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Chapter 10: Lightnin' Strikes
Lou Christie, “Lightnin’ Strikes”
There's a chapel in the pines
Waiting for us around the bend
Picture in your mind
Arthur met Reid and Dunstan in the common room and they proceeded to the Great Hall, where the other sixth-year students were milling about aimlessly while a small and rather elderly witch stood at the front of the hall where the professors’ table was normally set up, chatting with the Heads of House: McGonagall, Slughorn, Babbling, and Flitwick. All of the tables had been cleared today, and hoops were set out on the floor in neat rows.
Reid spotted the Gryffindor girls over in a corner and nudged Arthur. “Come on, let’s go join them.”
Arthur sighed at Reid. “You’re wasting your time, Reid.”
“Don’t be an idiot, she loves me.” Reid was staring at Cecilia with a hungry look in his eye. Arthur could only shake his head at his friend, and then the startling thought occurred to him that this might be how he had seemed when he’d loved Molly Prewett from afar for the past two years. But he hadn’t continually talked and obsessed about it to his friends as Reid did over Cecilia.
Molly had seen him and was waving them over. Arthur made his way over with Dunstan and Reid at his heels, and saw Cecilia was watching Reid with narrowed eyes and a slightly sour twist to her mouth. He thought this was rather an improvement over the dark scowl she normally wore when she saw Reid. Maybe she was warming up to him.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Arthur said politely.
“Hullo Cecilia,” Reid grinned at her.
“Go jump in the lake, Reid,” she said.
Molly wrapped an arm around Arthur’s waist, to his delighted surprise. He put his arm around her shoulders and held her close to his side while they chatted with their friends until Apparition lessons began, feeling quite pleased. She felt warm and soft against him and he was getting thoroughly distracted by her and not paying attention to the conversation. He kept thinking about the way her lips had felt when they’d kissed in Hogsmeade.
He noticed Hattie was looking at him as if she knew what he was thinking, a slightly smug smile on her face, and Arthur made himself stop thinking about that and pay attention to what the others were saying, but then the other students in the hall seemed to be taking their places and Cecilia suggested they all find a spot.
They all took hoops near each other in a back corner as the witch from the Ministry started to talk, flanked by the Heads of House watching the students as if waiting for them to misbehave. Molly took the hoop to Arthur’s left, and Arthur found he was too busy watching Molly again to pay much attention to what the Ministry witch was saying. He’d already heard so much about Apparition from his brothers that the lecture sounded familiar anyway, and he preferred to look at his Miss Prewett as he listened half-heartedly.
She was listening intently to the Ministry witch, a look of concentration creasing her brow, her lips slightly parted. Arthur completely lost the thread of the witch’s lecture when Molly put her tongue out to wet her lips. He stared at her mouth until he felt Dunstan give him a shove from behind, and his face grew hot as he dragged his attention back to the front of the room.
“Destination, deliberation, determination…” Cecilia was muttering in front of him, staring intently at her hoop. Reid, standing next to him on the right, was staring at Cecilia’s back, or possibly a little lower.
“All right, on three, we’ll give it a try,” the Ministry witch called from the front of the room. “One… Two… Three…”
Arthur turned on the spot, but nothing happened. Molly turned and stumbled and he caught her, both of them blushing as he set her upright again.
“Thank you, Arthur,” she murmured, looking up at him through her lashes.
They tried a few more times without incident, until Petula managed to splinch one of her fingers on the fourth try. She let out a loud screech and the students in the hall craned their necks to see what had happened.
“Oh, for the love…” Petula muttered darkly, her face screwed up in pain, as the Heads of House rushed to her to repair her finger, and the Ministry witch droned on about splinching.
Arthur watched them fixing up Petula. The spell Flitwick and McGonagall used was nonverbal, so he had no idea what they’d done, but in a small puff of smoke, Petula was whole again, though she still looked vexed and slightly pained. He wasn’t sure if that was continued pain from the splinching or just embarrassment.
The Ministry witch had stopped leading the students in simultaneous tries, encouraging them to try on their own time, but was still calling out occasionally about the three D’s to remind them. No one seemed to be paying her much attention, and the noise level in the hall rose as the students conferred with each other as they spun in place.
Siobhan, ahead of Molly, was stomping around her hoop and giving it an evil glare, cursing at it under her breath. Arthur grinned at her and then turned to Molly, who was patting Petula consolingly.
“Ready to try again?”
“I suppose,” Molly said doubtfully.
Petula shook her head, still looking at her finger with an accusing expression as though it had caused her splinching solely to offend her. “Forget it, I’m done.”
Arthur counted to three in his head, concentrating on the hoop in front of him, and spun very deliberately on the spot.
He looked around and saw no one else appeared to have done it either. This did not entirely surprise Arthur, and he turned around in time to see Dunstan spinning around on the spot half-heartedly. Hattie appeared to have given up entirely and was spinning gracefully as if she were a ballerina, enjoying herself.
