Neville’s the first one to spot them at the gates of Hogwarts. They only lift their Disillusionment Charms once they’re approaching Hogwarts — well, Ron and Ginny lift their Charms. Harry takes off his Cloak, which he had the chance to grab before they left.
Neville jumps when he sees them. He’s holding a bouquet of flowers unlike any flowers Harry’s ever seen before.
“Hi, Neville,” Ginny says cheerfully. “We wanted a word with McGonagall.”
“Official Auror business,” Ron explains.
“Well. Auror business, but also my business. Official Ginny Potter business,” Ginny says.
Harry waves in greeting, folding up his Cloak to try and get it to fit in the pocket of his jeans.
Neville narrows his eyes. “And it’s really you, is it?” he demands, getting his wand out from the pocket of his robes and pointing it at them.
Harry remembers that Neville was attacked by an imposter Luna last week. It makes sense for him to verify their identity. It’s a smart move. Now more than ever, Harry wishes that he hadn’t quit the force a few months ago to join Hogwarts and train to be a Herbology teacher.
“I told you to kill the snake during the Final Battle,” he tells Neville.
“You fell asleep on a stakeout the first month out of Auror training and I covered for you with Robards,” Ron puts in.
Ginny rolls her eyes. “You haven’t told anyone yet, but you’re taking those flowers to meet Hannah Abbott in the village.”
Neville lowers his wand, his cheeks a bit pink. “That last one was unnecessary,” he mumbles.
“Hannah’s nice,” Ron says with a grin. “Well done, Nev.”
“She’s great, isn’t she?” Neville says. There’s a dreamy look in his eyes that makes Harry think, inexplicably, of Ron accidentally eating Chocolate Cauldrons spiked with love potion back in their sixth year. Neville looks far less vacant than Ron ever did, though, and also happier in a way that he never looked while working with them at the Auror department. “I can take you to McGonagall’s office before I leave, though.”
Harry nods “That’d be great, Neville,” he says. “Lead the way. Just do me a favour and make sure we aren’t spotted by any of the others?”
Neville looks curious, but nods. He leads them through Hogwarts with an ease that makes Harry miss being at school. A burst of wistfulness surges in his chest, and he grabs Ginny’s hand and gives it a light squeeze. It feels almost like old times, sneaking through school with Ron by his side. All that’s missing is Hermione and the Marauder’s Map.
“Sherbet lemon,” Neville tells the gargoyle outside the Headmistress’s office, and then the four of them are on the spiral staircase, and it’s moving up like an escalator, and then in a matter of minutes, Harry’s knocking on the door.
“Come on,” says the familiar voice of Professor McGonagall.
Neville opens the door and lets the three of them in. McGonagall’s sitting at her desk, reading a long scroll of parchment. Behind her chair, Albus Dumbledore is fast asleep in his portrait.
“Hi, Professor,” Harry says.
McGonagall looks up, and then smiles as she sees them. “None of you are my students anymore, you know. You need not call me Professor.”
“It feels weird not to, though,” Ginny says, wrinkling her nose.
“Do you have a minute?” Ron asks.
“Of course. Is everything alright?” McGonagall says, sitting up.
“We need your help. It’s kind of a long story,” Ron says.
McGonagall nods, and waves her wand. Four chairs appear in front of her, and they sit down. “Have a biscuit,” McGonagall says, and pushes a familiar tin towards them.
“A biscuit?” Ron repeats, looking confused.
Neville looks at his watch and gasps. “Oh, I’d better be going. Thanks for the biscuit, Professor,” he says, grabbing one for himself before he leaves, closing the door behind himself.
“Oh, I’ve missed your biscuits, Professor. Been craving them,” Ginny says cheerfully, and helps herself to three of them. Harry turns to look at Ginny, suddenly distracted. The last time she craved biscuits like this… but no, now isn’t the time to think about it.
“You’re always welcome to come and have some, Miss Weasley,” McGonagall tells Ginny.
“But I assume that is not what you wished to discuss with me?” McGonagall says.
Harry shakes his head, distracted from the path his mind was wandering down. “No, Professor. We need your help.” He turns to look at Ron. Technically, Ron’s Lead Auror on this case. Ron nods at Harry, which is all the encouragement Harry needs to keep going. “There have been some imposter attacks recently. On Neville, and on Seamus, too.”
“Yes,” says McGonagall, “I’d heard about those.” That makes sense, Harry thinks, especially since Neville works here now. Of course she’d know about them.
“And…” Harry says, and leans over to grab Ginny’s hand, suddenly overcome by the fear as he thinks about someone wearing his face and attacking Ginny and Jamie, about someone who they don’t know Stunning Hermione and putting her life — and her baby’s life — at risk.
“And,” Ginny continues, when Harry doesn’t say anything else, “we were nearly attacked, too. We think. By someone impersonating Harry. And Hermione was attacked yesterday. She’s fine, but… we think it’s the same person. Who’s behind all of this.”
“She’s fine,” Ron says, and Harry notices that he still looks a bit pale. Harry can’t blame her. Thinking about Hermione in a hospital bed in Mungo’s has him feeling a bit nauseous, too. “She’s alright now. But we’re working on the case. No one knows that she was attacked, or that Harry was impersonated, though.” The don’t let it slip out is implied.
McGonagall listens to them patiently. “I see,” she says, and then steeples her fingers together. “I understand. How may I help?”
Harry lets out a soft sigh of relief, grateful that McGonagall isn’t pressing them for more details and is willing to help. “We need to know if there’s an underage student living in the area.”
McGonagall seems to understand immediately. “You believe the Trace was used?”
