Pansy Parkinson did not like the dining hall. Although in many ways it was very impressive, it was a dingy and impersonal space.
The high ceiling was painted with hunting scenes featuring knights and ladies. Many ancient and fading tapestries hung on three of its walls. The oldest tapestry showed the boy Arthur outside Wayland's smithy, where he was pulling the sword—Caledfwlch—from the anvil. The fourth wall was pierced by three tall, narrow, diamond-paned windows. Between the windows were whitewashed walls, undecorated but for a single shield bearing the Nott family crest—crossed keys above a knotted rope, all in gold, on a field of blue.
Unfortunately, the hall looked out into the shadiest corner of the courtyard, a place where the light struggled to find its way in through the windows. It was neither bright nor cheerful when used for breakfast or lunch. When the sun dropped below the outer walls, not long after noon, it was at best sombre and often—as on this occasion—depressing.
It was tradition. Pennerley Hall's dining hall was the place where The Master of Pennerley ate, it was that simple. While Pansy didn't enjoy the experience, she wasn't about to suggest a change. Breaking a tradition that was likely at least half-a-millennium old wasn't a task to be undertaken lightly.
Pansy carefully placed her knife and fork parallel on her plate. She'd only eaten one of the two roast quails and had left all of the mashed swede, as she didn't care for it. The Master of Pennerley ate well, and so did she. As a consequence, she was putting on weight. Although Theodore hadn't said anything, she knew that he wasn't happy about the fact. He was unhappy about something else, too, but she had no idea what it was. He was much more difficult to read than Draco.
Picking up the carved silver goblet, she took a sip of the elf-made wine and risked a glance at her fiancé. He was more than twenty feet away from her, at the other end of the smooth and highly polished mahogany table. As she expected, he was calmly watching her, assessing her. He was well out of reach, much too far away for her to be coquettish. Her unease about the room coalesced into a single thought; it wasn't an intimate space.
Despite its size and its dingy grandeur, the room wasn't a statement of the Notts' wealth; it had more to do with their longevity. In that respect it was redundant, as almost everyone knew how ancient the family was.
No one knew exactly how rich they were and, despite her best efforts, Pansy had been unable to find out. It wasn't a showy wealth; that was the problem. It was the wealth of a family who never had to spend anything, because they already had everything. The realisation made her look down at the remains of her evening meal in contemplation. The Parkinsons were an old family, but to the Notts they were upstarts, newcomers. It was an ordinary Saturday evening, and she was eating roast quail.
As she gazed at her unfinished meal, Pansy wondered how many generations of Notts had used the items in front of her. The solid silver cutlery was, Theodore had once told her, "new". It was over a century old; nevertheless, he was correct. The bone china service from which they were dining dated back to the reign of mad King George. The table, like the room in which it sat, was sturdily Tudor. As for the goblet, she was no expert, but it appeared to be early medieval. She lifted it again, but rather than drink, she simply examined the intricate knot work designs that covered it.
'There are a dozen of them. A gift to an ancestor of mine from the Empress Maude, during the Anarchy,' said Theodore, once again demonstrating an insight into what she was thinking. 'They're among the oldest of our possessions, but if you'd prefer something modern…'
'No, not at all,' she said, picking up what she thought was the mildest hint of distain in his final word. 'The goblet is magnificent. I really like it.'
'You don't like Draco Malfoy.' It was a statement, not a question.
Despite the physical distance between them, she tried being flirtatious. 'He's my ex-boyfriend, silly,' she said, keeping her voice low and sultry. 'Surely you don't want me to like him.'
'But I want him to trust and respect us, my dear,' said Theodore evenly. 'I believe that he could be useful to us in the future. Unfortunately, the Aurors remain very interested in him. Do you have any idea why?'
'No, Theo.' Worried, Pansy shook her head. 'Should I?'
'It appears that a witness has positively identified Draco as the person who killed a Muggle while burgling the Mudblood Finch-Fletchley's home.'
Pansy gave a squeal of delight, and then saw Theodore's face. She fell silent.
'He can prove that he wasn't there, my dear, and the Aurors aren't stupid.'
Pansy opened her mouth.
'Weasley is a buffoon! That's a very different thing,' Theodore said firmly. 'They suspect that the person who killed the Muggle was using Polyjuice. And what does that mean?'
