Chapter 64 - Think of the Children

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A/N: Sorry this took so long. I plan to get the remaining chapters up as soon as possible now. It's grown to 77 rather than 70 and it might gain another 1 or 2, but most of the rest is written - I just need to finish editing it. Thanks for sticking with me. Please remember, there are no horcruxes in this Alternative Universe - it was conceived before JKR told us about them, so it uses other reasoning about Voldie's survival - they come up in this chapter.

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They had had a bit of a break over Easter, Draco had insisted on it, but the tension refused to go away now. The enemy was always there, in the back of everyone's mind. They were all there for the trip back on the Hogwarts express, just like the journey down, but there seemed to be no relief from the tension.

Something in the air was just wrong and Harry didn't like it at all. It made his skin prickle. It was as if the magic of every student and every worried parent on the platform was fizzing beneath their human armour and he could sense it.

He and Draco left the others to be visible and boarded the train before anyone else. What Draco told everyone was that they wanted to check the carriages, just to be one hundred percent sure, but mostly it was to keep Harry from exploding with anxiety. After all, the Aurors had already been over the train at least twice.

As with the journey back to London previously, once the pupils began to board all the train, Harry, Draco and the rest of the assistant professors spread out and did their best to pretend everything was perfectly normal. Everything about the train, except for the presence of the Aurors and Professor Flitwick, was completely normal, but nothing felt remotely that way.

Five hours into the journey, Harry was playing exploding snap with a Hufflepuff first year while Draco made sarcastic comments. It would have been fun if Harry had been able to shake the paranoia that had been troubling him the entire day. The card game was silly and the first years gathered in the carriage thought it was hilarious one of their professors was playing, let alone losing.

Harry was making sure his losses were spectacular, which was pleasing his audience. However, the feeling of approaching doom was getting harder and harder to ignore.

[I'm beginning to think it's not just paranoia,] Draco commented as one of the cards went up in a cloud of sparks.

[I wish I disagreed,] Harry replied. [Do you think we should alert the Aurors?]

[With what?] Draco replied. [They're already on standby and all we have is a feeling.]

As if to back up their silent conversation, one of the Aurors on the train chose that moment to walk past. The woman shared a nod with Harry and Draco and moved on.

[I wish there was something we could do,] Harry said.

[Me too,] Draco agreed. [Just keep losing and at least the first years will be happy.]

Harry waited a fraction of a second too long to try and tap a card and it went up beautifully. Of course the students around him cheered. It was such a silly, relaxing scene, until the train lurched to a stop and a bag fell off the luggage rack.

Harry caught it before it could hit the shocked first year sitting under it and he looked at Draco. He couldn't help flashing back to the incident in their third year when the train had also stopped.

"What's going on?" the first year he had just saved asked.

"Probably just something on the tracks," Draco replied with a calm smile. "It happens sometimes."

[Like hell it does,] Harry pointed out.

[Then we're lucky we're with first years,] Draco replied without showing the faintest flicker on the outside, [because they don't know any better.]

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