The Owled Parcel
The four friends grabbed a bite for lunch and Floo'd to the flat at the Hog's Head. Harry sent McPherson off with an owl for Professor Flitwick, asking if he wanted to see him right away, and if the others could come along. They didn't get a reply back immediately—they assumed he was in a class—and while they waited they sat at the blowfish table and talked. Or rather, Hermione and Ron talked; Harry sat with his hand on the table, occasionally tapping his fingers. Ginny kept glancing at him, and even though he kept himself closed to her, she watched his face and didn't need to guess what was in his mind.
Ginny felt more than a little guilty about pushing the subject of Godric's Hollow, but it was obvious that the house there was, for some unknown reason, connected to the Pensieve and Percy's disappearance. And if they wanted their child to be born before Harry became Head Auror—and there was no doubt in her mind that he would become Head Auror—then they had to decide about a new home very soon.
She also realized, as she pondered their state of affairs, that if she did not return to the National team, which was much more likely than Harry's not getting his job back, they could start trying to get pregnant right away. She got a bit tingly thinking about that and suppressed a smile. She glanced at Harry to see if he had picked up on those particular thoughts, but he was staring off into space and did not look at her.
She sighed, and Harry did look at her. She put her hand on his—his finger tapping was annoying—and at last he let her into his mind. He was not as upset as she feared, but there was conflict. She squeezed his hand.
Then he became aware of the pregnancy train of thought, and suddenly Ginny was sorry she had gone down that track. She had not considered how Harry would take it, and she kicked herself mentally; she should have remembered how upset he had been less than an hour ago when she told him she would not get pregnant until they decided where their home would be. She looked at him apologetically, not noticing that Ron and Hermione had stopped talking and were staring at her and Harry. "I'm sorry, sweetie," she murmured, "I shouldn't have done that."
"It's okay," he said. "That's what we agreed on. But you are going back to the team. Even if Deverill says you can't, I think we can force him. You're so popular, Ginny, I don't think the public will stand for it."
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Ron said with a frown. "Could you please remember that us ordinary mortals can't read minds?"
"We ordinary mortals," Hermione said.
"Fine, you ordinary mortals." Ron rolled his eyes and Hermione rolled hers back at him.
Harry grinned at them. "Sorry. We do forget. I was just thinking that we could drum up public opinion to get Ginny back on the team."
"The problem with that," said Ginny, "is that Deverill most likely has also thought of it, and he's decided to sack me anyway. So I don't know if public pressure will work."
"Hang on," Hermione said, interrupting Harry. "That's a very interesting observation. Why would someone who's always been so concerned about his public image threaten to do something that's bound to be unpopular?"
No one spoke as McPherson flew in the open window and landed on the table in front of Harry. The message from Professor Flitwick said that they were all welcome to come to Hogwarts, and that they should Floo into the fireplace in the Ravenclaw office right away.
They arrived to find the Charms professor perched on his stool behind his desk, in front of the large portrait of Rowena Ravenclaw that hung on the wall there. The Founder was in her portrait, sitting in a tall-backed wooden chair, surrounded by a half-dozen border collies lying on tartan rugs. The dogs' eyes watched and their tails thumped as Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione gathered round the desk. Ravenclaw reached down and scratched one of the dogs behind its ear.
"I've never seen your dogs before, Professor," Ron said. "My own Patronus is a Jack Russell terrier and—"
He stopped when she fixed him with a look that, in Harry's opinion, put Ginny's blazing expression to shame.
"Well," Professor Flitwick said with a little smile, "now that the introductory pleasantries are out of the way, would you like some tea?" A tea service with five cups appeared on the desk and he poured for everyone. Ron took his cup and kept his eyes down.
Harry glanced at his brother-in-law's red face. "Why did you want to see me, Professor?" he asked Flitwick.
The teacher took a sip and put his cup down. "It's the Pensieve, of course. Minerva is back but she isn't well enough to resume her duties. She's in her room behind her office, but she's under strict orders from the Healers to rest for a few more days. That leaves me still as Acting Headmaster, and still responsible for Hogwarts. So . . ."
"Do you know that I've been suspended?" Harry asked.
The Professor nodded, but Harry felt a touch of surprise come from Ginny. He looked at her. She was gazing at the portrait of Ravenclaw, and Harry followed her eyes. The portrait was gaping at him, almost open-mouthed, her haughty demeanor gone, replaced by astonishment. Flitwick saw them looking up at the portrait and turned his head to see.
