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The Unsinkable Molly Prewett by momotwins

Format: Novel
Chapters: 39
Word Count: 116,849
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse

Genres: Humor, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Arthur, Molly, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Arthur/Molly, OC/OC

First Published: 11/23/2007
Last Chapter: 09/21/2008
Last Updated: 02/10/2011

Summary:
Absolutely gorgeous banner by atkarid @TDA!




Molly Prewett is in her sixth year at Hogwarts, and finds after her love potion goes wrong, that her true love might just be a boy she’d never really noticed before…

2008 Dobby Award Winner: Best Canon, Most Convincing Ship Writer. 2012 Dobby Award Winner: HPFF Classics Best Novel, Most Convincing Ship Writer.


Chapter 1: You Can't Hurry Love
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A/N As always, JKR owns everything you recognize. Except the song lyrics.




The Supremes, “You Can’t Hurry Love”
You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said to trust, give it time
No matter how long it takes



October 1966

Molly Prewett peeked out the cubicle door in the girls’ lavatory. “Hattie! Hurry, come in here.”

Henrietta Habbershaw looked over her shoulder before she ducked into the cubicle with Molly. There was a cauldron over the toilet, and the potion inside it was a bright and garish pink. On one of the walls of the cubicle was drawn a heart with MP + TP inside it. Hattie had seen the graffito so often she didn’t even notice it any more. “Is that it, then? It’s done?”

“It’s done,” Molly whispered back in satisfaction. “I’ve got some butterbeer from Hogsmeade, I’m going to put it in the bottle. He won’t notice the color then.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea, Molly?” Hattie whispered. “Have you ever made a love potion before? How do you know it will work?”

“Of course it will work,” Molly said, looking annoyed with her friend. “I followed the recipe exactly.”

Hattie looked doubtful. “Well, I hope you know what you’re doing. What will it do to him?”

“It will make him love me, of course, for a day or so. Then he’ll realize he really does fancy me and we’ll be together.” Molly busied herself at the cauldron, examining the potion.

“But he’ll still act like himself?”

“Well…” Molly wasn’t sure, but didn’t want to admit it. “Yes, of course.”

“Oh, Molly,” Hattie sighed. “I wish you would just get over Thaddeus, it’s been since last year and he hasn’t noticed you romantically.”

“Well, this will make him notice me, won’t it?” Molly brushed a strand of dark red hair out of her eyes. “I’m tired of pining for him. It’s time to do something about it.”

Hattie didn’t look convinced, but she said, somewhat reluctantly, “All right, Molly, I’ll help you. I know you love him.”

“I do. And soon, he’ll love me in return.” Molly scooped up some of the potion and mixed it with the butterbeer.

*

They went to Arithmancy, where Molly had a difficult time paying attention to Professor Arccos. Arithmancy was her favourite class, because she shared it with the object of her affections. She couldn’t stop looking at Thaddeus Peabody, at his handsome golden hair, square jaw, and velvety brown eyes. He smiled so beautifully. He was an easy-going young man, a beater on the Gryffindor Quidditch team and a school prefect. He was quite popular, friendly to everyone, and not at all stuck up.

Her nerves were fluttery over how to give him the butterbeer. They weren’t really friends, but obviously having been in the same year in Gryffindor together all this time, they knew each other. She decided to brazen it out. She was fairly confident he’d take the drink without suspicion. She was a Gryffindor too, after all.

When the class ended, and Hattie was fussing over the homework they’d been given, Molly screwed up her courage and sauntered over to Thaddeus.

“Fancy a butterbeer, Thaddeus? I thought it might make you feel better, since you missed Transfiguration this morning. Someone said you weren’t feeling well.” She kept smiling flirtatiously but was mentally kicking herself, knowing it was a weak line.

Thaddeus didn’t seem to notice, however. He seemed a little flustered when she said he’d been ill. “Yeah sure, thanks Molly.”

She felt like swooning. He said her name! “Oh, it’s nothing. Enjoy. I hope you feel better.”

He glanced around a little sheepishly and grinned at her. “I wasn’t ill, actually, I was just skiving off to have a bit of a lie-in. It was a late night at Quidditch yesterday and I didn’t fancy going to class this morning.”

She couldn’t help grinning back at him, although she disapproved of skiving off. He was so handsome. “Well, I hope you don’t get in trouble, then. I’m off to the common room with Hattie. See you in Charms.”

“See you later, than.” Thaddeus saluted her with the bottle of butterbeer. “And thanks, Molly, that was right nice of you.”

Hattie was waiting for her outside the classroom when she came out with her bookbag slung over her shoulder, and they both hurried down the corridor and ducked into a niche with a suit of armor to wait for the other students to pass them. Thaddeus didn’t seem to notice as he walked past their hiding spot, and they followed him down the corridor.

They hid in one of the many shortcuts in the castle, behind a tapestry outside the Ancient Runes classroom, where Thaddeus had stopped to chat with a few of the other sixth-year students. He still hadn’t opened the butterbeer. Molly was peeking out from behind the tapestry, watching him anxiously, with Hattie behind her, craning her neck to see over Molly.

“Oooh, I don’t think I can watch!” Hattie suddenly turned away, her back against the stone wall, and closed her eyes, wearing a pained expression. “Let’s just go, shall we?”

“Don’t be a goose, get over here,” Molly said, grabbing the sleeve of her friend’s robe and tugging on it. “I want to see if it works.”

Thaddeus was goofing around with Roderick Feltham, another sixth-year Gryffindor, still holding the bottle of butterbeer Molly had given him. She heard him say, to her horror, “Well, have a drink before class, anyway.” Thaddeus pointed his wand at the bottle and said clearly, “Geminio.” There were now two bottles of love potion-spiked butterbeer.

Hattie gasped and clapped her hand to her mouth. “Oh no!” she squeaked. “Will the potion still be there? Will it still work in the second bottle?”

Molly thought she was going to faint. “I don’t know, Hattie.” Please don’t drink it, Roddy, please don’t drink it… Her wonderful plan suddenly seemed extremely foolish and childish. Why had she given him a love potion? She had to force herself to watch, and not hide her eyes as Hattie was now doing, peeking between her fingers.

To Molly’s relief, Roderick was shaking his head. “No, I’ve never liked it much. You go ahead. I’ve got to get a seat, I’ll catch you in Charms.” He ducked into the Ancient Runes classroom, waving at Thaddeus, just as another Gryffindor sixth-year came up behind Thaddeus and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Here you are, Thad, all taken care of. Professor McGonagall says she hopes you feel better and not to miss another Transfiguration class.” Arthur Weasley was handing him a sheaf of parchment that was probably a copy of his notes on this morning’s Transfiguration class. “And Madame Luscinia gave me a potion to give you to help you out of bed.” He handed Thaddeus a small bottle, and Thaddeus laughed.

“Arthur! Thanks very much for covering for me, you have no idea how much trouble you’ve saved me. I thought for sure McGonagall would give me detention if I got caught.” Thaddeus did look quite relieved. He handed Arthur the second bottle of butterbeer. “Have a butterbeer?”

“Cheers, mate.” Arthur took the bottle and popped the cork as Thaddeus opened his. They clinked their bottles and set off down the hall, drinking the butterbeers.

Molly’s heart was pounding in her chest as she sank back against the stone wall behind the tapestry. They both drank the potion… “What am I going to do, Hattie?”

Hattie’s eyes were wide as saucers. “They both drank it, Molly, they both drank it!”

“I know!” Molly ran her hands through her hair. “Maybe it won’t work on both of them. Maybe the Geminio charm didn’t duplicate the love potion.”

“We could ask Professor Flitwick more about the Geminio charm,” Hattie suggested.

“Yes, good idea. We’ll go to class early today so we can ask him before anyone gets there. Let’s go back to the dormitory for now, I need to get my Charms textbook.” Molly bent to lift her bookbag and set off with Hattie in the opposite direction that Thaddeus had gone.

*

“Professor Flitwick, can we ask you a question please?” Molly put her bookbag down on the desk and smiled hopefully at the tiny Charms professor. Hattie looked slightly embarrassed, clutching her textbook to her chest.

“Of course, girls,” Flitwick responded in his squeaky voice, smiling kindly at them.

“When you use the Geminio charm, does it duplicate everything about the item you cast it on?”

“Well, that depends on the properties of the item in question. If it had innate magical properties, or if it carried a Dark curse, it would not duplicate that. More complicated spells cast on the original item would not be duplicated.”

Hattie looked relieved and took her seat, but Molly wasn’t sure yet. “Professor, what if someone duplicated something, a drink, that had been spiked?”

Flitwick seemed confused. “With alcohol? It would be duplicated with the added material.”

“What if it was spiked with a potion? Not a dark potion, just a… a potion.” Molly was crossing her fingers behind her back, hoping to be in the clear.

“Well, I suppose it would depend on the potion, but in most cases, yes, the potion would also be duplicated.” Flitwick was staring at her curiously now, but when Molly sat down next to Hattie, he seemed to decide that was the end of things and pointed his wand at the blackboard, and chalked words began to appear for today’s lesson.

“Molly!”

She turned in surprise and saw Thaddeus, with Arthur Weasley right behind him, waving for her attention at the door. They were both grinning with a distinctly lovesick expression, jostling each other for a position in the doorway. Her hand flew to her mouth and she glanced at Hattie, whose eyes had gone wide.

“Oh no…” Hattie moaned.

Thaddeus and Arthur were tripping over each to get to her desk. Thaddeus pulled up a chair next to her and smiled as he grabbed her hand and kissed it.

Arthur took her other hand, and Thaddeus threw him a belligerent look that was quite out of character for him, off the Quidditch pitch anyway. Molly felt extremely conscious of Flitwick’s eyes on her back. Why had she asked him so many questions? Surely he knew now what was happening.

“Molly, I…” Thaddeus was watching her soulfully. “I think I love you.”

“Molly, darling girl,” Arthur said, his voice earnest and his hand stroking hers. “Your beautiful eyes outshine the sun.”

Thaddeus’s hand tightened around Molly’s rather painfully as he scowled at Arthur. “I was here first, Weasley.”

Hattie looked frightened as Arthur drew his wand on Thaddeus. “That hardly matters, Peabody, if I love her more.” His face was thunderous as he stared down Thaddeus, but his hand remained gentle around Molly’s.

“She’s mine!” Thaddeus’s wand was in his hand now, pointed at Arthur’s chest.

Molly was turning bright red. This was not exactly how she’d envisioned things going when she gave Thaddeus the love potion. She thought about being caught by her classmates in this position and reddened even further. Boys did not spout poetry and fight over Molly Prewett. Everyone would know what she had done… If they hurt each other because of her, she would never forgive herself.

“Mr. Weasley, Mr. Peabody, outside, now.” Flitwick’s voice rang out across the classroom.

Thaddeus and Arthur obeyed reluctantly, letting Molly’s hands slide out of theirs. She held up one hand to wave to them as they left the classroom, both staring at her over their shoulders and pushing each other slightly as they went out the door while their classmates came in.

“Miss Prewett, come here.”

Molly shuffled up to Flitwick’s desk, her stomach twisting into knots, relieved and apprehensive all at once. “Yes, Professor?”

The tiny Charms professor sounded both tired and exasperated. “Did you give those boys a love potion, Miss Prewett? Is that what all the questions about the Geminio charm were about?”

Molly stared at her feet. She knew she was turning bright red. “Yes, sir. I didn’t mean to give it to both of them, and I, well, I didn’t know it would make them act like… like this.”

Flitwick gave her a stern look. “Miss Prewett, I’m disappointed in your behaviour today. You’ll serve a detention tomorrow evening in my office, and I’ll be speaking to your Head of House about this.”

Molly’s shoulders slumped. She had never had a detention before, and hated to think what McGonagall was going to say to her. “Yes, Professor.”

“Go and make sure those boys get an antidote for the love potion.”

She went out into the hallway and nearly bumped into Thaddeus and Arthur, who had clearly been lying in wait for her in the corridor. They crowded around her.

“Molly, go out with me, please,” Thaddeus begged without preamble.

“Oh Molly, please don’t, I love you so,” Arthur hurried to add.

“I saw her first, Weasley,” Thaddeus shot at him, scowling.

“It’s her decision, Peabody,” Arthur retorted.

“Erm.” She looked between the two of them and wished heartily that Thaddeus had never cast that Geminio charm. “I’m sorry, Arthur, but Thaddeus-”

Arthur Weasley’s shoulders slumped, but he didn’t argue further. “If that’s what you want, Molly.” He stepped back, and turned away, heading down the corridor toward Gryffindor tower with his head down. Molly watched him go, feeling a tug on her heart. Bewitched though he was, he was stepping aside for Thaddeus because that’s what she wanted. She couldn’t help admiring his character for that, but she was distracted by Thaddeus’s presence at her elbow. He was holding her hand now, making her heart flutter wildly.

She looked up into his handsome face, smiling at her, and saw his eyes. They seemed blank, glazed. The potion had made him fancy her, but not of his own free will, and it had caused him to fight with a friend over her. Molly felt a little sick with herself.

“We’d better get you fixed up,” she said, forcing her voice to be cheerful.

Chapter 2: Red Rubber Ball
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Cyrkle, “Red Rubber Ball”
There's a lesson to be learned from this
And I learned it very well
Now I know you're not the only starfish in the sea
And I think, it's gonna be all right



Molly led Thaddeus to Slughorn’s office. The Potions master was a jovial, rotund old fellow, with a bushy moustache that seemed to have a life of its own, and an extremely cushy office. Molly wasn’t one of the Slug Club, but Thaddeus was, and she knew Slughorn would be able to mix up an antidote in no time at all. And he was much less likely to lecture her than was Madame Luscinia in the infirmary.

She wished she didn’t have to do this, but her conscience and her Gryffindor sense of honour were kicking her, telling her she’d been wrong to put a love potion on Thad (and Arthur, though that had been accidental), that it was wrong to bewitch someone into loving you. It wasn’t real love anyway, but she’d romantically wanted to believe it would turn into real love.

Besides, Flitwick was sure to check up on the boys and make sure they’d had an antidote.

She knocked on the door and heard a cheerful bellow of “Come in!”

Opening the door cautiously, Thaddeus still clinging to her hand and smiling bemusedly at her, she led the way into the office and smiled at Professor Slughorn with embarrassment.

“Good afternoon, Miss Prewett, Mr. Peabody!” Slughorn smiled at them, brushing sugar off his hands. A bowl of crystallized pineapple sat next to his overstuffed velvet armchair. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”

“Well, Professor,” Molly began hesitantly. “I need, erm, two antidotes for a love potion.” She glanced at Thaddeus, regretting that she had to give it to him but knowing she couldn’t go through with her plan. He wasn’t Thaddeus when he was bewitched like this. He smiled at her with glazed eyes and her resolve strengthened. This had been a mistake.

“Oho!” Slughorn chuckled. “You’ve been a busy young lady. Two antidotes?”

“Yes, sir. For Thaddeus, and, erm, Arthur Weasley. It was an accident, sir.”

“An accidental love potion?” Slughorn looked vastly amused.

Molly could feel her face turning pink. “Well, I didn’t mean to give it to both of them.”

“I see…” Slughorn rummaged in one of his large carpetbags and began pulling out ingredients and two glass phials. “Let’s see what we can do, then, shall we?”

Slughorn prepared the antidote while Thaddeus made sheep eyes at Molly, and she stood there blushing and staring at her feet, wishing she could start the day over again and simply flush the love potion down the toilet. It had turned out so embarrassing.

“Here you are, then, my lad,” Slughorn announced, holding up one of the phials to Thaddeus, who took it, looking confused. “And one for Mr. Weasley as well.” He handed the second phial to Molly.

“Go on, Thaddeus,” Molly said sadly. He took the phial from Slughorn and downed it in one go. Slughorn chuckled again as Thaddeus seemed to sag.

“How do you feel, Mr. Peabody?” Slughorn asked kindly. “Care for a bit of oak-matured mead? For a pick-me-up? I have a bottle somewhere; I can open it for us.”

Thaddeus looked confused. “N-no thank you, sir.”

“I’m sorry, Thaddeus,” Molly blurted out. He glanced at her, his eyes wide but clear now. He looked shocked, and slightly horrified, as he stared at Molly and then at Slughorn.

“What…”

“You two run along now,” Slughorn shooed them cheerfully out of his office, settling himself back into his velvet armchair and picking up his pipe and newspaper.

They stopped outside Slughorn’s office and stared at each other. Thaddeus’s bookbag fell from his hands. He didn’t seem to notice it.

“I’m sorry,” Molly said again.

Thaddeus still looked a little stunned. “You gave me love potion?”

She nodded. “In the butterbeer.”

“Oh.” Thaddeus picked up his bag again and walked a few feet down the corridor, with Molly beside him, her face feeling hot. He stopped suddenly and she nearly collided with him.

“I gave that butterbeer to Arthur! I duplicated it for him! I nearly gave it to Roddy!” His voice was rising with each word.

“Yes, I have the antidote for Arthur too.” She showed him the phial, still clutched in her hand, then added in a rush, “I’m sorry about all this, I was stupid, I didn’t think about how it would turn out or how you would feel about it, and I never thought you’d give the potion to anyone else. I’m sorry, Thaddeus.”

He was staring down at the stones at their feet. “A love potion…”

“Yes. It was terrible of me.” She glanced down at her feet, dejected.

Thaddeus looked up at her then. “Why on earth would you want to use a love potion on me?”

“Well, I’ve, erm, fancied you for a long time now, and I hoped… I’m so sorry, Thaddeus, I just… just wanted you to fancy me too!” Molly gazed up at him beseechingly, her cheeks reddening in embarrassment, but Thaddeus’s eyes were sliding away from hers and he looked embarrassed and uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, Molly, but I fancy Cressida. You’re a very nice girl though,” he added hurriedly. “Love potion notwithstanding.”

“Cressida Titherington, in Ravenclaw?” Molly’s face fell. Her heart felt as if it had dropped into her stomach and turned to lead. Cressida was a nice girl. She took Ancient Runes. That must be partly why he hung around the Ancient Runes classroom, even though he didn’t take that class. Cressida was in Defence Against the Dark Arts with Molly, and Molly had always thought she was a nice girl. She would be good with Thaddeus.

Thaddeus grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to ask her out since last year.”

“Oh. Oh, I see.” Molly bit her lip thoughtfully. “Well, you should do that. Don’t be bashful, I’m sure she’ll say yes.” At least he could be happy, if he didn’t fancy her. He was such a nice boy. He didn’t even seem angry about the love potion fiasco. And Cressida was a sweet girl. They would make a dear little couple.

He seemed to cheer up. “D’you think so? Thanks, Molly. You’re a good sport.”

Her heart sank a little more. “Yes, well... I really am sorry about the love potion.”

“Quite all right, there. All forgotten.” He held out a hand to her, and she shook it, feeling slightly cheered. He turned to go, and then paused. “Arthur Weasley, you know…”

“Yes, I’m going to go give him his antidote now,” Molly sighed, holding up the small phial. “I hope he isn’t angry with me.”

“I don’t think he will be. Arthur’s not like that.” Thaddeus seemed to struggle for a moment on what to say next, then he said quietly, “He fancied you before you ever gave him that potion.” He hoisted his bookbag onto his shoulder. “Bye, Molly.”

She waved to him, distracted now. She propped a hand on her hip and chewed a fingernail as Thaddeus disappeared down the corridor, watching him without really seeing him. Bewitched by a love potion, already fancying her, and he had still stepped aside when she said she fancied Thaddeus?

Hmm.

*

She found Arthur in the Gryffindor common room, in a chair by the window, staring out at the afternoon sky.

“Hello, Arthur,” she said timidly.

He looked over at her and seemed to perk up, smiling widely. “Molly!” His smile drooped then, and he glanced over her shoulder. “Where’s Thad?”

She looked at him closely. His eyes were glazed, like Thaddeus’s had been. Her heart sank a little, and she smiled at him guiltily. “I have something for you, Arthur.”

She was even more ashamed of herself when he sat up eagerly, grinning widely at her. “For me? You do?”

“Here you are. Drink up.” She handed him the glass phial and waited for it to have its effect.

Sure enough, moments after downing the antidote, Arthur sagged into the chair just as Thaddeus had done, looking slightly horrified. He glanced up at her and his ears reddened. “Oh dear. Erm, Molly, I…”

She sat on the arm of his chair. “It was my fault, Arthur, but please don’t be angry. I gave Thaddeus a love potion and you got some as well, by mistake. I’m so sorry. I hope you can forgive me.”

“A love potion. For Thad. Yes, of course.” He ducked his head, embarrassed. His ears were still bright red. “I’m sorry I made a fool of myself in Charms, I hope I didn’t embarrass you.”

“It’s not your fault, Arthur,” Molly sighed. “It’s mine, and I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me.”

“Yes. Yes, of course I do.” He put a hand over his eyes. “Good Lord, a love potion.”

Molly wasn’t sure what he was thinking. “Please don’t be angry, Arthur, I’m so sorry for what I’ve done today.”

“Angry?” he said distractedly. “No, not at all. Not angry. I, erm, need a moment alone, Molly.”

She stood and started to walk away, hesitated briefly then put her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Arthur.”

“It’s quite all right, Molly.” He was staring at his feet, one hand on his temple.

Molly stared at him for a moment, taking in his profile in the late afternoon sun. He was rather handsome, really. She’d never really noticed him before. And he’d let her go, for her happiness, despite being bewitched by the love potion, when she said she fancied Thaddeus, who said Arthur fancied her. He just… let her go.

It was so noble. So romantic.

He looked up quite suddenly and she started, blushing that he’d caught her staring. “It’s all right, Molly,” he said quietly, his eyes searching hers. “You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Oh. Yes. All right, then.” She backed away and then fled up the staircase to the girls’ dormitory, where she flung herself onto her bed and buried her burning face in her pillow. It had been a humiliating day. Her plan, her stupid, silly plan, had backfired on her badly. She could only be grateful that Flitwick had broken things up before they got out of hand. Their wands had been drawn! They were friends and had drawn wands on each other. Over her. The entire afternoon had been so surreal. And now she had to serve a detention as well.

She really, really hoped her younger brothers would never find out about this. Thank goodness Flitwick had stopped the boys before anyone else saw them. Word would have gotten all around the school, she would have been humiliated in front of the entire school, and her brothers would never let her live it down.

She had been lying on her bed for about half an hour when Professor McGonagall came up, and she explained the entire sorry episode to her. McGonagall was more understanding than Molly had expected, but she still lost Gryffindor twenty points and McGonagall was going to write to her parents, in addition to the detention with Flitwick. She could only hope against hope that her mother wouldn’t send a Howler when she found out.

Molly stayed in her dormitory the rest of the evening. Hattie tried to get her to come down to the Great Hall for dinner that evening, but she couldn’t bring herself to move, to come down and face the two boys again. Hattie and Petula Cordingley brought her some food for dinner, and she ate sitting in the middle of her bed, thinking hard about Arthur Weasley and trying even harder not to think about her humiliating love potion debacle.

They had been together at Hogwarts for five years, and she didn’t really know him well. She knew he was a nice boy who always helped out the other students, even when they weren’t really friends with him. Everyone knew him and liked him, but he wasn’t really a popular student. He even managed to get along with a few Slytherins, like that Edwina Crouch, although Edwina was much nicer than most of the Slytherins.

He was tall, taller than Thaddeus. His hair was a flaming red and his eyes a gentle blue behind his glasses. He was rather handsome. He was thoughtful and friendly, and he liked to make things run smoothly for everyone whenever he could lend a hand. That was all she really knew about him. He was such a nice boy, he so often got overlooked. She had never really gotten to know him. They had several classes together this year still, and she resolved to get to know him better, to fill in the details on Arthur Weasley.

Just to see.

Arthur Weasley. Hmm…

Chapter 3: I Can't Help Myself
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The Four Tops, “I Can’t Help Myself”
In and out my life
You come and you go
Leaving just your picture behind
And I kissed it a thousand times



Arthur Weasley sat at the window in the Gryffindor common room. He took off his glasses and rubbed a hand over his face, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.

Molly Prewett had given him a love potion. Accidentally. It was meant for Thaddeus Peabody, his fellow Gryffindor sixth-year. He and Thad had both made fools of themselves over her in the Charms room while they were bewitched by the potion. Bewitched by Miss Prewett. He was quite familiar with the sensation, though it didn’t normally come from a potion. The potion had made it stronger though, so much stronger. He thought he might die when she said she fancied Thad, but he had managed to control himself enough to step aside.

It had not been easy. But if it was what she wanted…

He wasn’t angry with her for bewitching them. He didn’t think he could ever be angry with Molly. Thad wouldn’t be angry either; he was too easy-going to be upset by this. He’d probably laugh it off, and Arthur decided he’d do the same around his friends. Less easy to laugh off was the idea that Molly Prewett probably now thought he was an idiot.

She fancied Thad, with his blonde good looks and Quidditch skill. Arthur wasn’t a bad player, but he hadn’t made the team. Thad was a friend of Arthur’s, not close, but Arthur would never stand in the way of a friend.

Or of anything that made Molly Prewett happy.

She’d put a hand on his shoulder while she apologized to him sweetly, sitting on his chair, so close he could feel the heat of her body next to him. He could tell she really regretted her actions. He didn’t know what to think or feel about any of it. She didn’t fancy him, she fancied Thad. Not him, she still didn’t notice him really. But… there had been something in her eyes when she watched him just now, something that hadn’t been there before. He didn’t know what it was.

He put his head in his hands. Giving up would probably be the thing to do, but he hadn’t been able to give up on the thought of Molly Prewett since third year, even though she never seemed to notice his existence except in passing. He was just background to her.

He’d fancied her since the beginning of fourth year, and now he thought he must love her, it couldn’t be just infatuation after this long, could it? She was absolutely wonderful, like a brilliant star, with her rich auburn hair and velvety brown eyes. He loved her headstrong nature, he loved the way she walked, he loved the way she chewed the fingernail of her ring finger when she was deep in thought. But she’d never really noticed him.

Well, nothing for it. There was homework to be done, and Molly Prewett approved of good grades and industrious study. Arthur put his glasses back on, pulled his Muggle Studies textbook out of his bookbag and flipped through for the last chapter he’d read, and started the next one. Muggles fascinated Arthur, and Muggle Studies was his favourite class. Even though Molly Prewett wasn’t in it.

Shortly, Professor McGonagall arrived and headed for the girls’ dormitory. Arthur watched her disappear up the staircase apprehensively. Molly was surely about to get in trouble for the love potion. He watched the staircase until McGonagall came back down, but Molly wasn’t with her.

McGonagall noticed him by the window and came over. “Are you all right, Mr. Weasley?”

“Yes, quite all right, Professor,” he said, adding in a rush, “Is Molly, I mean, Miss Prewett, is she all right?”

McGonagall’s lip tightened slightly. She hated for a Gryffindor to embarrass the House. “Miss Prewett is perfectly well. I’m sure she appreciates your concern, but she did break several school rules and endanger you and Mr. Peabody at the same time.”

“Yes, I realize that,” Arthur said, abashed. “I just…”

“Didn’t want her to be unhappy?” McGonagall’s face softened slightly and she smiled kindly at him, while Arthur blushed furiously at being so transparent with his feelings. “Miss Prewett’s spirits will survive her punishment, I’m sure.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

McGonagall left, and Arthur went back to his book for a while longer. When he finally closed it and looked around the common room, it was almost dinnertime. Molly hadn’t come back down the steps. Gryffindor tower was full of students now, and he noticed Thad over by the window with a huge grin on his face. Arthur’s heart sank into his shoes. Did Molly and Thad get together after the love potion wore off?

Thad saw Arthur at the window and waved to him, making his way over. “Hello there, old boy,” he said cheerfully, dropping into a chair opposite Arthur. “How do you feel? I think I’m still a little woozy. Feels like I took a Bludger to the head.”

“A bit woozy, yes,” Arthur admitted. “Sorry about drawing down on you there, mate.”

“Yes, I’m sorry about that too. We were right bloody fools, weren’t we?” Thad smiled fondly. “What a day, mate, what a day!”

“Yes, what a day,” Arthur said broodingly.

“I’ve got news for you, there, old boy,” Thad said with a huge grin. “I’ve got a new lady!”

Arthur’s heart plummeted still further, but he managed a smile in return. “Congratulations, mate! Who’s the lucky girl?”

“Cressida Titherington!” Thad announced expansively.

Arthur was surprised and supremely relieved. Not Molly. Not his Miss Prewett. “Well, that’s great, Thad. Cressida’s a very nice girl. Very pretty.”

“Yes, I’ve fancied her forever, and Molly encouraged me to ask her out, and Cressida agreed straight off!” Thad looked amazed at his good fortune.

“Molly told you to ask Cressida out?” Arthur asked in surprise.

“Yes, she’s a sport, isn’t she? Silly old girl with her love potions,” Thad chuckled. “Still, all in good fun, yes? Well, I’m off to dinner, hoping to sneak into the Ravenclaw table to sit with Cressida. See you later, mate.” He patted Arthur on the shoulder as he hurried off toward the portrait hole.

Arthur leaned back in his chair and watched the students milling about the common room. He thought he must be falling even more in love with Molly Prewett. She’d brewed a love potion for Thad, but when she found out whom he truly fancied, she’d bolstered Thad’s confidence to ask Cressida out.

Molly Prewett. Indefatigable, noble, unsinkable Molly. Why hadn’t she come back downstairs?

Well, if she wasn’t hungry, he certainly was. Arthur packed his books away and went to his dormitory to drop them off and have a quick wash before heading to the Great Hall.

*

He spent dinner watching the Gryffindor sixth-year girls. They had always been close, ever since the Sorting, the five of them. Hattie Habbershaw, Molly’s best friend, was sitting with Petula Cordingley and Cecilia Fletcher. She kept looking over her shoulder, as if unsure whether Molly was coming. Siobhan Fitzgibbon joined the girls and shook her head when they asked her a question. He couldn’t make out anything they were saying, they were speaking too softly. But he saw Hattie and Petula hiding food in their robes, and knew they planned to bring it to Molly. He hoped Molly wasn’t too embarrassed to come down for breakfast. He didn’t like to start off his day without seeing her.

Hattie and Petula hurried back to the common room long before Arthur was finished ploughing through his food. His mother always complained that she didn’t know where he put it all; he ate like a boy twice his size. Arthur was tall, but lean and lanky. His brothers, both out of Hogwarts now, also had huge appetites, which exasperated their mother. But she was always mollified when they blamed their appetites on her cooking. Arthur and his brothers appreciated good cooking. The house-elves of Hogwarts never disappointed when it came to good food, and neither did his mother.

As always, his thoughts strayed to Molly Prewett, and he wondered if she could cook. He thought he’d love her even if she couldn’t boil water, and sighed inwardly at himself. He was getting pathetic.

Arthur finished eating, one of the last at the table, and headed up to the common room with his fellow sixth-year and good friend Dunstan Birtwhistle.

“So,” Dunstan said cheerfully. “What’s this I hear about you and Peabody getting into a duel today?”

Arthur shook his head. “We didn’t duel, it was just a misunderstanding.” He didn’t want to spread around the love potion story, trying to save Molly some embarrassment. Her roommates must know what she’d done, but the entire school didn’t need to hear about it.

“Right-o,” Thad’s voice said cheerfully from behind them. Arthur glanced over his shoulder to see Thad walking next to Cressida Titherington. She smiled shyly at them and then flashed Thad a coy smile. “Just a silly misunderstanding, not a duel,” Thad confirmed. He waved to Arthur and Dunstan as he and Cressida turned down a corridor, heading for Ravenclaw tower.

“Well, I didn’t think you two would actually duel,” Dunstan laughed. “Or at least, you wouldn’t duel against a prefect, and not against another Gryffindor. I thought it might be a Slytherin rumour.”

“I don’t know about Slytherins, but it’s just a rumour,” Arthur agreed.

Dunstan led the way back to the Gryffindor common room, chatting about the next Quidditch match, and Arthur responded amiably, though his mind was elsewhere.

Thad was a good old chap after all, wasn’t he? Covering for Molly like that. Arthur scanned the common room, and when he saw Molly wasn’t there, he headed for his dormitory.

*

The next morning, Arthur was sitting in front of the fire in the common room, chatting with a fourth-year girl who was Muggle-born, when Molly came down the stairs. Arthur promptly lost the thread of the conversation when he saw Molly. She turned pink when she saw him, but held her head high and came straight over to him.

Njemile Kamara, the fourth-year, hopped off the couch and waved to Arthur, smiling at Molly as she left. Molly smiled at her distractedly.

“Arthur, Cecilia Fletcher told me that you didn’t tell anyone about the potion,” she said in a rush. “You told Dunstan Birtwhistle it was just a misunderstanding.”

“Well, it wasn’t for him to know, was it?” Arthur knew his ears were turning red under her steady gaze, but he couldn’t help it.

She stared at him and he held her gaze, but it took an effort. He wanted to duck his head and blush and stammer, but was determined to be an adult around her. He was almost seventeen, after all, so he should be able to look the woman he loved in the eyes.

“Thank you, Arthur,” she said quietly then. “That was very thoughtful of you.”

“It was nothing,” he said, and this time he did duck his head. He glanced back up immediately though, and there was that something in her eyes again.

“It was something,” she retorted, and bent down to kiss him on the cheek swiftly. She hurried off for breakfast without another word, and Arthur was left sitting on the sofa, stunned, with one hand on his cheek where she’d kissed him.

Chapter 4: Gimme Little Sign
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Brenton Wood, “Gimme Little Sign”
If you do want me, gimme little sugar
If you don't want me, don't lead me on girl

Just gimme some kind of sign girl, oh my baby
To show that you're mine girl, oh yeah



Arthur floated for the rest of the day. He was distracted in class, staring off into space instead of paying attention, and the classes he shared with Molly were spent staring at her whenever she wasn’t looking at him, which she seemed to be doing more often than she ever had before. She kept glancing his way, and sometimes she stopped taking notes, her quill held loosely in her hand, and watched him as if studying him, while he watched her from under his lashes, pretending not to see her staring at him.

She had kissed him! He might never wash his cheek again. He kept touching the spot where her lips had pressed against his skin, whenever he thought no one was looking at him. He didn’t think anyone in the common room that morning had noticed the kiss, small and quick as it had been. She had sat at breakfast with her friends, and they were as giggly and cheerful as ever. Molly didn’t seem any the worse for wear for yesterday’s incident. Unsinkable as ever, Molly Prewett.

He had noticed a small dip in the Gryffindor rubies in the hourglass outside the Great Hall, but no one else seemed to have taken much notice, and for that he was grateful. Molly had escaped her first bout of rule-breaking relatively unscathed. He wasn’t sure whether she’d gotten a detention. He decided, as they sat in Transfiguration, taking it in turns to watch each other, that he should ask her about that when the class ended.

Molly got into the corridor ahead of him, and he had to shoulder past Jasper Mussa and Silvester Bowbrick of Ravenclaw to get to her. She and Hattie Habbershaw were chatting animatedly, and he overheard mention of Molly’s birthday. She came of age in a few weeks, around the same time as Apparition lessons were set to start. His birthday wasn’t until February, but he’d be taking Apparition lessons as well.

“Excuse me, Molly,” he interrupted the girls, and Hattie smiled at him as they turned around. Molly had been laughing and the warmth was still in her face when she turned to Arthur. He forgot momentarily what he was going to say, and while he spluttered, Hattie murmured that she would see Molly in the library and left them.

The students swirled around them in the corridor, and Arthur drew Molly to the side to get them out of the way of everyone heading for their classes and common rooms.

“Did you get detention? For the love potion?” he asked her.

Molly flushed a little. “Yes, my first ever. Tonight, with Professor Flitwick.” She hesitated, and then asked, “Have you ever had detention? What’s it like?”

“Oh, he’ll probably set you some lines, or make you do a bit of Muggle cleaning. I’ve had a few,” he admitted. “It’s not so bad with Flitwick.”

“I suppose.” She didn’t look convinced.

“Sometimes it’s worth it, to do whatever got you the detention,” Arthur said tentatively.

Molly sighed. “Yes. I imagine that’s so. Arthur, I’d better go, Hattie and I have rather a lot of homework to get done, and we had planned a head start during our break right now.”

“All right, Molly. I’ll walk you to the library, if you’d like.” He gave her a hopeful smile.

Molly gave him that piercing, indefinable gaze again as she considered him in silence, as if she was weighing it internally, while he waited, holding his breath. “Yes, I’d like that,” she said after a moment.

Arthur’s heart leapt. “Shall we, then?”

They walked side by side in silence for a while, and Arthur’s mind raced for topics he could discuss with her. What could he possibly say that Molly Prewett would be interested in?

“You take Arithmancy, don’t you?” he blurted out.

“Yes, that’s right,” she said, smiling at him. “It’s my favourite class.” She stopped abruptly and frowned, and he wasn’t sure why.

“Muggle Studies is my favourite,” he said, and she looked up at him, her face clearing.

“Really? Muggle Studies?”

“Yes, they’re quite fascinating,” he enthused. “They think of so many ways to live without magic, it’s just amazing. Do you know what eckeltricity is?”

They had reached the library. “No, I don’t. I do have to go, Arthur, I’m sorry.” She pointed into the library as she spoke, as if to reinforce that her friends awaited her.

He deflated somewhat. She was leaving him. The walk to the library had been entirely too short. Why hadn’t he thought of something to say sooner? “Yes, of course.”

She turned to go, and he blurted out, “I don’t suppose you…”

She turned again and said, “Yes, Arthur?”

He looked into her lovely brown eyes, saw her smile, and found his courage. “Would you like to talk more later? On a… on a date? With me?”

There was a pause, as she seemed to consider him, and his heart was in his throat, waiting for her answer. She didn’t answer right away and he started to panic. Oh, he’d been stupid, stupid, she fancied Thad, not him, never him…

Then she smiled brightly at him, the sun emerging from behind clouds, and she said, “Yes, I’d like that.”

She disappeared into the library then, and Arthur walked calmly down the corridor to the corner, where he came to a dead stop and stared straight ahead at a suit of armor for a minute. Then he let out a huge whoop, and ran the rest of the way to Gryffindor tower, stopping to shake hands with students as he passed by them, shouting “She said yes!” to the amusement of anyone who saw him, then running on, and he didn’t care if he was a fool, nothing could mar this perfect moment.

Molly Prewett said yes! To him!

When he reached the Gryffindor common room, it was nearly deserted. Most of the younger students were in class, and only a few sixth and seventh years were in the common room. He ran up to his dormitory, threw his bookbag onto his bed, and did a little jig in the middle of the room.

“What’s going on, Arthur?” Reid Akins’ voice came from the doorway. Reid came in and flopped out on his bed, letting out his breath in a loud whoosh, and throwing one arm over his eyes. “I think my brain is imploding from trying to retain all this information. Maybe doing eleven N.E.W.T.s was a mistake.”

“Possibly, possibly.” Arthur couldn’t spare any pity for his roommate’s overloaded class schedule just then, however; his mood was too exultant to feel anything but a bubbling happiness. “I asked out Molly Prewett!” he burst out.

“Did you? Good for you, mate.” Reid opened his eyes again and sat up. “I take it she said yes?”

“She did! She said yes!” Arthur did his little jig again. “Can you believe it?”

Reid laughed and shook his head. “I’m glad for you, really. Now if you could use your newfound magical influence over women to get Cecilia Fletcher to go out with me, I’d have something to celebrate as well.”

“Sorry, Reid, I don’t think there’s any hope for you and Cecilia,” Arthur said, sitting on his bed with a bounce. “She thinks you’re a complete berk.”

“Damned firecrackers. I told her it was an accident.”

Arthur laughed. “I can speak to her for you if you’d like.”

“No, thanks though. I think it’s a lost cause. I’ve decided to focus my energy on that Hufflepuff girl, Gemma Folwell. She’s pretty, isn’t she?” Reid flopped back down onto his pillow. “I might be doomed with women at school now, after the firecrackers, but she’s a Hufflepuff, she ought to give me a chance, right? They’re supposed to be fair-minded.”

Arthur grinned mischievously. “I think you might need a Gryffindor girl. ‘Where dwell the brave at heart’, remember? It’d take a brave girl to date you.”

Reid threw his pillow at Arthur.

*

Molly left the dinner table before Arthur had a chance to speak with her. She’d been surrounded by her friends and he hadn’t been quite brave enough to interrupt them, so he’d stayed with his usual dinner crowd of Reid, Dunstan, and Cosmo Graham, and he’d missed her.

Reid spent most of dinner eyeing Cecilia Fletcher. She never looked at him. Arthur understood Reid’s infatuation with Cecilia: she was extremely pretty, with long black hair that curled at the ends and dark eyes, tall and slim, her prefect’s badge shining on her chest. Her best friend Siobhan was also pretty, but in a more aggressive, outdoorsy way, with rusty brown hair and bright blue eyes, freckles scattered across her nose. Arthur quite liked Siobhan, whose father was a sailor and who could swear like one of his brothers. She was sarcastic and witty and had made him laugh in Herbology when she swore and kicked the plants.

Cecilia and Siobhan headed off to Gryffindor tower, and Reid wolfed down the last of his pudding and took off after them. Apparently he wasn’t quite ready to give up on Cecilia as a lost cause just yet. Arthur made his way down the tables and sat down next to Hattie and Petula.

“Evening, Arthur,” Petula said easily. She was a plain girl, with her long blonde hair in a plait down her back, her nose long and narrow in her pale face, with wide-set moss-green eyes. Petula was in Arthur’s Muggle Studies class, and he knew she was a half-blood and had taken it to better understand the Muggle side of her family. Arthur often wished he had a Muggle side of his family, but unfortunately, they were all boring pure-bloods. Petula was fond of dramatics, and liked to have regular crises to liven things up.

“Evening, Petula, Hattie.”

Hattie smiled at him, her mouth full, and waved her fork at him vaguely. Hattie was rather plump, with curly black hair and eyes of a deeper brown than Molly’s, and a friendly, pretty face. She was fond of Herbology and was always cheerful and smiling when Arthur saw her around school.

Hattie swallowed then and said, “If you’re looking for Molly, she’s gone to serve her detention with Professor Flitwick.”

Arthur had nearly forgotten the detention in his excitement over their date. “Oh. Right then. Thanks. Did she, erm…”

“Tell us you asked her out?” Petula propped her chin on her hand and regarded him with interest. “Of course she did.”

Arthur could feel his ears turning red. “Oh. What, erm, what did she say, exactly?”

They exchanged a knowing grin, and he felt even more embarrassed. Girls were so odd sometimes.

“Why don’t you ask her?” Hattie suggested. “When she gets out of detention.”

*

Arthur got his Muggle Studies textbook and settled himself down in a niche outside Flitwick’s office, behind a suit of armour. The evening seemed to stretch by endlessly as he waited for her to emerge. It was nearly 10 o’clock before she finally came out of the office, rubbing her hand and looking drawn. He shot to his feet when he saw her and almost dropped his book. He fumbled with it for a moment and then said in what he hoped was a debonair voice, “Good evening, Molly.”

She gasped and put a hand to her heart. “Arthur! You gave me such a fright! Have you been out here all this time?”

He could feel his ears turning red, and said casually, “I thought I could walk you back to the dormitory.”

“Oh. Well, that’s very thoughtful of you. Thank you.” She fell into step next to him, and they strolled down the corridor toward Gryffindor tower.

“How was your detention?” Arthur asked.

“Oh, it was…” She turned pink. “It was lines. It wasn’t so bad, I suppose.”

“Oh good. I’m glad it was all right.” He wondered what she’d had to write over the love potion, but it seemed to embarrass her, so he didn’t ask. He didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable and not want to talk to him. “I, erm, I spoke with Hattie and Petula at dinner.”

“Did you?” She seemed glad they were off the topic of her detention. “They’re such sweet girls, aren’t they?”

“Yes, I have Muggle Studies with Petula, she’s quite knowledgeable. Some of her family members are Muggles.”

Molly nodded. “I think I remember her saying her mother’s family were all Muggles.”

The subject of Muggles, as usual, distracted him from what he’d meant to ask her. “D’you know, Muggles have invented hundreds of ways to get by without magic. They don’t have Wizarding Wireless, so they watch a tellyvision. And the pictures in the tellyvision move, like a wizard photograph-”

“Don’t they usually? Move, I mean.” Molly looked confused.

“No, Muggle photographs don’t move at all.”

“How strange.”

“Yes, isn’t it,” Arthur enthused. “And the tellyvisions run on eckeltricity, which is lightning running through wires in the walls.”

“Lightning in wires?” Molly tutted. “That sounds dangerous, I hope they’re careful with it.”

Arthur grinned. “It can be, yes, but Muggles have tamed it. It does so many things for them, things we would do by magic. It’s amazing, really.”

Molly pursed her lips. “So this is what you learn about in Muggle Studies?”

“Yes. There’s not many of us in the N.E.W.T. level now, there’s just me and Petula, and that Ravenclaw Jasper Mussa, and Mary Nevard from Hufflepuff.” Arthur put a hand out to stop her, and peeked around a corner to make sure the coast was clear before they continued on. They were out after curfew, and though Molly had a reason to be coming back to the dormitory after ten, he didn’t. He didn’t think Apollyon Pringle, the caretaker, would find “spending time with Miss Prewett” to be a valid reason for breaking curfew.

“I thought the Owusu twins followed Muggle Studies as well?” Molly asked as they set off again.

“They did, yes, but they’ve dropped it now they’re done with their O.W.L.s. I think they felt it wasn’t necessary beyond O.W.L. level.”

“What do you do with a N.E.W.T. in Muggle Studies?”

“Well, there are several options for working with Muggles, but what I’d like to do is start at the Ministry. There’s an office for the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts, and you get to work with Muggles and Muggle things all the time,” Arthur said excitedly. “It sounds like a brilliant job, just full of interesting things to learn and see, and meeting with Muggles.”

Molly nodded. “I see. What other classes are you taking?”

“History of Magic, Charms, Transfiguration, and Defence Against the Dark Arts. I had an O.W.L. in Care of Magical Creatures as well, and Potions and Herbology of course, but I didn’t continue them through N.E.W.T. What have you got?” Arthur was quite pleased with himself for managing to make intelligible conversation with Molly Prewett for this long. It was easier than he’d expected it to be. She was so smart and sweet, he loved talking to her, and was feeling quite at ease, though a small part of his mind was still jumping up and down and shouting, Miss Prewett! Walking with me! Talking with me!

“Well, I have Charms, Transfiguration, and Defence with you,” Molly began, and Arthur nodded. He was well aware of sharing three of his classes with Molly Prewett. “And I take Potions and Arithmancy. I was going to drop Defence, but then there have been so many rumours lately out there…” She waved a hand vaguely to indicate the world outside Hogwarts, looking troubled. “So I decided to keep going with it. Just in case.”

Arthur nodded. “Yes, I thought about dropping it as well. I do want to be able to defend myself, with the ways things are headed out there. I’ve heard things from my brothers, rumours from abroad.”

"My mum says it's going to be Grindelwald all over again," Molly said worriedly.

They had reached the portrait hole, and the Fat Lady gazed at them expectantly. “Fidelitas,” Molly said clearly.

The portrait swung open, and Molly and Arthur climbed through. Arthur paused when they were in the common room. It was mostly empty, many of the younger students having gone to bed already. A few fifth years were still up, doing homework and looking harassed at the amount of work they were being set.

“Well, good night Arthur,” Molly said, giving him a sweet smile. “Thank you for walking me back.”

“You’re quite welcome, Molly. Good night.” He watched her go up the steps to the girls’ dormitory, and then sighed happily and went to his own dormitory.

 




Info 14: The Dobby awards were given in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The stories and authors who received awards were chosen by the members on this site.


Clue 15:
He worked well and was quite a star
Yet he shall be missed by far
Taking orders he did not buck
Getting a RIP is not good luck

 
 


Chapter 5: Brown-Eyed Girl
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Van Morrison, “Brown-Eyed Girl”
Standing in the sunlight laughing
Hide behind a rainbow’s wall,
With you, my brown-eyed girl



Molly woke early the next day, and lay in her four-poster, staring at the drapes and thinking about Arthur Weasley.

She still couldn’t believe he’d asked her out. She’d given him love potion, by mistake, he must think her a complete idiot, and yet he’d asked her out. Thaddeus must have been correct, he really did fancy her. Only someone who really fancied her would ask her out after the love potion incident.

Then he’d waited for her after her detention to walk her back to Gryffindor tower. It had been a nice surprise to find him waiting in the corridor as she left Flitwick’s office, her hand cramped and her ego severely bruised from writing ‘I will respect the rights of others not to fancy me' for three hours (the first two of which she’d spent blushing a fiery red). His smile when he greeted her outside the office had been brilliant, and she found the more she spoke with him that she was drawn to him as she’d never been to handsome Thaddeus.

Arthur made her want to find out all about him. With Thad, she’d only ever imagined herself snogging him, never talking to him and enjoying his company. But Arthur… Arthur was different from other boys, at least to her. She didn’t understand it, but she was relaxed around him. She felt at home with him, wherever they were.

It was… strange, but nice. She flexed her hand, which only ached a little, decided it was none the worse for wear from her detention (though her ego might need some time), and got out of bed.

Once she was dressed and downstairs, she found Thaddeus Peabody sitting on the sofa in the common room, polishing his broomstick and listening to an early-morning broadcast on the Wizarding Wireless Network. The Singing Sorceress, Celestina Warbeck, was singing one of her latest hits. Molly smiled; Celestina was her favourite singer. A few other students were milling about, yawning, as they got ready to head down to the Great Hall for breakfast.

Thad looked up when he heard her footsteps. “Oh, morning Molly.”

“Good morning, Thaddeus.” She sat down in a chair near him. “How did things go with Cressida?”

He grinned sheepishly and set down his broomstick. He really was cute, she thought fondly.

“She agreed to go out with me,” Thad said happily. “I can hardly believe it.”

“That’s wonderful, I’m so happy for you,” Molly said, realizing she truly was happy for him. He was a nice boy, and very handsome, but she didn’t feel a connection with him when they spoke like she did with Arthur. Talking to Thad was like talking to one of her brothers, now that she’d gotten over her initial infatuation with his looks. Talking to Arthur made her feel warm and fuzzy inside. She was starting to realize she’d overlooked something potentially wonderful in Arthur Weasley all these years at Hogwarts.

“Well, it’s all thanks to you, anyway, for telling me to ask her out.” Thad leaned forward. “Arthur says he’s asked you out as well.”

Molly blushed. “Did he?” She glanced around the common room to make sure they weren’t being overheard, and leaned in to Thad. “What did he say?”

“He was practically bouncing off the walls yesterday with excitement. I’ve never seen him so happy.” Thad grinned. “He’s fancied you for ages; I didn’t think he’d ever get up the nerve to ask you out.”

Molly felt a rush of warmth. Bouncing around the room, over her… “I never would have given him a chance until you said he fancied me, so I guess it’s thanks to you, Thad.”

“Well, you may have meant that love potion to get us together, but it seems to have made both of us happy anyway, doesn’t it?” Thad looked extremely pleased.

Molly laughed. “Yes, I suppose it has. And thanks for not telling everyone about the love potion, Thaddeus.”

“Oh, well, Arthur told Dunstan it was just a misunderstanding, so of course I went along with it. Arthur’s my friend,” Thaddeus said, sounding embarrassed at getting the credit for Arthur’s idea. “I don’t want the whole school thinking we duelled, or gossiping about you, of course, Molly.”

“Thank you, Thad,” Molly said gratefully. “It was very chivalrous, you’re quite the gentleman.”

Thad reddened and mumbled, “It was Arthur’s idea, really. He’s the gentleman. I’d better go get breakfast. Bye, Molly.”

“Bye, Thad.”

She leaned back in the chair as Thaddeus disappeared through the portrait hole. Arthur Weasley, protecting her good name from gossip… He was like her very own knight in shining armour. She was starting to feel a little giddy when she thought about him.

*

Her friends came down to breakfast while she was still eating some toast and sausages, and Arthur joined them shortly. He slid in next to her with a shy grin, greeted her friends cheerfully, and they started talking about the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend and their classes. Arthur fit in well, Molly reflected as she laughed with her friends at his little jokes. He was so friendly and easy-going, he fit in everywhere, it seemed. Hattie noticed her watching Arthur a little more than was strictly necessary and raised an eyebrow, smiling at her. Molly blushed and changed the subject to distract her friend.

Arthur walked her to class after breakfast, and she asked him a few more questions about Muggles, which set him off and running. She didn’t understand half of what he was talking about. He certainly knew a lot about Muggle artefacts.

Her bookbag was too heavy today; it was digging painfully into her shoulder. Molly adjusted the strap, grimacing, and Arthur took it from her and slung it over his own shoulder without seeming to notice what he was doing, all the while chatting animatedly about Muggle-wizard relations. Molly listened to him with half an ear, her concentration on watching him rather than paying attention to what he was saying. He was quietly chivalrous, smarter than she’d thought he was, and so thoughtful. He certainly did admire Muggles quite a lot, too. She wasn’t sure what to make of that. It was a little silly and yet charming at the same time. She’d never had much interest in Muggles herself, but there seemed to be rather a lot more to them than she’d thought, and Arthur was interested in all of it.

She let him talk for a while, listening to the sound of his voice more than his words. He seemed more handsome to her when his face was alight with passion as he described the wrongs done to Muggles by wizards, and shyly outlined some of his ideas for changing things to protect the Muggles. He was quite the idealist when it came to Muggles, and it was rather endearing.

He was so cute.

“Here I am, prattling on and on,” Arthur said then, seeming embarrassed. “You’re probably not at all interested.”

“No, it is interesting,” she assured him, though she hadn’t really been listening. “I don’t know very much about Muggles, really.”

“Petula’s never told you about the class?” He sounded surprised, as if he couldn’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t tell their friends how wonderful Muggle Studies was.

“No, not really.” She didn’t have the heart to tell him Petula had only continued with Muggle Studies because she thought it’d be an easy N.E.W.T.: her mother’s family wasn’t magical, so she already knew quite a lot about Muggles. Petula wasn’t really interested in studying them; she just said she was in order to stay in the professor’s good graces. Petula had barely scraped five O.W.L.s, and her parents felt she wasn’t living up to her potential (as Petula said while making extremely unpleasant faces), so she was trying to get as many N.E.W.T.s as she could.

They were nearly to her classroom when he said, “I’d better go, I have to get to the library. I didn’t exactly finish my Transfiguration homework last night, and McGonagall’s bound to dock some points if I don’t get it done.” He paused, and then said shyly, “I really enjoy talking to you, Molly. And it was nice to walk you back after your detention last night.”

“I hope you don’t think that last night counted as our date, Arthur Weasley,” she said sternly. He still hadn’t mentioned any details on the date, and she wasn’t about to let him get away with walking her back to the dormitory after a detention and calling it a date. She was going to have her date with Arthur Weasley, get to know him better, and see what happened, come hell or high water.

“No, Molly, of course not,” he said hurriedly. “I thought, this weekend, we could go into Hogsmeade together…”

“That sounds lovely,” Molly smiled, but her voice was firm.

“Hogsmeade, then, Molly. We can have breakfast and then go in to town, would that be all right?”

“Yes, Arthur.” She was starting to love the way he said her name. And she loved saying his name.

Arthur…

Hattie was waiting for her outside the Arithmancy classroom, and as Arthur returned her bookbag to her, Hattie grinned at them.

When Arthur had waved and stuttered his goodbye, and disappeared into the crowd of students in the hallway, Hattie turned to her friend and put her hands on her hips. “Molly Prewett!”

Molly rolled her eyes and went into the classroom with Hattie right behind her. Thaddeus was in his seat already, and they smiled and waved to each other. She was already thinking of him as a friend and forgetting her long-standing crush on him.

Hattie sat down at their usual table, and Molly plopped into her seat next to her. Hattie leaned forward and said in a low voice, “You fancy him! You fancy Arthur Weasley, don’t you?”

“No. Maybe. I think so.” Molly glanced around, but no one was paying them any attention. “I don’t know what to think. I don’t even think I fancy Thaddeus anymore, and I… I keep thinking about Arthur. It’s too fast. Is it too fast?”

“Oh, you make such a cute couple,” Hattie said in a teasing voice, and Molly turned pink.

Professor Arccos was starting class then, and Molly shushed her friend. Hattie continued to throw her mischievous glances for a few minutes, then the complicated lesson captured their full attention.

*

Molly had a free period after Arithmancy and went to the library, hoping to find Arthur still there before Transfiguration, and sure enough, there he was, bent industriously over a long piece of parchment, his quill scribbling furiously as he completed his homework. She’d been up until one o’clock finishing hers. She was resolved never to get another detention, if only for how it interfered with her ability to get her homework done. She hadn’t gotten a letter from her mother yet, either, and she was dreading that.

He hadn’t noticed her yet. She watched him for a moment, forgetting her worries about the impending maternal letter of doom, and felt her stomach flutter. He was quite attractive, really. She was really looking forward to their date, and found herself wondering what it would be like to kiss him.

She realized quite suddenly that she was standing in the middle of the library staring at a boy, and so she promptly went over and sat down next to Arthur. He glanced over at her absently, still scribbling, then did a double-take as he realized it was her, and his quill skidded across the parchment, leaving a trail of ink behind it.

“Oh dear,” Arthur mumbled.

Molly drew her wand and repaired the damage quickly. “Do you need any help finishing? I’ve already done mine.”

“No, I’m nearly done, but thank you.” Arthur sat back and smiled at her. “Did you come here just to see me?” He looked hopeful.

“Erm…” She’d already said she did her Transfiguration homework, and she only had Arithmancy and Defence as well today, and he knew that they hadn’t been set any homework for Defence. She didn’t have a reason to be in the library. “Well, yes,” she admitted, feeling silly.

She felt better when he smiled at her. He was obviously very pleased that she’d come to see him. She cast around for something to say. “Well, I suppose I’ll leave you to it, then. I don’t want to disturb your studying.” She smiled at him, hoping he’d tell her to stay.

Arthur looked disappointed, but then he glanced down at his Transfiguration homework and back up at her. “Yes, I think you’d better had.” He mumbled something then, and Molly frowned at him.

“I’m sorry, Arthur, I didn’t hear you.”

He turned beet red and said gruffly, “I can’t concentrate around you, Molly.”

She floated out of the library. Her presence interfered with his concentration! She’d never thought anyone would feel that way about her. He really did fancy her!

“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” she said to a passing Slytherin fourth-year girl with curly blonde hair, who looked startled. Molly practically skipped back to the Gryffindor common room.

Chapter 6: I'm Into Something Good
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Herman’s Hermits, “I’m Into Something Good”
She's the kind of girl who's not too shy
And I can tell I'm her kind of guy
She danced close to me like I hoped she would
Somethin' tells me I'm into something good



“Arthur!”

He turned, and saw Petula Cordingley waving at him. Molly and the other sixth-year girls were sitting together as always. He shot an apologetic glance at Reid and Dunstan, who waved to him and grinned, and then Arthur went to sit with the girls for the second day in a row.

They smiled at him and scooted over as he sat down next to Molly. She smiled at him, and the other girls giggled. Arthur felt his ears turn a little red.

“Good morning, ladies,” he said bravely.

“Morning, Arthur,” they chorused back, and Hattie started giggling again.

He picked up a sausage and bit into it, trying to look nonchalant.

Petula immediately started in on their new Defence teacher, complaining about the amount of homework they’d been set the previous day and her lack of expertise in the subject. This was clearly a recurring rant with her, as the other girls continued to eat without paying her much attention. “I can’t even cast a nonverbal shield charm,” she ended in a wail.

“I’m very glad I dropped that class after O.W.L.,” Siobhan said calmly, peeling a hard-boiled egg. “There’s something funny about us getting a new teacher every year, don’t you think?”

“It’s a conspiracy to make me fail that class,” Petula said gloomily. “Dumbledore must be out to get me.”

The girls fell silent as the mail arrived just then, and a large barn owl swooped down, landed in the middle of their table, and held out its leg to Molly. The letter it carried looked large, and the Gryffindor sixth-year girls winced sympathetically. Arthur figured this must be a letter from Molly’s parents about the love potion incident. He hated to think what his own mother would say if he’d used a love potion on a girl. His brother Bilius had been rather infamous in school for receiving at least two Howlers per month. And that was only the mischief he’d been caught at.

Hattie clucked softly. “Oh, go on, Molly. It’ll be all right.”

Molly opened the letter, looking aghast. It was two pages long, the writing on both sides of the page black and cramped with an occasional spot that was obviously written in all capital letters. She refolded it quickly after reading the first couple of lines and hid it in her bookbag, her face red.

“I’ll read that later,” she said in a high-pitched voice to Hattie, who nodded and patted her shoulder comfortingly.

“At least it’s not a Howler,” Cecilia opined philosophically as she loaded her fork with scrambled eggs. “My mum would’ve sent a Howler. Possibly two, per week, until she’d forgotten what I’d done, and my mum has an excellent memory. It’s the only reason I stay out of trouble at school.”

“That’s true, Molly,” Siobhan said bracingly. “You’re quite lucky not to have Cecilia’s mum.”

Cecilia shot her a dirty look.

Arthur hid a chuckle in a cough, and then stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth.

“Someone’s watching you, Cecilia,” Hattie noted as she buttered a piece of toast.

Cecilia glanced down the table and Reid was, indeed, staring at her. She flipped her dark hair over her shoulder with a careless hand and then leaned in to the girls, looking cross. “Ooh, that Reid Akins. He’s such an idiot.”

“You don’t like Reid?” Arthur asked mildly.

“Do you know what he did to me last year?” Cecilia demanded in outrage.

“The firecrackers were an accident, Cecilia,” Arthur pointed out. “He never meant to–”

“I don’t care what he meant to do,” Cecilia interrupted. “My eyebrows have never been the same. And my mum refuses to buy me another scarf, she says they’re a fire hazard. You hush up, Petula, it’s not funny.”

Petula was laughing so hard she started choking on her toast. Molly drew her wand and said, “Anapneo!” and Petula, eyes watering, nodded thanks and took a drink of her water, then broke into giggles again.

Arthur was trying not to laugh, and managed to say with a straight face, “Well, did he apologize to you?”

“Well, yes,” Cecilia admitted. “But he still bothers me. I get annoyed whenever I see him.”

Molly cleared her throat, obviously trying not to laugh herself, and put in, “Cecilia, you should be more charitable. He did say he was very sorry.”

“Oh, go read your fake Howler, Molly.” Cecilia scowled at her.

Petula burst into another gale of laughter.

*

“What did she say about me?” Reid demanded, setting his bookbag down on the desk next to Arthur with a loud thump.

Arthur looked up from his History of Magic textbook, glanced at the ghostly Professor Binns, who as usual didn’t seem to notice them, and said, “I thought you were going to ask out Gemma Folwell.”

“I am. Really. What did Cecilia say? I saw her looking at me at breakfast, so what did she say?”