Molly seemed to be finding her inability to Apparate quite amusing, because she was giggling quietly. Arthur stared at her as she leaned on Hattie, who paused her impromptu ballet routine to giggle and give Molly a quick hug. He was amazed at how lovely she looked when her face was aglow with laughter, her hair glinting in the sunlight. She looked so happy and carefree, and he was sure he’d never seen anything more beautiful.
No one managed to Apparate, or even splinch themselves, through the rest of the lesson and it ended with a great deal of muttering from the students, many of whom seemed to have thought Apparition would be a good deal easier than it was. A few students had taken their grievances out on their hoops; Cecilia had crunched hers underfoot with a wrathful expression on her face. Flitwick didn’t seem bothered by the broken and cracked hoops, as they were being Vanished anyway.
Hattie linked arms with Molly as they left the Great Hall, both still giggling. They seemed to be the only ones who’d found the lesson entertaining: Petula still looked angry, Cecilia wore a dark expression, and Siobhan was still cursing under her breath, although that was not entirely unusual for Siobhan. Arthur watched Molly’s hips sway as she climbed the short flight of steps out of the Great Hall, and then hurriedly looked up again when he realized where he was staring.
Cosmo met them outside the Great Hall, and asked eagerly, “How did it go? Did you Apparate?”
“Of course not,” Cecilia said, looking annoyed. “It was only the first day.”
“Petula nearly Apparated,” Hattie said loyally, but Petula let out a loud, derisive sniff.
“I can’t believe I splinched myself,” she said crossly. “Why did I have to be the only one to do it? Everyone already thinks I’m an idiot.”
“Petula, you worry too much about what everyone thinks,” Siobhan told her. “No one thinks you’re an idiot for splinching yourself.”
“I saw some Slytherins making fun of me,” Petula muttered darkly.
“Of course you did,” Molly said briskly. “They always make fun of Gryffindors. It’s nothing personal, really.”
“Don’t let them worry you,” Hattie added. “Just ignore them.”
Petula scuffed the toe of her shoe along the stone floor. “I suppose.”
“Stop looking at me like that, Reid!” Cecilia ordered crossly, and Petula broke into a grin as Reid jumped and dragged his gaze away from Cecilia’s chest.
Arthur retreated to the library after Apparition to finish his homework so that he could spend the evening with Molly. He found himself having to wrench his thoughts away from her and back to his essay frequently, though. Images were popping into his head of Molly in the morning sunlight of the Great Hall, twirling as she tried to Apparate, and laughing when she didn’t manage it; Molly in Hogsmeade with an intense expression as she pulled him into an alleyway and waited for him to kiss her.
She had asked him if he wanted to study together, but he was sure he wouldn’t be able to get a thing done if she was with him. He’d just be staring at her and remembering their Hogsmeade kiss, or imagining things he’d rather she never knew had popped into his mind. He had to get a grip on himself so he could study with her. Not that he was doing that well studying without her.
Arthur grimaced and dropped his quill, rubbing his hands over his face. As enjoyable as being in love was now that she was finally paying attention to him, it was playing havoc with his studying.
He looked up at the sound of soft footsteps and saw Molly approaching. She smiled as she stopped next to his table. “Hello, Arthur. Are you coming to dinner?”
He smiled at her in welcome as she sat down in the chair next to him. “Yes, I am. Is it dinnertime already?”
“Nearly. The girls and I were on our way down and I wanted to stop and make sure you ate something. I thought you might be too busy studying to notice the time. How is your homework going?” She peered at the parchment in front of him curiously.
He shook his head ruefully as he started to pack up his things. “Slowly, to be honest. I’m not sure I’m going to pass all my N.E.W.T.s at this rate. It’s hard to concentrate lately.”
“Oh? Why is that?” She gave him a coy smile and fluttered her eyelashes a little. He remembered that he’d told her he couldn’t concentrate around her, and grinned at her.
“I can’t imagine,” he drawled. “But if I fail my classes this term, it’s going to be entirely your fault, Molly.”
Molly giggled and leaned over to him, giving him a soft kiss. “I know you’ll do fine, you’re very smart, Arthur Weasley.”
“Thanks, Molly.” He took her hand and leaned closer to her, giving her a slightly longer kiss.
“Oh, for the love!” Cecilia’s voice exclaimed loudly from behind them, and they both started in surprise. “You were supposed to just pop in and ask him if he’s coming to dinner, not snog him in the library!”
Molly turned pink and pulled back from Arthur, looking up to find Cecilia and Siobhan grinning at them mischievously.
“Are you coming to dinner with us or not, Arthur?” Siobhan demanded, still grinning. “Everyone’s waiting.”
Arthur grabbed his books and started shoving them into his bag. “Yes, I’m coming.”
Molly stood next to him as he slung his bookbag over his shoulder, and he took her hand as they followed Cecilia and Siobhan out of the library.
“You know Molly’s birthday is next Sunday, don’t you?” Siobhan asked Arthur as they headed toward the Great Hall.