"Do you mean to tell me," Ravenclaw said, "that they fired you, Harry Potter, from your job in the Ministry of Magic? They must be a greater bunch of ninnies than I ever thought."
"Not fired, ma'am, just suspended. I suppose that means I have a chance to get the job back."
She appraised him for a moment. "Mr. Potter, ever since you found and rescued my diadem from the repulsive condition it was in, I have been following your career with admiration. I am unfortunately too old and too old fashioned to have any influence in the halls of power. I wish you luck, however."
Harry bowed his head. When he looked up, Professor Flitwick's eyes were twinkling. "Well, I did know that you have been ousted from your office, temporarily I hope. I decided to ask you to come here anyway when I learned of it. And the reason is that Minerva and I both want you to continue trying to solve the mystery of the Pensieve. We can think of no one who would do better at getting to the bottom of it. And it seems now that part, or maybe all, of the solution might lie in the old Potter house in Godric's Hollow."
Ginny held her breath. Harry nodded. "I'm aware of that," he said evenly.
Flitwick gave him a momentary quizzical look. "I'm sure you are. I was just mentioning it."
"It's fine, Professor," Harry said. "I have a question, though. Is this a sort of unofficial request from you and Professor McGonagall? And if so, what about Ron? He's still an Auror."
"I believe you still are too. It's up to Mr. Weasley to do what he feels comfortable with, as well as Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Weasley."
"I'm actually on a day off," Ron said. He turned red as Rowena Ravenclaw made a noise with her breath. He walked away from the desk and leaned against a stool, scowling at the floor.
Harry felt embarrassed for him and more than a little angry at Ravenclaw. He sent a thought to Ginny: Let's get out of here. Out loud he said, "Can we talk to Professor McGonagall? The more information we can get about the Pensieve, the better."
"Of course," Flitwick replied. "She expressed a desire to see you."
"Is she alone?" asked Hermione.
"No. This morning the Ministry said they wanted to send Aurors to stand guard in her office." Harry frowned and started to speak but Flitwick stopped him. "Right about that time we received the reports that you had been suspended, so she asked for the Misses Patil to be assigned. They arrived just after lunch."
"Ah." Harry grinned at Ginny and Hermione. "We're making progress. Let's go see the Headmistress."
He thanked Professor Flitwick, who gave them the password for the gargoyle which had been re-instituted, and Ron led them out. When they were in the corridor Hermione took his arm and put her hand on his cheek.
"I'm sorry, sweetie. She has a reputation for being rude. Don't let it bother you."
"I sounded like a bloody idiot," he muttered. "I'm never going in there again."
"But she was the fool," Hermione said firmly. "You had as much to do with finding and destroying the diadem as Harry."
"That's right," declared Ginny. "She had no business ridiculing you. She's a stuck-up old hag."
"Thanks, Sis, but don't let her hear you say that."
"Well, she is."
They arrived in front of the gargoyle, and Harry had to give the password—"A'm fine, slainte!"—three times before he got the pronunciation right. The door to the office was open and Padma waved to them when she saw them rising up the spiral staircase. Parvati sat behind the large desk stroking a gray tabby on her lap.
"We were expecting you, Boss," Padma said. "So is Professor McGonagall. She's in her room."
Padma indicated the door in the back, but before Harry went there he turned to Ginny. "Maybe you all should wait here for a minute. She might not want a crowd."
"She said for you and Ginny to go in," Padma told them. "She didn't want you two"—she indicated Ron and Hermione—"because you're still with the Department and she didn't want to make trouble for you."
"How did she know we would all be here?" wondered Ginny.
"She mentioned that Harry is always part of a package deal," Parvati giggled.
"Blimey, we're a cliché," Ron muttered.
"But at least she has a sense of humor again," said Hermione.
"You have to have one to begin with before you can have it again," Ron snorted.
Harry knocked softly on the door to the Headmistress's quarters and a clear voice said, "Enter!" He and Ginny walked in and saw Professor McGonagall lying on the settee, propped up with pillows and covered with a tartan throw. She was paler and somewhat thinner than her normal appearance, but Harry immediately saw that her eyes once again held that steely look over her spectacles, which were perched low on her nose.
But she smiled when she saw them and held out her hands. "I'm so glad you've come, both of you. Harry, I am so sorry about what they did to you. It's incomprehensible and an outrage. But you aren't alone. Many people will be fighting for you."
