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“If you don’t shut up then you’ll be finding yourself in pieces in a matter of moments.” Harry threatened the two small clocks who sat on his bedside table, singing loudly and badly in a successful attempt to get him out of bed.

“You ought to get up earlier.” Tock told him as he did a strange little jig, almost knocking Tick off the table.

“Then we wouldn’t have to sing.” Tick finished for him. Harry shook his head in disbelief at the two small clocks and Apparated down for breakfast.

“I did it!” Ron grinned as he Apparated into the kitchen of number twelve, Grimmauld Place. He had been taking lessons from Mad Eye since he had returned, and although he had spent his first few hours alone with the man intimidated to the point where he could barely speak, he was beginning to get the hang of it. Harry grinned at him and gave him his congratulations whilst beside him Hermione was thinking of some sort of advice she could give to help him on his way.

“Very good, Weasley.” Mad Eye said to him, “Now try and Apparate back into the hallway.” Ron nodded and with a crack he disappeared. His cheer at a successful Apparation was short-lived however.

“Why is there a foot on the kitchen floor?” Remus asked mildly as he sat down for breakfast and Harry laughed as he leant over to see one of Ron’s feet lying against a chair leg. Hermione looked less than impressed with Ron’s failed Apparition, especially since he had been learning for almost a month now and he had still not quite got the hang of it. Harry supposed that it was down to being a prisoner for months and months on end and not practicing magic in so long.

“Good morning, children!” Tonks grinned as she walked into the room.

“What are you so happy about, Miss Tonks?” Severus asked her in a cool tone as she sat down.

“Ron’s out in the hall in pieces.” She said quietly for fear of Ron hearing her and stifled a laugh. Severus was the first out of his chair and into the hall and returned with something which was almost a smile on his face shortly after.

“For the last time, Weasley, concentrate!” Harry heard Mad Eye say in an exasperated tone outside the room and Ron murmured something quietly in return in a rather miserable voice.

“He’s not doing too badly.” Minerva defended him although the rest of the room was laughing and even Molly smiled slightly.

“Not doing too badly?! He’s splinched himself three times in the last twenty four hours!” Fred argued with her but one glance in his direction and he took to staring determinedly at the ceiling away from her.

“He could be worse.” Molly told him.

“He could be better.” George said truthfully and ducked as she made to hit him with the frying pan.

Ron returned into the room in subdued silence, his ears rather pink as he sat down for breakfast and his mother put a substantial amount of food on his plate next to Harry.

“You ought to eat more, dear.” She said to him, “I’m sure those impostors didn’t feed you properly.” She added in an indignant tone which made Harry feel like he was unable to refuse, although it was more likely to be the mention of the impostors which caused him to feel that way.

“So what do you want for your birthday, Harry?” Tonks asked him and he merely shrugged; he still wasn’t all that used to being asked what he wanted for presents and never actually managed to answer helpfully.

“You haven’t got him anything yet? You do know that his birthday’s on Tuesday, right?” Kingsley said lightly and Tonks looked rather awkward.

“I thought it was next week!” She said, looking rather horrified but Harry only grinned at her and she couldn’t help but smile back.

It was the 28th July which meant in three day’s time he would be old enough to do what he wanted in the eyes of the Wizarding world and could leave school or leave the Dursley household forever if he chose, although he knew he would probably do neither of those; the former because he wanted to gain some qualifications and the latter because it would provide him with some kind of protection through blood.

The fact that it was now nearing the end of July also meant that they had been returned to their home for a whole month. They had all spent the remainder of the school year in Hogwarts and a lot of that time in a secluded part of the Hospital Wing whilst Madam Pomfrey fussed over them incessantly. However, within forty eight hours most of the staff were allowed back out of their temporary medical prison due to their threatening Poppy with death and other such less than nice things.

“I still cannot believe that those people took our exams for us!” Hermione scowled darkly at her cereal as if it too had dared to attempt an examination on her behalf.

“They did very well if it’s any consolation.” Filius told her kindly and Ron looked rather ill at the thought of what Rodolphus had done during his examinations. Probably didn’t even turn up at all. He decided sullenly.

“Lestrange took your exams very convincingly in your character, Mr Weasley,” Minerva said to him, “And I believe the results should not be far off those which you would have achieved had you taken the tests yourself.” Ron didn’t look any more pleased.

“Shame, I figured that if they were crappy I could blame them on him.” He told Harry in an undertone and luckily Molly didn’t hear him.

There was a considerable amount of cheer around the house that day and there had been for around a week now since they had finally returned to the house of Black. It had taken almost three weeks of their living in the Room of Requirement which had responded amazingly to their wish for Grimmauld Place and had given them an exact replica to live in but it just hadn’t been the same somehow. During their time away from the real thing, Filius, Mad Eye and Kingsley had been busily adding more charms for protection around the house and the Fidelius Charm had been placed back upon their headquarters with Dumbledore acting as their Secret Keeper.

“I don’t see why the house is so charmed anyway, if Voldie was going to attack the house then he would already have done.” Fred said lightly to George who agreed.

