CHAPTER ELEVEN: The Face of the Enemy
It was after dark and James was walking the corridors of Hogwarts alone. It was something he'd taken to doing recently, ever since his father had agreed to them helping the Order with their investigation. Like Harry, he was painfully aware of the lack of progress that had been made and if a few moonlit patrols helped out, then he was prepared to risk the consequences of detention and points loss if anyone found out what he was doing.
He was preparing to give it up for the night and return to the dormitory when he caught a glimpse of movement out of one of the windows. There was a figure crossing the courtyard, covered in a dark green cloak, coming from the direction of Hogsmeade and heading towards the school.
James bounded down the stairs to the entrance hall. He heard footsteps on the stone floor, heading his way, and looked around for a hiding place. His eyes alighted on a suit of armour and he took refuge behind it, peering at the doorway where the sound of approaching footsteps was coming from.
The green cloaked figure came into view, stopped and looked about. James shrank into his hiding place even further. Not seeing him, the figure threw back its hood and it was all James could do not to gasp. It was the blonde-haired woman he'd seen on the Hogwarts Express.
The woman made to move along the hallway but she'd only gone a few steps before she stopped suddenly and gave a groan. Her face began to contort in silent agony. And then it began to change. As James watched in astonishment, she transformed into a completely different woman. She was shorter, although still fairly tall. She looked older as well, her hair was now dark with traces of grey. She looked about her again and then quickened her pace, pulling the hood of her cloak over her head again as she did so.
James waited until she was out of sight, afraid that any movement might attract her attention. He considered following her, seeing where she went, but he was worried of discovery and the consequences of it, consequences that he feared would be far more than detention. He needed to get the information to someone. And so he ran in the direction of the Gryffindor common room.
James ran into the head of house's room and shook Neville's shoulder urgently. "Professor Longbottom! Professor Longbottom!"
Neville blinked awake and stared at him. "James, what are you doing?"
"I saw her!"
"What, saw who?"
"The woman from the train, I saw her here! In Hogwarts! Except then she changed and she was someone else."
Neville was beginning to realise that this was something important. "There's someone here in Hogwarts?" James nodded. "Okay, tell me exactly what happened."
James recounted everything as best as he could remember, Neville listening intently. "I don't know where she went,"he concluded.
"You're sure you didn't know her?"
"No, I've never seen her before."
"She could still be here."
"Yeah but she could look like anyone."
"We've still got to look." Neville pulled a dressing gown on and grabbed his wand. "I'm going to tell Professor Slughorn. You go to the dormitory. I'll call you if I need you."
"Neville says they searched the school for two hours,"Harry told Hermione the next morning. "Hagrid even led a party out into the forest to check there was no-one around there."
"So the intruder had gone?"Hermione asked.
"The intruder could look like anyone. It's hard to tell. It's a shame James didn't recognise her…" Harry's thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. "I'll get that."
Harry's mind was still full of images of shapeshifting people sneaking around the magical world as he made his way to the door, so he hadn't really thought about what to expect to find on the other side. Even if he had done, he doubted he would have been right. He was greeted by the sight of Molly Weasley standing on his doorstep. "Hello, Harry,"she greeted him curtly.
Hermione came through from the kitchen and stopped when she saw their visitor. "Mrs. Weasley."
Molly raised an eyebrow. "Well, it's been a long time since you've called me that." She gestured to Harry, who was standing in the doorway, directly in front of her. "Can I come in?"
Harry nodded, feeling like a schoolboy receiving a visit from his girlfriend's mother. Which, he acknowledged, was what he had been to her a long time ago. He stepped aside, allowing her in. "Er, what can we do for you?"
"I just thought I should come and see the house when my grandchildren are living."
Hermione cleared her throat. "Well, this is the hallway. Obviously. Their bedrooms are upstairs, perhaps you'd like to see them..?" Appearing oblivious to her talk, Molly wandered into the front room. Hermione sighed. "Or maybe you'd like to see in there."
Harry and Hermione followed Molly in. Harry felt Hermione slip her hand into his and squeezed it gratefully. Molly was examining the two photographs on the mantelpiece: The one of Harry and Ginny with their children, taken the summer before last just before Lily's first term at Hogwarts, and next to it the one of Harry, Hermione and all the children, taken the following year while Rose and Hugo had been staying with them.
Molly turned to face the couple. "Yes, this all looks very nice." She was wringing her hands and Harry had the sudden oddest feeling that she was as nervous as they were. "We missed… the children at Christmas."
Harry found the declaration somewhat odd but decided to go with it. "They missed you too."
"Perhaps… you could bring them along next year?"
Harry looked at Hermione and saw that, like him, she was starting to smile. "That's a good idea," Hermione said at last.
Molly didn't smile. Not quite. But she did seem to relax a bit. "Well… I'll see myself out then." She carefully eased her way past them back out into the hallway and they heard the front door shut behind her.
"What just happened?"Hermione asked.
Harry put an arm round her shoulder and kissed the side of her head. "I think our lives just became a bit less complicated."