Harry held her hands for a moment, then moved two chairs next to the settee and he and Ginny sat. "That's all right, Professor. Don't worry. How are you feeling?"
"Tosh, don't worry about me, it's not important. I'll be fine. The question is, where is Percy and why is Kingsley behaving like this?"
"And the Pensieve?"
"Well . . ." She frowned and looked around. "Harry, would you mind pouring me a glass of water? I'm not supposed to do magic until Friday. Damned inconvenient." She pointed to a pitcher and glass on a stand at the foot of the settee, and Ginny jumped up and brought the water to her. "Thank you, dear. I knew that after what happened to Harry that you would be with him. Are Mr. and Mrs. Weasley here? I thought they might be, but I also thought that perhaps they might want to remain less, um, prominent in assisting you."
"I need their help, and they're right outside," Harry said. "But if you don't want them here, they're happy to wait."
McGonagall took a sip of water and thought for a moment. Ginny Summoned the little stand and it moved to the head of the couch. The Headmistress smiled at her and put the glass down. "Why don't you ask them in, then. I have a suggestion that Mrs. Weasley might find helpful."
Ginny went to the door and beckoned to Ron and Hermione. After dismissing their concerns for her health, McGonagall took another drink of water and addressed Hermione.
"I assume you've been delving into the library's holdings about the Pensieve. There is a volume in the restricted section on the Magical Objects shelf entitled Thanks For The Memories. It's a rather silly title, but the reason it's restricted is that it contains instructions for casting runes for both protecting and modifying the memories contained in the Pensieve. I believe you will find in it—"
"Professor!" Hermione had gone pale, and she clutched Ron's arm. "I searched through every part of the restricted section and the open shelves. That book is not there."
McGonagall's eyes narrowed. "That is disturbing. It was there three months ago when I created the magical coin, the disk you found in Godric's Hollow."
"Someone took the book," said Ron.
"And I know who." Harry gave Ginny a tight-lipped smile. "I'll bet a hundred Galleons the parcel that Chadwick Chamberlain owled yesterday was that book."
"Why would anyone owl a stolen book?" Ron asked doubtfully. "He could Disapparate with it and there'd be no risk of losing it."
"He must have had other things to do. He spent time with George, and who knows what else. And maybe he was afraid to have it on his person in case something happened to him."
"Just a moment," Professor McGonagall interrupted. "Mr. Chamberlain came to see me last week, two days before I fell ill. Are you saying that while he was in the castle he stole a book from the library?"
"Yes," said Harry.
"I doubt it," said Ron.
McGonagall looked from one to the other. "I doubt it too. His wife is a veela and I cannot remotely imagine that she would participate in such a crime."
"How do you know his wife is a veela?" asked Hermione.
"She was with him. They were a very engaging couple. We dined together here in my apartment. They say you cannot lie to a veela to whom you are married."
Harry looked dubiously at the Headmistress. "But if she was his accomplice, he wouldn't have to lie. And anyway, it's an assumption that she can't or wouldn't commit a crime. Come on, mate," he said to Ron who still looked doubtful. "That's elementary: question all assumptions."
The Professor held up her hand. "This is a fruitless topic. I will ask Madam Pince to conduct a search for the book. Meanwhile," she said to Hermione, "why don't you find another copy. Maybe the Department of Mysteries has one, or even Flourish and Blotts."
Hermione opened her mouth to reply, but Harry stopped her; he didn't want to talk about their current problems with Amander Croaker. "We can do that, Professor. But is that the reason you wanted to see us, to tell us about the book?"
"Why, yes. I thought you should know."
"Did you create the runes yourself?"
"No. Professor Flitwick helped. He needed to know about the coin since he's the Deputy Headmaster, but I did not want anyone else to know. It's not that I don't trust Professor Babbling, I just thought it best to keep the knowledge to as few people as possible. Oh, and of course Professor Dumbledore knew. He was the one to suggest it in the first place. But he did not participate in casting the runes."
Harry looked at the others. "We need to find that book or something similar." He thought for a moment. "I talked to George about Chamberlain, but maybe we should see him again. I'd like to know where the bloke went after he left Zonko's."
They made sure that Professor McGonagall was comfortable, and then left. On the way out of the office Harry passed a thought to Ginny, who asked the Patil twins to let her know, via a school owl, if anyone came to visit the Headmistress, aside from professors. Down in the corridor Harry waited until a group of students passed, and gathered the others around.
