When Harry entered the kitchen of Grimmauld place, he saw Ron was already awake despite the early hour. He suppressed a curse. Their unexpected guest sat with his back to Harry and clung to the mug of coffee his sister had brewed for him. Apparently, he was not yet sober enough to work an anti-hangover spell. Harry felt for Ron and he would do his best to console his friend, whose wife had walked out, but he had estimated that Ron would still be asleep.
Harry pointed at his watch, hoping that Ginny would take the hint. “I really have to leave”, Harry mouthed to his wife, in the hope, that he could sneak out before Ron would realize he was gone. If Ron knew where he was going it would not help his mood.
Ginny gave a barely perceptible nod and Harry mouthed a thank you before he began tiptoeing out. He could count on getting coffee or tea later.
Somehow, even with a brain that probably was addled by grief, regret, anger, and a fair amount of firewhiskey, Ron noticed him and turned.
Harry felt caught, when Ron’s gaze fell on the coat and the case he had put under his arm, even though it was not unusual that he had early working hours.
He harrumphed. “I have a meeting at eight.”
“It’s the bloody holidays”, Ron said. “Who would set a meeting for eight.”
Harry felt his cheeks flushing. Even after all these years, he still had difficulties lying to his best friend. He cursed the timing of his friend’s recent reiteration of “irreconcilable differences” with wife number three.
“She has been clearing the Manor of Dark Artefacts ever since Lucius died. It is my duty as head auror to collect them, once she has declared them safe. And destroy them.”
“Is this connected to your suspicion of new death eater activity?”
“Of course not. This is a regular appointment, Ron. Mrs. Malfoy has been nothing but helpful.” Ginny chimed in.
“Still, the aurors could observe some of the..,” Ron waved indistinctively with his hand, “… old bunch. That might give you a lead to the problem of these accidents you told me about.”
Harry sighed. “We actually discussed this in the department, and we might be desperate enough to try that.”
He was not surprised, when he saw a glint in Ron’s eye. He used to discuss everything with Ron, and it was a habit, that had proved to be hard to break. And talking about his work had distracted Ron from his own problems, when he had arrived late last night.
He shot his friend a warning look though, when he opened his mouth. Harry just knew who Ron would suggest for observation. And observing Draco Malfoy would land Harry in a real pickle.
“Pansy will be waiting, darling,” Ginny said.
Ron scoffed. “Pansy bloody Parkinson. Second to the Head Auror.”
“Pansy Longbottom, Ron, you know that. And she deserved the promotion. I should have done it years ago. I have to go.”
Since there was no point in sneaking out any longer, Harry went around the table and gave his wife a quick peck.
Their eyes met and Ginny nodded. She would take care of Ron.
Harry left the house and disapparated.
Pansy was already waiting, and they slowly went to the gate of the Manor side by side.
“Hi Harry,” she said. “Happy new year! Did you have a nice New Year’s Eve?”
“We went to the Burrow and it was the usual ruckus. And you?”
“Neville and I stayed with … friends.”
Harry was tempted to roll his eyes. As if he didn’t know.
“Did you celebrate your promotion?”
“You mean the long overdue promotion?”. Pansy grinned. “Neville’s words not mine.”
“I know, he happened to say that to my face as well.”
Pansy laughed. “I suspected as much. So, why do you bring me along? Does this meeting really need the head auror and the second?”
Harry shook his head. “No, it is more a favour to Mrs. Malfoy.”
Pansy arched an eyebrow. “How?”
“You are in a far better position to tell her what she really wants to know. You know about …. your friends…”
Harry’s hand hovered over the bars of the gate.
“Narcissa Malfoy hands objects of dark magic over to you of all people in return for information on Draco?”, Pansy asked.
“Shht.” Harry silenced her. “Don’t mention his name, not at all.”
“I don’t understand. She could just apparate there and ask him. Dr… I mean, he would be beside himself. He never wanted to fall out with his mother. He would probably sing with joy.”
“He sings? I can hardly believe that.”
“You’d be surprised.”
Harry made a face. “I try not to picture that. Anyway, I thought you knew? You being a pureblood and all that.”
“Well, you know, he wasn’t just disowned… He was cut out?”
“Cut out as in cursed out? Lucius Malfoy went that far?” Pansy’s eyes had widened.
