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Chapter 24: 96 Tears
? & The Mysterians, “96 Tears”
I'm way down here, wonderin’ how
I'm gonna get you but I know now
I’ll just cry, cry, I’ll just cry
Arthur was sitting in Charms Monday morning, playing with Molly's fingers while she smiled at him with a starry-eyed expression that he loved, when Dunstan came in looking a little worried.
“Has anyone seen Reid today?” he asked, dropping his bookbag next to the table Arthur and Molly were sitting at. “He wasn't in Care of Magical Creatures, and I didn't see him at lunch.”
“He didn't come down for breakfast either, come to think of it,” Arthur said. “I haven't seen him all day.”
Molly frowned. “D'you think he's all right?”
“Does Cecilia have an alibi for the day?” Siobhan asked slyly.
Cecilia gave her an icy look and raised one eyebrow.
“I'll check on him after class, I'm sure he's fine,” Arthur said, but he couldn't help being a bit concerned. He could not recall Reid skiving off in the entire time they were in Hogwarts together, which was odd when one considered the amount of times he apparently snuck into Hogsmeade during class hours.
He walked Molly and Hattie to the library after Charms let out and headed for Gryffindor Tower with Dunstan to look for Reid in the dormitory.
Reid was there, stretched out on his bed and wearing his cowboy pyjamas, his hands clasped over his chest, staring up at the ceiling and looking bad-tempered.
“Where’ve you been?” Arthur asked. “You weren’t in class today.”
“Here,” Reid said, still staring at the ceiling. “I’ve been here.”
“What’s your problem?” Dunstan asked, eyeing Reid. “You never skive off. What’s going on?”
“What makes you think something's going on?” Reid asked without taking his eyes off the ceiling.
“You're in your pyjamas at three in the afternoon, probably have been all day, and you skipped all your classes,” Arthur said.
Reid looked up at all of them with a scowl. “Gemma chucked me,” he said sullenly.
“Already?” Arthur asked in surprise. “That was quick.”
“She said it was obvious I still fancy someone else,” Reid said, sounding disgruntled. “I should never have dated a Hufflepuff.”
“No one else will have you,” Dunstan pointed out helpfully.
“Oh, shut it, Dunstan.”
Arthur wasn't quite sure what to say. It was patently obvious that Reid fancied someone else, as he hadn't bothered to stop chasing after Cecilia while he was going out with Gemma. Gemma was quite a nice girl, and smart as well, so it did not surprise Arthur that she had picked up on this, but the fact that Reid was upset over being chucked by a girl he'd only sort of fancied in the first place was a little odd.
“Why are you laying here like a little tosspot when you never cared about Gemma in the first place?” Dunstan asked incredulously, echoing Arthur's thoughts. “You ought to be used to rejection by now after all these times Cecilia's shot you down.”
Reid made an obscene hand gesture at him. Arthur gave Dunstan's shoulder a push to nudge him toward the stairs.
“Not helping,” he muttered.
Dunstan huffed down the stairs noisily, muttering under his breath.
Arthur looked over at Reid, who was staring at the ceiling again. “I'll be in the library with Molly and Hattie, if you want to come get caught up from today.”
Arthur hesitated a moment longer, then went down the stairs. It was unfortunate for Reid that Gemma had chucked him, but what more could he do, really?
Molly was sitting at a table in the middle of the library with Hattie, Petula, Siobhan, and Cecilia. Hattie immediately asked after Reid when she caught sight of Arthur, and he dropped into the empty seat at Molly's side, saying, “Gemma chucked him. I think he's rather depressed.”
Cecilia tried to cover up her triumphant smile with one hand, but Hattie saw her and frowned disapprovingly.
“You ought to give him another chance, Cecilia,” she said sternly.
“Do you know what he did to me?” Cecilia demanded, but the effect was rather ruined by her smirk.
“Maybe if you go snog Reid, you'll be able to cast a Patronus,” Siobhan said calmly, not looking up from the parchment she was busily scribbling on.
Cecilia's smirk faded instantly and she gave Siobhan a dirty look.