Pansy thought quickly. 'That the Aurors' attempt to restrict the availability of Polyjuice ingredients isn't working?' she suggested. Theodore remained impassive; she thought that she detected a twitch of exasperation, but couldn't be certain.
'It means that the Aurors, and Draco, now realise that someone has given one of Draco's enemies some strands of his hair,' he said. 'Based on the use of blasting spells, they suspect Gregory Goyle was responsible for the Muggle's death. Because of this, the Aurors will undoubtedly interview anyone who's had the opportunity to steal Draco's hair. The list is short. The Malfoy's have few visitors, and visit very few people.'
Theodore leaned forward a fraction and lowered his voice. 'But they visit us.'
Sensing danger, Pansy stood. She needed to be closer to him. 'True, but...'
'Sit!' he ordered. She sat, and waited for him to continue.
'I do not want the Aurors to turn up here unannounced,' said Theodore quietly. 'I have assured Draco that we would never remove hairs from the cloak of a guest and send them to someone like Gregory Goyle. I have even promised him that we will both take Veritaserum should he wish to be certain of our honesty.'
Pansy whimpered in panic and decided to confess. There was no need.
'Don't worry, Pansy; I have already prepared a Veritaserum antidote for you, should he decide to take me up on my offer.' His glare surprised her. Theodore rarely allowed his emotions to show. 'Should we marry, you will be joining the Noble and Most Ancient House of Nott. We follow the ancient rules of courtesy. Guests at this house, even our enemies, are under our protection. While they are within these walls, we do nothing to harm them.' His words were barely more than a whisper, but they were knife sharp, and they cut her to the bone.
'Sorry, Theodore,' she said, bowing her head.
'It was Goyle?'
'Yes,' she admitted. 'But, Draco was…'
'I'm not interested in excuses.' Theodore reverted to his normal voice, but he sounded frustrated. 'You must trust me. If you have a problem with Draco, other than mere annoyance at his abandoning you during his attempts to curry favour with Voldemort, let me know.' He paused, and gave her the briefest of smiles. 'He was foolish, and has lost much, so why punish him again? His loss is my gain.'
'Thank you.' She smiled back, believing that the discussion was over. It wasn't; he struck again.
'If you know where Goyle is, why haven't you told me?'
'I can't!' she protested. 'I'm not his secret keeper! I can't tell you anything, Theo, darling. I'm truly sorry!'
'Ah!' He nodded in understanding and gave her a thin-lipped smile. 'I have never visited Goyle Hall, but you could.'
'Alone!' said Pansy. 'No, please! Greg I can manage, but Bletchley...' She shook her head.
'I would never place you in such danger,' Theodore assured her. 'I've no reason to ask. From our perspective, the longer Goyle, Bulstrode, and the others are on the run, the better. The search is keeping the Aurors busy. So long as they're looking for them, they aren't looking at us.' Lowering his head, he scratched an eyebrow and then stared into her face. 'Between us, Pansy, we can deal with Draco. If you want him embarrassed in some way, then you have but to ask. I could ensure that there would be nothing to indicate that we were behind it.'
'No, thank you,' said Pansy, sensing the answer he wanted to hear.
'Please remember that I would be very unhappy if your actions draw us to the attention of the Aurors, my dear. I would be very unhappy indeed.'
'Sorry, darling,' she said. 'If there's anything I can do...'
'There is. I'd like you to contact your friend Daphne,' he said. 'Information from my sources in the Ministry makes me believe that the Aurors know that her idiot Half-blood husband is planning to intercept a shipment of potion ingredients. I'd rather he remained free for a little longer. I'd be interested to discover whether this hare-brained scheme of his has any chance of success.'
'Scheme, what scheme?' Pansy asked.
'He intends to try to ... persuade ... people to kill Potter.'
When Hermione entered her kitchen, Ron was sitting at the breakfast bar, drinking tea and eating toast. He was looking rather pleased with himself. She was still in her dressing gown and was drying her hair with her wand. Ron was surrounded by chaos. The bench behind him was a sea of crumbs. Hermione's face fell, and Ron looked a little worried.
'What on earth have you been doing?' she scolded. 'Look at the mess.'