“To be fair, it is entirely possible, that he did it by accident. It is not easy to talk about it, because you never know how the magic of the curse might react. If I understood correctly, it was a matter of wording. Great- grandfather Sammael Malfoy went to great lengths to protect the Malfoy name and the purity of the line. And Lucius managed to use the exact wording necessary to trigger the cutting out curse, when he disowned …. him.”
Harry studied her face. Her surprise seemed genuine.
“I thought, you knew, I thought everybody knew.”
Pansy scoffed. “Well, everybody knows about the disinheritance. And obviously everybody knows about Sammael’s stupid house elf pact. Sammael Malfoy might never have been famous in his lifetime but certainly is now. But this is just… I don’t know what to say.”
“But you do see the problem now?”
Pansy grimaced. “As long as Lucius was alive, the Manor probably was under control. But now, there is no heir… Poor Narcissa, she probably can’t even leave the house.”
“No, she can’t.”
“And I’ve always thought … this was about … his … situation.” Pansy shook her head. “I should know better by now than just to presume. Does …. her son know?”
“Be careful. That expression makes a connection. Still too close for the magic. And obviously I have no fucking idea if he knows, Pansy, or if he thinks this is about him being basically a squib.”
His temper was on a short fuse today. Ron’s appearance had opened old wounds. “You know very well, that we are not exactly on speaking terms. I’ve made my choice, ages ago. You are his friend. You tell me.”
Pansy tapped her lips with her wand in an involuntary gesture Harry knew well enough from years of working with her. She gave the question some thought.
“Even if he would be able to talk about it, I doubt he would have told anyone but his wife. He can be a secretive arsehole.”
Harry scoffed. “Leave out the adjective. He can be an arsehole.”
What was wrong with him? He had not fought with Pansy over Draco Malfoy for years and now was not the moment to start it. Ron and his bloody fall out with his wife had gotten under his skin.
Pansy’s face distorted only shortly, but then her face smoothed again. She probably had decided to be mature about this.
“So, to sum up. I am supposed to give her information without triggering any nasty side effects of the curse.”
“Exactly.” Harry sighed. “I can tell you from experience, that that can be disagreeable. So, this is a social call, not business.”
“Should I just call him You-know-who, then?”
Harry laughed despite himself. “Don’t you dare!”
“Well, no names, got that, ring the bell then, boss.”
It took them a while to walk through the parc and they unanimously decided to talk about more neutral subjects and it was a testimony to Harry’s mood that he was relieved they were talking about the recent raise in what they unofficially called death eater return activities.
“I agree it is not a coincidence. I mapped these dangerous ‘accidents’ with Muggleborn children and there is a peak in Wiltshire which seems to exceed the usual statistic spike.” Pansy told him.
“We have no evidence for wizards of witches involved, though,” Harry argued.
“But there has been evidence of magic being wielded. And that really worries me. I suspect they use Muggle devices. Muggles have invented all kinds of things over the last decade.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“I don’t know the exact name. But these things fly, and you can guide them with a smartphone, you know one of these portable devices. They would have to find a way to transport a curse. You know, encase it and apply it later.”
Pansy paused and gave him a side look from under her lashes. “If you want me to, I’ll look into that possibility.”
Harry grimaced. The idea made too much sense. “Yes, please do that, just in case.”
He knew where Pansy would get her information, and he disliked it. He did not want to be in anybody’s debt, least of all Draco’s. Years as an auror had taught him though, that he could not afford to be too picky. But he would have to be careful around Ron.
“If they indeed use muggle devices, are they just bloody hypocrites or does this mean they have connection to muggles? And what kind of muggle would even collaborate with them?”
What kind of muggles, indeed. It frightened Harry. He probably should recruit someone with good knowledge about the Muggle world, a Squib maybe, or a Muggle who knew about the wizarding world. He knew that his own knowledge on Muggle things was far behind. He wondered if they were just lucky, that no Muggleborn had died yet.
“We’ll have to find that out. As for what kind of muggles, I’d say that there are idiots and villains in both worlds.”
Narcissa Malfoy opened the door herself.
“Mr Potter and Mrs Longbottom, please come in and be my guest.”
She led them into a small parlour, where coffee and tea had been prepared. Harry had been right. He would get his coffee after all.