"Ron, could you and Hermione go to Zonko's and talk to George and Angelina, and also that helper they have, Chico. And also poke around the Post Office, try to find out everything you can about the parcel Chamberlain owled. Make up some kind of story if Rastlebuck won't loosen up."
"What are you going to do?" Ron asked. He glanced at his wristwatch. "We have about three hours until people start getting off work. We have to decide if we're going to meet up tonight."
"I think we can solve this ourselves, or at least get far enough along to give Kingsley enough reasons to bring me back. So maybe we won't have to have a meeting tonight." He grinned. "As for us, Ginny and I are going see the two people who know everything that's going on in Hogwarts."
"Emma and Claire!" Ginny laughed. "Why didn't I think of them?"
"Hah! I finally thought of something before you did. Let's go find them."
They decided to meet back in Harry and Ginny's flat in two hours, and the four parted. Ron and Hermione went down to the entrance hall, while Harry and Ginny retraced their steps to the seventh floor and made their way to Gryffindor Tower. When they arrived at the portrait hole they just stood there.
"Damn!" Harry said. "We should have asked McGonagall for the password." He frowned at the Fat Lady who gazed back at him benignly. "You wouldn't want to just let us in, would you?" She smiled and shook her head. "I didn't think so. I wonder where the girls are."
The Fat Lady spoke. "If you're referring to those Athair pests, they left half an hour ago. They were carrying their Potions textbooks."
"Why was she so helpful?" Ginny mused as they walked away.
"I never could figure her out," said Harry. "She's a prima donna, so maybe she heard that a crime was committed and she figures if she helps solve it she'll get some credit."
"And then what? What good does it do her? She's a bloody portrait."
Harry laughed. "Maybe portraits can score points on each other. I don't know. Ask Dumbledore."
They joked about portraits as they descended to the Potions dungeon. Through the closed door they could hear Professor Slughorn lecturing, and occasionally a rather pungent odor wafted from under the door. They sat for half an hour on two chairs that Harry conjured. When the door opened, the students coming out looked at them curiously. Emma and Claire were among the last to exit, and Harry beckoned to them.
"Hey, Harry. Hi, Ginny," Emma said brightly. "What are you doing here? Did you want to see us?"
"I need your help. But I guess you haven't heard."
They both looked at him expectantly, but then Claire frowned. "It's not good news, is it?"
Harry shook his head. "Let's find someplace private where we can talk."
Professor Slughorn was coming out of the classroom and stopped when he saw them. Harry swore under his breath for not leaving sooner; he knew Slughorn would try to pry.
"Harry," he said, "I heard, I heard. You must be quite upset. It's a real injustice, but I assure you that your friends are with you."
"Thanks, Professor." Harry tried to move away, but Slughorn took his arm.
"Why don't you come up to my office and we can talk, you and Mrs. Potter. I have many friends in the Ministry, as you know, and they are almost as concerned as I am, and—"
"I'd enjoy that, Professor, but I have something I need to do now, and—"
"Of course you do." Slughorn let his arm go, and looked around conspiratorially. "Between you, me and the wall, the Department of Mysteries has needed a good house-cleaning for a long time. They are—"
"Professor," Harry said a little more forcefully, "maybe we can meet about it later, you know, over a drink? I need to talk to Emma and Claire, and I'm sure you can understand that time is of the essence."
Slughorn nodded. "Yes, yes. Of course it is. I'm sorry, lad. I didn't mean to interrupt your investigation." He gave a knowing smile, bowed his head to Ginny, and walked away.
"Time is of the essence?" Ginny raised her eyebrows and looked at Harry.
"I had to say something. Where can we have some privacy?" he said to the twins.
"Right in there." Emma pointed to the closed classroom door. "He doesn't have any more classes today, and he always goes around to his rooms after his last class and has a few brandies."
"See?" Harry grinned at Ginny as they went into the Potions dungeon and he closed the door. "I told you these two could help."
Ginny smiled at the twins. "You have an immense reputation, you know."
"Us?" Claire looked at her innocently. "We're just simple schoolgirls. What can we help you with?"
They sat around a table on which stood an empty cauldron, a scale, and a few silver implements. "I got suspended from the Auror Department this morning," Harry began, and both of the twins showed shock. "I'm sure you heard what happened yesterday"—they nodded—"and now they're blaming me." Harry told them about the events of this morning and their meeting with the Headmistress. "I need you both to promise that you won't tell anyone about any of this. I could get into a lot worse trouble if it came out that I talked to you."
