Molly jumped when she heard a knock on the back door, as Bill, Fleur, Ginny, Ron and Hermione were all in bed. Harry was supposed to be arriving in the morning with Albus, and Arthur only knocked on the door when he arrived home because of the security questions, but he wasn't due home for another hour or so. She briefly wondered who it could be as she made her way from the sitting room to the kitchen to let her visitor in. She was positive it wasn't a Death Eater, as she was quite certain that a Death Eater bent on killing her and her family wouldn't bother with knocking and waiting to be admitted. To her surprise, Tonks was standing on her stoop, looking as though she needed some cheering up. Molly quickly ushered the younger witch inside, directing her to the table while she gathered the tea things.
"Alastor would have your head if he knew you let me in like that," Tonks said, by way of greeting as she sat down in the seat Molly had gestured to.
"No, Arthur would dear. I think he's become obsessed with the Ministry recommendations for staying safe." She replied, putting the kettle on and taking the seat across from Tonks. "Though, I don't blame him either, he's a saint."
Tonks looked down at the table miserably while she listened to Molly talk about Arthur. "You and Arthur are lucky, Molly. I just wish Remus would look at me the way Arthur looks at you."
"He will, dear. Give him time. I had to wait about four months for Arthur to come around." She explained, levitating the tea things to the table and re-rolling the sleeves of the dressing gown she was wearing, as it was Arthur's.
"How did you get Arthur to see sensibly?"
Molly thought for a moment, recalling the period of time leading up to her and Arthur's first date. She wanted to help Tonks with her problems where Remus was concerned, and in some ways, she could see both sides of the issue. Tonks was most definitely attracted to him, but on the other hand, Remus was worried that he was too old for the young witch and that his lycanthropy would cause problems in their relationship, as he wasn't able to hold a steady job. "Well, he eventually came around on his own, but I do recall dropping a few hints from time to time. The point is I didn't do much to make him come around, dear."
"Oh. Then again, you two were quite young when he first said something, weren't you?"
"Yes. We've been together since October of our fifth year." Molly replied nostalgically, taking a sip of her tea. Sometimes it was hard for her to believe just how long she and Arthur had been in a romantic relationship, but she knew she wouldn't change a minute of it. She glanced at the clock that was perched atop the laundry at the end of the table, and sighed inwardly. She hated the fact that every single hand pointed to "Mortal Peril" and by the looks of things; it wasn't going to change anytime soon. Turning her attention back to Tonks, she said, "Dear, we'll just have to keep working at Remus. I know he's been talking to Arthur about things, and I'm sure we'll get him to see the light eventually."
"You think so?" Tonks asked, perking up a bit. She was thankful for Molly's console, and she hoped that together they would bring Remus around.
Molly nodded, but before she could speak, someone knocked at the back door three times. She made her way to the door, as she wasn't expecting anyone other than Arthur, but Arthur usually knocked once when he came home.
"Who's there? Declare yourself!" She said nervously as she reached for the doorknob, hoping that it wasn't a Death Eater on the other side.
"It is I, Dumbledore, bringing Harry."
Molly breathed a sigh of relief, and opened the door at once, moving to the side to allow Dumbledore and Harry to enter her home. "Harry, dear! Gracious, Albus, you gave me a fright, you said not to expect you before morning!"
"We were lucky," said Dumbledore, ushering Harry over the threshold. "Slughorn proved much more persuadable than I expected. Harry's doing, of course. Ah, hello, Nymphadora!"
"Hello, Professor," Tonks said, from her position at the table. "Wotcher, Harry."
"I'd better be off," Tonks said quickly, standing and pulling her cloak around her shoulders. "Thanks for the tea and sympathy, Molly."
"Please don't leave on my account," said Dumbledore courteously, "I cannot stay, I have urgent matters to discuss with Rufus Scrimgeour."
"No, no, I need to get going," said Tonks, not meeting Dumbledore's eyes. "'Night—"
"Dear, why not come to dinner at the weekend, Remus and Mad-Eye are coming—?"
"No, really, Molly…thanks anyway…Good night, everyone."
Tonks hurried past Dumbledore and Harry into the yard; a few paces beyond the doorstep, she turned on the spot and vanished into thin air.
"Well, I shall see you at Hogwarts, Harry," said Dumbledore. "Take care of yourself. Molly, your servant."
He bowed toward Molly and followed Tonks, vanishing at precisely the same spot. Molly closed the door on the empty yard and then steered Harry by the shoulders into the full glow of the lantern on the table to examine his appearance.
"You're like Ron," she sighed, looking him up and down. "Both of you look as though you've had Stretching Jinxes put on you. I swear Ron's grown four inches since I last bought him school robes. Are you hungry, Harry?"
