They decide on a Muggle pub in London, after several other suggestions.
“We could meet here. We know we’re safe,” Ron suggests at first.
“Absolutely not,” Harry says without missing a beat.
“Technically, the Fidelius charm means that even if he wants to give us away, he can’t, because only Ron can,” Ginny points out.
“No. Absolutely not,” Harry says again. The idea of inviting Malfoy into the one place where they know they’re completely safe makes him feel like he might break out in hives.
“Even if he lets slip the general location of the safehouse, it could be a problem,” Hermione says. “I was attacked right outside, remember? We don’t want to risk even accidentally alerting anyone to where we are.”
Ron grabs Hermione’s hand, and says, “Right. Definitely not this house, then.”
“How about Malfoy’s house? He’s got a summer house nearby, doesn’t he?” George suggests, bouncing Freddie in his lap.
Ron glances at Hermione, who’s been looking a bit pale all day, and then says, “No.” He’s extra on edge; they all are, but he’s been affected by what happened to Hermione in a way they all can pick up on. After the attack on Hermione and the events in Malfoy Manor years ago, Harry doesn’t push the point.
“Where do you want to do it, then?” George asks.
“Well, I think it should be somewhere close to the Ministry,” Hermione says immediately. “In Muggle London. It’s close enough that if everything goes horribly wrong and we need reinforcements, it’ll be easy to get them. And we can maintain relative anonymity in the Muggle areas, I think.”
Harry glances at Ginny, who shrugs one shoulder. From her lap, Jamie says, “Dada,” very insistently.
“Alright,” he says, and leans over to grab Jamie, lifting him up into the air and smiling at the sound of his delighted squeals.
Hermione picks up the letter on the table they’re all huddled around. It’s a short note from Malfoy, and it arrived about half an hour ago. In Malfoy’s pretentious penmanship, it reads,
Very well. Tell me the time and place, and I’ll come meet you to hear about this plan of yours.
“He writes like a proper git, too, doesn’t he?” Ron says, peering at the note.
“Ron,” Hermione says, but Harry notices that she doesn’t disagree with him. After a moment of furious scribbling, she says, “There. I’ve told him where and when. Min,” she calls out.
“Don’t call her that, her name’s Ermintrude,” Ginny says crossly, as Hermione ties the letter to their owl’s leg.
“I have no idea why you let her name your owl,” Ron says to Harry.
Harry shrugs. “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Malfoy replies within the hour with his acceptance of the time and place and just like that, it’s confirmed.
Harry feels less sure of their decision a week later, though. They’ve left Jamie and Freddie with Molly at the Burrow, and the five of them have worn their best Muggle clothes, jeans and old Weasley jumpers. Harry only hopes no one notices the dragon knitted onto his.
“What if someone sees us?” Ginny asks Harry, echoing his doubts just as he starts to think them. It’s eerie how she does that.
“Then we’ll deal with it,” Ron answers, and leads them towards a table in the back. He and Harry sit facing the door automatically, and Harry keeps his gaze fixed on the door.
“Well, if we’re facing down a Malfoy, then we need some drinks,” George says cheerfully. “What do all of you want, then? Butterbeers?”
“They don’t have those here, it’s a Muggle pub,” Hermione points out.
“You’re right. Well, then you should all be prepared for surprises,” George says, winking at them as he makes his way to the bar to get them drinks.
Five minutes later, Malfoy walks into the pub. He’s wearing an impeccably tailored black Muggle suit, and he looks distinctly uncomfortable as he steps over to them.
“Hello,” he says, gingerly.
“Have a seat,” Ron says.
He inclines his head by way of greeting and then pulls out a chair next to Ginny. Harry feels the absurd urge to punch him.
“So, what is this all about?” he asks.
George returns to the table before any of them can respond, setting down a tray of drinks. “They had regular beer, so it shouldn’t be too bad. You should probably not drink this one though, Hermione,” he says cheerfully. “Oh, Malfoy. You’re here. Good. We need some of your hair or toenails.”