Emma's normally twinkling blue eyes became very sober. "Harry, you know you can trust us. We keep our secrets. That's why we know so much, everyone trusts us." Her eyes lit up again. "Plus, we know every nook and cranny of Hogwarts, including some that I think even you never found."
"I don't doubt that," Harry agreed. "So, what do you know about books in the restricted section?"
"Ah!" Claire grinned. "Madam Pince was one of the tougher nuts at Hogwarts, but even she has her weaknesses. Did you know that she eats so much chocolate from Honeydukes that they keep a whole roost of owls just to deliver goodies to her office?"
"I did not know that, but probably no one else does, either. Except you two. So she's a chocolate addict?"
Emma picked up the conversation. "Yes, but that's not the best part. She likes to take a box of toffee crèmes or Chocoballs or even Chocolate Frogs to bed with her, along with . . ." She paused dramatically and her eyes danced.
Claire continued, as Harry and Ginny listened avidly. "Along with a naughty little Muggle magazine. Do you know what weight lifters are?"
The Athair twins were Muggle-born, so Harry wasn't surprised that they knew something about what was apparently a seamy aspect of Muggle life. But he shook his head, as did Ginny.
"Since Muggles can't do magic," said Emma, "some of them think they can have power if they have big muscles. So they attach heavy metal weights to a bar and lift it, then put it down, then lift it, then put it down, then—"
"We get the idea," Harry laughed; Ginny just shook her head in disbelief. "But why does Madam Pince like magazines about weight lifting?"
"She likes weight lifters, not lifting. She likes to look at pictures of the men in the magazines," Claire explained, turning a little pink. "They have huge muscles and they wear tiny and very tight shorts."
"Now I understand." Ginny leered and nudged Harry in the ribs. "You should try that, especially the tiny shorts part."
"I don't need to," Harry said dryly, ignoring the twins' blushes. "I can do magic."
"Oh, right. Pity."
"Anyway," Harry said, "there's a book that's supposed to be in the restricted section. It's called Thanks For The Memories, and Professor McGonagall used it to cast runes to protect the Pensieve. Now it's missing. Hermione was looking for books about the Pensieve and she never saw that one."
"Is she sure?" asked Emma; she shot Claire an annoyed look when her sister poked her arm. "Okay, I guess Hermione would remember everything she had seen. Or not seen."
Harry nodded. "So is there any way of finding out what happened to that book?"
The twins looked at each other with brows identically knitted. Claire turned to Harry. "Do you have any clues at all?"
"I do. Does Pince keep records of who takes restricted books out? And do you know if she keeps records of non-students who use the library?"
"Yes, of course," Emma said. "And guess who takes care of them? She mentioned about a year ago that she had all kinds of parchments about the library all mixed up, and she didn't feel like sorting out the mess herself. So we suggested ourselves. It helped that we had just brought a stack of those weight lifter magazines back from Christmas hols."
Harry grinned. "Can we see them? The records, not the magazines." He leered at Ginny and she punched his arm.
Emma got to her feet. "Just follow us."
The twins led the way out of the dungeon. Harry glanced at Ginny as they went out the door, and she took his arm. They didn't talk, but he let her know how thankful he was that she was with him. She leaned her head on his shoulder for a moment as they walked.
They followed the twins through the cellars on a shortcut to the library that, indeed, Harry was not familiar with. They finally came out from behind a tapestry in a familiar corridor just a few yards from the library entrance. Emma stopped and leaned close to Harry and Ginny. "Get a couple of books," she whispered, "and sit at a table. If Pince is here and we take you into her office, she'll be suspicious."
Inside the library, the twins headed for the librarian's office while Harry brought a stack of books about Ancient Runes back to a table. He thought that maybe they could remember the runes on the Pensieve disk, and Ginny could translate them. She paged through Calhoun's Pretty Much Unabridged Dictionary of Runes In Lots Of Languages, and found a few that she recognized, but not enough to make any sense.
"I think the runes on the disk are French, but since I don't know French I can't make heads or tails of anything," Ginny said, rubbing her chin. "It's interesting that Professor McGonagall used French runes, though, don't you think?"
"Very interesting," Harry agreed. "I wonder why she didn't mention it."