By way of explanation, he pointed at the gleaming chrome device behind him, a glistening island among waves of bread and toast crumbs. 'That's because I made you some toast in your new electronical toast maker,' he told her proudly. 'It took me a while, but I eventually figured out that you had to push that lever down to make it work. I'll tidy up, don't worry.'
'It's just called a toaster, Ron,' she said. 'But that doesn't explain why there are so many crumbs everywhere.'
'Well, I had to turn the toaster upside down to get the toast out, obviously!' he explained patiently.
Hermione sighed, and beckoned him over to the bench. 'This dial controls the time, and when it's done, the toaster will switch itself off and the toast will pop up!' she explained. 'And if you want it out before the timer's done, you press this button.' She demonstrated the controls to him.
'Time, dial, pop up, otherwise, button. Got it,' said Ron slowly. 'Complicated, isn't it? At least that explains why the second batch of toast jumped out before it was done. At first I thought I'd broken the toaster, but when I pushed the lever down again it worked.'
The relief was obvious on his face, but after the incident with the washing machine, Hermione wasn't surprised. At least he hadn't flooded the place again.
'It's not complicated; it's one button, a dial, and a lever!' she said. 'If you can't master a simple toaster, you'll never master driving a car.' Turning, she pointed at the empty toast rack. 'And where's this toast you've made for me?'
Ron looked at the rack, and then at the slice of toast and marmalade in his hand. He'd only taken one bite from it.
'Oh,' he admitted sheepishly, 'I seem to have eaten it all. I'll make you some more; it'll be good practice for me. You can have this.' He thrust the slice he'd been eating towards her face. She opened her mouth and bit down on it. Had she not, the toast would have been rammed onto her lips instead of between them.
'Fanks,' she mumbled, staring up at him with the mix of annoyance, frustration, affection, and happiness he invariably brought with him. He'd made such a mess; she'd told him how to use the toaster when she'd bought it, but he never listened. He'd given her the last slice of toast, he wouldn't do that for anyone but her.
'There's tea in the pot, if you want a cuppa,' he said, adding to her happiness. He was trying, in every sense of the word.
Nodding, Hermione sat at the kitchen table and allowed him to pour tea into her breakfast mug. As she munched her toast, she watched him work. Like her, he was wearing a dressing gown. He, however, had not yet showered; the orange glow of the morning sun caught his jawline and showed that he hadn't shaved either. She smiled. There was something endearing about the way he carefully cut two more slices from the loaf, put them into the toaster, and pushed the lever down. He turned anxiously back to face her.
'Should I have turned the dial first, or can I do it now?' he asked.
'Now will be fine, Ron,' she assured him. 'What time shall we leave for Mum and Dad's?'
Ron shrugged. 'Whenever you want. If you like, we can go as soon as I've done the triple-Sh.'
'Shit, shave, shower,' he said with a grin.
She sighed and shook her head. 'I despair,' she said, sipping her tea.
'You'd a spare what?' he asked promptly.
She laughed, and coughed as the tea caught in her throat.
'Some people have no sense of decorum,' said Ron primly.
She thumped him, and then threw her arms around him. 'Idiot,' she told him.
'Yup,' he said proudly. He gave her a quick hug, releasing her so she could take another drink of tea. 'I reckon Harry will want to talk to you about Bobbie Beadle,' he continued. 'He's got a meeting with Kingsley and Robards at nine o'clock tomorrow morning; it's going to be about her.'
'What about Bobbie?'
'Robards doesn't like her. He doesn't even like the idea of her. "A Muggle in the Ministry!" He wants her out.'
'I thought you said that she'd already given you a lot of help,'
'She has, yeah. "Opening up new lines of enquiry", she calls it. I told you about our last interview with Draco, didn't I?'
'Several times, and in great detail,' she said resignedly. 'You really shouldn't pick on him, you know.'
'It was worth it. You should've seen his face when he realised he was talking to a real live Muggle. Priceless!' said Ron gleefully. 'Besides, you know he'd pick on me if he got the chance. He always did! He used to pick on you, too.'
'We're better than that,' said Hermione stiffly.
'You are,' he said proudly.
'You arrested him again, Ron,' she said, once again caught between annoyance and pleasure. 'But ultimately it was a waste of time, wasn't it?'
Ron shook his head. 'No,' he said firmly. 'True, his alibi was solid, but by taking him in for more questioning we made him miss some important appointment or other. So it wasn't a complete loss.'
