Chapter 19: A Good Deed.
'Did you say Hermione Granger-Weasley?' asked his Aunt Ginny.
'Yes, that's who Jayne said was on the phone – she said she'd heard good reports about the home, was looking for somewhere to retire and could she come and pay a visit to really get to know the place and the facilities…' Jules trailed off. He didn't really know what to say at the moment; this, as Muggles say, had completely blindsided him … I mean, how the hell in the name of all that's' vaguely not bloody ridiculous, did she find out about this?
Or was it some really bizarre, nasty little coincidence? A real belter of one – just that kind where you go WHAT!? Except you do it about a million times over.
Yes, it could be that – it could be something bizarre – just a really freaky coming together of things – which now threatened to shit plumb in the desert. Great, he thought: yum, yum! Why couldn't his life be simpler and straightforward? Ha! he snorted at that thought and everyone around the table in The Burrows' kitchen stared at him.
Shit, I'll just come clean, he thought. 'Sorry, I was just wishing my life to be simpler – and then I realised I am the grandson of Weasleys and Malfoys – when was that ever going to be easy! It's like the universe said, yep, he'll cock this lot up for sure… hey ho…' and he laughed.
His Aunt Ginny was about to remonstrate with him, probably for being a self-pitying twit at a potential crisis time like this whilst Great Grandfather Arthur at first frowned at what he said then looked at the early evening sky through the kitchen window. Jules thought something seemed to be puzzling and troubling him.
Jules held up his hands in mock surrender and looked at everyone there: Ginny, Arthur Weasley and Frank. Tracy had said she would stay and explain things to Jayne – not too much but enough to help them keep their cover whilst she'd help her dad with the early evening rush. They were going to call back in later to see her. At least Frank thought the last bit was a good idea and Tracy didn't disagree but Jules wasn't so sure – till Tracy said she and Jayne were going to meet up at the village pub for a quick drink before bed – around ten o'clock …and Frank had told Jules Tracy had just messaged him that Jayne was just wondering if Jules would be popping by …later …
'Jules? Jules!' came his Aunt's voice. He snapped back into the conversation; Frank was chuckling – he was so tempted to give him a clear signal to bugger off but thought better of it. 'Jules, are you listening?'
'Yes,' he said immediately, 'sorry, just thinking deeply then and focused out a bit.' He ignored trying to catch what they had been saying and went straight in with his ideas. 'Okay, everybody – way I see it, Grandma Hermione phoning up like that is one of several possibilities. One, it's coincidence.'
'Oh, come on,' exclaimed Frank and his Aunt and Great Grandfather looked highly sceptical. 'How many properties does your Grandmother own, Jules?'
'Actually, I don't know – four or five?'
'She owns eight,' said Arthur Weasley. 'One was their family home, the other six are all working farms that she bought when she was Minister and the last – she bought as a retirement home…'
'Ah – ' said Jules. That rather knackered that idea.
'Ah, exactly!' said Aunt Ginny. 'Your Grandmother is nothing if not organised – she'd be prepared for retirement – why the hell would she want to even go anywhere near Coleford and Vobster but because of Ron?' and she looked hard at Jules, 'coincidence my pimply arse!'
Both Frank and Arthur snorted. 'Ginny, really …' her father said.
'Alright, agreed – as Muggles say it's a bloody long shot – but it's NOT completely impossible – just very, very unlikely – that we've traced him and discovered Derek Bond's involvement, that it's something bloody major AND that they are trying to stop anyone finding them and revealing the truth – and then, THEN, of all people, she just happens to phone up …?' He frowned. 'I agree, it's ridiculous to think it could be that BUT let's not just rule it out yet, okay?'
No one disagreed. 'Two, it wasn't her.'
No one seemed to have thought of this one. 'Are you serious?' asked Aunt Ginny, stopping almost mid-question and frowning to herself. 'Actually, yes! I see what mean.' And she nodded her head in agreement.
'Yes, do you see it,' asked Jules, 'Grandfather Ron is hiding – admittedly in plain sight – but still brilliantly and there are some serious forces or just one person – whatever it is, who threatens him. Impersonating someone to get into somewhere is hardly new but it's what happens.'
'So, this could be an imposter or a fraud of some kind?' asked Arthur.
'Yes, Great Grandad, exactly – perhaps they are trying to unnerve Derek and Grandfather or …' he trailed off again.
'What? asked Frank.
'Well, three – and I don't like this option – but it has to be faced.' Jules looked quickly around the group. 'It's a strong word but here goes – either we've got a traitor – '.