Arthur eyed him warily. “Trust me, mate, you don’t want to know.”

“I knew it, she hates me.” Reid collapsed dramatically into his seat.

“Well, I tried to talk to her for you, but she’s not, erm… not ready to forgive you yet,” Arthur said diplomatically.

“All right then, that’s it, I’m through with Cecilia.” Reid slapped a hand on the table. “No more pining for her. She does look beautiful today, doesn’t she?”

Arthur grinned and shook his head at his friend. Reid was pathetic.

“No! Damn. I’m done with her, I swear. I’ll ask out one of the Hufflepuffs.” Reid sat still for a moment, and Arthur went back to his book. The classroom was nearly full now, Professor Binns looked ready to begin when Reid burst out, “Did she say she hates me, or did she–”

Arthur started to laugh.

*

He went straight to the Gryffindor common room after History of Magic, but Molly wasn’t there, so he gathered up his books for his next class and headed for the library, hoping to see her there.

There was no sign of her in the library either. Arthur considered going back to Gryffindor Tower to look for her again, but thought that might be bordering on stalking and decided to get some homework done instead. He’d see her at lunch, anyway.

He managed to concentrate long enough to get his homework nearly completed, but it took much more effort than it usually did, because he couldn’t stop thinking about the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend. He wanted to kiss Molly, and wondered if she would let him. She’d kissed him on the cheek, and they were spending a lot of time together now; she would probably let him kiss her. He wanted it to be perfect. She had to remember their first kiss forever. He was hoping if the Hogsmeade weekend went well, Molly would become his girlfriend. And then, he would marry her.

Wait, no, they had to finish Hogwarts first.

But someday… He forgot about his homework, propping his chin on one hand and staring off into space, imagining Molly as his wife. He could kiss her whenever he wanted to, tell her he loved her, and she’d say –

“Hello, Arthur,” Molly’s voice came from behind him.

Arthur jumped, knocking over his inkwell, and had to snatch up his homework to keep it out of the ink. Burning with embarrassment, he siphoned the ink off the table with his wand and tried to re-stack the books that had fallen as he fumbled to save his homework. He looked up then, and saw Hattie was with her, looking extremely amused. Molly was a little red herself, and tried to help him with the books, but that made him even clumsier with nerves, and he knocked a few books onto the floor. Molly stooped down to pick them up.

“I’m so sorry, we didn’t mean to startle you like that,” Molly was mumbling as she picked up the books.

“It’s quite all right, Molly, hello Hattie, quite all right, really…”

“What were you thinking about so intently, Arthur?” Hattie asked sweetly.

He turned bright red. He wasn’t about to tell them that he’d been picturing himself in his own home, with Molly on his lap in front of a roaring fire, kissing her. “Erm… Nothing, really. How was Potions?”

“Eventful,” Molly said.

“Gemma Folwell blew up her cauldron,” Hattie added brightly. “It turned Verena Mogford’s hair blue. The other Slytherins took her to the hospital wing, she was crying. It was brilliant.”

Arthur laughed. “Poor Gemma. Did she lose points for Hufflepuff?”

“No, she was crying too and Professor Slughorn told her to go to the bathroom and get a hold of herself.” Molly shook her head. “We didn’t learn a thing, though.”

“That’s true,” Hattie agreed, “but it was still a brilliant lesson.”

“Are you finished with your homework, Arthur? It’s lunchtime, we thought you might want to sit with us.” Molly gave him a shy smile.

“I’d love to.” He started to gather up his things.

*

Arthur sat at the Gryffindor table at lunch later that week with the sixth-year girls, eating shepherd’s pie and laughing with the girls, and enjoying being part of Molly’s circle. She smiled at him sweetly, occasionally giving him that indefinable gaze she had, and he wondered what she was thinking at those times. She was still a little unreadable to him, but he felt he knew her a lot better now, the real her, not just the surface things he’d already known about her from five years of shared classes, and he loved her even more.

Her friends were very nice, too. Hattie was sweet, always looking out for Molly, and he’d learned from sitting with the girls that Hattie had been Molly’s accomplice in the love potion incident. Cecilia and Siobhan were both a little caustic but they obviously were very loyal to their friends. He was starting to get the feeling that Petula didn’t actually care about Muggle Studies, though. She obsessed continually over whether or not she’d pass all her N.E.W.T.s, and those weren’t until next year. Apparently she hadn’t done well in her O.W.L.s. She thought Muggle Studies was an easy class. It was a little disheartening for Arthur.

The girls all cared about each other a great deal, and they’d welcomed him into their little circle. He was quite pleased that he could get along well with her friends, and he thought they liked him. The girls were so close, he was sure getting on well with her friends would influence Molly in his favour. He felt a little guilty for spending each mealtime with them instead of with his own friends, but he thought his friends probably understood. They knew he’d fancied Molly for ages.

He couldn’t wait for their date tomorrow. His first official date with Molly Prewett.

Reid caught up with him as he was settling himself down in the library, preparing to write an essay on wizard-Muggle integration in Ancient Egypt for History of Magic. Arthur sighed, looking over the rims of his glasses at Reid, as he pulled books out of his bag, stacking them on the table next to him.

“You have to stop sitting with them,” Reid informed him. “It’s driving me mad. At least if you don’t know what she’s saying about me, I can pretend Cecilia’s secretly in love with me. Besides, Cosmo is wasting away without you.”

“Cosmo’s fine, and you need to find a nice girl and get over Cecilia,” Arthur told him easily. “She’s never going to go out with you.”

“Never say never. She will be mine,” Reid vowed. “Why aren’t you sitting with your mates? We’d never abandon you for a woman.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Arthur laughed. “You’d drop me like a hot potato if Cecilia so much as nodded at you, and Dunstan forgets all about us every time he has a girlfriend.”

“Well, you’re right,” Reid admitted, then added quickly, “but you could at least use your power for good and convince Cecilia to go out with me.”

Arthur heaved a loud sigh. “I’ll keep trying, but she can’t stand you, mate.”

“Thanks, Arthur, you’re a pal.” Reid leaned back in his seat, propping his feet up on the table.

Arthur shook his head, smiling, and bent over the desk to begin his essay. Reid was incorrigible.

Chapter 7: Then He Kissed Me
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The Crystals, “Then He Kissed Me”
When he danced he held me tight
And when he walked me home that night
All the stars were shining bright
And then he kissed me



The week seemed to fly past and drag on endlessly at the same time for Molly, and soon it was Saturday morning, and she was in the common room wearing her nicest non-school robes, which were a pretty shade of mossy green that went well with her hair. The other sixth-year girls had approved them, and the little hat Molly wore that she’d knitted herself. She’d put on her school cloak and gone downstairs to meet Arthur. She’d expected he’d be ready before her, but instead she stood waiting for him.

Her friends were still upstairs in their dormitory, getting ready for a day in Hogsmeade, except Siobhan, who was preparing to serve a detention for cheeking Professor Kettleburn in Care of Magical Creatures yesterday. Someday Molly hoped her friend would learn to control her mouth around teachers, but she wasn’t holding her breath. After five years of classes together and sharing a dormitory, the other Gryffindor girls had not managed to make a dent in Siobhan’s sarcasm, nor had they helped her control her colourful vocabulary. Her father was a sailor and Hattie said she must spend all summer learning new words from him.

Arthur had been sitting at her table at almost every meal this week, and the sixth-year girls all seemed to like him very much, though Molly hadn’t yet called a Gryffindor Girls Council slumber party to get their full opinions on him. The fact that they smiled and laughed with him, and even Siobhan managed not to roll her eyes like she normally did over everything, indicated that it would be a fun council when they did discuss him. They liked him, she was sure of it.

Well, they ought to, after all, she liked him very much, she thought happily, smiling to herself.

Cosmo Graham, a tall and skinny fifth-year with dark hair and eyes and a very prominent Adam’s apple who she knew was friends with Arthur, came running down the stairs from the boys’ dormitory. He skidded to a halt in front of Molly, and asked breathlessly, “Do you think Cecilia Fletcher would go out with Reid Akins?”

“No,” Molly answered, taken aback.

“Oh. Right then.” Cosmo turned and ran back up the stairs. Molly stared after him and wondered what that had been about.

She was just beginning to get exasperated with waiting when he appeared, looking quite nice in his dark robes and cloak. He smiled when he saw her, and she forgot everything else and smiled back at him.

“Good morning, Molly,” Arthur said happily.

“Good morning, Arthur.”

They went down to the Great Hall together and ate breakfast at the Gryffindor table together. For the first time that week, her friends sat apart from them, letting them have some privacy to chat. Molly smiled at them and thought how nice it had been this week with Arthur joining them, sitting next to her, hearing him laugh and joke with her friends. He was so adorable when he laughed.

She was smitten, she admitted to herself as she giggled at one of his little jokes. She couldn’t stop looking at him.

She wondered if he would try to kiss her today, and then wondered what she could do to make sure he did.

*

They sat in the Three Broomsticks and chatted comfortably for most of the morning, drinking butterbeers and occasionally having a conversation with their classmates who stopped by their table to say hello. Molly was feeling quite comfortable and enjoying herself immensely under Arthur’s attentive gaze. He’d asked her so many questions, she didn’t think she’d talked so much about herself since the first week of school, when she and her roommates had stayed up late into the night, acting like the school was one big slumber party.

She didn’t forget her determination to find out all about him, of course, and asked him about himself as well. He had two brothers, just as she did, and apparently his brother Bilius was just as much of a trouble-maker as her own brothers were. Both of Arthur’s brothers were out of school already; he was the baby of the family. She was the oldest in her family. His family was pureblood, and distantly related to hers through marriage, as she found out when he mentioned his mother was a Black – her uncle Ignatius had married into the Black family. He seemed quite rueful that his family was pureblooded, and she thought he probably wished he had some Muggles in his family. But he wasn’t at all disappointed that she was pureblooded as well.

They talked about their families and friends, their experiences at Hogwarts, briefly abused the caretaker, Apollyon Pringle, for his intractably irascible attitude toward the students, and discussed their O.W.L. results and relief at getting the O.W.L. examinations over with.

“Now, N.E.W.T. exams, those should be extremely difficult. Oh, hallo, Akwetee,” Arthur waved vaguely to one of the Owusu twins, who were both Hufflepuffs, and then continued, “I’m not looking forward to those at all. Glad we’ve got another year before we have to take them.”

Molly nodded. “Yes, I expect we’ll do fine, I’m much more confident after passing all my O.W.L.s, but I don’t want to sit those exams either.”

Arthur glanced at the clock and started. “Good Lord, it’s getting late. We’d better set out if we want to go anywhere else in Hogsmeade today.” He stood and held out a hand to Molly.

She smiled at him and let him help her up, although she didn’t need it. His mother must have drilled good manners and chivalrous behaviour into him from birth; he seemed to do it quite unconsciously. If only her brothers behaved as well. She hadn’t seen either of them in Hogsmeade today and was rather glad of it; they’d be sure to mock her for being in town with a date. They mostly avoided her at school, afraid she’d tell their mother whatever mischief they were up to.

The butterbeers they’d had were making her feel warm and happy, despite the cold October weather, or maybe it was having Arthur’s undivided attention for so long. She felt quite free, walking down the High Street with Arthur, and when his hand stole around hers, she clasped it tightly, and saw him smile widely out of the corner of her eye. He seemed very confident today. She wondered what he was plotting.

They looked around in Dervish and Banges for a while, and Arthur let go of her hand to examine a few things. She felt disappointed that his warm fingers weren’t grasping hers anymore, but she busied herself looking around the store.

She was looking over a small silver instrument, uncertain as to what it did, when Arthur appeared next to her with a slightly devilish smile on his face, took her hand, and led her to a deserted corner of the shop, behind a shelf full of softly whirring and ticking instruments, where he held her close and kissed her softly on the lips.

A loud bang from behind the counter startled them, and they broke apart. Molly smiled softly up at Arthur, hoping he would kiss her again.

“Well, shall we go to Honeydukes, then?” he asked brightly. His ears were a little red, and she thought he must be embarrassed over kissing her, though why that should be she had no idea. It had been a very nice kiss. She wouldn’t mind a repeat, in fact. But she agreed, and they left Dervish and Banges. They were nearly at Honeydukes, holding hands again, when Molly decided to take matters into her own hands. She tugged on Arthur’s hand and they slipped between the buildings and stood in a narrow alley between Honeydukes and another shop.

Molly leaned back against the building and pulled Arthur close. She reached up and took off his glasses, placing them neatly in the front pocket of his robes, then slid her arms around his neck and tilted her face expectantly at him.

Arthur took the hint immediately and bent his head to kiss her again. This time nothing interrupted them.

A short time later, they emerged from the alley holding hands, both looking pleased with themselves, Molly’s cheeks a little pink, and nearly ran over Thaddeus Peabody and Cressida Titherington, who were just coming out of Honeydukes. Thad grinned widely at the two of them, and Arthur reddened, but Thad simply clapped a hand to Arthur’s shoulder and continued on. Cressida waved at them as she followed him.

Molly chuckled as she tugged on Arthur’s hand. “Come on, then, buy me a Chocoball.”

“Anything for you, Molly.” He held the door open for her and she laughed merrily as they went inside.

“You really are a gentleman, Arthur.”

He looked pleased, and Molly led him into the sweet shop, feeling quite giddy. They picked out some sweets to buy, and she found she couldn’t stop smiling. They came outside, Arthur carrying a small bag of sweets, and had just started out down the street when they came abruptly face-to-face with her little brothers, Gideon and Fabian.

Gideon’s eyes widened and he promptly hid his hands behind his back. “Hallo there, Molly,” he said with forced cheerfulness. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”

“What have you got there?” Molly asked suspiciously.

“Nothing. Who’s this?” Fabian was eyeing Arthur curiously.

Arthur put out a hand. “Arthur Weasley. I don’t believe we’ve met officially, but I know who you are, of course.”

“Ah. Right. We’ve seen you about.” Fabian shook his hand. “I’m Fabian, this is my brother Gideon. We’re in third year.”

“These are my little brothers, Arthur,” Molly added unnecessarily. She surveyed them with distaste. Their sandy blonde hair was dusty and their robes had streaks of dirt on them. “What on earth have you two been up to? Why are you covered in dirt? Were you in the joke shop, is that what you’re hiding?”

The twins glanced at each other, and as had always frustrated Molly, there seemed to be unspoken communication between them. They were tricksters, and she had an older sister’s impatience with them. They were always pulling silly pranks, and they loved to switch places, although why they would bother at school when they had the same classes was beyond her. She’d never had much trouble telling her brothers apart, but when one insisted he was the other, she did get uncertain. Other people, including her father (but never her mother), mixed them up all the time.

“Molly, are you on a date?” Gideon asked, obviously attempting to both change the subject and distract her. It worked.

Molly turned pink. “Mind your own business, Gideon.”

“You are on a date!” Fabian exclaimed, grinning widely.

“Go away, both of you. And behave yourselves; don’t embarrass me on your first trip to Hogsmeade.” She grabbed Arthur’s hand and gave it a tug. “Come on, Arthur, let’s go.”

“I’m writing Mum that you have a boyfriend!” Gideon called after her. She scowled but didn’t respond.

Gideon and Fabian disappeared into Honeydukes and Arthur allowed himself to be led down the street by a now-irritable Molly.

“They’re just kids, Molly,” he said calmly as she stomped along, fuming under her breath. “They only tease because you’re their big sister and they love you.”

She didn’t argue with that, but stopped outside Gladrags and crossed her arms beneath her chest. “They just wanted to embarrass me, and you.”

“I’m not embarrassed at all. And I’d be honoured to be your boyfriend, but I wouldn’t presume to be yet,” Arthur said fondly.

Molly smiled then and her arms loosened. “Yet? Are you confident, then, that you’ll be my boyfriend?”

Arthur’s ears reddened and he stammered, “Well, of course I hope, someday…”

Molly laughed. “Oh Arthur, I was only teasing you. I wouldn’t have let you kiss me earlier if I didn’t care for you,” she added in a whisper, blushing a little at admitting her feelings.

Arthur brightened. “Yes, you did let me kiss you,” he said in a low voice that made her feel a little tingly as she remembered his kisses.

She held out her hand to him, and he took it gladly. “We should start back to the castle, I think,” she said. “It really is late now.”

The street was much emptier than it had been when they went into Honeydukes. Arthur looked around and nodded. “Yes, we’d better. Did you have a nice time?”

“I did, thank you.” They started out for the castle together, hand in hand.

Chapter 8: Sunshine Superman
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Donovan, “Sunshine Superman”
A you-you-you can just sit there thinking on your velvet throne
'bout all the rainbows you can have for your own
When you've made your mind up forever to be mine



Arthur walked back to the castle with Molly’s hand in his, trying not to hold her too tightly or too loosely. This couples stuff was difficult. It was hard to gauge how to hold her hand. He didn’t want to crush her, but he wanted to hold her tight and never let go. He’d expected to be a bundle of nerves all morning, but he’d felt strangely confident instead, and now, afterward, he felt a little nervous. It had gone well, so he wasn’t sure why.

He’d been brave, like a true Gryffindor, and had found a perfect moment in Dervish and Banges to slip into a corner with her and give her a quick kiss. Her lips were soft and sweet, and he would treasure that sweet little kiss forever, he thought sentimentally.

Then she’d pulled him into an alleyway and smiled at him invitingly, and that kiss had not been quick. He would treasure that one even more. Especially if he managed to repeat it. He really, really hoped she would go out with him again. She’d said he wasn’t her boyfriend yet, sort of, but now he was feeling reasonably certain that he would be. They were comfortable together, they’d been spending their free time together and got on well, and now he knew they had a definite spark between them. The kiss had been amazing.

He smiled as they walked in a companionable silence up to the castle, wondering if she, too, was thinking about the kiss. There was a cheerful bounce to her step, despite the small run-in with her little brothers. He could only laugh at them, as he too was a younger brother and understood what it was like. He and Bilius had continually planned pranks on their older brother – generally of Bilius’s devising. Bilius had a… unique sense of humor.

Hopefully, it would be a while before Molly met his brothers.

“Do you want to sit with us at dinner tonight, Arthur?” Molly asked suddenly. “The girls and me, I mean.”

“Of course,” he said immediately, then hesitated as he remembered Reid’s remarks about him abandoning his friends. “But I think I’d better sit with my friends, actually, I haven’t seen as much of them lately as I usually do. Especially Cosmo, he’s not in any classes with me.”

“Oh, yes, of course.” Molly seemed a little embarrassed at being turned down.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” he said hurriedly. “Of course I want to sit with you. It’s just, they're my friends, you know.”

She smiled at him. “It’s all right, Arthur. It’s not fair of me to take you away from your friends when I still spend time with mine.”

Oh, she was wonderful. He grinned, the devilish spark coming back into his eye. “Unless you think your friends would like mine to join you. I’m sure Reid would love it.”

Molly let out a low chuckle. “Cecilia would smother me in my sleep if I invited Reid Akins to sit with us.”

“He really didn’t mean for that to happen, you know, with the fireworks,” Arthur said, feeling compelled to defend his poor deluded friend.

“I didn’t think he did, but Cecilia is still embarrassed about the whole thing, and so she likes to be angry with Reid over it. It makes her feel better.” Molly shrugged. “I think she’ll get over it in time.”

“He fancies her,” Arthur told her in a low voice. “Don’t tell anyone, though.”

“Arthur, I think half the school knows that Reid fancies Cecilia,” she said dryly.

He laughed.

*

“You’re sitting with us?” Dunstan asked in exaggerated disbelief. “Did Prewett dump you already?”

Arthur flushed. “Of course not. She can’t dump me when we’re not going out. It was just a date.”

There was a round of snorts at that statement, indicating the general disbelief at the table.

“Oh, sure, you finally go out with Molly Prewett and you expect us to believe you didn’t throw yourself at her feet, begging to be allowed to feed her peeled grapes and fan her with ostrich feathers?” Dunstan asked, shoveling in cooked carrots and potatoes as he spoke.

“Peeled grapes?” Cosmo repeated incredulously. “Why on earth would anyone peel grapes?”

“Look, I just wanted to sit here with you idiots, although now I don’t know why.” Arthur scowled at his friends.

“Aw, ickle Artie wants to sit with his fwiends,” Reid chortled. “He missed us.”

Arthur threw a roll at him.

“So how did your date go, Arthur?” Cosmo asked around a mouthful of sweet potato.

He grinned happily. “Fine. It went fine.”

“Oho!” Dunstan pointed at him from across the table. “You kissed her, didn’t you? I can tell. You did.”

“Shut it, Dunstan,” Arthur told him cheerfully.

“Any word on the Cecilia front, Arthur?” Reid asked with studied nonchalance. “Not that I’m not happy for you and Prewett, do send an invitation to your wedding, I’d just like the focus to return to me now.”

Arthur ignored his last comment. “Sorry, mate, it’s not looking good. I think it’s time for you to withdraw the troops and wait for hostilities to ease.”

Reid perked up. “Do you think they will? Ease, that is?”

Cosmo was shaking his head. “She can’t stand you, mate. Move on. Find someone else.”

“Someone fireproof,” Dunstan agreed.

Arthur grinned and took a large bite out of his pot roast. Thaddeus Peabody came over to their table, dressed in his Quidditch robes for the evening’s practice, and sat down next to him.

“Were you snogging Molly Prewett behind Honeydukes earlier?” Thad threw an arm over Arthur’s shoulders companionably.

Arthur flushed, but he couldn’t help grinning at his friend. “Now, mate, you know a gentleman never kisses and tells.”

“Ah, so you did snog her then,” Thad chuckled. “Arthur Weasley, what will become of you?”

Arthur laughed and shoved him away. “Go on, then, you’re going to miss Quidditch practice.”

Thad shook his head, still grinning. “Can’t let that happen. Mustn’t let Slytherin win next weekend, you know. I might get a chance to hit a Bludger at that Jarvis idiot. See you later, Arthur. Bye, fellas.”

“Bye, Thad.” They waved at him vaguely, Cosmo with his fork.

“Snogged her behind Honeydukes, did you?” Dunstan asked, grinning evilly. Reid and Cosmo were sniggering into their plates.

“So, Apparition lessons start next week,” Arthur said, bravely changing the subject. “Should be a lark, eh?”

“Wish I was taking Apparition lessons,” Cosmo said enviously, picking up his goblet in his free hand, his fork still loaded with food in the other.

“Oh, Apparition,” Reid waved it off as if it was first-year flying lessons. “Piece of cake. I tell you, it’ll be a breeze for someone of my keen and penetrating intellect. That’s why Cecilia secretly loves me.”

Cosmo choked on his pumpkin juice. Arthur and Dunstan both broke out into gales of laughter.

He spent the evening with his friends watching Quidditch practice, all of them critiquing the team’s every move, and then went back up to the Gryffindor common room, where he was disappointed to find only Petula was there out of Molly’s crowd, working on a Muggle Studies essay, the others having already gone to bed.

Arthur managed not to be distracted by quizzing Petula about Muggles and went up to his dorm room, where he closed the curtains on his four-poster and stared at the ceiling, stretched out on his back with his hands stacked under his head.

Molly Prewett let him kiss her. Twice. She had giggled and flirted when he mentioned being her boyfriend. This was going well.

He hoped he didn’t screw it up.

*

The next morning, Arthur bounded down the stairs in a cheerful mood and found Molly and her friends sitting on the sofa and chairs in front of the fireplace, laughing and chatting. Molly had a pair of knitting needles in front of her, which were knitting merrily away without her touching them at all. The yarn was a deep, rich blue, and Arthur thought it would look well with her ginger hair. He couldn’t tell yet what it was going to be, it just looked like a square to him.

Hattie noticed him first and waved him over. “Good morning, Arthur,” she said as he came to join them.

The sofa was already full with Molly, Siobhan, and Petula sitting comfortably, so he sat down on the rug in front of the fire, his back to the empty grate.

“Don’t even ask about Reid,” Cecilia warned him.

“I wasn’t going to,” he said mildly.

“What are you doing today, Arthur?” Hattie asked.

“I don’t really have plans. I ought to get my homework done for Muggle Studies,” he admitted.

“We’re going down to the lake for a picnic lunch together, if you want to join us,” Petula said. “You can bring your friends if you like; Molly said you wanted to spend more time with them.”

Arthur was cheered that she was obviously talking about him to her friends, and that they wanted to include him in their group. “I’d like that, thanks.”

Molly smiled at him. “I’ll make sure we get enough food for all of us.”

“But not Reid,” Cecilia said.

“Reid’s one of my friends too,” Arthur responded evenly.

“Maybe Arthur can search him for firecrackers before lunch,” Petula suggested, snickering.

Cecilia scowled at her.

“I promise I won’t let him bring any,” Arthur said.

“Oh go on, then, bring him. But don’t expect me to be nice to him.” Cecilia sat back in her chair and crossed her arms.

“Don’t worry, Cecilia, we never expect you to be nice,” Siobhan assured her.

Arthur grinned.

*

Arthur and his friends went to the entrance hall at lunch and found the five Gryffindor girls waiting for them, Hattie carrying a large hamper of food and Molly holding a thick purple blanket draped over her arms in front of her. Cecilia gave Reid a dirty look, and he held up his hands as if to show he was firecracker-free, grinning at her. Cosmo looked slightly intimidated to be the only one there who wasn’t a sixth-year, and was staring at the girls with his eyes slightly wide.

The group headed down to the lake and found a sunny spot where they spread out the blanket and started unpacking the food. Cecilia didn’t seem to unbend at all toward Reid the entire time they sat there, talking and joking, even though he was particularly funny that morning and had the other girls all giggling and Dunstan rolling on the grass with laughter. Cecilia kept looking daggers at Reid and scowling when he made a joke. Molly sat close to Arthur and eventually she was leaning against him as the group chatted, snuggled into his side, and he put an arm around her waist. Hattie was smiling at them fondly, and Arthur grinned at her for a moment, feeling exultant.

This day could not get more perfect, he thought happily. Molly Prewett was cuddled with him on a blanket as their friends chatted, sitting in the cool October afternoon air, the sunlight glinting off the lake. The giant squid surfaced briefly and seemed to be waving a tentacle at them.

Molly smiled up at him and said softly, “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Arthur gave her a tender smile and said, “It’s always beautiful when you’re around, Molly.”

Apparently the others hadn’t missed this exchange, because Siobhan rolled her eyes, Hattie let out a sentimental sigh, and Dunstan mimed gagging into the picnic basket. The others laughed, and Molly and Arthur joined in, a little red-faced but still happy.

Hattie had the group pose for pictures for her, and made sure Arthur kept his arm around Molly for the picture. Arthur tried to restrain his emotions while Hattie snapped photographs, and hoped that the photo him wouldn’t be doing anything embarrassing with the photo Molly.

The photo Cecilia would probably be strangling the photo Reid.

Chapter 9: I Hear A Symphony
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The Supremes, “I Hear a Symphony”
Whenever you're near
I hear a symphony
Play sweet and tenderly
Every time your lips meet mine now baby



Molly sat in her usual bathroom stall, humming to herself as she used her wand to alter the small graffito heart that had been on the cubicle wall for the past year. MP + TP now read MP + AW. She wondered how long it would take Hattie to see that and start teasing her, and didn’t care. She was in love.

In love with Arthur Weasley.

She knew it was fast, knew it was silly to be in love after only one date and a picnic, after only two kisses (but what kisses!), and she didn’t care. He was so sweet, so charming, so thoughtful, and he kissed so perfectly, she couldn’t help but love him.

Now to get him to love her in return.

Molly smiled at her updated graffito and stood up. It was time to arrange the Gryffindor Girls Council’s next meeting.

The girls had a long-standing tradition of holding slumber parties for just the five of them, and called it the Gryffindor Girls Council because Petula thought it sounded more important. The name had made Siobhan roll her eyes every time she heard it until fourth year, but now they were all used to it. They would gather together and talk late into the night, and Molly privately thought it was the reason they were all so close. It had become harder to have regular councils since Cecilia got her prefect badge and had to do patrols, and their classes grew increasingly more difficult with more and more homework, but they still managed to hold them several times a year.

She announced it to her friends at lunch in a low voice before Arthur had arrived. “Girls, tonight we’re going to have a council.”

“Oh, good, we haven’t had one of those in ages,” Siobhan said cheerfully. “I’ll visit the kitchen and get some food, shall I?”

“Make sure you get éclairs,” Cecilia told her.

“Well of course, dear, we can’t have a proper council without éclairs.”

“I wonder if the house-elves have any fruit tarts,” Hattie wondered dreamily.

“What are we meeting about, Molly?” Petula asked.

“What do you think, silly?” Siobhan rolled her eyes. “Arthur Weasley, of course.”

“Oh, he’s coming, shhh,” Molly hushed her friends, then turned to smile at Arthur as he sat down at their table.

“Afternoon, ladies,” he said cheerfully. “What’s for lunch today?”

“Or maybe some gateau, chocolate gateau…” Hattie was lost in a pudding daydream. Molly kicked her under the table and she jumped, her eyes widening when she saw Arthur, who was looking at her strangely. “Oh, hallo Arthur, when did you get here?”

“Just now,” Molly said, looking daggers at her friend.

Hattie blushed and applied herself to her food, while Siobhan and Cecilia snickered. Arthur apparently decided it was best not to ask what was going on, and started talking about the weekend’s Quidditch match, Gryffindor versus Slytherin.

After lunch, Arthur walked her to class, and she gave him a kiss on the cheek before ducking into the classroom with Hattie, who was grinning at them fondly.

“I think he’s in love with you, Molly,” Hattie teased her.

Molly felt her cheeks grow hot but smiled back at her friend. “I hope so.”

*

Over the years of council meetings, Hattie had learned a number of useful spells just for that purpose: conjuring large poufs and pillows, soft and puffy sleeping bags, and warm fluffy blankets. Siobhan had learned how to get into the kitchens second year, and brought food for them to snack on every time, because Hattie maintained you couldn’t have a proper gathering without some form of chocolate.

Hattie was putting the finishing touches on her conjuring and Molly was pulling out the tray for the food (purchased in Hogsmeade third year and only used for these occasions) when Cecilia and Siobhan arrived carrying two large bags of food and drink from the kitchen. Cecilia handed the bags to Molly and headed over to her four-poster to change clothes.

“Why do we always sleep on the floor?” Siobhan asked as she pulled her pajamas out of her trunk. “Our dormitory isn’t that big, we could sleep in our beds.”

“Part of the fun is sleeping close together on the floor, like a campout. This is how we bond as a group and maintain close ties of friendship and feminine belonging,” Molly informed her. “Now get down here, you brat.”

“Oh, fine,” Siobhan grumbled, settling herself down on a huge, squashy purple pillow next to Cecilia, who was curled up on a sleeping bag and pulling a blanket up. “Where’s Petula?”

“She was in the library an hour ago and said she was nearly done,” Hattie said from where she was already settled on the floor next to the food tray, with a long knitted nightcap (a gift from Molly) perched on her dark hair. “She should be here soon.”

“Can we start without her?” Cecilia asked, eyeing the food that Molly was now arranging on the silver tray. “Those éclairs are calling my name.”

“No, we’re not starting until Petula comes,” Molly told her.

“Listen, that éclair is saying eat me, Cecilia, I taste so delicious. Can’t you hear it? Poor thing, I’ll just put it out of its misery.”

Molly slapped her reaching hand. “Wait for Petula.”

Once Petula had arrived, out of breath and apologizing for her tardiness (and blaming Professor McGonagall for setting difficult homework), Molly sat up on her knees and clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention.

“Good evening, ladies, and welcome to the two hundred and twenty-second meeting of the Gryffindor Girls Council.”

“Has it been that many times?” Hattie asked in surprise, an éclair halfway to her mouth.

“I’ve no idea, I just made that up,” Molly said in a businesslike voice. “Does anyone have anything they wish to discuss?”

“Reid Akins is a prat,” Cecilia volunteered, licking chocolate off her fingertips.

“I think that was noted and discussed at length last year, several times,” Petula said dryly as she changed into her pajamas.

“Well, it’s still true.”

Siobhan raised her hand. “Cecilia’s got an unhealthy obsession with hating Reid Akins, can we address that?”

“Only after we address your complete lack of brains,” Cecilia retorted. “Do you know what he did to me?”

“Yes, Cecilia, we were all there,” Molly said soothingly. “Anyone else?”

“I’ve got nothing,” Hattie shrugged. “I’m doing fine.”

Petula raised her hand. “I need help in Charms.”

“I’ll help you out, Petula,” Cecilia said. “We can practice right after Transfiguration, we’ve both got a free period then.”

“Thanks, Cilia. That would be lovely.” Petula reached over to give her friend a quick hug.

“There, see? It’s a good council already.” Molly beamed at her friends and picked up a treacle tart.

“Molly, go ahead and start talking about Arthur, we all know that’s why you wanted a council now,” Hattie said around a mouthful of food. “Not that I’m not grateful for it, of course, we should have them more often. With chocolate gateau.”

“All right, then.” Molly sat down cross-legged and leaned forward on her elbows with a misty smile. “I’m in love with Arthur.”

Her announcement was greeted with a complete lack of surprise.

“I thought you must be, or you wouldn’t have let him kiss you,” Hattie said placidly, still eating.

“Oooh, did you kiss?” Petula asked keenly. “Why doesn’t anyone tell me things?”

“And he’s been sitting with us at table every bloody day,” Siobhan said, and her eyes flicked quickly upward, but it was almost unnoticeable. Molly appreciated her friend’s effort to suppress her natural inclination to roll her eyes at everything.

“Language, Siobhan,” Cecilia said.

“Am I the only one who didn’t know they’d kissed?” Petula demanded, looking at each of her friends as she bit into a second éclair.

“Well, I assumed, but Molly didn’t tell us,” Cecilia admitted. “Obviously she loves Hattie more than us.”

Hattie gave her a cheeky grin.

“Hattie was the only one here Saturday night when I went to bed,” Molly pointed out, annoyed. “I’d have told all of you if you lot went to bed at a reasonable hour.”

“I can’t help it if I have to patrol,” Cecilia said.

“Yes, and I can’t help it if I had to snog someone in a broom cupboard,” Siobhan added.

Petula raised an eyebrow at her. “Who are you snogging now?”

“Roddy Feltham.”

Cecilia sighed in exasperation. “Oh, for the love. You’re lucky I’m the one who caught him after hours, Siobhan, I let him go with a warning. The other prefects would have docked him some points, and Pringle would have beaten him.”

Siobhan gave an elegant, Gallic shrug, and even managed to make rolling her eyes look delicate. “When the muse strikes…”

Molly snorted. “You’re terrible, Siobhan.”

“Molly, tell us about your snogging.” Petula sat back into a pouf and arranged a thick purple blanket around her legs.

Molly blushed a little. “It was during our date in Hogsmeade. First he kissed me in Dervish and Banges, just for a moment, then we kissed next to Honeydukes.”

“In front of everyone?” Petula asked in surprise.

“No, silly, there’s an alley next to Honeydukes that’s nice and secluded. Good choice, Molly,” Siobhan said approvingly. “I’d also suggest behind Gladrags, it’s dark but quite clean.”

“Siobhan, you’re such a chippy, dear,” Hattie told her fondly.

Siobhan didn’t look at all concerned about this, and smiled back at Hattie, then looked over at Molly again and asked, “So, Molly, how was the kiss?”

“Oh, it was wonderful,” Molly sighed. “It was perfect. He’s so sweet and thoughtful and wonderful, and he’s a wonderful kisser, and when he held me close, it was just…”

“Wonderful?” Cecilia supplied with a snicker.

“I noticed there was a change in the bathroom when I was there today,” Hattie said slyly. “In the usual cubicle.”

“The heart? I saw it has different initials now,” Petula agreed. “I’d almost forgotten you’d put that there, Molly.”

“Meanwhile, back at the ranch,” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes. “Molly, I’m glad you’re in love, you seem very happy. I think he loves you too.”

“I said that earlier,” Hattie said. “Didn’t I say that, Molly?”

“Yes, you did. Do you think he really does?” Molly asked Siobhan.

All four girls nodded, and Siobhan rolled her eyes again.

“Of course he does,” Cecilia said bossily. “It’s perfectly obvious from the way he looks at you.”

“He spends half of Muggle Studies doodling your name on his notes,” Petula told her. “He thinks I can’t see him at it.”

Molly smiled hopefully. “He does that? Really?”

Petula nodded, pouring herself some pumpkin juice, and Molly collapsed against her pillows, throwing her arms out wide. “I want him to love me, girls, I really do.”

“You’re adorable, Molly, he already loves you.” Hattie patted her knee.

“You certainly fell in love quickly,” Cecilia observed neutrally.

“I can’t help it,” Molly said, still stretched out. “It must be fate. Destiny.”

“Or good snogging,” Siobhan added.

“He is a good kisser,” Molly agreed absently, staring at the ceiling and thinking about Arthur and the way he’d held her in that alley in Hogsmeade. And he’d kissed her so sweetly in Dervish and Banges. Maybe he did love her.

“I prefer to think you’re destined for each other, Molly,” Hattie said, shooting a disapproving look at Siobhan. “It’s not just snogging, it’s love.”

“I suppose if it was just snogging, he wouldn’t be sitting with us constantly and daydreaming about you in classes,” Siobhan said with a grin. “He must love you, Molly.”

Molly sat up abruptly and looked at her friends worriedly. “You all like him, don’t you?”

“Of course we do,” Petula said briskly. “He’s a very nice boy.”

Cecilia nodded her agreement. “Yes, he is. I don’t know why he’s friends with that idiot Reid.”

“You make a lovely couple,” Hattie sighed dreamily.

“If he’s a good kisser, then I like him for you,” Siobhan told her. “You need some good kissing.”

Molly’s face had cleared as her friends spoke and she was smiling happily now. “Oh good, I’m so glad you like him.”

“Can we talk about something else now?” Cecilia asked. “If you’re finished with Thaddeus, can I have him?”

“He’s going out with Cressida Titherington,” Hattie pointed out.

“Damn.”

“Language, Cecilia,” Siobhan said.

Cecilia stuck out her tongue.

Chapter 10: Lightnin' Strikes
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Lou Christie, “Lightnin’ Strikes”
There's a chapel in the pines
Waiting for us around the bend
Picture in your mind
Love forever



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.

Had he?

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.

Nothing happened.

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.

Chapter 11: Sunny
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Bobby Hebb, “Sunny”
Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain.
Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain.
The dark days are gone, and the bright days are here,
My Sunny one shines so sincere.



Arthur cornered Reid before History of Magic to ask about the secret passageways into Hogsmeade. He had avoided using them in the past, because there just wasn’t that much in Hogsmeade that he wanted to do that he needed to sneak in on weekends. He’d always spent most of his free time either watching Molly Prewett (not stalking her, he reassured himself, just watching) or chatting with the Muggle-born students. The idea of sneaking into the village had never much appealed to him. Now, sneaking into a Muggle village…. That he would have jumped at, but he was content with the Hogsmeade weekends the students were allowed.

Reid seemed pleased to be asked, and even more pleased that Arthur was planning to sneak out of the castle.

“It’s about bloody time, son,” he said, then asked eagerly, “What have you got planned? Do you need a sidekick? You know I’m always available for some recreational rule-breaking.”

“I’m not sneaking out for mischief, I’m buying Molly a birthday present,” Arthur admitted.

“Oh.” Reid looked slightly disappointed, and rolled his eyes. “I might’ve known. Well, my favourite is behind the mirror on the fourth floor. It’s in a secluded corner there and hardly anyone walks by, so you can sneak in and out quite safely. It takes you out near the train station, so you can just stroll into the village from there.”

Arthur was nodding, but Reid continued before he could say anything.

“There’s one behind the statue of Gregory the Smarmy that’ll take you out behind Dervish and Banges, and then there’s one behind the one-eyed witch on the third floor. That one takes you to the basement of Honeydukes. I don’t like that one after hours, of course, it’s so hard to sneak back into Honeydukes when they’re closed. I’ve nearly been caught a few times when I’ve used that one,” Reid smiled nostalgically.

“Right.” Arthur surveyed his friend in amazement. “How do you have time to do all this sneaking about and take eleven N.E.W.T.s?”

“Merlin’s beard, I should think that was obvious. It’s magic.” Reid grinned at him.

Arthur shook his head and laughed.

*

Arthur spent the evening studying for the next day’s Muggle Studies test in the common room, with Molly sitting on the sofa next to him, her back against the arm of the sofa and her bare feet tucked under his leg for warmth. She had a book propped open on her knees, and was reading intently in her Potions textbook, a tiny frown creasing her brow as she made notes on a sheet of parchment. It was their first attempt at studying together, because Arthur could no longer concentrate even without her around, so he figured he may as well not get his homework done with her beside him instead of not getting it done without her. They were doing fairly well. He’d made it through the entire last chapter without having to re-read anything.

Petula was sitting sideways in one of the chairs next to the sofa, her legs draped across the arm of the chair, her feet wiggling and kicking as she read, nose hidden in her own Muggle Studies textbook.

Arthur and Molly both jumped when Petula suddenly slammed her book shut and dropped it on the floor next to the chair.

“I can’t even see straight anymore,” she complained. “It’s entirely too late to study, I’m going to bed.”

“See you tomorrow, Petula,” Arthur said.

“Good night, Arthur. Good night, Molly.” She headed for the stairs to the girls’ dormitory, leaving her book on the floor.

“Good night, Petula,” Molly called after her. “I’ll just bring your book up for you, then, shall I?”

Petula waved unconcernedly and disappeared up the stairs.

Molly sighed and wiggled her toes under Arthur’s leg. “I suppose I ought to go to bed as well.”

Arthur’s imagination immediately shot into overdrive, picturing her lying in bed in a silky nightdress, her fiery curls spread across the pillow, but he quashed the thought before his brain could add himself to the picture. He really needed to get control of his thoughts.

“I probably should as well,” he said.

Molly didn’t move though. She was watching him with an almost distant expression, and he wondered what she was thinking about. The look in her eyes seemed close to the look she’d had when she pulled him into the alley in Hogsmeade. They stared at each other for a moment in silence.

Arthur put a hand on her calf then, and the look in her eyes reminded him even more strongly of their Hogsmeade kiss, so he leaned over to her and kissed her. She put a hand on his cheek as she kissed him back.

He was just starting to scoot a little closer to her to deepen the kiss when he heard Dunstan’s voice calling out cheerfully, “Merlin’s pants! Right in the middle of the common room! Nobody wants to see that!”

Arthur pulled back quickly and Molly sat up a little straighter, swinging her legs down off the sofa. Dunstan grinned at them.

Molly reached down to scoop up Petula’s abandoned book, and smiled at Arthur. “Good night, Arthur.”

“Good night, Molly.” He wanted to kiss her again, but the moment seemed to have passed, thanks to Dunstan.

She disappeared up the stairs to the girls’ dormitory, and Arthur picked up his book from where he had apparently dropped it at some point during their kiss. He didn’t remember setting it down. He started for his own dormitory, and Dunstan followed him with a particularly evil grin on his face.

“In the middle of the common room,” Dunstan repeated, laughing, as he followed Arthur up the stairs. “I can’t tell you how proud I am.”

“Shut it, you,” Arthur said, but without rancour. He couldn’t help grinning. Snogging Molly Prewett in the middle of the common room was something of a dream come true, after all.

Their dormitory was empty but for Reid. He was propped up on his bed, knees bent, with a book open on his lap, quite unabashedly wearing yellow pyjamas with ridiculous little cowboys all over them. He must have been in their dormitory studying all evening; Arthur hadn’t seen him since dinner and hadn’t even really noticed his friend’s absence. Molly was a great distraction.

Arthur dropped his book onto the lid of his trunk, and kicked off his shoes as he sat down on his bed. One skidded across the floor and under Dunstan’s bed, but Arthur didn’t really notice.

“So, snogging all over the castle, must be love, eh?” Dunstan’s wicked grin was obscured briefly by his shirt as he changed into his pyjamas.

“Who’s snogging all over the castle?” Reid asked, peering at them over the top of his book.

“Arthur and Molly,” Dunstan told him.

“Oh.” Reid didn’t look surprised, and went back to reading.

“Cecilia told me Molly’s birthday is this Sunday,” Dunstan said. “What are you getting her, Arthur?”

“Cecilia talked to you?” Reid said, looking up at them again.

“Yes. She only hates you, remember?” Dunstan told him politely. “She’s perfectly happy to talk to the rest of us.”

Reid scowled at him. “You’re just jealous because she loves me.” He hid behind his book again.

Dunstan turned back to Arthur, who was now fishing his pyjamas out of his trunk. They appeared to be stuck on something, and he had to tug on them to get them loose. Giving his trunk a little kick, he sat down on his bed.

“So, what are you getting Molly for her birthday?” Dunstan asked again.

“I don’t know,” Arthur admitted as he changed into his pyjamas, leaving his dirty clothes in a heap on the floor next to his bed. Like many teenage boys, Arthur seemed to think clothing and bedrooms were self-cleaning, much to his mother’s exasperation. “I haven’t thought of anything brilliant yet.”

“Lingerie,” Dunstan said immediately as he jumped onto his bed and stretched out comfortably.

“I am not getting her lingerie,” Arthur said definitely. This was dangerously close to his line of thinking earlier, and he was determined to avoid it. If he was thinking along the same lines as Dunstan, that surely had to be a bad sign.

“Chocolates,” Reid suggested, closing his book.

“Oh, that’s overdone,” Dunstan scoffed. “Everyone buys chocolates. Her friends will probably buy her chocolates. Buy her some lingerie.”

“Don’t listen to him, he’s an idiot,” Reid said.

“Who’s an idiot? And did I hear someone mention lingerie?” Roderick Feltham came in and tossed his bookbag on his bed.

“Arthur’s getting some for Molly Prewett for her birthday,” Dunstan told him.

“I am not,” Arthur said, exasperated.

Roddy grinned. “She’d probably slap you if you did. You’re not really going to take advice on women from these two, are you?”

Reid looked up at Roddy, clearly annoyed. “Why not? I know a lot about women.”

“I wish I could believe that, firecracker boy,” Roddy said gravely.

Arthur rolled his eyes. “I don’t need advice on women; I just need an idea for a birthday present.”

“Jewellery. Girls like jewellery,” Reid suggested.

“Hattie suggested jewellery as well,” Arthur said. “I think that might be the best idea.”

“Well, that depends on the jewellery,” Roddy said thoughtfully. “Jewellery conveys a message, so it depends on what you want the gift to say. You could buy her a ring –”

Arthur shook his head. “I think a ring says too much. We’ve only just started going together. It isn’t even official yet.”

“You snogged her on the sofa in the common room,” Dunstan pointed out dryly. “How much more official do you need to be?”

Roddy had ignored this aside as he considered the birthday present dilemma more carefully, sitting down on top of his trunk and starting to untie his shoelaces. “Jewellery is good, actually. A bracelet, maybe. Or a necklace.” He looked thoughtful. “A necklace says you care for her, but isn’t a huge commitment or moving too fast.”

“Yes, it is,” Dunstan insisted. “Any jewellery is a commitment. If you buy a woman jewellery, she thinks you want to marry her.”

“Arthur does want to marry her,” Reid pointed out, and Roddy nodded.

“What?” Arthur squawked. How did they know that? He hadn’t said anything. Was he talking in his sleep? Now that was a horrifying possibility.

“Dunstan, you suggested lingerie, and you want to quibble over the meaning of jewellery?” Roddy said, rolling his eyes. “What do you think lingerie says?”

Dunstan shrugged. “That he wants to snog her senseless.”

“Lingerie says he thinks she’s a tart, unless they’re married,” Roddy told him. “Then lingerie is all right.”

Arthur flopped back on his bed and put his pillow over his face. His friends were insane, and the conversation had, as usual, spiralled out of control. He regretted ever allowing the topic of a birthday gift for Molly to come up. He might as well go to sleep; he wasn’t going to get anything helpful out of these idiots. He switched the pillow to under his head then and removed his glasses, setting them on the table next to his bed, while his friends continued to argue about lingerie and jewellery.

Thaddeus came in then, looking thoroughly exhausted, and collapsed facedown on his bed without even taking off his shoes.

“Are you dead, Thad?” Roddy asked him, grinning.

Thad mumbled incoherently at him, his voice muffled by the pillow, and lifted a hand, waving vaguely at Roddy.

“Bit tired there?” Dunstan chuckled. “Night then, Thad.”

Thad reached up without raising his head, fumbling for the curtain to his four-poster and pulling it shut half-heartedly.

Arthur grinned at him and pulled his own curtains shut.

*

He managed to sneak out to Hogsmeade two days later. He had to skive off History of Magic to do so, since the shops he wanted to visit wouldn’t be open if he waited until after dinner to sneak out. However, skiving off Professor Binns’ class didn’t sound like much of a hardship when compared with buying the perfect gift for Molly, so he cheerfully made his way to the mirror on the fourth floor. It was easy to get into the secret passageway unnoticed, and he was quite pleased with the cover it provided for coming back into the castle unnoticed. The mirror was in a tiny corner, partially obscured by a tapestry, and he could sneak back out behind the tapestry and make sure the coast was clear.

The walk into Hogsmeade seemed twice as long down the long, dark tunnel. When he finally reached the end of the tunnel, he found himself climbing out at Hogsmeade Station. He glanced around at the few people around, but no one seemed to have noticed him appearing. He needed to find something today, since sneaking out twice in one week seemed highly dangerous, and he didn’t want to take a lot of time in case he was caught, so he determined to buy something, even if it wound up being only a box of Honeydukes chocolates. At least he knew what sweets she liked after visiting Hogsmeade with her.

He set off down the lane into the village and went into Gladrags, which had a corner display of jewellery, his mind still dwelling on Hattie’s suggestion. She had said Molly would think jewellery was romantic, and that sounded good to him. Reid had suggested it as well, but he was inclined to listen to Hattie’s advice more than that of, as Roddy termed him, firecracker boy.

The witch behind the counter in Gladrags smiled kindly at him when she saw him looking at the jewellery. “Do you need help, young man?” she asked, coming over to stand next to the jewellery display.

“I need a gift for, erm, my girlfriend,” he said, feeling a little stupid, and then added in a rush of honesty, “well, she isn’t my girlfriend yet, we’ve only been on one date, but I want her to be my girlfriend, and it’s her birthday, she’s coming of age, and-”

The witch laughed. “I see. I’m sure we have something that will do.”

Arthur left the shop a short time later with a small parcel, wrapped specially by the helpful saleswitch in festively coloured paper and ribbons, his step light and bouncy, and ran smack into Molly’s little brothers.

They all stared at each other for a moment warily, Arthur noting the Zonko’s and Honeydukes bags in Fabian’s hand, and the twins noting the small bag in Arthur’s hand.

At last Gideon glanced at his brother and then said, “We won’t tell if you won’t.”

“Right,” Arthur said. They stared at each other again, then Arthur said, “I’m going to have a surprise party for your sister this Sunday evening, in the common room.”

“Right,” Fabian said. “We’ll be there.”

“Right,” Arthur said again, adding somewhat awkwardly, “Well, see you later, then.”

They split off in opposite directions. Arthur wondered which secret passageway the twins had managed to find, and shook his head at their mischief as he climbed down into the passageway near the station and started the long dark walk back to the castle. The walk seemed shorter now that he’d found a gift. He was eager to get back to the castle and start planning the surprise party.






A/N: A thank you to my husband for giving me some rather frightening insight into what sort of thing teenage boys talk about when they're alone. I might have nightmares. ;)

Chapter 12: My Love
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Petula Clark, “My Love”
My love is brighter than the brightest star
That shines every night above
And there is nothing in this world
That can ever change my love



Molly slept late on her birthday. It was a Sunday after all, and she was of age now and felt she was perfectly entitled to sleep late instead of waking to do homework before lunch like she normally did, being a responsible morning person and all. She’d had a lovely day at the Quidditch match yesterday in company of Arthur and all their friends, watching Hufflepuff get soundly beaten by Ravenclaw, which apparently helped Gryffindor’s standing somehow, though the explanation for that had been beyond her – she’d stopped listening and just watched Arthur fondly as he gestured animatedly while trying to explain it. She wasn’t a big Quidditch fan, but it had still been a good time, and Arthur clearly enjoyed Quidditch very much and she liked to see him happy. Then she’d had a study group for Defence with Arthur, Cecilia, Petula, Dunstan, and Reid in the library until late into the night, so she was quite exhausted anyway and inclined to have a lie-in. There was a small pile of gifts at the foot of her bed when she finally woke, and she sat up with a smile and started to open them.

There was a lovely, delicate silver watch from her parents, a large pile of sweets from her brothers, new copies of her two favourite novels by the late Fifi LaFolle from Hattie (she’d worn her original copies out reading them over the summer), a fuzzy purple hat from Petula, a box of Chocoballs from Siobhan, and a large box of soft, brightly coloured yarns from Cecilia. There was nothing from Arthur. She frowned as she fastened the watch around her wrist. Why wouldn’t he give her a birthday gift? She was seventeen now, it was an important birthday, and he was very nearly, for all intents and purposes, her boyfriend. Perhaps she should have told him he was.

Maybe he was waiting to give it to her in person. She cheered up at the thought and hopped out of her bed, getting dressed quickly. She put her new hat on and went downstairs, where her friends were sitting in front of the fireplace with Arthur and Dunstan. Reid was mercifully absent, and Molly was glad because Cecilia would actually be somewhat pleasant for her birthday.

They wished her a happy birthday as she sat down next to Arthur on the sofa, and she smiled at all of them. Arthur kissed her cheek, and she smiled up at him softly. Surely he had a gift for her, he was so sweet and she knew he fancied her. They spent half their time kissing these days. Of course he had something. The gift wasn’t really important; she just wanted to know he’d thought of her. But surely, he must have gotten her something.

She spent the day outside on the grounds with her friends and Arthur, watching the giant squid sunning itself in the shallow waters at the banks of the lake. Cosmo showed off his juggling skills to entertain them, and Reid and Cecilia bickered after he joined the group in the afternoon. As they all walked back up to the castle shortly before dinner, Arthur slipped away. Molly tried to ask him where he was going, but he simply waved to her with a big smile and ducked behind a tapestry for a shortcut as she was carried along by the momentum of the group. She frowned but went ahead to the Great Hall with the rest of the girls, and Arthur’s friends sat with them at dinner again so she assumed he would be back shortly. He still hadn’t given her a gift, or mentioned it at all.

But Arthur didn’t come back for dinner. Dunstan told her vaguely that he’d had something to do when she kept looking over her shoulder for him. She frowned at that but Cecilia and Siobhan had started arguing rather loudly about Cecilia nagging Siobhan to stop swearing and Molly was distracted, jumping in to defend Cecilia.

After dinner Hattie announced that she needed to make a stop in the girls’ bathroom and Molly went along while the other girls went up to the common room. Hattie spent a long time agonizing over her hair while Molly waited.

“Arthur didn’t give me a birthday gift,” she told Hattie quietly after Hattie had finished muttering over her hair being too frizzy.

Hattie looked startled and a little guilty, looking up at Molly in the mirror. “I’m sure he has one, Molly. He must be waiting for the perfect time to give it to you.”

Molly sighed. “I should tell him I love him. Do you think I should tell him?”

“I don’t know, Molly.” Hattie turned around and leaned against the sink. “I think he loves you too, so he’ll probably say it back.”

Molly’s stomach contracted at the thought of telling Arthur she loved him and him not saying it back. “What if he doesn’t?” she worried. “Maybe I won’t tell him.”

“Well, just see how things go tonight, and maybe you’ll know what to do,” Hattie said.

“Tonight? Why tonight?”

Hattie looked a little guilty again and said, “Nothing. Come on, let’s go back to the common room.”

Molly trudged up the staircase to the Fat Lady behind her best friend. Hattie gave the password and climbed through first, and Molly followed after her. She had just straightened up when she heard a loud chorus of “Surprise!”

Molly’s heart jumped and she gasped, putting a hand to her chest. “Oh my…”

Her friends had rushed forward to hug her, all smiling and laughing.

“Happy birthday, Molly,” Cecilia said.

“Thank you,” Molly said weakly. “Did you all plan this just for me?”

“Not us, Arthur planned it,” Petula told her.

Molly turned and found Arthur sitting on the arm of the chair nearest her, grinning and looking quite pleased with himself. She looked around the common room and took in the decorations, the “Happy Birthday Molly!” banner, and the large table full of food and drinks. How on earth had he gotten butterbeers? Nearly every Gryffindor was there, even though she didn’t even know the names of most of the younger students. Even her brothers were there, looking relatively clean and mischief-free, and smiling at her.

“Happy birthday, Molly,” Arthur said, still grinning proudly.

“Oh, Arthur…” Molly went over to kiss him softly, and there were hoots and catcalls from the rest of the Gryffindors. Fabian seemed to have developed a tic in his right eye at watching his sister kissing someone, and Gideon looked moderately disgusted.

It didn’t take long for the party to go into full swing. Someone had brought out a wizarding wireless radio and was playing loud music, and Molly’s brothers set off a display of Filibuster’s fireworks in Molly’s favourite colours. She sat on the sofa with Arthur and Hattie, laughing and talking, while a few students danced to the music and Dunstan played Exploding Snap with Roddy and Cosmo. The Gryffindors were milling around, talking loudly and enjoying themselves. Molly didn’t know half the people at the party and figured they’d just wanted to have some fun and didn’t actually care about her birthday, but she didn’t mind.

Molly heard a Celestina Warbeck song come on over the wireless later, and bounced excitedly on the sofa, interrupting Hattie in mid-sentence.

“I love Celestina!”

Hattie laughed. “I know you do.”

Arthur looked slightly surprised by this announcement, but he didn’t say anything. Molly grabbed his hand and stood up. “Oh, let’s dance, Arthur.”

Hattie gave him a little shove and Arthur got to his feet, looking a little uncertain.

Molly had always liked to think she was a good dancer, and she dragged Arthur over behind the sofa where there was more clear space with much more confidence than he seemed to have. Thaddeus was dancing with fifth-year Francine Allen, who played on the Quidditch team with him as a Chaser, and he grinned at Molly and Arthur when they joined him. Francine was teaching him a new Muggle dance step, and Molly picked it up quickly. Arthur wasn’t a good dancer, but he was willing to try. She wasn’t sure if that was his desire to dance with her or his obsession with all things Muggle. Maybe both. She had to laugh at him though as he clumsily tried to imitate Francine.

Professor McGonagall stopped by at ten o’clock to tell them to go to bed, and things started to die down when she took the wireless away with her. Most of the younger students went to bed after that, leaving the older students to their quiet corners of the common room.

“We should do something special tonight for your birthday,” Arthur mused.

“More special than a birthday party, you mean?” Molly was cuddled up with him on the sofa in front of the fire, leaning her head on his shoulder and holding hands with him. She was enjoying spending some close time together, and had completely forgotten that he still hadn’t given her a birthday gift. Hattie and Petula had both gone to bed, Siobhan was sitting on Roddy’s lap in a chair by the window, and Cecilia had departed for bed in high dudgeon when Reid offered to protect her from the last of the twins’ fireworks. Reid had then ensconced himself in a chair next to the table of food and was finishing off the last of the butterbeer by himself. The twins had disappeared at about the same time as McGonagall appeared; Molly had no idea where her brothers had gotten to, but she didn’t particularly care, since Arthur had her full attention.

“Go out with me tonight,” Arthur said, giving her hand a squeeze.

“We already are going out together tonight,” Molly pointed out, lifting her head to look up at him. “We can’t stay up too late though, we have classes tomorrow morning.”

“No, Molly, out,” he said with a devilish grin. “Out of the common room, I mean. We can go up to the Astronomy tower and look at the stars.”

Molly gave him a scandalized look. “We can’t do that! It’s against school rules!”

“Of course we can, if we don’t get caught.”

She shook her head. “We can’t go out after curfew. We’ll be caught.”

“I promise, I won’t let us get caught. I wouldn’t let anything happen to you, Molly.”

He looked so sincere. Molly chewed her fingernail while she thought it over. She wasn’t sure it was a good idea; they would be in such trouble if they were caught, but she loved him so… And the Astronomy tower at night sounded so romantic… And it was her birthday, after all…

“All right,” she said uncertainly.

Arthur gave her a quick hug. “It’ll be fun, you’ll see.”

They waited until just after eleven o’clock before sneaking out the portrait hole, after Gryffindor tower had been nearly empty (except Siobhan and Roddy, but they hadn’t noticed a thing), with Arthur going first to make sure the coast was clear. They took a few shortcuts down secret passageways, and Molly was impressed by Arthur’s knowledge of the castle. She tended to take direct routes, and didn’t bother much with the secret passages that a lot of students used, but Arthur apparently was more comfortable with taking the hidden routes and being behind the scenes.

They reached the Astronomy tower without being seen, and without seeing a hint of Mr. Pringle, and Molly had started to relax by the time they emerged onto the roof of the tower. It was a beautiful night. She turned to see Arthur staring up at the stars, and he looked down at her as if he felt her gaze on him.

“This was a good idea,” she told him, smiling. “It’s so beautiful.”

Arthur took a step closer to her so they were standing very close together, and reached into his pocket. Molly let out a soft “oh!” of surprise; he had a gift for her after all.

“I hope you like it,” he said uncertainly. She thought he might actually be nervous over giving her his gift. No wonder he’d waited so long. But she was glad he had waited, this was just perfect.

She unwrapped the small box and recognized it as a jewellery box. She glanced up at him in surprise; he looked very anxious now. She opened the box and saw a delicate silver chain with a small heart charm inside. It was beautiful. She drew it out of the box and held it up, smiling.

“Oh, Arthur, it’s lovely,” she breathed.

“Happy birthday, Molly,” he said softly.

“Thank you, Arthur,” she said, putting her arms around his neck, the necklace still clutched in one hand and the empty box in the other. He felt warm, and he smelled good. She stared into his eyes, hoping he would kiss her. Oh, forget it, she thought; she may as well kiss him first.

She stood on tiptoe and kissed him enthusiastically. He made a small growl in the back of his throat that made her giggle, wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her up off the ground, kissing her soundly.

After they’d broken apart, Molly was tempted to tell him she was falling in love with him, but held back. It had only been a few weeks, and while she suspected he would be happy to hear it, she wasn’t sure. She wasn’t quite brave enough to say it without being sure of a positive response.

He wrapped her up in his cloak then, with one arm behind her back and the other holding her hand against his chest, and Molly sighed and leaned her cheek on him. It felt so good to be in his arms, and it was so romantic up on the tower under the stars, she simply had to say something about loving him, but she changed it so it came out, “I love to be with you, Arthur.”

She could hear his heart beating a little faster at that, and smiled as she pulled her head away to look up at him.

“I love it too,” he said, his voice low and a little rough, and Molly reached up to meet his kiss.

When they had broken apart again, he gave her a hopeful look and asked, “Does this mean we’re going out now? Officially?”

“I don’t know,” Molly said. “Are we?”