“It’s possible,” Harry says. “I got in trouble when Dobby used magic around me, just because it was near me. If someone was on the lookout…”
McGonagall nods slowly. “It is plausible,” she allows. “It would have to be someone very close to you. Where would this be?”
Ron fishes around in his pocket and then takes out a piece of parchment, handing it to McGonagall. “I’m Secret Keeper,” he explains.
McGonagall looks down at the address on the parchment, and then nods. “I see. I shall go look into the records. Please, make yourselves comfortable here,” she says and waves her wand again. A tray appears on the table, laden with a teapot, three cups, and a bowl of sugar.
Harry turns to watch as Ginny pours herself a cup of tea. “Are you feeling alright?” he asks her, before he can think better of it.
A wrinkle appears in between Ginny’s eyes. “Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?” she says, taking another biscuit from the jar.
“No reason,” Harry says, but he gives her hand a little squeeze. He’s just imagining things. It’s the stress, probably. Nothing else.
They leave Hogwarts an hour later. Ron’s holding a piece of parchment a name and address carefully written on it, and his face is as red as his hair. “Of course. Of course,” he mutters.
“Ron, calm down,” Ginny says, but she’s looking just as angry as he is. Harry can’t blame her. His own hand is clenched hard enough that his knuckles have gone white.
“I should have guessed. Death Eaters protect Death Eaters. I knew they got off too easy at the trials!” Ron says. “All of them. I knew we shouldn’t have believed the Imperius excuse!”
“Should we tell Hermione where we’re going?” Ginny asks, once they’re out of Hogwarts boundaries, when they can Apparate.
“Yeah,” Harry says, and gets his wand out. “Expecto Patronum,” he says, and a stag erupts out of his wand. “We’re going to investigate a lead, we’ll be back at the Burrow for dinner,” he tells his Patronus, and the stag disappears to go find Hermione and give her the message. There’s no point telling her where they’re going or who they’re investigating, not when Molly or Arthur might overhear it and get suspicious. They watch the stag, and Harry turns to look at Ron once it’s disappeared. “We don’t know if he’s involved,” he tells him. “It’s not his name on the parchment.”
“Yes, Harry, but you and I bloody well know he’s involved. His wife has a summer home in the area. A summer home, honestly,” Ron snorts.
“Harry’s right. No point jumping to conclusions,” Ginny says quietly, and takes Harry’s hand. “Are we Apparating, then?”
“Yeah,” Ron says.
“Not directly there, I don’t think,” Harry says, thinking about what Dumbledore told him, about most wizarding dwellings being protected from Apparition. “Let’s Apparate to the outskirts. We can walk from there.”
Ron nods. “Give me a five-minute head start, just in case it’s a trap. I’ll send word if it isn’t,” he tells Harry.
Harry nods, recognising the strategy from all the investigations he’s done with Ron. They’ve gotten very good at secret methods of communication over the years.
Ron hands the piece of parchment with the address on it to Harry, and then turns on the spot and Disapparates.
Harry takes his Cloak out and throws it over the both of them. It’s a tight fit, but they just about stay hidden. “We’re meant to be undercover,” he reminds her. “Don’t want to be seen, right?”
Ginny laughs at that. “We’re doing a pretty shit job of it, aren’t we?”
“We are,” Harry agrees with a laugh, and can’t stop himself from leaning in to press a kiss to the top of her flaming red hair.
“What do you think Jamie’s up to?” Ginny says.
Harry doesn’t think anyone else would be able to pick up on the slightly wistful note to her voice. He feels it, too, misses Jamie more than he would’ve thought. He looks at the watch on his wrist. “Probably just enjoying the attention he gets from Grandpa and Grandma,” he says.
Ginny grins. “That’s probably true. Do you think Hermione’s told Mum and Dad about her being pregnant yet?”
“I don’t know. I mean, she only just found out. I don’t know if she’s ready for a Weasley knitted blanket just yet,” Harry says dryly.
“Jamie loves his, to be fair,” Ginny says. “And I’m sure our future babies will love theirs, too.”
There’s a pause, where both of them look at each other. Neither of them say anything, but Harry knows they’re thinking the same thing.
Before they can voice it, though, there’s a tiny pop sound and then a piece of parchment appears out of nowhere. Ginny catches it before it can fall to the ground, and Harry leans in closer to peer at it.
All safe. R
“Together?” he asks Ginny, who nods and slips her warm hand into his. They both turn on the spot and Disapparate.
“Keep the Cloak on, just in case,” Ron says. He’s waiting for them, holding onto his wand tightly.
Harry nods and then, remembering that Ron can’t see them, says, “Alright. Lead the way. We’ll be right behind you.”
It’s not a very long walk. For all their attempts at being undercover, Harry thinks, they wound up here, fifteen minutes away from where they’ve been staying.
Ginny voices what she’s thinking, soft enough that only Harry can hear. “So much for being undercover,” she mumbles.
“This is the one,” he tells Ron, double-checking the address on the parchment. They’re at a nondescript house. Harry’s reminded of Number Four, Privet Drive, even though this house is much bigger. Something about the overly manicured garden and neat surroundings. It sets him on edge immediately.
Ron steels himself and then leans over and knocks. “Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” he calls out.
The door opens in seconds. “Did you have to be quite so loud about it, Weasley?” demands the wizard who opened the door. “Come in. Hurry up, or they’ll try to attack you again like they did with Granger. Come on!”
Ron half-turns to look at Harry, who takes his Cloak off. Both he and Ginny point their wands, and Harry’s never felt so focused, so ready to jinx someone.
“Of course. Of course the Potters are here, too,” Draco Malfoy says, and then sighs, but Harry notices that he doesn’t take his own wand out. “Well. I suppose you better come in. There’s a lot to explain, and not much time at all.”