“That’s not the point, the point is that we don’t want him to have the option to do so and it is far better that we are in a location unknown to him than inviting him into our home!” Severus snapped but his reference to Grimmauld Place as ‘our home’ was not lost on the older members of the table.

“I cannot believe that you didn’t notice that it wasn’t me though… ‘my’ Animagus form was a snake, for Merlin’s sake!” Ron said thoughtlessly at the other end of the table which resulted in Harry staring shamefacedly at his eggs and bacon, which he had barely touched, Hermione pretending to read The Daily Prophet and all the adults around them glaring at him with something like exasperation in their stares.

“What is your Animagus form?” Remus asked him, tactfully changing the course of the conversation away from Harry not realising that he had not been himself for almost an entire year.

“An otter.” Ron replied. Harry smiled slightly and wondered if their impostors had been too far off the mark with relationships after all.

“It is nice to have some real people in the house again.” Phineas said lightly from the picture over the mantelpiece. “Of course I knew that you weren’t yourselves all along.”

“Really, then why didn’t you tell anyone?” Charlie asked and he smiled conspiratorially but didn’t comment as he drifted out of the portrait and out of sight.

“We’ll have to play Quidditch later, you know.” Ron said to Harry and he agreed eagerly; it would be nice to be playing Quidditch with his best friend again instead of the argumentative idiot that had taken his place although the fact that he hadn’t been able to tell the difference between the two was slightly shaming. He decided to put it down to the fact that he had been so busy that year with a number of things and not because he never paid attention to his friends.

Later that evening Harry found himself flying almost vertically after the Snitch with Charlie beside him and Ron, Hermione, Kingsley, Tonks, Fred, George, Bill and Ginny all cheering them on. As Harry reached out his arm for the Snitch a whooshing sound caught his hearing and he pulled up sharply to avoid the Bludger which Fred had sent his way from breaking his arm or knocking him off his broom.

“I always said that he would make a good Quidditch captain.” Minerva said at the end of the garden. The day had been a nice one so they had spent a large amount of it in the garden and Filius had been in raptures over the charms which Harry had placed on his floor as well as the information that he could well have achieved an Outstanding score in the first part of his NEWT in Charms.

“We know.” Filius said and rolled his eyes at her. “I still cannot believe that you won the House Cup and the Quidditch Cup.” He added sounding mildly displeased.

“I agree, it should have been Slytherin’s.” Severus said and Minerva raised an eyebrow.

“Didn’t Malfoy almost break his neck flying towards the ground and then fail spectacularly to pull out of the dive?” Remus asked him mildly, a hint of amusement in his eyes. “And then wonder why no one caught the Snitch when he didn’t?”

“Just shut up, Lupin.” Severus muttered, knowing full well that mostly the House Cup and the Quidditch Cup went hand in hand from the points of the latter added on to the former.

“I’ve missed being here.” Tonks said thoughtfully, “I never thought I’d say that.”

“Me neither, but then again I’ve rather missed being free in general.” Kingsley said and seeing Severus, Minerva and Remus look rather guilty at their not noticing until Remus had been kidnapped himself he then added, “Not that I blame you for not noticing, none of us do.”

“But still, it’s the sort of thing you’d like to think you’d pay attention to: major changes in friends when they’re suddenly replaced.” Remus said quite miserably.

“When one of your friends acts oddly you don’t assume they’ve been kidnapped. You just think that they’re having an off day and when their behaviour stays the same then you think nothing of it because they’ve been that way for some time.” Arthur said to them and they nodded sullenly, still displeased with themselves. “Trust me, who in their right mind would leap to the conclusion that almost the entire Order had been kidnapped and replaced by impostors?” Mad Eye opened his mouth as if to say something but Minerva cut him off.

“He said ‘who in their right mind’, Alastor.” She said to him, “That doesn’t include you.” He looked slightly put out by this but he was wearing a top hat which Harry had bought for him at Christmas and that was something which endlessly pleased him (and amused everyone else).

“To be fair you do accuse someone of attempted murder every other day; that does not make for a sane image.” Severus said and glanced up at the multicoloured sky as the sun began to set.

“Come on, Charlie!” Ron shouted, sounding rather annoyed that his older brother had yet to catch the Snitch. He had Harry were racing after it again and the tiny golden ball glittered in the sunlight as they whipped round the players, dodging in and out with skill and ease whilst Bludgers sailed past them, missing by miles and the cheers from their team mates spurred them on.

Everyone else flew downwards to get a better view of Charlie and Harry as they both raced towards the ground, barely seeing it as the Snitch took them closer and closer to the field below, the Quaffle sat long forgotten in Ron’s hand and the game was on the Snitch and the two Seekers.

“Oh for God’s sake! I do not believe this!” Ron groaned as Harry’s hand clutched the Snitch tightly before he and Charlie slowed down and ploughed into the ground, throwing them both off their brooms and into the floor.

“See, Harry’s team always wins.” George grinned and Kingsley pulled a face at the twin.