Her own heart was racing a bit now too. She was staring at his eyes, and their blue looked quite dark, with only the stars and the full moon to light the tower. He was staring at her very intently.

“Will you be my girlfriend, Molly Prewett?” Arthur asked softly, his thumb rubbing gently over her knuckles.

Molly smiled up at him through her lashes. “Yes, Arthur.”

He smiled with a mixture of relief and happiness, and leaned down to kiss her again.

They spent a while longer up on the Astronomy tower, curled up together under a blanket that Molly had conjured, watching the stars in each other’s arms and occasionally forgetting about the stars and kissing. Eventually Molly remembered that they had class the next day and dragged Arthur back down into the castle. Fortunately, they managed to make it back to Gryffindor Tower without being seen, since it was nearly one o’clock in the morning. The Fat Lady sniffed disapprovingly at them and threatened to change the password at midnight if they came back so late again.

They stopped in the common room at the base of the stairs to the girls’ dormitory. The common room was completely deserted now, even dedicated snoggers like Siobhan having already gone to bed. Everyone seemed to have worn themselves out at the party.

Molly slipped her hand away from Arthur’s and wrapped her arms around his waist to hug him close. He held her tightly and kissed the top of her head.

“Thank you for a wonderful birthday,” she said softly, pulling back enough to look up at him.

“You’re welcome, Molly. Good night.” He bent down to kiss her.

Molly went up the stairs as quietly as she could, trying not to wake any of the other Gryffindors. Her roommates were all asleep, Petula sprawled out as usual with one leg dangling off the bed and Hattie curled up under a mound of blankets. She tip-toed across the room and changed quickly into her pyjamas, then crawled into bed, still feeling warm from Arthur’s kisses on the Astronomy tower.

Stretching out under the blankets and wiggling her toes, she closed her eyes with a contented smile. This had been the best birthday ever.

Chapter 13: Canít You Hear My Heartbeat
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Herman’s Hermits, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat?”
Wedding bells are gonna chime
Baby, baby, you're gonna be mine
Can't you hear the poundin' of my heartbeat
'cause you're the one I love, you're the one I love



Molly told her friends all about the night on the Astronomy tower the next morning as she got dressed. She felt light as air today, filled with giddiness over having Arthur Weasley for a boyfriend. He was so sweet and romantic. She couldn’t stop smiling. She half-wished she’d told him last night that she was in love with him, but it was probably for the best. It had only been three weeks, after all.

“I thought he already was your boyfriend,” Siobhan said groggily, still curled up under her blanket.

“He hadn’t asked me officially,” Molly said cheerfully.

Siobhan rolled her eyes and pulled the blanket up tighter under her chin.

“Let’s see the necklace, then,” Hattie said from where she knelt on Petula’s bed, plaiting Petula’s hair into two French plaits. Petula sat in front of Hattie with her knees clutched to her chest, rocking a little as Hattie tugged on her hair.

Molly pulled it out of the box and her friends all nodded their approval, even Siobhan, who peered at it blearily before pulling the blanket up over her head.

“Oh, it’s lovely,” Hattie sighed.

“Are you going to wear it today?” Cecilia asked. She was already dressed, her dark hair up in a neat ponytail, and was sitting cross-legged at the foot of her bed while she waited for the other girls to get ready. Her mood was still a little foul from last night; she had been in mid-diatribe against Reid when Molly had woken up. The only downside to Molly’s relationship with Arthur had been the increased contact between Cecilia and Reid, and therefore the increased vitriol coming from Cecilia, who had still not forgiven him for the fireworks fiasco during fifth year and seemed to have no intention of ever doing so.

Molly nodded. “I’m going to wear it every day,” she said, fastening it around her neck.

“That’s such a romantic date, spending the evening on the Astronomy Tower, snogging under the stars,” Petula said, wincing as Hattie tugged particularly hard on her hair. “You’re so lucky, Molly. I want a boyfriend. Nobody ever asks me out.”

“You went out with Michael O’Toole most of last year,” Hattie pointed out.

“Yes, but nobody’s asked me out this year.”

“Wear your skirts shorter,” Siobhan’s voice came from under her blanket.

“You’re going to miss breakfast, Siobhan, get out of bed,” Cecilia said, annoyed.

The lump under the beds moved; Siobhan was rolling over onto her stomach. “No. I’m going back to sleep as soon as you lot go away and I can get some quiet.”

“You’ll miss class,” Molly warned her.

“Bugger class.”

Cecilia flicked her wand at Siobhan and the blanket flew off her and landed on the floor next to the four-poster bed.

“You’ve a cruel heart, Cecilia Fletcher,” said Siobhan, clutching her pillow tightly.

“That’s why I was made the prefect,” Cecilia said airily as Siobhan sat up and grabbed her hairbrush from the nightstand.

By the time Siobhan was dressed and they’d all made it down to the Great Hall, Arthur and his friends were already sitting at the Gryffindor table, eating breakfast. He shot to his feet when he saw Molly, a piece of toast still in his hand.

“Good morning,” he said, grinning at her a bit nervously.

Molly smiled brightly at him. His friends were sniggering into their breakfasts, and she wondered what he’d told them about last night. She had no idea if boys talked to their friends the way girls did. Her brothers seemed to talk about everything, but she rather thought they were a special case, being twins. She sat down next to Arthur and he took his seat again, still giving her a sappy grin. She was sure her own smile was just as sappy, and didn’t care.

Cecilia sat down at the far end of the group, making sure she had the maximum distance between her and Reid while still sitting close to her friends, and gave Dunstan a flirtatious smile that was plainly calculated to annoy Reid. Reid scowled at his friend.

“Morning, ladies,” Cosmo said. “Morning, Arthur’s girlfriend,” he added to Molly with a sly grin, and she felt her cheeks grow hot.

Arthur elbowed Cosmo sharply in the ribs. Dunstan and Reid started sniggering again.

Cecilia glared at them and said sharply, “I think it’s sweet.”

Reid straightened up suddenly. “Yeah, I do too.”

Siobhan rolled her eyes and Dunstan gave him an incredulous look.

“That’s not what you said this morning,” he said loudly, his gaze flying from Reid to Cecilia and back.

“Shut it, Dunstan,” Reid said.

*

Molly sat in front of the fire in the Gryffindor common room that evening, reading her Charms textbook with her knitting on her lap, the needles flashing and yarn flying of their own accord, working on her current project, a long, cabled blue scarf for Arthur. She didn’t think he’d noticed what she was knitting, although he’d seen her at it a few times, and she was rather glad he was oblivious because she was hoping to surprise him. She didn’t really have a reason to give him a gift, other than that he was her boyfriend. She hugged that thought close to her heart; Arthur Weasley, her boyfriend, whom she loved, though he didn’t know it yet.

Hattie was sitting next to her, also reading her Charms textbook, occasionally glancing up at Molly’s knitting needles.

“How can you keep them going and read at the same time?” she asked finally.

“Oh, you get used to it,” Molly said absently, turning a page. “After a while you don’t even need to pay attention.”

Hattie shook her head. “Well, I’m impressed. You’re getting very good at enchanted knitting.”

“Thank you.”

Siobhan came over and flopped out across one of the chairs next to the sofa, glaring at Molly and Hattie. Hattie peered at her over the top of her book.

“What’s wrong, Siobhan?”

“I have another detention,” Siobhan said sourly.

Molly didn’t look up from her book. Siobhan having detention regularly wasn’t exactly a novelty. Hattie continued to peer at her without surprise. “What did you do this time?” she asked calmly.

“Oh, apparently there are ‘things you do in public, and things you don’t.’ Stupid McGonagall.” Siobhan crossed her arms resentfully. “It was a perfectly deserted corridor before she came along.”

Molly didn’t say anything. Before she’d started going out with Arthur, she probably would have spoken up, but she sort of felt she’d lost her high ground after the night on the Astronomy tower. Besides, she now saw the appeal of snogging in the castle after hours. Being out all alone with Arthur and sneaking around with the looming possibility of being caught was rather exhilarating. She wondered where Siobhan had managed to find a deserted corridor just after dinner, but she didn’t quite have the courage to ask. Not in front of Hattie, anyway.

“Lucky your dad doesn’t care if you get detentions,” Hattie remarked.

“Yeah, lucky,” Siobhan said darkly. “What are you studying?”

“Charms,” Hattie said.

“Oh. Well, I’m supposed to write an essay for Care of Magical Creatures. Save my seat for me, I’m going to go get my books.” Siobhan hopped up and headed for the girls’ dormitory. Molly and Hattie continued their quiet studying on the sofa, Molly’s knitting needles flashing in the sunlight streaming through the windows.

“Did you write your Potions essay yet?” Hattie asked calmly when Siobhan returned.

“Damn,” said Siobhan.

“Language, Siobhan.”

“I haven’t written it yet either,” Molly admitted.

Hattie and Siobhan both looked at her in surprise.

“It’s due tomorrow,” Hattie reminded her.

“I’ll write it tonight,” Molly said uncomfortably. “I wasn’t going to leave it; I just haven’t gotten to it yet.”

Siobhan grinned. “You certainly did slack off this weekend, Molly. Did the muse strike you too?”

Molly turned pink and hid behind her book.

Siobhan was quite cheered at finding she was no longer the only one who might leave their homework to the last minute in favour of some snogging, and their conversation as they did homework was cheerful. Molly was still a little embarrassed but she perked up when Siobhan asked where Arthur was.

“He’s out watching Quidditch practice with his friends,” Molly told her. “They should be back soon, it’s getting dark out.”

“They must like Quidditch a lot; it’s bloody cold out to just watch a practice session,” Siobhan said, glancing at the grey skies out the window.

“You really need to stop swearing, Siobhan, it isn’t ladylike,” Hattie said primly.

Siobhan gave her a look. “You know that saying that only makes me want to do it more.”

Molly ignored this aside and told them proudly, “Arthur loves Quidditch. He nearly made the House team, you know. As a Chaser.”

“Is that so,” Hattie said, smiling at her. “I didn’t think you cared about Quidditch, Molly.”

“I don’t, really,” she admitted.

“Molly’s got a boyfriend,” Siobhan said in a sing-song voice.

Hattie laughed at Molly’s blush. “There’s still an hour and a half before the library closes, Molly, you should go get some good solid work done on your essay.”

“I’ll come with you,” Siobhan said at once. “I won’t get it done otherwise, and I can do the Care of Magical Creatures essay after that.”

The two girls headed for the library a few minutes later and started to study. Molly rather liked studying with Siobhan, who tended to hum or sing under her breath in a light soprano while she worked. Molly wasn’t even sure Siobhan was aware of what she was doing, and would probably be embarrassed to know it, but Molly enjoyed hearing her friend’s voice so she’d never mentioned it to her.

Arthur found her while Siobhan had gone to put some books back on their shelves as the library was preparing to close for the night. Molly looked up at him with a smile and he leaned down to kiss her.

“Are you busy?” he asked, sitting down in the empty chair next to her. “I thought we might go out tonight. Hattie said you were writing a Potions paper?”

“I’m nearly finished,” Molly said. “Then we can go out.” She would have been completely finished ten minutes ago if she hadn’t spent the first twenty minutes in the library daydreaming about him, but she didn’t mention that.

“Well done.” Arthur peered over her shoulder, reading her essay. He pointed at the final paragraph she’d just finished writing. “I think you’ll find you mean pomegranate, not porcupine, right there.”

Molly frowned and peered at the offending paragraph. “Where? Oh, for the love.” She scratched out her entire last paragraph and then stared at her essay. “I can’t believe I did that, it’s completely the wrong ingredient and I went on and on about it. At least I don’t have to re-write the entire thing.”

Arthur gave her an odd look. “Why do you lot say for the love?” he asked.

“Excuse me?” Molly frowned slightly in confusion.

“All of you girls, you all say for the love a lot. I’ve never heard anyone else say it.”

“Oh.” Molly paused thoughtfully. “Well, we just always have, I suppose. I think Hattie started it when we were first years, and we all sort of started saying it after that.”

“Cecilia says it all the time,” Arthur said. “I wondered what it was all about.”

Molly shrugged. “I suppose it’s just something we do. I haven’t really thought about it. Do I say it?”

“Sometimes,” he said, grinning. “I think it’s charming.”

She smiled, blushing a little. “Well, it helps keep Siobhan from swearing, at least a little bit.”

Arthur smiled. She knew he wasn’t at all bothered by Siobhan’s swearing. “Do you need to finish the essay still?”

“No, I’ll finish it tomorrow.” Molly slammed her book closed and started gathering up her things.

Siobhan appeared at their table and gave Molly a harassed look as she picked up her things and stuffed them into her bookbag. “I’m going to be up all bloody night at this rate. I’m going back to the common room to start on my Care of Magical Creatures essay now. Are you coming along?” She seemed to notice Arthur then and gave him a smile that was half-grimace. “Hello, Arthur.”

“Hi Siobhan,” he said, smiling at her.

“Arthur and I were going to go out, but I need to bring all this back to our dorm first,” Molly said, waving a hand to indicate her books and notes.

“Are you all finished, then?” Siobhan peered at Molly’s essay, still sitting on the table.

“I have to rewrite a bit, but nearly, yes. I’ll finish it in the morning after Defence,” Molly said, feeling guilty. She’d never left her homework this late before, but she consoled herself with the thought that she didn’t have Potions until tomorrow afternoon and there was still time to finish it.

Siobhan grinned at her. “I’ll take your things back for you, Molly, you two go and have a lovely time. Try the fifth floor corridor behind the tapestry of the dancing wood nymphs, there’s a nice deserted shortcut there that’s bound to be empty at this time of night.” She gave them an extravagant wink, grabbed Molly’s things and tucked them under one arm, waving to Molly and Arthur as she walked away.

Arthur laughed. “She’s all right, isn’t she?”

Molly smiled fondly after her. “She is sweet, really. Shall we go find that tapestry or did you have something else in mind?” she asked in a low voice, glancing around to make sure they weren’t overheard, but the library was empty now.

“The tapestry sounds good to me.” Arthur took her hand as they left the library.

*

Molly brought the finished scarf down to breakfast a few days later, planning to give it to Arthur, and was pleased to find him still in the common room. He was sitting at the sofa in front of the fireplace, scribbling intently on a sheet of parchment that looked like an essay. Apparently she wasn’t the only one leaving their homework until the last moment. They had to find a way to get their studies done and still spend time together, she thought as she sat down next to him.

Arthur looked up at her and smiled, leaning over to kiss her on the cheek. He was getting quite open about it now, and would kiss her every time he saw her. She was quite happy with this arrangement and looked forward to meeting up with him in the corridors between classes to get her kiss on the cheek, or in deserted shortcuts for a much better kiss.

“Good morning,” he said. “I was just about to go down to breakfast, are you ready?”

“Yes, in a moment. I have a gift for you, Arthur,” Molly said shyly, handing him the scarf.

He looked surprised, and hesitated briefly before taking it. “What’s the occasion?”

“Just that you’re my boyfriend and I wanted to make it for you,” Molly said, feeling her cheeks heat with embarrassment. “Go on, then, take a look.”

He unfolded the scarf and examined it. “This is what you’ve been knitting? For me?” His voice was stunned, as if he couldn’t believe she’d make him something. He was so sweet, she leaned over to kiss him on the cheek.

“Do you like it?” she asked, feeling a little nervous. She’d only ever knitted for her family, or for gifts for her friends’ birthdays. Certainly never for a boyfriend.

“I love it.” He wrapped the scarf around his neck. “It’s perfect, it’s just what I needed.”

Molly was relieved, and scooted closer to him, hoping he’d wrap his arms around her. “I’m so glad. I wasn’t sure you’d like it.”

“Of course I like it, you made it,” he said, smiling at her, adjusting the scarf a bit around his neck. “I’ll wear it all the time.”

“Oh good.” Molly scooted a bit closer, so that her thigh was now lightly touching his.

Arthur pulled her into a tight embrace and started kissing her, and she threw her arms around his neck happily, not caring that they were in the middle of the common room with students walking down to breakfast right past them. Her thoughts became jumbled, as they always did when he kissed her, but she could feel his hand stroking her lower back and the thought occurred that being in his arms was the best place in the world, but then all rational thought fled and she forgot everything except kissing him back.

Dunstan’s voice came from behind them, breaking into her rosy pink haze. “Snogging here again? In broad daylight?”

She opened her eyes a tiny bit and could see Arthur shooing him away with one hand out of the corner of her eye, but he hadn’t stopped kissing her and she couldn’t seem to concentrate enough to focus on Dunstan.

“Oh, good Lord.” Dunstan shook his head at them in disgust as he walked away.

Molly giggled against Arthur’s lips, and he pulled back a little to grin at her.

“You’re much more confident now that I’m your girlfriend,” she said, and there was approval in her voice.

He grinned widely and said, “You just wait, Molly Prewett,” and then kissed her with such enthusiasm that they both fell backwards onto the sofa, with Molly still giggling as she kissed him back.

Chapter 14: How Sweet It Is
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Marvin Gaye, “How Sweet It Is”
You brightened up for me all of my days
With a love so sweet in so many ways
I want to stop and thank you baby
How sweet it is to be loved by you



The first week of November was quite possibly the best one Arthur had ever spent at Hogwarts, or anywhere else for that matter. He’d managed to make her birthday perfect, mostly through Hattie’s help (he reminded himself to get Hattie something really good for Christmas), and now not only was he dating Molly Prewett, she was snogging him at every possible opportunity. At the beginning of the year, he’d never thought it might be possible to have Molly for a girlfriend, and now he felt he had everything he’d ever wanted, and it was better than he could have possibly imagined.

The blue thing she’d been knitting had been for him. A gift for him, for no reason other than that she fancied him and he was her boyfriend. She knitted for herself and her friends, and now he had a scarf hand-knitted by Molly. He had worn it every day since she’d given it to him. Dunstan and Reid had been teasing him mercilessly for that, but he found he didn’t much care now that he could refer to her as ‘Molly Prewett, my girlfriend,’ which he did at every opportunity.

His new happiness was impervious to any teasing and even to receiving a grade that just scraped by passing on his latest History of Magic essay, which he’d written while daydreaming about Molly, so he wasn’t entirely surprised by that. His motivation for his schoolwork had dimmed in the brilliant light of his relationship with Molly. He couldn’t focus on anything but her; how could he concentrate on essays and studying when he had Molly Prewett in his arms, returning his kisses and watching him with admiration in those bright brown eyes?

He’d been on the verge of declaring his undying love for her on her birthday. She’d looked so beautiful in the moonlight up on the Astronomy Tower, and then she’d kissed him like that, and he’d drawn a breath to tell her, but he couldn’t quite do it. It was too soon, he thought, and he didn’t want to scare her off.

He adjusted the scarf around his neck and went into class, where Molly and Hattie were already sitting at their usual table, and he bent to kiss her on the forehead quickly while Flitwick’s back was turned, then sat at his usual table behind her. Molly kept glancing over her shoulder at him and smiling throughout the lesson.

When class was over, he and Molly walked hand in hand down the corridor next to Hattie, Dunstan, and Petula. Reid and Cecilia had already split off for their other classes, Cecilia throwing dirty looks at Reid as she went, and Siobhan had gone for destinations unknown that probably included Roddy Feltham and a dark broom cupboard.

Molly said she needed to go to the library, and Arthur, thinking of his near miss in History of Magic, admitted he needed to as well. Hattie gave them a suspicious look but continued to the common room with Dunstan and Petula. Dunstan was eyeing Petula in a way that made Arthur grin, making a mental note to tease his friend later.

Arthur had been half-expecting Molly to lead him off to a broom cupboard as well, but she went to the library after all. When they’d found a table in the back corner of the library and settled into their chairs, he gave her a hopeful smile. It was a nice secluded corner.

His smile slowly faded when Molly turned to him with a determined expression that clearly did not portend any snogging.

“Arthur, I want to talk to you,” she said in a firm voice.

Immediately apprehension filled him. “What about?” he asked cautiously.

“Well, if it weren’t for the girls letting me borrow their notes, I’m not sure I’d have passed my last Arithmancy quiz, and I had to copy some of Hattie’s Transfiguration homework yesterday.” Her brows were knitted forlornly, and she looked truly upset over copying Hattie’s work.

“I only barely passed my last History of Magic essay,” Arthur admitted.

“There, you see? We both need to study more.” She took a deep breath, as if steeling herself to say something unpleasant. “I think we should stop going out on school nights. We need to study or we’re both going to fail this year.”

Arthur was disappointed, but he had to acknowledge that she had a point. “You’re right, Molly. Are you sure you want to stop though? We won’t have as much time together.” He was half prepared to quit studying altogether if it meant he could spend more time with her.

“Of course I don’t want to,” she said at once. “But we need to pass our N.E.W.T.s, don’t we? We can study together, then we’ll still see each other in the evenings. And we can go out together on weekends.”

“Right.” Arthur was a little disheartened. “But what about…”

Molly turned a little pink. “There’ll still be time for some snogging,” she whispered. “I’m not giving that up.”

“Oh good,” Arthur said, relieved.

“We just need to find a way to be together and stop neglecting our studies, that’s all. We shouldn’t go out on school nights so much. But I still want to be with you, of course. It’s just that, we’re in school to get our N.E.W.T.s, not to snog.” She gave him a pleading look, and he leaned in to kiss her gently.

“Whatever you think is best, Molly.”

She smiled, looking pleased at his acquiescence, and started pulling her books out from her bag, and he couldn’t help but feel a stab of loss at the thought that they would have fewer late-night wanderings in the castle together. But she was quite right, they did need to study. Still, she’d said she wasn’t going to give up snogging him, and that was definitely something. He was secretly hoping they would have the rest of their lives to snog, but first things first… And studying with her was quite nice. He’d just have to find more creative ways to use their time while still prioritising his studies. He pulled out his Charms textbook and settled down into his chair.

They were getting better at studying together; he was able to focus more easily now and actually felt Molly’s presence at his side was starting to be a comfort rather than a distraction. They worked well together too when they were studying the same subject, particularly in a group study when they couldn’t be distracted by each other – he found their discussions on theory particularly enlightening. Molly was very smart, and he liked to think he held his own. She was quite opinionated too. She was so cute when she was telling him how very wrong he was about cross-species switches.

As they discussed the latest chapter in their Charms textbook, an idea started to blossom in the back of Arthur’s mind. If they got their homework done first … maybe she would be willing to cut into her sleep a bit for some snogging before bed. He wondered if he could wear her down about this. Maybe she’d miss sneaking around the castle with him at nights. They could go out after their homework was done, but it would be quite late at night, they’d have to avoid the prefect patrols and Mr. Pringle… It sounded fun, actually. He dragged his full attention back to Molly and their discussion, and determined to work out a plan later.

*

Arthur was headed for History of Magic the next day when he heard someone calling his name from behind him.

He turned and was surprised to see Cecilia and Siobhan beckoning him from behind a tapestry of a young woman petting a unicorn. He walked over to them and had just opened his mouth to say hello when Cecilia seized him by the front of his robes and yanked him into the secret passageway.

“What’s going on?” he asked nervously when Cecilia let go, smoothing his scarf and robes down.

“We need to talk to you where Molly won’t see or hear,” Cecilia said.

“What are you getting Molly for Christmas?” Siobhan asked, going straight to the point as usual.

He was a little taken aback, and looked at her guiltily. “Christmas? Erm…”

“Yes, Christmas,” Cecilia said. “After that birthday party, you’d better think of something good. It’s going to be hard to top that.”

That statement sent Arthur into a panic. Had he set the bar too high for himself? Hattie had helped him come up with the birthday plans; he’d never have managed it alone. Now he had to start planning for Christmas as well? It was barely even November, really! He was still basking in the success of last week’s birthday party and gift. He hadn’t even thought about Christmas yet.

Apparently Cecilia and Siobhan could tell what he was thinking, because Siobhan rolled her eyes and Cecilia heaved a big sigh, shaking her head.

“Since you clearly don’t have anything planned…” Siobhan began, and then looked to Cecilia.

Cecilia jumped in immediately. “You know Molly loves Celestina Warbeck, right?”

“Yes,” Arthur responded, looking at the two girls in confusion. “I don’t understand why, though.” Celestina wasn’t exactly his cup of tea, but Molly perked up whenever she heard the Singing Sorceress, so he went along with it. She put up with his Muggle fascination even though he could tell she didn’t share it, so he could put up with a little Celestina Warbeck, even though he thought her songs were terrible.

Siobhan grinned sympathetically at that, and Cecilia said, “Yes, well, there’s a Celestina concert in Hogsmeade just before Christmas break. Molly’s never seen her in concert before, she’s been talking about going to one for ages.”

“That would be perfect,” Arthur exclaimed. “Is it on a Hogsmeade weekend?”

Cecilia and Siobhan exchanged a look. “Well, no,” Siobhan said. “That’s the problem. It’s on the first Thursday in December. But you know everyone in school, and we heard there are secret passages out of the castle and into Hogsmeade, so you could ask your friends-”

“I’m sure that great prat Reid knows how to sneak out of the castle,” Cecilia said scathingly.

Siobhan rolled her eyes at her friend but continued without acknowledging Cecilia’s remark. “And surely one of them can tell you how to get out of the castle.”

Arthur glanced over his shoulder unnecessarily, as they were quite alone behind the tapestry. He was a little surprised that Hattie hadn’t told them about his discussion with her over Molly’s birthday gift, or they’d already know that he could sneak into Hogsmeade. “Actually, I already know a couple of passages out of the castle.”

Cecilia looked mildly impressed. “Well, there you have it, then,” she said.

Arthur stared off over her shoulder, thinking hard. If he got tickets by owl, and then asked Molly out for that evening…. He’d have to convince her to go out on a school night, right after she’d declared they had to stop doing just that. Not just out for a snog either, but actually out of the castle. They could sneak out using the passage behind the fourth-floor mirror, and back into Hogwarts the same way. She loved Celestina…. He could stand an evening of the Singing Sorceress for his Miss Prewett. Molly would undoubtedly be in a snogging kind of mood after the concert, and that would give him something to look forward to, to get him through the evening.

Cecilia let out a sigh. Clearly she thought he was taking too long to agree to their plan. “Well, Arthur?” she asked impatiently.

“Yeah, I’ll do it. If she won’t agree to go out with me on a school night, I’ll need your help,” he warned them. “She says we both need to study more and stop going out on school nights.”

“Don’t worry,” Siobhan assured him. “If you get the tickets, we’ll make sure Molly agrees to an evening stroll with you, and you can surprise her with the concert. You’d better get the tickets quickly, though, or it will be sold out.”

“We’ll make sure it goes off without a hitch,” Cecilia added. “We’ve already decided to do her homework for her that night.”

“Why aren’t you two taking her?” Arthur asked.

“Because Cecilia refuses to sneak out of the castle on a school night,” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes.

“I’m a prefect, Siobhan. And she,” Cecilia jabbed her thumb at Siobhan as she turned back to Arthur, “can’t stand Celestina.”

“Well, she is awful. So we thought you should take Molly,” Siobhan finished. “She’ll be happier for you to take her than if we did anyway.”

Arthur smiled at them. “You’re good friends to her. Are you sure you don’t want me to set you up with Reid, Cecilia?”

She gave him a look of death, and Siobhan laughed. “She’d sooner date the giant squid.”

*

Arthur went straight to the owlery to send off for the Celestina tickets after his last class. It was going to cost most of his meagre savings, but that didn’t really matter when he compared it to the picture in his mind of the look on Molly’s face when he told her he was taking her to see Celestina Warbeck.

The next week flew by without him getting a chance to speak to Molly about adjusting their schedules for some extra time in the evening. It did not help that the Hogwarts staff was loading the sixth-years down with heavy loads of homework. Petula had a minor breakdown in the common room one day in the middle of the month, bursting into tears and collapsing into Hattie’s shoulder as she flung her Charms textbook into the fire. Cecilia barely managed to rescue it with a wave of her wand just before it went into the coals, and Hattie had to break into her emergency stash of chocolate before Petula would calm down again.

Arthur received the tickets by owl one morning at breakfast shortly after Petula’s meltdown, and had to stuff the envelope into his pocket quickly while Molly was opening her weekly letter from her parents. Cecilia appeared to have realized what Arthur’s mail was and asked Molly how her mum was to distract her. Molly turned to speak to Cecilia and Arthur shooed his owl away and went back to eating as if nothing had happened. Dunstan was staring at him strangely.

Lingerie?” he mouthed from across the table with a sudden grin.

Arthur scowled at him and mouthed back, “Shut it.”

Cosmo, sitting next to Dunstan, let out a loud snort, and ducked his head over his plate when Molly glanced at him.

Arthur walked Molly to class after breakfast and had to run, clutching his scarf to keep it from flying off, in order to get to his own class on time. Once he was safely in History of Magic, he pulled the tickets out of his pocket and examined them. The doors opened at half past eight, and the concert started at nine. He put the tickets in his bag thoughtfully, frowning a bit. Perhaps they could sneak out a bit early and have a late tea before the concert.

Reid, sitting next to him, had noticed the tickets. “What are those?” he whispered.

“Concert tickets,” Arthur muttered. He didn’t particularly want to admit which concert, but Reid did not let that answer go.

“Concert tickets to which concert?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Celestina Warbeck,” Arthur said under his breath, half-hoping Reid would not hear.

Reid let out a loud guffaw. Most of the class looked over at them, and Arthur slumped down a little, feeling his ears turn red. Reid grinned unabashedly. When everyone had looked away again and Professor Binns’ droning monotone had resumed, Reid nudged Arthur.

Why are you going to see Celestina bloody Warbeck?” he said out of the corner of his mouth, sounding highly amused.

“Molly loves her,” Arthur said in a low voice.

Reid looked pained and shook his head. “You are completely gone on her, mate.”

“I know,” Arthur said, but he couldn’t help grinning a little.

Chapter 15: You're The One
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The Vogues, “You’re The One”
Every time we meet, everything is sweet
Oh, you're so tender, I must surrender
My love is your love, now and forever

Baby, you're the one that I love



The second Saturday in November dawned cool and crisp, and Molly woke early to write an essay for Arithmancy before Apparition lessons. She, Hattie, and Cecilia stayed in their dormitory to work together, and were finished before lunch. Molly was feeling quite proud of herself: her schoolwork was back on track now and her marks were perfect again.

Arthur had taken the news that they couldn’t go out on school nights any more quite well, and they were finally settling into a study routine together. She was quite pleased at how he really listened to her when she gently corrected his sometimes erroneous notions about their shared classes. She could feel herself relaxing around him more now, and began finding herself lecturing him a bit and trying to arrange his study schedule for him. He didn’t seem to mind, however, and she drafted up a schedule for him for the next week, which she was gratified to see him look over with interest when she handed it to him at breakfast. She started planning to make him one for next week as well.

The girls went down for lunch before Apparition, and met up with Petula and Siobhan in the Great Hall. Arthur, Dunstan, and Cosmo were sitting with them, but Reid was further down the table with Roddy and a seventh-year boy whose name Molly wasn’t certain of. Cecilia seemed to be in a pleasant frame of mind because of Reid’s absence, and was laughing with Siobhan.

A single lonely owl flew in as the students were eating, carrying a large red envelope. It was headed for the Gryffindor table, and Molly spared it a single glance before continuing her lunch. She glanced over at Arthur’s plate and saw he had nearly finished, but was still animatedly chatting with Dunstan and Cosmo and hadn’t noticed his nearly-empty plate. She added another slice of shepherd’s pie to his plate. He didn’t seem to notice, but Hattie did, and smiled at her kindly. She went back to her own lunch with a grin that probably looked a little lovesick, but she didn’t care.

“Oh dear,” Petula said, craning her head to see down the table. “Looks like your brothers have gotten another Howler, Molly.”

“Again?” She put her fork down and stood up to frown at her little brothers, who were tossing the Howler back and forth between them as if it were boiling hot. “For the love! That’s their sixth this year, and it’s not even Christmas!”

The Howler burst open, and most of the students in the hall covered their ears as the magnified voice of Mrs. Prewett rolled over the tables, filling up all the empty space in the hall with the sound of her disapproval. Molly shook her head at her brothers, still frowning at them with her hands clapped over her ears. They were determinedly not looking at her, both of them ducked down with their fingers stuffed in their ears as the Howler let loose its fury.

“Gideon and Fabian! Not again! If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times….”

When her mother’s voice had finally died out with a final rebuke about bringing shame to the family, Molly tried to catch her brothers’ eyes, but they were now laughing to each other, though they looked a little red, and she glanced around and saw that even the teachers did not seem surprised or perturbed by yet another Howler for her brothers. The noise level in the hall had gone back to normal quite quickly too. No one else seemed at all concerned over the Howler. As she sat down, she realized the headmaster was watching her.

Dumbledore smiled when their eyes met, his eyes twinkling kindly at her, and Molly smiled sheepishly at him. She decided to let her brothers’ apparent misbehaviour go this time. She hadn’t been lecturing them nearly as much this year as she usually did, since her time was occupied so much with Arthur.

Arthur was currently finishing off the second slice of shepherd’s pie she’d given him, and he leaned over to peck her on the cheek when he noticed her watching him. Molly smiled and pulled her copy of the Ministry pamphlet on Apparition out of her pocket.

Four lessons in to Apparition, and only a few students had managed to Apparate. Cressida Titherington had been the first to Apparate out of their year, and Thaddeus’s look of pride when his girlfriend had managed this feat had been quite adorable to see. Last week two more Ravenclaws, Jasper Mussa and Letitia Watcock, and the Slytherin sixth-year prefect Lysander Acheron had all Apparated successfully. Tensions seemed to be running high between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff boys, who were all determined that their House should be next. Molly had never understood the obsession with competition of any variety that all boys seemed to have, but it wasn’t only the boys who were turning Apparition into a contest: Petula was also determined that someone from Gryffindor should Apparate next, and she had decided Cecilia and Roddy Feltham were the front-runners for their House, apparently having given up entirely on herself and not considering either Molly, Hattie, or Siobhan.

“You can do it, Cecilia,” Petula said encouragingly as they waited in the entrance hall after lunch. “We’ve got to make it this week, we can’t let Hufflepuff get there ahead of us. You don’t want Gryffindor to be the last House to Apparate, do you?”

Cecilia scowled at her. “Stop it, Petula, or I swear I will hex you right now.”

Petula turned her attention to Roddy, who had come over to join them with Reid. Siobhan was studiously ignoring him. She was now seeing Addae Owusu of Hufflepuff, or possibly Akwetee, Molly wasn’t entirely sure. It was possible that Siobhan wasn’t sure which twin she was seeing either. Molly felt a little sorry for Roddy, who had evidently felt that his relationship with Siobhan was more than just snogging, and had been watching her in the common room with a slightly hangdog expression.

“Roddy, are you feeling confident today?” Petula asked heartily, giving him a pat on the shoulder. “Do you think you’ll Apparate?”

Roddy looked surprised and wary. “Dunno. I might. Why, am I supposed to today?”

“Someone from Gryffindor needs to,” Petula said determinedly.

“I’m bloody well not going to, I suppose,” Siobhan said suddenly, rolling her eyes at Petula.

“Language, Siobhan,” Molly said, though it was rather half-hearted. She was becoming resigned to the fact that Siobhan would never clean up her language entirely.

“I’ll see you lot in the hall.” Siobhan strolled away in the direction of the Owusu twins, who both straightened up at her approach. Molly hoped Siobhan wasn’t snogging both of them. Roddy gazed after her, looking a little crestfallen.

“What about me, Petula?” Dunstan asked, and Molly glanced at Arthur in time to see him grin wickedly at his friend. She looked back at Dunstan a little more closely and saw the way he was looking at Petula. Oh dear.

“What about you?” Petula answered peevishly, then turned back to Roddy. “Don’t you want Gryffindor to be next?”

“Course I do,” Roddy said immediately. His eyes were on Siobhan still. “I thought Reid would probably be first though.”

“Really?” Petula looked surprised.

“I am doing eleven N.E.W.T.s, you know,” Reid said, looking disgruntled. “I’m not stupid.”

Cecilia let out a loud “Ha!” which caused Reid’s face to flush an ugly shade of maroon, and Arthur and Roddy apparently decided it was best to remove Reid from her presence, each grabbing one of his arms and hauling him away while he looked over his shoulder at Cecilia with a frown.

“What if he does Apparate, Cecilia?” Hattie asked. “He does get good marks, you know. He isn’t stupid.”

Cecilia scowled at her. “Oh, shove off, Hattie.”

Petula snickered.

“The doors just opened,” Hattie said calmly. “Let’s go in, shall we?”

Arthur appeared next to her in the hall with a speed that would have indicated Apparition if she hadn’t known that he couldn’t actually Apparate yet. He looked quite confident, and she began to secretly hope he would be the first Gryffindor to Apparate.

As luck would have it though, halfway through the lesson, just when Molly was beginning to get a fit of the giggles again over how silly everyone looked twirling hopelessly in the Great Hall, she heard a crack behind her and turned around just in time to see a very surprised-looking Reid reappearing inside his hoop. Dunstan started clapping for his friend and Arthur was grinning widely from beside Molly. Roddy clapped Reid on the back, making him stumble a bit. Thaddeus, over near the Ravenclaws, put his fists in the air in triumph.

Boys were very odd.

Molly turned back around and saw Cecilia stamping on her hoop in fury, with Petula grinning beside her. Hattie had her hand over her mouth to cover a big smile.

“Go, go Gryffindor!” Petula crowed, dancing a little jig on the spot, and Cecilia gave her a little shove.

*

Cecilia stalked off after Apparition with her wand in her hand, ready to hex anyone who got in her way, and no one was quite brave enough to follow her. She seemed to have taken it as a personal affront that Reid was the first Gryffindor to Apparate, even though two more Slytherins, another Ravenclaw, the Hufflepuff prefect Winifred Fairholm, and Thaddeus had also managed it this lesson. Molly was fairly certain that Cecilia would be in the library the rest of the day, determined to outshine Reid in the next Apparition lesson at any cost.

Arthur pulled out the schedule Molly had made him for that week and announced that he was off to do his Muggle Studies homework. Petula invited herself along unabashedly and left with Arthur for Gryffindor Tower to get their books. Hattie turned to Molly with a smile.

“Shall we work on Arithmancy this afternoon, or Potions?”

“Potions,” Molly sighed. “We’ve got to look up all the uses of leeches for Slughorn.”

Siobhan peeled herself away from the Owusu twins and hurried over to talk to Molly and Hattie.

“Was that one of your patented Molly-Bosses-You-Around homework charts I just saw?” she demanded in an incredulous voice. “Did you make one for Arthur?”

Molly glared at Siobhan. “Yes, I did. He was glad of it, too.”

Siobhan shook her head. “Of course he’d say that, he fancies you. He’s just letting you boss him around so you’ll keep snogging him.”

“I’m not bossing him around, I’m just helping him to be organized. And that’s not true. Arthur wouldn’t do that,” she added in annoyance.

“All boys do that,” Siobhan said.

“Not Arthur,” Molly retorted confidently.

Hattie was staying studiously quiet, staring up at the ceiling.

Siobhan put her hands on her hips. “Excuse me, who knows more about boys here, me or you?”

“You know more about snogging,” Molly said, feeling stung. “That doesn’t mean you know more about boys.”

Hattie’s eyes widened slightly, but Siobhan just stuck her tongue out. She didn’t appear to take that remark to heart.

Years of arguing with their dormitory mates had given the girls the ability to ignore most of the criticism that came their way. Upon further reflection, Molly thought that might be why they hadn’t managed to stop Siobhan from swearing. Living together for the past five and a half years had not always been harmonious, and the occasional loud and sometimes theatrical fight had erupted, but Hattie was a great peacekeeper and generally settled the bad feelings before they festered. The girls had learned each others’ personalities well enough that they knew in a fight, for example, Molly had a short fuse but forgave quickly, Petula liked melodrama and could create it out of thin air, Hattie bottled up her feelings because she wanted to be a proper lady, Siobhan would curse a blue streak and then go snog someone to vent her rage, and Cecilia held grudges, as Siobhan put it, as if she were Irish.

Siobhan didn’t bring up the schedule Molly had drawn up for Arthur again that weekend, although she rolled her eyes whenever she saw him looking at it. By Monday, Molly was starting to wonder whether Siobhan didn’t have a point about it after all, and perhaps Arthur was only putting up with the schedule because he was hoping for continued weekend snogging. But then, he seemed to be using it, and he was getting all his schoolwork done in a timely manner since she’d been setting their study times, and wasn’t that what was important?

Still, she worried about it most of the day, and by the time class had gotten out for the day Monday afternoon and she settled in on the sofa in front of the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room, she was debating internally whether or not to ask him about it.

Arthur came to join her for an evening of studying for the next day’s lessons, and gave her a quick peck on the cheek as he sat down next to her on the sofa with a contented smile.

“Siobhan says you’re only saying you like the schedule so I’ll keep snogging you,” she blurted out in a rush as he pulled out his Transfiguration textbook, then winced. She hadn’t meant to ask quite like that.

His ears reddened, but he said immediately, “Not at all. I’m pleased with the schedule. I know you drew it up with my best interests at heart.”

“Yes,” Molly agreed swiftly. “I want you to do well in school, Arthur.”

It occurred to her that he had managed to get eight O.W.L.s without her help, but he distracted her by giving her a kiss and saying, “I’m not just saying it so you’ll snog me, Molly. I really do appreciate you taking the time to make that schedule for me.”

Molly sighed, her shoulders relaxing. He really was so sweet. “I’m glad. I was getting worried about it. I’m not bossy, really.”

“Yes, you are,” Arthur said easily.

Her eyes widened at that. “Arthur!”

“I like you anyway,” he grinned.

Molly had to try hard to hold on to her frown, but he started chuckling and she couldn’t help cracking a little smile.

They studied together until late into the evening, with Hattie joining them to do a little revising for their Transfiguration test the next day. Molly’s brothers strolled past shortly after Hattie had called it a night and gone to bed, looking suspiciously innocent as they waved to their big sister, and she narrowed her eyes at them as they went out the portrait hole.

“Where do you suppose they’re going? It’s past curfew.”

“Perhaps they’re returning a library book,” Arthur said calmly.

“At this hour? Them?” Molly snorted. “They’re making trouble.”

“Do you want to follow them to see what they’re up to?” he asked, blinking at her over the rims of his glasses.

Molly watched the portrait hole for a moment while the natural sisterly urge to go knock some sense into her brothers’ heads wrestled with her desire to spend the last of the evening with Arthur.

“No,” she said finally. “I ought to go to bed soon. I’ll deal with them later.”

Arthur closed his textbook with a determined look, as if he’d been waiting for the topic of bedtime to come up.

“I couldn’t help but notice,” he began carefully, sounding rehearsed, “that on the schedule you gave me, you’ve put bedtime at ten o’clock.”

Molly wasn’t sure where he was going with this, and gazed at him warily. “Yes,” she said slowly. “A good night’s sleep is important to getting good marks.”

“Right. Well, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind getting a bit less sleep if there were something more interesting to, erm, do.” His ears had turned a bit red.

She frowned at him for a moment, then realisation dawned and she felt the blood rising into her cheeks. “Oh. Oh! Yes.” She glanced down at the schedule she’d drawn up for herself, which also had a ten o’clock bedtime. “Well. I didn’t think of that.”

“I’d be just fine with an hour or two less sleep,” Arthur said firmly, as if he had planned out what he was going to say and was determined to get through all of it. “It would give us an hour or two more to spend together. In fact, I think as soon as our homework’s done, there’s no reason why we can’t see each other on school nights as well as on the weekend.”

Molly was feeling a little railroaded, but she had to admit that he made an excellent point. Sleep did sound less appealing than spending time alone with Arthur. And maybe sneaking about the castle for a good snog. “I suppose that’s true, yes,” she allowed.

Arthur put the schedule she’d made for him back into his bag. “Well, that’s settled then. We can go out after we’ve finished our homework.”

“I’m done with mine right now, actually, if you’re free,” she said, trying to sound sophisticated and worldly.

Arthur grinned widely as he grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. “Oh, I’m free tonight, Molly.”

*

She noticed a small change in Arthur’s behaviour as the month wore on, and the final Hogsmeade weekend before the Christmas holiday approached.

He spoke louder when they passed someone in the hallways talking about Hogsmeade, as if he were trying to cover up any mention of the village, and their friends had not mentioned it at all, when normally they chatted quite a bit about the upcoming weekend in town. She had no idea why he didn’t seem to want her to know about the Hogsmeade weekend, when it was perfectly obvious the school was having one – there was always one right before the holiday.

Something strange was going on.

She tried to ask the girls about it late one night, but Petula stared at her blankly, apparently not having noticed anything, and Hattie just shrugged. Siobhan rolled her eyes and started in about the schedule again, which effectively derailed the conversation for the rest of the night as Cecilia argued against trying to arrange your boyfriend’s activities and Hattie loyally defended it as simply part of Molly’s caring and helpful nature, which set Siobhan to laughing hysterically.

Molly threw a pillow at Siobhan, frowning at her. “I am caring! I just want him to do well in school.”

“You’re being very controlling,” Cecilia said. “Would you want him to give you a schedule telling you how to spend your day?”

“You’re just angry because Reid Apparated before you did,” Molly said crossly.

Cecilia’s nostrils flared as she drew in a sharp breath. “Do you know what he did to me?”

“It is a little bossy, Molly,” Petula threw in half-heartedly. She clearly did not want to get involved in the argument, but was siding with Cecilia and Siobhan in it. Petula was often the swing vote in their dormitory.

Molly scowled at them. She was regretting the schedule heartily now and felt like shouting at her friends until she felt better. “I was just trying to help. I’ve made homework schedules for you lot before, at exam time.”

“Yes, and it was very helpful for studying for our O.W.L.s, wasn’t it, girls?” Hattie said, glaring at the others.

Siobhan shrugged.

“I suppose,” Cecilia allowed grudgingly.

“You are very good at keeping a hectic schedule straight,” Petula admitted. “I might have gotten even fewer O.W.L.s without it.”

“There you go,” Hattie said triumphantly. “Now leave her alone.”

“Oh, all right.” Cecilia exchanged a sly grin with Siobhan as she turned around to change into her pyjamas, and Molly wondered what that was all about as she whispered a thank you to Hattie for sticking up for her and her bossy homework schedules.







A/N: Gah! I never do author notes, I know, but hopefully this chapter seemed like more than just filler, since I meant it to show the beginning of Molly/Arthur settling into a Molly's The Boss situation. And yes, the girls are picking fights so Molly won't find out about the concert - they're so subtle LOL. The concert comes next, I haven't finished the chapter yet - it's only about 1400 words right now and I have a lot more to write. Hopefully this week it'll be done. I've actually been sitting on Ch.15 for a while, I wasn't sure I was 100% pleased with it. Ok I'll stop now. Good night. I hope you enjoyed it.

Chapter 16: I Say A Little Prayer
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Dionne Warwick, I Say A Little Prayer
Oh, how I'll love you
Together, together, that's how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me



Arthur left Apparition lessons in high spirits. Contrary to Petula’s loudly expressed beliefs, neither Roddy nor Cecilia had Apparated that afternoon. Reid had been the first Gryffindor to Apparate, and Arthur was quite proud of his friend and pleased with the day’s lesson, and not just because Reid’s Apparition had won him five Sickles from Cosmo and Dunstan.

The schedule had been interesting. Molly had drawn up a very detailed homework schedule for him, with his every hour blocked out. He’d wanted to laugh at her and hug her at the same time when she’d presented it to him, telling him briskly that he would get more done if he was better organized. It was very sweet of her to try to take care of him. To him, the schedule showed Molly cared for him, even though it was in a typically bossy and headstrong Molly Prewett sort of way.

His friends had, of course, not seen it that way. He’d tried to keep it from them at first, but Dunstan had seen Molly handing him something at breakfast and wanted to know what it was as soon as the girls had left for their homework session. The uproar of mirth that resulted as they passed around the schedule was extremely annoying.

“Hey, who’s getting snogged every day here, eh?” Arthur said crossly, snatching the schedule out of Reid’s hand as Reid brushed a tear of laughter off his cheek. “Not you lot. And it does help to see all the assignments laid out like that. I know I won’t forget anything. Not to sound like Reid or anything, but you know what else this means,” and he tapped the schedule as he sat back in satisfaction. “She loves me.”

Dunstan was grinning still. “Well, you might have a point about the snogging, mate, but come on. She made you a schedule?”

“You think that shows she loves you?” Reid asked, pulling a sceptical face.

“Yes. And I’m going to tell her I love her at the concert.” Arthur waited for his friends to be impressed by his emotional daring.

“I suppose if you have to go to a Celestina Warbeck concert, you may as well get some really good snogging for it,” Reid said, and Dunstan nodded agreement.

Arthur scowled at them. “I’m not telling her because I want her to snog me, I’m telling her because I do love her.”

“Are you going to buy her some lingerie, then?” Dunstan asked.

“I don’t know why I talk to either of you,” Arthur said.

*

He managed to talk Molly into agreeing to go out after their homework was done in the evenings, but the resumed nightly assignations he’d been hoping for did not quite work out: most nights their homework was taking so long that by the time they’d finished it, they were both too worn out or too stressed to go out together. They’d only been out once last week, and now as the concert approached he wasn’t sure any longer that he’d be able to convince her to go. They really needed to leave by half past seven, maybe a quarter to eight, and that was so early…. The letter with the tickets said the doors would not reopen once the concert started, so he wanted to be sure they didn’t miss it.

His nerves were jumping on the day of the concert, and he didn’t think he heard a word of his classes that day. He spent all of History of Magic rehearsing what he was going to say to Molly to convince her to go out early in the evening, before she’d finished her homework.

He rushed upstairs after dinner to change out of his school robes and had to tear apart his entire school trunk looking for the tickets before remembering that he’d left them in his bookbag. By the time he got downstairs, Molly was firmly ensconced with a pile of textbooks in one of the overstuffed chairs in front of the fireplace, wearing a set of blue robes with a sort of strange flounce at the bottom hem and flared sleeves that she had undoubtedly knitted herself. Arthur wondered about girls and fashion sometimes.

Cecilia, Siobhan, and Hattie were all sitting around the fireplace as well, and Siobhan looked up at him expectantly as he approached them and began his practised invitation to Molly to go out with him that evening. Hattie was sneaking glances up at them while she pretended to read her Herbology textbook, and Cecilia abandoned all pretence and snapped her book closed as he began speaking, watching him steadily. It was a little disconcerting to have all four girls watching him closely as he spoke, even though he knew Molly’s friends were on his side for the night.

“I am not going anywhere until my homework is done,” Molly said firmly, interrupting him in the middle of his carefully rehearsed speech. “You know we said we wouldn’t go out any more until afterward.”

“But, Molly,” he began.

“Arthur, there’s only one more day before the weekend, we can just wait until tomorrow night.” She was giving him an exasperated look, as if she could not believe he was disagreeing with her.

“Molly, it can’t wait until tomorrow. Please, just come with me.”

“I can’t, I have to get this essay done.”

Arthur glanced helplessly over at Molly’s friends. This wasn’t going according to plan. That didn’t bode at all well for the evening. Fortunately the other Gryffindor girls were there to throw in their weight.

“Don’t worry, Molly, we’ll help you with your essay later,” Cecilia said soothingly. “Go on and enjoy yourself.”

Hattie gave her an encouraging nod. “Run along, don’t worry.”

Molly gave them a look that was both hopeful and uncertain, and Arthur knew he had her then. He glanced at her friends, sitting around the fire, and felt a burst of affection for the girls. They had done so much to help him in his burgeoning relationship with Molly, and he knew they did it with her happiness in mind, and felt quite grateful to them. They were such nice girls. If he’d had any money left after the concert, and if Reid hadn’t ruined flowers for all the girls who’d been at Hogwarts last year, he’d have sent them all flowers.

“Please, Molly,” he said again, taking her hand and giving it a little tug.

“Are you sure?” she asked, but it was directed at her friends.

“Go on,” Hattie said, smiling.

Siobhan shooed them away with a wave of her hand. “Loosen up, Molly. Go have a little fun.”

Molly allowed herself to be pulled to her feet, and as they walked toward the portrait hole, Arthur shot a wide grin back at the girls, who were all watching them leave with devilish little smiles on their faces.

Molly followed him to the fourth floor mirror that covered the passageway into Hogsmeade that he’d used to buy her birthday gift, and she gave him a strange look as they ducked behind the mirror.

“What is this, a shortcut?” she asked in a low voice.

“Something like that.”

He lit his wand tip, and Molly followed suit, as they entered the dark passageway. He could see her face in the dim light as she glanced warily at the walls. She stopped quite suddenly in her tracks after a few moments, bringing him to a halt too as her hand was clasped tightly in his.

“This is one of the secret passages into Hogsmeade, isn’t it?” she demanded.

“Molly, come on, we can’t be late.” He tugged on her hand to try to get her moving again.

“Late for what? Where are we going?” She pulled her hand out of his to cross her arms in front of her chest. “I’m not going another step until you tell me what’s going on, Arthur Weasley.”

“It’s a surprise, Molly, but please, come on.” He held out one hand to her entreatingly. “Please,” he repeated when she didn’t take his hand, feeling frustrated. He didn’t want to rush her, but he knew she’d be upset if they were late to the concert. Once she found out about it.

Molly frowned at him for a moment, then let out a loud sigh and took his hand.

“Oh, this is so silly,” she grumbled as they walked down the passageway. “We’re going to be caught and expelled. We should go back now before someone sees us.”

“We’re not going to be expelled,” Arthur said in exasperation. “Nobody’s going to see us, either. You won’t want to miss this, I promise.”

Molly looked doubtful by the dim wandlight. “I should be doing homework. I’m going to be up all night trying to write that essay.”

“Cecilia and Siobhan are doing your homework tonight. Probably Hattie too.”

“Not Petula, I hope,” Molly said, then clapped her hands over her mouth, looking horrified and embarrassed, as Arthur gave a shout of laughter. “I didn’t just say that, did I? That was so uncharitable.”

Arthur was grinning widely. “You did say it, but it’s all right, I know what you mean.”

“I’m a terrible friend. It just slipped out. Don’t tell her I said that,” Molly said pleadingly.

“I won’t tell, Molly. Come on, we’re almost there.”

Molly followed him in silence for a moment. The stairs at the end of the tunnel finally appeared, and Arthur climbed up to check that the coast was clear.

“Come on,” he called softly to her.

She looked at him doubtfully again, but she climbed up behind him and they slipped out into the station and headed for the village. There were crowds of witches and wizards heading into the village from all directions, and Arthur and Molly were able to blend in quite easily as they entered the village and headed for the concert hall. Arthur hadn’t been entirely certain where it was, but the movement of the crowd was flowing directly toward it, and he was a bit relieved to see the large marquee proclaiming Celestina’s name and the queue outside the door. They’d made it on time after all.

“What is going on? I’ve never seen Hogsmeade so crowded.” Molly saw the name on the marquee then and clutched at Arthur’s arm with a loud gasp. “Celestina Warbeck is here!”

Arthur grinned. “That’s the surprise, Molly.” He pulled the heavy parchment tickets out of his pocket and showed them to her with a flourish.

Molly let out a high-pitched shriek and snatched the tickets out of his hand, bouncing up and down with excitement. “You got tickets to see Celestina!”

“Happy Christmas,” he said with a chuckle. “I told you you wouldn’t want to miss this.”

Molly flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and lifting her feet off the ground. Arthur had to grab her waist and take a few steps back to keep them both from falling over.

“Oh, Arthur!” she cried, kissing him firmly on the lips. “You are the best!”

Arthur hugged her close and grinned widely. This was even better than he’d pictured it. She was practically vibrating with excitement as he set her down and they queued up to get into the concert, and continued to bounce as they waited. She had the tickets clutched tightly in one hand and Arthur’s hand in the other.

“How does my hair look?” Molly asked suddenly, as if realizing that she might not have dressed appropriately. “And my robes? Oh, I wish I’d known, I would have worn something else.”

“You look beautiful, Molly. I wanted it to be a surprise,” Arthur said, feeling a little uncertain about that decision now.

Molly patted her hair a bit and smiled at him. “Of course you did. It’s a wonderful surprise, really. I’m just being silly.”

Arthur was reassured, and leaned down to kiss her. She turned to him at the last second and he ended up kissing her lips instead of the cheek he’d been aiming for. It was a nice little surprise, and he looked up to see an older witch nearby smiling indulgently at them.

He looked around and realized the concert-goers were mostly witches. The wizards there were glancing at each other sheepishly and Arthur realized they were all there only for their girlfriends and wives. There were a few who seemed genuinely excited to see Celestina, but most had an excited-looking witch on their arm and a slightly embarrassed expression at being seen outside a Celestina Warbeck concert.

Arthur had just turned to glance over the back of the line when he recognized a face not far from them and ducked down quickly, wide-eyed with shock. Molly looked down at him, startled.

“What’s the matter?” she asked warily.

“It’s Professor Dumbledore!” he said in a hoarse whisper.

Molly immediately ducked too. “You’re joking,” she said in horror. The witches and wizards in the queue around them were giving them strange looks as they huddled together, crouched down so they were hidden by the crowd.

Arthur shook his head. “I wish I was.”

“Oh, we’ll be in so much trouble,” Molly moaned. “We can’t be caught. We just can’t.”

“All right.” Arthur said nervously, his heart racing. “Right.” The line was moving now and they crept along with it, still crouched down. He said in a low voice, “Let’s just get inside and then we can find somewhere to hide until they turn out the lights. Then nobody will see much in the audience and we should be safe.”

Molly looked frightened still. “All right, Arthur.”

They got past the witch taking people’s tickets as quickly as they could, and she gave them a strange look at their still-hunched posture as she handed them their ticket stubs. Arthur ducked into the back of the auditorium with Molly in tow, and they managed to find a corner that was partially obscured by the red velvet curtains that lined the hall. There wasn’t much space behind the curtain, but he didn’t particularly mind being crushed up against Molly. He checked their tickets again for the seats, scanning the hall. It appeared they would be dead centre in the auditorium, he realised with dread.

Molly was peeking out from behind the curtain, and suddenly let out a small squeak and turned into Arthur’s arms, hiding her face in his chest. Arthur peered briefly around the curtain and caught a glimpse of the headmaster’s long, grey hair before hiding again, wrapping his arms tightly around Molly and ducking his head.

“This is a bad idea, oh we’ll be in so much trouble,” Molly mumbled.

“Do you want to leave? We could sneak out the back,” Arthur offered.

“No,” she said immediately. “I want to see Celestina. When the lights go out we can find our seats. Where’s Professor Dumbledore sitting, can you see?”

Arthur let go of her somewhat reluctantly and peeked out from behind the curtain again. He could see Dumbledore removing his tall, pointed wizard’s hat in the front row.

“He’s right in the front,” Arthur said softly. “We’ll be a ways behind him, I don’t think he’ll see us.”

“Unless he turns around, he’ll get a good look at our faces then,” Molly groaned. “Do you think it will be dark enough to cover us?”

“I hope so.” Arthur ducked back into their small hiding place as Dumbledore turned in his seat to glance around the hall.

They stayed behind the curtain for another twenty minutes as people were seated, until the lights began to dim. Arthur crept out from behind the curtain as the house lights went down, with Molly behind him, her hand on his back, and they had just reached the aisle between the rows of seating when the auditorium was lit up by colourful lights and the band began to play.

Molly let out a squeak and Arthur grabbed her hand and ducked into the nearest cover, which turned out to be the hall leading to both the bathrooms and the back door to the concert hall building. The light show was reflecting onto the dingy white walls of the small hallway, casting flashing pink and orange shadows everywhere, and Molly leaned against the wall, looking appalled.

“A light show,” she moaned. “Why did she have to have a light show?”

They both froze then as someone called Professor Dumbledore’s name very close to the hallway. Footsteps were approaching, and Arthur glanced around for escape, grabbing Molly’s hand and pulling her out the back door of the concert hall.

The door slammed behind them as they ducked behind a large trash bin sitting behind the club. They heard the door open again, and the music sounded louder for a moment, but then the door closed again, and the sound of his own heartbeat pounding in his ears seemed to echo in the small, neglected courtyard behind the concert hall. He glanced at Molly beside him, both crouched down low to the ground behind the huge dustbin, and then took a quick look around the corner of the bin at the door. There was no one there. He stood, brushing off his robes, and pulled Molly to her feet. Her dark eyes were huge in her pale face.

“That was close,” she said in a low voice, still a little scared.

The music from the concert sounded loud yet muffled from outside the building, but the small courtyard must have been right beside the stage because as Celestina’s back-up banshees began to sing, they could hear her quite well. Arthur walked over to the door and gave it a tug, but it was stuck.

“Oh dear,” he said.

Molly pulled out her wand and said firmly, “Alohomora!” but the door did not budge.

“They must’ve cast a spell to block that one,” Arthur said, disheartened.

“We could go back in the front,” Molly suggested.

“No, they said they won’t reopen the doors once the concert starts.” Arthur gave the building a small kick.

“When did they say that?” Molly asked, clearly still holding out hope of getting back in. Or perhaps that was him.

“On the letter that came with the tickets. Damn it,” he said, frustrated. “How are we going to get back inside?”

“I don’t think we are,” Molly said, and he turned to her. She was examining a small, grassy rise behind the dirty courtyard. He could see a stain on the hem of her robes from crouching behind the trash bin, and felt a wave of embarrassment wash over him. The concert was not going at all according to plan. He had all but forgotten his plan to profess his love. Somehow the back alley didn't seem like the best place for that.

“I’m sorry, Molly,” he said. “I know you really wanted to see this concert.”

She glanced at him over her shoulder with a smile. “It’s not your fault, Arthur. Who would have guessed that Professor Dumbledore was a fan too?” She turned back to the ground and nudged it with her toe. “I’m not as good at this as Hattie is, but here goes.”

She twirled her wand in the air and a maroon blanket appeared and spread itself out on the grass. Molly plopped down on the blanket and patted the space beside her, smiling up at him.

Arthur walked over and stretched out on his back on the blanket next to her. It was large enough for him to lay full-length without his ankles being on the grass, and he smiled as Molly made herself comfortable, lying on her side next to him with her head propped up on one hand. Celestina was doing a jazzy number now that Arthur didn’t recognize, and the sound quality wasn’t too bad. It was like listening to a slightly muffled but very loud Wizarding Wireless broadcast.

“I can still hear her,” Molly said softly. “And now we’ve got moonlight and a private concert.”

Arthur rolled onto his side, mirroring her position. “I’m still sorry that you didn’t get to see the concert, Molly.”

“I’ll make do,” she said calmly, and leaned in to kiss him.

They spent the concert lying together on the blanket, watching the stars and listening to the music, or trying not to listen in Arthur’s case. Arthur decided Celestina in concert was at the same time worse than he’d expected and yet better, because the moonlight and the admittedly bad music put Molly in a very romantic mood, and she snuggled up into his side, resting her head on his shoulder. During one of Celestina’s more sickeningly maudlin numbers, Molly put her hand on his chest and traced little circles with her fingertips. Arthur decided the concert was worth every penny just for this.