“I know,” Arthur said mildly. Molly looked a little pink, but Siobhan pressed on.
“What are you getting her?” she inquired politely.
“Siobhan!” Molly shot her friend a quelling look.
“I’m hardly going to tell you right in front of her, am I?” Arthur said, giving Molly’s hand a squeeze to reassure her.
“Well, I just wanted to make sure you knew it was her birthday,” Siobhan said airily, while Cecilia grinned mischievously next to her.
“I would never forget her birthday,” Arthur said, smiling fondly at Molly. She blushed and smiled back, looking embarrassed.
Siobhan rolled her eyes, but she was smiling too. Arthur was now feeling a bit of pressure about Molly’s birthday gift, and had to admit he hadn’t the slightest idea what to get for her.
“I’m going to stop by the dormitory and drop off my books, I’ll meet you in the Great Hall,” Arthur said to the girls.
“I’ll go with you,” Molly said immediately.
“No more snogging,” Cecilia warned them. “It’s dinnertime, and I’m not sitting with Reid by myself.”
They split up at the next corridor and Arthur and Molly went up to the Gryffindor common room. It was empty, so they stopped for a moment for a brief kiss, but Molly didn’t let him delay her for long and dragged him out the portrait hole to head for the Great Hall. He thought she must not want to be teased if they took too long, and realized all their friends would know they must have stopped for a snog. Dunstan and Reid would have a ball teasing him. He quickened his pace.
They reached the Great Hall and started for the Gryffindor table, and Arthur realized that his friends were sitting with Molly’s already. Cecilia was as far away from Reid as possible and seemed to be pretending he didn’t exist, but otherwise they all seemed to be enjoying themselves, chatting and laughing. Arthur smiled, feeling pleased to see his friends with hers, like they were all one big group together. It felt like family.
Arthur stood outside the greenhouses Monday morning, waiting for the sixth-year Herbology class to let out. He craned his head to see through one of the windows, but caught a glimpse of people milling about. It looked like they were packing up, and sure enough the students started to emerge a moment later.
Reid was the first one out the door, but he only waved to Arthur as he passed, saying shortly, “Off to Ancient Runes.” Arthur remembered Reid’s eleven-NEWT attempt and shook his head ruefully. How Reid had time to obsess over Cecilia while still attending twice as many classes as Arthur was a mystery.
Hattie came out of the greenhouse, dusting some earth off her robes. Arthur rushed forward and said, “Hattie, can I have a word?”
She looked mildly surprised and said, “Of course, Arthur.”
They stepped out of the path the rest of the students were taking and Arthur began hesitantly, “Hattie, I wanted to ask for your help…”
“You don’t know what to get Molly for her birthday and want me to help you think of something brilliant so she’ll love you?” Hattie blinked at him owlishly.
“Erm, yes.” Arthur was nonplussed. “How did you know?”
She sighed. “I must be a Seer. All right, I’ll help you.”
“Thanks, Hattie,” Arthur said, relieved.
“Well, did you have any ideas for a gift?” Hattie asked as they walked slowly up to the castle.
“Not really,” he admitted.
She didn’t seem surprised by that. “I thought as much. Well, I know she’d like a party. She’s coming of age this year and it’s a big occasion.”
“I could arrange a party,” Arthur said thoughtfully. “In the common room. A surprise party?”
“I think she’d like that,” Hattie nodded.
Arthur’s mind was spinning with ideas for the surprise party now that he had a place to start. He could already picture the decorations. “We could get food from the kitchens, and Reid can sneak off to Hogsmeade for butterbeers, he knows where a few secret passageways into the village are… And you and the girls can keep Molly busy so I can get the common room ready…”
“When do you want to do that?” Hattie asked. “You’d probably have to skip dinner, and we could keep her too busy to go find you. I’m sure we can delay her long enough for you to decorate and get things set up.”
“Thanks Hattie,” Arthur said gratefully. “I want to make her birthday special. You only come of age once.”
Hattie smiled at him. “You do love her, don’t you,” she said fondly.
Arthur stuttered for a moment, embarrassed, then said, “I’m not even her boyfriend.”
“Of course you are,” Hattie said firmly. “Who else would arrange a surprise party for a girl but her boyfriend?”
“And her best friend,” Arthur said, patting Hattie’s shoulder. “Thanks for your help, Hattie.”
“What about a gift? It needs to be special,” she mused. “What about jewellery?”
“I can’t give her jewellery, we’ve only been on one date,” Arthur said uncomfortably, though the idea appealed to him. “She’ll think I’m mad.”
“No, she won’t,” Hattie assured him. “She’ll think it’s romantic. And it may have been only one date, but you’re around each other all the time anyway. It’s not like you don’t see her every day. It will be fine, trust me.”
Arthur wasn’t sure. “How would I buy her jewellery?” he hedged.
“You said Reid knew a secret passageway into Hogsmeade. Sneak into town and buy her something pretty,” Hattie said simply.