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Chapter 2: Man-to-Man Defense
Since the events of the Second Wizarding War, being a Weasley put you on the fast track to fame. Most of my family had fought in the Final Battle at Hogwarts, including my dad. And of course, Uncle Harry—the most well-known wizard alive—had become an honorary Weasley when he’d married Aunt Ginny. Because of these things, most of the wizarding community could recognize every member of our family on sight. Honestly, I wasn’t too sure what the big deal was; I mean, my cousins and I hadn’t even been alive during Voldemort’s reign of terror. There was no reason for people to gawk at us like we’d done something special. But it happened nonetheless.
Lucy and I were dealing with this at the Ministry gala, as we made our way through the crowded Atrium and tried to dodge the stares of curious government officials. Even in a room full of mature adults, people were still fascinated by the mere sight of us.
“Don’t they have more interesting people to look at?” said Lucy, ducking her head uncomfortably. “I mean, this place is crawling with Weasleys. Uncle Harry is here, for Helga’s sake! Can’t they go stare at him?”
“I don’t know why you’re complaining,” I grumbled. “When people look at you, it’s because you’re gorgeous. When they look at me, it’s because they can’t quite tell if I’m a man or a woman.”
“Oh, Molly, don’t say that. It’s not even true.”
“Sure it is. I mean, look at me. I don’t exactly radiate feminine charm.”
“Molly, you’re beautiful. Don’t let a few ignorant people make you think otherwise.”
I sighed. Lucy was such a nice person—so nice, in fact, that she was willing to lie to my face just to make me feel better. But I knew that my name wasn’t the only thing about me that invited stares. A six-foot girl attracted a certain amount of attention; not to mention the fact that I was all sinewy muscle and no curves. No matter what Lucy believed, I was not beautiful—I could tell that by the way people reacted to me. Instead of gravitating toward me, most people tended to give me a wide berth. And whenever I got within a few feet of a man, he just couldn’t help sizing himself up in comparison. There wasn’t really anything I could do to avoid the raised eyebrows and subtle glances, so I just tried not to be too insulted by it. I was proud of my height, and I knew that when people gave me strange looks, they weren’t actually doing it to be mean (for the most part).
But there was always that one person in the room who took it too far.
For example, as we made our way forward, there was a sudden lull in the noise of the room. At the exact moment when things quieted down, I heard a chuckle coming from behind us.
“Wow,” said a male voice, “that girl’s an Amazon.”
I stopped walking immediately, my eyes narrowing. That was the kind of stupid comment I might have expected from a third year. Hearing it from a grown man made it all the more maddening. My better instincts told me that I should just walk away, but for some reason I just couldn’t let it go unaddressed.
“Molly?” said Lucy warily, seeing the look on my face. “What are you—“
But I was already striding back toward the man, ready to get in his face. He was short, skinny, and balding, and he didn’t look at all prepared for a confrontation.
“Amazon? That’s really the best you could come up with?” I asked him loudly, making sure to draw as much attention to us as possible. People turned to look at us, and he looked like he wanted to die of embarrassment. “If you’re going to mock me, you could at least be original. Don’t you think?”
He stuttered incoherently. It was just as I’d suspected; he could say anything behind someone’s back, but was too scared to say it to their face. I hated people like that—I had encountered too many of them in my lifetime.
“Look,” I said sharply. He was practically squirming with discomfort under my gaze. “Just so you know, I find it really offensive when people use that word around me. I hear it all the time, and it gets old quickly. So next time you see me, do you think maybe you could keep your mouth shut?”
He nodded. Although he wouldn’t meet my eyes, he at least had the grace to look a little ashamed.
“Good,” I said with a bright smile, and patted his shiny head. “I’m glad we had this talk. Now run along, before I grind your bones to make my bread.”
The look on his beet-red face was absolutely priceless as he scurried away. Hey, if I was going to be called names, I could at least make it fun, right?
Lucy tried to look disapproving, but even she couldn’t suppress a smirk.
“You’re a terrible person.”
“But you love me anyway.”
Just then, I caught sight of Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny not too far away. The sight of my uncle reminded me of Seeker Weekly, and the fact that I owed him a huge thank-you for his quote. I said a quick goodbye to Lucy and headed their direction.
Uncle Harry waved me over with a smile when he saw me coming. Aside from my parents, he was probably the person I admired most in the world. He was the one who had given me my first broomstick, and he was the one who had taught me to fly. If it weren’t for him, I would probably never have played Quidditch, and I couldn’t imagine that kind of world.
“So,” he said with a wide smile, “how does it feel to be a Quidditch star in the making?”