On the other hand, he might as well have saved his money and just set up an unexpectedly romantic back-alley blanket rather than buying those tickets.

Chapter 17: To Sir, With Love
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Lulu, “To Sir With Love”
If you wanted the sky I would write across the sky in letters
That would soar a thousand feet high 'To Sir, With Love'

If you wanted the moon I would try to make a start
But I would rather you let me give my heart 'To Sir, With Love'



Molly and Arthur walked hand in hand back to the train station after the concert, hurrying down the street as the concert hall began to empty and smiling witches and wizards filled the streets of Hogsmeade. Arthur kept glancing over his shoulder, and Molly knew he was trying to keep an eye out for signs of the headmaster.

She sighed quietly as they reached the outskirts of the village where a dark Hogsmeade Station waited for them. The crowd hadn’t reached this part of the village yet, and they were quite alone as they approached the empty train station. Arthur found the entrance to the secret passageway again quickly, which made her wonder how many times he’d snuck into the village. She would have to put a stop to that, she thought with a small frown. If he got expelled, she didn’t know what she’d do.

The concert hadn’t panned out, unfortunately. She had been so excited to see the tickets in his hand and Celestina’s name on the marquee, and though it had been a sharp disappointment when they found themselves locked out in the damp and dingy courtyard behind the hall, with the trees crowding around the little patch of grass, Molly had tried to make the best of it. At least she’d gotten to hear Celestina, and spending an entire evening cuddled up with Arthur on a blanket had of course been wonderful. She was sure if her mother had seen them lying there in each other’s arms, she would have made sure Molly didn't see the light of day for weeks. Molly had never been quite that close to a boy for an entire evening. Not in a prone position, anyway. She didn’t know what came over her when she was with Arthur, but she forgot all propriety as soon as he touched her.

“It’s only eleven,” she said suddenly, and Arthur looked up at her questioningly.

“Yes? We have class in the morning,” he reminded her, but he was starting to look hopeful.

“We could do something else… Maybe go to the Three Broomsticks,” Molly suggested. She wasn’t quite ready to let go of the evening.

Arthur’s face fell a bit. “What if Dumbledore’s there?”

“Oh yes.” Molly was disappointed. “It’s a shame we can’t Apparate yet,” she added. “We could go to Diagon Alley or something.”

“It is a shame,” he agreed, then took her hand again. “Let’s go see about the Three Broomsticks. Maybe he went straight back to Hogwarts.”

Molly perked up. “Or to the Hog’s Head. We could go there if Professor Dumbledore is in the Three Broomsticks. Let’s not go back to school just yet, though. It’s so early. We can always sneak back in later tonight.”

Arthur smiled at her. “I can see your brothers have had a bad influence on you after all.”

*

The Three Broomsticks was hopping with a post-concert revel, but Professor Dumbledore was nowhere to be seen. Molly and Arthur found a small table near the fireplace, next to a large Christmas tree, which effectively hid them from view of most of the room. After a few glasses of mead, Molly had quite forgotten about the headmaster and everyone else in the room, and there seemed to be only her and Arthur in the world, laughing and joking together and taking sips of each other’s drinks in the warm glow of the fire. It seemed only a short time before Madame Rosmerta announced last call, and Molly realized with a start that it was half past two.

She took a peek out the front window to make sure the coast was clear while Arthur paid their tab. There were still quite a lot of people out, but she had never been in Hogsmeade this late before so she had no idea if that was unusual. She rather thought it was, since they seemed to be witches and wizards from the concert. There did not seem to be any trace of the headmaster that she could see, but she still felt warm and happy from the mead and found she wasn’t worried about running into him any longer.

Molly was in an ebullient mood by the time they left the pub and headed toward the train station for the second time that evening, and walked along next to Arthur with a little skip in her step. The mead had nearly worn off, but she still felt quite free and uninhibited, and started to sing as they walked along, breaking into one of Celestina’s latest hits from the concert. Arthur was grinning at her, and she knew she was off-key, but he didn’t seem to mind.

She stopped singing as they reached the train station, and grabbed his arm to stop him before they climbed the stairs into the dark station.

“Thank you for the concert, Arthur,” she said. “And for a lovely evening.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, grinning down at her. “I’m sorry we didn’t actually get to see the concert, though.”

Impulsively, she threw her arms around him and started to kiss along his jaw. His bristly cheek felt strange against her lips, but she kept going. “Thank you anyway. You’re so good to me.”

Arthur hugged her tightly and lifted her up, and she kicked her feet up and kissed him again, and he kissed her back until she’d nearly forgotten why she’d been kissing him in the first place.

When he set her down, he said on a sigh, “Oh, I do love you, Molly.”

Molly froze, her hands still on his shoulders. “What?”

Arthur looked slightly horrified, his eyes wide as he stared down at her. “Merlin’s beard!”

“You said you love me,” she said, stunned. That had been the last thing she’d been expecting. Obviously he hadn’t meant to say it, from the look on his face.

“What? I-I did, didn’t I,” Arthur stuttered. “I did say that. I, erm…”

“You did say it.” Molly was completely amazed. He loved her. Not just fancied her, but loved her. “Did you mean it?”

Arthur looked a little panicky. “Mean it?”

Molly was getting a little annoyed now. He’d said it, and now she wanted to say it back. She put her hands on her hips as she waited for him to admit he’d meant it. “Yes, Arthur, did you mean what you said?”

He glanced around as if looking for someone to rescue him, then said helplessly, “Yes, I meant it.”

Molly threw herself back into his arms. “I love you too, Arthur!”

Arthur sagged a little as he hugged her back, and said again, this time sounding very relieved, “Merlin’s beard.”

*

Molly sat in Arithmancy Friday morning, her chin propped up on her hand, staring blankly at her professor and daydreaming. She hadn’t heard a word of the lecture.

Arthur had said that getting in trouble could be worth the punishment, and she’d discovered that he was right, although they hadn’t gotten in trouble last night. It had been a near thing, though. Who would have thought, Molly Prewett, out of her dormitory at three o’clock in the morning, sneaking back into Gryffindor tower, after spending a night out with a boy… She smiled. With Arthur Weasley. And he loved her.

She started doodling on her paper instead of taking notes. Molly Prewett and Arthur Weasley. She drew a heart around their names, and then wrote, Mrs. Arthur Weasley. Molly Prewett Weasley. She stared at that for a few moments with a pleased smile, and then wrote again.

Molly Weasley.

Sighing heavily at her own silliness, she vanished the writing off the page before anyone else saw it. She couldn’t believe she wasn’t paying attention in class, in Arithmancy of all places, and right after she’d lectured Arthur about needing to focus on schoolwork more. Thank goodness Hattie and Cecilia took Arithmancy as well and she could borrow their notes, but she’d better pull herself together before Potions.

She wondered how many other students in the castle snuck out at night. She knew Siobhan was regularly out after curfew with whomever she happened to be snogging at the time. But there must be more of them out there late at night, in dark corners. Maybe the rest of them stayed in their common rooms. They were missing out on some fun out in the castle at night.

Molly tried to pay attention again, but Professor Arccos was scribbling a rather complicated-looking equation on the board, and she had no idea what it was about, so she went back to her doodles.

Hattie finally realized Molly was drawing hearts instead of paying attention, and elbowed her sharply. Molly glanced over at her and smiled. Hattie reached over and wrote on Molly’s sheet of parchment, What is going on?

Molly grinned and wrote back, Arthur said he loves me!
Hattie let out a tiny gasp, her eyes wide, and wrote, Did you say it back?

Molly nodded excitedly and Hattie gave her a little hug, then wrote, Tell me about it after class. Pay attention now or you’re going to fail your N.E.W.T.s.

*

Molly and Hattie walked arm-in-arm to the library after Arithmancy, whispering to each other the entire way. Molly told her all about the concert, and ended her story with how Arthur had declared his love for her.

“Then I kissed him, and he lifted me up to kiss me back, and when he put me down again he said he loves me.” Molly sighed, smiling. “It was wonderful. I told him I love him too, and we kissed again, and oh, Hattie, it was the most romantic night of my life.”

“It does sound wonderfully romantic,” Hattie agreed. “It’s funny that Professor Dumbledore was there, Petula was just saying last night that you’d be lucky not to be seen at the concert, and if it were her, one of the teachers would be sure to show up and she’d be expelled.”

“Oh yes,” Molly remembered suddenly, “I wanted to thank you girls for doing my homework for me last night.”

“Don’t be silly, we were happy to help. But you know, Siobhan and Cecilia are counting that as their Christmas present to you.”

“It was a lovely gift. You don’t have to get me anything either, dear, last night was quite enough.”

Hattie gave her hand a little pat. “No, you can buy me a drink tomorrow in Hogsmeade and we’ll call it square on last night. You know Christmas is my favourite holiday, I’m not about to count a little homework as an actual gift.”

Molly grinned at her friend. Hattie always went all-out for Christmas. Her presents were amazing, beautifully wrapped and always carefully chosen to be just what you wanted. Siobhan often complained that one couldn’t even try to compete with Hattie, because she played in an entirely different league than everyone else. “If you knew what a good kisser Arthur was, you’d count giving me an evening with him as an actual gift.”

Hattie laughed. “What time did you get to bed? I didn’t hear you come in.”

“It was around three,” Molly admitted.

Hattie raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Three o’clock in the morning? No wonder you missed breakfast.”

Molly had overslept and had barely made it to class on time that morning. She was starving now and couldn’t wait for lunch, but she had some chocolate in her bookbag and planned to have a snack in the library while they studied until lunch. Maybe Arthur would join them. She hadn’t seen him yet today, which had been the worst part of oversleeping for her. She wasn’t sure she’d get any studying done if he was there, but Hattie would keep them in line. Hopefully.

They found a spot in the library in the back corner, and Molly pulled out a slab of Honeydukes chocolate from her bookbag and broke off a piece for Hattie and then one for herself. Hattie hadn’t missed breakfast, but she never said no to chocolate.

“Thanks,” Hattie said, taking a bite as she pulled out her books. “We need to write that essay for Transfiguration, and then we can get started on our Potions homework.”

“Right.” Molly was rummaging in her bag for her Transfiguration notes. “I saw a book on human transfiguration last time I was in the library that looked helpful. Over by the table with the broken light.”

“I’ll go look for it.” Hattie stood and walked off while Molly kept looking in her bag. Where were her notes? She could have sworn she’d put them in her bag this morning… But she’d been in such a rush, maybe she’d grabbed something else by mistake. There were her Charms notes, what were they doing in here? She pulled them out and set them on the desk to get them out of the way, and was about to pull out her Potions notes as well when she heard footsteps approaching.

“Did you find the book?” she asked without looking up, assuming it was Hattie coming back.

“Hello, Molly.”

She dropped her bookbag and looked up. Arthur was standing there with a shy grin. “Arthur,” she said on a sigh, smiling at him.

“You weren’t at breakfast this morning,” he said.

“I overslept,” she admitted ruefully. “I nearly missed Arithmancy.”

“Oh. I see.” He looked pleased and a little relieved.

Molly frowned slightly. He was very nervous this morning, she thought. “Did you think I was avoiding you?”

“No,” he said quickly. “No, not at all.”

Obviously he had. She smiled at him and reached out to take his hand. “You’re so sweet, Arthur.”

His ears reddened a bit but he gave her hand a squeeze. “I thought maybe you might have…”

“Regretted saying I love you?” Molly said softly. “Of course not.”

“Oh good.” Arthur looked relieved. He was still a little red-faced. “I thought you might think I was an idiot for saying it like that.”

Molly laughed. “It was very sweet.”

“Well,” Arthur said, sounding slightly embarrassed but happy, and gave a little cough. “All right then. I do love you, you know.”

He seemed uncomfortable saying it again in the bright daylight of the library. Molly thought it was very endearing. If she hadn’t already loved him, she would have at seeing him so clearly ill at ease and yet he was still willing to say it.

“I love you too, Arthur,” she said softly, and saw his face relax.

“Molly, there’s this book called Human Transfiguration for Fun and Profit, but that can’t be the one you meant, it looks like something your brothers would use.” Hattie was looking down at the book cover as she approached. She noticed Arthur, who had dropped Molly’s hand at her appearance, and said, “Oh, hello Arthur.”

“Hello Hattie. Are you starting the Transfiguration essay?” He grabbed a chair from a nearby table and dragged it over to sit next to Molly as Hattie took her seat on Molly’s other side.

“Yes, it looked beastly and we wanted to get it over with,” Hattie said. “Care to join us? Cecilia should be here soon to help out as well.”

“Sure.” Arthur pulled his Transfiguration text out and started leafing through it to the chapter on human transfiguration while Molly retrieved her bookbag from the floor, giving Arthur a delighted smile. He leaned in to give her a quick kiss. Hattie pretended not to see, but she was smiling.

*

Molly was the last one down to Apparition lessons the next day, and found her friends waiting outside the Great Hall with Arthur and his friends. Even Cosmo was standing outside. They were just past halfway in the course of Apparition lessons, and it appeared the Hufflepuffs had had some sort of a mass break-through last week, since nearly all of them had Apparated at the same time as if they’d been choreographed. Cecilia had Apparated with perfect form the week after Reid did and was now successfully Apparating every time she tried, which had made her much easier to live with, and Siobhan had Apparated last week, possibly due to the help of the Owusu twins, who were both Hufflepuffs. Petula seemed to have given up hope of ever Apparating, but had splinched herself two more times, which had made her much more difficult to live with. Hattie and Molly had still not managed it. The Gryffindor boys had had better luck, as now three of them were able to Apparate: Reid, Thaddeus, and Roddy.

Molly only had time to say hello to their friends before the doors opened and the sixth-years flowed into the hall. Cosmo waved to them as they went in, and Molly thought he looked a bit forlorn as the doors closed, leaving him alone outside the Great Hall. It must be hard to be a year younger than most of your friends.

The Ministry witch was repeating the same instructions she gave every week. Molly listened half-heartedly; she had practically memorized this lecture but hadn’t Apparated yet, so she was getting a little cross hearing it again. What good did it do?

Cecilia was standing in front of her, dancing back and forth a little in anticipation. Molly watched her for a moment, but that only increased her level of irritation.

As soon as the Ministry witch called for everyone to try, Cecilia spun on the spot and Apparated flawlessly into her hoop, ending with a little flourish and a glance over her shoulder to make sure Reid had seen her perfect Apparition form. Molly frowned at her and then glared at her own hoop and turned over her left shoulder.

She immediately felt an intense pressure envelope her, and saw nothingness all around, but a second later she had emerged and she was standing in her hoop. She stumbled a bit, feeling a little bewildered. Hattie was clapping excitedly beside her.

“You did it!” she said, giving Molly a little hug.

Arthur was grinning on her other side, and Molly turned to him with a surprised smile.

“Did you see?” she asked. “Did you see me Apparate?”

“I did see,” Arthur said. “Well done, Molly.” He looked very proud of her. Molly hugged him, grinning so widely her face ached, and then turned back to hug Hattie again.

The next time she tried to Apparate, she found that the memory of the feeling of compression and black space made it easier to find that again, and she managed to Apparate twice more before something distracted her.

Arthur had been mostly watching her Apparate and listening to her describe to Hattie how it felt to step into the vacuum of empty space during Apparition, and shortly before the end of the class, he turned on the spot and disappeared. Molly had a brief moment of feeling that her heart had stopped, waiting for him to reappear safely and without splinching himself, before he appeared again inside his hoop. She let out her breath in a whoosh and flung her arms around him, then looked over her shoulder at a popping noise and saw Hattie reappearing in her hoop.

“Everyone’s Apparating except me,” Petula said ill-temperedly from behind her. “It’s not fair.”

“Sorry, Petula,” Molly said, trying not to grin.

Chapter 18: Daydream Believer
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The Monkees, “Daydream Believer”
Now you know how happy I can be.
Oh, and our good times start and end
Without dollar one to spend.
But how much, baby, do we really need.



Arthur headed for the Charms corridor with a jaunty stride, smiling cheerfully at everyone he passed. A few people gave him a look that clearly said they thought he might have lost his mind, but most smiled back. He saw a flash of red hair ahead and increased his pace. He couldn’t wait to see Molly.

Telling her he loved her after the concert last week had been a bit of a mess, but it had turned out all right. He hadn’t meant to say it like that; he’d planned to say it right after the concert in the moonlit walk back to the secret passageway into the school. But then the concert had gone downhill and he’d decided not to do it after all, and then it just sort of slipped out, and the shocked look on her face had scared him. Then she’d smiled and said she loved him too, and he felt he could have flown back to the common room.

Molly Prewett loved him! She really did.

The crowd thinned a bit as he reached the Charms classroom, and he saw the little cluster of Gryffindor girls standing outside the door. Siobhan saw him first, and she gave Molly a little nudge. Molly turned and gave Arthur the most brilliant smile he’d ever seen, her cheeks pink and her eyes bright. She loved him. His smile was extremely soppy, he was sure, but he couldn’t help it. She was beautiful. And she loved him.

He was fully aware that they were ridiculously corny, and Siobhan was rolling her eyes at them, but he didn’t care at the moment, because Molly loved him.

As he attempted to pay attention to Professor Flitwick later while finding it quite difficult to tear his eyes away from Molly, it occurred to him that he should be hoping the novelty of her love wore off just a bit so he could focus again. He really couldn’t afford any more failing grades than he’d already gotten, or Molly’s brothers wouldn’t be the only ones getting a Howler twice a month. Not only would his mother tell him off for a failing grade, Molly probably would too.

*

Arthur had just settled himself into his seat in History of Magic a few days later and was pulling his notes out of his bookbag when Reid sat down next to him, slammed his own bookbag onto the desk, and announced loudly, “Well, I’ve done it.”

“Set fire to Cecilia again?” Arthur asked absently, still digging in his bag. His notes seemed to have disappeared at some point between breakfast and sneaking over to the Potions dungeon to see Molly.

Reid gave him a dirty look. “No. I’ve asked out Gemma Folwell.”

“Oh.” Arthur looked up in surprise. “Did you? Well, good for you, mate. She’s very sweet.”

“Yes, she is sweet,” Reid said, not looking particularly pleased by this.

Arthur eyed Reid askance. “You all right there, Reid?”

“I’m fine.” Reid’s face transformed into a cocky smile. “Did you hear the seventh-years are having a party as a Christmas send-off? This Friday.”

“So we’ll all be half-asleep travelling home for Christmas after staying up late the last day of classes,” Arthur remarked with a grin. “Sounds like fun.”

“So, you think you’ll be there?” Reid was grinning at him in a funny way now, and Arthur gave him a wary look.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You think Molly will let you go? It’s not on the schedule. You’re probably supposed to be studying,” Reid chortled. He clearly thought he was very funny. “You need to get a handle on your girl, mate.”

Arthur frowned at him. “Don’t talk about Molly like that.”

Professor Binns had begun his usual droning monologue though, and Reid continued to snicker through most of class. Arthur took notes irritably, occasionally glancing over at Reid with a dark frown. Get a handle on his woman? Ha. As if he would take advice about women from Reid, the firecracker king.

Still, he couldn’t get that remark out of his head for the rest of class. When Binns finally dismissed them, he turned to Reid to ask what exactly he’d meant by that, but Reid was hurriedly shoving his books into his bag.

“Must run,” he said, grinning at Arthur’s obvious consternation. “Divination next, you know.”

He was out the door before Arthur could do more than frown at him, and Arthur mentally cursed Reid’s eleven-N.E.W.T. schedule. Arthur headed for Gryffindor tower then and made an attempt at doing a little studying before his next class. He pulled out his notes and his copy of Advanced Defensive Spells and arranged himself in front of the fireplace to study, but he was still thinking about what Reid had said. He was staring into the fire broodingly when a familiar voice broke through his reverie.

“Hi Arthur.” Petula sat down on the sofa next to the chair in which he’d ensconced himself. “What are you studying?” She peered down at his notes. “Oh, Defence. I hate that class.”

“Hi Petula. All right, there?”

“Fine, thanks.” She gave him an appraising glance. “Your friend Dunstan asked me out,” she said quite suddenly.

“He did?” Arthur grinned. “And what did you say?”

“I told him I’d think about it,” Petula said blithely.

Arthur chuckled. That must have gone over well with Dunstan. “Are you coming to the party on Friday?”

“What party?” Petula frowned. “Nobody ever tells me anything.”

“The seventh-years are having a party on Friday here in the common room, to celebrate the holiday.”

“Oh. I suppose I will. Are you and Molly going?”

“I haven’t had a chance to ask her. I think she’ll want to, though.”

Petula shrugged. “If you’re going, she probably will too. I’m sure Siobhan and Cecilia will be there.”

“Are you talking about me?” Siobhan dropped into the sofa next to Petula. “Hello, Arthur.”

“There’s a party on Friday,” Petula told her.

“What, here?” Siobhan asked. “Who’s throwing it?”

“The seventh-years.”

“You mean Walter Campbell and Dorian Raleigh are throwing it,” Siobhan said dryly. “And the others are just along for the ride.”

Arthur opened his mouth to interject, but Petula was quicker – and louder – than he was.

“Claudia helped throw last year’s Christmas good-bye party,” she said in a triumphant voice, as if she were trumping Siobhan’s argument handily.

“Claudia Patterson -” Siobhan began loudly, then glanced around to make sure Claudia wasn’t within earshot before continuing in a slightly quieter voice, “Claudia Patterson would not know how to throw a good party if detailed instructions jumped up and slapped her across the face. You only like her because her mother’s some kind of bloody Muggle aristocrat.”

Arthur tried to interrupt them again, but they seemed to have forgotten he was there.

“I do not. Her mother is a viscountess. And watch your language, too. Why do you care who’s throwing the party, anyway?” Petula demanded crossly, and continued without waiting for an answer, “Are you bringing Addae?”

“No, why should I? It’s a Gryffindor party, isn’t it? Arthur, are you going?”

He glanced at both of them for a moment to see if they were going to let him speak now. When they both looked at him expectantly, he said, “I probably will.”

“Molly will let you go, it’s the last day before the holiday, there won’t be any homework on the schedule,” Siobhan said with a sly grin. Petula giggled.

Arthur scowled at them. This was a little too close to what his friends had been teasing him about, and hearing Molly’s friends tease him about the very same thing made him bristle immediately. “I don’t need Molly’s permission to go to a party in my own common room.”

Petula gave a little sniff. “You needn’t be so defensive, Arthur. Siobhan was only joking.”

Arthur grabbed his things off the table and began stuffing them into his bookbag. “I’d better go. I need to get to class soon.”

Siobhan was still grinning as he left, and Petula looked a little affronted that he had taken offence at her friend’s joke.

Arthur stomped down the staircase to the Defence Against the Dark Arts corridor, where he saw Molly and Cecilia already waiting. Molly turned to him with a smile, and for the first time that he could remember, he was not particularly happy to see her. He tried to muster up a smile nevertheless; however, this did not fool her.

Molly frowned at him. “What’s wrong?”

“Where’s Petula? She’d better not be skiving off.” Cecilia craned her neck to look around Arthur.

“She was just in the common room,” Arthur said, a little grumpily. “She didn’t mention whether she was coming to class or not.”

“Did you argue with Petula?” Molly asked.

“No,” he said shortly.

“Then what’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing. I’m all right.” He did not know how to discuss this with her, and was not sure he wanted to hear her take on the teasing anyway. He thought he knew how she would react, but he rather thought that her jumping to his defence and yelling at all their friends would just make things worse. He gave her a half-hearted smile and went into the classroom. He could feel Molly’s eyes on his back as he set his bookbag down, and she came to the desk next to him, looking at him with concern.

He could hear Cecilia and Petula arguing as they found a desk as well, Petula having apparently decided not to skive off. This did not, of course, prevent Cecilia from lecturing her against skiving off. Dunstan was already in the room, and Reid managed to make it just in time. He was often nearly late to class, but the professors never seemed to think anything of it. Arthur glowered at his friend a little, and Reid didn’t seem to notice, as he was watching Cecilia while attempting to be surreptitious about it.

Professor Ampara was waiting at the front of the room, leaning against the edge of her desk and tapping her wand lightly against her leg as the students shuffled in. Molly sat down next to Arthur, but before she could press him again, Professor Ampara had stood up straight and cleared her throat.

“Practical today,” she said cheerfully. “Put away your books, let’s have a little practice with our defensive technique. Partner up, everyone!”

Reid gave Cecilia a hopeful look, but she turned away from him, flipping her hair over her shoulder as she turned to Dunstan.

“Want to partner up, Dunstan?” she asked sweetly.

Reid scowled at them and turned away, looking over at Molly and Arthur. “Are you partnering up, then?”

Molly looked at Arthur uncertainly, and he shook his head uncomfortably. Even when he was a little irritated with her, he could not bear to try any jinxes or hexes on her.

“I can’t hex you, Molly,” he said, and though she still looked a little unsure, she nodded and turned to ask Petula to partner her.

“I suppose it’s you and me then,” Reid said heartily. He shot another glance at Cecilia, who was ignoring him pointedly. Arthur wondered if she’d heard yet that Reid was going out with Gemma. Not that it had stopped him chasing Cecilia, of course…

Molly and Petula were conferring in whispers behind him, and he turned to see Petula shrugging and rolling her eyes. Molly looked up at Arthur with concern on her face, but Professor Ampara interrupted whatever she might have said by Vanishing the desks so the room was clear and calling out instructions.

“So,” said Reid casually as they paired up across from each other with wands drawn, “has Cecilia mentioned anything about me and Gemma?”

Arthur scowled at his friend, suddenly feeling quite angry with him. He’d managed to wreck most of Arthur’s day with his teasing in History of Magic, winding Arthur up so that Siobhan’s teasing had affected him more than it would have otherwise, but as usual Reid did not care about that. He was only concerned about himself. Arthur flicked his wand at Reid and hit him with a trip jinx.

Reid was apparently not expecting anything and was knocked over, landing on his back.

“The world does not revolve around you, Reid,” Arthur snapped.

Reid scowled at him. He did not bother to rise before responding.

“Rictusempra!”

Arthur bent double in uncontrollable laughter. He managed to stop the jinx, using a nonverbal spell for only perhaps the third time that year, and aimed a Jelly-Legs Jinx at Reid, which he deflected, on his feet now, and retaliated with a Leg-Locker Curse. Arthur ducked under it, and caught a glimpse of Molly and Petula’s worried faces as he aimed at Reid again.

“Tarantallegra!”

Reid did not dodge in time, and Cecilia burst into laughter as his legs began a fast jig.

“Nonverbally, remember,” Professor Ampara called out, looking a little concerned that the boys were actually duelling and not just practising their spellwork.

Finite Incantatem,” came a soft voice from behind Arthur, and Reid’s legs stopped their frantic dancing. Arthur turned to see Molly giving him a reproving look. “He’s your friend, Arthur,” she said quietly.

Arthur turned to Reid, still annoyed but starting to feel guilty for taking it out on his friend. He lowered his wand and held out a hand to Reid.

“Sorry about that,” he said.

Reid shook his hand, but he still looked a little disgruntled. “Trying to get back at me, were you?”

“Maybe a little,” Arthur admitted. He resolved to just ignore any more teasing that came his way about Molly. After all, they were in love, and he was not going to let his friends ruin it now that Molly Prewett was finally in love with him. He took a deep breath. And besides, as he’d pointed out before the concert, he was being snogged every day and they were not. Except Reid, possibly, but even so, Reid was not snogging the girl he actually wanted.

Reid eyed Arthur askance. “Looks like you need to get a handle on yourself as well.”

Evidently he had bruised Reid’s ego. “Sorry, Reid.”

Cecilia was still laughing as she deflected Dunstan’s half-hearted jinx.

*

Cosmo poked his head into the sixth-year boys’ dormitory. “I heard Reid and Arthur duelled today in Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

Reid scowled at him. “It was an unprovoked attack.”

Arthur frowned at Reid somewhat uncomfortably. It had been an attack, but calling it that made Arthur rather uneasy, although one could argue that Reid had in fact provoked him. Arthur made an attempt at minimising the incident. “We were practising defensive spellwork and got a little carried away, that’s all. I said I was sorry.”

“Senseless, baseless and dastardly attack.”

“Oh, shut up, Reid,” Cosmo said as he ambled over to plop down on Dunstan’s bed. “Arthur said he was sorry.”

“Like hell,” Reid grumbled. “He was wound up about Molly and took it out on me.”

You wound me up,” Arthur pointed out, nettled. “You were being a git.”

“Reid’s always a git,” Cosmo said. Reid made a rude hand gesture at him.

“What did you say?” Dunstan asked, looking up at Reid from the star charts he’d been studying.

“I only said he needed to get a handle on his girl, that’s all,” Reid said as if it were the most innocuous comment he could have made and Arthur had been completely unreasonable to be put out by it.

Cosmo quirked an eyebrow at his friends, looking as if he weren’t sure how to respond, and Dunstan shrugged.

“Well, she is a little bossy,” Dunstan said.

“Watch out, he’ll hex you next,” Reid told him.

Arthur gave Reid a dirty look. “You hexed me too.”

“Gratuitous violence against your mate,” Reid retorted. "You started it."

“You’ve just got to learn how to handle a woman,” Dunstan said bracingly to Arthur. “They need a strong male hand to guide them.”

Cosmo stared at Dunstan incredulously. “You don’t have sisters, do you, Dunstan?”

“No, I have four brothers,” Dunstan said. “Why?”

“My sisters would break my kneecaps if I said they needed a strong male hand,” Cosmo said fervently.

“That’s because they do need one,” Dunstan told him. “It’s very simple, really.” Reid was nodding agreement.

Arthur frowned at Dunstan. “Somehow I think Molly would go the kneecap route as well.”

“Why do I always catch the tail end of these conversations?” Roddy’s voice floated up the stairs, and a moment later he entered the dorm and tossed his bookbag onto his bed. He gave Cosmo a strange look. “What are you doing in here?”

“He followed us home,” Reid said. “I think we might keep him, if we put a collar on him and make sure he doesn’t chew on anything.”

Cosmo made a rude hand gesture at Reid, who grinned at him.

“All right, what’s going on now?” Roddy asked, digging in his trunk for something. “What was that about Molly’s knees? Are we allowed to discuss how nice her legs are?”

“Don’t talk about Molly’s legs,” Arthur told him firmly.

“We were trying to tell Arthur that he needed to get a handle on his woman before she has him wearing an apron and waiting on her hand and foot,” Dunstan said cheerfully.

Arthur scowled and held firmly to his resolve to ignore this sort of teasing, but he had to resist the strong urge to hex Dunstan.

Roddy was so deep into his trunk now that it might have had a trick bottom leading to an entire other dormitory full of Roddy’s things. His voice sounded muffled as he said, “What did I tell you about taking advice on women from these idiots?”

“Believe me, I’m not,” said Arthur.

Roddy emerged from his trunk, with a small rat squirming in his hand. “Does this belong to any of you?”

Everyone shook their heads. Roddy shrugged and set the rat down on the floor next to his trunk, where it immediately made a beeline for the door. Roddy bent over into the trunk again.

“Look, you can deny it all you want, but Dunstan’s got a point, women do need a man to guide them,” Reid said.

“I’d like to see you say that to Cecilia,” Cosmo told him.

Reid’s face took on a hunted expression. “No, I like all my parts where they are, thank you.”

Roddy stood up again, holding a scuffed old beater’s bat in one hand and wearing an incredulous expression. “Women need a what?

“A strong male hand to guide them,” Dunstan said confidently. “My dad says so all the time.” Reid nodded agreement while Cosmo rolled his eyes.

Roddy stared at him for a moment, then started to laugh. He pointed the bat at Dunstan and then at Reid, laughing his head off and shaking his head at them, then left the dormitory, still hooting with laughter as he went down the stairs.

Cosmo turned to Arthur as if nothing had happened. “Look, this isn’t ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, you don’t need to get a handle on anything. Don’t listen to these idiots. They’re just going to cause you trouble.”

“The taming of the what?” Arthur asked in confusion.

“Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare.” Cosmo gave him an impatient look as if Arthur were being slow. Arthur stared at him blankly and Cosmo seemed to remember something and rolled his eyes. “Oh, right, you were raised wizard. Shakespeare is a very famous Muggle playwright from the sixteenth century.”

“Really? Shapespeer, you say?” Arthur asked eagerly. “What sort of plays did he write? Why did he want to tame shrews?”

“Now you’ve done it,” Reid said. “Don’t talk about Muggles in front of Arthur. And why does no one think I could give good advice about women?”

“Fireworks,” Arthur and Cosmo said together.

“Ancient history,” Reid said airily. “I’m going to dinner now.”

“Sure, run off like a little swot,” Dunstan said.

“Shut it, you,” Reid retorted. “I’ve got to meet Gemma.”

“Ah. Does Cecilia know about that yet?” Dunstan gave him a knowing smile. Reid shrugged, and Dunstan continued, “That sounds more entertaining than Arthur’s woman problem. I’ll come with you.” He tossed aside his star charts and stood to follow Reid.

“Speaking of women problems,” Arthur said, remembering what Petula had told him, “I hear you’re waiting for Petula to decide whether or not to go out with you?”

To Arthur’s surprise and delight, Dunstan flushed a deep brick-red. “Shut it, Arthur.”

Cosmo let out an evil chuckle. “Does Petula need a strong male hand to get her to go out with you?”

Dunstan gave him an ugly look and went down the stairs. Arthur and Cosmo grinned at each other. Plainly, this was a sore spot for Dunstan, and Arthur found himself hoping Petula would string his friend along long enough for him to get back at Dunstan for his comments about Molly.

As he went down the stairs to dinner, he saw Molly waiting for him on the couch with Siobhan. She looked up at him with a tentative smile and he smiled back, feeling much more content this time to see her.

“Hello, Arthur,” she said.

He dropped a kiss onto the top of her head as he sat down next to her. “Hi there, Molly.”

“Siobhan has something she’d like to say to you,” Molly said primly.

Siobhan rolled her eyes and mumbled, “I’m sorry about what I said earlier, I was only joking.”

Molly looked satisfied and turned to Arthur expectantly, as if she had just solved all his problems, while Siobhan slumped resentfully in the chair next to the fire, glaring at Molly.

Arthur stared at the girls silently for a few moments, looking from one to the other. Yes, he’d been right. She’d only made him feel worse.

“I’m going to dinner,” he said grimly, rising from the sofa and hurrying toward the portrait hole. He heard Molly calling him as he left, but he pretended not to hear.






A/N: Ah, male PMS. Men are so sensitive about their manhood. *evil laugh*

Well, I wanted to apologise for the extended time between updates. But you won't have to wait so long for the next one, because I'm posting chapter 19 as well!


Chapter 19: Ain't No Mountain High Enough
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Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
My love is alive
Way down in my heart
Although we are miles apart



Molly fumed as she stomped along down the corridor toward Gryffindor tower after Defence Against the Dark Arts that Thursday. Arthur had been distant since Tuesday, and she didn’t know what was going on, but she was sure it was Siobhan’s fault. Molly was a little annoyed with Arthur as well for being so testy the past few days, but most of her ire was directed at her friend.

It was one thing for her friends to call her bossy to each other, but it was not acceptable for them to say it to Arthur. Now he was all prickly and upset. She needed to clear things up before they went home for Christmas, in case she didn’t get to see him over the holiday. She didn’t want him stewing over having a bossy girlfriend over Christmas and decide he’d do better with a girl who was meeker.

But he loved her. He didn’t mind that she wasn’t particularly docile when he’d professed his love, so why was it bothering him now?

Petula had said he’d gotten angry when Siobhan made a stupid joke about the stupid homework schedule. Aside from pointing out that he had a bossy girlfriend, she couldn’t imagine what could have upset him about Siobhan’s remark. And she’d made Siobhan apologise, but for some reason that had not improved matters. Well, he knew she was bossy, he’d just have to get past it. Unless he didn’t want to get past it. Maybe he really had decided he ought to go out with someone who was meek and mild and all that rot.

Molly stopped in her tracks at that thought, causing someone behind her to walk right into her.

“Watch it,” the girl snapped.

“Mind your own business,” Molly snapped back angrily without bothering to look at who had collided with her. She propped a hand on her hip and chewed a fingernail, standing in the middle of the corridor.

“Uh-oh,” said a familiar voice behind her. “Mollykins is in a stew.”

“What’s the matter, sister dear?” Fabian added, putting an arm around her. Her little brothers were now the same height as she was, and that was a little annoying.

“Nothing, go away,” Molly said with an irritated sigh.

“Oh, go on, tell us,” Gideon said encouragingly. “We won’t take the mickey about it, honestly.”

“Yes you will. You always do. Go away,” she repeated.

“Is it because Arthur got in a duel the other day?” Fabian asked ingenuously.

Molly stared at her brothers. “You heard about that?”

Gideon shrugged. “Cosmo Graham told us. So is that what you’re upset about?”

“It wasn’t a duel. It was…. I don’t know what it was.” Molly crossed her arms in front of her chest and let out a sigh. “He’s being very tetchy and I don’t know why. Petula said he was upset about something Siobhan said, so I made her apologise, but it just made things worse.”

Her brothers looked at each other and then back at her. Molly felt rather silly then. She had never really confided in her little brothers before, about anything, and rather regretted it now. They weren’t even fourteen yet.

“We don’t know him very well,” Fabian said, “but he never seemed particularly thin-skinned.”

“He’s not,” Molly said. “I didn’t think he was.”

“Maybe he didn’t want you nosing in his business,” Fabian said tentatively, looking as if he weren’t sure he ought to say that. “If he was angry with Siobhan, I’m sure he would’ve done something about it on his own, without you getting in the middle of it.”

“But I’m his girlfriend.” Molly gave the stone floor a little kick with one toe. “I wasn’t nosing in his business.”

“You do to us, all the time,” Fabian pointed out.

“Yes, but you’re my brothers,” Molly said. “Mum’s told me to keep an eye on you since you were born.”

“D’you want us to find out what he’s upset about?” Gideon offered. “We could talk to Arthur for you.”

“No, it’s all right.” Molly shook her head. “I’ll deal with it.” She looked at her brothers then, feeling oddly fond of them and yet awkward as well.

“Thanks,” she added. “For offering.”

Gideon looked as if he wanted to say something more, but Fabian nudged him, and they took off down the corridor. Molly watched them go, and then smoothed down her robes, patted her hair a bit, and headed off for the common room.

Hattie was sitting on her bed in their dormitory, reading her Charms textbook and eating Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. She had just chucked one across the room with a grimace when Molly came in.

“What flavour was that one?” Molly asked.

“Dirt.” Hattie pulled a face. “It was brown, I thought it might be chocolate. Is it time for Charms yet?”

“Nearly. Are you ready?”

Hattie shook her head as she climbed out of bed and stuffed her Charms textbook in her bookbag. “I suppose.”

Molly nodded absently, still thinking about what her brothers had said.

“I think we should go ahead and have the final Gryffindor Girls Council of 1966 tonight, since tomorrow night is the party,” Hattie said cheerfully. “We won’t have a proper council if we try to hold it afterward. We can just start earlier than usual tonight.”

“That sounds all right.”

Molly led the way down to the Charms corridor, where she found Arthur waiting for her with Roddy Feltham and Petula. She was a little surprised to see him there, given that he’d been quite prickly that morning at breakfast and hadn’t walked her to class yesterday, for the first time in two months.

“Hi Arthur,” she said, giving him a tentative smile. She still wasn’t sure what exactly was going on, as he didn’t seem to want to discuss it with her.

“Hi Molly.” His smile wasn’t quite as bright as it usually was, and Molly’s fears from earlier came back, but he still gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

They found seats in Charms, and Arthur sat next to her with Hattie on her other side. Hattie began whispering to the other girls about a council that night, and Molly watched Arthur as he pulled out his notes and quill for class. She wondered if it was that he just hadn’t wanted her to get involved, like the twins had said. It seemed a silly thing to get upset about.

“What is it, Molly?” he asked, noticing her watching him.

“Nothing.” She bent over her own bookbag as Professor Flitwick tried to get the class’s attention.

Arthur took off after Charms, and he did not come down for dinner. Reid told her they were having a study session for a History of Magic quiz that looked quite horrific, and Molly accepted this with a sigh and extracted a promise from Reid that he would get some sandwiches from the kitchens for the two boys to eat while they studied. She was sure that Reid, who knew secret passageways out of the castle, must know how to sneak into the kitchens. He agreed readily and she decided she must have been correct.

She trudged up the stairs after dinner and completed her Arithmancy homework with Hattie and Cecilia, then they began setting up the dormitory for a Gryffindor Girls Council. Siobhan was the last to arrive, well after nine o’clock, and Hattie ushered her into the dormitory impatiently, taking the bag of food from her.

“There are éclairs, treacle tart, and pumpkin pasties,” Siobhan said as she changed clothes.

“No chocolate gateau?” Hattie looked disappointed, but she began arranging the food on the silver tray anyway.

“Shall we start, then?” Cecilia asked, eyeing the éclairs.

“I have some bad news, I’m afraid,” Hattie began, glancing around sombrely at the others as she brushed crumbs off her hands and picked up a pumpkin pasty. “I was chatting with Mary Nevard in Herbology today, and it seems that Gemma Folwell is going out with Reid Akins now.”

Molly’s eyes widened, and she glanced over at Cecilia. Petula and Siobhan had also turned to Cecilia, looking a little wary in Siobhan’s case and slightly worried in Petula’s. Cecilia gave a disdainful sniff and flipped her hair back over her shoulder as she picked up an éclair.

“I really couldn’t care less,” she said haughtily. “In fact, I think someone should warn poor Gemma before she loses an eyebrow too.”

Siobhan rolled her eyes. “Please don’t break them up. He’ll only think you fancy him if you warn Gemma off.”

“I do not,” Cecilia said distinctly, “fancy him.”

“All right, Cecilia,” Hattie said soothingly. “I just thought you should know, that’s all.”

“Well, thank you, Hattie.” Cecilia gave her a stiff smile. “I’m sure Gemma will be fine. I won’t get involved,” she added with a nod to Siobhan, then added, “Unless I see him carrying any flowers.”

“Right then, let’s talk about something else,” Petula said in a forcibly cheerful voice. “Siobhan, how is Addae?”

Molly was impressed that Petula could tell which twin Siobhan was snogging.

Siobhan shrugged. “Fine, I suppose.”

“Right. And Molly, how are you and Arthur?” Petula gave her an encouraging nod. Molly thought she must be feeling guilty about her part in teasing Arthur about the homework schedule and getting him wound up to the point that he’d hexed his friend. Molly, who was still feeling rather guilty still herself because of her remark at the concert about Petula helping to do her homework, smiled rather more brightly than she really felt like.

“We’re just fine, thank you for asking.”

Siobhan frowned at her. “If you’re ‘just fine’, what was all that making me apologise load of dung the other day? And he’s obviously upset about something, you two haven’t been quite so nauseating the past few days. He didn’t even turn up at dinner tonight.”

“Language, Siobhan,” Hattie said half-heartedly.

“Yes, and why did he hex Reid in Defence Against the Dark Arts the other day?” Cecilia asked. “Not that I blame him, of course, I’ve hexed Reid myself and it’s quite satisfying, but Arthur’s always seemed to, rather inexplicably, like him up to this point.”

Molly looked at them dismally, feeling hounded. “Well, I… I don’t know, to be honest. He’s been so prickly, and Petula said Siobhan had just made a little joke…”

“I really didn’t say much,” Siobhan said, but she looked rather uncomfortable. “I heard Dunstan joking about the homework schedule in Care of Magical Creatures, and I just sort of… said something. I thought it was funny.”

“Dunstan was making fun of Molly in class and you didn’t do anything about it?” Hattie said in horror.

“No! No, it wasn’t like that, it was more like… more like he was making fun of Arthur,” Siobhan finished lamely.

“Oh dear,” Petula said.

“But you like Arthur,” Molly said, staring in disbelief at Siobhan. “Why wouldn’t you stop Dunstan?”

“They’re mates, I thought it was just a boy thing,” Siobhan said, looking rather as if she wished she hadn’t said anything. “They always poke fun at each other, and hex each other sometimes. It’s just having a laugh, I thought. It’s what boys do.”

“It’s different when a girl does it,” Hattie said, shaking her head and looked dismayed. “Siobhan, how can you know so much about boys but yet know so little about boys?”

Siobhan gave her a dirty look.

“Hattie’s right,” said Petula uneasily. “I don’t think Arthur’s upset that you’re bossy, Molly. Everyone knows you’re bossy. I think he’s upset that his mates think he’s, well, a little spineless.”

“He’s not,” Molly said immediately.

“They don’t really think that, do they?” Cecilia asked, looking stricken. “He’s such a nice boy. It’s not his fault Molly’s frighteningly domineering.”

Molly didn’t even bother to argue that description, but Cecilia gave her a little conciliatory hug anyway. “We love you in spite of that, obviously,” she added, and Molly smiled at her.

“I know. You’re domineering yourself, Cecilia.”

Cecilia smiled proudly. “I am a prefect.”

“My brothers said that perhaps I shouldn’t have gotten involved, and just let him clear things up with Siobhan on his own if he was angry over what she said.” Molly avoided Siobhan’s gaze, staring down at the tray of food.

“You talked to your brothers about it?” Petula asked in amazement.

“It just sort of came out,” Molly said. “They said I shouldn’t nose in Arthur’s business.”

“They’re thirteen, what do they know?” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes.

“Look, Molly, Arthur loves you, bossy or not,” Hattie said. “I think he’ll just have to deal with this on his own. You only made it worse when you made Siobhan apologise, so I don’t think you should get involved. Your brothers might actually have a point there.”

“You could try not being so bossy,” Petula added with studied nonchalance.

“She can’t help it, it’s in her nature,” Hattie said, giving Molly a comforting pat.

“You just need to learn to deal with men,” Cecilia told her encouragingly. “They’re like dogs.”

“Like dogs?” Hattie asked incredulously.

“Yes, exactly. They’re not very bright, so you have to give them firm commands, and you need to speak to them sharply when they’ve been bad.”

“I try not to speak to them at all if I can avoid it,” Siobhan put in.

“Yes, we all know what you do with them,” Hattie said crossly. “What about love? What about romance?”

“What about them?” Siobhan asked derisively. “You’re only fooling yourself.”

“I don’t believe either of you,” Hattie sniffed. “Don’t rain on Molly’s parade just because both of you are heartless cynics.”

“I am not heartless,” Cecilia said.

“Yes, and I am not a cynic.” Siobhan gave Hattie a silly little grin, and Hattie rolled her eyes in exasperation, but she smiled back as she shook her head.

Molly stretched out on her sleeping bag and hugged her pillow tightly, feeling drained and exhausted. “I suppose I’ll think of something to do about all this.”

“It’ll be fine, Molly. Sleep on it tonight, and in the morning everything will seem brighter.” Petula gave her a comforting pat on the back.

“We’d better go to bed, it’s very late and we’ve got one more day of class. And then the party.” Cecilia gave them all an encouraging smile as she pointed her wand at the lights to extinguish them. “That will be fun, won’t it?”

“Yes, it will. Good night, girls,” Hattie said, lying down and fluffing her pillow.

There was a short chorus of ‘good nights’ and then the girls settled in to sleep. Cecilia had already started snoring, and Molly was nearly asleep, when she heard Siobhan whisper her name.

“Molly?”

“Yes?” she whispered back.

“I really am sorry.” Siobhan’s voice was hesitant, but Molly could tell that this time her friend was sincere in her apology. “I didn’t mean to mess things up for you and Arthur.”

“It’ll be all right, Siobhan. I forgive you.”

Siobhan was silent for a moment, then said, “Good night, then.”

“Good night.” That was possibly the closest Siobhan had come to confessing a real emotion in years, Molly thought sleepily as she closed her eyes again.

*

Arthur seemed nearly his old self again the next day, laughing and joking with their friends at lunch. He walked with their little crowd to Transfiguration after lunch, grinning at Cecilia and Siobhan’s bickering behind them and cracking jokes at Reid, who seemed to take it all in stride as he usually did. She wasn’t sure why he’d gotten over whatever was bothering him, but she was glad he had, since he was now holding her hand and kissing her cheek again every time he saw her. He and Reid seemed to be mates again as well. Boys really were very odd.

The common room was crowded and buzzing with excitement that evening before dinner. Everyone was talking about the party. Molly tried to get Arthur alone to quiz him about his behaviour that week, but he started a game of Exploding Snap with Cosmo, so she just sat there next to him and listened with half an ear while he peppered Cosmo with questions about some old Muggle playwright. Apparently Cosmo’s mother was Muggle, which explained why Arthur was close friends with a fifth-year. None of the Gryffindor sixth-year boys were Muggle-born. Cosmo’s mother taught literature at a Muggle university and Cosmo knew quite a lot about it as well. Molly wasn’t particularly interested, and spent the time creating a list in her head of what she could get her friends for Christmas.

The Gryffindor seventh-years had the common room so thoroughly draped in tinsel and swags of greenery by the time dinner was over that the room looked rather as if a Christmas tree had exploded. Molly wasn’t particularly surprised, as the seventh-years liked to go all-out when they threw a party. Their year had always been quite the partiers, even when they were only third-years. Molly had fond memories of the party Walter Campbell had arranged during her fourth year, even though the broken mantel on the fireplace had made Professor McGonagall quite irate. Something about impending exams made the seventh-years particularly rowdy, and N.E.W.T.s seemed to make them even more unruly than O.W.L.s had. This, coupled with the fact that Gryffindor was now in the lead for the Quidditch cup, having beaten Hufflepuff soundly at the last match, made the Christmas send-off party the loudest and most boisterous Molly had seen yet.

The tables in the common room were laden with butterbeer, mead, and loads of food. Molly picked up a pumpkin tart and retreated to the corner where Hattie sat, curled up in an armchair and playing chess with Cecilia. Molly sat on the arm of Hattie’s chair and watched them while she ate, then went to find Arthur. She thought she heard his voice in the stairwell to the boys’ dormitory, and stood next to the table of food and drink to listen, but it wasn’t Arthur’s voice now, it was Reid’s.

“So, Arthur,” he was saying in a smug voice. “Still working on getting a handle on your girl?”

“Oh, shut up, Reid,” Arthur said irritably. “I don’t need a handle on her. She loves me and I love her. Stay out of it or I’ll hex you again.”

He appeared at the bottom of the staircase, and Molly quickly grabbed a bottle of butterbeer and looked around for someone to talk to, but there was only a small second-year girl, who looked nervously at her and fled. Arthur stopped when he saw her.

“Did you hear….” He appeared to think better of asking her that question, and grabbed a butterbeer for himself.

“Hear what?”

Arthur seemed to be feigning deafness. She gave him an irritated look and decided to just have out with it.

“Are you upset with me, Arthur? Just go on and say it if you are.”

“I’m not upset with you,” he said steadily, taking her hand and leading the way toward a more secluded spot, next to a snow-covered window.

“I can’t help being quick-tempered and impulsive and bossy,” she said uncertainly, not sure whether to believe him or not. “I’ve tried, you know.”

“I prefer to think of you as fiery,” Arthur said wistfully.

Molly rolled her eyes. “Fiery, then. But you said you love me, even though I’m all those things. Are you changing your mind now?”

“No, of course not.” Arthur raked a hand through his hair. “Molly, I love you because you’re fiery… and bossy and quick-tempered and impulsive. I’m not upset about all that.”

“Then why have you been so grumpy?” she demanded.

“It doesn’t matter now,” he said, pulling her closer to him. “It’s just my stupid friends. It’s nothing you did, honestly. I swear I won’t be grumpy any more.”

Molly let him kiss her a bit, but then pushed him away. “What was all that about getting a handle on me?”

“So you did hear that.” Arthur gave her a crooked smile. “I love you, Molly.”

“Don’t try to distract me,” she said, but he kissed her again and she found she didn’t care so much any more about what his stupid friends had said.

She broke away from him after a moment when she heard tittering and the sound of someone heaving, and turned to see her brothers were pretending to collapse in disgust, miming gagging on each other, to the amusement of their fellow third-years. Arthur started laughing, and Molly shook her head at the twins.

“Idiots,” she said fondly.

Chapter 20: Canít Take My Eyes Off of You
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Frankie Valli, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”
If it's quite alright,
I need you, baby,
To warm a lonely night.
I love you, baby.



Arthur took the Knight Bus home for Christmas. He had never particularly enjoyed riding it, but it got the job done and it was infinitely preferable to his mother turning up at Hogwarts and calling him by a revolting pet name in front of his friends that he would then hear around school for the next year and a half. He spent most of the ride thinking about Molly, and occasionally thinking about Reid’s teasing before brushing it off.

Most things didn’t get Arthur down for long. He had two older brothers, after all, and had learned to bounce back from teasing and embarrassment fairly easily. He’d never been one to dwell, and had always been easy-going. He had come to the conclusion that Reid was an idiot, and therefore anything he said was not really valid, and Dunstan could not even get Petula Cordingley to go out with him, therefore anything he said was also invalid. Arthur’s confidence had been bolstered by the knowledge that he had a steady girlfriend and his friends did not, therefore he clearly knew something about women that they did not. Well, Reid had Gemma now, but somehow Arthur rather thought that didn’t count, since she was something of a second choice for Reid.

Arthur’s mother was waiting at the door when he staggered off the Knight Bus, feeling a little sick to his stomach after the ride and dragging his heavy duffel behind him, wishing he were of age and could use magic to bring it into the house.

Cedrella Weasley ran down into the yard to hug her youngest son. Arthur felt the breath knocked out of him in a whoosh as his mother wrapped her arms around him tightly.

“Hi, Mum,” he said weakly, attempting to free one arm to pat her back, but she had pinned both of his arms to his sides in her zealous embrace.

“Arthur, my little love! Oh, I’ve missed my baby.” Cedrella released him, only to grab his face between her palms and pull his face down to kiss his forehead. “How was school, my darling boy?”

“Fine, Mum.”

“Oh look, it’s ickle Artie.”

Arthur looked up at the doorway, straightening his glasses, which his mother had knocked askew. “Hello, Bilius.”

Bilius Weasley was leaning in the doorframe with a lazy grin. “How’s school been, little brother?”

“All right. How’s work?”

Cedrella turned to her middle son with a scowl, and Bilius’s face took on a sour expression as his mother snapped, “Your brother was sacked last week. Apparently he doesn’t feel turning up for work on time is a vital employment skill.”

Arthur grinned. The Christmas holiday was looking up already. Watching his mum have a go at Bilius was always entertaining.

Bilius frowned at his mother. “It wasn’t my fault, Mum. They were all against me from the start, honestly.”

Cedrella’s eyes narrowed, but then she turned to Arthur and gave his arm a tug. “Come inside and say hello to your father. Bilius, get your brother’s things.”

“Why do I have to? They’re his things,” Bilius said in a surly voice. “His arms aren’t broken, he can bring them in himself.”

“Since you don’t have a job any longer –” Cedrella began ominously.

“Oh all right,” Bilius interrupted, disgruntled. “I’ll bring in his bloody bags already.”

Their mother chose to pretend she had not heard that and steered Arthur through the house and into the kitchen, where his father was sitting at the table with the Daily Prophet open in front of him and his pipe clamped in his teeth.

“Septimus, Arthur’s home!” Cedrella announced proudly.

“Afternoon, Arthur,” Septimus said calmly, not looking up from his newspaper.

“Hello, Dad.” Arthur sat down at the table next to his father and picked up the sport section of the paper.

“You look peaky, dear, are you hungry?” Cedrella patted Arthur’s head. “I’ve got fresh bread just out of the oven, would you like something to eat?”

“Thanks, Mum,” Arthur said, smoothing his hair back down.

“How was school?” Septimus peered at his son over the rims of his glasses while his wife bustled around the kitchen.

“It was all right.” Arthur flushed a little and debated whether or not to tell his father he had a girlfriend. His mum set a bowl of tomato soup in front of him before he could decide, and brought him some bread. Arthur ate and looked over the latest Quidditch scores absently, thinking about Molly and how his mum might react. She would probably squeal and fuss over it; on the whole, Arthur thought he’d rather not deal with that. His brother was sure to have some fun over it as well.

Bilius came in and snatched the sports page away from him, plopping down into a chair opposite Arthur. Arthur frowned at his brother, and Bilius surreptitiously made a rude hand gesture at his little brother.

“How’s Constantine?” Arthur asked between mouthfuls.

His mother beamed, sitting down in the chair next to him. “Just perfect. He just received a promotion!”

Bilius rolled his eyes, hiding behind the newspaper from his mother. “Bloody Constantine,” he muttered.

“And Glynis is doing well,” added Cedrella, shooting her middle son a freezing glare. “She and Constantine have decided on Hypatia for a girl, and Basil for a boy. It will be fun for you to be an uncle, won’t it?” she said, giving Arthur’s hand a pat.

“Didn’t anyone warn her, Weasleys don’t have girls?” Bilius asked politely, but Arthur noted the sarcastic overtones in his voice and felt sure his mother had not missed them either.

“Septimus,” Cedrella said, looking at her husband, her voice taking on the ominous tone again.

“Go to your room, Bilius.” Septimus did not look up from his newspaper.

“I’m twenty years old,” he said indignantly.

“When you’re prepared to act like it, you may come back out.”

Bilius left, grumbling under his breath, and Cedrella glared at him as he went. “He’s been nothing but unpleasant since he lost his job,” she burst out angrily when the sound of his door slamming echoed down the stairs.

“Don’t be so hard on him, dear,” Septimus said absently as he turned a page, then his expression changed, and he looked aghast at the newspaper, taking his pipe out of his mouth. “Good Lord, there’s been more deaths.”

Cedrella blanched. “Who is it? Anyone we know?”

“Some Muggles in Yorkshire. The Muggle authorities have no idea what happened, of course, but there’s evidence of dark magic. They put it all the way to the back, look,” Septimus said indignantly, tapping the paper with the stem of his pipe. “Just because they’re Muggles, I suppose. If a wizard family had been killed, you can bet it would be on the front page.”

“Such a shame, those poor Muggles…”

Arthur kept his head down while his mother clucked sadly over the murdered Muggles, and his father let out a loud harrumph and turned the page. “It’ll be wizards next, you mark my words,” Septimus said darkly. “Best take care they don’t come for us.”

Cedrella looked alarmed. “But we’re purebloods, surely there’s nothing for us to worry about?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Cedrella, your own family disowned you for marrying me, do you really think You-Know-Who wouldn’t come after us all for having Muggle sympathies?” Arthur’s father regarded his wife sternly.

“Oh, Septimus, don’t say that,” said Cedrella, in frightened tones.

Arthur kept his head low over his soup as he listened to his parents, feeling quite fond of his father just then. He was proud of his father’s Muggle sympathies, even if it did mean their family was called blood traitors by some. He took another bite of his bread and thought about the poor Muggles as he ate. Suddenly teasing from his friends seemed much less important.

*

The holiday wore on, and he spent most of the next week trying to avoid his mother, who seemed to want him next to her all the time now he was home. She kept mentioning how tall he’d gotten in the few short months since he’d seen her and then adding mistily that her baby was growing up. Why mothers felt compelled to talk like this was beyond Arthur’s comprehension, but it was extremely embarrassing, made worse because his brother was around to hear it. Fortunately Bilius’s continued jobless condition had him in his mother’s ill graces so thoroughly that Bilius was actually making an effort to find another job, so he hadn’t been around much during the day and therefore Arthur had escaped the majority of the ribbing he’d been expecting from his brother.

Arthur was getting quite lonely for Molly, and spent a lot of his time in his room pretending to read while he daydreamed about what she might be doing and what he might do when he saw her again. He wanted to see her quite badly, and didn’t think he could wait until they were back at school in January to see her again. However, since he had yet to tell his parents that he had a girlfriend, as that sounded like a more and more horribly embarrassing chat the longer he was home, he could not see how he would get to visit her. He’d sent her an owl a few days before, but there had not been a reply yet.

He heard a loud crack out in the yard and glanced out his window to see his brother walking up to the front gate. An idea began to form in his head, but the prospect of telling his brother that he had a girlfriend and asking him to take him to her house was nearly as horrifying as telling his mother.

The return owl came from Molly on the Friday before Christmas, and he read the letter ravenously, taking in her loopy and feminine handwriting. She wrote that she missed him and wished she could see him, and Arthur grinned widely. It was signed with all my love, Molly. He read the letter again twice more before folding it up and tucking it in his pocket, and the idea popped back into his head to ask Bilius for some help.

He held out until Christmas Day, and after a long day of opening gifts and watching his mother coo proudly over his sister-in-law’s pregnant belly as his eldest brother Constantine grinned smugly at his wife, Arthur decided he could no longer stand it. He had to see Molly. He went to Bilius’ room late that night after their parents had finally gone to bed and Constantine had taken his wife home.

“What do you want?” Bilius said as Arthur knocked softly in the open doorway.

“Well…” Arthur glanced down the hall, then stepped inside his brother’s room and shut the door quietly behind him. “I’ve come to ask you a favour.”

“Oh really.” Bilius looked quite intrigued by this. “What sort of a favour? I haven’t got any money, if that’s what you’re after.”

“No, it’s not that.” Borrowing money from Bilius was never a good idea anyway. He charged interest. “I want to go see someone, and I hoped you’d take me.”

Bilius raised an eyebrow. “At this hour? On Christmas? Who do you want to see at nearly two o’clock in the morning?”

Arthur felt his ears reddening, but he was too far to turn back now, and said self-consciously, “My girlfriend.”

Bilius chuckled annoyingly. “Aha. Finally got one of those, have you? What’s her name?”

“Molly Prewett.”

“I see. And you think she’ll see you at two in the morning?”

Arthur considered that briefly. She did value her sleep, but on the other hand, it wasn’t as if she had to be up early for class tomorrow. “I think she will.”

“Well, what do you need me for? Can’t you Apparate yet?” Bilius gave him an appraising look.

“I know how, but I haven’t a license,” Arthur pointed out in exasperation. “I’m underage still, remember? Will you take me or not?”

“I dunno, I’m quite sleepy,” Bilius said, feigning a yawn. “I think I’d like to go to bed.”

Arthur clenched his teeth. “Please?”

“Oh all right,” Bilius said, heaving a sigh. “I’m already up, and it might be a laugh. Come on then. Where does she live?”

*

They arrived safely outside Molly’s house, though trusting his brother to Apparate them both safely had been a rather nerve-wracking experience. Arthur had remembered at the last moment that Bilius had failed his Apparition test the first time, but his desire to see Molly overrode everything else, and he had grasped his brother’s arm firmly despite his misgivings over Bilius’ Apparition skills.

Molly’s house was a large and stately affair of white stone, with a black roof and window frames painted bright red, and there was snow coating her roof and lawn. Arthur opened the gate and led the way in, gazing up at the darkened windows on the second floor.

“Which window is hers, do you think?” Arthur asked nervously.

“That one’s got pink curtains, surely that’s hers,” Bilius pointed out. “Does she have sisters?”