The twins returned before Harry and Ginny could speculate further. Claire put her finger to her lips and indicated with a nod that they should leave. Out in the corridor Emma took a quick look around and slipped a small parchment into Harry's hand. He just as quickly put it in his pocket.
"We think you'll find that useful," Emma said quietly. "It's a copy, so don't worry about returning it. But after you finish with it, use Evanesco or something to get rid of it."
Harry nodded. "Thanks so much." He grabbed Emma and hugged her, then Claire while Ginny grinned.
He turned to her. "Let's go back and ask McGonagall why she used French runes."
They walked together until they arrived on the second floor and Harry and Ginny turned to the Headmistress's office, while the twins went up to Gryffindor Tower after revealing the current password, "Burnt Toast and Rancid Peanut Butter."
"Weird," Harry muttered as they ascended the spiral stairs. "Who makes those up?"
"I think the Headmistress or Headmaster," said Ginny. "Maybe McGonagall came up with that one while she was unwell."
Parvati stood outside the office now, and she told them that Professor Flitwick was in with the Headmistress. The door in back was open, and when they went into the office they could see the Charms professor sitting on a stool next to the settee. They couldn't see McGonagall, but they heard her.
"I know you've collaborated with him, Filius, and I also know his wife. But if he is stealing books from the library—"
She glanced up and saw Harry standing in the doorway; Flitwick also looked around.
"Harry!" said the Headmistress, as he and Ginny entered. "I'm glad you came back. Your comment about Mr. Chamberlain started me thinking, and I asked Professor Flitwick to come see me because he and Mr. Chamberlain are old colleagues."
"I thought you didn't believe he could do it," Harry said. "I mean steal something."
"I am skeptical, but as you said, question all assumptions. My sphere is teaching, not criminal investigation, but it's also the protection of Hogwarts, and the troubles with the Pensieve did coincide with his visit."
Harry did not want to get in the middle of an argument between McGonagall and Flitwick. "Can I ask you a question, Professor? Why did you use French runes on the Pensieve coin?"
"This Pensieve came from France, hundreds of years ago, so French runes are much more appropriate, don't you think?"
"Wouldn't English runes work?" Ginny asked. "I don't remember learning anything in Ancient Runes about one language being better than another."
"That's correct, but if the language doesn't matter, then no harm's been done. If the language does matter, then we did the right thing."
Harry sent Ginny an image of them walking out the door. It was growing late, and they needed to get back to the inn. "Well, we have to be going," he said to the professors. "The family is getting together at the Burrow tonight, and we want to be there. Can we use the fireplace to Floo to the inn?"
"I'm glad you mentioned that," Ginny said in the outer office just before they Floo'd. "No one is thinking about Percy, including me. Mum is probably a wreck."
Ron and Hermione were in the sitting room when Harry and Ginny arrived back at their flat. They sat at the blowfish table and Harry took the Athair twins' parchment from his pocket. He read it with Ginny looking over his shoulder. "Emma and Claire nicked this for us from Pince's office . . ." He furrowed his brow, but looked up with satisfaction and handed the note to Ron. "He's our man."
Ron read it and passed it to Hermione. "So he did look at that book," he said. "That cracks it for me too. If we find him, we find Percy and the Pensieve. I guess I was wrong about veelas. How did the twins get into that office?"
"Big muscles and tight shorts," Ginny snickered.
"What the hell does that mean?" Ron looked at her, perplexed.
"I'll tell you later. I want to get to the Burrow. Mum needs us."
"I agree," said Harry. "We can talk there. Even if you don't have anything new from George, I think we have enough so that we don't need a meeting, at least not tonight."
"Then send Popeye or someone an owl," Hermione said. "They're expecting to hear from us."
They decided to use a Post owl instead of one that someone might recognize as Harry or Ginny's, so Ron hurried to the Post Office and sent a message to Seamus, saying that he wasn't feeling well, so he and Hermione could not meet him for dinner as they had planned.
They all Floo'd to the Burrow. The house was quiet, but they heard people in the parlor and found Molly and Arthur, Bill and Fleur, Audrey and little Molly, and Angelina there. Ginny's mother looked up as they entered; she held a handkerchief to her face and kept dabbing her red and swollen eyes. Arthur sat on the couch between her and Audrey, an arm around each.
"Thank goodness you're here," Molly said and sighed. "There's still no word of Percy."