Uproar! Frank forgot his manners and where he was, shouting 'You fucking what, Jules?' and both his Aunt and Great Grandfather shouted his name in shock.
Again, his hands were up in mock surrender. 'I know, I know … sorry, it's a crap idea but …' he was going to persevere with it even though the other three were beginning to look mutinous, 'well, perhaps someone let something slip – you know, just by accident – or she got wind of it somehow, you know how small the Magical world can seem sometimes – I mean, there's thousands of us but so many people related and so on – maybe someone noticed something about Coleford and Vobster – or sadly, we've got an accidental leak in the investigation?' He sat back. He didn't like it anymore than they did. He was damn sure nobody had betrayed them but perhaps something had got out … if it wasn't impersonation and it wasn't coincidence…
Frank's strong interruption jogged him out of his thoughts. 'Well, I doubt very much it was anyone here! Your Aunt Ginny and Great Grandfather probably appreciate more than anyone the seriousness of what's going on here. For what it's worth, I am ahead of you, Jules and whilst you were saying a regretful farewell to the lovely Jayne,' Jules rolled his eyes and shook his head 'Tracy and I were discussing just this – had we let anyone know who could have informed your grandmother and the answer is an emphatic NO!'
His Great Grandfather cleared his throat, 'Perhaps my chance meeting with Derek alerted her somehow – but I deeply doubt it.'
'I have not mentioned any of this to a living soul, except the people you have included, Jules,' said his Aunt Ginny. 'I have yet to discuss it with your Uncle Harry.'
Arthur Weasley's face took on the same look he'd had before when he was staring out of the kitchen window, thought Jules. Frank had noticed too; he was looking between Ginny and her father. 'What?' he asked.
'We can't be bugged in here,' said Arthur Weasley, 'I asked Frank, didn't I?' Frank nodded. 'You told me we still had some of the best wards in the world – so powerful because of what happened in the War and they've been enhanced every year – it would practically take the whole of Magical Britain's combined magic to eavesdrop on us…' Arthur left that thought there for a moment. 'Correct, Frank?'
'Yes, absolutely,' said Frank and nodded his head vigorously, 'you have some of the best wards in the world; checked'em myself the other day while we waited to all meet up, as you asked Mr. Weasley – practically nothing left for me to enhance – they're brilliant. No one could listen in.'
'Sorry, I am being thick as a Knockturn Alley sandwich but where's this leading us – '
No one answered him but almost a moment later Frank exclaimed, 'Oh, it's obvious – so obvious!' whilst his Aunt and Great Grandfather just nodded at each other.
Then, with surprising quickness for a man of his advanced years, he turned around in his seat so he was facing away from the table and towards the inner kitchen door which lead to the stairs and the lower rooms. His wand was out and with a quick flick of it but no words – Jules recognised the movement immediately – Hominem Revelio – an outline of a shape appeared, as if glowing in the wall about five feet above the skirting board. It was clearly human. It was clearly in a sitting position – in fact, Jules realised very quickly, in the kind of sitting position you have when you are sitting on a stair, your feet resting on a lower stair …
The figure was slightly hunched forward as if listening … Oh crap, thought Jules: surely not!?
His Great Grandfather flicked his wand again with more wordless magic – again, clear wand movements indicating all silencio and muffliato charms and any other sound restricting charms placed there were instantly removed.
'Come in, my love,' called his Grandfather, 'you might catch a chill sitting on that step.'
The outline didn't move. Ginny was up, over to the door, opened it and immediately looked to her left where the stairs began. 'Oh, for God's sake, Mum; just bloody well come in – we know you're there!' and immediately she disappeared from view as she was heard going up the few stairs to where his Great Grandmother, matriarch of the Weasley Family, veteran of so many things … and currently much-rumbled eavesdropper sat.
'Don't take that tone with me, Ginevra!'
'I'll take any bloody tone I like; oh, come here! Let me help you,' and in a trice, Ginny had part strong armed, part levitated her aged mother down the stairs and around the corner of the door into the kitchen where she was safely landed in the vacant seat by her husband.
Jules and Frank – even though he'd already guessed what was going on – wore slightly slack-jawed expressions in this development! Even at this stage, Jules' heart almost burst with pride at his Great Grandmother's sangfroid – she did not miss a beat.
She' d been landed on the chair carefully by her obviously deeply pissed off daughter whilst her husband of several decades was frowning at her, his expression clearly saying pull the other one, it's got bells on! She simply smiled pleasantly, like it was all one big happy adventure and really, what was all the fuss about.
