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Chapter 13: Lady Willpower
Molly was once again subjected to a Quidditch match in the company of her brothers, as May brought both blissfully warm weather and the Gryffindor match against Ravenclaw. Gideon and Fabian lectured her quite a bit again at this match, and Molly didn't bother listening to most of it. School would be over soon, and Arthur would no longer be on the team, so surely that meant she wouldn't have to feign interest in the game any longer.
From what she gathered from her brothers, Ravenclaw was considered quite a good team and was running neck and neck with Gryffindor for the Quidditch Cup. Molly reckoned she was supposed to be concerned about this, or something along those lines, but she really did not give a toss who won the Cup.
Unfortunately, most of the rest of the school did, and she'd heard nothing but Quidditch all week.
Her only respite was talking to Hattie, who agreed to attend the game with her for a diversion. They had found seats in the second row of the bleachers next to the twins. Gideon and Fabian had their faces painted in red and gold, much as Petula often did for games. Molly glanced around and saw Petula sitting with Dunstan and Cosmo in the front row. They had a banner enchanted to float above them in midair, flashing Gryffindor in red and gold.
Molly exchanged a long-suffering look with Hattie. “Thank you for coming with me.”
“I don't mind.” Hattie had never cared about Quidditch either, so Molly knew her best friend was only there to support her, not the team.
The stands were nearly full, but the game had not quite begun yet. Molly hated this period of waiting before the game, her stomach knotted up in anticipation and fear. Quidditch seemed so dangerous: there were often injuries, Bludgers flying all over the place, and not nearly enough padding, in her view. Her brothers were discussing a fractured skull one of the Ravenclaw Chasers had sustained during a practice, and wondering how it would affect his playing. This did not help Molly's nerves.
“I started flat-hunting,” Hattie said, and Molly turned to her in surprise, forgetting about the match for a moment.
“You're not going to live with your mum after you leave school?”
“Well, she's a newlywed, isn't she? She doesn't need anyone underfoot. I'd just be in the way.”
Before Easter, Molly would have been concerned that Hattie was avoiding her Muggle stepfather, but she'd been to Mrs. Habbershaw's wedding – Mrs. Newsome now – and Hattie had seemed to get along quite well with Mr. Newsome. He'd seemed to dote on her, too. Molly got the impression he'd always wanted a daughter. Hattie's new stepbrother, Jack, was quite nice as well, and he'd been very polite to Molly, who had not been the best conversationalist when she met him. She had no idea how to talk to Muggles, and neither of them had been told yet, so Molly felt very uncertain about what to say to Hattie's new stepbrother.
Hattie said they'd been utterly fascinated by magic when her mother finally revealed her secret to her new husband and his son. Molly was relieved it had all turned out all right, though she still thought it was silly not to be able to tell one's future husband that one was a witch until after the ink had dried on the marriage license.
“Where are you looking?” Molly asked instead.
“Diagon Alley. Jack said he knew some good Muggle spots as well, but on the whole I think I'd rather live in a wizard sort of area. Besides, if I rent a flat in Diagon Alley, I'll be very close to a number of jobs. I'm applying for work at the apothecary, too.” Hattie looked very pleased with her plans.
“That sounds like a wonderful idea.”
“I'm going to Italy this autumn, as well. My mum promised me, as a gift for leaving school. You ought to come with me,” Hattie added in excitement. “We could tour Rome and Venice together. Oh, it would be such fun!”
It did sound like a lot of fun. “I would love to,” she agreed immediately.
Hattie seemed to remember something, and her face fell. “Oh, but Arthur-”
“We're not married yet,” Molly pointed out. “I can go to Italy with you. Even if we get engaged this summer, it will be a while before the actual wedding. I want a long engagement, and my mother will insist on one.”
Hattie looked a little relieved. “All right. I was a little nervous of going alone.”
“The game is starting, you know,” Gideon said loudly beside them.