“What?” Malfoy says.
Harry figures it’s as good as a place to start as any. “Here’s the plan,” he says. “One of us is going to infiltrate the Death Eaters. Disguised as you.”
George nods proudly, and then pushes a glass towards Malfoy.
“That’s… ridiculous,” Malfoy says.
“We’ve had more ridiculous plans, to be fair. Like Harry’s plan to defeat Voldemort. That one worked, didn’t it?” Ginny says with a saccharine smile.
Malfoy flinches at the mention of Voldemort’s name, but still doesn’t look convinced.
“You’ll be safe,” Hermione says. “Auror custody. We can arrange for —”
“If Auror custody means being at the mercy of Weasley and Potter, I’m not sure I’m too confident,” Malfoy says.
“We’re happy to not give you any custody or protection at all and throw you to the wolves if you prefer,” Ron offers.
Malfoy takes a deep breath, and seems to force himself not to rise to Ron’s bait. Harry almost wishes he would, because then he would have a reason to hex his smug face.
“Alright,” Malfoy says. “I’ll hear out your plan. And then we can do it. But… I want protection for my wife.”
Harry blinks, startled. “Of course we’ll protect her,” he says.
Malfoy’s expression relaxes minutely. “Alright,” he says. “Well, then. What’s the plan?”
“You know that this plan is… completely ludicrous, right?” Malfoy says, once they — mostly George — have finished filling him in on all of the details of the plan — everything they can share with him, anyway.
George shrugs, pushing Malfoy’s drink towards him. They haven’t gone back to the bar to get refills, but their drinks seem to never be getting over, thanks to — Harry suspects — George’s surreptitious wand movements beneath the table. “Ludicrous plans are the best, Malfoy. Have a drink.”
“I’ve had several, thank you,” Malfoy says and surely enough, his cheeks are slightly pink and there’s a hint of a slur to his voice.
“Well, have another, and relax,” George says easily. “Another drink, Gin?”
“I’m good, thanks,” Ginny says.
Harry turns to look at Ginny. She’s been nursing the same pint of beer for the last hour, and she’s had maybe a sip, if that. She catches his eye and raises her eyebrows in a way that he thinks means not now, so he leaves the topic. For now. He takes her hand under the table, though, and gives it a squeeze.
“So what do you hope to accomplish, disguised as me?” Malfoy asks, after a few generous sips of his drink.
“You don’t have to worry about that,” Harry says, slipping into what Ginny calls ‘Auror mode’ in a matter of seconds.
Malfoy rolls his eyes, and then stands up. “Right. Well. I’ll get in touch as discussed, then. Are you sure the charm will work?” he asks Hermione this last question.
“Quite sure,” Hermione says, and hands him a piece of parchment. “When it happens, write it down on this and tap it with your wand. It’ll reach us right away.”
“Very well,” Malfoy says, and without another word, he walks out of the pub.
“He didn’t even offer to pay,” Ron says.
“It’s not news that he’s an arse. He’s just not an arse who’s on the Death Eaters’ side anymore,” Ginny says.
“Or so we hope, anyway,” Ron mutters, and then stands up. “We should go, too. It’s getting late, and you’ve got that meeting for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures early tomorrow morning, don’t you?” he asks Hermione.
Hermione jumps to her feet. “Oh, you’re right! I wanted to go over my notes for the meeting tonight, so we should go home. You’ll tell us if anything happens, won’t you?” She asks Harry and Ginny.
Ginny snorts. “We’re going back into hiding until Malfoy gets in touch, Hermione. Nothing exciting’s going to happen.”
“Don’t say that, you can’t ever be too sure,” Hermione says, but she smiles.
“D’you mind if I come back with you for a bit?” George asks Ron. “We’re ordering new stock for the joke shop next week, and I liked some of the ideas you had for the shop. You two be good, now. Tell us if the ferret gets in touch,” he adds to Ginny and Harry.
Within minutes, the three of them have left the pub, leaving Ginny and Harry.
