Hattie stood outside waiting, her arms folded across her chest. Edwin, beside her, laid a hand on her shoulder, but she shook him off. Beatrice came outside to stand next to them.
“What's going on, Mum?”
Hattie didn't answer. She felt wound into a tight ball, and if she let go for a moment, she might snap with the tension.
“Some people are coming,” Edwin spoke up. “It's... Beatrice, you may not be able to go back to work tomorrow. If this gets out, we might all have to go into hiding.”
“It won't get out,” Hattie said sharply. “They won't be here long, and it's not as if we've met them before. Nobody will suspect they might come here.”
“You don't know that,” Edwin pointed out angrily, and Beatrice interrupted them.
“Stop it! Stop fighting. If I never go back to that stupid job, I don't care. Who is coming?”
“A family who needs our help,” Hattie told her, and the next moment there was a series of loud cracks, and three figures appeared a few yards away. As they hurried closer, Hattie made out Molly Weasley, clutching a little girl who couldn't be more than five years old. Behind her was her eldest son Bill, holding a little boy who stared up at his scarred face with what looked to be awe, and Bill's new wife. She was holding another little girl, this one older than her sister.
“Arthur's on his way with their parents,” Molly said breathlessly. “We thought it was best if we came separately, so he's coming straight from Kingsley's-”
“I'll stay to watch for him,” Edwin said. He was watching the obviously frightened children. Hattie could see her husband softening, and she knew there would be no more talk of whether she was doing the right thing or not.
Hattie led the way inside, and watched as Bill and his wife deposited the children on the sofa. Beatrice immediately went over to coo at the little ones, and Molly tried to prise the little girl's arms from around her neck.
“Fleur, could you-?”
Molly's daughter-in-law came over and took the child from her arms, carrying her over to sit with her siblings.
“She has a way with children, they seemed to love her instantly,” Molly whispered to Hattie.
“The girls probably think she's a princess,” Hattie said, and Molly smiled. She still looked quite frazzled, and Hattie took her hand.
“I don't think I'll feel better until I see Arthur,” she said in a low voice. “I worry every time he goes to work, Hattie. I don't think I can take much more of this. He said Runcorn threatened him today.”
Hattie stared in shock. “But you're purebloods.”
“We're blood traitors,” Molly responded, and there was a note of pride in her voice at the declaration. “And everyone knows we've had Harry to stay every summer and Christmas for years, and you know he's been called Undesirable Number One now.”
“Harry Potter?” Hattie had nearly forgotten Molly's mention that her son was good friends with the Boy Who Lived. She'd been so consumed by Humphrey's death that she'd forgotten almost everything else.
“Well, I think we'd better start considering going into hiding ourselves,” Molly said wearily. “Arthur won't like it, though.”
“He wants to do as much good as he can for as long as he can,” Hattie whispered.
“I love that about him, you know I've always loved that about him.” Molly shook her head. She looked very tired. The war was etching sorrow deep into her best friend's face, and Hattie felt like crying for her. “I just wish I didn't have to love it about him right now, if you see what I mean,” Molly added.
Beatrice was still sitting with the children, and she and Fleur had managed to jolly them into a smile or two. Bill came over to his mother, and Hattie tried not to stare at his once-handsome face. What the war was doing to his mother was nothing compared to what it had done to him.
“We'd better go, Mum. Are you going to wait here for Dad?”
Molly patted his arm. “Yes, of course. You and Fleur can go home if you want, we'll be all right here with Hattie. Thank you, dear.”
Bill turned to Hattie with a grim smile. “If you need anything, Mrs. Habbershaw-Smythe, please Floo me.”
“I will, dear. Go on home.”
She watched him gather up his wife and head outside, and a moment later there was a sharp crack. Hattie turned to Molly.
“He's a good boy.”
“He is,” Molly agreed. Her face relaxed a bit as she smiled.
“Have the children eaten today?” Hattie asked, nodding at the three little ones.
“I tried to feed them, but they wouldn't eat. They're worried for their mother. She's Muggle-born, and she was up for questioning today,” Molly said quietly. The smile was gone now, and the weariness had settled over her again. “She got away, though. Arthur's bringing her and her husband soon. They've been with Kingsley, making arrangements to get them out of the country.”
“Poor little dears,” Hattie murmured, staring at the children. “Molly, who are they?”
“The Cattermoles. I'd never met them before, but Arthur, he knows their father, Reg. He works at the Ministry. Worked, I should say. He won't be able to go back now. Something happened today, Arthur couldn't tell me much about it. It was all so chaotic. He sent me a Patronus this afternoon, and I went and fetched the children from their grandmother's house.”
Hattie turned to her. “No one saw you there?”
“No. I Obliviated the grandmother,” Molly confessed in a whisper. “It was the only way to hide our tracks. I've never done that to a witch before, Hattie. She told me I could, but it... it was horrible.”