'Ron!' Hermione frowned.
'Seriously, Hermione, it really was worth it. That girl of his, Hysteria Greengrass…'
'Astoria,' Hermione interjected. Ron ignored her.
'She came up trumps for us yesterday. I meant to tell you about it last night, but you distracted me.' Ron paused for several seconds, staring into the distance and grinning foolishly.
'Lavender…' His face fell as his ex-girlfriend's name came out in a rapid rush of embarrassment. Hermione was well aware that, in front of her, it always did. 'Well, I don't know what she did, but Astoria has contacted ... us. Daphne's tired of being on the run; she wants to give herself up. With any luck we'll have Bletchley in a cell soon, and that'll be one more name off the list. And Bobbie has confirmed that the person she saw leaving Justin's house was definitely Draco. She was so certain it was him that she refused to believe his alibi. We couldn't convince her until we demonstrated Polyjuice to her. Thanks to Bobbie, we're certain that whoever broke into Justin's place and killed that Muggle has access to Polyjuice and is close enough to Draco to be able to procure hair or toenail clippings or whatever from him.'
'Astoria...' Hermione began.
'That's exactly what I said,' Ron agreed. 'Harry's worried that Astoria might be lying, that the whole thing might be a trap.'
'I assume that Astoria told Lavender; what does Lavender think?' asked Hermione. Ron reacted exactly as she expected.
'Dunno. Haven't asked her,' he said rapidly. 'You should tell Harry.'
'You could ask her yourself,' Hermione told him.
Ron gave noncommittal mumble. Satisfied, Hermione returned to their discussion of the Muggle policewoman who'd tracked them down.
'If Bobbie is useful to you, why does Robards want rid of her?' Hermione asked. 'If it's simply because she's a Muggle…'
'That's a big part of it,' Ron said. 'Although to be fair, Robards doesn't like any changes Harry suggests. Or me, or... Really, he doesn't like any changes at all.'
'Prejudice,' Hermione began.
'I don't think that it's because she's a Muggle,' said Ron hastily. 'Well it is because she's a Muggle, but I don't think it's exactly prejudice. Robards doesn't think that she can do a proper job because she can't do fieldwork. He told us that it's not safe to employ her. He can't send her out alone; she'll be in constant danger if people realise she's a Muggle and can't defend herself.'
'I can see his point,' said Hermione thoughtfully. She shivered, and Ron hugged her. 'No one ever attacked Mum and Dad when they visited Diagon Alley, but they occasionally got an odd look, and I think they'd have been in serious trouble if they'd ever gone down Knockturn Alley. They didn't have to go anywhere risky, but Bobbie would be actively chasing criminals. Robards may be right; it could be very dangerous for her.'
Ron nodded. 'We've already issued her with one of the hex-proof coats, but I'm going to have a word with George about increasing the protections on it. We offered her one of the Shield hats, but she refused to wear it. She called it a "stupid pointy hat" and then she got annoyed when I said that "stupid pointy hats" are what Muggle policemen wear.'
'You've got a point,' agreed Hermione, laughing. 'But they're traditional.'
'So are wizard's hats,' said Ron. 'We should be able to add a Shield Charm to the coat, so I reckon she'll be okay.' His face fell. 'The only problem is, she's creating so much more work for everyone that they're talking about authorising overtime. I don't want any overtime! I don't have the time to work overtime. Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes can't keep up with the demand for Mirrorphones. Business is booming, and I can only spend a couple of days a week helping George.'
Harry woke with a feeling that he was being watched.
He was. Ginny's chocolate brown eyes were so close to his face that they were almost in focus even though he wasn't wearing his glasses.
'Good morning, sleepyhead,' she said brightly. 'If you hadn't stirred when you did, I'd have got up and made you a cuppa.'
'Morning,' he mumbled, pulling a face. There was something—a hair, probably—in his mouth, Ignoring it, he continued to speak. 'You still could. Been awake long?'
Lifting her head from her pillow, she looked at the clock. 'Five minutes,' she told him. 'You looked peaceful. I didn't move because I didn't want to disturb you.' With that, she uncurled herself and stretched. He felt both duvet and mattress move with her.
