A/N – Welcome back to Children of the Dark. Just a quick reminder that it's a dark story, with Harry and Hermione both on the dark side.

This part features the first flickering's of romance, but nothing too strong just yet. I've had a few people asking about the invisibility cloak and if Harry will be getting it. He will come into possession of the cloak before the end of the series, but not quite yet.

Updates will be the usual, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and this part has 22 chapters. Enjoy!

Hermione Granger lay in the back garden, her nose buried in a new book and a glass of ice cold lemonade sitting beside her. Hermione was enjoying the summer sunshine that had been present since they finished school just over three weeks ago. In just over a month she would be going back to Hogwarts alongside her best friends, Harry and Draco, but for now she was enjoying the relaxation of being at home. Although she was starting to miss her two friends.

Draco and his parents had headed off to Greece a week after the holidays started, and were due back any day now. Harry, meanwhile, had spent the last week on holiday with his father, her older brother, Severus Snape. Severus had asked Hermione if she wanted to join them, but they'd been heading somewhere remote to enjoy some time together, and she knew they'd be spending the majority of their time outdoors so she'd passed on the offer. It had meant for the last week, Hermione had been on her own, but she'd enjoyed the time with her parents. However, she was starting to get antsy for some company.

Hermione had no sooner finished thinking about how she missed her friends when she heard movement behind him. Assuming it was one of her parents, Hermione didn't bother to turn round. It was only when a shadow fell over her book that she looked up, expecting to find either Beth or Voldemort standing over her. However, when she looked up she found Draco standing over her with a grin on his face.

"Draco," Hermione cried excitedly as she got to her feet.

The second Hermione was standing upright, she realised her best friend had grown several inches since she'd last seen him. For the past few years, he'd been roughly the same size as her, but now he was several inches taller than her. She also noticed that the gel he normally wore in his hair was absent, leaving his blond locks free to fall over his grey eyes.

"Wow, you've grown," Hermione remarked as she gave Draco a hug. "And you've stopped wearing that awful gel in your hair."

"I decided it was time for a new look," Draco replied with a shrug. "Besides, I think I look better without it."

"I've been telling you that for years," Hermione shot back. "Without the gel you're actually not that bad looking."

"Thanks," Draco replied, giving Hermione a cocky grin.

"I said, not that bad, not gorgeous," Hermione snorted. Actually she thought gorgeous might be a more apt description of her friend, but she wasn't going to tell him that, his ego was big enough without her adding to it.

"Don't insult me, or I might not give you your present," Draco teased.

"You've bought me a present?" Hermione asked.

"Of course," Draco replied as he pulled a box from his pocket and handed it to his best friend.

Hermione opened the box and found a set of tiny glass figurines. Each figurine represented a Greek God or Goddess.

"You can enlarge them to whatever size you want," Draco explained.

"Wow, they're amazing, thank you." Hermione gave Draco a smile and another hug as she safely closed the box so the figurines wouldn't get damaged.

"I've also got a present for Harry. Where is he?"

"He's away with Severus," Hermione answered. "I actually think they're due back sometime today."

"In that case, I'll see him tonight."

"What's happening tonight?"

"We're coming over for dinner," Draco answered. "Mother came with me, and she was arranging things with your mother when I came outside. I think I heard Beth say that your father wanted to talk to mine."

"Maybe they're making plans for next year," Hermione said excitedly. "I've asked Father about next year several times, and he won't tell me anything."

"What makes you think something's going to be happening?" Draco asked. "Next year might be a normal boring year."

Draco had barely finished his sentence before they collapsed in laughter. After their previous two years at Hogwarts, they doubted their third year would be boring and normal. Something was bound to happen, and Hermione's father was bound to have plans of some sort for the coming year.

"Anyway, my parents have been discussing something for the last few weeks," Hermione said. "They're constantly huddled in corners talking, and several times they've stopped talking completely when I enter the room. Something is going on, I bet on it."

"Maybe we'll find out tonight," Draco suggested.

Leaving the subject of what their parents could be planning for the upcoming year to one side, the pair settled down on the grass to catch up. Draco filled Hermione in on his Greek holiday, while Hermione told Draco what she'd been up to.


Harry and Severus returned home just over an hour after Draco had left. Hermione and Harry spent a few hours catching up, and Harry was thrilled that Draco was going to be coming for dinner. Like his friends he was just as eager to find out what would be happening in the upcoming year, and he was hoping dinner would provide the answers.

Unfortunately for the trio, dinner was just friends catching up after not seeing each other for a while. The entire meal was accompanied by tales of holiday adventures, and there wasn't one mention of Voldemort's attempts to get rid of Dumbledore. Anytime Hermione, Harry or Draco brought up the subject of school and Dumbledore, one of the adults swiftly changed the subject.

"Okay you three, it's time to give us some privacy now," Voldemort announced once dinner was over and the group were moving to the living room.

"Why can't we stay?" Hermione demanded, frowning at the fact they were being shut out again.

"We've got a lot to discuss, Hermione," Voldemort said to his daughter. "And before we talk to you three, we need to get some things sorted."

"But you are going to fill us in on what's happening?" Hermione checked.

"Of course," Voldemort replied with a chuckle. "As if we could shut you three out of anything. When we're finished, we'll call you and bring you up to date."

"That is acceptable," Hermione said in a serious voice.

"I'm pleased you think so," Voldemort retorted in amusement. As much as he indulged his daughter, if there was something he thought she would be better off not knowing he wouldn't have any qualms with putting his foot down and refusing to tell her anything. "Now go away for a while, and we'll call you when we're ready."

"Okay," Hermione replied, giving her father a smile before turning and leading the way upstairs.

Since Hermione was leading the way, she automatically headed into her bedroom. When Draco entered the room, he smiled as he spotted her glass figurines enlarged slightly and displayed on a shelf.