“Don’t jinx it,” I cautioned with a grin. “But seriously though, Uncle Harry, thank you so much for the quote. It was awesome.”
“Oh, don’t thank me. I was happy to do it,” he said, scratching the back of his neck sheepishly.
“I’m just amazed at what Cormac said,” Aunt Ginny put in. “I’ve never known him to talk that much about someone other than himself.”
We all laughed at this. Coach McLaggen used to play for Puddlemere United, and he loved to tell stories about his “glory days” on the professional pitch.
Of course, he didn’t often mention the fact that he never made it off the bench.
“Molly, I’m so excited for you,” Aunt Ginny went on. “I remember when I was just breaking into the league. It can be a hard road, but you’ll be fine. Just be prepared to prove yourself this season.”
“Oh, I can definitely do that,” I said confidently. “Any other advice?”
She thought for a moment. “The most useful thing I can tell you is to pick a franchise that needs you just as much as you need them. Be sure to keep that in mind.” She nodded sagely, as if she had just said something profound.
I decided it was best to just pretend I understood. But truthfully, my aunt might as well have been speaking in Parseltongue. Aunt Ginny was normally pretty direct when she had a point to make; for her, this advice seemed kind of cryptic. I hoped that things would make more sense later this year, when I actually started meeting the recruiters.
That thought sent a rush of nerves through me. I couldn’t believe that in a few short weeks, scouts for pro teams would be coming to Hogwarts to watch me play—and possibly offer me contracts. I didn’t know whether to be excited or scared out of my mind.
But let’s be honest—I was leaning towards excited.
“So what’s my brother saying about all this?” asked Aunt Ginny with a grin. “I’ll bet the Seeker Weekly thing really shocked the poor bloke. Is he handling himself like an adult?”
“Er…yeah! Yeah, he’s…he’s really coming around. I mean, you know, he has to get used to the idea…you know—“
Uncle Harry didn’t buy my act for a second. “You haven’t shown him the magazine yet, have you?”
I was getting really tired of hearing that question.
“Not yet,” I said tightly.
“Don’t put it off any longer, Molly,” he instructed, moving out of Uncle Mode and into Coach Mode. “He’ll either accept it or he won’t, but you’ve got to let him know. We’ve talked about this.”
“I know, I know—I’ll tell him when I’m ready. I’m working on it, okay?”
Suddenly, Aunt Ginny fixed her gaze over my shoulder. “Well, I suggest you work fast.”
“Good evening, Ginny, Harry. How are you?” My dad’s booming voice came out of nowhere, scaring the crap out of me. He stood at my right shoulder, smiling widely at all of us. “I hope Molly hasn’t been monopolizing your attention too much,” he said.
“Not at all, Percy. We were just talking about her career aspirations,” he said pointedly, shooting me a look.
I could have slapped him.
“Were you really?” Dad seemed genuinely interested now, not fake-interested like he was with some of his colleagues. “Molly hasn’t even discussed that with me yet, although I’m sure she could do great things here at the Ministry.” He beamed down at me, and I tried to smile back. I could have pointed out that I had discussed it with him approximately two years ago, and he’d shut me down. But in this case, I figured that silence, not honesty, was probably the best policy.
“Oh, I don’t know, Perce,” said Aunt Ginny, exchanging a knowing smile with Uncle Harry. “Molly doesn’t strike me as the type to work behind a desk.”
Dad raised his eyebrows, and I felt like I had a lead ball in my stomach. At the rate these two were going, they would give my secret away within a few more seconds. I opened my mouth to jump in, but thankfully, someone else ended up doing it for me.
“I thought there was supposed to be an open bar this year,” said my uncle Ron, entering the circle without so much as a hello. Aunt Hermione hurried to catch up to him, looking faintly embarrassed. I had never been so glad to see them in my whole life.
“I wish,” said Dad, making Aunt Ginny chuckle.
“Rough night so far, Perce?”
“No more than usual.” He glanced down at his feet, and I noticed he looked exhausted. “I ran into Williamson earlier.”
Everyone winced. Auror Williamson had never been shy about voicing his hatred for Dad; because of this, he’d earned himself an entire clan full of red-headed enemies. “Oh, Merlin,” said Uncle Ron. “What did he say?”
“Well, his son is a classmate of Lucy’s. I was making small talk with the boy about Hogwarts, and then Williamson came and told me to leave. Said he didn’t want his family associating with a traitor.”
There seemed to be a lot of drama going down at this gala. You would think government officials would be a little more adult than that. But I guess Hogwarts never ends.