"Saliyah was just here," said Bill, perched on the arm of a wingback chair where Fleur was sitting. "She told us what Deverill did, Ginny. I honestly didn't think he could be so stupid."
Ginny shrugged but didn't answer. She went to her mother and squeezed next to her and put her arm around her. "It's done. I'm doing what I want to do. I'm where I want to be."
The room was silent as people looked down with lips pressed together or with frowns on their faces. Audrey reached her hand to Ginny. "Thank you," she said softly. "I'm sure they'll put you back on the team when—when this is over."
Ginny shrugged again. Harry went over and kissed Molly's forehead and she hugged him briefly. He glanced at Ron, then at the door. They walked out with Hermione; Bill and Fleur followed.
"If they don't find Percy by this evening, Charlie is coming home early," Bill said glumly on the way into the kitchen. "Sal wasn't optimistic. She's been dealing with discontented Aurors all day. If they don't reinstate you, Harry, they'll have a full-blown rebellion on their hands. Be careful, brother. Don't give Croaker any ammunition to use against you."
"What do you know about him," Harry asked as they sat at the table. Fleur busied herself with a teakettle, but he noticed a small frown on her face.
"He did some crazy things in the war that pretty much kept the Death Eaters out of the Department of Mysteries after they killed two Unspeakables. But I don't think he did that because he loved liberty and hated Voldemort. He just didn't want anyone else taking over his turf."
"But why would he want to get me fired? I'm no threat to him."
Bill looked tired. "I don't know. None of this makes sense. Especially Deverill . . ." He shook his head. "That man is acting totally irrational. It's like he can't handle the pressure. It's not going to affect the team's performance if Ginny misses a couple of practices. I don't understand it."
Fleur set out cups and saucers and poured tea for everyone. "'E is jealous of Ginny because she is more popular zan 'im. It's as simple as zat."
"But he's doing something unpopular," Hermione said. "I don't understand it either."
Fleur gave a Gallic shrug. "Everyone is acting crazy. It's almost like zat Pensieve 'as made ze world stupid."
"Speaking of which," Harry said, "we found out that Chadwick Chamberlain stole a book on Pensieves from the Hogwarts library."
"Non!" Fleur glared at him. "Impossible! I do not believe it!"
Harry took the parchment from his pocket and held it up. "There is no question that he looked at the book, and now it's missing. And it's the same book that Professor McGonagall used a few months ago." He took his wand out. "Evanesco," he muttered, and the parchment vanished.
Fleur slumped into the chair next to Bill. Her face, normally to Harry one of the most beautiful things in the universe, was now almost too pained to look at. The sadness in it seemed obscene. Harry had never seen her like this, and he felt appalled that he had caused it. He looked at her, stricken.
After a moment Fleur looked back at him, and sympathy replaced her sadness.
"Oh, 'Arry, it is not your fault. You are doing your job, and you do it so well. If Uncle Chadwick stole a book, zen 'e deserves punishment." Her eyes flashed briefly, but once more became sad, although less so than a moment ago. She sighed. "I can accept it, but I do not understand it. I don't understand any of zis."
They sipped tea and were lost in their own thoughts. Finally Harry said, "Ron, did you find out anything from George?"
Ron, who had been staring at Fleur, came out of his reverie and nodded. "Chamberlain did do some strange things, and it all fits with what you found out. George said he came back from the Post Office and they were chatting for a few minutes until the lorry pulled out of Hogsmeade. He bought a few samples, which George said he already told you about. Then he said he had to go meet his wife, but he didn't say where. George figured he meant at The Three Broomsticks or The Hog's Head, but he watched him leave and he went into Dervish and Banges instead."
Suddenly Harry scowled deeply. "Wait a minute!" He looked at Ginny. "Didn't he tell us he was mailing a letter to his wife?"
"He did send it to her," Ron said. "Rastlebuck told us it was addressed to Mrs. Patience Chamberlain in Withypool, Somerset."
"So he lied about her being in Hogsmeade, waiting for him?"
Ron shook his head. "Nope. She was in Dervish and Banges."
"Did you go there?"
"Don't I look like an Auror?" Ron grinned. "Twohill said Chamberlain's wife was there, and had been waiting for almost an hour, just poking around but not buying anything."
"Who is zis 'Twohill'?" Fleur asked. "Zat name sounds like what an owl says."
"Monitor Twohill," Harry replied. "He's the owner of Dervish and Banges. He's been there forever and he's so nearsighted he might as well be blind." He turned to Ron. "Do you trust what he said? The bloke can't tell between me and Ginny whenever we go in there."