"So what do you think's happening downstairs?" Draco asked as he settled himself on Hermione's bed.

"I have no idea," Hermione admitted as she joined Draco on the bed while Harry plonked himself on the chair that stood in front of her desk.

"Did Severus give you any clues while you were away?" Draco asked Harry.

"Nope," Harry replied with a shake of his head. "When I asked him, he told me to have patience."

"I think it's something big," Hermione said. "There wasn't this big secrecy last year. Last year they told us upfront about the chamber."

"Speculating isn't getting us anywhere," Harry said. "We'll find out soon enough, so let's not worry about it. Why don't we play a few hands of exploding snap? I bought a new set of cards while I was away."

Harry went to grab his cards, and the trio spent the next hour and a half playing cards and trying not to think about what was going on downstairs. Finally they heard footsteps on the stairs, and Beth poked her head into the room and said they would like to talk to them. Packing the cards away, the trio hurried downstairs to find out what the plan of action was for the coming year.

"I hope we're going to be doing something exciting," Hermione remarked as she took a seat alongside Draco and Harry.

"I'm afraid, you won't," Voldemort said quietly. "This year you'll be attending school as normal, but with no secret agendas."

"Why not?" Harry asked. "We did really well with the Philosopher's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets."

"I'm not sure I would describe Hermione getting petrified as doing really well," Severus muttered darkly. He was still disturbed by the incident with his little sister and didn't like to dwell on how close she'd come to being killed.

"That wasn't our fault," Hermione protested. "Ginny Weasley was the one to blame there. She opened the chamber, not us."

"And she wouldn't have been able to do so, if I hadn't given Harry my old diary," Voldemort pointed out. "I'm sorry Hermione, but I want you to be safe, and this year that means no secret missions."

"Then what have you and Mother been talking about all summer?" Hermione questioned. "And don't say nothing, because I know that's not true. And you can't have just spent an hour and a half talking about us doing nothing all year."

"You're right, we have been discussing something," Voldemort replied. "Your mother and I both feel the time is right to start thinking about performing the ritual to restore me to full power."

"That's great," Hermione gushed as Harry and Draco also expressed their delight at the news.

"It's not as straightforward as it seems," Beth warned her daughter. "The ritual is complex and requires several elements to be brought together. We estimate it will take us nearly a year to bring everything together so we can perform the ritual."

"That's what your mother and I are going to be doing this year," Voldemort said. "We're leaving in a few days to begin gathering what we need."

"Leaving?" Hermione's face dropped at the thought of her parents going away.

"Yes," Beth said with a nod. "We would love to stay until you go back to school, but we have a contact who can only help us next week. We need to leave in the next few days."

"And what happens to us until we go back to school?" Hermione asked.

"Severus will be staying with you for the next few weeks," Beth explained. "And when he has to go up to Hogwarts to begin preparations for starting the new term, you and Harry will go and stay at the manor."

"What about holidays?" Harry asked. "Can we still come home for Christmas?"

"We'll try and make it back for Christmas, but even if we don't, you'll have Severus," Beth answered.

"This is dangerous, isn't it?" Hermione asked, looking between both her parents. Even though neither of them had said what they were doing would be dangerous, she just had a feeling it was. In fact Hermione suspected the length of the adults conversation had to do with the fact they were discussing what would happen if anything happened to her parents.

Beth and Voldemort shared a look, before Voldemort gave Beth a subtle nod. Even though Hermione was still young, she deserved the truth, as did Harry and Draco.

"Yes, it's dangerous," Voldemort admitted. "The ceremony requires a complex potion to be brewed, and some of the ingredients are rare and hard to get hold of. There's also a few other elements that could prove tricky as well."

"But the ceremony itself is safe, isn't it?" Harry asked. "If you get everything, you'll have no trouble with the ceremony, right?"

"I'm afraid not, Harry," Voldemort said. "The ceremony is extremely dangerous. If it works, I'll be back to my old self, but if it fails, I'll die."

Hermione gasped at the thought of losing her father and she felt tears filling up her eyes. "What are the chances of it working?" She whispered.

Voldemort paused for several seconds, and just when Hermione thought he wasn't going to answer her, he spoke. "Fifty, fifty."

"So you're going to spend a year risking your life gathering stuff for a ritual which only has a fifty percent chance of working?" Hermione seethed as she shot to her feet. "And what happens if it goes wrong? What happens to me and Mother? Or what if something happens over the course of the next year? What if I lose both my parents?"

"You could play what if about every single event in a lifetime," Voldemort said softly. "It doesn't get you anywhere. You have to weigh up all the facts, and take what you think is the best course of action. I think this is a risk worth taking."

"And what if you're wrong?" Hermione questioned as she struggled to hold back her tears.

"It's a risk I'm prepared to take," Voldemort replied, the tone of his voice leaving no room for arguments. "I need to regain my full strength, and this is my best chance. I need to take my best chance, and I need my daughter to support me in that. Can you do that, Hermione?""

Hermione nodded her head. "I can try. I just don't want to lose you."

"Believe me, I don't want to go anywhere," Voldemort said. "We will do everything in our power to stay safe and return home. That's a promise, and have I ever broken a promise to you before?"

"Never," Hermione replied with a small smile.

"So stop worrying, and enjoy the rest of your holidays," Voldemort ordered.

Hermione nodded and agreed to do as her father wanted, but she couldn't shed the uneasy feeling that had settled in the pit of her stomach. She'd always taken it for granted that her father would return to full strength without any issues, and now she knew there was a risk to his life, she was understandably worried. This time next year she could have a fully fit father, or she could have no father. She just hoped it wasn't the latter as she had no idea how she would cope if Voldemort died.