Harry used his tongue to seek out the hair. Successful, he put out his tongue. Ginny watched in silence. It took two attempts before he managed to take the strand between finger and thumb and pull. It kept coming. He didn't need to find his glasses and check its colour. There was no doubt that the hair in his mouth wasn't his.
'One of mine,' said Ginny sympathetically. 'They get everywhere. I get fed up of them myself. I should probably get my hair cut short.'
'NO,' shouted Harry in alarm.
The passion in his reply surprised him. Even without his glasses he could see enough of Ginny's expression to realise that it had surprised her too. He tried to explain himself to her.
'Um, it's your hair, so you can do what you want with it,' he told her apologetically. He reached across and stroked her shining red mane. 'But don't think that my swallowing a few strands of this…' he twisted his fingers in it. '…while I'm asleep, means that you have to chop it off.'
Ginny stroked his stubble-covered cheek. 'You've never actually told me that you like my hairstyle—if you can call it a style,' she murmured. 'I know you like the colour, but…'
'I like all of you,' he said, not sure what else to say. 'But… I don't want you to think that you can't cut it, if you want to. I mean ... um ... I won't find you any less attractive, it's… well... I really…' he could see her smile, and he knew she was amused by his floundering. 'I like your hair just as it is,' he finished lamely.
'You really are rubbish at compliments, Harry,' she said, smiling. 'But I do understand; that first NO was enough. You don't want me to cut my hair short.'
Harry opened his mouth, but she gently placed a forefinger on his lips, silencing him.
'Shut up with the "It's your hair, you can do what you want," nonsense, Harry,' she said quietly. Removing her finger from his lips, she flicked his nose. 'Sometimes a girl wants to be told no! Sometimes the passion in that one word is all she needs to hear.' Sitting, she shook her head, causing her hair to fly across his face. 'Now, I'll go and make some tea and... breakfast in bed seems like a good idea.'
'Hmm,' murmured Harry, lost in the scent of her hair.
When she closed the door, Harry looked around the room. Ginny's home in Beaumaris was becoming more familiar to him, but he rarely slept over. Usually, if they spent the night together, it was at Grimmauld Place, but they'd both had a little too much to drink after the celebrations in Holyhead.
He closed his eyes and let his mind drift back to the previous evening. Ginny's England Game had gone well. Although it was only a friendly game, they'd convincingly beaten Scotland. At the British and Irish Quidditch League event afterwards, he had danced with her. For someone who didn't dance, he'd done a lot of dancing.
The next thing he knew, the bedroom door was opening.
'You've been back to sleep,' Ginny observed. 'I've just woken you, haven't I?'
'Good night, last night,' he said by way of reply.
'It was,' she agreed. Enchanting the tray so that it levitated above the bed, she slipped in beside him. 'Your dancing is improving, but you'll need more practice before we go to Dudley's party.'
'That's still months away,' he reminded her.
As she shuffled into bed alongside him, the smell of breakfast assailed him. Ginny used her wand to open the curtains, banishing the semi-darkness in a blaze of morning sunlight.
'Breakfast smells good, what is it?' he asked. He sat up.
'It's a bacon, fried egg, and black pudding ciabatta,' she said. 'Mona McLeod, the Harpies' reserve Keeper, reckons it's the best breakfast bap in the world. I thought we could try it.'
After putting on his glasses, he sat up, adjusted the pillow behind his back, and placed his arm around her shoulders. Picking up the ciabatta in his other hand, he took a bite. Ginny did the same.
'Well?' she asked.
'You can make these again,' he said. 'In fact, if you don't want to finish yours...'
'I do! And it's Sunday lunch at the Cricketers with the Grangers,' she reminded him. 'You know how big their carvery meals are.'
'Mmm,' Harry nodded. Staring through the window and taking in the view over the Menai Straits, he silently concentrated on eating and holding Ginny close.
'Knut for your thoughts?' Ginny asked.
'I wasn't thinking about anything,' he admitted. 'I was... I suppose I was enjoying the moment.' He lifted his dangling hand and stroked her jaw. 'Life's good.'
Grabbing his hand, she lifted it to her lips and kissed it. 'It is,' she agreed.
They sat in silence. His arm over her shoulders, her free hand holding his. Hip to hip, thigh to thigh, and calf to calf, they gazed out through the window and silently finished their breakfast.
'Can I talk about work?' Harry asked, putting his empty mug on the tray.