Molly's attention snapped back to the pitch, the nervous ball of lead back in her stomach. They had just kicked off, and both teams were whizzing around the pitch in patterns that made no sense to Molly but seemed to make the students in the stands happy, from the sound of the cheers. Chatting with Hattie would be impossible now: it was simply too loud.
She spent most of the match clutching Hattie's arm in fear. It seemed to drag on forever, with the Bludgers and Quaffles whizzing around the field faster than she could really follow. Gideon didn't bother with a running commentary this time, and instead ignored Molly completely. Fabian occasionally made remarks about what was going on on the pitch, none of which Molly understood, and so she didn't bother listening to him. Hattie didn't seem bothered by Molly's tight grip on her, and Molly thought her best friend understood the game rather better than she did.
Ravenclaw's goals were far outstripping those of Gryffindor. Molly couldn't even count them all, but the tally on the scoreboard was ominous. Fabian had just started to explain that the only way they could win at this point was if Atalanta Weekes caught the snitch – and soon – when the entire crowd suddenly got to their feet, and the pitch seemed to grow oddly quiet as everyone held their breaths.
“There seems to be some confusion over who caught the Snitch first. This will determine the House Cup...” the Quidditch commentator was saying, and Molly climbed onto the bench, craning her neck to see over the tall fifth-year boy standing in front of her.
Atalanta was on the ground in the sand directly under the Ravenclaw hoops, next to the Seeker for Ravenclaw. She had gone quite pale, and the Ravenclaw Seeker, a boy named Rought, looked equally disturbed. He had the Snitch in his hand. Molly could see the wizard who refereed the matches swooping down toward them on his broom.
“Did she get it or not?” asked Fabian urgently. “Did you see?”
No one answered him. The rest of the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor teams had drawn closer in mid-air, hovering on their brooms while they waited for the verdict of who had caught the Snitch.
Rought and Atalanta drew close to the referee, and Rought handed the Snitch over. The referee gave it a tap with his wand. It fluttered up into the air, its wings beating rather weakly, then moved quite determinedly toward Atalanta, who held out her hand. It alighted gently on her palm, its wings folding around it as it came to rest, and a roar went up from the Gryffindor stands.
“Weekes was the first to catch the Snitch after all! Gryffindor wins, one hundred and ninety to one hundred and seventy!”
“Oh my goodness,” Hattie said, sinking back down onto the bench.
Gideon and Fabian were jumping up and down, hugging each other. Molly stepped down from the bench but remained standing for a moment, watching the Gryffindor team down on the pitch as they all leaped around, bumping into each other and hugging randomly in their triumph.
“At least it's over now,” Molly remarked as she sat down next to Hattie. “That was the last Quidditch game I'm ever going to attend, mark my words.”
The celebratory party in Gryffindor Tower was louder and more raucous than ever before. Molly had never seen the House quite so mad with victory fever. Molly sat on the sofa next to Cecilia, watching their fellow students yelling and cheering as they darted about the common room.
“It was a good game,” Cecilia said eventually.
“I suppose so.” Molly wasn't sure how one could tell.
Francine Allen went past them with a butterbeer in hand and her friend Maribel McQuillen next to her, her face flushed with happiness, and waved at Molly.
“Francine seems better now,” Cecilia noted.
“Yes, she does. I think winning the Quidditch cup made her forget all her other troubles.”
“I'm glad,” said Cecilia, and Molly raised an eyebrow at her. Siobhan was, after all, Cecilia's best friend, and had been the root of Francine's troubles.
Cecilia gave her a glare. “Of course I am. Siobhan didn't mean to hurt Francine's feelings. She was very torn about that part of it.”
“She told you all about what happened, didn't she?” Molly demanded, pouncing immediately on that admission of knowledge. “You two always tell each other everything. What happened, then?”
“I'm not going to tell you everything, but...” Cecilia glanced around, and Molly did the same, unconsciously echoing her friend. Siobhan was nowhere to be seen, so Cecilia said in a low voice, “She really did like him, quite a lot, and I think she couldn't stand feeling so exposed.”
“How do you mean, exposed?”