"Yeah, I am," said Harry.
"Sit down, dear, I'll knock something up."
Before she turned towards the stove, Molly noticed Crookshanks jump onto Harry's knees and settle there, purring.
"So Hermione's here?" he asked happily, as he tickled Crookshanks behind the ears.
"Oh yes, she arrived the day before yesterday," said Molly, rapping a large iron pot with her wand. It bounced onto the stove with a loud clang and began to bubble at once. "Everyone's in bed, of course, we didn't expect you for hours. Here you are—" She tapped the pot again; it rose into the air, flew toward Harry, and tipped over; Molly slid a bowl neatly beneath it just in time to catch the stream of thick, steaming onion soup. "Bread, dear?"
"Thanks, Mrs. Weasley."
She waved her wand over her shoulder; a loaf of bread and a knife soared gracefully onto the table; as the loaf sliced itself and the soup pot dropped back onto the stove, Molly sat down opposite him. "So you persuaded Horace Slughorn to take the job?"
Harry nodded, his mouth so full of hot soup that he could not speak.
"He taught Arthur and me," said Molly. "He was at Hogwarts for ages, started around the same time as Dumbledore, I think. Did you like him?"
His mouth now full of bread, Harry shrugged and gave a noncommittal jerk of the head.
"I know what you mean," Molly said, nodding wisely. "Of course he can be charming when he wants to be, but Arthur's never liked him much. The Ministry's littered with Slughorn's old favorites, he was always good at giving leg ups, but he never had much time for Arthur—didn't seem to think he was enough of a highflier. Well, that just goes to show you, even Slughorn makes mistakes. I don't know if Ron's told you in any of his letters—it's only just happened—but Arthur's been promoted!"
"That's great," Harry gasped, after swallowing a large amount of hot soup.
"You are sweet," beamed Molly, noticing the water in his eyes. "Yes, Rufus Scrimgeour has set up several new offices in response to the present situation, and Arthur's heading the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects. It's a big job, he's got ten people reporting to him now!"
"Well, you see, in all the panic of You-Know-Who, odd things have been cropping up for sale everywhere, things that are supposed to guard against You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters. You can imagine the kind of thing—so-called protective potions that are really gravy with a bit of bubotuber pus added, or instructions for defensive jinxes that actually make your ears fall off…. Well, in the main the perpetrators are just people like Mundungus Fletcher, who've never done an honest day's work in their lives and are taking advantage of how frightened everybody is, but every now and then something really nasty turns up. The other day Arthur confiscated a box of cursed Sneakoscopes that were almost certainly planted by a Death Eater. So you see, it's a very important job, and I tell him its just silly to miss dealing with spark plugs and toasters and all the rest of that Muggle rubbish." Molly ended her speech with a stern look at Harry, as if it had been him that had suggested it was natural to miss spark plugs.
"Is Mr. Weasley still at work?" Harry asked.
"Yes he is. As a matter of fact, he's a tiny bit late…He said he'd be back around midnight…"
Molly turned to look at the clock before she spoke again. "It's been like that for a while now," she said in an unconvincingly casual voice, "ever since You-Know-Who came back into the open. I suppose everybody's in mortal danger now…I don't think it can be just our family…but I don't know anyone else who's got a clock like this, so I can't check. Oh!"
With a sudden exclamation she pointed at the clock's face. Arthur's hand had switched to "traveling."
And sure enough, a moment later, there was a knock on the back door. Molly jumped up and hurried to it; with one hand on the doorknob and her face pressed against the wood she called softly, "Arthur is that you?"
"Yes," came Arthur's weary voice. "But I would say that even if I were a Death Eater dear. Ask the question!"
"Oh honestly... "
"All right all right...What is your dearest ambition?"
"To find out how airplanes stay up."
Molly nodded and turned the doorknob, but apparently Arthur was holding tight to it on the other side, because the door remained firmly shut.
"Molly! I've got to ask you your question first!"
"Arthur, really, this is just silly…"
"What do you like me to call you when we're alone together?"
Molly felt the blood rush to her face, and she was sure Harry could tell that she was blushing, even by the dim light of the lantern, judging by the amount of noise he was making with his spoon and bowl. Before she answered, she briefly wondered if Harry overhearing their security questions would constitute changing them.
"Mollywobbles," whispered a mortified Molly into the crack at the edge of the door.
"Correct," said Arthur. "Now you can let me in."
Molly opened the door to reveal her husband, and she stepped aside to let him in.
"I still don't see why we have to go through that every time you come home," said Molly, still pink in the face as she helped Arthur out of his cloak. "I mean, a Death Eater might have forced the answer out of you before impersonating you!"
