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Twenty years since Voldemort died, twenty-five since Tom Riddle rose again on a basilisk, but Percy still remembers the autumn where the latter happened. It doesn't come to mind particularly often, but the weather had turned cold and rainy at some point in the year, and after visiting his parents at the Burrow, Percy thinks about it: he had been by the fire, eating his mother's soda bread with butter and listening to his father talk about combustion engines.

At the close of the afternoon, he retrieved his hat from the rack, and his mother insisted on fussing as he put on his robe and fastened it and retrieved his umbrella and checked the wards on his briefcase. Percy caught a glimpse of himself in the hall mirror. His hat was black; his robes were black. His face was pointed and sharp; it was shadowed in the hallway, so it was not possible to see his freckles, and the briefcase was heavily warded enough so that it still prickled for a full half minute after he took it in hand, and then the Locking Charm snapped into place. With the hat on his head, it was not possible to see the gray at the temples, and he had a mother-cooked dinner tucked into his pocket. After his father clapped him on the shoulder one more time, Percy opened the door and looked out onto the fields.

It would be night soon, and rain and mist gusted over the grass. At the edge of the stone wall that ran around the front yard, there was an old black tree. Percy's face was hot from sitting so close to the fire on the lips and mouth. The wind blew the rain into shapes that held for a moment, then changed and moved.

"I've never had a family," the ghost said, sitting on the library table and sounding curious rather than sad. A bit of moonlight shone through his shoulder.

"You should be careful what you wish for," Percy replied. "They're an awful lot of trouble, you know. My brothers are terribly trying."

The ghost held Percy's quill in his hands; Percy had warned the ghost that it was on its second year of use and leaked ink rather badly, but the ghost didn't seem to have heard him, and when Percy reached into the ghost's lap to take the quill back, he got a kiss instead. It was strange and not quite solid, utterly different from a real kiss. It was like kissing a cloud, like having mist on your face and throat. The next morning, there were ink prints on Percy's cheek and his chest and around the back of his neck where the ghost had tried to keep Percy's mouth on him. That took more persuading. Another two weeks of attention, and twenty-five years later, when the wind blew rain into the Minister of Magic's face, he thought, strangely, of another time.

He was leaving his parents' home. It was a November night and cold; he wrapped his robes around him more tightly, but the chill had gone into him twenty-five years ago, mouth and breath, heart and soul.
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December 2010

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