'I think that we're finally getting somewhere, Ginny, but I'm worried. I've got a feeling that something's coming. Something makes me think that they've got a plan, but I can't put my finger on why. If they do have a plan, I don't know what it is, or even who's involved.'
'If you think something's going on, Harry, then it is. So tell me what you do know.'
'Marcus Flint, Millicent Bulstrode—I mean Flint, Gregory Goyle, and Miles Bletchley have been on the run since The Battle.'
'I know that, Harry,' she squeezed his hand. 'Tell me something I don't know.'
'If Astoria Greengrass was telling Lavender the truth, we know that her sister is holed up with Bletchley at Goyle's place and that she's now Daphne Bletchley; you know that, too,' Harry continued. 'But Ron's worried that it's all lies. He's concerned that Draco and Astoria are plotting with the others.'
'And Ron's often right.' Ginny nodded. 'But not always. What do you think?'
'Goyle's a killer, and he hates Draco. I'm reasonably sure he tried to frame Draco using Polyjuice and a prefect's badge. That makes them very unlikely allies. And...' Harry stopped.
'And what?' Ginny asked.
Harry laughed. 'I stopped myself because I realised what I was about to say,' he admitted. 'Lavender thinks that Astoria is telling the truth about Daphne when she says that she's unhappy and wants to come home. And—I never thought I'd say this, but—I trust Lavender's judgement.'
'Also, both 'Dromeda and Cissie firmly believe that Goyle wants Draco dead,' said Harry thoughtfully. 'But...' he paused. 'There's something else, Ginny. It's Daphne... We've sort of promised her...'
'You've sort of promised Daphne that she won't get prosecuted if she can help you capture Bletchley,' said Ginny. 'I know, Harry. Don't worry about that. Yes, she was using Linny to dope me up with the Love/Hate Potion. But, apart from a few weeks of bad publicity and putting me off my game, no real harm was done. She's married to Bletchley, remember. He was cruel and vindictive at school, and he won't have changed. She's already being punished.'
In the few seconds of silence that followed Harry's comment, Ginny looked around the Granger's large and comfortable lounge. Jean Granger, who sat in the armchair closest to the window, caught Ginny's eye and smiled. Her husband, who was at the other side of the door to the hallway, appeared oblivious to what had been implied.
John Granger looked pointedly at his wife. 'It's a long time since anyone made me breakfast in bed.'
'A bacon, egg, and black pudding ciabatta?' Jean sounded incredulous. 'I'm not sure you'd thank me.'
'Sounds like a good breakfast to me,' said Ron, trying to hide his discomfort at the words that had begun this particular conversation.
'It's food, Ron, of course it sounds good to you,' Harry told his friend before turning back to Hermione's father. 'I wasn't sure myself, but it was really good, and very filling. That's why we didn't have any dessert with our Sunday lunch, isn't it, Ginny?'
'Yes,' she agreed.
She and Harry were in their usual place, snuggled together in the crook of the Granger's corner sofa. Their lunch at The Cricketers, the Grangers' local pub, had been hours earlier, and they were enjoying a late tea, or early supper, of cheese and crackers. Breaking a piece of Blue Stilton from the slice on the plate she and Harry were sharing, Ginny put it on a cracker and took a bite.
'Ron made me breakfast this morning,' said Hermione innocently. 'It was only toast, but he managed to master the electronical toast-maker.'
Ginny watched the blush spread over her brother's panicked face. Catching Hermione's mother's eye, she grinned.
'Is there any tea left?' asked Ron in desperation.
'I'll make a fresh pot,' said Jean, taking mercy on him. 'Hermione,' she added, inclining her head towards the door.
Ginny noted Hermione's puzzled expression. 'You can show me where the cheese is, Hermione,' she said, sliding her leg out from under Harry's. 'I'd like a little more Edam, if that's okay.'
'Edam, the only cheese that's made backwards,' John Granger said.
'Dad!' Hermione rolled her eyes.
'How do you make a cheese backwards?' asked Ron, eagerly seizing the opportunity to change the subject.
'It's Dad's oldest joke, Ron,' said Hermione as she stood and followed her mother and Ginny from the room. 'I used to think it was funny—when I first learned to spell. Think about it.'