“So,” Harry says, as casually as he can. “You’re not drinking, are you?”
“I’m not, no,” Ginny responds, just as casual.
“And you said you were craving McGonagall’s biscuits, earlier,” Harry continues.
Ginny looks at him, and then arches an eyebrow and says, “We’re not in an interrogation room, Auror Potter.”
Harry laughs despite himself. “I know, I know.”
“And if we were in an interrogation room,” Ginny continues, and Harry sits up straighter in his seat, “I’d tell you that I haven’t taken a test or a potion or anything. I haven’t been to Mungo’s. But… I have a feeling.”
“A feeling,” Harry repeats.
“A feeling, yes. I have a feeling, but we have more important things to deal with at the moment, don’t we?” Ginny says.
Everything, the details of the case, the danger they may or may not be in, seems to fly out of Harry’s mind at once. “Nothing’s more important,” he declares.
Ginny’s eyes soften. “I can’t exactly go to Diagon Alley or Mungo’s and ask for a potion right now, can I? We’re meant to be undercover.”
Harry considers. “We’re meant to be undercover as Muggles,” he says slowly.
“So what?” Ginny says.
“Well. Muggles have ways of finding out that stuff, too. We can get something from a muggle shop,” Harry says.
Ginny wrinkles her nose. “Well, I suppose we have no other choice, do we?”
“No,” says Harry, holding his hand out to help her get to her feet, “we really don’t.”
“I don’t trust these tests, you know,” Ginny says from the bathroom.
Harry leans against the door. “We can always ask your mum to send us a potion, if you prefer,” he calls out.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You know what my mum’s like,” Ginny says. A pause, and then the door’s opening and Ginny’s stepping out and continuing to talk. “She’ll send us fifty knitted baby blankets with the potions and gets her hopes up. And there’s a chance that it’s not, you know…”
“Yeah. Suppose you’re right,” Harry says, and peers down at the test in Ginny’s hand. “How long do we have to wait?”
“A few minutes, it said.”
“Enough time to get a cup of tea, I’d say,” Harry decides, and points his wand in the direction of the kitchen.
“I bet Dad would like hearing all about these,” Ginny says, following Harry to the kitchen and looking distrustfully at the test in her hand. “He wouldn’t believe that this is how Muggles find out.”
“Muggles also have doctors and stuff, to be fair,” Harry says. When Ginny looks confused, he clarifies, “Muggle Healers.”
“Oh, right,” Ginny says. “But still, it still seems easier to just sip a potion and see if it changes colours, don’t you think?”
“Definitely,” Harry agrees. “Accio cups. Do you think Jamie would like being an older sibling?” he says, setting his wand aside just in time to catch the two teacups that come flying towards him from the cabinet.
A slow smile spreads onto Ginny’s face. “Definitely. He’s having the time of his life playing with Freddie at the Burrow right now, I’m sure.”
“Of course he is,” Harry says. They’ve left Jamie with Molly and Arthur at the Burrow, and they’re going to pick him up right after they find out what this test says; Harry’s sure that whenever they pick him up, he’s going to be absolutely heartbroken to leave his grandparents and little Freddie.
“I just think —”
Harry never gets to hear what Ginny thinks, because just then, a Patronus appears in the kitchen. Ginny jumps to her feet, and takes Harry’s hand immediately.
“Malfoy just sent word. It’s happened. He’s in his house with Astoria, we’re going there now. Hurry up,” the Jack Russell terrier tells them in Ron’s voice, and dissolves into wisps of white smoke immediately.
“We need to go,” Ginny says immediately.
Harry nods and says, “You get word to your parents. I’ll go and get the Cloak, just in case.”
He can hear Ginny’s murmured Patronus Charm as he rushes to the front door, grabbing the Cloak from the hook next to it. Ginny joins him in a matter of seconds. As both of them step out of the front door, past the boundaries of the cottage so they can Apparate, neither of them think about what they’ve left behind on the kitchen counter, a Muggle pregnancy test that now displays ‘positive’.