“No, just two brothers.”

“There you go, then. Must be hers.”

There was a small flower garden next to the house, with little stones lining the beds. Arthur picked up a handful of them and tossed one at the window. Nothing happened. He glanced at Bilius, who gave him a look of exasperation and nodded at the house. Arthur threw another pebble, and it hit the window with a clattering sound that made him wince and take a few steps back: he hadn’t meant to throw it quite so hard.

“If you break the windows, her parents aren’t going to let her see you any more,” Bilius said in amusement.

The window opened quite suddenly, and Arthur’s stomach turned to lead when he saw an older man’s head peek out. The man was a bit jowly, with a round face that rather reminded Arthur of an old bulldog, and silver hair sticking out from under a maroon knitted nightcap. This had to be Molly’s father, Arthur realized with dread.

“What’s going on?” the man asked blearily. “Who’s there?”

“Erm,” Arthur said, feeling a little panicky. “I think I got the wrong window.”

Mr. Prewett looked him up and down and asked, “And who are you?”

“Arthur Weasley, sir.” He could feel his ears turning red, and heard a muffled laugh behind him from Bilius.

Molly’s father nodded. “Oh, right. Molly’s told us all about you, of course. Hippolytus Prewett. Nice to meet you. Molly’s two windows down, red drapes.”

Arthur’s eyes were as wide as saucers. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Molly’s father waved vaguely and closed the window, pulling the pink curtains shut. Arthur turned to his brother in amazement. Bilius was shaking with silent laughter, one fist held to his mouth.

“Shut it,” Arthur told him.

“I’m suddenly quite glad I agreed to bring you here,” Bilius said, wiping a tear of laughter from his eye.

They moved down to the appropriate window, and Arthur started throwing pebbles again. It took five pebbles before Molly appeared, holding her lit wand aloft as she opened the window, dressed in a low-cut white nightgown with long puffy sleeves and blinking groggily. Arthur nearly forgot what he’d prepared to say to her when he saw this.

Her eyes widened when she saw him, and she gasped. “Arthur? What are you doing here?”

“I had to see you,” he called softly, trying not to stare at the neckline of her nightgown. She was more beautiful than he remembered, though she was presently regarding him as if he’d lost his senses completely.

“It’s two in the morning!” she called back incredulously.

“I couldn’t wait.”

She smiled then, her face softening. “I was dreaming of you.”

Arthur’s lately overactive imagination was off and running at that. Molly had noticed his brother, though, and pulled back into her room a bit to hide her nightgown, putting her free hand to her chest as if to hide her exposed décolletage.

“This is my brother Bilius,” Arthur said quickly. Bilius waved to her.

“Hello,” she said uncertainly.

“Hello, Arthur’s girlfriend. Why does your dad have pink curtains in his room?” Bilius asked her.

“My mum chose them. You didn’t wake my dad, did you?” Molly looked a little horrified.

“Well, yes, actually,” Arthur told her self-consciously. “He didn’t seem angry, he directed me to your window. I hope I didn’t get you in trouble, Molly,” he added worriedly.

She looked surprised at her father’s actions. She had just opened her mouth to speak again when the window next to hers opened and one of the twins stuck his head out.

“Just go down and kiss him so we can all get some sleep,” he said in exasperation.

“Go back to bed, Fabian,” Molly snapped at her little brother, leaning her head further out the window so she could scowl at him better.

Fabian’s head was pushed aside and Gideon leaned out next to him, nodding to Arthur and then turning to his sister.

“Go on, Mollykins, we’re trying to sleep here. Make sure it’s a quiet snog, though, all right? Don’t want to wake Mum and Dad.”

Molly scowled and pointed her wand at them and they both ducked back into their room, the window closing behind them with a bang.

Bilius had a hand pressed to his mouth to keep from shouting with laughter. Arthur frowned and aimed a kick at him, but Bilius danced away.

“I’ll be right down,” Molly said, pulling her head back in from the window and closing it softly.

Arthur turned to his brother. “Get lost, Bilius.”

“Not bloody likely. I want to meet ickle Artie’s girlfriend properly.” He was still grinning madly.

The back door opened and Molly came out, wrapped tightly in a purple robe and wearing fluffy yellow slippers. Arthur rushed over to meet her in the doorway so she wouldn’t have to walk in the snow, and she smiled at him as she clutched the neck of her robe closed. Arthur swooped in to kiss her quickly before Bilius could interrupt and say anything embarrassing.

Bilius sauntered over behind Arthur and said cheerfully, “Good morning, Molly Prewett.”

“Good morning,” Molly said, while Arthur gave his brother a glare that clearly indicated he should shove off and leave them alone now.

Bilius disregarded this entirely and addressed Molly again. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring Arthur here tonight, but it’s definitely been entertaining enough to miss out on some sleep. Your dad seems nice, incidentally.”

“Erm, thank you. I can’t believe you woke my dad,” Molly said, glancing from Bilius to Arthur and back.

“It’s been a slightly farcical evening,” Bilius said cheerfully. “We thought the pink windows must be yours, since you’re the only girl.”

“Well, that isn’t my fault,” Molly said sternly, looking over at Arthur again. “When have you ever seen me wear anything pink?

Bilius grinned at her and said to Arthur, who was still glaring at him, “I think I like her. All right, all right, now I’ll get lost, but I’ll be back in five minutes, so make it quick. It’s bloody late and I want to get some sleep.” He turned on the spot and Apparated to who knew where. Arthur did not particularly care, though, because he was now alone with Molly and she was smiling invitingly up at him.

“What were you dreaming about, exactly?” he asked her, putting an arm around her and drawing her further into the doorway so they were hidden from view from the windows of her house.

“This.” Molly’s arms twined around his neck and he bent down to meet her halfway as she reached up to kiss him.

The five minutes seemed to pass very quickly, for it seemed only a few seconds later that he felt someone tapping his shoulder and looked up to see Bilius standing next to them, again quaking with silent laughter.

“Did you not hear me?” he asked when Arthur looked over at him. “I’ve been calling your names for two solid minutes here.”

Molly hid her face in Arthur’s cloak, but he thought he caught a giggle escape her. She stepped away from him then, and she was smiling when she said, “Come back later today, this afternoon, you can have dinner with us and meet my parents properly.”

“I’ll be here,” he promised, and kissed her again, not caring that his brother was watching.

“You can Floo over this time, if you like,” Molly added, her gaze flickering over to Bilius briefly. Arthur interpreted this to mean he should not bring his brother along, which was perfectly fine with him.

“I will. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night, Arthur. It was lovely to meet you, Bilius.”

Bilius waved at her vaguely, and Molly disappeared into the house. Arthur turned to Bilius, who raised an eyebrow at him.

“Coming for dinner on Boxing Day? What are you going to tell Mum and Dad? You haven’t even told them you’ve a girlfriend, have you?”

Arthur shrugged. He was a little apprehensive about telling his mother about Molly, but he didn’t want to admit it to his brother. “Dunno. I’ll think of something. Thanks for bringing me here, Bilius.”

“Well, I can hardly blame you,” Bilius said cheerfully, clapping a hand on Arthur’s shoulder as they walked toward the gate. “If I had anyone who could snog me to the point of deafness in less than five minutes, I’d be sneaking out at two in the morning as well.”

Chapter 21: Come On Down To My Boat
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Every Mother’s Son, “Come On Down To My Boat”
Come on down to my boat baby
Come on down where we can play
Come on down to my boat baby
Come on down we'll sail away.



Arthur arrived at Molly’s house, coughing slightly from accidentally inhaling a bit of ash, to find her waiting for him in front of the fireplace. There was a large Christmas tree in the corner behind her which had to have been magically enhanced to be able to hold the weight of the baubles crowded together all over it, and the entire room seemed to be coated in tinsel. Apparently Molly’s mother liked to decorate in the manner of the Gryffindor seventh-years.

Molly threw herself into his arms without even waiting for him to dust the soot off.

“Hello there,” he said, hugging her tightly.

“I’m so glad to see you,” she said, reaching up to kiss him.

Arthur jumped away from her when he heard a voice yelling, “Mum! Arthur Weasley’s here! Molly’s kissing him!”

Molly turned to glare at her brothers, who were peeking through the door and grinning at her.

“Better dust off quickly before Mum sees you,” one of the twins said mischievously.

Molly grabbed a clothes-brush from atop the mantel and started brushing the soot from both of their clothes. Arthur heard footsteps thudding down the hall and felt his stomach knot up.

“What’s your mum like?” he asked nervously.

“Well…” Molly shrugged, grimacing slightly. “She’s a bit –”

The door to the room slammed open, and Arthur could see the twins scurrying away behind a small woman wearing flowing green robes, with auburn hair tied up into an elegant knot. She had a regal bearing that made her seem taller than she was.

“Good afternoon, Mister Weasley,” she said, striding toward him and putting out a hand. “I’m Antonia Prewett, Molly’s mother.”

“Good afternoon,” he said, still a little nervous, but he shook her hand. She smiled at him approvingly; apparently his handshake had passed muster.

“You can call him Arthur, Mum,” Molly said, eyeing her mother a little warily.

“I taught you manners, young lady,” Mrs. Prewett said severely. “When he gives me permission to call him by his first name, then I will, not because you said I might.”

Molly gave her mother a furious look that clearly said she would like to shout at her for correcting her behaviour in front of her boyfriend.

“Please call me Arthur,” he said quickly, hoping to redirect both of them.

Mrs. Prewett smiled at him. “Come with me, I’ll introduce you to my husband.”

“Nobody told my mum about last night,” Molly hissed to him as they followed her mother into the hallway, which was also thoroughly decorated with swags of greenery, gold Christmas baubles, and yet more tinsel. “So don’t mention it in front of her, or she’ll shout at me about it.”

“Right.” Arthur looked apprehensively at Mrs. Prewett’s back. She opened a door at the end of the hallway and gestured them inside.

Molly’s father sat in an extremely ugly mustard-coloured armchair in an overcrowded study, reading a novel. There was a merciful lack of Christmas décor in the study, and Arthur wondered if this was because Mr. Prewett did not want any, or if there was simply nowhere to put it around the abundance of books and papers that were stacked haphazardly on every shelf and coating the large oak desk.

Mr. Prewett looked up when they came in and nodded at Arthur. “Ah, you must be young Mr. Weasley.”

“Arthur, this is my husband, Molly’s father, Hippolytus Prewett,” Mrs. Prewett said, smiling at her husband in a manner that indicated he had better be on his best behaviour.

“Nice to meet you,” Mr. Prewett said, ignoring his wife and not rising from the horrible mustard chair.

Arthur was glad Molly had warned him or he would have been quite confused that her father acted as though he’d never set eyes on Arthur before. He hurried over to shake hands, and Mr. Prewett gave him an encouraging nod.

“You can call him Arthur, dear,” Mrs. Prewett said, causing Molly to shoot her an outraged stare.

Molly’s mother shot the mustard chair a look of distaste, then gave a loud sniff as she held out her arms, herding Molly and Arthur out of the study. “We’ll leave you to your work, dear,” she said to her husband, who smiled blandly up at her, picking up his book again.

“She’s upset that my dad won’t help her take down the Christmas decorations,” Molly said under her breath so her mother wouldn’t hear. “He said he had work to do, but he’s reading an Auror novel.”

“Molly, I could use a little help in the kitchen. Arthur, why don’t you go upstairs and check on the twins for me? Their room is the second door on the left.” Mrs. Prewett smiled at them both warmly, but there was a steely glint in her eye that Arthur recognized. Meeting Molly’s mum was starting to explain rather a lot about Molly, but Arthur figured it was best not to say this to his girlfriend.

“Yes, Mrs. Prewett,” he said. Molly looked as if she wanted to argue, but she deflated a bit and said, “Yes, Mum.”

Arthur climbed the stairs and headed for the room from whence was coming a small popping sound, followed by the mischievous chuckles of the twins.

“Hello, boys,” he said, pushing the door open. “Your mum told me to check on you.”

“She doesn’t trust us at all,” Gideon said resentfully, as a small device in front of him emitted a loud belch of violet smoke and a small silver hook protruding from it whirred around brokenly.

Arthur eyed the little device warily. “What does that do?”

“Well, nothing right now. We’re trying to fix it.” Fabian held up another device that had apparently broken off of the other one.

“Right.” Arthur sat down on one of the beds and looked around. The twins’ room was done in a deep, rich blue, with small dancing hippogriffs sprinkled on the striped wallpaper. There were hippogriffs everywhere: small figures on shelves, stuffed toys in a battered hippogriff-shaped toy box, and on the fabric of the blue curtains.

Fabian noted him looking. “We wanted to own a hippogriff ranch when we were little,” he explained.

“It would still be fun,” Gideon said wistfully.

“Actually, we’re glad you’re here, Arthur, even if Mum doesn’t trust us not to blow up the house,” Fabian began. The device let out another belch of smoke and he fanned it quickly.

“Yes, we wanted to talk to you about Molly,” Gideon added.

Arthur felt his stomach clench at this statement. He was getting rather tired of people trying to talk to him about Molly and his relationship with her.

“We heard about what happened at school. We tried to tell Molly not to get involved, but she’s so bossy, she always has to butt in everywhere.” Fabian rolled his eyes.

“Boys, I really don’t think –” Arthur began.

“Look, you can’t let Molly boss you about all the time,” Gideon interrupted. “She’ll stamp all over you if you let her, you’ve got to stand up to her.”

“Yeah, you’ve got to be your own man,” Fabian said, and Arthur thought this was rather rich coming from someone whose voice had not yet settled into one octave.

“Not that she won’t try to boss you around anyway,” Gideon added thoughtfully. “She’s always ordering us about and nosing into our business.”

“But you don’t always have to do what she tells you. Our mum and dad are the same way,” Fabian told him knowledgably. “Mum tells Dad what to do all the time, and sometimes he does it, and sometimes he does what he likes. If he did what Mum told him all the time, I think she’d be bored.”

“Right. Molly’s quite a lot like Mum, but she’d never admit it.”

Arthur stared quietly for a moment at a hippogriff-shaped lamp on one of the matching desks in the room, thinking about what they’d said. “I appreciate your help, boys, but really –” He stopped at the sound of footsteps in the hall and looked up at the doorway just as Molly appeared. She cast a suspicious look at her brothers and then smiled at Arthur.

“Dinner’s ready. Mum said to wash up first,” she said, directing the last at the twins.

Gideon had apparently hidden the broken device behind his back before his sister could see it. “We’ll be right down,” he said.

“Think about what we said,” Fabian told Arthur as he rose to follow Molly.

“You weren’t talking about me, were you?” Molly asked suspiciously.

“Why would we do that?” Fabian said innocently.

“Don’t listen to a word they say,” Molly said to Arthur, giving her brothers a dark glare as she closed their door. They smiled innocently at their sister, and she did not appear to notice the little cloud of violet smoke puffing up from behind Gideon.

Arthur made a noncommittal noise. Her brothers might actually have a point. He thought they knew their sister rather better than she thought they did. He ducked into the bathroom for a quick wash, since his hands were still a little sooty, then followed Molly downstairs.

Molly’s father was seated at the head of the table, reading the same novel he’d had earlier, and Mrs. Prewett was bringing food in to the table while glaring at her husband. He was blithely pretending not to notice this, but he looked up when Molly and Arthur came in.

“Did you tell the boys to wash up?”

“Yes, Dad,” Molly said, sitting down next to her father and indicating that Arthur should sit next to her.

“Did you make sure they did?”

“Oh, Hippolytus, don’t be ridiculous, they’re thirteen years old now,” Mrs. Prewett said, setting a platter of sliced ham on the table with a bang. “They’re perfectly capable of washing their hands by themselves.”

“Are you implying that they might actually wash up properly without supervision? Our sons?” he asked mildly.

“Of course not,” snapped Mrs. Prewett, reversing gears completely.

The twins came running in and slid into their chairs. Arthur noticed a flash of silver as Gideon sat down, but neither Mrs. Prewett nor Mr. Prewett appeared to have seen this.

The conversation stayed innocuous until the pudding, with the twins remaining silent but for the occasional snicker down at the end of the table, and Mr. and Mrs. Prewett sniping at each other now and then, when Mrs. Prewett turned quite suddenly to Arthur and asked what he thought of “our little Molly.”

“Erm,” he said, trying not to blush and wondering what exactly the correct response to this might be, “She’s a wonderful girl.”

Molly smiled at him. Apparently that had been the correct response for her.

“And what do you think of the apple cake?” Mrs. Prewett asked, smiling at the half-eaten slice on his plate.

“It’s delicious,” Arthur said honestly, as it was indeed one of the best Dorset apple cakes he’d eaten.

“I made it,” Molly said unexpectedly, and Arthur turned to her with a grin.

“You did? Really? It’s brilliant, Molly,” he said, and when he heard the lovesick note in his own voice, he stopped talking and bent over his cake, feeling a blush creep up his neck. She could cook after all, he thought happily, taking another bite.

Molly looked quite pleased, and her mother was smiling at them indulgently, and Arthur wondered if Mrs. Prewett had started this conversation solely so her daughter could show off. He decided then that he quite liked Molly’s mum.

“Yes, Molly’s a good girl, although she does have her moments. She’s not always appreciative of gifts she receives,” Mrs. Prewett said with a wink at her daughter.

Molly looked as if she were trying not to roll her eyes. “I said it was a nice dress, Mum, aside from the pink. I don’t like pink,” she said stubbornly. “I’ll just charm it to be purple and it will be fine. I never said I didn’t appreciate it.”

“I like pink,” Mrs. Prewett said, sounding quite as stubborn as her daughter. “Pink is a lovely colour. My entire room is decorated in a lovely dark pink.”

Mr. Prewett made a small noise that might have been a snort, and his wife turned to him with a baleful glare.

“But of course Hippolytus doesn’t mind the pink, do you dear?” she asked with poisonous sweetness.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Molly’s father said calmly, not looking up from his book, which he’d taken back out after finishing his ham. “I’m red-green colour-blind.”

“But…” Arthur frowned slightly. Last night Mr. Prewett had directed him to Molly’s window and noted the colour of her drapes was red.

Mr. Prewett winked at him, and Arthur had to wonder if Molly’s father had been lying about his colour-blindness solely to annoy his wife, who had apparently decorated their room solely to annoy her husband, or whether he simply knew that his daughter’s drapes were red because someone had told him they were.

Arthur had only a moment to ponder this mystery before Mrs. Prewett interrupted his thoughts, gazing darkly at her husband as she asked, “And what classes do you take, Arthur?”

“Erm…” Arthur listed his classes for her, and her eyebrows rose slightly when he mentioned Muggle Studies.

“Muggle Studies, really. What made you take that class?”

“I’ve always been very interested in Muggles. It’s my favourite class,” Arthur said, a little self-consciously. Molly’s family were purebloods, and although she didn’t mind his Muggle fascination, he wasn’t sure what her family would think of it. They must know his family were called blood traitors; sometimes it seemed everyone knew. For the first time in his life, Arthur was nervous of someone’s reaction to his family: he wanted Molly’s parents to approve of him.

Molly’s parents were eyeing each other, and Arthur rather thought they were each waiting for the other to express their opinion so they could disagree with it.

He was saved from this by a loud bang from the end of the table, and everyone turned to the twins, who blinked at them innocently. A small puff of scarlet smoke rose from Gideon’s lap. He shifted in his seat slightly, and his innocent smile looked a little strained; whatever he had in his lap was apparently growing hot.

“What,” asked their father, “do you two think you are doing?”

“I don’t want to know what you’ve got, just go to your room.” Mrs. Prewett gazed at them sternly.

Gideon shovelled one more large bite of cake into his mouth before taking off with his brother on his heels, slamming the dining room door behind him.

Mrs. Prewett heaved a long-suffering sigh. “Those two,” she said, clucking her tongue. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with them.”

“At least when they’re home, you can yell at them in person, and we save a bit on Howler costs,” Mr. Prewett said gruffly, then added in an aside to Arthur as he stood up, “We buy them in bulk, you know.”

“Boys will be boys,” Mrs. Prewett said. “Especially those boys. Molly, you may be excused tonight, as you’ve a guest. Your father will help me clear up.”

“Oh I will, will I?” Mr. Prewett eyed his wife malignantly. He had reached the doorway and paused at his wife’s words. “I’m going to my study, dear, I’m sure you can handle things on your own.”

Molly’s mum scowled at him as he disappeared into his study. Molly, however, looked delighted that she did not have to help with the clean-up. “Thanks, Mum! Come upstairs,” she said, giving Arthur’s hand a tug as she stood. “I want to show you what Hattie gave me for Christmas.”

“You keep your brothers with you as chaperones if you’re going into your room, Molly,” Mrs. Prewett said sternly as they reached the hall.

“I’m of age, Mum,” Molly said in a long-suffering voice, propping a hand on her hip in the doorway.

“Then you can move out if you want to have boys alone in your room, since you’re of age,” her mother shot back.

“Fine. Gideon! Fabian!” Molly bellowed down the hall, causing Arthur to jump, startled. Her brothers’ heads popped out of the drawing room to look at her expectantly. “Come on, we’re going upstairs,” she told them.

“Why should we do that?” one of them asked.

“Yeah, we’re busy here.”

Mr. Prewett appeared in the doorway to his study. “Boys, listen to your mother.”

“But Molly told us to, not Mum,” Gideon pointed out.

Their father frowned at them. “Get upstairs, all of you.”

Molly gave a loud, disapproving sniff, and hustled her brothers upstairs. Arthur followed her but couldn’t help glancing back at her parents as they went.

“So, what makes you think I’ll help you clear all that up?” Molly’s father asked gruffly.

“Oh, I think I can convince you,” said his wife, stepping into his arms. They kissed as Arthur went up another step and out of eyesight.

Molly had apparently overheard her parents, because she rolled her eyes as she ushered him into her room. Gideon and Fabian had already made themselves comfortable on Molly’s bed, both sprawled out as if they owned the place. Molly’s room was done entirely in a deep garnet that reminded him of the Gryffindor common room. It was a bit smaller than the twins’ room, with a four-poster bed with gold tassels hanging from the acorn-shaped finials, a large mirror in front of a closet overflowing with knitted clothing, and a chair upholstered in the same red brocade as her drapes in front of a small oak desk. Arthur plopped down into this chair while Molly closed the door behind them, and tried not to look too much at Molly’s bed.

“Look what Hattie gave me,” she said enthusiastically, grabbing an ornately wrapped box from the top of her dresser and pulling out what looked like short, thin knitting needles attached at one end by some sort of cord. She brandished these at him with an air of great excitement.

“What is it?” Arthur asked cautiously, eyeing the contraption warily, while one of the twins rolled his eyes at his sister.

“Round knitting needles!” Molly hugged them to her chest. “Now I can knit socks much more easily. Using four needles is tedious. She gave me two pair! Large gauge and narrow gauge. It’s going to be brilliant. Hattie is the sweetest.”

Arthur had no idea what she was talking about, but she was happy so he smiled. “That’s great, Molly.”

“For the record, if you wanted to make me socks in my Quidditch team colours, that would be a good birthday present,” Fabian said, paging through a book that had been on Molly’s bedside table. “I can’t believe you read this rubbish.”

Molly turned red and snatched the book away from him. Arthur caught a glimpse of the cover as she stuffed it into the top drawer of her bedside table: a swarthy and muscular moustachioed man dressed as a pirate held a swooning woman with long blonde curls and a silky dress perched rather precariously over her ample bosom. The name ‘Fifi LaFolle’ was plastered across the front cover in large, curly pink letters.

“What are your Quidditch team colours?” Molly asked, clearly trying to divert attention from the book.

“The Falcons, remember?”

Molly gave him an impatient look. “And what are their colours?”

“Molly doesn’t know any teams,” Gideon said to Arthur, grinning. “Watch. Molly, what’s the Appleby team called?”

Molly scowled at him. “I hate when you do this, you know, it’s not funny. Are they the Apples?”

Arthur tried not to smile. Gideon and Fabian were chuckling wickedly. This was apparently a recurring pastime for them. “Wait, wait, I’ve got one,” Fabian said excitedly. “Molly, what’s the Ballycastle mascot?”

“I have better things to do than worry about Quidditch mascots,” she said haughtily.

“It’s Barny the Fruitbat,” Arthur said, coughing to cover a laugh.

“Oh, don’t you start too, Arthur,” she said severely, frowning at him.

He arranged his features hurriedly into a sombre expression. “Sorry, Molly.”

“If you want socks, you’d better tell me the colours,” Molly told the twins, who were still grinning widely.

“The Falmouth Falcons’ colours are dark grey and white,” Arthur said helpfully.

“Aw, Arthur, you’re ruining the fun,” Gideon said, still grinning.

Molly eyed her brothers. “I’ll give you both a Galleon if you go away and keep a lookout for Mum.”

“What, and leave you alone with a male? Unchaperoned?” Fabian gave her an exaggeratedly astonished look, affecting a very upper-class accent that reminded Arthur a bit of Thaddeus Peabody. “The impropriety! Never, dear sister, never!”

“And I’ll look for a charm to fix that thing you’ve been working on, if you promise not to tell Mum I helped you with it,” Molly added.

“Right, see you later,” Fabian said, sliding down from the bed.

“If we hear Mum coming, we’ll hurry in, so keep all your clothes on,” Gideon added.

Arthur felt his ears turn red at that, and Molly flushed, but she let the twins go without another word, and they were laughing softly as they pulled the door closed behind them.

“Oh, finally,” she said, stepping closer to Arthur, her arms sliding around his neck. “I thought they’d never leave.”

“I think that about my brothers frequently too,” Arthur agreed, and she chuckled as he bent down to kiss her.

Arthur sat down on Molly’s bed while she hid another Fifi LaFolle novel that had been under her pillow, and he pretended not to see it, then she joined him, curling up next to him.

“What did your parents say when you told them about me?” he asked, brushing a lock of auburn hair from her face.

“Oh, my mum thought it was sweet, so my dad said he’d kill you if you tried anything,” Molly said carelessly, her head on his shoulder and eyes closed happily. Arthur froze with his hand hovering above her head, eyes wide, and she chuckled. “He was only joking, I think. What did your parents say?”

“My mum cried,” Arthur admitted, relaxing a bit again. Her father hadn’t seemed to be on the verge of killing him earlier, and the twins were keeping a lookout, after all. “She kept saying her baby was growing up. It was awful. My dad just blew a smoke heart out of his pipe. You’d like him,” he added proudly. “My dad’s the best.”

“Do you think they’d like me?” Molly asked, looking up at him with a slightly worried expression.

He brushed a hand across her cheek comfortingly. “Of course. D’you think your parents like me?” He wanted to add, in spite of the Weasley blood-traitor reputation, but was not quite brave enough to say it.

She smiled up at him sweetly. “How could they not?”

He was just leaning down to kiss her again when the door slammed open and the twins burst in.

“Oh good, you’re still dressed,” Fabian said, hopping onto the bed. “Mum’s coming.”

Arthur let go of Molly so quickly she fell back against the headboard and hit her head, but she sat up again immediately, rubbing the back of her head, as Arthur scooted down to the foot of the bed, so that the twins were between them. They all affected a casual air as Mrs. Prewett’s footsteps sounded on the stairs.

“Molly, it’s nine o’clock,” Mrs. Prewett said, peeking her head into the room through the open door.

“Oh, is it already?” Molly asked brightly, her eyes wide and innocent in a manner quite reminiscent of her brothers. Her mother’s eyes narrowed slightly.

Arthur recognized this as his cue. “I’d better get home,” he said, sliding off the bed.

“I’ll walk you to the fireplace,” Molly said, following him.

Arthur paused in the doorway to shake her mother’s hand. “Thank you very much for dinner, Mrs. Prewett, it was quite delicious.”

She smiled at him despite her obvious suspicions about what they’d been up to. “It was lovely to meet you, Arthur. Do come round again, won’t you?”

Molly grabbed his hand and led the way down the stairs, with her mother following them. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Mrs. Prewett bellowed down the hall, “Arthur’s leaving, Hippolytus!”

“And what d’you want me to do about it, woman?” came his answer from the study.

Mrs. Prewett swelled, her eyes flashing, and Molly hurried into the drawing room, shutting the door on her mother’s shouts.

“Is your dad really colour-blind?” Arthur asked in a low voice.

Molly shrugged. “If he was, he never mentioned it until Mum said she was thinking about doing their room in pink and green. The twins are not, and they say sons will get it from their father.”

“Ah.” Arthur had rather thought that might be the case. The constant battle of wills between Molly’s parents sounded exhausting, but then he’d seen them kissing after dinner so they did seem like they were in love… It was very odd. Molly’s house was a very interesting place to be, he thought as he stepped into the fireplace.

“I love you, Arthur. I’ll see you at school,” she said, stepping up next to him for a moment to kiss him, holding out a blue and white porcelain urn full of Floo powder to him.

Arthur took a handful and kissed her back. “I love you too, Molly.”

The last thing he saw was her waving to him before he spun out of sight, the green flames breathing a warm breeze over him.




A/N: Once again, sorry for the wait. I hope you enjoyed the chapter; let me know what you thought - I really couldn't decide if I liked it or not, hence the delay. My mother is coming to visit from the 15th-29th, so there will probably not be any updates until after that. Forgive the absence and check back in two weeks! Thanks!

Chapter 22: Baby I'm Yours
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Barbara Lewis, “Baby I’m Yours”
Baby, I'm yours
And I'll be yours until two and two is three,
Yours until the mountains crumble to the sea
In other words, until eternity



Molly arrived back at school in good spirits. Her parents, loathe though they were to agree with each other on even the smallest point, had both admitted that Arthur was a nice boy after all. Considering that they had been known to argue for hours over what shade of blue the sky was, she thought that was a nice triumph for her. The twins had even been less horrible than expected. She thought they must like Arthur too, though of course she hadn’t bothered to ask them.

Petula was already in their dormitory when Molly got there, unpacking what she’d brought home with her. Cecilia had apparently already settled in and headed off for parts unknown, as her things had all been returned to their normal spots, and Siobhan’s bag was tossed carelessly on her bed. Siobhan always spent the Christmas holiday at Cecilia’s house, ever since first year when they’d all come back from the holiday to find Siobhan had stayed at school alone. Hattie didn’t seem to have gotten back to school yet, or Siobhan’s bag would probably be unpacked. Hattie hated for their dormitory to be out of order and was likely to clean up after her roommates.

“Hi Molly,” Petula said, looking up from the robes she was folding. “Have a good holiday?”

“Yes, thank you. Arthur came for dinner on Boxing Day and met my parents,” she said in a rush.

“Really? How did it go?”

“Brilliant. My parents liked him, and my brothers didn’t do anything to him! I think they like him too,” she said happily.

“That’s great, Molly.” Petula pulled out another set of robes from her bag and shook them to loosen the wrinkles. “I half-expected you to say your brothers turned his teeth black or something.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “I did too. But they were very nice.”

“Hmm. Maybe you’ve finally had a good influence on them.” Petula put the stack of folded robes into her trunk.

“I doubt it, but it’s sweet of you to say so. Where are Siobhan and Cecilia?”

“Siobhan’s with Addae, he and Akwetee got back this morning. Cecilia is probably in the library, I don’t know.”

Molly sat at the foot of her bed and rested her feet on the lid of her school trunk. “How was your holiday, Petula?”

Petula made a face and swept her long hair aside as she straightened up, letting her trunk close with a bang. “My mum complained about my marks every time she saw me. My sisters came to visit with their horrible children and my dad kept saying how good their marks had been at school. I seriously considered jumping off a cliff.”

“I’m sorry yours were horrible, but I still wish I had sisters,” Molly said with a wistful sigh.

“No,” Petula said distinctly, “you don’t.”

They went downstairs shortly after that to find Cecilia in an epic row with the fifth-year prefect Acacia Bushby-Ferris, apparently over Siobhan, as her name kept being dragged into it. Siobhan herself was nowhere to be seen. Molly tried to figure out what was going on as Cecilia, red-faced, shouted at the younger girl. Cecilia was a head taller than Acacia and was leaning over her, but the girl did not back down. Molly was rather impressed with her fortitude: Cecilia cut an impressive, and intimidating, figure when she was incandescent with rage like this.

“I’ll take points from anyone I see breaking a rule,” Acacia finally said stubbornly when Cecilia paused for breath, and she turned and walked away without a backward glance. Molly wasn’t sure whether this was deliberately intended to send Cecilia completely round the bend with rage, or whether that was simply an unexpected side effect.

Cecilia looked as if she might chase the girl down and hex her, but Hattie came through the portrait hole just then, wearing a shell-pink hat and matching robes under a dark rosy pink cloak, and looked a little alarmed at Cecilia’s obvious temper.

“What’s going on?” she asked anxiously, hurrying over to them as she stripped off her pale pink gloves. “I’ve only just got back, what did I miss?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Molly said, looking at Cecilia.

“She took points from Siobhan,” Cecilia said, her nostrils flaring as she sucked in an angry breath. “She only saw her coming out of an empty classroom with Akwetee.”

“I thought she was dating Addae?” Hattie said.

Cecilia waved a hand, dismissing this as inconsequential. “Whichever. The point is, she has no idea they did anything in there. She took points from her own house! Over nothing!”

Hattie frowned. “But you know perfectly well what Siobhan must have been doing in there with Addae.”

“That,” said Cecilia, “is not the point. She did not actually catch them at anything. She had no right to take points from her. She just doesn’t like Siobhan, she thinks she’s a…” She struggled to find the right word, her eyes flashing. “Scarlet woman.”

Molly couldn’t help but think Acacia might have a bit of a point about Siobhan, but she would never say it aloud. Siobhan had a good heart, deep down, and Molly was very loyal to her friends, despite Siobhan’s possibly-scarlet nature. Molly knew Siobhan had problems at home, and made allowances for her friend’s behaviour because of it.

Hattie shook her head. “Let’s just calm down, and we can all go down to dinner.”

“If I see Acacia, I’m going to hex her,” Cecilia snarled.

Molly glanced at the stairs to the boys’ dormitory. “Has anyone seen Arthur? Is he back yet?”

Her friends shook their heads.

“Run on up and check if he’s in his room,” Petula suggested.

“Do you think I ought to?” Molly asked nervously.

“Just go, Molly,” Cecilia said impatiently. “I’m hungry, and I want to hex Acacia.”

“You can’t just hex people because they annoy you,” Hattie said.

“I don’t see why not. The world would be a better place if I could hex all the stupid people in it.”

“You’re a prefect, Cecilia!”

Molly climbed the stairs, leaving behind the sound of Hattie and Cecilia squabbling. She found the door labelled ‘Sixth Years’ and pushed it open cautiously. There was no one there, and she took a moment to examine the room. It looked rather like the girls’ dormitory, with five four-posters arranged in a circle, and the boys’ school trunks at the foot of their beds. It smelled strange though, a little like dirty socks.

She wondered which bed was Arthur’s, and the thought made her feel a little warm and breathless as she stared at the white linens and red curtains on the beds.

She started guiltily at the sound of footsteps and turned to see Thaddeus Peabody coming up the stairwell, dressed in his Quidditch robes and looking sweaty, his broom over his shoulder. He looked surprised to see her.

“What are you doing up here, Molly?” he asked.

“I was looking for Arthur.”

“He was just down at the pitch watching us practise. I’m sure he’ll be along shortly.” Thad’s cheeks turned a little pink. “Erm, I need to get cleaned up for dinner…”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Molly said, blushing bright red. “I’ll go.” She ducked past Thad and dashed down the stairwell.

“Was he there?” Hattie asked when she reached the common room.

“What did the boys’ dormitory look like?” Petula asked eagerly.

Cecilia shot her a quelling look and then turned back to Molly. “We saw Thad go up, what happened?”

“Nothing,” Molly said, “I just asked if he’d seen Arthur and then left. He didn’t dock me points for being up there.”

Cecilia snorted. “Of course not. He never docks points from anyone for anything. Thad is the king of ‘let-you-go-with-a-warning’.”

“He’s really awfully nice for a prefect,” Hattie said, smiling.

“Are you saying I’m not nice?” Cecilia demanded.

Arthur and Dunstan were already sitting at the Gryffindor table with Siobhan when the girls got down to the hall. Siobhan was masterfully ignoring Acacia, who was sitting further down the table and who occasionally glared at Siobhan as if Siobhan had deliberately offended her by being caught in an empty classroom with a boy, even if they hadn’t been in a compromising position – something Molly was sure Acacia had probably missed only by moments. Arthur and Dunstan were dissecting the Gryffindor team’s Quidditch practice while they ate.

“Where’s Cosmo?” Petula asked curiously, glancing down the table.

“He’s not back yet,” Arthur said. “He said he went sheeing with his family, but I don’t know what that is. He didn’t answer my last owl before he left.”

“I think you’ll find you mean skiing, Arthur,” Siobhan said, taking a bite of her roast beef nonchalantly while Acacia gave her a death glare. Cecilia fingered her wand, scowling at Acacia.

“Really?” Arthur turned to her eagerly. He had evidently forgotten that Siobhan was Muggle-born as well. “What is it? Have you been?”

“Well, you wear skis, which are long pieces of wood that you strap to your feet, and you use them to slide down a mountain on top of the snow.” Siobhan shrugged. “I’ve never been, no. Cold weather doesn’t particularly appeal to me.”

Arthur looked fascinated. “I see. And what is the function of skiing?”

“There is no function, it’s just for fun.”

“Oh.” He seemed rather disappointed at that, as if he’d been hoping for an elaborate Muggle ritual surrounding the skis.

Molly smiled at him fondly. He was really very cute when he was entranced by Muggles. She thought it rather showed how sweet and thoughtful he was that he cared so about Muggles, although she was glad he had stopped trying to tell her about them all the time. It was as bad as her brothers with sport; they seemed to think that Molly’s ignorance on the subject should be remedied, while she was perfectly happy not knowing or caring about Quidditch. At least Arthur had cottoned on quickly that she wasn’t interested – her brothers were still trying to insert Quidditch facts into conversation so she would learn them, as if she cared about the Falmouth Fwoopers or whatever they were.

Arthur was asking more about Muggle sports, and Siobhan looked a little uncertain as she tried to answer. Siobhan wasn't really interested in sports, just in the athletes, and she didn't spend much time in the Muggle world anyway these days. Molly wondered if Arthur knew about Siobhan’s father, and that she was mostly left to her own devices at home and tended to stay with Cecilia whenever possible. He probably didn’t, as Siobhan kept that to herself as much as she could. Molly continued to eat as she watched Arthur chatting with her friend, and wondered what would happen if he talked about Muggles like this in front of her parents. It was rather a frightening possibility, as he loved Muggles, and her parents did not care a whit about them but loved to argue with each other over anything and would probably use him as an excuse to fight. She decided on the spot that she’d just have to tell them that criticizing Arthur was off-limits, and then shout her mother down and bribe her father with some puddings.

She dragged her attention back to the conversation then, just in time to catch Cecilia making a nasty jab in an airy voice at Reid, who had just arrived with a large Ancient Runes textbook tucked under his arm and a face slightly grey with exhaustion. Considering Cecilia’s owls over Christmas had mentioned Reid and Gemma several times, Molly found this amusing.

*

Molly sat in Defence Against the Dark Arts the next morning, trying not to watch Arthur, who was sitting beside her, looking adorable in the scarf she’d knitted for him. She was concentrating so hard on not concentrating on him that she jumped when Professor Ampara tapped her wand on the blackboard to start class, making a mellow ringing sound.

“Good morning, class. We’re going to start something new today. It isn’t on the syllabus, but I had, well, an encounter over Christmas and I thought this was something you should all know, these days….” Professor Ampara stared blankly over the students’ heads for a moment, as if remembering something very unpleasant. Her dark brows were knitted thoughtfully.

Molly glanced over at Arthur, who looked worried. Molly remembered what her mother had said, when her father worried over sending her and her brothers back to school after the summer: It’ll be Grindelwald all over again! And who’ll stop him this time? Dumbledore, again! So send them to school, it’s safe there…

“Right,” Professor Ampara said, coming out of her brief reverie and turning to the blackboard. “Let’s get started. The Patronus Charm…”

Molly took notes on the charm while Professor Ampara lectured about it, then stood so the desks could be cleared, feeling a little anxious at being asked to perform the charm already. Molly liked to do research and look things up before trying them.

“You don’t need a partner to try this,” Professor Ampara called out. “Just give it a whirl, go on. The sooner you get started practising this, the easier it will be later on. Think of something very happy, the happiest memory you can. A deep, visceral feeling of happiness will work best when you’re getting started…”

An image formed immediately in Molly’s mind of the night of the concert, Arthur kissing her and saying he loved her, and as the feeling of bubbling happiness in her stomach rose again, she held out her wand.

Expecto Patronum!

Immediately, and to Molly’s surprise, a small form burst out of the tip of her wand, and a small silver creature formed in the air ahead of her. It dissolved almost instantly, before she could tell what it was.

“Well done, Miss Prewett! Twenty points to Gryffindor!” Professor Ampara looked very pleased.

“What was the form? I couldn’t tell,” Molly asked, trying to picture the little creature in her mind again. She was still beaming over her unexpected success with the Patronus charm. She was good at Defence Against the Dark Arts, but she didn’t normally manage a complicated spell on her first attempt.

“I don’t know.” Petula had the tip of her tongue at the corner of her mouth, as she always did when concentrating hard. She didn’t appear to have come up with a happy enough memory yet and was twirling her wand absently.

Cecilia had tried three times now to cast the charm and was looking quite enraged at her inability to do so. Professor Ampara came to stand next to her and seemed a little alarmed at Cecilia’s fury.

“You must calm down, Miss Fletcher. The Patronus isn’t going to work when you’re angry. You need to summon a happy memory. Take a deep breath, think of your happiest memory, and release your anger.”

Cecilia took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She held herself perfectly still for a moment before casting the charm, her eyes still closed. Nothing happened.

“Keep trying,” Professor Ampara said encouragingly, then turned to Petula. “Miss Cordingley?”

Petula heaved a sigh and held out her wand, looking as if she were only humouring their teacher. “Expecto Patronum!”

Molly let out a gasp as silver mist came from Petula’s wand, and Cecilia managed a proud little half-smile. Petula looked stunned.

“Did you see that?” she asked in amazement.

Professor Ampara smiled warmly. “Well done, Miss Cordingley.”

“That was wonderful, Petula,” Molly said as their teacher moved on to the other students.

“I actually did it,” Petula said, and she still looked astonished.

Cecilia’s face took on a determined look and she held out her wand again, but again nothing happened when she tried the Patronus.

“Oh no,” she said, her face falling dramatically, “I’ve turned into Petula!”

Petula frowned and aimed a kick at her, but Cecilia dodged it, grinning.

Molly laughed and turned to see how the three Gryffindor boys were getting on. A large silver form was trotting around inside their little circle, and she was not surprised to see that Reid had managed a Patronus. It was a ram, its large horns curled back in a spiral. Reid looked quite proud of himself.

Arthur looked up and their eyes met. He was still laughing over something his friends had been saying, and she thought he looked very handsome when he smiled. Molly went over to him just as Reid’s ram was dissolving.

“Any luck, Arthur?”

“Watch.” He held out his wand and glanced at her with a wicked smile. She knew immediately his chosen memory was of her, and she smiled as he said loudly, “Expecto Patronum!

A small form burst from his wand and ran around his feet, weaving between his ankles, then stopped in front of Molly and sat up, seeming to look at her before it too dissolved.

Molly looked up at Arthur with a wide smile.

“It’s a weasel,” he said proudly.

“Of course it is.” Molly glanced over her shoulder to make sure Professor Ampara wasn’t looking, and gave Arthur a quick kiss.

“What was that?” Cecilia asked, joining them with Petula on her heels. “Was that yours, Molly?”

“No, it was Arthur’s.” Molly glanced at her friend with a small frown.

“It looked just like yours.” Cecilia was looking at them strangely. “Professor Ampara said no two Patronuses are the same.”

“It couldn’t have been the same then, could it?” Molly tried to picture her own little animal in her mind. “Hang on.” She cast the charm again and the little silver creature burst forth. She concentrated hard on her happy memory this time, to keep it around longer, although it seemed easier now she knew what to expect.

“It’s not quite the same,” Arthur said, examining the Patronus as it sat on its haunches and washed its face with its little paws. “Its face is pointier, and its ears aren’t as round. The tail is different. I’m not sure what it is, though.”

“That’s a mongoose,” Dunstan said unexpectedly.

Arthur frowned at him. “A what?”

“I saw them in India last summer,” Dunstan said. He was now looking at Molly with new respect. “They kill cobras.”

Molly wasn’t sure what to think of that. She looked down at the Patronus as it vanished. “It looks so sweet.”

“So did the one in India, right up until it leapt at the cobra and bit out its throat.”

Now Arthur and Reid looked impressed as well. Reid was watching her with an appraising glance, as if he were taking her seriously for the first time, and Arthur smiled proudly at her. Molly took in the expressions on Reid and Dunstan’s faces and realized with a twinge of annoyance that they had probably always thought of her as only a silly girl. Arthur grinned at his friends then, and Molly felt a little better knowing that he, at least, had always had faith in her.

“It sort of looked like a weasel, didn’t it?” Petula said. “That’s so sweet.”

“What is?” Arthur gave her an odd look.

“You have matching Patronuses, nearly.” Petula smiled fondly at Molly and Arthur. Molly grinned back at her, and could feel her cheeks heating up.

Reid pulled a face, pretending to look ill. “Good Gad.”

“What’s your Patronus?” Arthur asked Petula, shooting a grin at Reid.

“Mist, for now,” Petula said happily. “Cecilia couldn’t do it at all.”

“Really?” Reid gave Cecilia a hopeful smile. “I’d be happy to tutor you. I got one right off. It’s a ram.”

Cecilia gave a disparaging sniff as Petula said, “Yes, we saw it. What’s yours, Dunstan?”

“I’ve got mist right now as well,” he admitted, but he looked pleased that she’d asked him. Petula had still not agreed to go out with him and he spent a lot of time mooning over her. Privately she’d admitted that Dunstan wasn’t really her type, but she liked having him trail along after her, fancying her. Molly thought Petula must have been rather jealous of Reid’s obsessive chasing after Cecilia, and wanted a stalker of her own. It was a shame Reid couldn’t fancy Petula instead.

“Less talking, more spellwork!” Professor Ampara called from across the room.

*

“So, what did everyone think of Defence today?” Petula asked cheerily that evening as she spooned pudding onto her plate.

“It was a good lesson,” Molly said. “What do you suppose happened to Professor Ampara over Christmas?”

“She must’ve had a run-in with a dementor, but I can’t imagine why. She’s only a teacher at Hogwarts, why would anyone send a dementor after her?” Cecilia glanced up at the staff table, where Professor Ampara was drinking wine a little too quickly. “She’s hardly the type to break any laws, is she?”

“Maybe the dementors are outside Ministry control again,” Arthur said thoughtfully.

Molly felt a shiver run down her spine at the thought. “They can’t be, can they? They haven’t been since…”

“Twenty years ago, on the continent,” Arthur said. “Grindelwald.”

There was an uncomfortable silence at that, and Molly looked up at the staff table to see the headmaster was looking her way. She felt a little startled, but he smiled briefly at her and the knot in her stomach eased a bit at seeing his kind blue eyes.

“We’ve got Dumbledore though,” she said bravely. “Nothing to worry about here at school.”

“I suppose,” Cecilia said, but she didn’t look convinced. Siobhan slid into the seat next to her then, smiling brightly as she snatched a biscuit from Cecilia’s plate.

“What are we talking about?” she asked, taking a bite. Molly thought she saw a bruise low on Siobhan’s neck, but her robes were pulled up a bit high and she couldn’t be certain. A glance over at the Hufflepuff table showed Addae Owusu was looking a little dishevelled, and his twin was grinning at him widely.

“You’re late.” Cecilia surveyed her friend with a frown. “Where’ve you been?”

Siobhan smiled at her, wiggling her eyebrows.

“Nevermind,” Cecilia sighed. “We were talking about Patronuses and dementors.”

“Why on earth would you talk about dementors, and what are Patronuses?” Siobhan continued to pick at the food on Cecilia’s plate, but the talk of dementors seemed to have made Cecilia lose her appetite, and she pushed it over in front of Siobhan, who picked up a fork and started in on Cecilia’s rhubarb crumble.

“The Patronus Charm repels dementors,” Cecilia said, and she looked up at Professor Ampara again.

“Arthur’s Patronus is a weasel, Reid’s is a ram,” Molly said, smiling at her boyfriend. Reid glanced up from the book he was reading and tried to catch Cecilia’s eye, but she ignored him.

“Molly’s is a mongoose,” Arthur said proudly.

“They’re animals?” Siobhan looked interested.

“If you do it right,” Petula said mischievously. “Cecilia didn’t manage one at all. I only got silver mist.”

Siobhan grinned. “Petula managed something that Cecilia didn’t?”

Cecilia scowled darkly and didn’t respond.

“Well, it sounds like a good charm,” Siobhan said, still grinning. “You’ll have to show me how to do it. Well, Molly and Petula will, obviously, not Cecilia.”

“Are you planning on running into any dementors, Siobhan?” Dunstan asked as Cecilia gave Siobhan a dirty look.

She took a large bite of crumble, still looking inordinately cheerful. “You never know, do you?”

Molly looked up at the staff table again worriedly, wondering what exactly had happened to Professor Ampara over Christmas. Aminta Ampara looked strained as she drank her wine, not touching the food on her plate. Molly caught a glimpse of concern on Professor Dumbledore’s face as he spoke to the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, but her attention was caught by the conversation at her table, which had turned to Quidditch, and she forgot about analysing their teacher and joined in with her friends.








A/N: Thanks to the eHPF (Elderly Harry Potter Fans) crew for some great discussion on Molly's Patronus. Sorry if Patronus lessons are cliche, but hey they're 6th years, it's the rise of Voldy, and I'm setting up for something with the Defence teacher. Plus, it's going to be fun in the next chapter *evillaugh*

Chapter 23: Tell It Like It Is
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Aaron Neville, “Tell It Like It Is”
Life is too short to have sorrow
You may be here today and gone tomorrow
You might as well get what you want
So go on and live, baby go on and live



Siobhan cornered Molly a few days later about the Patronus Charm. She swept into their dormitory after classes carrying a large tome from the library, which she dropped onto Molly’s bed with an air of great excitement. The book bounced a little as it landed, and Molly glanced down at the title: The Psychology of the Patronus.

“You must show me how to cast this,” Siobhan said.

“Where did you find this?” Molly asked, picking up the book to examine the table of contents.

“The library.”

“You went to the library?” Molly said in surprise. “By yourself?”

“I do know where it is, you know. Now, it says a person’s Patronus shows some personality traits, or is meaningful to the witch or wizard who conjures it. They’ve gone through case studies showing psychological analysis of what a witch’s or wizard’s Patronus means, and what the animal form represents, and it’s bloody fascinating. You have to teach me this. I want to see what mine is.” Siobhan plopped down onto Molly’s bed and looked up at her expectantly, looking more excited about the possibility of unnecessary schoolwork than Molly had ever seen her about anything.

Molly frowned at her friend and her amazement that Siobhan had voluntarily researched something made her forget to reprimand Siobhan for swearing. “You read this entire book? Did you do your Potions homework?”

“No,” Siobhan said, as if this were patently obvious, “I was busy reading that. I’m going to copy Cecilia’s essay.”

“I see. Well, we can work on the Patronus Charm a bit before dinner, I suppose.”

“Better make it after dinner, I need to go have a chat with Addae,” Siobhan said thoughtfully.

Molly looked at her suspiciously, handing The Psychology of the Patronus back to her. “What’s going on with you and Addae?”

“I’m chucking him,” Siobhan said cheerfully, focused on the book. She flipped through the pages.

“What happened? Why are you breaking up with him?” Molly sat down next to her.

Siobhan shrugged. “Nothing happened, I just don’t want to go out with him anymore. Look at this, this wizard, his Patronus changed when he was remarried after his first wife died. A new Patronus form, because of his new wife! Isn’t that amazing?” She tapped the page, where an elderly wizard with a young witch perched on his knee smiled happily.

“Are you wishing you hadn’t dropped Defence Against the Dark Arts now?” Molly asked shrewdly.

“Maybe a little. So, are you going to teach it to me or not?”

“I just learned it myself,” Molly pointed out. “But I’ll try.”

Cecilia was already at the dinner table, her nose buried in her Potions book, when Molly arrived for dinner.

“Where’s Arthur?” she asked, looking up at Molly.

“Watching Quidditch. He should be here in a moment.”

Cecilia nodded over at the Hufflepuff table. “It looks like Siobhan’s bored of Addae already.”

Molly followed Cecilia’s gaze and saw Siobhan giving Addae, who looked quite broken-hearted, a friendly pat. “She seems to be moving through the boys even faster this year, doesn’t she? She was only with Addae for a few weeks, really, if you don’t count the Christmas holiday.”

“Stay out of it, Molly, you won’t do any good by saying anything to her, you know how she is.” Cecilia was gazing over at Siobhan with a thoughtful expression. Molly wondered what she and Siobhan talked about during holidays when Siobhan was with Cecilia’s family, and decided she should probably leave it up to Cecilia, seeing as how they were much closer to each other than to the rest of their friends.

Siobhan seemed quite pleased with herself as she sat down next to her friends. “Well, that’s it, I’m a free woman again.” Behind her, Addae was pushing a piece of beef morosely around his plate while his twin gave him a consoling pat on the back.

“Congratulations,” Cecilia said, burying her nose in her book again.

“So, shall we get started on Patronuses tonight?” Siobhan asked eagerly, spooning some mashed potatoes onto her plate.

“If you like,” Molly said absently, still debating internally whether or not to say something to Siobhan about the rapidity with which she was switching boyfriends.

“Cilia, you could come too, Molly can tutor you while she teaches me,” Siobhan said with an air of offering a special treat to a small child.

“I don’t need a tutor,” Cecilia said airily, flipping a page in her textbook rather forcefully.

Siobhan grinned. “Oh really? What’s your Patronus, Cecilia?”

Cecilia scowled at her. “Shut it, you.”

“Right then, where are we going to practice?” Molly asked, attempting to deflect both of them.

“The dorm?" Siobhan said. "How much room do we really need?”

“I suppose. You’re really excited about this charm, aren’t you, dear?” Molly smiled at her friend.

“I think it sounds very interesting.”

Molly was a little apprehensive about Siobhan’s sudden interest in Defence, which she had only scraped through to O.W.L. level and barely passed with an Acceptable. It made Molly wonder what about the Patronus had Siobhan so intrigued. She forgot about this line of thought when she saw Arthur and Thaddeus coming into the hall with Dunstan and Cosmo behind them.

Her heart fluttered to see him, and she thought how silly she’d been only a few months ago, making a love potion for Thaddeus when Arthur was right there in front of her. Thaddeus’s golden good looks seemed less interesting to her now, compared with Arthur’s fiery hair and gentle spirit. He was so handsome and noble and –

“Try not to moon over him at the dinner table, Molly,” Cecilia said. “You’re ruining my appetite.”

There was apparently a large Quidditch match next weekend against the Slytherins, because the boys were all fired up about the day’s practice. Molly would have preferred not to talk about Quidditch at dinner for the third time that week, but since Cecilia and Petula also followed the games closely, it seemed she didn’t have a choice. Molly was left to plan the evening’s Patronus lessons with Siobhan. Hattie listened politely while they planned but did not seem to have any interest in joining in. Hattie had gotten an O.W.L. in Defence and then had happily dropped it to focus on Potions and Herbology.

Though Siobhan’s interest worried her a little, Molly was quite pleased, because she enjoyed teaching and did not often get a chance to shine at it, since Cecilia was the one who usually gave extra help to her dormitory mates. It was nice to be the one who was top at something for once.

Arthur appeared to realize that he had not paid sufficient attention to his girlfriend by the time the pudding was laid, and left the Quidditch discussion to listen to Siobhan lecturing about what she’d read that afternoon while she was supposed to be writing a Potions essay. He put a hand on Molly’s knee under the table and she promptly lost the thread of what Siobhan was saying.

“So what do you suppose a weasel represents?” Arthur asked.

Molly only half-heard Siobhan talking about information gathering and stealth, and gave Arthur’s hand a squeeze under the table to tell him to stop distracting her. He responded by rubbing her knee gently, and it took her a moment to realize Siobhan was addressing her.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” she asked distractedly.

Siobhan smiled at her knowingly. “Would you like to postpone the Patronus lesson to tomorrow so you can pursue, erm, other interests?

“Yes, thank you,” Molly said politely.

Arthur grinned.

*

Molly spent breakfast and lunch the next day closely entwined with Arthur, and had nearly forgotten her promise to teach Siobhan how to cast a Patronus when Siobhan accosted her in the hall outside Defence and demanded they go straight to the dormitory and get started.

“I’ll come too,” Petula said after Molly had agreed somewhat guiltily. “I could use some more practise.”

They’d spent the day trying Patronuses again in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Petula was still unable to get more than a few slips of mist. Cecilia gave them all a dark scowl and flounced away down the hall, heading for Astronomy with Reid and Dunstan behind her. She had not made any progress with her Patronus yet.

“Any interesting Patronuses from the Slytherins?” Siobhan asked as they walked up to Gryffindor Tower.

“There’s only Sophronia Lefeuvre taking it at N.E.W.T. level,” Arthur said. “She’s got some sort of a large spider, it seemed. I didn’t get a close look at it. She keeps to herself mostly. And she, erm, doesn’t like me,” he admitted sheepishly. “She called me a blood traitor fourth year.”

Molly felt her cheeks warm with anger. “Oh she did, did she?”

“Oh, who cares what people say?” Siobhan said, glancing at Arthur. “I never do, and I’m Muggle-born, you know what Sophronia calls me.”

Molly supposed this was her friend’s way of reassuring Arthur, but it didn’t soothe her temper. “That horrible, wretched cow, how dare she say that to you!”

“I don’t care what she calls me,” Arthur said calmly. “Don’t worry about it, Molly, it was two years ago.”

“Yes, don’t go hexing her now, Molly, you promised to teach me the Patronus,” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes. They had reached the Fat Lady now and she added to the portrait, “Juglandine.”

Petula and Siobhan went up to the dormitory while Molly took advantage of the nearly-empty common room to say good-bye to Arthur in a private corner, where he assured her again that it didn’t matter a bit what people said about him, as long as she knew his character. Molly went up the stairs to the girls’ dormitory and opened the door in time to hear Petula asking after Addae.

“Oh, I chucked him yesterday evening,” Siobhan said, giving her wand a little flourish as if she were casting a charm.

“But you were so happy just the other day!” Petula exclaimed.

“Well, now I’m looking for someone new.”

Molly pursed her lips but didn’t say anything. Siobhan was always looking for someone new. None of the boys she’d been with had ever kept her attention for long. Molly would have loved to tell her friend that this was because she was making up for her father’s emotional absence, but Hattie had tried that once during fifth year and the row that had ensued had not been pretty. Siobhan was quite vocal when she was displeased. Apparently the only psychology she was interested in was that of snogging. And Patronuses, oddly.

Siobhan proved surprisingly easy to teach, and seemed to drink in Molly’s lecture about the charm. The hardest part was in helping her two friends find a memory that would provide the impetus for the Patronus. Once she’d explained hers and how it made her feel, Petula seemed to understand and began telling stories of what she thought would be happy enough memories. Siobhan, to Molly’s utter lack of surprise, did not seem to have very many happy memories to choose from, but she listened to Petula ramble on and stared at her wand thoughtfully.

Eventually Molly had to shut down Petula’s extended trip down memory lane and made her stand in the middle of their dormitory while she and Siobhan sat on their beds, and Petula cast the Patronus Charm, looking much more confident than she had done in class. Molly thought Petula might be feeling some stage fright in class, and would find the spell easier in private with just her closest friends. A tiny shape burst from her wand on her second attempt, and Petula crowed with delight as it ran around the room.

Siobhan let out a loud whoop of laughter at the sight of the little bird. “A quail! Only you, Petula, would have a tiny flightless bird as a Patronus.”

“Oh, wasn’t it sweet?” Petula looked at it fondly as it faded away. “I can just imagine it chirping at me.”

Molly was smiling. “Would you like to have a go now, Siobhan?”

Siobhan guffawed again. “Yeah, I think I’ve got my happy memory now. Petula did a spell that Cecilia couldn’t!”

Petula grinned proudly as Siobhan got to her feet. She was still chuckling a little as she cast the spell. Siobhan produced mist on her first three tries, but on her fourth attempt, she seemed to have come up with a different memory and an odd look came into her eyes.

Expecto Patronum!

This time an animal did appear from the tip of her wand, a large creature that seemed to fill all the empty space in their dormitory. It threw back its head and whinnied silently, its nostrils flaring, and Molly leaned forward to look at it more closely.

“A zebra,” she said, reaching out to touch one of its stripes just as it started to disappear.

“What does a zebra mean in your book?” Petula asked.

“That I’m wonderful and attractive, of course,” Siobhan said airily, still smiling widely at her success with the charm.

Molly laughed. “Of course.”

*

The end of the week saw an end to the Patronus lessons in class, and though Professor Ampara was no longer discussing them, having decided that they had enough of a foundation to survive a dementor encounter (or having realized they now had a week’s worth of catching up to do), the Patronuses seen around school had started to increase. Casting a Patronus purely to show off became quite popular among the sixth and seventh years, and even those who no longer took Defence Against the Dark Arts managed to join in.

Siobhan was now using the charm’s popularity as a chat-up line as she hunted for Addae’s replacement. ‘What’s your Patronus form?’ quickly became a fad among the older student population of Hogwarts. Molly rather regretted teaching her friend the charm now that she saw the use to which Siobhan was putting it, but she had to admit it was sort of amusing to see the beautiful silver creatures roaming the hallways between classes, and strangely illuminating to see what animal represented each of her classmates.

Dunstan was now the only one among the Gryffindors who had not cast a Patronus, aside from Cecilia, who still had a mental block about them. Molly came upon Arthur and his friends having a study session in the common room, practising the charm, a week after Professor Ampara had moved on to discussing Unforgivable Curses. Apparently Dunstan was as unwilling to give up on the charm as Cecilia, who had spent every evening in the library researching Patronuses. Molly had caught her practising a few times when Cecilia thought she had the dormitory to herself.

Molly's attention was caught by the sound of cheering from one corner of the common room, and she saw a white light shining from where Arthur, Cosmo, Reid, and Dunstan were gathered. She drew closer to make out its shape.

“Is that…”

“It’s a pig,” Arthur said, sounding delighted, as he reached out to take her hand. Molly stood next to him, snuggling into his side a bit, and smiled at Dunstan’s Patronus.

“It’s not a pig, it’s…” Dunstan examined the large animal currently sitting on its haunches in front of him. “It’s a boar.”

“It looks like a pig to me,” Reid said.

