Harry had been sitting at the kitchen table nursing his third cup of coffee when there was a knock at the door. He glanced at the clock on the wall. Who the hell was knocking on his door at three in the morning? Then he heard the knock again, and recognized the pattern as “Shave and a Haircut.” Had to be Hermione, none of their other friends would know that Muggle pattern.
Sighing, he got up and went to the front door, checking the peephole just to be sure before opening to the two people standing there.
“Hi, Harry, is Ginny home?” Hermione said brightly, as if she and Ron often stopped by the Potter residence in the middle of the night for a chat and a cuppa.
“No, the Harpies are playing Bulgaria this weekend, so she won’t be back till Monday. I had to work, or I’d have gone with her. What the bloody hell are you two doing here so late at night?”
“Can we continue this conversation inside? It’s awfully chilly out here,” Hermione asked casually, rubbing her arms as if freezing, even though it was the middle of June and still fairly warm for as late at night as it was.
Glaring suspiciously at her, Harry answered, “Sure, why don’t we do that,” and stepped aside so they could enter, muttering as they passed, “Maybe then you’ll tell me what you’re really doing here in the middle of the bloody night,” before shutting the door firmly and warding it before following them back to the kitchen. He walked to the cupboard and pulled out two more mugs, filling them with coffee before handing them over and sitting back down.
“Now, what the hell is really going on, Hermione?”
Hermione appeared to be gathering her thoughts, surveying her surroundings while she formulated her answer. She spotted the bathroom door ajar, and raised her eyebrows at the towels and clothes strewn across the tiled floor. He’d never get away with that if Ginny were home, and he knew it. The living room was just as bad; he’d dropped his traveling cloak and work robes onto the couch on his way through to the kitchen, without bothering to check where they fell or making any kind of attempt at putting them away properly. His messenger bag was dumped on the coffee table, its contents spilling across the surface. A couple folders were peeking out of the opening, and some papers had fallen onto the floor. Dishes were in the sink, instead of washed and neatly put away. Ginny was going to kill him when she got home. She wasn’t a neat freak by any means, but she at least tried to keep their home as tidy as possible when she was there.
“Your home is a wreck….you could’ve at least cleaned the bathroom.”
“Had I known I was going to have guests at three o’clock in the morning I’m sure I would’ve.”
Ron smirked; he knew damn well Harry would have done no such thing.
“Are you ever going to answer my question, Hermione, or am I going to have to perform Legilimency on you to find out what the bloody hell you two are doing here?” It was an idle threat and they all knew it; Harry would never actually do such a thing, especially to a close friend or family member, and Hermione was both. In the line of duty was one thing, but never at home.
Obviously something serious must be going on, for them to show up on his doorstep in the middle of the night; the fact that Hermione seemed so reluctant to talk about it now that they were there was just an added clue to the seriousness of the situation.
Finally Hermione took a deep breath and started to speak. “Here’s the thing, we just got back from Shacklebolt’s office, like right before we knocked on your door, we Apparated straight here. He’s sending us on some super-secret mission that we can’t tell anybody about, but he still expects us to find someone to cover for us at work. Would you and Ginny be able to fill in for us for a few days? When she’s not flying, of course. If she couldn’t, could you at least fill in for Ron? I could always ask Hannah or Susan if Ginny’s not available, Hannah would just have to bring in extra help at the Cauldron to cover for her. It would make extra work for you, I know, but as you’d already be there anyway, it’s not like you’d have to make a special trip, like Hannah or Susan will. Plus as Head Auror you can always delegate whatever tasks you don’t have time to do yourself.”
“Blimey, Hermione, you really had me worried for a minute! I thought maybe you were sick, or something had happened to Molly or one of the other Weasleys and you were trying to figure out how to tell me. Of course I’ll cover for Ron, he is my partner, after all. I think Hannah’s been swamped at work the last few days, so while she may welcome a break from the place, I’m not sure she’d be able to get away. Susan should be available, though. Ginny will be back next week, but I’m not sure how much free time she’s going to have for a while, with practices and everything. You know how Gwenog can be, I swear she and Oliver are twins separated at birth or something, she’s just as bad as he ever was.” Harry was glad there was nothing seriously wrong with his friends, he didn’t think he could take any more emotional blows right now.
“Oh, thank you, Harry! Shacklebolt thought you’d be willing to help, but didn’t want to speak for you. I don’t know how long this mission is going to take, but we should be able to send a message back within a few days if it looks like we’ll be gone for an extended period. It may have to be by message Patronus, I’m not sure that an owl wouldn’t be intercepted,” Hermione explained, relieved.
“You’re going to have to explain to me as soon as you’re able just what is so damn important that Shacklebolt has got you two haring off in the middle of the night to parts unknown,” Harry replied, shaking his head. “It better be of earth-shattering importance, or he and I are going to have words, putting my family at risk.”
“Just as soon as we’re able, we’ll tell you everything, Harry, I promise… we’d better get home, we still need to pack and leave a note for the others before we leave,” Hermione exclaimed, jumping up and pulling Ron with her.
Ron just had time to call, “See you later, Harry!” over his shoulder before being dragged out of the room by his wife.