When the three women entered the kitchen, Jean closed the door and smiled. 'Bless him,' she said. 'He's such a sweet man.'
'Dad?' asked Hermione.
'Ron!' Ginny said. 'Honestly, Hermione, didn't you see his face?'
Jean Granger laughed, and addressed her daughter. 'Sometimes you're as clueless as your father, darling. Your boyfriend is such an old-fashioned sort, isn't he? You probably couldn't see his face, because you were leaning back and he was sitting forwards. But your boyfriend was scandalised when Harry mentioned that Ginny had made him breakfast in bed. I don't think it's something that any parents should know. And then you spilled the beans about him making you breakfast.'
'Oops,' said Hermione sheepishly. 'But the four of us go on holiday together, Mum. I mean it must be obvious that...'
'It is.' Her mother waved away the implications with a dismissive hand. 'But Ron wants to protect your reputation. He's very old-fashioned.'
'He is,' Hermione agreed. 'It's rather sweet, really. Please don't tease him about it, Mum, and don't you say anything, Ginny; he'll just get embarrassed.' She looked worriedly into Ginny's face. 'Please,' she repeated.
'He's safe,' Ginny agreed reluctantly. 'Unless he comes up with a ludicrous story about him arriving at your flat really early this morning. If he tries that, I'll make sure you could fry bacon, egg, and black pudding on his face!'
While Hermione and her mother made the tea, Ginny cut herself another thin slice of cheese. 'Edam: made,' she announced, smiling as realisation struck.
'Don't tell John it's funny, you'll only encourage him,' begged Jean.
By the time the three women returned to the lounge the conversation had moved on to beer. John Granger was extolling the virtues of the Belgian wheat beer he'd been drinking instead of tea and pressing both Ron and Harry to try it.
'Take a bottle home with you,' he suggested as Ginny, a fresh mug of tea in her hand, settled herself back down next to Harry. 'I know that you don't like to drink and Apparate, so take…'
'Harry Potter.' The high pitched and excited voice shrieked out from Harry's pocket.
'That's my Auror phone,' said Harry worriedly. Shuffling forward, he pulled the Mirrorphone from his pocket and looked into it.
Several girls squealed, and there was a chorus of 'Hello, Harry'.
'Miss Ebhart, this is an Auror Mirrorphone!' said Harry firmly.
Ginny could see the anger in his eyes. Peering over his shoulder, she saw five young women in the mirror. 'This had better be Auror business,' she told them firmly. Her appearance was greeted by a chorus of 'oohs.'
'He's with Ginny Weasley!' someone cried.
'If you've something to tell me, okay,' said Harry threateningly. 'But send your friends out of the room first! If you haven't...'
'Grumpy, isn't he?' a girl at the back said.
'This is an Auror Mirrorphone,' Harry told them with a sigh. 'You've seen me now so, unless you have information for me, get out!'
'Yeah, see! I wasn't lying, so shoo!' Abigail Ebhart appeared unrepentant, but she chased her friends away. 'The pickup is scheduled for nine o'clock tomorrow morning, Harry,' she said eagerly. 'Delivery should be at around twenty past, depending on Portkey scheduling.'
'Thanks,' said Harry.
'It's seven o'clock on Sunday evening!' Ron called from the other end of the sofa. 'I can't believe that girl, what's-her-name, has only just found out. I bet she's waited so she could impress her friends by calling you!'
'Um,' It was obvious from her expression that Abigail had heard Ron. 'It's... um...'
'I'd speak to her mother, if I were you, Harry,' Ginny suggested.
Abigail's anguished pleas were cut off when Harry exasperatedly broke the connection. 'Ron,' he began.
'Yeah, an Auror's work is never done,' Ron said. 'What d'you think? Organise now and get a decent night's kip?'
Harry nodded. 'I'd better contact Robards to tell him what's happening. I'll have to cancel my meeting with Kingsley,' he said, standing. 'Sorry, Mr and Mrs Granger, I'll have to leave. I'll go home and use the secure Floo connection to contact Robards.'
'Doesn't he have a Mirrorphone?' Ginny asked, although she was sure she knew what the answer would be.
Harry shook his head. 'He doesn't trust these new-fangled gadgets.'
'Best not tell him about that last call, then,' Ron said. 'I wonder when she really found out about the delivery, and who else she's told.'