“It’s a boar,” Dunstan repeated stubbornly, frowning at them. The pig, or boar, started to disappear and Dunstan gave his friends a reproving glare. “Look, you’ve insulted it.”

“Poor little piggy,” Reid said in mock sympathy. “Go on, bring it back, I promise I’ll be nice to the pig.”

“Boar.”

“That’s what I meant.”

Dunstan scowled at him, but he cast the spell again, just as Molly’s friends joined their group. Cecilia seemed to be avoiding Reid’s eye; she had still not managed so much as a wisp of silver mist. Dunstan’s boar rooted around on the stone floor of the classroom.

“Is that a pig?” Hattie asked, surprised.

Dunstan gave her a dark look. “It’s a boar.”

“Don’t boars have tusks?” Cecilia bent to examine the Patronus just as it dissolved. “That didn’t have tusks.”

“Maybe it’s a female boar,” Arthur suggested, his voice full of laughter. "A sow."

Dunstan shot him a murderous look. Molly had to bite the inside of her lip so as not to laugh at him.

“Don’t worry, Dunstan,” Siobhan said, giving him a consoling pat on the shoulder. “Pigs represent intelligence according to the book I’ve been reading.”

“Well then, you must be correct, Dunstan, it can’t be a pig,” Reid said.

Dunstan kicked him in the shin.

*

Molly was walking down a fourth-floor corridor with Arthur, looking for a quiet spot after dinner, when they were nearly bowled over by a large silver lion. To her amazement, she heard her brother’s voices rising in laughter.

“Was that…” Arthur trailed off, but he went over to the mirror in the corner, the same mirror he had taken Molly through to sneak into Hogsmeade, and they both ducked behind it.

Gideon and Fabian were on the floor, Gideon still holding his wand and Fabian rolling around on the floor laughing. They both looked extremely pleased with themselves.

“Was that your Patronus, Gideon?” Molly asked in disbelief.

They looked up at her somewhat warily. “Yes,” Gideon allowed.

“Mine is a baboon,” Fabian said. They were both watching her now as if they expected her to shout at them.

Molly wasn’t sure what to say to that. How had they learned to cast a Patronus, and how on earth had they managed it when they weren’t even fourteen for four more months? She hadn’t had difficulty learning the spell, but Defence Against the Dark Arts had always been one of her best subjects and she liked to think she had a talent for it.

“Well done, boys.” Arthur looked very impressed. “You’ve got quite a talent at Defence.”

“It’s a shame their marks don’t reflect it,” Molly said, but she was feeling rather odd at the moment. It was strange to realize that her brothers might have a talent that she’d never known, and it gave her an uncomfortable feeling to think they might be better than her at something she’d always thought she was good at. She’d always wanted to be exceptional too, and though her grades were good she’d always had a nagging feeling of being only average. She stared at them, and it gave her a bit of a shock to look into their faces and see not just the little boys, the younger brothers she’d always known, but the men they were becoming, and realized that perhaps they were the exceptional ones, contrary to all their mother’s expectations.

“Don’t tell Mum,” Fabian said, “or we’ll tell her you’ve been snogging Arthur all over the castle at night.”

Molly turned bright red, but it felt as if the world had snapped back into place. There was the younger brother she knew so well.

“Just don’t use your Patronus to chat up girls,” she said in annoyance and grabbed Arthur’s hand, leading the way out from behind the mirror.

She thought she saw Arthur wink at her brothers as they left, but decided she didn’t want to know if he was encouraging them. They had only gone a few yards from the mirror when a silver baboon burst through it and ran toward them, flipping itself upside down and looking at them from between its legs. Arthur started laughing, and the baboon dissolved as Molly pulled him away down the corridor. She waited until they had rounded a corner before she started laughing as well.

“That’s quite impressive, actually,” Arthur said, still chuckling. “I wonder if Professor Ampara knows they can do that.”

“I doubt it,” Molly said. “They had detention from her just last week for not completing their homework.”

“Well, if they can cast a Patronus at their age, they’ve no excuse.” Arthur glanced around, and Molly realized they were alone again. He tugged on her hand and she followed him into a niche, behind a suit of armour.

“If they would just stop doing so many stupid pranks,” Molly said, dropping her bookbag onto the stone floor. “It’s such a waste of their time and effort. And it’s no surprise they can’t find time to do their homework when they’re always concentrating on mischief. It’s a wonder they haven’t been expelled.” The twins had received a Howler at breakfast, although most of the school was now so accustomed to hearing Mrs. Prewett’s screaming that they continued eating as if they could not hear it. Molly was sure if they got another one, her mother would start sending her Howlers to yell about why she wasn’t keeping her brothers in line, since sending them Howlers was clearly ineffective.

“Yes, isn’t it…” Arthur pulled her closer, and she was fairly certain he wasn’t listening.

“Do you think I’m talented too?” she asked as he nuzzled her neck.

Arthur pulled away from her and gave her a serious look, and he seemed to see straight to the heart of her question. “Your brothers having talent doesn’t mean you don’t have talent as well, Molly. It isn’t a competition.”

“That’s easy for you to say, you’re the baby of your family,” she said, but his words had cheered her up a bit, and she let him go back to kissing her neck. “There’s less pressure on you…”

“Can we stop talking about your brothers now?” Arthur asked.

Molly closed her eyes and let Arthur distract her from all her worries.

Chapter 24: 96 Tears
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? & 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.”

“Yeah, sure.”

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.

“Oi, Arthur!”

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.

Chapter 25: Baby I Need Your Lovin'
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Johnny Rivers, “Baby I Need Your Lovin'”
Some say it's a sign of weakness
For a man to beg
Then weak I would rather be
If it means havin' you to keep


Arthur spent the evening after the explosive fight in a shell-shocked silence in a quiet corner of the common room, wondering what he should do. He was sure the word had gotten all around school by then, but was quite grateful that none of his friends came to hunt him down and ask what had happened. He did not go down to dinner, and the silence in the common room while everyone else in the castle was at dinner was a relief to him. He dreaded when the students would start filing back to Gryffindor Tower after dinner, because he knew he'd see her, and did not know what he ought to do.

He considered whether he should just beg her forgiveness at any cost, but wasn't sure she would even speak to him. If she refused to speak to him, or worse, shouted at him again, he did not think he could stand it. Perhaps she needed time to cool off.

Molly was one of the last to arrive from dinner, surrounded by her friends in the tight knot they always seemed to form when one of them was in distress, and though the common room was now crowded again with students who played games, chatted loudly, and even studied, and he was tucked into a shadowy alcove near a window where no one seemed to have noticed him, her eyes seemed to find him immediately.

Her eyes filled with angry tears as they met his, then she turned and ran upstairs to her dormitory. Her friends looked stricken, and Hattie broke away from the other girls to rush upstairs after Molly, while Siobhan and Cecilia looked daggers at Arthur, no doubt for making Molly upset.

Arthur decided he had had enough and fled to his own dormitory, drawing the curtains around his bed and then flopping back onto the pillow and staring at his feet.

How could this have happened? He'd thought things were going so well, just last night they'd been caught snogging by Cecilia and Thad, and she'd seemed so happy. He'd been so happy. How could she just break up with him like that? Her anger had surprised him, though he knew she had a temper and had heard her shout at her brothers occasionally, it had been jarring to have it directed at him. He didn't particularly enjoy being shouted at, and didn't quite know how to react when Molly's anger was focused on him. Her brothers seemed to mostly shrug it off, knowing she'd come back to yell at them again another day; she was their big sister and they'd always have each other to pick on. But he didn't feel he had a permanent tie to her that would bring her back, as they did.

She'd said she loved him. But then she'd said she never wanted to speak to him again. He didn't understand how she could say that if she really did love him. Had he ruined everything with one stupid prank? It had sounded so funny when the twins explained it, he'd gotten carried along by their enthusiasm, but then he'd seen things happening the way Molly must have seen them, and suddenly it wasn't funny any more.

And then she'd said she never wanted to speak to him again...

The curtain was ripped back abruptly and the sudden light made Arthur wince as he looked up to see Cosmo, Reid, and Dunstan standing there.

“There you are,” Reid said unnecessarily.

“Where've you been, and what the hell is going on?” Dunstan demanded.

“Molly...” Arthur couldn't quite bring himself to say it aloud, and swallowed hard. “She...”

“What?” Dunstan frowned at him.

“I heard she chucked you,” Cosmo said, leaning against one of the posters of Arthur's bed. “I thought it must be a rumour, you're usually mooning all over each other, but I saw her crying at dinner, so I did wonder. Did she really chuck you, then?”

Reid raised his eyebrows. “What did you do? If it had anything to do with fireworks, I can tell you from experience, they're not a good idea.”

“She said...” Arthur stared at his feet again. He couldn't meet their eyes. “She said she never wanted to speak to me again.”

They were all silent, and he could feel their pity, even from Reid, who'd just been chucked himself. It was almost worse than the horrible feeling of bubbling acid in his stomach that threatened to swallow him.

“I heard her brothers had blown up that staircase and something happened with you two right afterwards,” Dunstan said. He sounded surprised, and the pity was there in his voice, making Arthur uncomfortable. “They were in the headmaster's office over it earlier.”

This made Arthur feel even worse. The twins, known troublemakers, had taken all the blame for the afternoon's mischief, while he had gotten away without a mark. He wondered if he ought to turn himself in, if that would make Molly forgive him. He hoped her brothers weren't angry with him as well.

“She really said she'd never speak to you again?” Cosmo asked softly.

“Shouted it, actually. She couldn't mean it,” Arthur said numbly, partly to himself. “She said she loved me, she wouldn't really chuck me over this.”

“If you say so, mate,” Reid said.

“Not helping,” Cosmo murmured out of the corner of his mouth.

“You're better off without her, anyway,” Dunstan said with bullheaded cheerfulness. “A girl who shouts at you like that isn't a girl you want.”

Arthur looked at his friend and suddenly felt a rage quite like Molly had displayed. How could his life possibly be better off without Molly in it? How could he get along without her now that he'd gone this long with her love? What the hell did Dunstan know about any of it anyway? He was seized by an urge to hex his friend.

“Better off without her?” he repeated slowly.

Cosmo's eyes widened as he took in Arthur's expression. “Run,” he advised Dunstan.

“He does know some good jinxes,” Reid agreed.

“I'm going to the library,” Arthur said, heaving himself out of his bed and shoving past them.

He could feel his friends' eyes on him as he left, and knew they would talk about him as soon as he was out of earshot, but he didn't care just then. He had to get away.

Cecilia and Siobhan were sitting on the sofa in front of the fire, and he avoided their gaze as he passed them, knowing they would also be talking about him as he left. They probably hated him too. He couldn't take anyone else's eyes on him or anyone speaking to him, and retreated to the library, where he found a deserted corner near a dark and snow-dusted window that seemed to reflect his desolate mood perfectly. He stayed there, curled in the chair with his cheek pressed against the cold window, feeling angry and hopeless and numb by turns as the hours passed, until the librarian came to throw him out when the library closed.

*

Arthur was starved by the time breakfast came the next morning, after skipping dinner to avoid dealing with his breakup, and he went down early in hopes of avoiding the curious and pitying stares of his classmates who'd heard about the row between him and Molly. He saw her brothers sitting at one end of the Gryffindor table and thought to pass by them quickly in case they were angry with him, but they waved to him.

“Oi, Arthur,” Fabian called.

He came over and sat down next to the twins, looking wary. They did not seem any the worse for wear for their trouble, nor did they seem at all upset with him. If anything, they looked a little embarrassed. “What is it, boys?”

“We just wanted to apologize,” Gideon said abashedly. “We didn’t think Molly would get so ballistic if you gave us a hand.”

“Yeah, although we should have known,” Fabian added. “She’s always hated pranks.”

Gideon nodded judiciously at his brother.

“I'm sorry too,” Arthur said, feeling uncomfortable. “I heard you saw the headmaster over this.”

“Oh that,” Fabian said dismissively. “Nobody's been able to fix the hole in the step, apparently. We've got about a month's worth of detentions, but on the bright side, Professor Dumbledore said he wouldn't bother writing our mum this time.”

“I should have been punished as well,” Arthur muttered. “I helped you.”

Fabian grinned. “We've had worse, don't worry about it.”

“I think you got in enough trouble already,” Gideon said. “Molly chucked you over it, after all.”

The burning feeling in his stomach worsened as Arthur looked at Molly's little brothers. They exchanged a glance, and Gideon continued, “We didn’t mean to get her angry with you as well, so we’ll do what we can to make it right.”

Arthur was surprised. “Well… thanks, boys, that’s, erm, very kind of you.” He couldn't help feeling as if their help might not make things even worse, but he didn't want to come out and say that when they'd been so generous about taking all the detentions for their misdeeds.

“We know you love her,” Fabian said matter-of-factly, causing Arthur’s ears to turn red. “And she still loves you too.”

“We can tell,” Gideon put in.

“So we’ll make sure she stops being angry with you. Then you can go back to snogging all over the castle late at night.”

“Right, and she won’t write our mum what we did,” Gideon finished brightly.

Arthur stared at the two of them. “How did you know we were…”

“Snogging all over the castle? We hear things,” Gideon said proudly.

“And we saw you a few times,” Fabian added.

“You can tell that she still loves me?” Arthur asked, pretending nonchalance.

The twins glanced sidelong at each other. “Yes,” Fabian confirmed. “She loves you. She's not going to stop just because you did something stupid with us.”

Arthur’s spirits lifted a bit at that, and he grinned at the twins. “Thanks, boys. What did you have in mind to get her to forgive me?”

They exchanged another glance. “Well, we have two ideas really,” Gideon said.

“The first is just to go tell her it was all our fault and that you two are in love, and that you’re a good guy after all and she’s being stupid and should forgive you,” Fabian explained.

“But that’s very boring,” Gideon put in.

“The other idea is to stage a duel somewhere that she’ll see, have you jump in and rescue us, and she’ll realize you’re a good guy after all and that she’s being stupid and should forgive you.”

“That one’s more fun,” Gideon finished.

“I see.” Arthur surveyed them in mild horror. Staging a duel? Oh dear. They really were out of their minds. He suddenly found himself in sympathy with Molly's view of her little brothers. “And you’ve decided to go with…?”

“The duel, of course,” Fabian said cheerfully.

“Of course,” Arthur echoed hollowly.

He managed to escape Molly's insane brothers only to find himself sitting with the Gryffindor Quidditch team, where Thaddeus Peabody informed him heartily that he was utterly mad if he let Molly Prewett go so easily. He might have hexed Thad if the entire team hadn't been sitting with him.

Arthur seriously considered taking a leaf out of Reid's book and skiving off the entire day of classes so that he could stay in bed all day in his pyjamas, but he decided to go in hopes that Molly would relent and take him back when she saw him in class. Perhaps her brothers were right after all, and she wouldn't stop loving him just because of a stupid prank.

The day's classes seemed to drag on endlessly. Petula kept giving him pitying sighs and sympathetic glances in Muggle Studies, which he did not pay attention to for the first time in his years at Hogwarts, instead spending the class trying to draw a portrait of Molly, but he was no good at drawing and laid his head briefly against the desk in despair before vanishing the failed sketch. Lunch was spent at the opposite end of the Gryffindor table from Molly and her friends, with Dunstan and Reid trying to distract him from looking at her, and Cosmo giving him the same sort of sympathetic looks that Petula had given him. Molly did not look his way once, and he began to lose hope that the twins might be correct about her feelings.

In Defence Against the Dark Arts, Arthur tried to watch Molly without her noticing that he was watching her. He had a more close-up look at her than he'd gotten at lunch as she passed him to sit at the table in front of him, and he could see her eyes were red, as if she'd been crying for a long time, and he thought she must regret what had happened, but she still hadn't spoken to him. He couldn't focus on the class and gave up entirely, spending the lecture taking turns looking at Molly, wishing he could just hold her, and wondering how he could prevent her brothers killing themselves in a duel or getting expelled, which would surely make her hate him even more.

Molly gave a sniff, jarring him out of his reverie, and he wished he could see her face again. Maybe he could tell, just by looking, if she really did love him.

But she did not look back at him, though he willed her to for the rest of class, and she left at the end of class without looking at him.

Chapter 26: We Can Work It Out
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The Beatles, “We Can Work It Out”
Try to see it my way,
Do I have to keep on talking till I can't go on?
While you see it your way,
Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone.



Molly spent the evening after the explosion on the staircase sitting on her bed with the curtains drawn around her, fuming and crying. She felt so angry she wanted to break something or scream, but she felt foolish at the same time. A voice in the back of her head kept saying, it was just a silly prank, they didn't mean to hurt anyone, but she ignored it and clung to her anger.

How could he help them? He knew how she felt about their stupid, childish pranks. She’d thought he was above that sort of thing. They could have seriously injured someone, could have gotten themselves expelled. And there he’d been, right in the thick of things, laughing along with Gideon and Fabian.

And those two! The twins and their stupid pranks, it was all their fault. They never thought things through properly, so caught up in their own cleverness they didn't think of the possible consequences. She’d told Arthur she never wanted to speak to him again, but of course it wasn’t true, she already missed him, even though he’d been stupid and she was so angry.

It was all just so… so stupid! She wished she could take it all back and walk the other way, so she never would have seen any of it, never would have known he’d helped. It wasn’t fair, finally there was someone she loved who loved her in return and now it was just all ruined. She didn’t know what to do.

She thought about the devastated look on his face when she’d screamed at him that she never wanted to speak to him again and buried her face in her hands as the tears threatened to come out in a wail.

“Molly?” Hattie's voice came gently from the other side of the curtains. “Are you all right?”

“Go away, Hattie,” she snapped.

“We’re here for you when you’re ready to talk, Molly.”

She heard Hattie's footsteps leaving the dormitory, and picked up her pillow to clutch it to her chest while she cried.

*

The next morning's classes were hard on Molly. She kept glimpsing Arthur in the halls, and when she sat down in Arithmancy, Thaddeus Peabody came over with a sombre expression to tell her how sorry he was to hear of her breakup with Arthur, and what a shame it was that she'd let him get away. She narrowed her eyes at him dangerously at that, wishing she could hit him, but Professor Arccos was looking their way. Thad looked alarmed at her expression and escaped to his own desk quickly.

By the time lunch had come around, she'd seen from the expressions of everyone she passed in the hallway that the entire school knew she and Arthur had broken up. Molly was not used to being the subject of gossip, and it was not a pleasant feeling to have people watching her and knowing they were whispering behind her back. Her friends talked loudly at lunch about anything but Arthur and the break-up, and she determinedly did not look down the table to see him, though she caught flashes of his red hair out of the corner of her eye.

She dreaded going to her next class, because she shared Defence Against the Dark Arts with him, and knowing that he'd be there behind her made her feel angry and weepy all over again, and she spent the class snuffling quietly at her desk and hoping Professor Ampara did not want anyone to practice Patronuses, because at that moment, she knew she could not have produced a Patronus if her life depended on it.

She retreated to the dormitory after class and hid on her bed again with the curtains drawn tightly, curled up clutching her pillow and crying silently. She did not know how long she lay there, thinking about Arthur and wishing nothing had happened, when she heard footsteps thudding toward her bed and the drapes were pulled back abruptly. Cecilia loomed over her, looking angry.

“All right, that's enough of this,” she declared. “Get up, it's nearly dinnertime, you've had enough time to mope.”

She looked up at Cecilia and could see the other girls behind her. Hattie and Petula wore pitying expressions, and Petula's was laced with nervousness. Siobhan looked bored, as if she'd been dragged along against her will.

“You haven't even talked about what happened yet,” Hattie said gently.

“I don't want to talk about it,” Molly said crossly.

“Fine, then I will,” Cecilia retorted. “Hattie told us what happened. This is ridiculous. You need to be the one who goes and talks to him. You're the one who started this whole thing-”

“I did not,” Molly exclaimed. “He did with his-”

“You're the one who started it,” Cecilia repeated, talking over her. “He'll just have to learn like all the rest of us that you just get all crazy like that when you're angry and if he sticks it out until you run out of steam, he'd be fine.”

Molly was immediately incensed. “He nearly killed some first years with my stupid brothers! How can I just run off and forgive them! He never even said he was sorry!”

“You never even gave him a chance!” Cecilia shot back. “Go and talk to him, and stop laying about crying like an imbecile.”

Hattie and Petula were staring wide-eyed between Cecilia and Molly, as if they expected Molly to hex her. This had apparently not been what they'd had in mind when they'd come to speak to Molly.

“Well hark at you, Miss More-Mature-Than-Thou,” Molly said harshly. “You ought to follow your own advice and go have a chat with Reid, then.”

Cecilia scowled darkly at her. “Oh you think so? That's completely different! Do you know-”

“Oh shut up, both of you,” Siobhan interrupted. “You're acting like children. Cecilia, go lie down and have some chocolate. Molly, if you're not going to go and forgive Arthur tonight, then just go to bed.”

“Do you all think I should just go and forgive him?” Molly asked incredulously. She could not believe they were taking his side after what he'd done, though her guilt over her outburst of temper at him nagged at the back of her mind even while she fanned her righteous indignation.

They all looked at each other and then nodded.

“You're my friends, you're supposed to be on my side!” Molly exclaimed angrily.

“We are on your side, Molly,” Petula said, sounding a little frightened. “But you love him, just go and forgive him and put both of yourselves our of your misery.”

Molly frowned. “He's been avoiding me. He's probably not miserable at all.”

“He's probably afraid of you,” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes. “And you did chuck him, you know. Generally when one chucks one's boyfriend, he does tend to stay away.”

“Molly, of course he's miserable,” Hattie said, sounding annoyingly reasonable. “He's still wearing that scarf you knitted him, and he's been clutching at it like a lifeline all day. It's quite sad.”

Petula nodded. “He spent all of class this morning drawing pictures of you, badly, and didn't even pay attention. He usually loves Muggle Studies. He's completely miserable.”

“Well then why wouldn't he say something?” Molly demanded. “Why did he just stand there and not say a word?”

“You were very angry,” Hattie said. “It was a little frightening.”

“Look, if you need more time to stew, then fine, stew away,” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes. “You know you're going to forgive him eventually, because you're miserable too.”

“Oh, just bugger off and go to dinner.” Molly rolled over, flopping back out onto her bed and grabbing her pillow again. “I don't care.”

She could hear their footsteps leaving the dormitory and felt angry again. Everyone was abandoning her. Didn't they know she needed someone to be on her side? No one had even bothered to correct her language.

She went back to crying and feeling sorry for herself for a while longer, until a soft noise brought her attention to the door of the dormitory. She rolled over and sat up, pushing the drapes open on her bed. Siobhan was standing there holding a small sack, and she smiled sheepishly at Molly as she kicked off her shoes and padded over to Molly's bed.

“Here,” she said, handing the sack to Molly. “I brought you a present from the house-elves.”

Molly peered into the bag, knowing what she'd find, and sure enough, there were several sweet rolls and a delicious-smelling piece of chicken inside. She pulled a roll out and started nibbling while Siobhan sat down next to her and stretched her legs out.

“I thought you could use some company, and some dinner,” she said, and Molly smiled at her gratefully.

“Thank you.”

“He is utterly miserable without you, you know,” Siobhan said quietly. “You should have seen him at the dinner table. He wasn't even eating once he saw you weren't there.”

Molly felt her eyes tearing up again, and she looked down at the roll, picking at it, to cover her tears. “I think I've messed things up, Siobhan. I lost control, I didn't mean any of it. I love him.”

“I know you do.”

Siobhan's presence at her side, normally so brash and sarcastic but so quiet tonight, was strangely comforting, and Molly found herself whispering her worst fear aloud without meaning to.

“What if he doesn't forgive me when I forgive him?”

“Of course he will.” Siobhan gave her hand a little pat. “He loves you desperately, Molly.”

Molly put the roll on her bedside table and slid back down into her bed. Her head was beginning to pound from all the crying and worrying she'd done. “I don't know what to do. I don't think I can just go talk to him. It isn't as easy as Cecilia thinks.”

“Don't worry about that now. Get some sleep, things will look better in the morning.”

“I don't know if I can sleep,” Molly said, pressing her fingertips to her aching head.

“My grandmother used to sing to me, when I wasn't feeling well,” Siobhan said, a little hesitantly. “I could sing to you.”

Molly gave her friend a watery smile. “That would be lovely.”

Siobhan stacked her hands behind her head, leaning against the headboard, and began to sing. Molly listened quietly to her friend's soft and lovely soprano as she sang of two lovers parted by war and death. The song made her feel even worse. What if she and Arthur never made up? What if they never spoke again? It was too horrible to contemplate. The more Siobhan sang, however, the more Molly became incredulous that her friend had thought to sing this particular song at all. It wasn’t exactly aimed at soothing an aching heart, and surely even Siobhan must recognize that.

Molly sniffed and wiped her nose with her handkerchief when Siobhan’s voice trailed off. “That was... That was awful! That didn’t help at all. Gore-stained bosom and clay-cold corpse? Honestly, Siobhan!”

Siobhan started laughing.

“Your singing was beautiful,” Molly assured her. “But that’s a horribly depressing song.”

“Ah, well, that’s Ireland, dear.” Siobhan said, and her brogue was thicker than it usually was. She stretched out next to Molly and added, “At least I didn’t sing ‘The Patriot Game.’”

Molly smiled and shook her head. She had no idea what that song was, but after Siobhan’s first choice, she was fairly certain she didn’t want to hear it. “Sing something cheerful, please. I don’t need music to make me feel awful, I already do.”

“Go talk to him,” Siobhan said immediately.

Molly shook her head, and felt tears rising again. “I can’t.”

Siobhan laid next to her in silence for a few moments, and Molly sniffed again, wiping her nose and trying not to think of Arthur or replay the fight in her head again. The pounding in her head was increasing, and she opened her mouth to beg Siobhan to sing again, when Siobhan, staring up at the ceiling, started to sing.

One pleasant evening in the month of June
As I was sitting with my glass and spoon
A small bird sat on an ivy bunch
And the song he sang was ‘The Jug of Punch.’

Molly relaxed into the pillow and closed her eyes, letting Siobhan’s sweet voice wash over her. She was half-asleep by the time Siobhan finished, and hardly stirred when Siobhan gave her a little pat on the shoulder and slid out of the bed.

*

Molly and Hattie were headed to the library after Arithmancy that Friday, Hattie chatting in a determinedly cheerful voice while Molly walked along morosely beside her. She’d been angry and upset for the past few days, since the twins’ prank, and had been ignoring Arthur in class, refusing to look at him. Every time she passed the staircase where they'd set the explosion, or saw someone trip over the invisible hole in the step, which seemed to be permanent, it seemed to refuel her anger over the entire situation.

His friends had stopped coming to chat with her friends at mealtimes, and her friends seemed to be walking on eggshells around her since Cecilia had decided to have it out with her a few days ago. Molly was secretly glad of it; she didn’t want to talk any more about what had happened, though she dwelt on it endlessly. She felt stupid about losing it with him so badly, it seemed like such a silly thing in retrospect, and that made her angrier with her brothers, with Arthur, and with herself. She didn’t know how to fix things, how to go back to the way things were.

What if he didn’t want to be with her any more when she decided to forgive him?

They rounded a corner and ran into a large crowd blocking the corridor. Molly scowled at the students for being in her way, and wished she could hex a few of them to relieve her feelings.

“What’s going on? Is something wrong?” Hattie craned her neck to see over the crowd. Petula was shoving her way out from the centre of the crowd and then made her way quickly to Molly and Hattie when she saw them.

“Oh, Molly, it’s your brothers!” Petula’s face was frightened as she grabbed Molly’s hand to drag her to the front of the crowd.

Molly felt her heart leap in her chest when she saw her little brothers facing off with a group of Slytherins. She recognized one as the oldest of the Black sisters, who were related to her through her uncle Ignatius’s wife, and had a dark reputation, and before she could step forward to intervene, Arthur had stepped in front of the twins, his arms spread protectively wide to shield them.

“That’s enough,” he said clearly. “This stops now.”

Bellatrix Black sneered at him. She was only a fourth year but was already known in school for her duelling abilities. “Step aside, Weasley. They started it.”

“Don’t be stupid, Bella,” said a girl behind Bellatrix in a soft voice. She was plainly Bellatrix’s younger sister: the resemblance between them was strong. She looked nervous and plucked at her sister’s robes, but Bellatrix jerked her arm away and gave her sister a scathing glance as she raised her wand, aiming it at Fabian.

Molly thought her heart would stop. She ran forward, thinking only of protecting her baby brothers, her wand in her hand without her being aware of having drawn it. “This is ridiculous, all of you,” she said loudly, standing next to Arthur in front of her brothers. “Go about your business before a teacher comes.”

The other Slytherins seemed to see the sense in this, and were turning away, but Bellatrix’s wand was still raised.

Molly saw Bellatrix's hand twitch and reacted instantly, shouting “Protego!” She heard Arthur casting the Shield Charm at the same time, and Bellatrix was knocked backward, stumbling into the Lestrange brothers.

“You leave my brothers alone,” Molly said coldly as Bellatrix regained her feet.

The crowd was starting to disperse now, and Bellatrix gave Molly a venomous look as she left with the other Slytherins. The younger Black sister who had tried to get Bellatrix to stop glanced over her shoulder apologetically at the twins as the Slytherins disappeared down a staircase.

Molly turned to her brothers, pocketing her wand. “What did you do?” she demanded. “Did you start it?”

Gideon and Fabian looked slightly pale, and they both shook their heads.

“No!” Fabian’s eyes were wide.

“Not on purpose,” Gideon admitted.

“We just tried to talk to Andromeda Black, that’s all,” Fabian told her. “She’s really nice, for a Slytherin. She’s even nice to the Muggle-borns!”

Molly was still suspicious. She glared at them and wished she knew Legilimency to see if they were lying or not. Knowing them, though, they’d probably already learned Occlumency just in case, to block her.

“It wasn’t our fault, honestly,” Fabian said, still radiating innocence. “Bellatrix hates us, we didn’t do anything to her, I swear.”

“Honestly,” Gideon agreed. “She called us all blood traitors, Fab and me and Andromeda too. We just wanted to talk to Andromeda.”

“Fine. Get out of here. And lay low this weekend. If they see you again, they’re bound to try something, so stay in our common room, all right?” Molly folded her arms across her chest.

“Yes, Molly,” they chorused, looking dejected.

“We’ll make sure they get back to Gryffindor tower safely,” Reid said, startling Molly, who had forgotten that anyone else was there.

Petula left with Reid and the twins, and Hattie’s gaze darted from Molly to Arthur a few times, then she turned and followed the others, leaving Molly and Arthur alone in the corridor.

Molly watched them leave, then turned to Arthur, who had been staring at the floor, his wand still held loosely in his hand. “As for you…”

Arthur looked up at her, and she was surprised to see the despair in his eyes. He looked so unhappy and lost, and it made her heart catch to see that he really was miserable. She forgot about being angry with him over the twins’ prank and stepped closer, putting her arms around his waist. After a breathless moment she felt his arms clasp her tightly. He kissed the top of her head, and as his warm scent enveloped her, she felt the tension leave her shoulders for the first time in days.

“Thank you for protecting my brothers,” Molly said softly, her cheek pressed against the front of his robes.

“It was nothing,” he murmured. “I’m sorry for everything, Molly. Please forgive me, I can’t stand being without you.”

Her arms tightened around him involuntarily. He sounded desperate. She had missed him terribly, and it had only been a few days. “I missed you too, Arthur.”

He pulled back from her just enough to be able to lean down and kiss her soundly. “Will you forgive me?” he said then, his eyes pleading.

“Yes,” she said, standing up on tiptoe to kiss him, her arms sliding around his neck.

She didn't know how long they stood in the empty corridor clinging to each other, but when they finally broke apart, she thought it was lucky that no teachers had seen them. He was still holding her very tightly, his arms around her waist, as if he was afraid to let go of her.

“Do you forgive me too?” she asked in a small voice.

He looked surprised. “Forgive you for what?”

Molly pressed her face against his robes again, closing her eyes. “For screaming at you. I didn't mean it, really, I was just so... so angry.”

“It's all right, Molly. I shouldn't have done that. I feel horrible that your brothers got in trouble over it and I didn't,” he said guiltily.

“They deserved it,” she said sourly. “I know it was their idea.”

“I just don't want us to fight again,” Arthur said. He was stroking her hair gently, and she twisted her fingers into his robes, feeling embarrassed at her lack of control.

“Well, we’re bound to fight again,” she said uncomfortably. “I know I have a temper, but I don’t think I can change that.”

“I don’t want you to change,” he said immediately.

“I just need to get it out when I'm angry, I don't do well bottling things up,” Molly said in a rush, feeling compelled to explain herself. She'd tried most of her life to control her temper, but it always slipped and then she started shouting and then... Arthur was still holding her tightly, and she looked up into his eyes. “When we fight again,” she said slowly, “you have to come after me. Promise?”

“I promise. I wanted to come after you the other day, but I didn't think you wanted me to,” he said in a rush.

“I did want you to. I love you, Arthur,” she said, looking up at him and feeling a little pathetic.

His face relaxed then, and she could see the sparkle in his eyes again. “I’ll always come after you, then. I love you too.”

Molly stretched up onto her toes to kiss him again.







A/N: The first song that Siobhan sang, which was described but not quoted directly, was “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” a ballad by Robert Dwyer Joyce written during the late 19th century, about the 18th century uprisings against the British rule of Ireland. “Jug of Punch” is a traditional Irish folk song – no one knows who wrote the music or lyrics. It is, like many traditional Irish folk songs, about drinking, but it's much more cheerful than the former song.

Chapter 27: Let's Live For Today
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The Grass Roots, “Let’s Live For Today”
We were never meant to worry the way that people do
And I don't need to hurry as long as I'm with you
We'll take it nice and easy and use my simple plan
You'll be my lovin' woman, I'll be your lovin' man



Arthur walked back to the common room, and felt like skipping the entire way, and might have if his knees didn't feel so weak with relief. He and Molly had made up! Molly had gone off to find Hattie; they’d been on their way to the library to write an essay when the duel distracted them. Arthur was going to grab his Defence textbook and meet them there. He thought he could run all the way there just to see her again and be next to her, see her smile and hear her say his name.

Being apart from Molly was the absolute worst, but the jubilation he now felt at being back with her made the few days of abject misery he'd endured fade in his mind.

Gideon and Fabian accosted him as soon as he emerged from the portrait hole. They did not look at all disturbed by the afternoon’s events, and were grinning with excitement.

“Well, are you back together? Did she forgive you?” Fabian asked eagerly.

“Yes, your frighteningly reckless plan worked brilliantly,” Arthur said ruefully, grinning at them. “You might have told me you had things planned for today, it was purely by chance that I saw you there. And I didn't know what I was supposed to do to play my part, either.”

The twins glanced at each other, and Arthur’s grin faded at their expressions.

“Actually, we didn’t mean for it to be then,” Gideon admitted. “We just wanted Andromeda to help us stage a duel, then we could make sure Molly knew about it. It wouldn’t have done any good to have a duel if she didn’t see it.”

“But Bellatrix saw us talking to her sister, and she flipped her lid,” Fabian continued. “She thinks we’re blood traitors, and Andromeda too, because we’re friends with Muggle-borns. It’s lucky you were there after all, Arthur. And Molly as well. I didn’t realize she could cast such a powerful shield charm.”

“Yeah, lucky,” Gideon agreed. “That could’ve gone badly.”

Arthur stared at them in shock. “You didn’t plan any of that?”

They shook their heads, not looking at all worried.

“Merlin’s beard.” Arthur ran a hand through his hair. “You two really are going to get yourselves expelled at the rate you’re going. Or hexed into oblivion.”

“Nah,” Fabian said cheerfully. “We’ll be fine. We’ve got each other.”

“I always watch his back, and he watches mine,” Gideon agreed.

Arthur shook his head in disbelief. Watching each other’s backs wouldn’t do any good if they were both running headlong into danger. He knew they weren’t his little brothers, but he was starting to feel quite as protective of them as Molly did. He didn’t think they realized that was the reason Molly was always 'nosing in their business' as they put it; she wanted them to stay safe and out of trouble. It did not seem a likely scenario.

“Could you, erm, do something for us now?” Gideon asked.

“Anything.” Arthur regretted it as soon as he said it, and hoped the twins didn't want another accomplice.

“Would you convince Molly not to write to Mum about the staircase? She likes to write Mum whenever we get in trouble, and since Dumbledore didn't write her, we were sort of hoping Molly wouldn't either.”

“What Mum doesn't know won't hurt us,” Fabian put in.

“How do you know she hasn't already written your mum?” Arthur asked.

“Mum's got a quick turn-around on Howlers,” Gideon said with a grimace. “We would have gotten one by now.”

“We think Mum might Apparate into Hogsmeade and send the Howler from there, just to get them here quicker,” Fabian added.

Arthur laughed. “I'll see what I can do.”

“Thanks, Arthur, you're a pal.”

“Yeah, and thanks for the shield charm too, and good luck to you with Molly,” Fabian said, holding out a hand. Arthur shook Fabian’s hand, then Gideon’s, and they grinned at him and took off up the stairs to the boys’ dormitory. He decided he’d rather not know what they were up to now.

Molly was waiting for him in the library at a table in the back, nicely hidden behind the stacks, but Hattie was nowhere to be seen. Molly smiled up at him in welcome when she saw him and his heart sped up. It was good to see her smiling at him again.

“Couldn't find Hattie?” he asked as he sat down next to her.

“She said she thought we should spend some time alone,” Molly said. “She went back to the common room.”

“That was quite nice of her.”

“I thought so,” Molly agreed, quirking one eyebrow at him.

“I didn't want to study anyway,” Arthur said, snatching the book out of her hand and tossing it onto the table.

Molly giggled as he reached for her.

*

Everything seemed back to normal again the following morning. Gideon and Fabian were looking quite pleased with themselves, probably because Molly had agreed not to write their mother about the staircase explosion (he rather thought she liked the idea of them owing her a favour). Molly was being more affectionate with Arthur than ever, as if she were trying to make up for shouting at him.

He was thoroughly enjoying this treatment at dinner a few nights after they'd made up, with Molly solicitously adding more food to his plate whenever a clear spot opened up, while he discussed Quidditch with Dunstan and Cosmo. Petula was buried in a novel, holding it up in front of her as she ate. It looked quite a lot like the ones he'd seen in Molly's bedroom over Christmas, but he did not remark upon this, and Molly seemed to be pretending not to notice the book. Hattie and Cecilia were listening to the Quidditch discussion half-heartedly, but Hattie kept peering at the cover of Petula's novel.

Reid arrived late with a sheaf of papers clutched to his chest, looking hollow-eyed and slightly dishevelled. Arthur thought the eleven-N.E.W.T. attempt must not be going well today. Reid was always overloaded, and Arthur wondered, not for the first time that year, how he was managing to get everything done. It seemed impossible that there was enough time in the day for him to accomplish his schoolwork, much less have time to stalk Cecilia.

“Hi Reid,” Hattie said cheerily, waving at him. Cecilia gave her a suspicious look, which Hattie ignored.

Siobhan had stopped by only long enough to say hello before moving on down the table to where the Gryffindor seventh-years were sitting, where she was now firmly wrapped around Andrew Bishop, to the obvious consternation of both Addae Owusu over at the Hufflepuff table and Roddy Feltham, who was sitting with the Gryffindor Quidditch team and trying not to look too much at Siobhan, for whom he evidently still carried a torch. She looked up then, however, and saw Reid sitting down near Hattie and whispered something to Andrew, who grinned as Siobhan untangled herself from him and hurried down toward her friends.

“Andrew, eh?” Cosmo said as Siobhan sat down next to Cecilia. “He's kind of an idiot. What do you see in him?”

“His Patronus is a Clydesdale,” Siobhan said with a satisfied smirk. Cecilia gave her a pained look, and Molly's eyes went briefly to the cover of Petula's novel.

Cosmo frowned. “I don't get it.”

“Nevermind. What've you got there, Reid?”

“Divination homework,” he said tiredly. “Horoscopes. Just when I think we're done with them, they come back to bite me on the-”

“Language,” Hattie said brightly. “I never took Divination. What sort of things do you study about horoscopes?”

“I'm supposed to draw up my own natal chart and someone else's. Stupid homework for stupid old Vablatsky. Anybody want to volunteer?” Reid looked around hopefully.

“What exactly is a natal chart?” Dunstan asked suspiciously.

“It won't hurt,” Reid said. “Much.”

Siobhan snickered appreciatively as Dunstan shot Reid a dirty look. Arthur thought he saw a smile flicker across Cecilia's face, but he was sure he'd imagined it.

“So, natal charts, Reid?” Arthur asked. “That's like telling people they're a Pisces or whatnot? My brother Bilius took Divination, but he failed his O.W.L.”

“Yeah, that sort of thing. I've got a list here if anyone wants to know their sun sign.” Reid tapped the stack of papers sitting next to his plate, and glanced at Cecilia, who was ignoring him, her head propped up on one hand, staring down the table at Andrew Bishop and his friends.

Cosmo had his mouth full, but managed to say, “I already know mine, I’m a Virgo.”

Reid took one more bite of his roast beef and picked up the papers. “Right then,” he said, shuffling through his papers as he chewed. “Molly, your birthday was the end of October, you’re a Scorpio.”

Molly raised her eyebrows slightly. She plainly had no idea what that meant. Arthur tried to remember anything his brother had told him about astrology, but he hadn't paid much attention except when Bilius rambled on about predicting the future. The omens had been entertaining, but the astrology had been a little dull.

“Arthur, you’re in February, aren’t you?” Reid asked.

He nodded. “The sixth.”

“Next week,” Molly said, smiling at him tenderly. Arthur smiled back at her and Siobhan rolled her eyes at them.

“Right.” Reid scanned the paper he was holding. “You’re an Aquarius. Dunstan, you were just before Christmas break, so you’re a Sagittarius. Petula?”

“October first,” she said disinterestedly, still engrossed in her novel.

“You’re a Libra. And Hattie?”

She peered at the list over his shoulder. “I’m not until July fourteenth.”

“That’s Cancer.” Reid gave Siobhan an expectant look.

“December nineteenth,” she said, looking a little bored.

“Right, you’re a Sagittarius too.” He turned to Cecilia, who had been ignoring him from the other end of the group the entire time. Cecilia scowled at him.

“Her birthday is August eighth,” Hattie said helpfully, still examining the paper over his shoulder. “Look, there, she’s a Leo.”

“Right. I’m in April, I'm an Aries. We both have our sun in fire signs, Cecilia.” He gave her a hopeful smile, but she just glared at him stonily.

“Did you go through all of that just to tell Cecilia that your sun signs are compatible?” Siobhan asked, rolling her eyes.

Reid gave her a dirty look. “No,” he said sourly, though he obviously had. “It’s Divination homework. I have to draw up someone else’s natal chart so I can make up some predictions. I’ve already done my own, look.”

“Let me see that,” Cecilia said suddenly, reaching across Hattie and Petula to snatch the sheet of parchment with Reid’s natal chart away from him. “What house do ‘attacks with fireworks’ fall under?”

Siobhan grinned at her, and Arthur had to cough to hide his chuckle.

Reid grabbed the chart back, trying not to look annoyed. “Who wants theirs done, then?”

“You can do mine,” Hattie said.

Reid looked a little disappointed, but he took down Hattie’s birth details anyway, glancing up occasionally at Cecilia as he wrote. He had obviously been hoping that he could draw up Cecilia’s chart and try to convince her that their astrological signs meant they should be together.

Arthur bent over his breakfast again, trying not to laugh at Reid’s transparent and unsuccessful overtures to Cecilia. He glanced over at Molly, who was also carefully looking away from Reid. She glanced over at him and met his eyes, and they grinned at each other.

Reid seemed not to have taken his break-up with Gemma too hard, Arthur reflected, which wasn't entirely surprising since he had been stalking Cecilia the entire time he'd been with Gemma. They hadn't talked about his feelings for Gemma, of course, because that was the sort of thing that girls did, but Arthur had gotten the impression Reid was really only hoping to make Cecilia jealous. That plan seemed to have failed spectacularly. She'd gotten a really evil pleasure out of Reid's break-up, and Arthur rather thought she enjoyed seeing him miserable.

Arthur was still feeling quite expansive about his own reconciliation with Molly, and found himself hoping for an eventual rapprochement between Reid and Cecilia as well, if only for the sake of his mate's quickly diminishing sanity.

Cecilia flipped her hair over her shoulder and said in an airy voice to no one in particular, “I've always thought Divination was a very woolly class. Padding one's schedule, hoping for an easy E.”

“That's Muggle Studies you're thinking of,” Reid snapped. “Everyone knows Muggle Studies is for duffers.”

Arthur frowned at his friend. “Oi, there,” he began.

I don't take Muggle Studies,” Cecilia said, and though she was looking at Siobhan, it was clearly directed at Reid. “Some people must have me confused with someone else. I know some people really don't know anything about me.”

Reid looked as if he would dearly love to strangle Cecilia. Petula was watching them in fascination, her eyes flickering back and forth between them and a smile playing about her lips. Her novel was still propped up in front of her, forgotten now. She did not appear at all bothered about Reid's Muggle Studies remark.

“And what about people who take eleven N.E.W.T.s, Cecilia?” she asked. “What do you think of them?”

“Show-offs,” Cecilia sniffed haughtily.

Hattie seemed a little horrified at the direction the conversation had taken, and she looked as if she wanted to interject, but before she could say anything, Siobhan let out a loud sigh and banged her goblet against the table, startling Reid and Cecilia, who had been scowling at each other intently.

“You both need to shut up, you sound like idiots. Reid, it's bloody marvellous that you're doing eleven N.E.W.T.s, we're all so impressed we can hardly sit still for the overwhelming excitement. Cecilia, you're so much better than Reid, it's amazing you can even exist on the same plane as him. I'm shocked you haven't ascended to a higher level of being, you're just that bloody mature and talented and all that rot. Molly was right, you know, you're a damned hypocrite. And Reid, if you'd stop acting like a complete ass for more than two minutes, you might find some people think you're less of a pigheaded idiot.”

There was a long silence after this, while Reid flushed a deep red and Cecilia stared at her best friend as if she'd been slapped. Cosmo continued eating as if he hadn't heard a word. Arthur glanced at Molly. She looked a little surprised and uncomfortable, and he wondered what sorts of things the Gryffindor girls talked about in private that led to accusations of hypocrisy.

“Language, Siobhan,” Molly murmured finally.

“Why am I suddenly the one who has to break things up? Isn't that Hattie's job? I'm going to go snog someone, I believe that's my role.” Siobhan pushed away from the table as she stood, and sauntered down to where the Gryffindor seventh-years sat. Andrew Bishop smiled at her in welcome as she took the seat next to him.

“Now that's a show-off,” Reid said admiringly.

Chapter 28: Back in My Arms Again
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The Supremes, “Back In My Arms Again”
It's his love that makes me strong
Without him I can't go on
This time I'll live my life at ease
Being happy lovin' whom I please



The thought had occurred to Molly before, though she'd never voiced it aloud, that of all her friends, Cecilia Fletcher was the most likely to go Dark. She'd never known anyone to stay angry as long as Cecilia could, and though Siobhan had always thought it was an admirable quality in her friend, it worried Molly a little. Cecilia had been angry with Reid for a solid year now, and she seemed just as angry now as she had been standing in the corridor, covered in ash and soaking wet. It couldn't possibly be healthy for her.

Still, Cecilia had been her friend for six years, and though she thought it was best if Cecilia just forgave Reid, if only for the sake of her blood pressure, Molly did not want to incur Cecilia's wrath herself by mentioning this, so she simply looked the other way whenever Cecilia ranted about Reid.

Apparently Siobhan was no longer able to do this. She had done a Cecilia-worthy rant last night at dinner in front of everyone, giving both Cecilia and Reid a set-down. Molly had been expecting a horrible aftermath, because Cecilia and Siobhan never fought. Cecilia had been surprisingly thoughtful all evening, however. Petula had gone to bed early in hopes of escaping the huge row she was sure was imminent, but when Siobhan had returned to the common room late that evening with Andrew in tow, Cecilia had merely smiled at her and asked if Siobhan wanted to copy her Transfiguration homework. Siobhan did not seem at all surprised by this, and had been perfectly cordial when she said she did indeed want to copy it.

The entire situation was very odd. Molly had discussed it with Hattie, hiding in the bathroom from Cecilia and Siobhan, and they had agreed that it was probably best if both of them stayed out of it, as there was clearly something else going on of which they were not aware. Normally Cecilia would have thrown a wobbler if someone spoke to her like that, and instead she had become oddly introspective and much more pleasant.

“Perhaps she's been taken over by pod people, like that Muggle book Petula read,” Hattie said worriedly.

Pod people notwithstanding, Molly resolved to watch her friends more closely, in case Cecilia was only pretending to be calm and pleasant until she found just the right hex for revenge. This left her without the need to resolve any bad feelings between her two friends, and gave her time to consider her plans for Arthur's birthday. She'd had a brilliant idea for Arthur's birthday gift: she would knit him a jumper.

The problem with her brilliant idea was that there was only a week in which to get it completed. She would either have to give up valuable evening time with Arthur in order to knit, or lose out on a few hours of sleep every night. She rather thought she'd compromise, go to bed a bit early and then sit up a bit late knitting. The other problem was the size.

There were several options there. She could try to gauge his size by simply getting a little more hands-on when they were together, but she was sure she'd then get distracted and completely forget why she'd got started in the first place. Fortunately, her second option would be relatively easy to carry out, given her conveniently criminal little brothers.

She tracked down Gideon and Fabian outside the library, of all places, where they'd probably been stealing books from the restricted section or setting off dungbombs or something else she didn't want to know about.

They gazed at her somewhat warily when she called to them, hurrying to catch up to them as they walked down the corridor.

“We haven't done anything,” Gideon said quickly.

Molly rolled her eyes at him. “I'm not going to yell at you, I want to ask you a favour.”

“A favour? From us?” Gideon asked incredulously.

“Why should we do anything for you?” Fabian asked in the same tone.

“I didn't write to Mum about your stupid and dangerous duel with Bellatrix Black,” she pointed out.

“Technically,” Gideon said in innocent tones, “you were the one who duelled, not us. We were innocent victims. Bystanders, you might say.” Fabian was nodding agreement.

Molly glared at her brothers and had to take a deep breath to remind herself not to shout at them or they would refuse to help her outright. She inhaled deeply and then said, “Nevermind. I just want a little bit of help from you, that's all.”

“I dunno, Molly,” Gideon drawled annoyingly. “Like Fabian said, why should we do you any favours?”

“Can't you just help me because I'm your sister?” she asked, trying to keep the frustration out of her voice.

They looked at each other, grinning. Apparently annoying her had been sufficient fun for them, because they seemed to relent.

“All right,” Gideon said with a chuckle. “What do you need?”

“I, erm, need you to commit a bit of theft for me,” she said, feeling a little silly.

They stared at her in amazement. This had apparently been the last thing they'd been expecting her to say.

“Let me get this straight,” Gideon began slowly. “You want us to steal something? You do realise that's breaking school rules.”

She frowned at him. “It's not like that. I only need it for a short time, then you can put it back. And it's something of Arthur's, even if he caught you he's hardly likely to turn you in. You won't get in any trouble for this, I swear.”

They looked even more amazed now.

“You're stealing from Arthur?” Fabian asked.

“I never thought you had it in you,” Gideon said, shaking his head.

“What would Mum say?”

“Oh, blast. Look,” Molly said in exasperation, grabbing each of them by the arm and pulling them into one of Arthur's shortcuts, slipping behind a trick wall. “It's Arthur's birthday next week, I'm going to knit him a jumper, and I need you to steal one of his jumpers from his dormitory so I can get the size right. That's all.”

“It's his birthday?” Gideon echoed in surprise. “We've got to get him a gift.”

“We can steal a jumper for you, no problem,” Fabian assured her. “When do you need it?”

“Today, if possible.” Molly peeked around the corner of the wall to make sure no one was coming before looking back at her brothers, who seemed to be brimming with confidence as usual, but for once it did not annoy her. She was actually counting on their ability to get away with mischief.

Fabian was grinning widely. “Right. We'll sneak into his dormitory. If his roommates catch us, can we tell them what we're doing?”

Molly shook her head. “I don't think any of them could keep it secret.”

“No problem. We'll just have to be even stealthier than we normally are,” Gideon said cheerfully. “Can you keep Arthur busy after dinner so we can get up there?”

“I think I can manage that,” Molly said.

*

Keeping Arthur busy proved to be even easier than she'd expected. He was quite amenable to leaving the little common room study group to help her, as she'd told their friends, pick up a book from the library, with an appropriately lengthy detour behind a suit of armour. She knew they'd be teased when they returned, but it was all for a good cause, so she didn't mind.

She met her brothers the next morning before breakfast, when Gryffindor tower was nearly empty, and their grins told her they'd been successful. Gideon pulled the folded jumper out of his bookbag and proffered it to her as if it were a trophy of war.

“Oh, thank you,” Molly said happily, taking it from him. “That will work perfectly. Well done, boys.”

“No problem,” Fabian said.

“Listen, Molly, we've been thinking,” Gideon began, his eyebrows knitted slightly in a concerned frown.

“Yeah, are you sure this is a good idea?” Fabian asked. “Not everyone likes knitted junk as much as you do.”

Molly frowned at him. “You said you liked what I made for you for Christmas.”

“Of course I said that, Mum was listening. You haven't seen me wear it, have you?”

“Arthur wears the scarf I knitted him all the time,” she said triumphantly. “He loves it.”

“He loves it because you made it,” Gideon pointed out. “He'd love it if it were bright pink and said blood traitor on it, just because you made it. I don't know if you've noticed, but he's a bit of an idiot over you.”

“I can't imagine why,” Fabian added.

Molly scowled at them. “Don't call him an idiot. And how dare you, he's not a blood traitor and I would never say that.”

“I'm not saying he is, I'm just making the point-” Gideon began with an infuriating smile.

“Oh, shut up, both of you,” Molly interrupted him crossly, clutching the folded jumper to her chest. “I'm going to go hide this, and don't either of you breathe a word to Arthur about it, or I swear you'll live to regret it.”

“All right, all right. Bye then.” Gideon gave his brother's arm a tug and they both took off toward the portrait hole. Molly dashed up the stairs to her dormitory, where she spread the jumper out on her bed to check its size.

She examined it for a moment, checking the gauge of the stitches and brushing bits of lint and cat hair off it, wondering for a moment which one of the Gryffindor boys had a cat. After a moment, she looked around at the empty dormitory, and picked up the jumper, hugging it to herself and inhaling deeply. Under the faint scent of the laundry soap the house-elves used was Arthur's own warm and slightly spicy smell. She smiled and stroked one hand down the jumper, feeling the soft wool.

No one interrupted her moment of mawkishness, fortunately, and she folded the jumper neatly and hid it in her trunk until she needed to compare size again when she'd gotten a bit further in her knitting.

She thought she might just try it on at bedtime, too. Just for a moment.

*

Friday morning, a few days before Arthur's birthday, Molly was down at the greenhouses, wrapped in her cloak and wearing a purple knitted cap, waiting for Hattie to come out of Herbology. She really ought to be up in the library studying, but she hadn't been able to get a moment without Arthur around to search for a proper spot on the grounds. She thought the snow would look very lovely and romantic and was planning a birthday picnic just for the two of them. Hattie had promised to help her with this.

She waved to Reid as he darted out of the greenhouse, his face grey with exhaustion as he hurried to his next class. She had no idea how he was managing to keep up with everything.

“Hello, Molly!”

She turned and smiled at Thaddeus Peabody, who had just come out of the greenhouse with Cressida Titherington.

“Hi Thad. Hi Cressida.”

Cressida smiled and waved at her. Thad was holding her hand, and carrying her bookbag for her, and she looked a little pink in the cold February air after the warmth of the greenhouses. Molly could smell fertilizer on them and tried not to wrinkle her nose as they passed.

Hattie came out of the greenhouse on the heels of Hufflepuff Mary Nevard, who smiled at Molly as she passed.

“Are you ready?” Hattie asked, adjusting the knitted pink hat Molly had given her for Christmas over her brown curls.

“Yes, let's go.”

They set off arm in arm into the grounds, cheerfully discussing Molly's plans for Arthur's birthday picnic. She'd already made arrangements with the house-elves in the kitchen, thanks to Siobhan's help, to have a picnic dinner ready for his birthday on Monday. They hadn't gone far when Molly felt a large hand clap on her shoulder.

Hattie let out a tiny squeak, and Molly whirled around, her heart thumping wildly, to see the gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, dressed in a horribly ugly moleskin coat dusted with snow and grinning at them from behind a wild and woolly handlebar moustache. His thick sideburns had nearly reached the moustache, and Molly thought it wouldn't be long before the beard took over his entire face.

She had encountered him a few times over the years, out on the grounds of the school, and thought he was nice enough, if a little frightening in stature. Most of Molly's classmates were afraid of him and tended to ignore him. Out of all her friends, only Siobhan shared Molly's opinion of Hagrid, probably because she was the only one who took Care of Magical Creatures, and Hagrid liked to hang around the classes to help with the animals and was unlikely to mind Siobhan's swearing, so she got on well with him. Molly probably would not have met Hagrid as many times as she had if it weren't for the fact that Thaddeus Peabody also took Care of Magical Creatures, so she'd been down around the grounds quite often last year to meet Siobhan as the class let out.

“Hello, Hagrid,” Molly said, her heartrate slowly decelerating. “You startled me, I didn't hear you there.”

He chuckled. “Dunno how you could miss me. Lookin' fer a new picnic spot, girls?”

“Sort of. This is for a... private picnic.”

Hagrid nodded sagely. “Try over on the south side o' the lake.” He waved one of his huge hands as he walked away.

“He frightens the life out of me sometimes,” Hattie whispered as they headed for the lake. “I heard he was expelled from Hogwarts. My auntie Esme told me he did something horrible, something Dark, but she won't say what exactly it was.”

“He always seems so nice, I can't believe he'd be involved with any Dark magic,” Molly whispered back, glancing over her shoulder to see the groundskeeper heading into the Forbidden Forest. “He's just so big, people get scared and don't give him a chance. He must've drank an entire bottle of Skele-Gro as a child or something.”

“Wrong end of an Engorgement Charm, maybe. Poor thing.”

They found a likely spot on the south side of the lake, hidden under a small copse of trees where the snow was thin on the ground and the icy lake lapped nearby. The two girls stood discussing plans for a few more moments. Hattie agreed to help with the set-up, and to guard the picnic site while Molly went to the castle to fetch Arthur.

“D'you think this is going to work out?” Molly asked nervously as they headed back to the castle. “What if it snows?”

“Don't worry about snow, it's going to be brilliant,” Hattie said with a grin. “This is a much better plan than the love potion debacle.”

“Thanks, dear,” Molly said dryly.

*

The sixth of February dawned cloudy and cold, not the bright and clear she'd been hoping for, but snow did not seem imminent. Still, she had to just make the best of it, because her opportunity to do the picnic over the weekend had now passed, so she set out with Hattie after Transfiguration to set up for the evening.

She met Arthur back in the common room afterwards, and when she came through the portrait hole he was vigorously shaking the hand of her little brother Fabian, a wide grin on his face. Molly quickened her pace, but Fabian had escaped by the time she reached Arthur, who turned to her as she approached. He looked very happy.

“Look what your brothers gave me!” he said, pulling a pair of small metal cubes from his pocket and showing them eagerly to her. They had strange knobbly protrusions on one end, and were shaped slightly differently from each other. There were painted logos on the sides of them, though they looked a little worn. Molly had no idea what they were, but the fact that her brothers had chosen them for him was rather frightening.

“What,” she began ominously, imagining the worst, “are those?”

“They're batteries!” Arthur said ecstatically. “They're a Muggle power source, they use it to generate eckeltricity for certain things. I've read about them in Muggle Studies. I think this one might have belonged to a motorcycle!” He held up the larger one proudly and then pulled another strangely shaped object from his pocket. “And look at this, this is a plug!  Isn't it wonderful?”

Molly looked across the common room and saw her brothers looking quite pleased with themselves that their gift had gone over so well with Arthur. Where they'd found Muggle nonsense was beyond her, but Arthur was so happy with it... She turned back to Arthur and smiled at him fondly.

“I'm sure it is,” she said. “Shall we take a walk before dinner?”

Arthur followed her out the portrait hole, and she led him leisurely through the corridors until they were walking out into the grounds. Arthur wrapped an arm around her so she was inside his cloak, and she put her arm around his waist as they walked.

Soon they had reached the lake, and Molly gently guided him to the spot she'd set up for the surprise picnic. She caught a glimpse of Hattie slipping away back to the castle, but Arthur didn't seem to notice her. When he saw the little fire flickering through the trees, he stopped in his tracks.

“Come on,” she said, stepping ahead of him and giving his hand a tug.

“Molly-”

“Just come.”

He followed her into the little clearing, and he stopped short again when they came to the picnic blanket. She waited for him to say something, but he was staring at the picnic blanket, the hamper of food, and the small fire. The box with the jumper in it was sitting on the blanket next to the food, and it was wrapped in the bright red and gold of Gryffindor. It wasn't as good as if Hattie had wrapped it, but Molly was quite pleased with how it turned out. And the jumper, also in red and gold, had turned out beautifully, if she did say so herself.

Molly began to feel a little anxious as his silence seemed to stretch on endlessly, though she was sure it had probably only been a few seconds. She glanced up at the cloudy sky and said nervously, “I'm sorry it's not bright and sunny today like it was yesterday. I'm sure it would have been better to do it over the weekend, but I wanted it to be on your actual birthday.”

He was still standing there silently, taking in the rather elaborate set-up. Hattie's handiwork on the candles was creating a truly beautiful effect: the thick white candles floated daintily in mid-air a few feet above the ground, and the picnic blanket looked invitingly soft and warm in the candlelight. Molly thought it all looked quite lovely and romantic, but his silence was making her nervous. Maybe boys didn't think this sort of thing was romantic. Maybe it was all a little too much.

“Is it all right? I'm sorry it's not a party like you threw for me, I wanted to do something different for you.”

He turned to her finally, and she still didn't understand the look on his face, but he said in a strange voice, “You did all this for me?”

“Well, yes.” She realized she was chewing her lip nervously and made herself stop. “Do you like it?”

“It's wonderful,” he said, sounding awed. “I can't believe you did all this just for me.”

She could feel her face heating up. “Shall we sit, then? I don't know how long the warming charm will last on the food.”

“Just a moment.” He took a step closer and wrapped his arms around her. By the time he was done kissing her, she had almost forgotten where they were, and felt a little startled to see the slowly darkening sky.

“Happy birthday, Arthur,” she said softly.

“I hate to sound greedy, but I'm dying to know what's in the box,” he said, still holding her close. “Mind if I dive into the gift before the food?”

She laughed. “Of course.”