They had been studying for about twenty minutes when Reid arrived, looking dishevelled and hollow-eyed but no longer wearing his cowboy pyjamas. His robes were wrinkled, but at least they appeared clean. He stopped short when he saw Cecilia and the other girls there, evidently having only expected Arthur, Molly, and Hattie. He ran a hand through his hair and sat down next to Petula, who tilted her head at him sympathetically.
“Are you all right, Reid?” she asked in a voice that one might use to a child or someone who was quite ill.
“I'm fine,” he said brusquely. “Does anyone have today's notes from Care of Magical Creatures?”
“I do,” Siobhan said, looking up at him, and her quill continued to scribble at her essay of its own accord as she reached into her bag to search for her notes.
Cecilia still had not looked at Reid, but was determinedly reading over the essay she'd been writing for Charms. There was an uncomfortable silence for a few moments, then Hattie began chatting in an overly bright voice about that afternoon's Charms class. Arthur glanced surreptitiously at Reid, then at Cecilia, but neither of them was looking at the other. He bent over his studies and decided to ignore the entire situation.
Molly met him in the common room that evening for a late-night stroll to kick off the weekend. Arthur led the way, holding her hand, out into the castle, keeping an eye out for Mr. Pringle or any prefects that might be patrolling. They had just reached a bend in the corridor when he heard voices approaching. Arthur ducked behind a tapestry into a shortcut, pulling Molly behind him, and lifted the edge of the tapestry slightly to peek out into the corridor. He could feel Molly's warm little hand on his back, steadying herself as she tried to peer out over his shoulder.
“Who is it?” she whispered.
“Looks like a prefects' meeting,” he said in a low voice. “They must be arranging tonight's patrols.”
“Oh dear. Cecilia's not there, is she?”
Arthur looked around the tapestry a bit further to get a better look at the small knot of students gathered in the corridor. He could pick out all the sixth year prefects. There were Cecilia and Thaddeus, and then Twyla Carpenter and Silvester Bowbrick from Ravenclaw, Virgil Kemp and Winifred Fairholm from Hufflepuff, and Lysander Acheron and Sophronia Lefeuvre from Slytherin. He didn’t know many of the fifth years and only a few seventh years. The Head Boy and Girl, Orson Witte of Ravenclaw and Amelia Bones of Hufflepuff, were lecturing the gathered prefects. Amelia was holding up a large list and seemed to be enumerating several points from it to the slightly bored-looking prefects. Cecilia was twirling a dark lock around her fingertip and did not appear to be taking in a word Amelia was saying.
Arthur leaned back, dropping the tapestry's edge. “I think we better go another way.”
Molly nodded and they followed the shortcut to its other end as silently as possible.
They finally found a quiet spot down another shortcut, hiding in a niche behind a suit of armour. Arthur had only just gotten into his stride in kissing Molly when someone said in a loud voice from the other side of the suit of armour, “Oh, for the love!”
Cecilia and Thaddeus were standing there with their wands lit and held aloft, Cecilia with a look of annoyed disgust and Thad with an expression of great amusement.
“It’s eleven o’clock at night and you’re out of your dormitory snogging in the halls,” said Thad, grinning. “Well done, Arthur.”
“Don’t encourage them. Get out of there, both of you,” Cecilia said in exasperation. “I suppose we can only be thankful it isn’t Siobhan, again,” she added to Thad. She looked back at Molly and Arthur, who had emerged from behind the armour now. “Snog in the common room next time like any sane person would, for crying out loud.”
“Sorry, Cecilia,” Molly mumbled, adjusting her jumper.
“You’d better get back to Gryffindor tower before Amelia sees you,” Thad said, still grinning proudly at them. “She was all set to make Thomas Ockham and Mary Nevard serve a detention when she caught them out last week, and they’re in her own House.”
“Right. Thanks, Thad. Good night, Cecilia,” Arthur said bravely, grabbing Molly’s hand and leading her away. He could hear Cecilia muttering behind him, and Thad chuckling.
“At least we didn’t get in trouble,” Molly said philosophically. “I thought for a moment there that Cecilia was going to dock some points.”
“If she doesn’t dock from Siobhan, she’s hardly likely to from us,” Arthur pointed out.
“I suppose that’s true. Siobhan’s probably snogged someone in every square inch of the castle by now.” Molly let out a little giggle, and Arthur laughed.
