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Chapter 3: I Can't Help Myself
The Four Tops, “I Can’t Help Myself”
In and out my life
You come and you go
Leaving just your picture behind
And I kissed it a thousand times
Arthur Weasley sat at the window in the Gryffindor common room. He took off his glasses and rubbed a hand over his face, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.
Molly Prewett had given him a love potion. Accidentally. It was meant for Thaddeus Peabody, his fellow Gryffindor sixth-year. He and Thad had both made fools of themselves over her in the Charms room while they were bewitched by the potion. Bewitched by Miss Prewett. He was quite familiar with the sensation, though it didn’t normally come from a potion. The potion had made it stronger though, so much stronger. He thought he might die when she said she fancied Thad, but he had managed to control himself enough to step aside.
It had not been easy. But if it was what she wanted…
He wasn’t angry with her for bewitching them. He didn’t think he could ever be angry with Molly. Thad wouldn’t be angry either; he was too easy-going to be upset by this. He’d probably laugh it off, and Arthur decided he’d do the same around his friends. Less easy to laugh off was the idea that Molly Prewett probably now thought he was an idiot.
She fancied Thad, with his blonde good looks and Quidditch skill. Arthur wasn’t a bad player, but he hadn’t made the team. Thad was a friend of Arthur’s, not close, but Arthur would never stand in the way of a friend.
Or of anything that made Molly Prewett happy.
She’d put a hand on his shoulder while she apologized to him sweetly, sitting on his chair, so close he could feel the heat of her body next to him. He could tell she really regretted her actions. He didn’t know what to think or feel about any of it. She didn’t fancy him, she fancied Thad. Not him, she still didn’t notice him really. But… there had been something in her eyes when she watched him just now, something that hadn’t been there before. He didn’t know what it was.
He put his head in his hands. Giving up would probably be the thing to do, but he hadn’t been able to give up on the thought of Molly Prewett since third year, even though she never seemed to notice his existence except in passing. He was just background to her.
He’d fancied her since the beginning of fourth year, and now he thought he must love her, it couldn’t be just infatuation after this long, could it? She was absolutely wonderful, like a brilliant star, with her rich auburn hair and velvety brown eyes. He loved her headstrong nature, he loved the way she walked, he loved the way she chewed the fingernail of her ring finger when she was deep in thought. But she’d never really noticed him.
Well, nothing for it. There was homework to be done, and Molly Prewett approved of good grades and industrious study. Arthur put his glasses back on, pulled his Muggle Studies textbook out of his bookbag and flipped through for the last chapter he’d read, and started the next one. Muggles fascinated Arthur, and Muggle Studies was his favourite class. Even though Molly Prewett wasn’t in it.
Shortly, Professor McGonagall arrived and headed for the girls’ dormitory. Arthur watched her disappear up the staircase apprehensively. Molly was surely about to get in trouble for the love potion. He watched the staircase until McGonagall came back down, but Molly wasn’t with her.
McGonagall noticed him by the window and came over. “Are you all right, Mr. Weasley?”
“Yes, quite all right, Professor,” he said, adding in a rush, “Is Molly, I mean, Miss Prewett, is she all right?”
McGonagall’s lip tightened slightly. She hated for a Gryffindor to embarrass the House. “Miss Prewett is perfectly well. I’m sure she appreciates your concern, but she did break several school rules and endanger you and Mr. Peabody at the same time.”
“Yes, I realize that,” Arthur said, abashed. “I just…”
“Didn’t want her to be unhappy?” McGonagall’s face softened slightly and she smiled kindly at him, while Arthur blushed furiously at being so transparent with his feelings. “Miss Prewett’s spirits will survive her punishment, I’m sure.”
McGonagall left, and Arthur went back to his book for a while longer. When he finally closed it and looked around the common room, it was almost dinnertime. Molly hadn’t come back down the steps. Gryffindor tower was full of students now, and he noticed Thad over by the window with a huge grin on his face. Arthur’s heart sank into his shoes. Did Molly and Thad get together after the love potion wore off?
Thad saw Arthur at the window and waved to him, making his way over. “Hello there, old boy,” he said cheerfully, dropping into a chair opposite Arthur. “How do you feel? I think I’m still a little woozy. Feels like I took a Bludger to the head.”
“A bit woozy, yes,” Arthur admitted. “Sorry about drawing down on you there, mate.”
“Yes, I’m sorry about that too. We were right bloody fools, weren’t we?” Thad smiled fondly. “What a day, mate, what a day!”
“Yes, what a day,” Arthur said broodingly.
“I’ve got news for you, there, old boy,” Thad said with a huge grin. “I’ve got a new lady!”
Arthur’s heart plummeted still further, but he managed a smile in return. “Congratulations, mate! Who’s the lucky girl?”
“Cressida Titherington!” Thad announced expansively.
Arthur was surprised and supremely relieved. Not Molly. Not his Miss Prewett. “Well, that’s great, Thad. Cressida’s a very nice girl. Very pretty.”