“Well, she'd never felt that way about someone before. If she'd been you, she'd have been wandering about babbling about being in love. But she's Siobhan, so she chucked him.”
“To stop feeling that way,” Molly whispered.
Cecilia's face was sorrowful, and it hit Molly quite strongly then how very close Cecilia and Siobhan were. They were sisters, not by blood, but of the heart, and it clearly hurt Cecilia to think Siobhan would not allow herself to feel love for Roddy.
“Well,” Molly said, drawing herself together. “At least it's all over now. Maybe someday Siobhan and Roddy-”
“No,” Cecilia said firmly. “That was the end of it between them.”
“Between whom?” Thad had appeared next to the sofa, a huge grin on his face. Arthur was behind him, looking just as happy.
“Nevermind,” said Molly. “Congratulations, both of you. It was very well played today.”
Arthur gave her a knowing grin, and she blushed a little. He knew she had no idea whether the game had been played well or not. Thad looked pleased, though, and thanked her before moving on. Arthur sat down next to Molly and draped an arm around her shoulders.
“I'll just leave you to it, then.” Cecilia scooted off the sofa and disappeared into the crowd.
“It was a good game,” Molly said again, somewhat lamely.
Arthur gave her a kiss on the temple. “Thank you, Molly dear.”
“Well, my brothers said it was, anyway.”
Molly began to notice a change over the next week in the attitude of the school. Where she'd been thinking all year that the school had been polarizing into two camps – those who believed in the importance of blood status and those who did not – it had never been more apparent since the publication of the article on Mr. Fletcher. Cecilia seemed to be taking the brunt of the dislike from the purebloods. She had always been quite popular, being a prefect and quite a pretty one at that, but her popularity was waning quickly. Half of Ravenclaw wasn't speaking to her, and the Slytherins had increased their gossiping and snide remarks.
Cecilia had seemed unaffected by her drop in popularity, ignoring the rude comments and whispers that met her everywhere. It had been almost two weeks since The Daily Prophet had published the article on her father's work in support of Muggles, and Cecilia hadn't confronted anyone, much to Molly's disquiet. Cecilia did not often repress her emotions, and Molly was sure an explosion was imminent.
She had just left Potions one afternoon, and was at the point of returning to Gryffindor tower, when she heard the sound of angry words from down the corridor. A girl in Slytherin robes whom she did not recognize was facing off with Cecilia. Molly couldn't make out what was being said, but as she watched, the girl spit at Cecilia and stormed away.
The other students seemed to freeze – Cecilia's temper, after hexing Acacia in the middle of the Great Hall, was more legendary than ever – but Cecilia only stood there and watched the small knot of Slytherins walk away from her.
Molly hurried up to her friend and drew her wand to clean the spittle from the front of Cecilia's robes. Cecilia seemed rooted to the spot, staring blankly at the wall as if Confunded. Molly took charge immediately.
“Come on,” she said, grabbing Cecilia's arm.
She led Cecilia to the nearest girls' lavatory and dragged her to a small bench at the back, behind the protective row of sinks.
“What did she say to you?” Molly demanded.
Cecilia was silent.
“How can you be so calm?” Molly asked, frustrated by Cecilia's lack of response.
“It doesn't matter what they say,” she murmured, obviously talking to herself, “because I know my father is a great man.”
Molly watched her friend's face for a moment. She had never seen Cecilia exercise such self-control. It was almost eerie. “Aren't you upset?”
Cecilia seemed to snap to attention. She turned to Molly and said quite matter-of-factly, “I have no intention of hexing the stupid girl, if that's what you're asking.”
Molly stared at her in disbelief. “You hexed a prefect – a prefect – in front of the entire school just for calling Siobhan a... well, you know. That girl spit on you, Cecilia, and you're not going to do anything?”
“This is far too important for silly school vendettas.” Cecilia's face was intense as she held Molly's gaze. “I won't have my father's work jeopardized because I attacked someone over it.”
That view of things had not occurred to Molly. She didn't know what to say. “Oh.”