'Oh, Jules, so lovely to see you, dear – how are you, my lovely boy,' she said, 'And do I see young Frank Longbottom?' and she smiled the smile that would have graced an ambassador's face – yes, delighted to meet you! 'How are you, Frank? Lovely to see you? How's mum and dad and all the family? How's Neville?' she cooed.
'Alright, Mum – you can stow it now,' said his Aunt Ginny with both tremendous calmness yet force. 'Very glad you're pleased to see the boys – BUT as you were listening in anyways,' Ginny was starting to shout, 'you bloody well knew they were here!'
'Ginny, must I warn you yet again, after all these years about that temper of yours,' said her mother. 'I really don't know what you are talking about and please,' and here she smiled at Frank again, 'don't be rude in front of a guest!'
Frank couldn't help but laugh. 'It's okay, Mrs. Weasley,' he smiled back, 'you go for it! I am enjoying the show!'
'Frank, not helping!' growled Ginny but her father silenced everyone by raising his hand for calm. He looked at his wife but she wouldn't meet his eye and continued to look at everyone, smiling. Except Ginny, who she cocked an eyebrow at then smiled again at Jules and Frank.
'Molly, my love,' began Arthur Weasley, 'why did you tell her?'
His Great Grandmother was ill and was often confined to bed, though clearly she had more mobility than he realised but here she gave the impression of sitting ramrod straight – she must have been a real firebrand when she was young, thought Jules – even though really she was a little old lady, slightly stooped, the famed Prewett red hair now the grey of a late November sky, the eyes still glittered with a fiery passion. 'I don't know what you're talking about,' she replied simply.
Arthur Weasley didn't look away even though his wife clearly refused to look him in the eye, smiling benignly around the room. Jules looked at his Great Grandfather's expression. He didn't look angry or overly serious; in fact, he looked deeply and simply saddened and like he understood what was going on. His expression changed again and with the sadness, Jules felt he saw immense compassion and love for his wife. Jules, his Aunt Ginny and Frank just watched the exchange, rapt.
'Yes, you do,' he said quietly. 'After Jules told you the news that perhaps – perhaps we had found Ron, you contacted Hermione and told her what was going on.'
The next sound would have broken the most cynical heart – a sob from his Great Grandmother and straightaway his Great Grandfather was up and cuddling her, arms around her shoulders. Jules glanced at Frank who looked as serious as he'd ever seen him, then his Aunt Ginny who was clearly near tears herself. He looked back at his Great Grandparents. Arthur was rocking Molly ever-so-slightly as he stood, leaning down and holding her. 'It's alright, love, it's okay,' he was saying.
His Aunt Ginny had conjured a handkerchief from somewhere and given it to her mother who was dabbing her eyes. 'I couldn't help it, Arthur, I am sorry – I know I shouldn't have been listening in but…' and here she looked up at her husband, 'she deserved to know – I kept imagining if it had been you and I'd been hoping, wanting, longing, waiting … for you … all those years.' She paused. 'Oh, I know what the papers say that their marriage was over and so on – but that's all rubbish and we all know it – they were a true love match and although she would never admit it, she's been wanting to know about him for so long – ' she became quieter. 'I kept thinking, what if it had been you and I'd been left in the dark – it's not right … she needs to know – she's suffered enough. I know she seems granite-like – but it's a show: deep down, she is hurting so badly – my poor girl, my poor girl …'
Jules heard a sniffle and found Frank reaching over to give his Aunt Ginny a reassuring pat on the arm. She smiled gratefully back at Frank then looked back over to her mother.
Jules felt a lump in his throat. He couldn't say whether this was going to ruin their investigation or what might go right or wrong from this but he knew he was damned for all eternity if the woman in front of him was going to feel guilty over what she'd done. She'd done it for the best and she'd done it from the heart.
That was good enough for him.
'Great Grandma?' he asked tentatively. She looked up slowly to him as she dabbed her eyes again. Everyone else followed her glance and looked at him. He didn't care whether what he said turned out correct or not – it just needed saying.
'Listen to me,' and he smiled at her even as he felt a little moist around the eyes himself. 'It's going to be alright, okay?' He looked more closely at her, to make sure she understood he wasn't angry at all – and never would be. 'It's going to be fine. I understand why you told Grandma Hermione and it's fine – really, please believe me.'
She smiled a slightly watery smile at him and his Great Grandfather gave her another squeeze whilst his Aunt Ginny got up and knelt down in front of her mother and smiled up at her, holding her hands reassuringly.
'It is, don't worry,' he said. 'We're going to make it all fine.'