AU: A quick jump into the future. Harry is on the run, but what will happen?

The Hiding

Harry knew better than to move fast. The dead leaves crackled too loudly at the slightest footfall. Through the trees, he could see the enemy move in closer. Three, no, four were actually heading in his direction. They were in minutes of finding him. He was dead if he kept on the ground.

He kept his head low, below the line of sight of the encroaching searchers.

He looked around. There! Twenty feet to the north. Not much coverage low down but the branches looked sturdy enough to climb higher. At least his filthy clothes would blend in with the wood.

A glance at the approaching group and he picked up a small stone. A toss in the opposite direction. It worked! As they sped off, he sprinted to the tall, twisted tree. A splinter from the bark ripped along the side of his thumb but he kept silent. He couldn't afford to be caught this time.

Here. High enough to see over the forest floor yet hidden by the leaves. He was safe, for now. No cloak, no wand, only his wits have saved him so far.

The unrelenting sun shone unforgiving heat on his neck. The drone of the mosquitoes waged war with his need to complete his mission. He can't let his guard down. Not yet. If he could just hold out longer. His sleep deprivation was winning, just as his foes had planned.

He felt secure in the Y of the branches. He knew he wouldn't fall. Maybe he did need to rest his eyes... just for a second….

. . . .

"Harry! Harry!"

Harry snapped his head up. They found him. He adjusted his glasses back straight onto his face and looked down. Not ten feet below him was a head looking around. He hasn't looked up yet, Harry was still safe.

"Harry!" He was ginger. Was he one of the others?

No! It was one of his own team. Harry untangled his jumper from the branch and swung down to land quietly beside Ron. "What's the situation?" He whispered.

"Uh, Mate. The game was called five minutes ago. Al's crying because he lost you and your older boys fell into the cow stall and are now in need of baths. My dear sister said if you didn't come in, you'll be sleeping in the cupboard tonight."

"Uncle Harry! We found you!" A little girl with silver blond plaits came running through the orchard. "I win!"

"Nuh uh, Domi. You didn't. Uncle Ron found him. That means we won." Came a darker skinned boy to his left.

"No fair Freddy. You just waited for Uncle Ron to find him. I'm going to tell Aunt Hermione you cheated."

"The game's already over, kids. Uncle Harry forfeits. Girls won." Ron announced as more and more children made their way to them. "Come on, Come on, Back to base. Move it!"

Harry lagged behind as the masses moved to the tables set in front of the Burrow until he could no longer hide from his wife, who didn't look too pleased.

"Harry, really?" Her eyes raked him up and down.

"What?" He pulled a leaf out of his tangled hair. He held his arm just right to hide the rip in jumper.

"So far, this has been the longest game of Hide and Seek on record. Did you see what Teddy and Jamie did? They fell in the muck heap to find you. Grampa threw them in the pond to rinse them off. Al and Hugo looked for you in Grandma's pantry with the biscuits while Lilly decided to feed leftovers to the garden gnomes. By the way, gnomes don't like cabbage. Harry, I'm going to have to ground you from playing with the kids if this keeps up." She lost the battle and her stern face fell into a soft grin, "Have fun?"

"The best. Next time, I'm bringing my cloak."