione said.
“Hannah...was a Metamorphmagus,” Harry explained. “My guess is his soul and hers somehow switched places...which would mean that when she died, he took over her body. And he used her ability to recreate his old body.” Seeing her expression, Harry added, “I'm not sure, but that's my best guess.”
“That's...” Hermione looked caught between disgust and incredulity.
“I know,” replied Harry. “But he'll have saved his true self until the last moment. That's how he does it.”
“Well, I've been thinking,” she said, “And I really think you ought to tell the Minister.”
“Kingsley?” Harry said in surprise.
“He ought to know,” Hermione said firmly. “If there's any danger at all, the Minister needs to know. Especially,” she gave Harry a meaningful look, “if this Voldemort has the last corrupted Hallow. You've seen the damage it can do.”
“I'm going to see him before the trial,” Harry said.
“I meant right away,” Hermione insisted.
Harry frowned. He wasn't looking forward to discussing more bad news with the Minister of Magic. Kingsley was under the impression that Harry was done with adventures, and Harry wanted to keep it that way.
“Why are you so shy about it?” inquired Hermione. “You know how important this is.”
“Yeah, I do,” responded Harry. “But I don't need him suspicious. He's been kind enough to let me be until the trial...I wouldn't want to make him anxious.”
She leveled a stern look at him. “I think,” she said slowly, “that he would be quite relieved to know you have the presence of mind to inform him of a possibly imminent threat.”
Harry winced. There was no victory in this argument. “I'll talk to him,” he promised.
“And you need to go see Ron,” she added. “Things are difficult enough without his family hissing at you every time we meet.”
Harry nodded. Ron's family would never have known about his death, but Lavender had accidentally-on-purpose let slip that Ron had needed to die and come back before realizing she was the one for him. Needless to say, his mother had gone apoplectic, and the others weren't far behind. As usual, Mr. Weasley was the only one who remained somewhat calm. But even he couldn't talk the formidable Molly Weasley out of her rage. As a result, Harry was no longer n speaking terms with the lot of them. Hermione, however, maintained quite adamantly that there was hope.
“Arthur was at the Ministry during the Imperius epidemic,” she kept saying. “He knows how helpless you were.”
Even now, Harry both agreed and disagreed. Yes, Mr. Weasley understood. But no, he couldn't single-handedly change the minds of the entire family.
“It won't be easy,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “They're planning Ron's wedding. It'll be mad.”
“You have to try,” was the response.
“Think it'll really work out?” he asked. She knew what he meant.
“I haven't a clue,” she said, her face twisting uncertainly. “But I hope it does, for his sake.”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “Me as well.”
in the next chapter...
Harry hesitated. “I came to – ” he began, but George cut him off.
“You heard him,” he said. “Best clear off. Mum's in a right state.”
And so, the tale begins. This one should be interesting. On to the next!
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