He settled down cross-legged on the blanket, his cloak pooling around him, and Molly sat facing him, her back to the fire, which felt deliciously warm in the cold evening air. She watched with a little chagrin as he tore into the wrapping she'd spent close to half an hour perfecting, and pulled out the jumper.

He stared at it with eyes wide, then looked up at her. “Did you make this?”

“Yes. Do you like it?” she asked hopefully.

“Of course.” He ran one hand over the soft red wool. “I don't know how you found time. Thank you.”

She leaned forward to meet his kiss, thinking how sweet he was.

They spent an hour eating and talking and occasionally casting a spell at the fire to keep it burning. Half of the candles had guttered out, but they hardly noticed. Arthur stretched out on the blanket after the food was gone, his head in Molly's lap, and she stroked his hair as they talked. It wasn't until the sound of an animal howling in the Forbidden Forest broke through their warm little bubble that Molly realized how dark it had gotten.

“We'd better go in,” she said reluctantly, running her fingers through his hair one last time.

“I suppose so.” Arthur hauled himself to his feet and held out a hand to help Molly up. As she rose, he pulled her closer to she was standing inside his cloak again. “Thank you for a wonderful birthday dinner, Molly,” he said softly, giving her a little kiss.

“You're welcome. Happy birthday.” She glanced over her shoulder as he stooped to pick up the blanket and hamper. “Did that sound like a werewolf, do you think?”

“There aren't any werewolves in the Forbidden Forest,” he said, though he didn't sound as certain as she would have liked. “It's just a rumour.”

“All the same...” Molly drew her wand and extinguished the fire.

“Yes, let's go.” Arthur glanced at the forest over his shoulder as they started toward the castle.

Chapter 29: I Second That Emotion
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Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, “I Second That Emotion”
Oh, but if you feel like loving me
If you got the notion
I second that emotion



It was quite good to be of age finally, Arthur thought happily. His birthday haul this year had been good. Of course he was pleased with the jumper, because Molly had made it with her own hands, and it fit him perfectly. It was in Gryffindor colours too, red with a yellow “A” on the front. And the watch from his parents was a very nice watch. However, he couldn't help being much more excited about the gift from Gideon and Fabian Prewett. His other gifts, even the book of photos of Muggle motorcycle engines from his brother Bilius, paled in comparison to the twins' gift.

Batteries! And a plug as well! It was quite possibly the best birthday present he'd ever received. Molly had not seemed terribly impressed by them, but he knew she wasn't particularly interested in Muggle artefacts. Not many people liked Muggles as much as he did, though, so he wasn't worried about this, and the batteries were so amazing he didn't even mind that Molly had only given them a slightly suspicious look. He couldn't imagine where the twins had found them.

He had never seen them before in real life, only drawings and a hazy Muggle photograph in a book. Muggles seemed to take them quite for granted, but they were really fascinating. He had them on his bedside table where he could marvel over them every night, and poke at them in hopes of feeling some electricity (which he still had trouble pronouncing, it was such a strange word). He knew they wouldn't do anything, of course, because Muggle devices never worked in Hogwarts, more's the pity, but he still examined them and debated disassembling one of the batteries to see what was inside it. The warning label on the battery stopped him, however. He didn't know what acid was, but it was apparently inside the batteries and was quite dangerous. He made a mental note to ask his Muggle Studies professor about battery acid.

Gideon and Fabian poked their heads into his dormitory the day after his birthday, as he was getting ready for breakfast, and waved hello as they came in. The jumper from Molly was laid out on his bed, and the twins' eyes seemed to home in on it instantly. They examined it closely while Arthur tied his shoes.

“Molly knitted that for you, didn't she?”

“It's really quite horrifying, isn't it?” Gideon said dispassionately. “We told her to stop while she was ahead, with socks and scarves, but obviously she's lost her mind completely.”

“It was bound to happen sooner or later. And an A for Arthur as well. You poor sod,” Fabian added to Arthur in commiseration. “You're going to have to wear it now, you know.”

Arthur laughed. “It's not that bad. I'll wear it, I don't mind.”

The twins shook their heads at him sorrowfully.

“I think he's a lost cause, Gideon.”

“I think you're right, Fabian.”

They turned as one and walked away. Arthur rolled his eyes and pulled the jumper on over his head.

He should have guessed based on the twins' reaction to the jumper how his friends would see it. He was, for once, the last one of his friends down to breakfast, and Dunstan let out a loud guffaw when Arthur joined them at the table.

“What are you wearing?” he asked, grinning widely.

“Shut it, Dunstan.” Arthur scooped scrambled eggs onto his plate.

Reid was staring at the jumper in fascination. “Is that an A for Arthur, or an A for -”

“The girls are coming,” Cosmo interrupted.

“Molly made it for me,” Arthur said in a low voice to his friends. “Shut up about it or I'll hex you, all right?”

“Get a girlfriend and suddenly you're hexing your mates left and right,” Reid said with mock sadness.

Dunstan looked as if he would very much like to continue making fun of Arthur, but he caught sight of Molly and her friends, and bent over his breakfast to hide his grin.

Molly plopped into the seat next to Arthur and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Good morning. Good morning Reid, Dunstan, Cosmo.”

“Morning Molly,” Cosmo said. Reid smiled at her and Dunstan let out a muffled snort of laughter which Molly did not appear to notice. Arthur shot him a warning look as Molly's friends took their seats.

Arthur eyed Reid and Cecilia warily. They had not been at table together since Siobhan had told them both off, and they had not said a word to each other in class since then, but Cecilia was not sneering now as she sat on the opposite end of the table from Reid, and Reid was not staring at her chest. Arthur had rather been expecting an explosive row.

Siobhan was buttering a piece of toast next to Cecilia, looking completely unconcerned and unsurprised by the development, but Hattie and Molly both seemed to be watching Cecilia as if she were ill. No one remarked on any of this, or on Arthur's jumper, and the rest of the breakfast conversation was monopolized by Petula, who had failed her last Transfiguration essay, and spent the entire meal railing against Professor McGonagall, whom she believed to be harbouring a grudge against her, while Dunstan occasionally sniggered into his breakfast cereal when he caught sight of the A on Arthur's jumper.

He walked Molly to class after breakfast, and they stopped outside the Arithmancy classroom for a few moments. Molly stood wrapped inside his cloak, smiling at him softly, while he played with her fingertips.

“This weekend is the Hogsmeade Valentine's visit,” Molly said.

“Oh.” He let go of her fingers, and she flattened her hand against his chest. “Would you like to go into town together, then?”

“Of course. It's our first Valentine's together,” she said, and he wondered if he should worry about that.

“I've never had a girlfriend on Valentine's Day before,” he admitted.

Molly smiled and leaned up to kiss him. “We'll just have lunch at the Three Broomsticks. We're both of age now, we can even order a firewhisky.”

Arthur chuckled, and she stepped out of his arms.

“I'd better get to class. You should too.”

He had about two minutes to get to class, but he took a few seconds to kiss her again before jogging away down the corridor. He made it to History of Magic just after the bell sounded, but Professor Binns did not notice him slipping in.

Reid was sitting at their usual desk with his chin propped up on his hand. He had bewitched his quill to take notes for him and was staring off into space.

“All right there, Arthur,” he said in a low voice as Arthur slid into his seat.

“Hi Reid.”

“You're late. Snogging Molly in the halls?”

“Shut up, Reid.” Arthur pulled his quill and some parchment out of his bag and Reid pointed his wand at it so that Arthur's quill jumped to attention and started copying down Professor Binns' lecture as well.

“Hangman?” Reid had already doodled a hangman game onto a spare piece of parchment.

“All right, but no ancient runes, only English.”

“You're no fun, Arthur.”

*

The atmosphere among the girls in the castle seemed to be very tense as the week wore on, thanks to the Valentine's Day Hogsmeade weekend. Everywhere Arthur turned it seemed small crowds of girls were discussing Valentine's Day, with whom they were going to Hogsmeade, and what they planned to do there. It seemed to be very important to them. He was relieved to find that Molly did not seem to be obsessing over the weekend. If anything, she had a slightly smug expression when anyone mentioned it.

“You're lucky to have a boyfriend already, Molly,” Petula said at dinner on Thursday.

Molly smiled at her friend. “Why don't you go with Dunstan?”

Petula glanced over her shoulder, but Dunstan had not yet come down from Gryffindor Tower. “I don't really fancy him. But it's too late now to get someone better, so I suppose I may as well.”

Arthur coughed to try to hide a laugh. This really made the weekend even better. Dunstan had still not lost interest in Petula, who never had given him a response when he asked her out. Arthur thought having to wait two months for her to say yes would probably be good for his friend. It was definitely good for everyone else, if only for entertainment purposes.

“Don't tell him I said that, Arthur,” Petula said then, looking alarmed.

“I won't,” he assured her.

Cecilia was sitting down the table with Siobhan and the seventh-year Gryffindors, next to Icarus Teague, who played Keeper for the Gryffindor team and was one of Andrew Bishop's friends. Cecilia was sitting very close to him. Siobhan waved to him when she caught Arthur looking at them, and he smiled at her.

Reid arrived a little while later, and stopped short when he saw Cecilia sitting with Icarus. He stood next to the table, staring blankly at them for a moment, until Arthur tugged on his robes. Reid sat down abruptly, looking stunned.

“What's that about?” he asked.

Hattie and Molly exchanged a glance. This did not look good for Reid, Arthur reflected.

“Icarus asked her out a few days ago. They're going to Hogsmeade together this weekend,” Molly said, while Hattie gave Reid a sympathetic nod, both looking as if they had just delivered news of the death of a relative.

“She's going with him? Really?” Reid looked back at Cecilia, and she glanced over her shoulder as if she could feel his eyes on her. Arthur expected her to turn away with a flip of her hair and a scowl, but instead she gave Reid a tiny, almost apologetic smile and then turned back to Icarus.

Everyone was looking at Reid. He looked at Cecilia for a moment longer with a blank expression, then turned his attention to the shepherd’s pie on the table.

“Good for her,” he said.

This was apparently not the reaction anybody had expected. Cosmo, who had been silently shovelling food into his mouth during the conversation, paused in mid-chew to stare at Reid, his fork still hovering in the air in front of him. Petula's eyes were wide, and Hattie looked as if she were concerned for Reid's sanity.

“Pod people,” she murmured, but Arthur did not know what that meant. Molly giggled; apparently she did know.

Dunstan turned up then, and took in the weird tension at the table as he sat down. “What's going on, eh? What did I miss?”

“Cecilia is going out with Icarus Teague,” Reid said calmly, pouring himself some pumpkin juice.

“Oh.” Dunstan craned his neck to get a good look at them. “He's a good Keeper. I heard he's going to be signed to Puddlemere United when he leaves school. How come you're not doing your nut over this, Reid?”

Reid shrugged and took a bite.

“Petula, are you going with me to Hogsmeade or not?” Dunstan demanded, grabbing a roll off the serving platter.

“Sure,” she said, shrugging.

“Good. Reid, you should take Hattie.”

Reid looked at Hattie, and she raised her eyebrows. “I'm going with Silvester Bowbrick,” she said.

“I have too much homework to do anyway,” Reid said. “I'm not going.”

“But it's Valentine's Day,” Petula exclaimed.

“My mum says Valentine's Day was invented by Hallmark to sell cards,” Cosmo said around a mouthful of shepherd’s pie.

Hattie frowned at him in disgust. “So you're not going either?”

“Yeah I am, I'm taking Maribel McQuillen. Just cause it's a made-up holiday doesn't mean you can't have some fun.”

Reid nodded agreement as he took a bite of pie.

*

Arthur spent that evening on the sofa in front of the fire in Gryffindor Tower with Molly curled up against him. She had her Arithmancy textbook open, and he'd tried to read over her shoulder for a moment, but the diagrams were completely alien to him, so he went back to his History of Magic notes, which he now had to read because he'd spent the class playing hangman with Reid instead of paying attention.

Petula was stretched out on the floor in front of the sofa, writing an essay for Charms. Apparently it was not coming along well, because occasionally she would scratch out a sentence rather forcefully. It was hard to concentrate with the loud scratching of Petula's quill and her angry huffs, and eventually he just sat with his book open and watched Molly. His gaze fell, quite involuntarily, to her chest, and he realized something looked very familiar about the jumper she was wearing. It was too big for her, though she filled it out quite nicely, but the sleeves were clearly too long: she had rolled them up to make them fit. She glanced up and noticed him watching her, and gave him an expectant look.

“Yes, Arthur?”

“Is that my jumper?” he asked.

Molly turned bright red and Petula started giggling quietly, keeping her head down over her homework.

“Erm... yes?” Molly said nervously.

“How did you get one of my jumpers?”

Petula's giggling got a little louder. Apparently she already knew about this. Arthur wasn't upset, in fact he quite liked the idea of her wearing his jumper, for some reason he didn't quite want to articulate, but he was curious how she'd gotten hold of it without his noticing. If any of his friends had caught her in the boys' dormitory, he would have never heard the end of it.

“Well,” Molly said, and he could see her hand twitching a bit and knew she wanted to chew on her fingernail, as she did when she was thinking hard or feeling nervous. “I needed to borrow it so I could make your birthday jumper, and I sort of... forgot to give it back.”

“You stole my jumper,” he said, grinning.

“I didn't mean to. I meant to put it back. You're not upset, are you?” She looked a little anxious, though he thought it was rather obvious that he wasn't upset about it.

“No. You can keep it, if you like. How did you get it out of my dormitory?”

“Gideon and Fabian stole it for me.”

Arthur laughed. Petula was still giggling quietly, and snuck a glance up at them. Molly cast around for a change of subject.

“So... Cecilia and Icarus Teague, eh?”

Arthur grinned but went along with her. “Yeah, Cecilia and Icarus. I didn't see that one coming.”

“I did,” Petula said, not looking up from her homework. “He's a friend of Andrew's, he's very cute, he plays Quidditch, and Siobhan's been pestering Cecilia since last year to let her set her up with someone. Cecilia always said she doesn't have time for boys because she's a prefect, but I suppose she has time now.”

“It's an odd name, isn't it?” Molly said thoughtfully. “You don't hear it much. Icarus. Wasn't he a wizard in ancient Greece?”

“I kind of like it, actually,” Petula said. “It sounds exotic. Romantic.”

“I do too,” Arthur admitted, though he wasn't sure about the romanticism of it.

“I am not naming our children anything odd like that,” Molly said firmly, giving Arthur’s knee a pat. “I like solid, traditional English names, like Charles and Mary.”

Arthur turned to stare at her, dumbfounded. “Our children?” he repeated.

Molly flushed a brilliant shade of red, her eyes wide, as she appeared to register what she’d said. “Oh, bugger.”

Petula was grinning at them rather annoyingly. “Language, Molly.”

“Are you planning to have children with me, then?” Arthur asked, feeling rather light-headed.

Molly still looked highly embarrassed and did not meet his eyes, but a feeling of euphoria was rushing through Arthur, and he couldn’t help grinning wildly. Perhaps some of those fantasies of Molly as his wife weren’t quite so far-fetched after all. She was wearing his jumper and talking about what to name their children. It was almost too good to be true.

He leaned down and kissed her firmly on the lips, feeling more satisfied with life than he could remember. Molly seemed a bit stiff as Petula went, chuckling, back to her essay. She sat with her book clutched a little too firmly on her lap, though she was still curled into the crook of Arthur’s arm.

Arthur bent his head so he could whisper in her ear. “I’ll tell you a secret.”

Molly looked up at him with those bright brown eyes, and she looked rather apprehensive. “What?”

He got even closer this time, so he could see the strands of her hair moving with his breath, and caught the floral scent of her perfume. “I’ve thought about having children with you, too. And I like you wearing my jumper.”

Molly’s face reddened again, but a tiny shiver went down her back, and she relaxed back into him this time. Arthur gave her a little squeeze, and Petula chuckled from down on the floor.

"You're on a roll tonight, Molly," she said.


Chapter 30: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Mel Carter, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me”
Thrill me, thrill me,
Walk me down the lane where shadows will be, will be
Hiding lovers just the same as we’ll be, we’ll be,
When you make me tell you I love you.



Molly was quite happy to have someone to spend Valentine's Day with. She hadn't had a boyfriend over this holiday since fourth year, when she'd briefly gone out with Kester McCulloch of Ravenclaw. He was a nice boy, but nobody compared to Arthur. She was excited for their first Valentine's Day, but mostly she was feeling quite relaxed and happy about the weekend. It was a lovely feeling to know that she had someone who loved her, and that even if all they did was sit in the Three Broomsticks drinking butterbeer, she would still remember it as a beautiful day with the boy she loved.

“It's going to be a wonderful Valentine's Day” said Hattie, twirling around in front of the mirror as they were all getting dressed for the day. “Not like last year. This year we've all got dates.”

Molly smiled nostalgically at her friend. Last year they'd all spent Valentine's Day holed up in their dormitory, trying unsuccessfully to find a way to save Cecilia's scorched hair. Cecilia had worn a hat for weeks afterwards. It had been a great sacrifice for Hattie, who adored Valentine's Day and had had plans to spend it with Walter Campbell in Madam Puddifoot's, a new teashop that had just opened and was quite horrifyingly decorated entirely in pink ruffles and pink china tea sets, but Hattie loved that sort of thing. Walter had gone with Claudia Patterson instead, and he and Hattie had never gotten back together.

“Icarus is such a nice boy,” Hattie said to Cecilia, who was scooping her hair up into a ponytail. Cecilia smiled serenely around the rubber band in her mouth.

Siobhan rolled her eyes. “It's just a stupid holiday, Hattie.”

“You only say that because you have no sense of romance.”

“I've got plenty of romance,” Siobhan said. “I ooze romance.”

“You ooze something, that's for sure, but I don't know if it's romance,” Cecilia said around the rubber band. Siobhan grinned at her.

Hattie ignored them. “It's going to be wonderful,” she repeated determinedly.

The wonderful seemed to have worn off Hattie by the end of the day, however, as first Professor Arccos then Professor McGonagall loaded them down with homework. Petula became nearly hysterical over receiving a P on her Transfiguration essay, and had to go to the hospital wing for a calming draught.

When Molly returned to Gryffindor Tower, Hattie was sitting on the sofa in front of the fire, grumbling under her breath as she sorted through a stack of notes.

“You might as well stop here, Molly,” she said when she caught sight of her. “We're not going to be going anywhere tonight.”

“We can save some for Sunday,” Molly said half-heartedly, sitting down next to Hattie and setting her bookbag on the floor.

“You know I like to get homework done straight away.” Hattie picked up her Transfiguration textbook and paged through it for a moment while Molly pulled out her own notes, then set it down in her lap and leaned over to her best friend, looking worried. “I've never been out with Silvester before. What if it doesn't go well?”

“I thought you said everything will be wonderful.”

“Yes, but if it's not, we need a back-up plan. We'll meet up somewhere and if it's not going well, I'll make up an excuse and go off with you.”

Molly smiled. “All right. He's very nice though, I don't think you'll need an escape route.”

Petula dropped into the chair beside them just then and threw her bookbag onto the floor, looking slightly calmer than she had before she'd gone to the hospital wing, but not by much. “I give up. I'm never going to pass Transfiguration. Can I copy your homework?”

Hattie sighed but took pity on her. “Only if you help out a bit.”

They spent the next two hours working on Transfiguration, until Arthur came to fetch Molly for dinner. Petula stood immediately, but Hattie looked at her stack of notes and books and let out a loud sigh, clearly torn between her love of food and her desire to complete her homework before Valentine's Day.

“You won't be able to concentrate if you're hungry,” Molly told her.

Hattie was still staring at her homework, frowning uncertainly. “You're right, of course, I just know I won't be able to enjoy myself tomorrow if I have this hanging over my head.”

“I think it's chocolate gateau for dessert tonight,” Arthur said.

Hattie stood immediately and started shooing them toward the portrait hole. “Quickly, quickly, let's not be late for dinner.”

“What about your homework?” Petula asked as she was hustled along by Hattie.

“Petula, so help me, if you make me miss chocolate gateau–”

“All right, all right, I'm going.”

Molly spent dinner alternating between flirting with Arthur, who was wearing his birthday jumper again, and eyeing Cecilia and Icarus, who were sitting down the table and obviously enjoying each other's company a great deal. Cecilia's cheeks were flushed and she looked happy. It occurred to Molly that she hadn't seen Cecilia happy most of the year. Reid was studiously not paying any attention to them, although he had given Cecilia a somewhat wistful glance when he'd first arrived, but he was still maintaining the official stance that he was happy for Cecilia. It seemed unlikely to Molly after the way he'd plagued Cecilia for over a year, but she didn't want to argue with him about it. As Hattie liked to say, it was much nicer when everyone was pleasant to each other.

She remembered Hattie wanted to meet up for an escape plan in case her date went poorly and turned to ask her where she was going in Hogsmeade just as the dessert course appeared on the table. Hattie immediately reached for a large slice of gateau. “Hattie, where-”

“Can't talk,” Hattie said shortly. “Cake.”

Reid was sitting next to her and eyed her plate askance but didn't say anything. The house-elves had decorated the chocolate gateau festively in red and pink hearts and swirls of piped frosting. Hattie was giving it her full attention, and Molly waited a few moments before asking again.

“Where are you lunching tomorrow?”

Hattie swallowed. It generally took only a couple of bites for her to become human again once she'd caught sight of chocolate gateau. She smiled pleasantly at Molly. “Madam Puddifoot's. I love that shop, it's so adorable.”

Molly wrinkled her nose. Hattie was her closest friend, but Hattie's admiration of all things pink and frilly had never rubbed off on her. Molly thought stepping into Madam Puddifoot's was like being in one of the horrible tea cosies her Auntie Muriel favoured. “We're going to the Three Broomsticks.”

“I'm going to Honeydukes after lunch whether Silvester wants to or not,” Hattie said, delicately licking a bit of chocolate frosting off the tines of her fork. “We could meet up there for the back-up plan.”

“What back-up plan?” Arthur wanted to know.

“Never you mind,” Hattie told him.

Reid chuckled. “Poor Silvester. He won't know what hit him. I ought to post a sign that says only Gryffindors can handle the Gryffindor girls.”

Molly expected Hattie to frown at him, but instead she wiggled her eyebrows as she cut into her cake with her fork and said, “You ought to post a sign that says never come between me and chocolate.”

*

One of Molly's favourite things about Valentine's in Hogsmeade was the romantic atmosphere that seemed to settle over the little town. The people smiled and flirted as they passed on the streets, which seemed to be full of couples holding hands and small clusters of girls giggling together. It felt as if the entire town was looking at each other through rose-coloured glasses.

Arthur had brought her a single red rose that morning at breakfast, which she was pretty sure he'd culled from the rosebushes on the school grounds, but it was a sweet gesture. She gave his hand a squeeze now as they walked down the main street in Hogsmeade, heading for Honeydukes Sweetshop. He smiled down at her and her heart fluttered a little. Valentine's Day always made her a little giddy anyway, and today she felt bouncy with energy.

They wandered through Dervish and Banges, and Molly smiled fondly at the shelves behind which Arthur had kissed her for the first time. She was just thinking of how to subtly nudge Arthur to take her behind the shelves again when she realized the spot was already occupied.

Cecilia and Icarus were tucked into the dark corner behind the shelf of whirring silver objects, wrapped firmly in each other's arms and kissing as if they didn't realize anyone could see them. Molly turned away with a giggle.

Arthur noticed the pair and grinned at Molly. “I suppose they're getting along well.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “For the love. If she caught us doing that, she'd threaten to take points from me.”

“I don't think she would really do it though,” Arthur said, chuckling.

“She took points from Siobhan a few times last year, until she realized it wasn't having any effect,” Molly told him as they left the shop.

"Would taking points have any effect on you?"

She looked over at him for a moment. "No."

It was so cold out that their breath left mist in the air as they spoke, and though Molly was bundled up in her heavy cloak, a hat, scarf, and mittens, she still felt frozen as soon as they stepped outside. They walked down the street to the inn, and Arthur put an arm around her shoulders. She tucked herself up against him as much as she could while still walking, and felt a little warmer. He seemed to be generating heat.

“Where are we going?” Molly asked finally as they walked further from the centre of town.

“Just walking.” He seemed to be enjoying the winter air.

“It's too cold for just walking,” Molly said in exasperation. “My fingers are freezing. My toes are freezing. Let's go back.”

Arthur seemed to think this was funny and grinned at her, but he didn't say anything, leading her on further out of town. She thought he must have a destination in mind, because they seemed to be heading toward Hogsmeade Station and the lake.

They finally stopped on the edge of the lake, and Arthur pulled her close and wrapped his cloak around her. She put her arms around his waist and hugged him, resting her cheek on his chest and looking out at the lake. It was much warmer when she was cuddled up against him.

He seemed content to just hold her, so she looked out at the lake and relaxed. She had to admit the lake looked beautiful with the frost all round the shore. There was no sign of the giant squid, who was probably hiding down at the bottom of the lake until it warmed up again.

They spent some time there on the shore of the lake, wrapped tightly in each other's arms and kissing in the softly falling snow, until Molly decided her toes really were frozen. She pulled away from him, sliding her hands down his arms so she could clasp his hands, and smiled.

“Shall we go to the Three Broomsticks? I could use a butterbeer to warm up.”

The walk back into town seemed much shorter, and soon they were stepping over the threshold of the Three Broomsticks. The inn felt refreshingly warm and cosy after being out in the snow, and it was filled with students who were pink-cheeked from the cold. There was a buzz of excitement in the air, and the inn seemed filled with a roar of noise from all the conversation.

Molly stomped some of the snow from her wellies and followed Arthur to the bar. He ordered hot butterbeer for them and they made their way through the crowd, gingerly holding their drinks, until they found a table that had just been vacated.

Molly drank happily, feeling the butterbeer warm her up, and wiggled her cold toes inside her wellies, wishing she'd worn an extra pair of socks. Arthur was looking around at the crowd as he drank, and she watched him for a moment in profile, thinking how handsome he was and that it was lucky none of their friends were with them to tell her to stop mooning over him. She rather thought mooning over one's boyfriend ought to be allowed on Valentine's Day, of all days.

A flash of familiar blonde hair caught her attention, and she was sure she'd seen Petula through a brief hole in the crowd.

“Is that Petula and Dunstan?” Molly craned her neck to get a better look. “Can you see?” It was too crowded for her to get a good look without standing on her chair. Arthur was taller and could see over most of the crowd. He followed her gaze and nodded.

“Yes, that's them.”

“How does it look? Are they having a good time?” Molly was a little worried about her friend, who did not really fancy her Valentine's date at all. She hoped Petula wasn't being unkind to him. Petula seemed quite inexplicably taken with the idea of having a stalker like Cecilia had with Reid, and Molly didn't want Petula to think she could start behaving the way Cecilia had been.

“It looks like they're not talking. They're just sitting there.”

“Oh dear,” Molly said.

Arthur was still looking around to see who else was there. “There's Andrew and Siobhan. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what they're doing. I thought I saw Cecilia and Icarus but they must have left. I don't see your brothers at all.”

“You won't, either,” Molly said dryly. “They're in detention today. Remember they got a month's worth for blowing up the staircase?”

Arthur looked a little guilty and ducked his head over his butterbeer. She thought he must feel bad that he wasn't in detention with them. She decided she didn't want to think about the staircase incident today, when it was supposed to be a romantic date, and changed the subject.

“What are you doing for Easter break?”

“My family always gets together for Easter Sunday. My mum's making glazed ham and lamb chops, and my brother's bringing his new baby over.”

Molly let out a loud, “Awww!”, clasping her hands at her chest, and a few people turned to look at her. She ignored them and exclaimed, “Oh Arthur, you're an uncle now!”

He grinned, and she was sure he was laughing at her, but she didn't mind. She loved babies. “Would you like to come along?” he asked. “You can meet the baby, and everyone else.”

“D'you think your parents would mind?” she asked uncertainly. She really did want to go, but it was a little unnerving to think of going to Arthur's house for Easter Sunday. She wondered if he'd been nervous to come to her house for dinner on Boxing Day. He probably would have been if he'd known what her parents were like. They could be very embarrassing at times.

“My mum is dying to meet you,” Arthur told her. “She'd love it if you came. Will your parents mind?”

Molly waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, my mum minds everything, but I can get around her. I'd love to come.”

“All right then.” Arthur looked quite pleased. “What about the rest of Easter break?”

“What do you mean?”

“Surely you don't think I'm going to go an entire week without seeing you,” he said, reaching across the table to take her hand. “We'll both be able to Apparate legally by then-”

“If we pass the test,” she reminded him. The Apparition licensing examination was set for the first weekend in March, and most of the sixth-years were buzzing about it, hoping they would pass.

“I'll make sure I pass if it means I can see you over Easter,” Arthur said. He was smiling and rubbing her palm with his thumb, and she smiled as a little shiver went down her back.

Easter was still a month away, but she suddenly found herself looking forward to it greatly.

She could see Petula over Arthur's shoulder now, looking a little harried as she made her way through the crowded pub, coming from the bar. She stopped for a moment as she passed by, a fresh drink in her hand, and leaned down to Molly.

“We don't have anything to say to each other!” Petula whispered through clenched teeth. “Help me!”

“What am I supposed to do?” Molly whispered back.

“I don't know, think of something!” Petula disappeared into the crowd.

“Problems?” Arthur asked with a grin.

“She and Dunstan have run out of conversation,” Molly told him. “She wants me to help her.”

“We could go join them for a bit,” Arthur offered half-heartedly.

Molly frowned. She did not particularly want to spend her Valentine's Day with Petula and Dunstan; she wanted to spend it alone with Arthur. Particularly because she was sure that once they joined their friends, they wouldn't be able to shake them off the rest of the day if they were having a bad time alone. On the other hand, she didn't want to abandon her friend to a date that was clearly not going well.

“I suppose we'd better.”

Arthur took her hand as they made their way over to Petula and Dunstan, who both looked rather bored and uncomfortable.

Petula looked up in relief when she saw them approaching. “Oh thank God! I mean, hello Molly, Arthur.”

Dunstan was eyeing Petula now, looking as if he regretted ever asking her out, and nodded to Arthur briefly.

“Hello Dunstan,” Arthur said cheerfully. “All right there, Petula?”

He gamely made conversation for the next ten minutes, talking Quidditch with Dunstan while Petula rolled her eyes and looked even more bored, and finally Molly couldn't stand it any more and glanced pointedly at her watch.

“We'd better go, Arthur, we said we'd meet Hattie,” she reminded him.

“I'll come with you,” Petula said immediately.

Dunstan didn't stand when they did, and Molly thought he looked rather glad to see the back of Petula. As soon as the three of them were outside, Petula let out a huge gusty sigh.

“For the love,” she said, shaking her head. “I thought I was going to die of boredom. Thanks for rescuing me, Molly.”

Arthur was holding her hand, and Molly smiled at her friend but hoped Petula wasn't going to want to tag along with them the rest of the day. She was relieved when Petula announced she was going to go hide in her dormitory for the rest of the day with a bag of Chocoballs and read a Fifi LaFolle novel. She split off for the castle while Molly and Arthur headed up the street to Honeydukes.

There was no sign of Hattie or Silvester in Honeydukes, so after purchasing a few sweets for themselves, they headed over to Madam Puddifoot's.

“I don't want to go in, I just want to see if Hattie's all right,” Molly said, trying to peer discreetly through the frosted glass window in the front of the tea shop. The filmy pink curtains partially obscured her view, but she could make out a few of the couples. Thad and Cressida were sitting near the window, snuggled up close to each other on a pink pouf, and Cosmo and Maribel McQuillen were sitting with their heads together at a table nearby.

Finally she recognized Hattie's brown curls and the stocky form of Silvester Bowbrick sitting in a back corner. They were kissing and seemed very involved.

“There they are,” said Arthur. He had seen them at the same time she had. “I don't think she wants to be interrupted.”

“Well, I guess she didn't need rescuing after all,” Molly said as they started walking back to the main street.

Arthur chuckled. “I guess not.”

Chapter 31: Stay In My Corner
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The Dells, “Stay In My Corner”
There'll be times when I may fail
I'll need your love to comfort me
but just a kiss from you
will make things sweet



Arthur was just coming through the portrait hole after class, ready to grab some extra books from his dormitory and meet Molly in the library to study, and bumped into a familiar pair leaving the common room.

“Sorry there, Arthur,” Gideon said.

“Got a minute? We've been meaning to talk to you anyway,” said Fabian.

Arthur followed them back through the portrait hole and into the common room, where they ducked into a secluded corner. He hoped they weren't going to hassle him because they'd missed a Hogsmeade weekend to serve detention while he was in town enjoying himself. He still felt a little guilty over it.

“We have a little adventure planned, and wondered if you'd like to come along,” Fabian said.

“We could use a third pair of hands on this one. And Frank's still got a scar from last time he helped us, so he doesn't want to lend a hand.”

Arthur frowned at them warily. “It isn't something dangerous again, is it?”

“No,” Fabian said immediately.

“Not at all,” Gideon assured him. “It's just something funny, that's all. No one's going to get hurt.”

“What is it?” Arthur asked suspiciously.

“Well, the Hufflepuff common room doesn't have a password, you see,” Gideon said.

“And we have this badger-”

There was really no way in which those two sentences could lead to a scenario that ended well. “I really don't want to get in trouble with your sister again,” he said, rubbing his temple.

Gideon waved this concern away. “She'll never know! You won't tell her, we won't tell her. We'll stay in one piece.”

Arthur gave him a doubtful look and the twins exchanged a glance. He was sure they knew their argument was not swaying him.

“Well then, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Fabian said optimistically. “Besides, I'll bet there isn't an actual rule against going into someone else's common room. They don't even have a password. We won't even be breaking in like we did with the Ravenclaws.”

“They should've asked a harder question if they really wanted to keep people out,” Gideon said. Fabian murmured agreement.

“I'll bet there's a rule against putting an animal in someone else's common room,” Arthur said dryly.

“Bet there's not,” Fabian retorted. “Look it up.”

“I will, you know.”

“All right,” Gideon said. “If there is a rule that says you can't do that, we'll owe you a Galleon. If there's not a rule, you're going to help us get the badger in the common room. Deal?” He put out a hand, and Arthur shook it.

“It's a bet.”

*

Two hours later, Arthur found himself standing in a dungeon corridor under the Entrance Hall, his wand held aloft to keep the angry badger in the air in front of him from falling and clawing his ankles off, and wondering how the twins kept talking him into these situations. He'd been so sure there would be a rule against this. There certainly would be by tomorrow. The badger was making a weird growling noise that did not bode well for when they finally released it from the Levitation Charm. This was not a happy badger.

“It's making too much noise,” Fabian whispered. “Can't you Silence it or something?”

“I never got the hang of that charm,” Arthur admitted. He didn't think he could cast it and keep the badger in the air at the same time anyway.

“Just give it a smack on the nose, Arthur,” Gideon said encouragingly, then addressed the badger. “Oi! Quit it there! This is a stealth mission.”

“Bad badger,” Fabian told the badger. “Bad.”

The badger bared its teeth at them.

Arthur grimaced. “I see now why you wanted help. Do I want to know where you got a badger?”

Fabian grinned at him rather annoyingly. “Probably not. Right, so the Hufflepuff common room is behind a still life painting. That one's the kitchen, down there, so I think it's probably this one.”

“Not fair, is it, how easy must it be to sneak out for a midnight snack?” Gideon remarked. “Lucky 'Puffs.”

“We really need to work out how to do that Disillusionment Charm,” Fabian told his brother, who nodded agreement.

“Erm, can we get on with it, boys?” Arthur asked, glancing worriedly over his shoulder. “If your sister catches me down here, I may never hear the end of it.”

“All right, here's the plan. Fabian will open the door, you remove the Levitation Charm, and we all shoo the badger through the door and hide over behind that tapestry to watch the Hufflepuffs come running out screaming their heads off.” Gideon rubbed his hands together eagerly.

This did not sound like a particularly foolproof plan to Arthur, but as he didn't have a better one, he went ahead and removed the Levitation Charm as soon as Fabian flung open the door.

The badger dropped to the ground, scrabbling at thin air and growling angrily, and hit the ground running, heading straight for Arthur and Gideon.

Arthur jumped away, and went to cast a Body-Bind Charm on the badger, but his wand was missing. It was on the floor where he'd been standing when the badger ran at him. He and the badger both looked at it at the same time, and the badger picked up the wand in its jaws and bit it in half.

The twins drew in their breath in unison with a hiss, wincing.

“Bad form there, old boy,” Gideon said to the badger.

The badger let out a loud growl and started trotting toward Gideon at a frightening speed.

“It's charging!” Gideon shrieked.

“Bad badger! Bad!” Fabian yelled, shooing it with his hands.

“I think it wants to eat me!” Gideon was dancing away from the badger as it snapped at his heels. “Are badgers carnivorous?”

Fabian was still trying to get the badger to the door of the Hufflepuff common room, which had fallen shut by now. “Bloody badger. Get in there! Scare the Hufflepuffs, not us!”

Arthur leapt at the badger and grabbed it around the middle, and barely managed to heave it up off the floor. It was small but strong, and was wriggling wildly, trying to claw at him and gnashing its teeth, making the weird growling noise again. It was probably swearing at him in badger. Its claws looked much larger at close range. He felt a sharp pain in his arm as he strained to keep a grip on the stupid creature and knew he'd been caught by one of those claws.

Fabian let out a triumphant whoop.

“Good one, Arthur, now shove it through the door when Gideon opens it again, ready?”

Arthur was more than ready to get rid of the damn badger, but the next moment even the badger froze when a familiar voice sounded from the end of the corridor.

Arthur Weasley!

Arthur dropped the badger and turned, still crouched down on the floor. Molly stood there, hands on hips with her wand clutched in one hand and her face flushed with anger, looking as if she were ready to kill all of them. He heard a noise from the other direction and glanced back around to see the twins had scattered down the hallway away from their sister. Damn, they were fast. The badger, sensing its opportunity, was scurrying away as fast as it could in the opposite direction.

Molly glared after her brothers for a moment, spared the badger a single baleful glance as it disappeared around a corner, and then refocused on Arthur. “What are you doing? Are you trying to get yourself expelled? And my brothers as well? You’re setting a terrible example for them, breaking school rules left and right–”

“Actually,” Arthur said bravely, “I think you’ll find that there isn’t technically a rule against this. We looked it up, you see, and–”

This was clearly the wrong thing to say at that moment. Molly drew in a breath to shout at him, her eyes flashing, and looking quite like her mother. “Not technically a – looked it up – are you mad?

He stayed crouched on the floor, sitting back on his heels, as she continued shouting somewhat incoherently, and when she finally seemed to have run out of steam a bit on her harangue, or had become so enraged she could no longer speak, she turned on her heel to stalk away.

Arthur shot to his feet, grabbing hold of Molly’s arm. “Don’t leave like this, Molly.”

She turned slowly to him, looking first down at his hand on her upper arm, then up at his face with a freezing glare. “Let go of me right this minute, Arthur Weasley.”

“Molly,” he said, hoping to placate her, “Just… Just don’t, just stay-”

She jerked her arm out of his grip at the same time as she slammed her free arm fist-first into his chest. Arthur ducked a little, trying to keep his grip on her, but she had quite a right hook on her, and she tried to leave again as he grabbed at her. Her fist brushed the cut on his arm from the badger, and he drew in his breath with a hiss of pain and tightened his hold on her involuntarily.

There was a brief struggle where Arthur wasn’t quite aware of what he was doing, trying to keep hold of her while she hit him again a few more times, and the only coherent thought in his head was that he had to stop her from walking away from him; she had told him to come after her when she was angry. They somehow wound up a few feet from where they’d started, stopped when Molly’s back was against the stone wall of the corridor. He stared down at her for a moment, holding her hands still against his chest. She was breathing heavily as she glared up at him, her chest heaving and nostrils flaring, and he was sure she wanted to hit him again, so he did the only thing he could think of: he bent down and kissed her.

She kissed him back fiercely, as if she were pouring her rage into him. The kiss gradually softened, as her body relaxed against his, and finally he pulled back and saw her looking up at him bemusedly. Her arms were around his neck now, though he didn't remember releasing her hands.

“You’re still in trouble,” she said softly, but then she reached up to kiss him again.

The thought occurred to Arthur that this was much better than their last fight.

*

By the time they left the corridor, dinner had already started. The twins were nowhere to be seen at Gryffindor table, but Arthur's friends were grinning at him knowingly when he and Molly took their seats and hurriedly began dishing food onto their plates. No one mentioned a badger during the meal, so he assumed the badger had escaped without being seen, and he kept the sleeve of his robes down to hide the gash the badger had left. Molly had seen it, and had immediately set about making it up to him for accidentally hitting the wound, which was why they were almost twenty minutes late for dinner.

After dinner, Arthur went to the hospital wing with Molly clutching his hand, and had the school nurse heal his arm while Molly hovered nearby, looking worried. Madame Luscinia only sighed over the laceration and didn't bother to ask him how he'd gotten it. It was good as new when she was finished, though the evidence of it remained in the bloodstain and tear in the fabric of his sleeve.

They spent the rest of the evening studying companionably in the common room together, neither one mentioning the badger, her brothers (who were still missing in action), or their little row in the corridor. He wondered if it was technically a row if she was the only one doing any shouting. She was stroking his hand with one finger as she read from her Transfiguration textbook, and he didn't think she was even aware of what she was doing. Clearly she was no longer upset, and he was cheered by that. She got over her anger quickly. He rather thought he could take her shouting at him occasionally if he could coax her out of it the same way he had this time.

By the time he went up to his dormitory to go to bed, Reid, Dunstan, and Roddy were already in there. Reid was stretched out on his bed with a book as usual, wearing a set of purple pyjamas with ghastly little cartoon hippogriffs. Arthur shrugged out of his robes and left them in a heap on the floor next to his bed, and began digging through his trunk for his own pyjamas. Reid noticed the bloody gash on his sleeve right away.

“What happened to your arm, Arthur?”

“I wrestled a badger this afternoon,” he told him.

There was silence in the dormitory for a moment as they all stared at him, then Dunstan asked warily, “Is that a metaphor?”

Arthur heaved a sigh and told them about his 'adventure' with Molly's brothers and the subsequent fight with Molly while he changed into his pyjamas. By the time he was done, Reid was hooting with laughter.

“A badger ate your wand,” he choked, brushing away a tear.

“I wonder what happened to the badger,” Dunstan mused.

“The badger is long gone,” Arthur said. He was still feeling a little resentful toward the badger. “The badger is probably in Cornwall by now on a homicidal rampage.”

“You've really got to stop hanging around Molly's brothers, mate,” Roddy told him. “You're going to lose an eye next.”

Dunstan let out a loud guffaw just as a knock sounded on the door to their dormitory. The door swung open and the twins poked their heads around it, looking a little wary. Probably because they had left him to the wolves, so to speak, he thought wryly.

“Come on in, boys,” Arthur said, rolling his eyes.

They didn't move from the doorway.

“How's your arm?” Fabian asked.

He held it up to show them. “All healed, thanks to Madame Luscinia.”

Their faces cleared, and they strutted into the room, grinning.

“So did Molly kill you? Is she coming after us next?” Gideon hopped onto Arthur's bed and sat cross-legged.

Fabian stood behind him, leaning against one of the posters. “Should we flee the country? Assume new identities?”

“I'll be you, you'll be me,” Gideon told his brother.

“That may not be sufficient disguise,” Fabian said.

Arthur grinned. It was difficult to stay annoyed with the twins. “She didn't kill me.”

“They snogged in the corridor for twenty minutes,” Dunstan said dryly. “They were both late to dinner.”

The twins looked impressed and disgusted all at once.

“Well then,” said Fabian.

“I guess you know how to handle Molly after all,” Gideon said.

“Thanks a lot for sticking around to make sure she didn't kill me,” Arthur said, rolling his eyes. “You took off so fast I hardly saw your legs moving.”

“Well, she wasn't really likely to kill you, but us...” Fabian nodded sagely. “Us, she might have killed.”

“Yeah, and you got twenty minutes of snogging out of it, what are you complaining about? Which is completely disgusting, by the way, that's our sister you're snogging, you know.”

“Sorry about your wand,” Fabian added before Arthur could comment on snogging their sister.

Arthur shrugged. “It's all right. I've already written to my mum to ask her to send me a new one.”

“Well, it'll give you a good excuse to skive off some classes, if you don't have a wand,” Gideon said bracingly. “Maybe we should break our wands.”

“Maybe you should give up your life of crime,” Roddy suggested, grinning at them.

“We're too young to retire,” Gideon told him.

“Next time we thought we might steal some Polyjuice Potion from Slughorn and turn into Professor Dumbledore, and put all the Slytherins in detention,” Fabian said cheerfully.

“Merlin's beard,” said Dunstan, shaking his head in horror.

“I think they can put you in Azkaban for impersonating a professor,” Roddy said.

“Nah, only for impersonating Aurors, Magical Law Enforcement, or Healers,” Fabian said.

“We're saving those for next year,” Gideon said. “And there isn't technically a school rule that says you can't impersonate a teacher.”

“We looked it up,” Fabian added. “See, Arthur's been a good influence on us.”

“Good Gad,” Reid said, shaking his head. “I hope not.”

*

He went to History of Magic the next morning, as one didn't need a wand to sleep through Professor Binns' lecture, and watched the owls arrive at lunch, hoping to see the family owl bringing him a new wand, but there was no familiar rustle of wings at his table. There was not much point in attending Charms that afternoon without a wand. He was sure Molly would lecture him if he told her he was going to skive off, and spent the rest of lunch thinking of excuses why he would have to run back to the dormitory before class, and then he would stay there. But then she would surely lecture him when she returned from class. It seemed the lecture was inevitable.

After lunch Molly stood next to the table, clearly waiting for him to walk to class with her, so he gave up on his escape plan and walked with her out of the Great Hall and then stopped in the entrance hall. She looked at him quizzically as students filed past them, headed to their own classes.

“I'm skiving off Charms today,” Arthur told her sheepishly.

“You can't skive off Charms,” she said, sounding scandalised. “Why would you skive off Charms?”

“Because I haven't got a wand,” he admitted. “I wrote Mum to send me a new one, but it hasn't come yet.”

She frowned at him. “What happened to your old wand?”

“The badger ate it.”

Molly stared at him for a moment, then she blew her breath out, making the tendrils of hair around her face flutter, and shook her head at him. “I hardly need say that it was your own fault.”

He thought it was best to just agree. “No, you needn't say that.”

“You brought it on yourself. If your mum refuses to buy you a new wand, it will be on your own head. I don't know what you were thinking.”

“Yes, Molly dear.”

She threw him a look. “Are you taking the mickey?”

“No, Molly dear.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek for scolding him. It reminded him very much of his mum nagging at his dad, and he knew she only did it because she really did love him. “Mum will order me a new wand, and I'll go to class as soon as I have it. Don't worry.”

“Apparently I have to worry,” she grumbled. “You really need to stop hanging around my brothers. They'll have a bad influence on you.”

“They say I'm having a good influence on them.”

She pursed her lips, shaking her head and looking as if she did not believe that for a moment. “One can only hope.”

Chapter 32: Love Makes A Woman
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Barbara Acklin, “Love Makes A Woman”
Diamonds and pearls
Don't you know that I've had enough
But I feel so much better, yes I do
Dressed in love



Molly was pacing back and forth, feeling nervous and fluttery and hoping she didn't splinch herself today. The Apparition test would begin shortly, and the students who were already seventeen were milling about in the courtyard outside the castle, waiting for Professor McGonagall to take them down to Hogsmeade for the test. Molly had been one of the first there. Hattie and Petula were sitting on the low stone wall that enclosed the courtyard, playing cards. Hattie was steadily working her way through a stack of chocolate frogs piled next to her. She was too young to take the test, as she wouldn't be seventeen until summer, but she had come along to support her friends.

Cecilia, who had decided to come along for moral support as well, was stretched out on the wall next to Hattie and Petula, snoring lightly. She'd been up late the night before, coaching Petula on Apparition technique, although this activity had been seriously hindered by the fact that one couldn't actually Apparate inside the school grounds.

“You're wearing a hole in the floor,” Hattie noted calmly as Molly passed her for the fifth time.

Molly stopped abruptly and sat next to her best friend. “I'm nervous.”

“Are you? I couldn't tell,” Hattie said, straight-faced. Molly smiled in spite of the butterflies in her stomach.

Siobhan was walking toward them, looking a little wary.

“Are you ready for your examination, Siobhan?” Hattie asked when she caught sight of her.

“What?” Siobhan looked distracted. “Oh, yes. I'm sure it'll be fine.”

“I'm going to fail,” Petula said dourly.

“No you're not,” Hattie said loyally.

Molly privately thought Petula might have a point, despite the coaching from Cecilia, but she didn't say anything. Petula had only managed to Apparate once during the Ministry course, splinching herself on every other attempt.

Siobhan glanced over at her shoulder at the little knot of Ravenclaws she'd been talking to. “I heard something, and you're not going to like it.”

Molly's stomach knotted in fear, thinking of the Muggle killings in The Daily Prophet over Christmas. “What happened?”

“Well... Apparently Dunstan said that Petula was very boring on their date at Valentine's, and practically the whole school has heard about it.” Siobhan was eyeing Petula warily.

“Oh.” Molly looked over at Petula in surprise. She was a little relieved that it hadn't been anything truly bad, but Petula was going to completely lose her head. It certainly wasn't going to help her concentration for Apparition today.

Petula stared open-mouthed at Siobhan. Finally she closed her mouth and said sharply, “He said that, did he?”

Cecilia's snoring abruptly stopped and she looked over at them, roused by Petula's sudden loud voice. “What's going on?”

Before anyone could answer her, Professor McGonagall's voice rang out crisply over the courtyard. “All students who are of age may now follow me to Hogsmeade for the Apparition examination.”

Molly and Petula stood. Petula looked completely panic-stricken.

“Good luck,” Hattie said bracingly. “Break a wand!”

Cecilia waved to them as she sat up, still looking bleary-eyed. “Remember what we talked about last night, Petula,” she called.

The three girls set off, falling in with the little crowd of students trailing along behind Professor McGonagall. Arthur had been ahead of them, walking with Roddy Feltham and Dunstan, and fell back until he was in step with Molly. Petula threw him a dirty look and sped up to walk next to Gemma Folwell and Mary Nevard of Hufflepuff.

“What did I do?” Arthur asked, looking confused.

“Your friend Dunstan has been talking about Petula all over school,” Siobhan informed him. “Dorothy Sharpe told me that she heard he said he nearly fell asleep on their date because Petula was so boring.”

“What?” Arthur looked very surprised. “He wouldn't say that.” He appeared to think better of this. “Not to the Ravenclaws, anyway. Where did they hear that?”

Siobhan shrugged. “He must've said something to someone, or in front of someone, because it's all over the school.”

Molly sighed. She wanted to concentrate on Apparition and didn't think she could focus on Petula's problems until later. “There's nothing we can do about it now, so let's worry about it after the test is over, all right?”

*

After the test was finally over, the students gathered in the Three Broomsticks for celebratory butterbeers, or in some cases, to cheer themselves up after their failure. Molly was feeling very relieved that both she and Arthur had passed without difficulty. Siobhan, who had also passed easily, was sitting with them, on her fifth round of butterbeer, singing in Gaelic with heavy vibrato. She did not seem to be paying any attention to anyone or anything but the glass in front of her, so Molly was sitting as close to Arthur as she could, his arm around her and her head resting against his shoulder. He seemed to be enjoying listening to Siobhan.

Petula had spent ten minutes in the bathroom of the Three Broomsticks, crying heavily on Molly's shoulder, before heading back to the castle to sulk in her room and copy Cecilia's homework. Molly felt quite sorry for her friend for failing the examination, but she wanted to celebrate her own victory, so she'd stayed in Hogsmeade. She thought she would bring a bag of sweets back from Honeydukes to cheer Petula up.

They weren't allowed to linger long in Hogsmeade; Professor McGonagall led the students back to the castle. Molly and Hattie stopped in the bathrooms on the way up to Gryffindor tower, and they returned to their common room a bit later to find a crowd had gathered around someone having a blazing row.

“Oh no, it's Petula,” Molly said, wincing slightly.

Petula and Dunstan were facing off in front of the fireplace, both red in the face and shouting, and both seemed completely unaware of their audience. Arthur and Reid were sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace, directly behind Petula and Dunstan. Arthur was hunched down in his seat, obviously trying to pretend nothing was happening. Reid had not bothered with any pretence and was watching them with a wide grin as if they were putting on a show purely for his amusement.

“I only went with you because nobody better asked me!” Petula shouted.

“Oh, so I was just your last resort?” Dunstan retorted angrily. “Maybe I'm the best you can get, did you think of that?”

Petula looked as if she might slap him. “Oh, you think so?”

“I don't know why I ever thought I fancied you,” Dunstan said. “That was the worst date I've ever been on.”

“Should we stop them?” Hattie asked in a low voice, looking worried, as they sat down at a table with Cecilia.

“I don't think so,” Cecilia said. She was watching them in fascination, with her chin propped up on one hand. “Petula loves this sort of thing. It'll give her something to talk about for months. She'll be happy all summer, complaining about this.”

“If you never really fancied me, why did you wait around for two months for me to answer you when you asked me out?” Petula demanded.

“Obviously because I thought you were a much more interesting person than you actually are,” Dunstan said.

This time Petula did slap him, and Dunstan put a hand to his cheek, looking angry and a little surprised.

“Well, that ought to do it,” Cecilia said briskly, and got to her feet. She went over to Petula and Dunstan and stepped between them.

Molly watched as Cecilia took five points from Petula for slapping Dunstan, and five points from Dunstan for being a git. Molly thought this was probably an abuse of her power as a prefect, but it got a round of applause from the assembled Gryffindors, and even Acacia Bushby-Ferris seemed to approve of the way Cecilia had broken up the row, because she smiled at Cecilia as she went back to her homework. Petula flounced off up the stairs to their dormitory in a huff, and Dunstan cast himself into a chair near a window, looking bad-tempered. Cecilia came back over to Molly and Hattie as the crowd broke up, chatting about the row.

“That was entertaining,” Cecilia said, gathering up her books. “I'm off to find Icarus, he should be done with Quidditch practice by now. See you girls later.” She wiggled her fingers at them as she left.

Arthur plopped into the chair next to Molly, looking as if he were glad to get away from the fireplace scene. Reid joined him, chuckling under his breath.

“Glad that's over,” Arthur said in a low voice. “Cecilia couldn't have broken it up a bit sooner? Maybe before she slapped him?”

Molly gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I think she was enjoying it. I'm sure Petula enjoyed it as well.”

He shook his head, and she was sure he thought girls were mad. She smiled at him and ruffled his hair. Hattie smiled at them fondly.

“Where'd Cecilia go?” Reid asked, looking around.

“She went to find Icarus and have a snog,” Hattie told him.

He scowled immediately. “Maybe I should go break that up.”

Molly looked at him in surprise. That seemed contrary to what she'd been thinking of as 'the new Reid'. “I thought you were happy for Cecilia and Icarus.”

“Bugger all that for a lark,” Reid said. “I'm going to chivvy her until she agrees to go out with me.”

“That's so romantic,” Hattie said dryly, propping her chin up on the palm of her hand.

“She secretly loves me, you know,” Reid told her.

*

Molly came downstairs for breakfast Monday morning to find Dunstan sitting with the Gryffindor seventh-years. Arthur and Reid were glancing over at them a little warily. Petula was over at the Hufflepuff table with Akwetee Owusu. Cosmo Graham seemed to be the only one that morning who found the entire situation vastly amusing. He was watching the two of them alternately and sniggering into his Charms textbook.

“What's all that about?” Molly asked as she took a seat next to Arthur.

“Dunstan's chatting up Claudia Patterson,” Cosmo said, grinning widely. “And Petula's chatting up one of the Owusu twins. I don't think it's the same one Siobhan was snogging, but I can't be sure.”

“Claudia Patterson? Oh dear.” Molly looked over at the Hufflepuffs and then at the Gryffindor seventh-years. She decided this was something she did not want to deal with on an empty stomach and turned her attention to the bare serving dishes and plates on the table. “Did I miss breakfast?”

“No, it hasn't come yet.” Arthur was looking over her shoulder. Siobhan was headed down the table to them.

“You won't believe this,” she said, sitting down next to Molly. “I heard a badger got into the kitchens and caused a panic among the house-elves. Put them completely off their cooking. Isn't that mad? How do you suppose a badger got into the castle?”

Reid and Cosmo were looking at Arthur, grinning so widely Molly wouldn't have been surprised if the tops of their heads fell off. She gave her boyfriend a severe look, and Siobhan turned to Arthur in surprise. Molly had not yet told her friends about the badger incident, except for Hattie. Hattie had thought Molly's row with Arthur in the corridor sounded wonderfully like something out of a Fifi LaFolle novel, and she hadn't been at all surprised at Gideon and Fabian's idea of something funny.

“Guess it wasn't in Cornwall after all,” Reid said, sniggering.

“Arthur?” Siobhan raised an eyebrow at him questioningly.

The food appeared on the table then, and Arthur turned his attention to it in relief. Siobhan had noticed Petula over with the Owusu twins, and watched her for a moment, then turned back to the seventh-years to look at Dunstan.

“They're like a less interesting version of Reid and Cecilia, aren't they?” she remarked.

“Thanks,” Reid said around a piece of toast.

Petula was returning from the Hufflepuff table now, looking smug, and grabbed a piece of toast as she sat.

“Finally. I'm starv-” She broke off and stared down the table at Dunstan. “Is that Claudia Patterson?” she demanded, eyes bulging.

“Yes,” said Siobhan cheerfully.

“With Dunstan Birtwhistle?

“Yes,” Siobhan said again. She was grinning widely now. “The same Claudia Patterson whom you admire so.”

“I don't admire her,” Petula said, contrary to much of her behaviour for the past five years. “It's just that he's such a prat.”

Molly sighed, feeling a little tired. “It was bad enough with Reid and Cecilia, don't tell me you two are going to start as well.”

“Thanks,” Reid said again.

“I haven't started anything,” Petula said haughtily, though she didn't carry it with quite the aplomb that Cecilia could.

Siobhan laughed and said, “Don't worry, Petula, Claudia isn't going to go out with him. She's had her eye on Dorian Raleigh all year.”

“How do you know?” Petula was trying to look over top of the crowd seated at the Gryffindor table for a better look at Claudia and Dunstan.

“I know these things.” Siobhan brushed some crumbs off her hands and rose, making her way down to Andrew Bishop and his friends.

“She does always know these things,” Hattie said to Petula.

Reid seemed to be enacting his plan to begin chasing Cecilia again that morning in Arithmancy. Small grasshoppers made of folded parchment were leaping onto Cecilia's desk whenever Professor Arccos's back was turned. They stopped moving as soon as they reached her, but Cecilia simply swept them to one side of her desk in a little pile and paid attention to the lesson as if nothing were happening. Molly found it very distracting, however, and wished Cecilia would either read one of the notes, as she was sure there was a message inside each origami grasshopper, or just squash one as it jumped onto her desk, which would surely put a damper on Reid's spirits. Molly threw a dirty look back at Reid, who was busily folding a scrap of parchment and did not see her.

At the end of class, Cecilia pointed her wand at the pile of paper grasshoppers and they were engulfed briefly in a tiny fireball, leaving a puff of black smoke rising from her desk. Cecilia swept past Reid on her way out the door, and he stared at the tiny pile of ash that was all that remained of the grasshoppers, then grinned widely.

Molly shook her head at them as she and Hattie left the classroom. Hattie was giggling.

*

Molly was out a few nights later, wandering the corridors hand-in-hand with Arthur. They took a shortcut to a corridor that was usually deserted, especially at this time of night, and ducked into a niche behind a suit of armour. Arthur drew her closer to him and she tilted her face up to meet his kiss, but he froze halfway.

“Someone's coming,” he said in a low voice.

“I hope it's not Cecilia,” Molly whispered with a grimace.

Arthur hushed her; footsteps were approaching down the corridor, but it was too late to try to hide somewhere else. They huddled further into the shadows of the niche, standing wrapped in each other's arms with their heads down. Molly could just see over a fold of Arthur's sleeve as a familiar figure passed their niche.

Professor Ampara stalked by, looking hunted. She did not appear to notice them, and was mumbling something to herself as she went past. Her face seemed to have aged a few more years just since the Christmas holiday. She was muttering something under her breath as she walked, her wand drawn and tapping against her leg as her robes swirled around her.

After her footsteps had faded, Molly stepped back from Arthur and looked up at him in surprise. He looked a little startled too.

“I think she's cracking up,” he said.

“That job is bad luck. You couldn't pay me enough to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts.” Molly shook her head. “Poor Professor Ampara. She's been my favourite of our Defence teachers, and I have a bad feeling she won't be here next year.”

“What do you suppose happened to her?” Arthur stuck his head out from the niche to peer down the corridor where Professor Ampara had disappeared.

“I don't know. She's been looking worse and worse since Christmas.” Molly paused for a moment, not sure she should voice this thought aloud. “Do you think it has anything to do with... You-Know-Who?”

Arthur looked back at her with surprise and fear on his face. “Why would he care about our Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher?”

Molly wished she hadn't said anything. She didn't want to talk about Dark wizards, but now she didn't want to snog any more either, after she'd brought up the topic. She couldn't quite articulate her reasoning on Professor Ampara, but she thought it had to do with the job. “I don't know. I just think something is going on with Professor Ampara, something bad.”

He could probably see she was scared too, because he pulled her into his arms and kissed the top of her head. “Molly, Professor Ampara knows what she's doing. It'll be all right. She knows how to defend herself from the Dark Arts. Besides, we've got Dumbledore.”

“Yes, I know.” Molly tightened her arms around him. She had much more comfort from Arthur's presence than she did from the thought of Professor Dumbledore. He was warm and solid and she knew he wouldn't let anything happen to her.

“Let's go back to the common room,” Arthur said, dropping another kiss into her hair. “I don't want to be out in the corridors tonight.”

“All right.” She took his hand as they set off, and was glad to have him by her side.

Chapter 33: For Your Love
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The Yardbirds, “For Your Love”
I'd give the moon if it were mine to give
For your love.
I'd give the stars and the sun for I live
For your love.



The last day of school before the Easter holiday was notable primarily for the fact that 'I love you Cecilia Fletcher' was written in red letters all around the common room walls when everyone came down from their dormitories for breakfast. Reid seemed quite pleased with himself, but Cecilia had been horribly embarrassed when she saw it and Icarus Teague looked as if he might take a beater's bat to Reid. Cecilia took ten points from Gryffindor for Reid's graffiti, and while he didn't seem to mind this, he got some ugly looks from the other Gryffindors for the rest of the day.

Cecilia and Icarus spent most of the afternoon rowing as quietly as possible in one corner of the common room. Arthur sat at a table with Molly, Hattie, and Cosmo, playing a game of Exploding Snap and watching Cecilia surreptitiously.