“Has she? I’ve heard a few rumours about her,” he admitted.
“She says the muse strikes her,” Molly said, trying not to laugh.
They made it back to the Fat Lady without getting caught again, but the Fat Lady was disinclined to let them in without getting huffy about it. Once Molly had coaxed the portrait into accepting the password, Arthur followed her into the common room where they found Cosmo sitting on the sofa, closely entwined with his fellow fifth year Maribel McQuillen.
Arthur started laughing. “I suppose they’re our example of sanity in snogging for the night.”
Molly put a hand to her mouth, giggling. “It’s more fun out in the castle.”
Cosmo and Maribel hadn’t noticed them yet. Arthur nodded his head to indicate the chair by the window where Molly had once apologized to him for the love potion incident. “Shall we?”
Molly glanced around; the common room was nearly empty except for a couple of fifth-year students who were studying, and the oblivious Cosmo and Maribel. “All right,” she said, allowing herself to be led to the chair.
The next time they looked up, the common room was empty and Cecilia and Thad were coming back from their prefect duties.
“Are you two still at it?” Cecilia asked, rolling her eyes. “For the love, Molly, you’re getting as bad as Siobhan.”
Molly flushed bright red and slid off of Arthur’s lap, brushing her hands down her front to smooth out her jumper. He stood up behind her, trying not to smile or blush.
“Good night Arthur,” she said, her voice slightly higher-pitched than it normally was.
“Good night, Molly.” He leaned down to kiss her on the cheek.
Cecilia followed Molly up to their dormitory, leaving Arthur and Thad alone in the common room, watching them go.
Thad clapped Arthur on the shoulder. “Good for you, mate. I’m off to bed.” He started for the stairs for the boys’ dormitory, and Arthur sat back down in the chair to stare out the window and re-live the evening before going to bed himself.
Arthur was on his way to History of Magic on Monday morning, walking down a third-floor corridor when he heard a familiar voice calling him.
Arthur turned and saw Molly’s little brothers, Gideon and Fabian, motioning to him from behind a rather ugly statue of a hump-backed, one-eyed witch, and strolled over to them.
“Hallo, Gideon, Fabian,” he said easily. “What’s going on?”
“We’ve got something brilliant in the works and we thought you might like to lend a hand,” Fabian said in a low voice, his brown eyes alight with mischief.
“What have you got planned?” Arthur asked, pleased that Molly’s brothers were including him in their plans.
The twins gave him identical grins. “Oh, you’re going to love it,” Gideon said.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Arthur asked, heaving the large wooden crate onto the stairs.
“Of course it is.” Fabian was leaning over the balustrade, keeping a watch out for Mr. Pringle.
“It's going to be hilarious,” Gideon agreed. He was laying a long string from the top of the staircase down to where Arthur was hauling the box of fireworks.
“And what does that do?” Arthur asked, eyeing Gideon's work as he gave the crate one last shove.
“It's how Muggles set off fireworks,” Gideon said calmly, and Arthur brightened. “We thought it was a good idea. It's called a fuse. All clear?”
“Clear.” Fabian pointed his wand at the crate and the top jumped off, leaning against the balustrade.
“Just set them up right there, Arthur,” Gideon said, as his brother went back to his lookout post.
“How do you want them?”Arthur examined the array of fireworks inside. He thought he recognized Catherine wheels, thanks to Reid. There seemed to be quite a lot of them.
Gideon waved his hand at the box, holding the little crank wheel which he was using to set down the long fuse in his other hand. “Oh, they're already attached, you just have to take them out of the box and set them down.”
“We find it's easier and faster to set them up this way, but they are harder to transport because the base they're attached to is so large. Fortunately we have an accomplice this time,” Fabian grinned at Arthur over his shoulder briefly.
“Yeah, thanks for the help, Arthur,” Gideon added.
“Right.” Arthur glanced around. “Um, as much as I appreciate you asking me to help you, I'd sort of rather no one knew about that, so I think I'll just...”
“Oh, you've got to stay long enough to see this one,” Fabian exclaimed, turning to face him.
“Yeah, you can't go now,” Gideon said as he attached the fuse to the assembled fireworks. “The first years are about to get out of class!”