“And yes,” Cecilia added brokenly. “I am upset.”
“The side of the angels, that's what you told me,” Molly reminded her quietly.
Cecilia reached out and took Molly's hand. “The side of the angels.” She drew a deep breath, released Molly's hand, and said, “I'm supposed to meet Reid in the library. I'll see you later, Molly.”
She watched Cecilia go and wondered briefly if people would spit on her for being Arthur's wife if he went to work for Mr. Fletcher. She didn't think she would control her temper quite as well as Cecilia had. In fact, she'd never seen Cecilia control her temper so well, and rather thought it showed both how important Mr. Fletcher's bylaw was to his daughter as well as a growing maturity in Cecilia. She was rather surprised, as she'd thought Reid's influence over the past year would have the opposite effect.
Molly supposed that it wouldn't be an issue for her, really. Arthur was likely to have already gotten his job and Mr. Fletcher's law would be passed by the time she married Arthur. They would be long out of school and there would be no one to hate her for being a blood traitor.
She tried to feel proud that Arthur would stand up for the Muggles the way Mr. Fletcher was, but all she could muster was a vague fear that it would all go wrong. Mr. Fletcher would not go unscathed, and she worried something would happen to Arthur if he got involved as well.
This was possibly not the wisest time to try to pass a law that favoured Muggles, or rather prevented their being unfavoured. Maybe it didn't matter. Maybe some things were more important than timing. Still, with mysterious Dark Lords murdering anyone whose blood was not pure and attacking Muggles solely for fun, it was brave almost to the point of foolishness.
Cecilia's parents had both been Gryffindors, just like her. Where dwell the brave at heart, Molly thought with a glance at the red and gold on her school robes. If Cecilia and Arthur could be brave, she could too. And she was proud of Arthur, really. He had a good and noble heart, and she loved him for it.
She couldn't quite shake the sense of wrongness, but told herself Mr. Fletcher was a fully-fledged wizard and could certainly take care of himself.
Besides, he was a pureblood, as was his wife. No one would dare attack their family.
The teachers seemed to be overloading the seventh-years with more work than ever now that the Quidditch season was over and N.E.W.T.s drew closer. Molly had secretly hoped that winning the Cup would put Professor McGonagall in such a good mood that she would let them have a bit of a rest, but unfortunately, nothing could deter their Head of House from making sure her Transfiguration students achieved good results on the exam.
Molly waited in the common room on Sunday afternoon. She was due in the library in five minutes for a revising session with Petula and Hattie, but Hattie was running late, finishing up her homework up in their dormitory. Molly glanced at her watch impatiently just as Hattie appeared.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” Hattie said, out of breath as she hurried up to her friend. “Go on without me, Petula will be waiting. I'm nearly done with this Herbology essay. I thought I would have it complete, but, well, you just go on. I'll be there as soon as I can.”
Hattie rushed back upstairs, and Molly gathered up her bookbag and set out for the library.
She was deep in thought about the Transfiguration exam when a voice came from behind her. She nearly dropped her knapsack, startled.
“Well, well, well, if it isn't Weasley's little girlfriend.”
Molly turned and saw Lucius Malfoy smirking. She kept walking, and he fell into step behind her. “Are you following me?” she demanded, not looking back at him.
“Why would I follow you? I can walk down the corridor, too, you know. It's a free country.”
She glanced back at the Malfoy boy with contempt. Go away! she thought, but couldn't quite be that rude to his face. She decided to simply ignore him and hope he got the hint.
“I heard about your friend's mother,” Malfoy said. “Such a shame when a good pureblooded family goes down into the sewers for a marriage. It ought to be illegal to marry Muggles. Disgusting. At least your friend's mother is too old to breed any half-blooded brats.”
Molly felt her face flushing. How on earth did he know about Hattie's mother's marriage? All the pureblooded families gossiped about each other terribly, but still, Molly found herself a bit surprised. She couldn't have formed a response to his horrible comments if she'd wanted to. He talked about Muggles as if they were animals.
