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Chapter 17: Chapter 16
21st November 2010: Seb
I wasn’t sure how often I replayed her walking out in my head but I knew I’d fallen asleep thinking of it and woken up to the same image. She was disgusted, sickened and I could understand, just because it was her and this – whatever this thing was between us – was so much less important to her than her family. She was a Weasley through and through; I should never have made the move.
Dressing, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I shook my head and smiled as I adjusted my tie in the mirror. I’d lost control. I’d spun myself into the brightest light I could without diverting from the truth too much, and in doing so, I had let her slip away. I couldn’t determine if I’d done too much or not enough. Glossing over the reality would only have caused suspicion and telling her the exact truth – the details she hadn’t been interested in – would have made her departure a guarantee, unsalvageable. I’d known from the off that Grace had been with Fred, I’d known I felt more strongly about her than she about me. Evidently this was something I’d have to get used to. Two girls, two rejections; one more and it might become a habit.
I left the room as the others started to stir, dragging myself outside for a quick fag. The air had a bite to it and it rushed at the doors as soon as I stepped towards them. The sky was a lifeless grey, the sun barely capable of heaving itself higher than the tips of the trees; under my feet, the grass was sodden and the soles of my shoes slipped beneath it. I took refuge in a corner of the building that jutted inwards, my robes grazing against the rough brick.
The tips of my ears were beginning to freeze already and I pulled my cloak tighter around me to try to fend it off, though to no avail. The smoke of my cigarette was swept away before the smell could hit me, and the ash trailed away, blending against the white canvas of the sky. I sniffed, the second wave of colds making their rounds through the school and nobody was exempt, and wiped my nose across the back of my free hand which had been unconsciously buried in the folds of my robes in an attempt to keep it warm. My nose almost burned with the cold and even though I wasn’t even half-finished with the cigarette, stubbed it out and threw it on the ground carelessly.
Stepping back inside the warmth of the Entrance Hall made my head throb and my eyes water. My throat stung with the change of air and I had to blink hard to clear my vision. The smell of breakfast – perfectly toasted bread and tea – flitted around me temptingly but ignoring my stomach’s dull rumble of appreciation, I walked on. She could have told the world by now, told every one of her family members that she knew. She could have told her friends and the word would spread. The outcast cast out; I smirked. Back to square one.
Or so I thought. After sitting through an agonisingly dull Transfiguration lesson, I almost walked straight into her as I rounded a corner. She glanced up at me and then around her before tentatively matching my step. My forehead creased and I glanced down to her.
“Erm,” she said, fiddling with her watch strap nervously. The crowds in the corridor were dying away as we climbed down the floors and soon enough, we were on our own. “I don’t know what to say to you.”
“You’re the one following me,” I noted, hurrying down the stairs in full anticipation of her following at a gentle trot. I didn’t have to look at her to know she was blushing and chewing on her lip as though it would excuse her from a response to the unasked question. The sound of her shoes on the floor carried on, steady and cautious.
“I can’t get it to add up,” she explained, frustration teeming in her words. “I didn’t sleep much last night.”
I stopped, having reached the first floor and not sure whether inviting her down to my common room was a good idea. I wandered on a little longer, until the wall jutted inwards enough for me to slump onto the ground and away from sight. Cautiously, Molly propped herself on the outside of the wall before deciding that there was enough room for her to slip onto the floor too, and not be within touching distance of me.
She swept her robes neatly around her legs which were primly folded, my own tucked up to my chest. It constricted my stomach a little but I’d become accustomed to the feel and looked past it, resting my hands on folded arms.
“I kind of understand why,” she said, slowly as if she was still figuring it out in her head. “I know how. I just –” she paused and I lifted my head, urging her to go on. “I panicked a little, last night. That’s why I left. I just couldn’t get it to sink in.” She swallowed deeply, licking her lips which were chapped from the cold. “Would you do it again?”
“No.” I’d do worse. “No, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t.” The spell’s name escaped me. “I was scared.” Not a lie but an exaggeration, without doubt. I was scared of losing face and so I did it. It was the only thing that would make a three on one battle fair. “It’s not an excuse.” But it’d make her sympathise. “I wanted to be expelled.” I wanted to get out.
“No, no,” she interrupted, shaking her head and her eyes grew wide. “No, everyone deserves a second chance.”