“It's going to be great.” Fabian turned to his brother. “Are you done with that fuse yet?”
“Yeah.” Gideon tossed the roll of fuse into the wooden crate and vanished the lot, which surprised Arthur since he hadn't been able to pull off that spell until he was nearly sixteen.
He followed the twins to a good vantage spot at the top of a nearby staircase, where Gideon could light the fuse with a well-aimed spell, feeling rather torn about whether or not he ought to stay and watch, though it was sure to be funny, or get away now while the getting was good. The twins were infectious, however, and Arthur found himself relaxing a bit as they joked and laughed, and he cracked a few jokes with them. The first years soon started coming out of their classrooms, and Gideon leaned over the balustrade with his wand ready. Arthur looked up just in time to see Molly and Hattie coming down the hallway. He reached a hand out to stop Gideon just as Gideon whispered the spell to light the fuse.
The staircase exploded right in front of a row of first years that were halfway up it, and screams erupted in the hallway as they stumbled and fled from the billowing pink smoke. Gideon and Fabian were laughing hysterically, but suddenly the prank didn't seem quite as funny. Molly had her wand drawn and was rushing up the stairs to rescue the first years, Hattie on her heels with her own wand out. One little girl seemed to be trapped with one leg in a step, and Molly grabbed her around the waist to lift her out of the step. The step looked strangely solid even as the girl's foot emerged from beneath it. The girl was crying, and Molly glanced up at where they were standing, and anger flooded her face as she recognized her brothers. Arthur felt his stomach contract nervously, and the twins stopped laughing when they saw their sister's face.
“We should leave now,” Fabian whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
“Molly's going to go round the bend over this one,” Gideon said.
“She always turns up at the worst times,” Fabian agreed.
Arthur looked around for a hiding place, wishing he could Apparate inside the castle, but it was too late. Molly was stalking toward them up the stairs, her face apoplectic with rage, with Hattie behind her, looking shocked and upset. The first years were still milling about uncertainly at the base of the damaged staircase, where the smoke had now turned to a deep purple and had drawn the castle's poltergeist, Peeves, who was floating around in the air above the smoke and cackling with evil glee. More students seemed to be gathering, looking around and pointing at the smoke.
Molly herded her brothers and Arthur up the stairs and into a deserted corridor, ominously silent. Hattie trailed along behind her, glancing back down the stairs at the billowing smoke.
“Do you have any idea what could have happened here?” Molly said in a deadly voice to her brothers.
“It’s none of your business what we do, Molly,” Fabian said bravely, but he ruined the effect a bit by glancing over his shoulder as if looking for an escape route. The twins had clearly seen her in a rage before.
Molly’s eyes widened and she drew in her breath sharply. “None of my -? I’m your sister, you idiot! Do you know how much trouble you could have been in? Do you even care what you could have done to those first years? What if someone had been injured? You’d have been expelled!”
Arthur looked at Gideon and Fabian, who now looked ready to bolt at any second, and tried to intervene, but when he opened his mouth, she turned to him, her face red with rage.
“And you! How could you?”
He had never seen her so angry before. “Molly, I didn’t mean-”
“How could you help them? You could have hurt someone! You could have all been expelled!” Her voice was rising in volume with each word, and she began shouting at him. “I thought you were smarter than this! I thought you were better than this! How could you help them? This isn’t who I thought you were!”
“Oi, Molly,” began one of the twins indignantly, taking offence at the smarter remark, but Molly wasn’t finished with Arthur.
“They were only first years, Arthur! They don’t deserve to have a sixth year bullying them and picking on them! I expect a lot of stupid behaviour from these idiots, but I thought you knew better! How could you do this? I never want to speak to you again!” she shouted, and stormed off with a frightened-looking Hattie in her wake.
Arthur felt as if his heart had stopped. He couldn’t draw a deep breath. The prospect of never speaking to Molly again was like the end of his entire world. He felt as if everything, all the last perfect months of being together with Molly Prewett, had come crashing down around his ears in a matter of minutes, and suddenly the future that had looked so bright and rosy had vanished, to be replaced with a bleak emptiness.
“It was just a prank,” he heard one of the twins whisper sullenly from behind him. Arthur was still frozen in shock, staring after Molly, but she was gone.