“I'm surprised your little boyfriend is dating you,” Malfoy went on. “He loves Muggles so much, I would think he'd want to marry one, just like your friend's mother. I suppose he wants to spread his blood traitor pollution through even more decent pureblooded families.”
Ignore him, ignore him, ignore him... She kept up the chant in her head, trying not to hear the words he was saying, but the horrible drawl seemed to be burrowing into her brain, stinging her conscience like little wasps. Just ignore him, he's only a third-year...
“Well, you're just a couple of Mudblood-lovers anyway, the both of you,” Malfoy finally finished. “I suppose you deserve each other.”
Molly's face flushed with hot-blooded rage, and she whipped around to face the boy, nearly knocking him over. She wasn't even aware of what hex she used on him, but she saw crusty grey scales spread across his face with satisfaction. She only wished she'd done worse to him. Malfoy cried out, touching his face, then turned on his heel and rushed off toward the main staircases.
She could feel the anger receding now, and turned to see her brothers hurrying up to her, their faces concerned. Fabian had drawn his wand.
“Are you all right?” he asked. “We saw Malfoy-”
“Did you hex him?” Gideon asked in flat disbelief.
“What did he do to you?”
“He- Nothing, he just said some things-” Molly's face coloured again. “Awful things, about me and Arthur, and about Hattie's mum, and I just couldn't stand it any more and-”
“You three,” a voice rang out behind them.
“Oh dear,” Fabian said.
Professor McGonagall came to a halt in front of them and took in Molly's drawn wand. “I've just seen Mr. Malfoy. Miss Prewett, did you curse him?”
Molly opened her mouth, but no sound came out at first. He deserved it, her brain responded, but all she managed was a stuttered, “I... I-”
“That was us,” Gideon said, a thread of defiance in his voice.
Molly was stunned. She could not remember a single occasion when the twins had willingly taken the blame for something she had done. She started to speak up, to admit her own culpability, but Fabian gave her a look that she clearly understood to mean that she ought to keep her mouth shut.
“It was us,” Gideon said again. “Don't punish our sister for something we did. He deserved it, the git.”
“Well,” Professor McGonagall said severely. She did not look surprised by Gideon's announcement, though her face was still wary. “Mr. Prewett, you and your brother will serve a double detention for your behaviour today.”
“Yes, ma'am,” they both murmured.
Professor McGonagall looked at the three Prewetts again with pursed lips, and Molly held her breath, worried, but McGonagall only shook her head and continued down the hallway.
As soon as she had rounded the corner, Molly deflated somewhat with relief, and turned to her little brothers.
“Thank you,” she said fervently. “You shouldn't have done it, but thank you.”
“Don't be ridiculous, you're nearly out of school with a spotless record,” Fabian said, smiling cheerfully at her. “We've had so many detentions, they'll never notice one more. We'd have hexed him for what he said anyway if you hadn't gotten to him first.”
“Not quite spotless,” Molly admitted. “There was that one last year-” She cut herself off abruptly, remembering that her brothers hadn't found out about the love potion debacle.
“What did you do?” Gideon asked interestedly.
“Nevermind. Besides, my record's not entirely spotless just because I haven't had a detention. I've lost house points, you know.” She realized she sounded like she was bragging, and didn't know why. She didn't want to compete with her brothers in bad behaviour.
“Yes, we were ever so proud of you,” Gideon said. “But that's just a drop in the bucket next to our record.”
“We've had a hundred and ninety-seven detentions in the last four years,” said Fabian proudly.
“And about a hundred Howlers,” Molly put in dryly. “I'm aware.”
“We've been hoping to round out this year at an even two hundred,” Fabian continued. “But they've slowed down recently, so this will help us reach our goal.”
Molly shook her head. There was something wrong with the two of them, honestly, but she couldn't help laughing with them anyway.
The twins continued on their way, and Molly made her way to the library where Petula was waiting for her behind a stack of Potions books. She decided on the spot not to tell Petula what had happened in the corridor with Malfoy. She somehow didn't want to talk about it with anyone. She knew she could never say anything to Hattie about it.