"I know, dear, but its Ministry procedure and I have to set an example. Something smells good—onion soup?"
Arthur turned hopefully in the direction of the table and was surprised to see Harry.
"Harry! We didn't expect you until morning!"
They shook hands and Arthur dropped into the chair beside Harry as Molly set a bowl of soup in front of him too.
"Thanks, Molly. It's been a tough night. Some idiot's started selling Metamorph-Medals. Just sling them around your neck and you'll be able to change your appearance at will. A hundred thousand disguises, all for ten Galleons!
"And what happens when you put them on?"
"Mostly you turn an unpleasant orange color, but a couple of people have also sprouted tentacle like warts all over their bodies. As if St. Mungo's didn't have enough to do already!"
"It sounds like something Fred and George would find funny," said Molly hesitantly. "Are you sure--?"
"Of course I am!" said Arthur. "The boys wouldn't do anything like that now, not when people are desperate for protection!"
"So is that why you're late, Metamorph-Medals?"
"No, we got wind of a nasty backfiring jinx down in Elephant and Castle, but luckily the Magical Law Enforcement Squad had sorted it out by the time we got there…"
Harry stifled a yawn behind his hand.
"Bed," said an undeceived Molly at once. "I've got Fred and George's room all ready for you, you'll have it to yourself."
"Why, where are they?"
"Oh, they're in Diagon Alley, sleeping in the little flat over their joke shop as they're so busy," said Molly. "I must say, I didn't approve at first, but they do seem to have a bit of a flair for business! Come on, dear, your things are already up there."
"Night Mr. Weasley."
"G'night Harry." Arthur replied, catching his wife glance at the clock before heading upstairs with Harry. When Molly came back downstairs, he gestured for her to take up Harry's vacated seat beside him.
"How was your day, dear?" He asked, slipping his arm around her shoulders and kissing the top of her head.
"It was all right, I suppose. The children didn't give me too much trouble."
"That's good. Any particular reason why you're wearing my bath robe?"
Molly nodded slipping an arm around his waist. "Yes, I missed you. Or more specifically, your scent."
Arthur stroked her shoulder with his thumb, nodding. "Understandable. I'll try to get out early when I can, but it's looking like a lot of late nights for me, love."
"I know, sweetheart. We survived last time, so we'll get through it this time as well."
Arthur pushed his now empty soup bowl away from him before he rose to put both his and Harry's dishes in the sink.
"Arthur, you don't need to do that. You've been at work all day, you don't need to come home and do the housework too."
"Hush, Molly. I was only putting them in the sink. Now, I assume Harry heard our passwords?" He said, returning to his seat and putting his arm around his wife again.
"Yes, I could have died from embarrassment, Arthur."
He picked up on the annoyance in his wife's voice and stroked her shoulder. "Molly, I am sorry. Would you rather know its me on the other side of the door or take a chance on it being a Death Eater and not me?"
She leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder, sighing. "Honestly, do you really think a Death Eater is going to knock? Besides, I think I could spot an imposter a hundred feet away, there's only one you."
"Sweetheart, I have faith in your ability to separate the real me from an imposter, but I want you to be safe. We'll change our passwords though, if it'll make you feel better."
"It would, but not tonight. You need to get to bed." She kissed his cheek and stood, intending to lead the way to their bedroom.
Arthur stood as well and followed his wife, knowing better than to protest. He slid his hand into hers before stealing a kiss. "Tonight, Mol. I don't want it getting put off."
Molly decided to not say anything as they made their way to the bedroom, knowing there was no sense in arguing. If Arthur wanted the passwords changed tonight, they would be changed tonight. She understood her husband's concerns, and that they stemmed from his desire to keep her safe, something she found incredibly sweet.
Once they had changed into their pajamas and climbed into bed, Molly pressed herself firmly against her husband's side, slipping her arms around him. "Well, what should they be then?"
Arthur stroked his wife's lower back as he thought, finding it in his heart to come up with something that would not be embarrassing for her. He loved her deeply, and his only goal behind all of this was to keep her safe, using Ministry recommendations. He kissed her forehead before he spoke, deciding to let her have a say in what the passwords were.
"I'll pick mine and you can pick yours, sweetheart. I'm sorry I didn't take your feelings into account the first time."
"All right. Well, can mine be what my favourite flower is instead?" She asked, deciding to steer clear of the suggestions she had had when Arthur had first told her they were going to be using the passwords.
"Of course it can, sweetheart. For me, my favourite dessert, all right?"
"Yes. Now why couldn't it have been something like that in the first place, dear?"
Arthur smiled at his wife, but instead of answering, he merely kissed her gently and turned out the lights, making sure he had set the alarm before tucking his wife's head under his chin.