“You did what you had to do.”
The door banged open and Arthur Weasley stepped inside. Molly's face crumpled with relief, and she ran to her husband. Behind him was a couple Hattie had never seen before, both quite short and small, with dark hair and terrified expressions. Edwin came in last, closing the door behind them.
Arthur wrapped an arm around his wife and kissed her temple, then turned to Hattie.
“Hattie, this is Reg and Mary Cattermole. Reg, this is a very good friend of ours, Hattie Habbershaw-Smythe. You've met her husband, Edwin.”
Reg nodded nervously, glancing between Hattie and Edwin. His wife didn't seem to have heard a word. She had seen the three children on the sofa, and rushed over to them, hugging them while tears poured down her face.
Molly stepped away from her husband. “Oh, Mary, you've got to be strong for the children-”
“Did you get here all right, Arthur?” Edwin asked quietly. They stepped aside for a bit of privacy, leaving Reg to stare at his wife. Hattie saw Molly had taken control of the situation with Mary Cattermole and her children, and so she followed her husband.
Arthur nodded. “Kingsley's going to arrange for a secret Portkey to take them out of the country tomorrow,” he said in a low voice. “It would have been so much easier if Dumbledore were still alive. It's hard to do a Portkey over this sort of distance, but we'll get them out, don't worry.”
“Where will they go?” Hattie whispered.
“Canada. Reg said they have cousins in Nova Scotia. The war hasn't crossed the Atlantic, it's safe there.”
“Is there anything else we can do to help?” Edwin asked.
Arthur shook his head. “Not at the moment.”
Hattie laid a hand briefly on her husband's arm, and he nodded to her.
Mary Cattermole rose from her children, and everyone turned to her as she took a trembling step toward Hattie. Hattie reached out worriedly to steady her.
“They said I wasn't a witch. They said I stole my magic. I didn’t steal it, I didn’t!” She stared beseechingly at Hattie, her eyes huge and haunted.
“Of course you didn’t,” Hattie said bracingly, giving her a comforting pat on the shoulder. “I don’t believe that nonsense for a moment. How could anyone steal magic?”
“Oh, thank you!” The small woman threw herself into Hattie’s arms with a great sob.
Molly was still sitting on the sofa, but she was smiling now.
“Beatrice, will you...?” Hattie gestured at the children. They didn't need to see their mother crying like this. They already looked frightened again, and the younger girl had tears in her eyes.
Beatrice nodded, and gathered up the littlest Cattermole child into her arms. “Let's go see if we can find some toys for you to play with, shall we? My sisters had lots of lovely toys, they'll probably be in the attic-”
“I don't play with girl toys,” piped up the Cattermoles' son. “Do you have any toys for boys?”
Beatrice flinched visibly, and Hattie closed her eyes for a moment against the pain.
“Yes,” Beatrice's voice came, and though her tone was firm, Hattie could hear the note of sadness in it. “Yes, my brother's old toys will be up there too.”
Hattie looked over at them again, her eyes following as Beatrice led the children upstairs. Edwin stood next to the banister, watching them go. He turned and caught Hattie's eye for a moment, and she nodded to her husband. He gave her a small smile, and she knew he understood now why she'd done this. They were real people, a real family, suffering as her own family had done, and they needed help.
She led Mary over to the sofa and sat her down. Molly handed the still-sobbing woman a handkerchief, and then stood next to Hattie, watching Mary dissolve into tears. They exchanged a concerned glance. Hattie wasn't entirely sure what had happened during Mary's questioning, or if she even wanted to know what had happened. She didn't think she could stand any more horror.
Reg Cattermole was looking nervously around the house, shifting his weight back and forth.
“Thank you,” he blurted out. “Thank you for taking us in. Today has been... it's just been such a horrible day, I don't know...”
Edwin clapped a hand on Reg's shoulder. “It's all going to be all right now, Mr. Cattermole-”
“Oh, call me Reg. We're going to be staying in your home tonight, we should be on a first-name basis. We can't thank you enough for helping us.”
Edwin levelled a glance at Reg. “We are happy to help. We've got Muggle family of our own, and we don't agree with the Ministry's stance on Muggle-borns.”
Hattie smiled proudly at her husband. He may have been worried about getting involved with the war, but he had risen to the occasion.
Reg Cattermole sniffed and wiped at his nose with the back of his hand. “I thought I was going to lose my wife today. And then Mafalda gave me that sweet and... I thought Mary would be in Azkaban, and I wouldn't be there to help her. You just... you have no idea, you can't have...”
“Come on, Reg, have a seat.” Edwin steered their guest toward the sofa and pressed a glass into his hand. As he crossed to the whiskey decanter on the sideboard, Mary Cattermole suddenly looked up.
“There were two Regs. How could that happen? I saw them, there was Reg with me, but then there was Reg again... I don't understand.” She looked rather dazed. “It was all so... so fast, one minute I was being questioned and the next, Runcorn, he attacked Umbridge. He told me to leave the country...”