“Again with this ‘traitor’ garbage?” Uncle Ron was outraged. “Williamson was there at the final battle! He knows you fought for us!”
“I’ll speak to him, Percy,” said Uncle Harry, sounding upset. “I won’t accept this kind of nonsense from my men.”
“Don’t let him get to you, Dad. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” I said. I had no idea why anyone would call my dad a traitor, and I had a feeling he wouldn’t tell me even if I asked. But I still wanted to try and make him feel better.
“Well said, Molly,” said Aunt Ginny.
Dad squeezed my shoulder, looking a little more relaxed. I was pleased with myself.
“Oh, hey, I almost forgot!” Uncle Ron exclaimed, turning to me. “I was going to congratulate you on the Seeker Weekly thing, Molls. Sounds like you’ll be going pro in no time. Hey, do me a favor and sign with the Cannons, will you? Merlin knows they need some new blood.”
The conversation ground to a screeching halt. Dad’s head whipped around to look at me, and I felt the blood drain from my face. This could not be happening, not now! I wasn’t even close to being ready yet!
It was so typical of Uncle Ron to cause total destruction without even being aware of it. According to his wife, he was a champ at that.
“Going pro?” said Dad, looking as though the words left a bad taste in his mouth. “What on earth is he talking about, Molly?”
Believe it or not, I had actually done a tiny bit of planning for this moment. I had a few assertive statements on file in my brain, waiting to be used to answer this very question. But the words stuck in my throat; as I stared up at Dad, my courage evaporated so fast that I wasn’t sure it had ever been there in the first place. The silence went on for an embarrassingly long time, and tension settled over the whole group like a heavy blanket.
“Er…I think I’m going to go search for that bar again. Come on, Hermione.” Uncle Ron grabbed his wife’s hand and got out of there as fast as he could, without even a backward glance. Aunt Ginny also made herself scarce, but Uncle Harry stayed where he was, much to my relief.
“Some scouts have been noticing Molly’s talent, Perce,” he said, glancing at me. “She’s been featured in a Seeker Weekly segment about up and coming players.” He suddenly gripped Dad’s arm. “Percy, she’s an extraordinary player. I’m confident that she could make a career of it. Just…consider it. Please.”
Dad’s expression was murderous; his eyes boring into me like lasers.
“Dad,” I said weakly, “I was going to tell you—“
“We’ll discuss this later,” he said to me before stalking off, not acknowledging that Uncle Harry had ever spoken. We both stared after him in silence.
“Well,” he said finally, “at least it’s out now.”
I just nodded, swallowing hard. Apparently my powers of speech had disappeared again.
“Whatever he says tonight, everything’s going to turn out okay.”
I had been hearing a lot of that lately. Maybe Lucy and Uncle Harry knew something I didn’t, because I couldn’t see how anything could be okay any time soon.
Everyone was completely silent as we filed into the kitchen after the gala. Mum and Lucy had picked up on the tension between Dad and me, and were glancing frantically back and forth between us. Clearly, they could tell a serious storm was brewing. I expected them to leave the room immediately, but they stayed where they were, watching us intently. Maybe they were afraid this might become a wand fight.
Very, very slowly, Dad turned to face me. He had his game face on, but I refused to be scared. I stared right back at him, putting on my most intimidating glare (and believe me, I was the master of silent intimidation.) A couple of hours had passed since Uncle Ron had dropped the bomb, and I’d used that time to psych myself up. This would be just like a Quidditch match, I told myself. All I had to do was stand my ground and not let anything get to me. I had choked back at the Ministry, but that wasn’t going to happen now. This time, I would make him hear what I had to say.
“Molly, I thought we were past this,” Dad said, sounding very, very frustrated. “I thought you understood when I told you I didn’t want you pursuing this.”
“Dad, I’m sorry,” I said, the first words out of my mouth in quite some time. “I’m sorry you don’t get it. But I am going to be a Quidditch player, no matter what you say.”
“I won’t allow it!” He slammed his hand down on the countertop, making Mum flinch. “You’ve got so much potential, Molly. You need to be doing something important with your life—“
“Quidditch is important to me!” I cried. “And it’s important to a lot of other people, too. Just because you don’t understand it means it doesn’t matter? That’s ridiculous, Dad, and you know it!”
“It’s a game. It isn’t worthwhile for you to spend your time obsessing about it.” He began to pace the floor. “You are seventeen years old! You should be preparing for a real career, with a real purpose, not some ridiculous fantasy—“
“I love Quidditch, Dad!” By now I was yelling at the top of my lungs. In the back of my mind, I was amazed at how quickly this had escalated. “I love it! And I’m good at it—no, I’m great at it! I’ve been dreaming about the pros for years, and now I’m so close I can taste it! There is NO WAY I’m letting go of this. I don’t care what you say.”