Petula looked up when Molly arrived. “Where's Hattie? I thought you lot weren't going to turn up.”
“Hattie's running late, she'll be here soon.” Molly began unpacking her notes from her bookbag, and became aware that Petula was staring at her blankly. “What?” she asked cautiously.
“Nothing.” Petula sat up abruptly. “Actually... Do you remember my asking you about – erm...”
Molly caught on instantly. She could feel her cheeks heating up. “Yes, I remember.”
“I'm all right now. I just thought I'd mention it. Cecilia gave me some advice,” Petula confided.
“She did?” Molly asked in surprise. “So she and Reid are...”
Petula blushed. “Erm, yes, they are.”
“Oh.” Molly felt a twinge of jealousy at that. She wished, ever so briefly, that she were brave enough to make love to Arthur before they were married. It seemed everyone at Hogwarts was having sex except her and Arthur. Cecilia and Reid, Siobhan and several dozen boys, and now Petula was thinking about it as well...
But not Hattie! Hattie would never have sex before she was married. Hattie was a proper lady.
Knowing that someone else, at least, was staying celibate made Molly feel much more cheerful. If Hattie could be a lady, then so could she.
She gave Petula's hand a pat and said, “I'm glad she decided to help you out. Do you feel better now?”
“Immensely,” Petula said. “I still want to wait until after the wedding, but it does make me feel less frightened, d'you know?”
“Don't tell Hattie,” Petula added. “She wouldn't approve.”
Molly smiled. Hattie wouldn't even approve of them talking about the subject, though oddly she had never objected to Molly's romantic reading material. Siobhan had once remarked that surely that meant there was hope for Hattie yet.
Needing a respite from exams and thoughts of the incident in the corridor with Malfoy, Molly got one of her favourite Fifi LaFolle novels as soon as she was done studying with her friends, and curled up in a private corner of the common room with her book. She escaped into the book, and soon forgot all about what had happened in the corridor, and the world dropped away as she read.
She was in the middle of a very interesting scene when she heard footsteps coming up. She could feel Arthur's presence without needing to look over her shoulder, and tried to hide her book under the cushions of the chair. Looking at him was almost jarring after being so absorbed in her novel.
“Do you know your brothers got a detention for cursing Lucius Malfoy?” Arthur asked cheerfully, perching on the windowsill next to her. “Oh, I'm glad if I couldn't do it, at least he still got what was coming to him. Double detentions, but well-earned, for once. I wish I'd been there to see it.”
Molly could feel her cheeks turning red. She almost wanted to let him go on thinking the twins had done it, but she knew that at least with him, she had to come clean about what she'd done. She glanced down at the novel, buried under the cushion, and wished she'd been able to stay buried in its story. “Erm...”
Arthur gave her a quizzical look. “Molly?”
“It was me,” she said in a low voice. “I did it, and my brothers took the blame.”
Arthur looked quite stunned. “You cursed Malfoy?”
“I had to!” she burst out, then went on somewhat incoherently, “He was saying awful things, and then my brothers and McGonagall- I tried to stop them, but they said they didn't want me to ruin my spotless record, and-”
“It's not spotless. You had a detention last year,” Arthur pointed out. “For the love potion.”
Molly frowned. “I know that,” she said, nettled. “But they don't.”
“What did he say to you? Why did you hex him?” Arthur demanded, looking rather angry now, though she knew it was on her behalf. She was quite glad she had hexed Malfoy, or Arthur surely would have gone out and done so to avenge her honour.
She did not want to repeat any of what Malfoy had said, however, especially to Arthur. It had been horrible enough to hear once. And she would never let some of those words cross her lips. “The usual. You know how he is.”
“Hmm.” Arthur was silent for a moment, but then he grinned quite suddenly. “And you were worried about me hexing him.”
She glared at him. “Arthur,” she said warningly.
“Well done, Molly.” He leaned forward and kissed her cheek.