“Almost always.” Fred corrected.

“Well yeah, unless there are Dementors about.” Said George.

“Or enchanted Bludgers–” Fred continued.

“We don’t need to have this conversation again!” Tonks said to them, “What’s important is that Harry just won now and our team is better than yours.” She grinned and stuck her tongue out at them, showing off the silver piercing in it.

“No way, we are so much better than you!” Fred said and was instantly backed up by Hermione, Kingsley and Ron.

“I’m surprised that someone with your mediocre Quidditch skill has managed to earn a reputation of such high acclaim.” Severus said icily to Harry as he got off his broom and let the Snitch go before it flew back to his hand. “Then again there are certain marks which would naturally distinguish you from others and automatically make you highly reputed.” He continued, his eyes flickering up onto his forehead but Remus cut him off.

“You can shut up yourself, Snape, or I can shut you up.” Remus said coldly and Severus, who was not used to being spoken to in such a manner, became silent out of sheer surprise, mostly at the fact that it was mild mannered Lupin who had spoken to him in such a way.

“Next time we play Quidditch I am going to be the Seeker.” Ron said to Charlie who shook his head slightly but didn’t comment; they all remembered a similar comment which Ron’s impostor had made at the beginning of the previous year and it surprised Harry unpleasantly to know just how convincing the actors had managed to be.

“Severus, you can never regain my respect at any rate so I don’t know why you continue to bother.” Minerva said, not glancing up from the papers which she marked that evening. They were all sat in the lounge whilst small Fairy Lights of themselves danced around the Christmas tree and Filius finished charming the windows to appear to snow on the outside.

“I will, you just wait and see.” He said evenly but she merely raised an eyebrow.

“How do you expect that after allowing Draco Malfoy to purchase an Outstanding grade in his OWLs you will ever be respected?” She asked him coolly but he did not respond and instead pretended to busy himself by observing the Fairy Lights as they laughed and joked amongst each other.

It certainly was odd to see the house decorated for Christmas at the end of July but Molly had insisted that they celebrate a second Christmas together to compensate for the one which had been lost.

“You do know that it would probably have made more sense to wait until the real Christmas and just have a bigger celebration, right Mum?” Fred said and cowered in mock horror at the cool stare which his mother dealt out to him.

“No, I want to be able to celebrate Christmas with my family and, July or not, I am going to have a snowy and enjoyable occasion with everyone here.” She said and Fred nodded, looking as if he would drop the subject.

“I have to admit, I do rather enjoy my time here.” Severus said lightly and Harry grinned in a way which made Severus glare at him with so much force most of the people around him were convinced his eyes were going to fall out of his head with the power exerted into them.

Harry gasped suddenly and held his hand to his head, his face was contorted with pain but as quickly as the pain had appeared, it was gone.

“Are you alright?” Remus asked him in a voice of concern and Harry nodded.

“Yeah, I’m fine. It was just my scar.” He told them. “Voldemort’s happy about something, really happy…”

“I’m sure whatever it is we can fight through it.” Filius said confidently and the others nodded. Neither, Harry, Minerva nor Severus noticed the slight glint of amusement in Mad Eye’s eye, or the small smirk at the corner of Remus’ lips. The laughter bubbling up in Tonks’ throat remained unheard and the laughter of Voldemort tolled out in silence over the group.


***


“It is done, my Lord.” Bellatrix said that evening as she bowed down before Voldemort. “We have infiltrated the Order and the charms upon the house will not allow Dumbledore to re-enter. The house will be silent by morning.”

“Good…” Tom said as he stared across the room, his pale and slender fingers twirling his wand between them and a smile on his blood red lips. “Never would they believe that they were surrounded by impostors again…”

“Never, my Lord.” Bellatrix echoed to him and he smiled down at her.

“Very well, you may go.” He told her, “But leave Harry for me, young Mr Potter must learn his error of blind trust.” He grinned widely.

Voldemort rose to his feet and walked boldly across the large chamber and down to the lower cells in the large prison, making sure that he walked past the large room which had once held his second set of impostors. His smiled widened as he passed the door and he silently congratulated himself on a plan well made as his steps echoed down into the higher security cells.

“Good evening.” He said quietly as he stared down the row of cells, each of them inhabited by one terrified member of the Order of the Phoenix all in varying states of baldness from the hair taken for the Polyjuice potion. Sobbing could be heard, mixed with sounds of hushed whispers and whimpers. It was music to Voldemort’s ears.

A malevolent smile touched his features as he looked down upon the Order members which were starving and tortured around him. He would not kill them yet for to live is to suffer – he knew that more truly than any could have realised.

Slender but misleadingly strong fingers closed around a small paperweight with a tiny phoenix inside and glass shards fell to the floor. In Grimmauld Place, Harry Potter clasped his head once more as agony ripped through his forehead, not seeing the wands raised against him until it was too late.

The End

A/N:The sequel to An Alternate Ending is now up and is in the form of A New Beginning which can be located on my Author's Page :o)

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