He narrowed his eyes, but I didn’t see any real rage in his expression. It was more like...determination. Like he was doing his absolute best to convince me that he was right and I was wrong.
But it wasn’t going to work. I respected Dad’s opinion on just about everything—but not this.
“It’s time for you to grow up, Molly,” he said in a dismissive, laying-down-the-law kind of tone. “I have stood by for years and watched you spend all your time on that broom, but it ends now. I don’t want you playing Quidditch this year at school, and you will not be signing any contract that may come along. I know it must seem unfair to you, but I’m your father and I know what’s best for you.”
With that, he turned away and started to leave the room. He thought it was over, but I wasn’t finished yet. I would end this on my terms.
“I don’t need your permission, you know!” I yelled. He stopped short, and then turned very slowly to face me.
“Excuse me?” he said quietly, in his most menacing voice.
“I’m of age now, and that means I can enter into any legally binding agreement without parental consent.” I crossed my arms and looked him straight in the eyes. “You can’t stop me.”
“So you’re openly defying me.” Now he looked angry. “You have no respect for me as your father—“
“Well, do you respect me, Dad?”
“That’s completely irrelevant—“
“No, Dad, it isn’t.” I could practically feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins, strengthening me. “It’s the whole point. You have this whole perfect future in mind for me, but you didn’t even consider the possibility that I might want something different. You think of me as this…this child who will always agree with you and do what you say. But I can’t be that person, okay? This is my life, and I get to choose what to do with it.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lucy smile.
“This isn’t some tragedy, Dad. At least, it doesn’t have to be. All you have to do is be supportive of me—“
“I can’t do that, Molly! Don’t you understand? I just...” He ran his fingers through his hair, looking miserable. “I just didn’t want this for you. I wanted you to do something more with your life.”
“Something more than doing what I love?” I said more calmly, taking a few steps toward him. It was so hard for me to be mad at him, especially when I knew he was only saying these things because he cared about me. But he had to hear the truth; I owed him that much. “Dad…I’m a Quidditch player, okay? There is nothing else out there for me. I just hope someday you can open your mind enough to accept that.”
He just looked at me for a long moment, disappointment etched into every line on his face. Then, finally, he turned and walked up the stairs without another word.
I let out a huge breath, one I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. I’d gotten the last word—technically, that meant I had won. But I kept thinking about the way Dad had looked at me, like he just couldn’t understand how I’d turned out this way.
I won’t lie—it hurt. Even more than I’d imagined it would.
Mum looked completely torn, not knowing who to comfort first.
“You should go talk to Dad,” I said to her quietly. “He really needs you right now.”
“I think you really need me, too,” she said, crossing the room to give me a big hug. I felt tears stinging at my eyes, but I blinked them back.
“No, it’s okay,” I told her, trying (and failing miserably) to smile. “Go to him. We can talk later, okay?”
She reached up to cup my cheek in her hand. “You’re a strong girl, Molly. I know it’s hard right now, but you’ll get through this.” With one last warm smile, she went upstairs, leaving me alone with my sister.
As soon as Mum was gone, Lucy rushed toward me, throwing her arms around my waist. I clung to her tightly, trying even harder to hold back the flood of tears that were threatening to fall.
“You did it,” she whispered.
“I didn’t think I could.”
“But you did.” She stepped back so she could look me in the eyes. “I’m really proud of you, Mol.”
“Thanks.” I tried to smile again; this time it was easier.
“Are you going upstairs yet?”
I shook my head. “I need to clear my head for a bit. I’ll be quiet when I come in.”
“Okay. Be careful.” With a parting wave, she was gone too.
There was only one place I could go. I headed for the back shed, where my Comet 500 awaited me. After quickly strapping on thigh pads and gloves, I was taking off, soaring into the warm night air. I had hoped that the task of flying would keep my mind off what had happened. But my hands already knew exactly how to steer the broom along the wind currents; my body automatically leaned forward just enough to keep me on balance and moving quickly. That, unfortunately, left my mind free to wander.
The weight of Dad’s disappointment was crushing. I had known it was coming, but nothing could have prepared me for how it would feel. But I couldn’t feel entirely discouraged, not while I was in flight. I clung to one tiny spark of hope: now that I’d told Dad how I felt, there was one less obstacle in my way. My pro Quidditch dream was still alive, and that was worth everything.