“Yes, I’ve fancied her forever, and Molly encouraged me to ask her out, and Cressida agreed straight off!” Thad looked amazed at his good fortune.
“Molly told you to ask Cressida out?” Arthur asked in surprise.
“Yes, she’s a sport, isn’t she? Silly old girl with her love potions,” Thad chuckled. “Still, all in good fun, yes? Well, I’m off to dinner, hoping to sneak into the Ravenclaw table to sit with Cressida. See you later, mate.” He patted Arthur on the shoulder as he hurried off toward the portrait hole.
Arthur leaned back in his chair and watched the students milling about the common room. He thought he must be falling even more in love with Molly Prewett. She’d brewed a love potion for Thad, but when she found out whom he truly fancied, she’d bolstered Thad’s confidence to ask Cressida out.
Molly Prewett. Indefatigable, noble, unsinkable Molly. Why hadn’t she come back downstairs?
Well, if she wasn’t hungry, he certainly was. Arthur packed his books away and went to his dormitory to drop them off and have a quick wash before heading to the Great Hall.
He spent dinner watching the Gryffindor sixth-year girls. They had always been close, ever since the Sorting, the five of them. Hattie Habbershaw, Molly’s best friend, was sitting with Petula Cordingley and Cecilia Fletcher. She kept looking over her shoulder, as if unsure whether Molly was coming. Siobhan Fitzgibbon joined the girls and shook her head when they asked her a question. He couldn’t make out anything they were saying, they were speaking too softly. But he saw Hattie and Petula hiding food in their robes, and knew they planned to bring it to Molly. He hoped Molly wasn’t too embarrassed to come down for breakfast. He didn’t like to start off his day without seeing her.
Hattie and Petula hurried back to the common room long before Arthur was finished ploughing through his food. His mother always complained that she didn’t know where he put it all; he ate like a boy twice his size. Arthur was tall, but lean and lanky. His brothers, both out of Hogwarts now, also had huge appetites, which exasperated their mother. But she was always mollified when they blamed their appetites on her cooking. Arthur and his brothers appreciated good cooking. The house-elves of Hogwarts never disappointed when it came to good food, and neither did his mother.
As always, his thoughts strayed to Molly Prewett, and he wondered if she could cook. He thought he’d love her even if she couldn’t boil water, and sighed inwardly at himself. He was getting pathetic.
Arthur finished eating, one of the last at the table, and headed up to the common room with his fellow sixth-year and good friend Dunstan Birtwhistle.
“So,” Dunstan said cheerfully. “What’s this I hear about you and Peabody getting into a duel today?”
Arthur shook his head. “We didn’t duel, it was just a misunderstanding.” He didn’t want to spread around the love potion story, trying to save Molly some embarrassment. Her roommates must know what she’d done, but the entire school didn’t need to hear about it.
“Right-o,” Thad’s voice said cheerfully from behind them. Arthur glanced over his shoulder to see Thad walking next to Cressida Titherington. She smiled shyly at them and then flashed Thad a coy smile. “Just a silly misunderstanding, not a duel,” Thad confirmed. He waved to Arthur and Dunstan as he and Cressida turned down a corridor, heading for Ravenclaw tower.
“Well, I didn’t think you two would actually duel,” Dunstan laughed. “Or at least, you wouldn’t duel against a prefect, and not against another Gryffindor. I thought it might be a Slytherin rumour.”
“I don’t know about Slytherins, but it’s just a rumour,” Arthur agreed.
Dunstan led the way back to the Gryffindor common room, chatting about the next Quidditch match, and Arthur responded amiably, though his mind was elsewhere.
Thad was a good old chap after all, wasn’t he? Covering for Molly like that. Arthur scanned the common room, and when he saw Molly wasn’t there, he headed for his dormitory.
The next morning, Arthur was sitting in front of the fire in the common room, chatting with a fourth-year girl who was Muggle-born, when Molly came down the stairs. Arthur promptly lost the thread of the conversation when he saw Molly. She turned pink when she saw him, but held her head high and came straight over to him.
Njemile Kamara, the fourth-year, hopped off the couch and waved to Arthur, smiling at Molly as she left. Molly smiled at her distractedly.
“Arthur, Cecilia Fletcher told me that you didn’t tell anyone about the potion,” she said in a rush. “You told Dunstan Birtwhistle it was just a misunderstanding.”
“Well, it wasn’t for him to know, was it?” Arthur knew his ears were turning red under her steady gaze, but he couldn’t help it.
She stared at him and he held her gaze, but it took an effort. He wanted to duck his head and blush and stammer, but was determined to be an adult around her. He was almost seventeen, after all, so he should be able to look the woman he loved in the eyes.
“Thank you, Arthur,” she said quietly then. “That was very thoughtful of you.”
“It was nothing,” he said, and this time he did duck his head. He glanced back up immediately though, and there was that something in her eyes again.
“It was something,” she retorted, and bent down to kiss him on the cheek swiftly. She hurried off for breakfast without another word, and Arthur was left sitting on the sofa, stunned, with one hand on his cheek where she’d kissed him.