My eyes locked onto hers properly. Her voice was so small – so was she – and so innocent and naïve that it almost made me want to keep her in the same blissful isolation that I tried to keep my sister in. Her juvenility was what captured me; that was it. It was this childishness about her. She was all talk, sometimes. She stood up for what she believed in and yet it was in such a young way that it made me want to keep her shut away.
Every time I had skipped over the truth was merely a way of protecting her. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t my personality; it was this need for her to stay like this. She had her family to protect her and she’d had Tierney, but now I had found her and I would protect her better than anyone else because I wasn’t like them. They hadn’t known this about her. They hadn’t realised exactly what it was that was so special.
She was more than nice.
She was more than a Weasley.
She was Molly. Nothing else, just Molly, and that was so unique that amongst every single redhead who had passed through the front doors on September 1st, it was her who had stood out and always would.
“You don’t agree?” For a moment, I couldn’t get my brain back on track. I gaped at her and then the conversation came back and I shook my head.
“I think it’s subjective.” She frowned and cocked her head to the side. “Tripping a kid up on the stairs and making him break his arm. Yeah, give him a second chance. Finding out your girlfriend’s kissed someone else, second chance might be worth it. They’re not important.”
“They’re important to some people,” she corrected and in that moment, my words got swept away from me again and it felt like someone had tipped wood shavings into my mouth, dry and swollen. “What would you have done, if they’d expelled you?”
I’d never thought about it. I’d always thought I’d not go home; I’d just be nowhere, in No Man’s Land. If I’d been expelled, my wand would have been snapped. I’d have been stuck between two worlds, one which would have shunned me and another that I would not have even considered; home and family against a life as a Muggle.
“I’d have been screwed,” I admitted with a low laugh and she smiled nervously back. I shook my head. “I don’t always think things through properly.”
“Mr Impulsive?” she suggested and I shrugged because yes, there were moments where instinct took prevalence over plan. Yet, so often everything I did was so carefully plotted, so thoroughly worked out that I couldn’t agree at all with the word impulsive.
“I can’t believe how calm you are about this,” I admitted after a moment of silence. She shrugged, looking into the corner of the alcove where a small spider was sat amidst an intricate web of dust. Its legs twitched and grappled, moving with a determined agility that I envied, until it pulled itself into the shadows and away from sight.
“You kept asking me to remember.” I nodded. “This was it?”
“I thought you’d know. I thought they’d have told you.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head and wrinkling her nose to lift her glasses higher. “I don’t know how Dom and James found out but no, they didn’t say anything.” She joined her hands together, twisting them around, not looking at me. I tapped her foot with mine and she fleetingly glanced towards me. “You wanted to tell me.” I didn’t react. It wasn’t a question and the statement didn’t need reaffirming. “I’m not going to say that I understand, but I’m not going to turn my back on you either.” She smiled and tapped my foot back. “Believe it or not, your company isn’t as awful as you might think it is.” Her hair fell from behind her ear as she moved her head up, obscuring a part of her bluer eye, and I smiled back. She glanced to her watch. “I’d better go or people will start wondering.” She pushed herself to her feet, wiping her hands down on her robes and I scrambled up too. Her blush was glowing on her cheeks and she trailed her fingers so lightly across my wrist that I barely felt it. “See you.”
Her shoulders hunched a little, her hands crossed firmly in front of her, she walked away with a hurried shuffle of a walk that I’d never noticed before, and then she disappeared behind a portrait and out of sight.
Digging my own hands into my robe pockets, I stood still for another minute, trying to grasp everything that was flying around my head.
It had worked.
The little hints, the smallest, tiniest details had all slipped together to form a slowly solidifying whole. My comments, things I’d thought wouldn’t even stay with her, had saved me from her turning her back on me. My pleas – as had always been intended – had been turned into a form of salvation. They had stopped everything from changing. They had spun me in a brighter light, one where I was beginning to be edged in gold in her eyes.
And I understood her, finally. With that knowledge, that assurance, I could try and understand why she affected me so much. This girl that everyone else looked past, the Weasley that meant nothing, did nothing, she had stuck out to me amongst the prettier, taller, younger, more famed redheads. She was different. I was different. Together, we could be something so much more than that.
I deserved her, and she needed me.
Or rather, I mused, when everyone found out, she was going to need me.