"He can tell a veela, apparently," Ron said. "He went on about her for ten minutes. When Chamberlain got there she introduced him. And, according to Mr. Twohill, that seemed to annoy the old bugger."
"Really?" Harry's eyebrows rose. "So he didn't like attracting attention."
"Wait a minute, Harry," Hermione said. "How can the man not attract attention if he's walking around with a veela on his arm?"
"Because no one would look at him. She would get all the attention and he would be invisible, for all intents. Plus, if he was in the village for more than a day or two, he could very easily have noticed or heard that Twohill was extremely nearsighted. That may be why he wanted his wife to wait there."
Bill leaned forward with a sideways smile at Fleur. "I can vouch for the first part of that. If you're standing next to a veela no one gives you a second glance, even if half your face is missing."
"Ooh, zat is not true!" Fleur took his hand and with her other stroked his scarred face. "Zey always look at you, too, darling."
"But by then they're besotted." Bill grinned.
Fleur's appreciative smile bathed the room in glory, and no one spoke until Hermione jabbed Ron with her elbow. He started and his eyes focused. "Oh, right. So where was I?"
"Chamberlain didn't like being introduced to Monitor Twohill by his wife," Hermione prompted.
"That's it. Now here's the best part. Twohill could tell that when they left, she went back down the High Street but he went into the field behind The Hog's Head. Of course he couldn't see what happened next, so we went to the inn, and guess who saw him?"
There was silence, until Ginny smiled. "Winky."
"Precisely!" Ron beamed. "Harry's right, you should be an Auror. She happened to step outside just as Chamberlain was at the end of the field. She watched him climb over the fence and walk down the lane away from the village. She could see him for a couple of hundred yards until the road curved."
"And I'll bet if you ask her why she was outside at just the right moment, she won't tell you," said Harry.
"Hey, she's an elf," Ron shrugged.
Harry pointed his finger at Ron. "And I've been around her long enough to know that she never does anything without a reason. She knew that someone bad was near the inn, and she went outside to make sure he didn't make mischief." He sat back. "Is that it? You didn't go down the lane?"
"It was starting to get late," Ron said. "Besides, the whole thing happened more than twenty-four hours ago. It wasn't too likely we would have found anything."
Harry nodded, but looked at Ginny. The picture in her mind made him suddenly sit forward. My wife the crime solver, he sent to her.
"Hardly," Ginny laughed. The others watched; they all knew that things passed wordlessly between Harry and Ginny.
Harry explained. "Ginny pointed out that the only place that lane goes is to the Muggle highway to Perth. That's the way we took the Pensieve."
"Could he have followed you?" asked Hermione. "Did you notice a car following you?"
Harry thought back to the drive south. It had never occurred to him to look back to see if anyone was following. He could ask Justin, but he had sat in the middle of the cab and would not have been able to easily see behind them. "I didn't notice anything, but that doesn't mean no one was there. I never looked."
Ron picked up Harry's train of thought. "But that could explain the Imperio on Percy. Chamberlain could have been right behind you and controlled him."
"That doesn't work," Hermione demurred, "not unless he was the one who cast the Curse in the first place. Chamberlain was inside the Post Office with the Postmaster from the time the lorry arrived on the High Street until you met him after he sent his owl," she said to Harry. "Mr. Rastlebuck would remember if Chamberlain used Imperio."
"Are you sure?" Harry asked. "Old Rastlebuck can be forgetful. No one was paying attention to that side of the road after we saw Mundungus Fletcher in front of Honeydukes. He could have been a decoy."
The parlor door opened and Molly came into the kitchen. "Don't mind me. I'm starting dinner but you're not in the way." She went into the pantry where they could hear her poking and clattering through cupboards and shelves.
"I just thought of something," Ginny said, blushing when a gentle wave of amused appreciation from Harry washed over her. "Why didn't Chamberlain Apparate when he left Dervish and Banges? Why did he walk right past the inn and risk being seen? People don't normally walk across that field."
Molly came out of the pantry carrying a large roast in a pan. "Ginny, dear, can you get a dozen potatoes from the bin? I couldn't carry it all. Was that Fleur's uncle you were just talking about? He's such a sweet man. He and Aunt Patience will be here on Sunday for Fred's memorial. Does everyone fancy a pot roast for dinner?"