“It couldn't have been,” Arthur said. Hattie glanced over at him and saw the shock on his face. “I saw him in the Atrium, but it couldn't have been Runcorn, he laid evidence against Dirk Cresswell only last week. He wouldn't have freed another Muggle-born when he's so busy putting them in Azkaban.”
“But he did!” Mary said shrilly. “He did, I saw him! He was with the second Reg, I saw him! He submitted me for questioning, and then he said he had a change of heart!”
“It's all right, my dear, you don't need to talk about it,” Hattie said, trying to keep her tone soothing. Mary Cattermole seemed to be in a fragile state of mind, and with three small children upstairs, Hattie wanted to keep their mother from breaking.
“But I do! I do need to talk about it. I don't – I don't understand what happened... Runcorn was talking to that little witch as if they were friends, and he was acting so strangely and it sounded like – like she called him Harry...”
Hattie frowned in surprise, and glanced over at Arthur and Molly. Molly's eyes were wide and fearful, and she was looking at her husband. Arthur gave a tiny shake of his head as if to silence her, looking wary. Hattie's eyes narrowed.
Edwin did not appear to have noticed anything. He was watching Mary with sympathy. Reg was sniffling again, and hadn't seen the silent exchange between the Weasleys.
Mary went on in bewildered tones, “I thought her name was Mafalda, but Runcorn, he called her something odd-”
“Hermione,” whispered Molly.
Arthur's eyes slid to his wife, and his expression clearly said she should stop talking immediately. Hattie took control of the conversation.
“Well, don't you worry about any of that now,” she said briskly, giving Mary a pat on the shoulder. “You're safe here, and tomorrow you'll be off to a new life in Canada, away from the danger.”
Hattie glanced up at Arthur and caught his eye, then nodded at the kitchen. He followed her in, with Molly behind him, still looking frightened. Edwin watched them go, but he stayed with the Cattermoles.
“Oh, Arthur,” Molly whispered tearfully as soon as the kitchen door closed behind them, throwing herself into his arms. “It was them! They're all right!”
“It must be,” Arthur murmured, kissing the top of her head. “The real Runcorn would never have helped those Muggle-borns to escape. And Ron must have been disguised as Reg, I thought he was acting strangely, he wouldn't look me in the eye-”
“What is going on?” Hattie demanded. “Ron? I thought he had spattergroit?”
Molly wiped her eyes on the back of her hand as she drew away from Arthur's embrace. “No, he doesn't. That's our ghoul, disguised as Ronnie. He went with Harry-”
“Oh dear,” Hattie whispered.
“And another friend of theirs, Hermione, they're on some sort of mission for Dumbledore, they wouldn't tell us anything...” Molly took a deep breath. “You mustn't repeat this to anyone, Hattie, not even Edwin. It's too dangerous.”
“Of course not.” Hattie smiled in wonder. “Your son is helping Harry Potter to defeat You-Know-Who!”
“We're all helping,” Arthur said firmly. “Even you, Hattie.”
She was a bit taken aback at that. It was such a small thing, to give the Cattermoles shelter for the night, until they could escape the Ministry's grasp. It was nothing to what others were doing, had done, to bring down You-Know-Who. It didn't seem like help. It didn't seem like enough. She couldn't take it in just then, so she returned to the subject.
“They broke into the Ministry? That's just... just mad. Why would they risk it?” Hattie shook her head. It seemed almost suicidally dangerous, and to do it simply to liberate a handful of Muggle-borns, noble as that was... A symbolic act? But no one would know it was them, so it would not get the attention they would have desired, if that was their reasoning. She doubted the incident would even see the light of day, with the way the Ministry was leaning on the Daily Prophet.
Arthur appeared to have followed the same train of thought. He rubbed his chin, his brow furrowed. “They must have been after something that they thought was in the Ministry. They went up to Dolores Umbridge's office – Mad-Eye's enchanted eye was stolen from her and only Harry would have done that. And then they went down to the courtrooms, but I can't think what they were after in there.” He shook his head. “Whatever they were doing, I hope they were successful.”
“I do too,” Hattie said softly.
Arthur glanced at his watch. “We'd better go, Hattie. We got away without being followed, but if we're gone too long, they'll come looking. Runcorn – Harry – told me they were watching me. I thought he was threatening me, but if he wasn't really Runcorn...”
“I know, dear.” Arthur grabbed her hand, and she waved at Hattie as they hurried out the back door.
Hattie watched them go abstractedly, thinking about Harry Potter. His entire life seemed to have revolved around fighting You-Know-Who. How could Arthur say that simply giving a family of Muggle-borns shelter for a night was helping the war? It seemed so small a thing... She wondered what Humphrey would have thought of it.
She tried to shake off the memories of her son, and went to tend the Cattermoles with her husband.