“If he thought this was going to get him on Cecilia's good side, he was very wrong,” Hattie said, glancing over at them with a frown. “She's only going to hate him more. Arthur, can't you have a word with him? You have no idea what it's like living with Cecilia when she's angry all the time.”

Arthur sat back in his chair and rubbed his eyes, knocking his glasses askew and then resettling them in place. “I've been trying to tell him all year to give up. I don't know if you've noticed, but Reid's a little stubborn.”

“That ram Patronus was very apt for him,” Molly agreed.

“He swears she's really in love with him,” Cosmo said doubtfully, glancing over to where Cecilia, red-faced, was whispering something heated to a surly-looking Icarus.

“He's been delusional for a long time,” Arthur said.

Molly giggled, and as she glanced over at Cecilia and Icarus, Arthur smiled and thought about how much fun the Easter holiday was going to be. He could Apparate legally now, he didn't need Bilius's help to get to Molly, and he planned to visit her every day. Possibly every night, too. He wondered if he could get away with Apparating directly into her bedroom, or if her parents had any anti-Apparition wards on the house.

Hattie was watching him. “Now there's a wicked little grin,” she said slyly. “Whatever are you thinking about, Arthur?”

Molly turned back to him and he knew his ears were going red. She shot him a look that said she knew exactly what he'd been thinking about, and then grinned at him.

“Knock it off,” Cosmo said. “No mooning over each other in the middle of a game.” He set a card down carefully and then grinned at them. “On second thought, keep it up – when you're distracted, I start winning.”

The cards exploded then with a loud bang, and they all jumped back away from the table.

*

Once again Arthur found himself stumbling off the Knight Bus and wishing he hadn't eaten anything before boarding it. His mother was waiting at the front door for him, and wrapped him in a hug as soon as he got close.

“There's my baby,” she said happily, and reached up to take his chin in one hand and give him a kiss.

“I'm not a baby, Mum,” he said, extricating himself from her grasp.

“You're my baby. When you were three, you would sometimes ask me to hold you like a baby.” Cedrella led him into the house with a reminiscent smile, looking misty-eyed. “You were so sweet. Of course you still are, my little love.” She patted his cheek.

Arthur gave his mother a mildly horrified look. He sincerely hoped she would restrain herself from making remarks like that in front of Molly, and set about reminding her that he was too old for that sort of thing. “Mum, I'm of age now, I'm a grown man.”

She heaved a sigh but did not argue with that description. “Are you hungry, dear? I've got lunch on the table already.”

He followed her into the kitchen, where Bilius was hunched over a bowl of soup and his father was hiding behind The Daily Prophet.

“Arthur's home!” his mother sang out as Arthur dropped into a chair.

His father twitched aside a corner of the paper and peered at him. “Afternoon, son.”

“Hi Dad.” His mother set a bowl of soup and a thick slice of bread in front of him, and Arthur dug in hungrily.

Bilius dipped a piece of bread into his soup and took a large bite, mumbling, “Hi Arthur.”

“Hi,” he said, looking at the paper in front of Bilius. It was advertisements for employment. “Haven't you got a job yet?” Arthur asked his brother.

“It's a bad economy right now, all right?” Bilius shot a sidelong glance at their mother. “It's not like I'm not trying.” I'm really not trying, he mouthed at Arthur then, and Arthur snorted into his soup.

“Try harder,” Septimus said from behind his newspaper.

Bilius gave his father a nasty glare.

“Oh, I'm so excited to meet your girlfriend, Arthur,” his mum said fondly, ruffling his hair.

Arthur smoothed his hair down again with one hand and said, “She's very eager to meet you too, Mum.”

“I'm sure she's a very sweet girl. Your father can't wait to meet her too, he's been talking about it all month.”

Arthur eyed his father. Septimus set his newspaper down but did not look up; he was concentrating on trying to get his pipe lit.

“Who am I meeting?” he asked absently, tapping some ash out of the pipe and then sucking on the stem.

“Arthur's girlfriend,” his wife reminded him.

“Oh yes,” Septimus said between puffs on his pipe. “What's her name again?”

“Molly Prewett,” Arthur said.

“I'm sure your mother mentioned it to me before,” Septimus said, disappearing behind his newspaper again. Puffs of smoke rose from behind it and began to curl into what looked like Ukrainian Ironbellies.

“She's pretty,” Bilius said. “And she's got really nice-” He appeared to think better of finishing this sentence and closed his mouth firmly, and Arthur glared at his brother and wished that over Christmas his girlfriend had worn a nightdress with a neckline that reached to her throat.

“Really nice what?” Cedrella demanded. “How do you know? You haven't met her.”

“Erm, manners,” Bilius said, looking shifty. “Really nice manners. Arthur told me about her.”

“Oh.” Cedrella gave her sons a misty smile. “I'm so glad you boys are still close. It's very sweet of you.” She turned back to the stove, and Bilius rolled his eyes.

It was awfully nice of his brother to keep their nighttime excursion to Molly's house a secret, Arthur thought. Undoubtedly this was partly because Bilius was likely to get in trouble for it as well, but still, it made him feel quite fond of his brother, even though he'd apparently been looking at parts of her body that Arthur did not want anyone else, particularly his brother, looking at.

Arthur frowned at his elder brother, and Bilius gave him an innocent smile and went back to his soup.

*

That evening, after finally escaping from his mother's rehashing of little Basil Weasley's birth and a seemingly unending book of nearly identical photographs of his infant nephew lying on a blanket and blinking or crying at the camera, Arthur retreated to his room. He waited until his parents had gone to bed and the house had settled into its nightly silence before creeping out of his room and out into the front yard. He opened the front gate and turned to look up at the dark house. Even Bilius's window was dark; his brother must have gone to bed at a reasonable hour for once.

It was almost too easy to sneak out. He'd never really tried before. That was probably why his parents weren't particularly vigilant after dark. There was something disquieting about that in these increasingly dangerous times, but at the moment, he was going to use it to his advantage.

He spun on the spot and Disapparated.

He stumbled a bit as his feet touched solid ground again; he wasn't used to his newly licensed ability just yet. Still, his first time Apparating without any supervision had gone well, and he set off into Molly's yard feeling quite pleased with himself.

Molly's windows were dark, but fortunately, so were all the other windows in the house. With any luck, her parents were sound asleep. He had just looked down to find a pebble in the flowerbeds to toss at her window when he saw the back door open. He hurried over, and Molly smiled in welcome as he wrapped her in his arms. She was holding a fluffy knitted afghan and a bottle of wine, wearing what appeared to be a hand-knitted jumper. He was a little disappointed not to get another peek at the low-cut nightgown.

“I thought you'd be here earlier,” she whispered, stroking his face with one hand. “Everyone's been in bed for an hour already.”

“My parents went to bed late,” he said, and kissed her.

“Let's go up to the orchard, I don't want to wake anyone.” Molly pulled the door closed behind her and they set off into the chilly, early spring night, wrapped together in the warmth of Arthur's school cloak.

Molly lit her wand and led the way through the dark trees. The moon was bright and round in the cloudless sky, and it was just cold enough to see their breath on the air.

Arthur looked around as they walked deeper into the orchard. The trees were a little eerie in the darkness, but there was enough space between them to allow the moon to bathe them in a silvery glow. He thought he knew why Molly had taken him here: the light was very romantic, and it was nicely obscured from sight of the house by the trees.

She chose a spot under a plum tree that was just starting to flower and spread out the afghan. Arthur stretched out happily beneath the tree, and looked up at the stars with Molly snuggled up beside him, his cloak spread over them like a blanket, the wine forgotten on the edge of the blanket.

“I'm glad you came tonight,” she said, her fingers lightly tracing circles on his chest. “I was getting lonely.”

They'd seen each other only that morning before leaving school, so Arthur was quite pleased to hear that. “I missed you too,” he told her, dropping a kiss onto the top of her head.

She changed position a bit so she was lying even closer to him, folding her hands together on his chest and resting her chin on them, and he could feel the warmth of her body. He had to concentrate to what she said next, since she was pressed up against him in a very distracting manner.

“We shouldn't stay too long, though. It's already well after midnight.”

“We don't have anything to do tomorrow,” he pointed out. “You can sleep as late as you like.”

“I'm sorry, I was under the impression you had met my mother,” she said dryly, rolling her eyes. “She'll have me up and helping her with chores first thing in the morning.”

“Charm your door shut,” he said, pulling her a bit closer so he could kiss her.

Molly laughed and kissed him back. “I think you're having a bad influence on me now, as well.”

“I sincerely hope so.” Arthur said, and grabbed her tightly, rolling her over onto her back so he was leaning over her.

Molly looked a little surprised at that, but she wrapped her arms around his neck and let him kiss her again.

“We should go in soon,” she murmured a while later, while he was kissing her neck gently. “It's getting cold.”

“I'll keep you warm.”

“Oh, Arthur,” she sighed, and didn't mention going in again.

It was another hour before they remembered the wine. Arthur managed to open the bottle while Molly straightened her jumper and then conjured two wineglasses.

He thought that drinking the wine would put her in a romantic mood, but apparently she went through a slightly combative phase first. She argued with him over the constellations as they looked up at the sky, and he wasn't sure whether she had simply not paid close attention in Astronomy or whether the wine was fogging her up a bit, but she kept naming them incorrectly and then trying to debate him when he corrected her.

“That's Monoceros,” she said confidently, pointing up overhead.

“I believe that's Perseus, actually,” Arthur said, trying not to laugh.

“No, that's Perseus,” she said, pointing at Virgo.

This time Arthur did laugh.

“What?” She eyed him suspiciously.

“That's Virgo, that's Perseus, and Monoceros is way over there. See, it's almost gone, it fades out quite soon and we won't see it again until November.”

Molly followed where he was pointing and squinted up at the stars in silence for a moment, then said, “Oh. I suppose you're right.”

Arthur grinned at her, feeling slightly elated. He thought that might be the first time she'd ever said that to him. It was a small victory, and perhaps the wine made him feel more cheerful about it, but he was quite pleased nonetheless, and gave her a quick kiss.

“But that,” she said, pointing up at a cluster of stars, “is definitely Hydra.”

Arthur looked up at the stars she was pointing at and saw Cygnus, and decided he'd won enough for the night. “If you say so, Molly,” he said with a glance at his watch. “We really should get inside this time,” he added reluctantly.

“It's not that late,” Molly said quickly. “What time is it?”

“Two in the morning.”

She looked disappointed. “Oh. You're right, we should go in.” She drained the last of her wine and then looked up at him hopefully. “One more glass?”

“All right, but the bottle's almost empty,” he pointed out.

“Oh, that's no problem.” Molly pointed her wand at the bottle, and it immediately refilled itself.

Arthur poured them both another glass. “I didn't know you could do that.”

“I'm very good at household spells,” she said smugly, and he laughed.

They huddled together under Arthur's cloak, drinking wine as they talked and laughed. The more they drank, the more refilling the bottle again sounded like a good idea, and after the second time Molly cast the spell, Arthur realized she was holding her wand a little unsteadily. He was feeling a little unsteady himself.

“I think you've had enough,” he said, taking the wineglass from her. “Your parents will kill me if they catch us together while you're tipsy.”

“I like being tipsy,” she said, laying back on the blanket and smiling up at him drowsily. “Kiss me, Arthur.”

He laughed as he looked down at her. Her lips were stained a bit from the red wine, her eyes unfocused and cheeks flushed. She looked very pretty, and very drunk. “You've definitely had enough.”

Molly's eyes fluttered shut. Arthur gave her a little nudge. “I'd better get you to bed, young lady,” he said playfully.

“You can take me to bed right here,” Molly murmured, her eyes still closed.

Arthur felt his ears turn red and stared at her in surprise, wondering if she'd meant that the way it sounded, but before he could think of a response, she let out a little snore. He contemplated her in silence for a moment. She looked adorable, sleeping peacefully on the colourful afghan, and he wondered if she would remember that little remark in the morning. He wished he could curl up next to her and sleep by her side. The idea of sleeping curled up next to Molly was very appealing, but their parents would definitely catch them then, and her father would probably kill him. Her mother would undoubtedly kill both of them. He set about waking her back up then.

*

Arthur trudged up the stairs to his room, feeling a little drunk and very happy, and ran into his brother on the landing. Bilius was wide awake and still dressed in the same clothes he'd worn earlier that day.

“It's three o'clock in the morning,” Bilius said in surprise. “What the hell are you doing up?”

“What are you doing up?”

“None of your business,” Bilius retorted immediately, then leaned forward slightly to sniff his brother. “Why do you smell like wine?”

“I was with Molly,” Arthur said smugly, and put a hand on his brother's shoulder. “And you're right, she does have really nice-” He let his voice cut off abruptly just as Bilius had done that afternoon.

Bilius's eyebrows went up. “Oh yeah? What, haven't you gotten at them before tonight?”

“Mind your own business.”

“You brought them up.”

Arthur blinked at his brother for a moment. “Good night, Bilius.” He went into his room and shut the door.

Chapter 34: Wouldn't It Be Nice
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The Beach Boys, “Wouldn't it be Nice”
Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through



Molly arrived at Arthur's house late Sunday morning to find him sitting on the front step, waiting for her. He shot to his feet when she appeared in the yard, and as Molly drew a deep breath to clear her lungs of the feeling of compression, Arthur rushed over to her.

He put an arm around her waist and drew her in for a kiss. After a few moments, Molly broke away and said, “I missed you.”

“I saw you last night,” he said with a mischievous grin.

“That only made me miss you more after you left.”

They'd been meeting every evening since the holiday started and spending a few highly enjoyable hours together in the orchard behind her house, though she'd left the wine at home since the first night they'd been out. She vaguely remembered refilling the bottle, and had a sneaking suspicion she'd said something slightly inappropriate to him, inspired by reading a Fifi LaFolle novel that evening and an hour of snogging, but Arthur hadn't mentioned anything, so maybe she'd dreamed that part.

Thus far neither set of parents had caught them during their nightly rendezvous, for which Molly was devoutly thankful. She did not even want to contemplate what her mother would say if she saw her only daughter out at three in the morning with a boy.

“Everyone's here,” the boy in question said then. “My mum is dying to meet you.”

“Oh.” Molly took in the house. It seemed very noisy, even from the front yard. “It sounds very... crowded,” she said nervously.

Arthur didn't look at all concerned. “Yes, a few of my uncles came over. Some cousins too. My mum wanted to have the family over for Easter.”

“I see. How many uncles are here?”

“Only five.”

Only five? How many do you have?”

“Oh, my dad has seven brothers.”

“Seven... brothers...” Molly echoed faintly. She'd never really had stage fright before, but thinking about being introduced to so many people, on display as Arthur's girlfriend, was making her heart race.

“Now don't be alarmed, Molly,” Arthur said, sounding alarmed himself. “They're not all here, after all. The Weasleys are a big family, that's all.”

“Does your dad have sisters as well?”

“No, Weasleys don't have girls,” Arthur said.

Molly was a bit taken aback at this, as she'd always wanted a daughter and had even had fleeting thoughts of having one with Arthur someday. To hear him so casually dismiss the possibility was a little disheartening.

He seemed to realise he may not have said that quite as sensitively as he ought to have done, because he hurriedly added, “Oh, but they have done, obviously, in the past, just not recently. I think my grandfather had an aunt on his father's side. Don't worry, we might have a girl.” Again, he seemed to realise what he'd said and kick himself mentally, because he winced and added, “Not that I'm, you know, planning anything, not right away anyway, obviously we're too young, although in a few years, when you're ready, of course, erm, we might, well...”

He trailed off and then heaved a sigh. “Oh, sod it. You know I want to marry you and have children someday.”

Molly stared at him, feeling a bit frozen inside. They'd both slipped and admitted they'd considered their future children, but it was a little startling to hear him say it so blatantly, and somehow standing right in front of his house, where his family were all waiting, made it even more unnerving to hear. She wasn't quite sure how to answer, so she leaned up on tiptoe and planted a kiss on his mouth.

He lifted her off her feet as he kissed her back, arms wrapped tightly around her waist, but they broke apart a moment later at the sound of a wolf whistle. Molly looked up and saw his brother Bilius, whom she'd met rather memorably over the Christmas holiday, leaning out a window on the upper floor, grinning at them.

“Morning, Arthur's girlfriend,” he called down to her.

Molly waved up at him as Arthur set her back down and glared at his brother. “Morning, Arthur's brother.”

Bilius let out a snort of laughter and ducked his head back inside.

“He likes you,” Arthur told her proudly.

“Have you ever brought a girlfriend home before?” Molly asked in a whisper as they started for the house.

Arthur paused with his hand on the doorknob. “No.”

A thrill of fear went through her. They were all going to think he was very serious about her. It was a lot of pressure, and she wondered if he'd felt this way before coming to her house at Christmas.

“I never invited a boyfriend to my house until you,” she said as they went in the house.

Arthur gave her hand a squeeze but didn't answer. He was leading her through the house, and already there seemed to be a lot of people. Everywhere she looked were red-haired men of all ages, from small boys who ran around holding toy wands and broomsticks to grown men who must have been Arthur's uncles and great-uncles. The women in the house all seemed to be Weasley wives: they did not have the distinctive ginger hair of the Weasley clan, though they all seemed to fit in quite comfortably. It brought home to her Arthur's comment that Weasleys didn't have daughters. Certainly no one here had them. It was a little unnerving to be so outnumbered by males. She was obviously the youngest female in the house.

They had just passed an open door when Arthur stopped short and turned around.

“I just spotted my dad,” he explained, leading her inside the room, where a small group of red-haired men were playing wizard chess.

Arthur made his way to the back corner, where a man who greatly resembled him sat, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, an unlit pipe clenched between his teeth.

“Dad, this is Molly Prewett, my girlfriend,” Arthur said proudly. “Molly, this is my dad, Septimus Weasley.”

Mr. Weasley and his opponent both looked up.

“You have a girlfriend, Arthur?” the other man said in a loud voice, grinning widely. Most of the people in the room turned to get a look at her.

“Well done, Arthur,” someone said, and an outbreak of chuckling went through the room.

“Good morning, Miss Prewett,” Mr. Weasley said, his eyes twinkling.

Molly smiled at him, feeling a little flustered. “It's lovely to meet you, Mr. Weasley.”

Arthur's father peered at him over the rims of his glasses. “Your mother's in the kitchen, Arthur. You'd better go there next or I'll never hear the end of it.”

“Yeah, all right.” Arthur gave her hand a tug. “Come on, Molly.”

She followed him out of the room gladly, feeling their eyes on her back as they left.

They arrived at the kitchen, which was bustling with activity as pots and pans stirred themselves and women rustled through cabinets. A slender woman with dark hair streaked with silver had her wand out and seemed to be directing much of the activity in the kitchen. She turned when she heard them come in, and smiled happily at Arthur.

“There's my baby boy,” she called happily, and Arthur winced. Molly tried not to smile as Arthur's mother gave his cheek a little pat.

“This is Molly Prewett, Mum,” he said, giving Molly's hand another little squeeze. “Molly, this is my mother, Cedrella Weasley.”

Molly looked at his mother's kind face and instantly felt at home.

“Hello my dear,” Mrs. Weasley said warmly. “It's lovely to meet you.”

Bilius poked his head into the kitchen. “Arthur! Nestor's here.”

Arthur perked up, and said to Molly, “Will you be all right? I'll be right back, it's my cousin, he's been in Egypt for the past year-”

She smiled at him. “I'm fine, Arthur, go ahead.”

“I'll take care of her, dear,” his mother added.

Arthur took off with his brother and Molly turned back to Mrs. Weasley, who had pointed her wand at the stove, causing a pot that had been stirring itself to leap off the fire.

“Do you need any help?” Molly asked.

She spent the next half hour chatting with Arthur's mother and helping in the kitchen, directing the dishes to wash themselves. The conversation turned quickly to family, and Molly remembered what Arthur had mentioned about his mother's family.

“Arthur said you're from the Black family?”

Mrs. Weasley pulled a tray of rolls out of the oven and dusted her hands off. “Yes, that's right. I was a Black before I married Arthur's father.”

“My aunt Lucretia was a Black before she married my uncle Ignatius,” Molly said.

“Lucretia... She's Arcturus's daughter... So my first cousin once removed. We're a bit related then, I suppose,” Mrs. Weasley said with a laugh.

“Only by marriage.” Molly smiled. “Do you speak to Lucretia, or her father, very often?”

Mrs. Weasley's face seemed to freeze. “I don't speak to anyone in my family,” she said quietly. “They disowned me when I married Septimus.”

Molly clapped a hand to her mouth in horror, then said in a rush, “I'm so sorry, I didn't know – Arthur never said -”

Mrs. Weasley smiled at her kindly. “Of course you weren't to know. Don't think on it at all, dear. Come outside and meet the family. There are rather a lot of them,” she added. “They quite make up for the Blacks in sheer numbers, and they're a much more pleasant lot.”

Molly giggled and allowed herself to be steered into the backyard, where it seemed most of the crowd of ginger-haired people who had been in the house were now milling about. They ranged in age from a rather elderly man that she thought might be Arthur's grandfather to a tiny baby in the arms of a tall and lanky man who resembled Cedrella Black Weasley quite strongly.

“Well, your hair's not quite a Weasley red, but you fit right in,” Mrs. Weasley said, touching a strand of Molly's dark red hair gently. “That's my son Constantine, Arthur's eldest brother,” she said, pointing to the man with the baby. “His wife just had a son. Little Basil, my first grandchild!”

“He's precious,” Molly said fondly. She had always loved babies.

“Several of my husband's brothers are here, I'm sure Arthur mentioned. Over there is Horatio, he's older than Septimus by several years” - she pointed to a portly man doing the Daily Prophet crossword - “and there's Octavian, he's the baby of the Weasley brothers, he's had that green splotch on his face for ages now, no one knows how it happened, and that's Pompey, jinxing the children – Pompey!” she finished in a bark. “Stop that at once!”

A tall and slender red-haired man waved cheerfully to her and shot another tickling jinx at one of his nephews. The boys running circles around him seemed to be greatly enjoying the game.

“I don't see Sidonius anywhere, he must be inside... And that's Quintus, of course, over with Septimus. They've always been very close.” Mrs. Weasley smiled fondly at her husband and brother-in-law, who were just settling themselves into lawn chairs at the back of the yard, each holding a bottle of butterbeer. “Gaius and Vespasian weren't able to come. Gaius hasn't been feeling well lately, his rheumatism is acting up. He's the eldest brother. No one knows where Vespasian is. Septimus says he's probably in prison somewhere, but I'm sure he's too old for any of that nonsense any more.”

Molly's eyes were round as she looked at Mrs. Weasley. She was sure she was never going to remember all the names of Arthur's uncles - not even the one who was probably in prison. Arthur appeared at her side then and took her hand.

“Sorry to leave you alone, Molly. Did my mum introduce you to everyone?”

“I was just pointing a few of your uncles out to her,” Mrs. Weasley said, giving her youngest son a fond smile. “You ought to make some introductions. I'm going to start setting out the food.”

“Oh, let me help you,” Molly said quickly.

“Oh, no, you go ahead and meet everyone, I've got plenty of help already. Thank you, my dear.” Mrs. Weasley headed back into the house, and Molly saw a dark-haired woman give Arthur's brother Constantine a kiss and hurry after her.

Arthur followed her gaze. “That's my sister-in-law, Glynis. She's very nice, you'll like her.”

He led her around the backyard and started introducing her to his uncles and cousins, and after a while she realised she was never going to keep them all straight. As she'd feared, she had already forgotten the names of the uncles that Mrs. Weasley had pointed out, except Pompey, who was still jinxing the children.

A few of Arthur's relatives teased her as he introduced her to them, though Arthur didn't seem to think anything of it, probably because they teased him as well. They all teased each other a lot, apparently. One of his cousins asked her if she'd dyed her hair to blend in with the Weasleys, and another told her that Arthur was secretly a Muggle superhero, whatever that was. Arthur seemed to find it quite amusing. Molly kept a grip on Arthur's arm so he wouldn't leave her again. She felt a little out of place amongst the huge Weasley clan, and was actually quite cheered when a familiar face interrupted their chat with one of Arthur's uncles, who promptly wandered off to another conversation.

“How do you like the family so far?” Bilius asked cheerfully.

“Everyone's quite nice,” she said. “There's just so many of them, I don't know how I'll keep them all straight.”

“You'll get used to us eventually,” Bilius said. “Not everyone can be as fantastically memorable and devastatingly handsome as I am.”

Arthur rolled his eyes at his brother. She found it rather interesting how everyone seemed to take it for granted that she would need to become thoroughly acquainted with their family, and that she'd be around a lot to do so. She wondered what Arthur had told them about her.

She finally managed to get a moment alone with Arthur after Bilius had wandered off again.

“Why didn't you tell me your mother had been disowned by her family?” Molly whispered to him with a frown.

“Oh.” Arthur looked surprised. “I didn't think about it. I'm sorry.”

Molly sighed and shook her head at him, but one of his cousins came over then before she could pursue the subject.

When the food was served, they all sat around a couple of rickety tables that had been magically extended to seat everyone, and Molly sat between Arthur and his cousin Nestor, who was so freckly from his time in the sun in Egypt that he almost appeared tan. Loud chatting buzzed on the air, overlapping and interweaving as people interrupted each other or left one conversation to join another. Molly sat quietly, listening to Arthur discussing the next Quidditch World Cup with his uncle Quintus on one side, and Nestor talking loudly about Egyptian curses to a few of Arthur's seemingly innumerable cousins on her other side.

She offered to help with the clean-up as the men scattered from the table, but Mrs. Weasley, with Glynis and a few of the wives of Arthur's cousins on her heels, assured her that they had everything taken care of. Molly looked around then and realized Arthur had disappeared while she was talking to his mother. She didn't quite know what to do with herself, and looked around at the little clusters of people talking animatedly.

She spotted Arthur's father sitting in a wooden chair in one corner of the lawn, with little baby Basil tucked in the crook of his arm. He was jiggling the baby gently, looking as if he wasn't even aware of what he was doing. Molly made her way over to him and Mr. Weasley smiled up at her, looking pleased.

“Ah, Miss Prewett. Would you mind holding my grandson for a moment? My wife will kill me if I so much as think about lighting my pipe while I'm holding the baby, and I'm dying for a smoke.”

“Oh. Of course.” Molly reached out for the baby and gathered him close. She sat down on the grass nearby, so she had a bit of distance between the baby and the pipe, but could still comfortably chat with Arthur's father.

He was patting his pockets with the pipe clenched in his teeth, and finally found his wand. He lit the pipe and sat back with a happy murmur as the pipe began to puff little clouds of purple smoke.

Molly looked down at the baby, who was wide awake and trying to grab her hair. She put a finger up to tickle his little chin, and he immediately grabbed it with one tiny fist, looking as if he was focusing on it with difficulty.

“So,” said Mr. Weasley, and she looked up at him. “How do you like my little grandson there?”

“He's adorable,” Molly said, glancing back down at the baby, who was now trying to get her finger into his mouth. She helped him out a bit and as little Basil sucked enthusiastically on her fingertip, he made a little gurgle of pleasure that reminded her of Mr. Weasley with his pipe.

“Isn't he?” Mr. Weasley agreed, puffing on his pipe. The smoke was curling into a tiny, perfectly-formed three-masted ship with full sails. A second ship formed and shot a minuscule cannonball at the first. “And what do you think of my son?”

Molly looked over at where Arthur was now standing with some of his cousins, laughing as they drank butterbeer, and he seemed to feel her eyes on him and glanced over at her. She thought there was heat in his gaze as he watched her holding his nephew, and they smiled at each other. One of his cousins said something then, and he looked back at the group with another laugh. Molly turned back to Mr. Weasley, who was giving her a knowing little smile.

“I love him very much,” she said quietly.

Mr. Weasley puffed out another little purple ship, and smiled kindly at her. “You're going to make a good Weasley, Miss Prewett.”

Molly blushed and looked down at the baby, who was drifting off to sleep with her finger in his mouth. Suddenly the Weasley clan felt much more like home.

Chapter 35: Higher and Higher
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Jackie Wilson, “Higher and Higher”
I'm so glad, I've finally found you
Yes, that one, in a million girl
And now with my loving arms around you
Honey, I can stand up and face the world



Arthur returned to school after the Easter holiday feeling quite triumphant. It ranked at the top of his all-time favourite holidays, both because he'd had quite a few late nights alone with Molly and because she had finally met his family.

He didn't think she even realized how well she fit with the Weasleys. His mum loved her, had waxed rhapsodic about her for ages, and his dad had given him a pat on the shoulder after Molly had gone home, which for his father was akin to his mother falling over in a dead faint of happiness. Bilius, Constantine, and Glynis all liked her. Even Uncle Horatio, who didn't like anyone who wasn't a Weasley and still called Glynis 'that girl' after she'd been married three years to Constantine, had said that Molly might not be so bad.

Seeing her sitting on the lawn holding his infant nephew while she chatted and laughed with his father tugged at something deep within Arthur. The sun had made her hair shine like bronze as she cooed over the baby in that odd manner girls tended to have about babies, and it had occurred to Arthur that this could be his future: Molly and a baby smiling at him from his parents' backyard. The possibility of her becoming his wife had seemed to grow closer to his reach over the holiday.

He felt a little ridiculous thinking about marriage when he had only just turned seventeen, but he was legally an adult now, so he thought maybe it wasn't so ridiculous. Besides, there were only two things he was certain of for his future, and he'd been certain of them for a long time. He wanted to do something to help the Muggles, to work with them somehow, and he wanted to marry Molly Prewett. Was it so bad to know what you wanted out of life when you were young?

Arthur got caught up with his friends that evening in their dormitory. Dunstan seemed to be still smarting from his rather embarrassing argument with Petula, and did not want anyone to spread around the fact that Claudia Patterson had refused to go out with him. Arthur thought he was probably hoping to make Petula jealous or angry, or both, since she seemed to greatly admire Claudia, for reasons that escaped Arthur. Dunstan had spent the holiday sulking on a beach in West Wittering with his brothers.

Reid didn't want to talk about his holiday, and Arthur thought he must have spent it pining over Cecilia, who was angrier than ever with him after his graffiti before the holiday. Reid seemed, however, quite inexplicably even more smug and insufferable than ever. It was very strange. Roddy and Thaddeus had apparently spent most of their holidays sleeping and listening to Quidditch commentary on the Wizarding Wireless Network, which sounded like a nice holiday to Arthur.

None of them seemed at all surprised that Arthur had spent the majority of his holiday with Molly.

Cosmo's holiday was the main topic of conversation the next morning at breakfast. He had spent the week with his mother and sisters in London, attending an outdoor film festival. Arthur had heard of films briefly in his Muggle Studies classes, but had never actually seen one, and was a little disappointed that Cosmo had not actually seen the projection (another difficult word to pronounce) machine. The films Cosmo had seen sounded fascinating, and one in particular set all the girls to giggling, though Arthur did not understand why “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was funny.

“What's so funny?” Cosmo asked suspiciously as Molly and her friends giggled and snickered into their breakfasts.

“Oh, nothing,” Petula said airily, grinning at him. Dunstan had fled the table at her approach, and she had thrown him a dirty look as she sat down. Arthur rather thought someone was going to have to intervene to reconcile them.

Cecilia let out a snort as she turned a page in her Transfiguration textbook. Siobhan, sitting next to her with a copy of Cecilia's Charms notes, was grinning widely.

“It's a horror film,” said Cosmo. “Not a comedy.”

Hattie covered her mouth with one hand, but Arthur was sure she was still laughing. Petula's shoulders were shaking now, and she held a piece of toast with marmalade forgotten in front of her. Girls really were very strange.

Reid made his way down the table then, and Cecilia's smile faded from her face. She gave him a vicious scowl and started gathering up her books. Reid sat down next to her with a wide grin.

“Good morning, o light of my world,” he intoned in a deep voice, grinning at her annoyingly.

“Jump in the lake and drown, Reid,” Cecilia said haughtily, stalking away.

“I think I'm getting through to her,” Reid said cheerfully as soon as she was out of earshot.

Arthur eyed his friend doubtfully. “If you say so, mate.”

Siobhan shook her head at Reid and stood. “I'm going to go say good morning to Andrew. I'll see you girls later. Reid, you really should at least consider acting like you're not a complete ass.”

“Language, Siobhan,” he replied with a cheeky grin.

Hattie smiled. Siobhan rolled her eyes as she left.

Reid seemed determined to torment Cecilia for the rest of the day, sending her endless notes folded in the shape of small animals, and by the afternoon, while Arthur waited outside the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom with Molly tucked up against his side and Hattie chatting happily with her, Cecilia was starting to look as if she might commit a justifiable homicide.

Reid arrived just as they were all seating themselves. Professor Ampara looked quite possibly even more haggard and grey than she had before the holiday, and Arthur wondered again what was going on with the Defence professor.

“She doesn't look good, does she?” Molly murmured next to him.

He gave a slight shake of his head. “Do you think she'll come back next year?”

“Probably not,” Molly said with a sigh. “They never do, do they?”

Arthur frowned up at their teacher with concern, but she had begun her lecture, and he soon stopped worrying about her as the lesson took over his concentration.

*

Reid came back to the dormitory one evening shortly after the Easter holiday, looking slightly annoyed. He tossed his bookbag and telescope on his bed and turned to Thaddeus, who was stretched out on his bed with a book about Quidditch.

“What exactly can prefects deduct points for?” he demanded.

Thad glanced over at him, surprised. “Why, what did you do?”

Reid gave him an evasive look. “Why do you think I did something?”

“Cause he's not new here,” Roddy said dryly. “What have you done to Cecilia now?”

“Don't try to deny it, the only prefect likely to take points from you in a questionable way is Cecilia,” Thad said, grinning at Reid's expression. “What happened?”

“Just a little... incident... up on the tower.” Reid looked shifty again. “She took forty points from me.”

There was silence for a moment. Thad blinked in surprise and Roddy's face darkened. Arthur stared at Reid in shock. Forty points? What on earth had happened up on the Astronomy tower?

“What the bloody hell did you do?” Roddy demanded angrily. “We're already behind the Hufflepuffs in the House Cup, we can't stand to lose any more points.”

Reid ignored him, looking at Thad. “Can she really take those points?”

Thad shrugged. “It depends what you did.”

“Damn.” Reid ran a hand through his hair. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Thad shook his head. “You might want to reconsider messing Cecilia about, old chap. She's got a bit of a temper.”

“That's the understatement of the century,” Reid muttered, and snapped the curtains on his bed shut around him.

*

Arthur headed to breakfast the next morning with Cosmo, Reid, and Dunstan. He spotted Molly sitting at the head of table with Hattie and Petula and made his way to her. He had already started to sit down when he realized Dunstan had disappeared. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Dunstan huddled down over the table between Thad and Roddy. Petula had seen him too, and she frowned at him briefly before turning back to Hattie.

“Good morning, ladies,” Reid said cheerfully.

Arthur gave Molly a swift kiss on the cheek. She smiled at him and began ladling scrambled eggs onto his plate.

“Someone lost a good chunk of rubies for Gryffindor,” Petula said bad-temperedly. “Did you see the hourglasses this morning?”

“Ruddy first-years,” Reid said easily.

Arthur and Cosmo turned to stare at him.

“Reid, what are you on about? You know that was you,” Cosmo said. Hattie turned to Reid in surprise, and Petula's eyebrows contracted in a dark scowl.

Reid grinned. “She didn't mean it. She loves me, you know.”

“Oh for the love,” Molly said, setting the ladle down with a clatter. “Reid, what on earth have you done now?”

“Shh,” Hattie said, nodding up at the professors' table. “Professor McGonagall.”

Professor McGonagall was rising from her seat, dropping her napkin on the table. Her gaze was directed at them. Silence spread around the table as she approached. Reid choked on a mouthful of cereal when she stopped next to him and gestured to him with one hand.

“Mr. Akins, with me, if you please.”

“Yes, ma'am,” he said nervously as he got to his feet.

Arthur watched them go apprehensively, then turned to look at Molly, who was frowning at Reid's back.

“Why won't he just leave her alone?” she asked.

Arthur shrugged. He had some sympathy for Reid's obsession with Cecilia, since he had loved Molly from afar for so long, but he didn't think Reid was going about things the right way. All he was doing was making Cecilia more angry.

“What do you suppose McGonagall will do to him?” Cosmo asked around a mouthful of eggs.

“Detention maybe,” Petula said. “I don't know if the points Cecilia took will stand.”

“I hope they do,” Hattie said severely. “Maybe he'll learn something.”

“We still don't even know what he did,” Cosmo pointed out.

Hattie gave a little sniff. “Cecilia wouldn't take points from him over nothing.”

“Are you sure about that?” Arthur asked, trying to keep the scepticism out of his voice. Cecilia hated Reid, and it wouldn't surprise Arthur at all if she had overreacted to something he'd said.

Molly threw him a look. Arthur smiled half-heartedly at her, wishing he hadn't said anything. Hattie was giving him a similar dirty look, but Petula covered her mouth with one hand, and he was sure she was smiling.

“Professor McGonagall can't give back the points Cecilia took,” Molly reasoned. “It will undermine the authority of all the prefects.”

“I suppose that's true,” Cosmo said thoughtfully. “So maybe he won't get a detention.”

“It would have been better if Cecilia had put him in detention,” Petula said, pushing some food around her plate absent-mindedly. “Then we wouldn't be further behind in the House Cup. We're going to drop below Ravenclaw soon.”

Hattie harrumphed and glanced down the table at where Cecilia and Siobhan were sitting with Icarus, Andrew, and a handful of other Gryffindor seventh years, laughing and chatting, and then shook her head.

“Maybe we should suggest that to her,” Molly said.

“I'll let you do that,” Petula said dryly.

*

Arthur was sitting on his bed a few weeks later, reading a Muggle spy novel before bed and making notes on a scrap of parchment of the words he didn't understand so he could ask Cosmo about them later, when Roddy Feltham stormed in.

“Did you see the state of the Gryffindor hourglass? Did you see it? We're seventy points below Hufflepuff now! Seventy!” He threw his bookbag on the floor next to his bed. “We're below Ravenclaw! Can you believe it? Bloody Reid!”

“We were already behind Hufflepuff,” Arthur pointed out reasonably, though he was a little annoyed himself that they had dropped another notch in the running for House Cup. Reid had not reported the details of his conference with Professor McGonagall, but the points Cecilia had taken were still missing from the hourglass afterward, and most of Gryffindor had noticed. Word had gotten around quickly that the sudden loss of points was Reid's fault and he had swiftly become the most unpopular student in the house.

“We might have caught up if it weren't for Reid. Someone's going to have to throw themselves in front of a Stunner for Dumbledore at this point, if we want to win the House Cup.” Roddy flopped onto his bed.

“I heard Walter Campbell tried to take Reid down in the corridor after Ancient Runes this morning, but Pringle caught him,” Dunstan said.

“Too bad old Walter didn't get the chance,” Roddy said, looking disgruntled.

Reid came in then, and Arthur was surprised to see his head and shoulders were soaking wet, the water dripping down his shirt in a wet patch, as if someone had poured a bucket of water over his head. Reid looked quite pleased with himself, however, as he stripped out of his wet robes and pulled his horrible hippogriff pyjamas out of his trunk.

“What happened to you?” Arthur asked in amazement.

Reid grinned widely, but he just shook his head.

“You didn't lose any more points for Gryffindor, did you?” Roddy asked suspiciously. “I might have a swing at you myself if you keep that up.”

“No more points tonight,” Reid said cheerfully, climbing into bed.

Roddy muttered something under his breath that was probably a threat, shooting Reid an evil look, and pulled the drapes shut around his bed.

*

Dunstan accompanied Arthur to the library later that week, ostensibly to get some studying done, but Arthur suspected it was really to hide from Petula, who had spent the morning following closely behind Dunstan with Siobhan in tow and making snide comments about him so he would overhear. She seemed to have decided that making Dunstan's life miserable was the best revenge. And unfortunately for Dunstan, she'd heard that Claudia Patterson had turned him down and was relishing the news.

Molly and Hattie were sitting at a table in the back of the library when Arthur arrived with Dunstan in tow.

“Oh, hello,” Hattie said to them as she flipped through a stack of notes. “You're just in time, Arthur, the rest of the girls should be here soon so we can get started on Transfiguration.”

“Petula's coming?” Dunstan's face took on a hunted expression.

Molly sighed and gave him a stern look. “Don't you think you ought to apologize to Petula, Dunstan?”

“No,” he said immediately. “Why should I apologize to her?”

“Because you're a gentleman,” Hattie said, looking severe.

“And you started it by gossiping about her,” Molly added.

Dunstan looked as if he would like to argue this point, but he deflated somewhat under the combined glare of Molly and Hattie. “Oh, all right, I'll apologize to her.”

“Here's your chance,” Arthur said with a grin, nodding at the library door. Petula had just entered with Cecilia and Siobhan.

Dunstan flushed red as Petula approached. She was already frowning at him.

“I'm sorry for what I said about you,” Dunstan muttered to her.

Petula's expression changed to surprise. “You are?”

“I've just said so, haven't I?” he said, sounding ill-tempered.

“Well. Thank you, I suppose.” She gave him a suspicious look, as if she weren't sure of his sincerity. Since Dunstan probably wasn't sorry at all, Arthur thought this was rather perceptive of her.

“Glad that's over,” Siobhan said loudly. “Bugger off now so we can study, all right Dunstan?”

“Language,” Hattie murmured.

Dunstan left, looking glad to escape Petula after the forced apology, and Petula settled in smugly next to Hattie.

“It was very gallant of him to apologize, wasn't it?” Hattie asked her with an air of prompting a small child in proper behaviour.

“I suppose so,” Petula said, eyeing Hattie. “It was more than I expected of a boy whose Patronus is a pig.”

“There's nothing wrong with pigs,” Siobhan said mildly.

“It's a boar,” Arthur said, gamely trying to defend his friend.

“At least he has a Patronus,” Cecilia sighed, looking sullen.

“Give it another go,” Siobhan urged her. “You haven't tried it in weeks.”

“Oh, what's the point,” Cecilia muttered bitterly, but then she frowned thoughtfully and drew her wand. Her eyes slid out of focus for a moment, her face growing oddly flushed. She held out her wand. “Expecto Patronum!

A silver panther burst from her wand and prowled around in a circle next to their table. Arthur looked at it and grinned. The large, snarling, sleek cat seemed to fit Cecilia's personality rather well.

“Well done, Cecilia,” he said heartily when the panther had disappeared. She smiled at him, and her grin reminded him of Reid's.

“Damn,” sighed Petula. “That was the one spell I could do that you couldn't.”

“Language, Petula,” Hattie said primly.

“What were you thinking of? Your face was so red,” Molly said curiously to Cecilia.

Cecilia had a strange look on her face, her cheeks still flushed red, and Arthur thought he recognized it from a similar one on Molly's face whenever they found a quiet spot out in the castle late at night. He grinned at her. Apparently Cecilia and Icarus had been having some very good times, indeed.

“You were thinking of Icarus, weren't you?” Siobhan said knowingly, smiling at her best friend.

“Icarus-” Cecilia's expression changed; she looked as if she'd been hit with a Bludger. “He – I -” She stuttered for a moment and then blurted out, “I've got to go,” and practically ran out of the library, leaving her books forgotten on the table.

“What on earth was that about?” Hattie asked in bewilderment.

Siobhan was sitting back in her chair, staring after Cecilia thoughtfully. “Something's going on,” she said slowly. “If it's what I think it is, then...”

“What do you think is going on?” Petula asked eagerly.

“Nevermind,” Siobhan said, but she still looked deep in thought.

“Nobody ever tells me anything,” Petula said with a frown.

*

Molly was busily scribbling away at her Arithmancy homework a few nights later in the common room while Arthur relaxed next to her with his Muggle studies textbook, looking for references on some of the strange words he'd learned in the spy novel. Petula was stretched out on the floor attempting her Transfiguration homework with a stack of pumpkin pasties that had arrived in the morning post from one of her sisters, while Hattie sat in the chair next to Molly, reading from her Arithmancy textbook and occasionally glancing over at where Cecilia and Icarus sat cuddled together. Reid had come past earlier, shaken Icarus's hand, leered at Cecilia, and then gone up to his dormitory. Icarus still looked a little angry.

Molly glanced over at Cecilia and Icarus. “Don't you think one of us should say something to her?”

“Of course not,” Hattie said quietly, glancing at Cecilia again. “She isn't even talking to Siobhan about what Reid did. She isn't going to talk to us.”

“Well, I'm dying to know what's going on,” Petula said. “And if she takes any more points from him, someone's going to find his body in a ditch. Go on, Molly, say something.”

“Molly Prewett, don't you dare,” Hattie said, giving Petula a severe look.

“I want to know what he did up on the Astronomy tower. And why has Cecilia been acting so strangely since the holiday?” Molly set her quill down with a determined look.

“Molly, no,” Hattie said, looking alarmed.

“I'm just going to ask her-”

“She'll hex you!”

“Don't be a goose, Hattie. Arthur,” Molly said, turning to him. “What do you think?”

Hattie gave her a look of annoyance. Arthur glanced between the two of them and sighed. He didn't want Molly making the situation between Reid and Cecilia worse, which he thought was a strong possibility if she intervened, but he didn't want to be the tie-breaker in arguments between her and her best friend. However, he had to side with Hattie on this one.

“I really don't think you should get involved, Molly.”

She looked over at Cecilia again, and then turned back with a sigh. “Well, all right, if you think that's best.”

“I do. Just let them sort it out on their own.”

Molly nodded. “I'm sure you're right.”

Hattie was staring at them wide-eyed, and Petula had a pumpkin pasty poised in front of her, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. Arthur thought he knew why, but Molly gave them a wary glance.

“What?”

“Are you feeling all right, Molly?” Hattie asked.

Petula's eyes darted to Arthur, and then she said out of the corner of her mouth to Hattie, “Did I imagine that, or did that really just happen?”

“You didn't imagine it,” Hattie said, then addressed her best friend again. “The only person I've ever seen you back down to is Cecilia, and that's only because she's even more stubborn and bossy than you are, not because you actually believed she might be right.”

“I trust his judgement. Shut up,” Molly said, turning a little pink.

Hattie shook her head. “You really must be in love, or you've turned into a pod person.”

“I'm still here,” Arthur said, in case they had forgotten. “What's a pod person?”

Petula grinned and took a bite of her pasty. “The world has gone mad. Molly said someone else was right, and Cecilia's losing her mind. Next thing you know, Hattie will stop liking chocolate and I'll get an O in all my classes.”

“And Siobhan will become a nun,” Hattie said dryly.

Chapter 36: I Was Made To Love Her
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Stevie Wonder, “I Was Made To Love Her”
Cause I was made to love her
Worship and adore her
Ah, I was made to love her
Built my world all around her



“Guess what I heard tonight,” Cosmo said as he plopped down on the rug in front of the empty fireplace. His shirt was unbuttoned enough to show his throat, and his tie was draped around his shoulders. The weather had warmed up quite a bit since May had begun, and most of the students were now wandering around between classes with their shirtsleeves rolled up and collars loosened.

“What did you hear?” Molly asked suspiciously. Arthur glanced at her. He was sure she suspected her brothers of some new mischief, and was briefly thankful that if they were up to anything, they hadn't gotten him involved this time.

“Professor Ampara’s quitting. She isn't coming back next year.” Cosmo surveyed the little group on the sofas for their reactions. Cecilia and Icarus, sitting very close together, looked alarmed, and Petula frowned at him. Siobhan, buried in a large tome about caring for dragons, rolled her eyes.

“Oh no,” Hattie said, looking stricken. “She's my favourite professor!”

Arthur frowned down at Cosmo, who shrugged. Professor Ampara was one of his favourites as well, and he'd be sad to see her go. “Where did you hear that?”

“Maribel heard it from Acacia.” Cosmo glanced over at where a small crowd of fifth-year girls were sitting around a small table, and grinned when Maribel McQuillen waved her fingers at him flirtatiously. “Acacia's dad is a school governor.”

“Well, another one bites the dust, as the Muggles say,” Siobhan remarked.

“The Muggles say that?” Arthur asked keenly.

Siobhan ignored him. “That makes every single year we’ve had a new Defence teacher. Maybe the job really is jinxed.”

“Now I come to think on it, my brother Bilius never had the same Defence teacher twice either,” Arthur said thoughtfully. There had been rumours that the job was jinxed, but he had always discounted them. Still, there had been an unusually high turnover of teachers in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom.

“It's very strange,” Molly said, sounding worried. “I wonder who'll teach us next year?”

“How they can expect us to pass our N.E.W.T.s when we've always got a new teacher is beyond me,” said Cecilia, sounding a little wild. Icarus patted her knee consolingly.

“Calm down, Cecilia, you've always gotten straight O's.” Hattie was watching Cecilia closely with her brows knit, as if Cecilia were going mad. “You'll do fine on your N.E.W.T.”

“It's not until next year anyway,” said Petula, giving Cecilia a similar look to Hattie's. “Why are you so upset about it? You never worried like this before O.W.L.s and we had a different teacher each year for those.”

“But N.E.W.T.s are so much more important,” Cecilia said, her eyes wide and frantic. “Can you imagine how Transfiguration would go if we didn't have McGonagall every year? We need a steady teacher in Defence!”

Arthur looked a little more closely at Cecilia. Her face was flushed a little blotchily, and her hair wasn't as smooth and glossy as it usually was. He wasn't sure if she hadn't brushed it that day, or if something had happened to muss it up. She didn't seem to be holding up as well to her seven N.E.W.T.s as Reid was to his eleven. Of course, there was also Reid's constant badgering to stress Cecilia... He didn't think he ought to bring that up when Icarus was sitting right next to her.

Molly and Hattie exchanged a concerned glance, and he thought they were probably wondering what was wrong with Cecilia as well.

“Shouldn't you be more concerned with why Professor Ampara is leaving her post than with how it affects you, Cecilia?” Hattie said delicately, her face reproving.

“Of course I'm concerned,” Cecilia snapped. “She's been looking sick for ages. Something's obviously wrong with her. But we have to worry about our marks as well, don't we?”

Hattie did not look convinced of Cecilia's compassion for their teacher, and gave a little sniff as she turned her attention back to her book. No one else remarked on Professor Ampara that evening, and Siobhan kept eyeing Cecilia and Icarus thoughtfully.

The next morning at breakfast, Arthur tried to get a closer look at Professor Ampara, but she wasn't at the staff table. Her empty seat between Professor McGonagall and Professor Slughorn seemed glaringly obvious, though the other professors were eating calmly as if there was nothing amiss. Arthur wondered where she was, and if the teachers weren't worried because they knew she was staying, or because they knew she was leaving. His attention turned then as he heard the rustle of wings flying into the Great Hall with the morning's mail delivery.

Arthur recognized the family owl flying toward him, and realized guiltily that he hadn't written his mum in a couple of weeks. She was probably writing to check up on him, call him an embarrassing pet name, and then talk about how lonely she was when she didn't get letters from him. Sometimes his mother was a little horrifying.

But the owl did not land in front of him. It flapped down next to him, in front of Molly, who smiled happily as she took the letter. Arthur peered over her shoulder; it was, indeed, addressed to her, in his mother's handwriting.

“My mum wrote you a letter?” he said in disbelief.

“Well, I sent her a letter to apologize for mentioning the Blacks,” Molly said in a low voice, and he wondered if she didn't want their friends to know that she'd made a faux pas to his mother, or if she thought he wouldn't want them to know his mother had been disowned by her family. “You really should have mentioned that to me. And she wrote me back, so I wrote her back, and now we're corresponding.”

“You and my mum...”

“Yes, she's very sweet.” Molly opened the letter and started to read while she ate a piece of toast.

“She hasn't written me since Easter,” said Arthur, feeling a little nettled.

“Really?” Molly looked up in surprise. “This is the third letter I've had from her since then.”

“Good Lord.” Arthur didn't know what to say, so he ate a piece of bacon to cover his discomposure, then finally said, “Well, tell her I said hello when you write her back.”

“Of course. I'll remind her she ought to write to you,” Molly said absently, reading the letter.

Arthur shook his head. Girls were very strange.

*

Arthur spent the evening watching Quidditch practice with Dunstan, Cosmo, and Roddy Feltham. There were a few other Gryffindors in the stands, watching the team practice in hopes that by some miracle they might win all the rest of their Quidditch matches and boost Gryffindor's standing for the House Cup. Based on the evening's practice, it did not look good for Gryffindor.

Roddy left in a temper after practice, swearing about Reid Akins, and Arthur headed toward the castle to look for Molly, who had no interest in Quidditch and never attended practices. He wasn't sure she would even attend the games without him around.

He checked the library first, since it was a favourite haunt of Molly and Hattie in the evenings, but Hattie was there with Silvester Bowbrick, and Arthur didn't want to interrupt them, as they looked quite... busy.

He bumped into Cecilia and Siobhan in the corridor as he was leaving the library.

“Oh, hullo Arthur,” Siobhan said cheerfully.

“Hi Siobhan. I didn't see you at Quidditch practice, Cecilia,” Arthur said. She'd been hanging around the stands the last couple of practices Arthur had been at, watching Icarus and haranguing anyone who made a negative comment about the team, but had been mercifully absent tonight.

“Oh, Cecilia doesn't care about Quidditch any more, she chucked Icarus last night,” Siobhan said slyly.

“You broke up with Icarus?” Arthur was surprised. As far as he'd been aware, Cecilia and Icarus had been happy together. Icarus had certainly been in a good mood lately. But Cecilia's behaviour was growing gradually more erratic, and Arthur was starting to wonder if there was something in the air around the castle that was causing prefects to go insane and teachers to leave their job for no reason. Perhaps Petula was right, the world really was going mad.

“It's a good thing too,” Siobhan said cheerfully, when Cecilia didn't bother to respond. “I could hardly chuck Andrew while you were still going with his best friend, could I? It might have gotten awkward.”

Arthur shook his head. “You've hardly even gone out with Andrew.”

“I've gone with him longer than I went with Addae,” Siobhan pointed out.

“I thought you were with Akwetee?” He couldn't remember now which twin she'd gone out with.

“No, it was Addae.” Siobhan didn't look too certain of that. “But Andrew is boring, he only talks about Quidditch and the stupid parties Claudia throws. All the boys are boring lately. I think I'm done for the year. Maybe the boys will look fresh again after the summer.”

Cecilia rolled her eyes. “You need help.”

“You're the one who can't even be bothered to brush her hair in the morning. Don't think I haven't noticed how you've started to turn into a mad old harpy from all the you know what.”

Cecilia's hand shot to her hair, which was tied up into a messy knot at the top of her head, with three pencils stuck through it carelessly. It seemed very out of character for Cecilia, who was usually very sleek and shiny. She scowled at her best friend. “Shut it, you.”

“Daft crone,” Siobhan retorted.

“Wretched hag,” Cecilia said. “Arthur, where are you going?”

He'd been trying to sneak away surreptitiously. He didn't particularly want to stick around and listen to them argue. They were both staring at him now, Cecilia with her wild dark eyes and Siobhan with one rusty eyebrow arched as if she could not believe he'd tried to walk away while they ignored him.

“I'd better go find Molly,” Arthur said warily.

“I think she went back to the common room.” Cecilia turned back to Siobhan, dismissing him, and Arthur escaped gladly. The sounds of their continued argument floated on the air as he left the corridor.

He had just arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady when he heard someone calling his name. He turned and saw, his heart sinking a little, Molly's little brothers. The evening was not looking good.

“Arthur, old boy,” Fabian said jovially, sounding quite a lot like Thad Peabody. “What luck. We were just saying how we could use a lookout.” He had a bag slung over his shoulder that had oddly-shaped protrusions.

“What have you got there?” Arthur asked suspiciously, jerking his head toward the bag.

“It's all part of our master plan,” Gideon gave the bag a satisfied pat.

“Good Lord, you're not really going to transform into Professor Dumbledore, are you?” Arthur asked in horror.

Fabian shook his head. “No, Slughorn didn't have any Polyjuice Potion, and we can't be arsed to make it ourselves. We decided to booby-trap the portrait hole instead. These are cream pies.”

“And a spring-loaded arm,” Gideon added. “We found it in Zonko's, they always have the best toys.”

Arthur couldn't think of a response to that. The twins were grinning proudly.

“It's going to shoot cream pies at everyone who comes through the portrait hole,” Fabian explained, in case Arthur had not fully grasped their plan.

“What if Molly's the one who comes through?” Arthur wanted to know.

“She could probably use a cream pie in the face,” Gideon said cheerfully. “It would do her good.”

There was a horrifying thought. Molly would probably kill them. “And what if she catches us setting it up?”

“Well, if she sees us, you can just use your magic snogging powers to shut her up,” Fabian said cheerfully.

Arthur realized he was rubbing his temple and put his hand down.

Gideon nodded encouragingly at him. “You can see we've thought of everything,” he said. “Want to lend a hand?”

“Why do you keep asking me?” He knew he sounded like he was pleading with them, but he couldn't help it. He wanted them to like him, but he was starting to wish they would just like him from a little further away.

Fabian clapped a hand to his shoulder. “You're like the older brother we always wished Molly had been.”

“Merlin's beard,” Arthur said helplessly, but he had an excuse ready now. “I can't help you, Molly's been writing to my mum. She might tell her what I'd done if she gets angry with me again.”

The twins gave him identical sympathetic looks.

“She'll definitely write your mum. She's always writing ours,” Fabian said. “Does your mum send Howlers? Our mum says she buys them in bulk.”

“But you've got the magic snog,” Gideon said cheerfully. “There's nothing to worry about.”

“I'll just stand here all day, waiting for you, shall I?” the Fat Lady said irritably, glaring at them.

“That'd be great, thanks,” Gideon said, and turned back to Arthur. The Fat Lady gave an outraged sniff.

“We'd better go in. Thistledown,” Arthur said to the portrait, who swung open with a bad-tempered expression.

Molly was sitting in the common room, curled up in a chair near the window, with a novel open in front of her, eating Chocoballs from a small bag on her lap. She did not appear to notice them at first.

“Are you reading another of those trashy novels, Molly?” Gideon demanded loudly when he caught sight of his elder sister.

Molly started violently and dropped her book, choking on a piece of chocolate as she scrambled to retrieve the novel from the floor and hide it behind the chair cushion. Her cheeks were very red, and she glared at her brothers angrily as she swallowed to clear her throat, then demanded, “What are you doing, sneaking up on people like that?”

“No one was sneaking up on anyone,” Gideon said loftily. “You weren't paying attention to anything but rippling muscles and heaving bosoms.”

“Shut up,” Molly said in a high-pitched voice, her face bright red. Arthur glanced down at the cushion where she'd hidden the book with renewed interest. Was that really what she'd been reading about?

Molly had noticed the bulging bag on Fabian's arm, though, and gave it a suspicious jab with her finger. “What's in there?”

“It's an extremely fragile bag of None of Your Business, actually,” Gideon said haughtily. “Don't touch.”

“It's just books,” Fabian added hastily. “Nothing to be concerned about here, dear sister.” He gave his brother a glare as if he were ruining their plan with his suspicious behaviour.

“Come off it. As if either of you study. What are you really doing?” She turned her attention on Arthur. “Are you helping them?”

“No,” he said quickly. “I just ran into them at the Fat Lady's portrait, that's all. I was looking for you.”

Molly smiled at him and then turned to her brothers again. “I know you're up to something.” She drew her wand and jabbed at the bag, but Fabian backed up a step. “What's in the bag?”

Fabian clutched the bag protectively, and Gideon drew his wand as well. “We're going to our dormitory now,” he drawled. “Why don't you just stay here and-”

“If you're going to cause trouble, I want to know about it. Arthur.” She turned to him again, and he took a step back in alarm. “Arthur, what are they doing?”

“I don't know anything, please don't ask me. I told them it was a bad idea.” It took an effort not to duck away from her and flee when she glared like that. He didn't like being yelled at and was sure it was imminent, but she refocused on her brothers with her eyes narrowed.

The twins ducked behind Arthur's back.

“Are you mad? We're already losing the House Cup, and you want to do something that could make us lose even more points?”

“How do you know that's what we're doing?” Gideon asked, poking his head out from behind Arthur. “You've no idea. We could be winding bandages for sick Muggles for all you know.”

“Don't be ridiculous – winding bandages – give me that bag -” Molly had dropped her wand on her chair and was trying to get at her brothers around Arthur. He raised his arms to his head protectively as she chased them around him in a circle.

Arthur grabbed a hold of Molly's arm as she came around in front of him again, and she pulled away immediately, yanking her arm out of his grasp. She took a step back, pushing her hair out of her face, and shook her finger at him. “Now, don't you get in the middle of this, Arthur,” she said, though it was clear he already was – literally.

“It's none of your bloody business whether we get in trouble or not, you nosy cow,” Fabian said hotly, still cradling the bag of cream pies against his chest. Arthur was privately impressed that the pies had not been smashed all over the place by now.

Molly's face flushed with rage. “How dare y- watch your language, you horrible little boy! Arthur, are you going to let him talk to me like that?”

“Don't talk to your sister like that,” said Arthur automatically, thinking of how she'd just a moment ago told him to stay out of it.

The twins ignored him. They were still hiding behind him, and Molly was looking angrier by the second. She drew herself up haughtily and gave her brothers an icy glare.

“All right, fine. Don't tell me what you're up to. I'm writing to Mum.”

“Damn.” Gideon gave Arthur a little shove toward Molly. “Quick, Arthur! Snog her!”

Molly's face flushed again and he thought she might slap her little brother. “I beg your pardon?” she said in freezing tones, reaching around Arthur to take hold of her brother's ear, but Gideon was too fast. He slipped under her outstretched arm, and both of the twins beat a hasty retreat out the portrait hole.

Molly turned to Arthur, who leaned back slightly away from her. Her face was still red, and she looked almost as angry as she had when she'd caught him with the badger.

What did he mean by that?”

“Erm,” said Arthur nervously. “Your brothers think I have some sort of magic power over you. With kisses, I mean. I'm sure they're only joking, though.”

Molly's face turned several shades darker. “I'm going to kill the both of them.”

Arthur wondered if he ought to test out his alleged magic powers now, and started to reach for her, but she held up one finger and said, “Don't kiss me right now, I'm not through being angry yet.”

Arthur's arms dropped back to his sides and she glared at him in silence for a moment, looking as if she were struggling internally with something. He was about to ask whether she was angry with him or only with her brothers when she let out a loud sigh.

“Oh all right, kiss me.”

Arthur grinned. This time when he reached for her, she stepped into his arms and splayed her fingers out on his chest. After a few moments, they broke apart and she said bemusedly, “Maybe you do have magic kissing powers. I don't feel angry at all now.”

“It only works on you,” he said, smiling at her.

“You'd better not try it on anyone else,” she warned him.

“Never.” And it was true, he really had no interest in kissing anyone but her. He kissed her again, and she glanced toward the portrait hole and sighed.

“What did they have in the bag?”

He patted her shoulder. “You really don't want to know.”

*

The rumours of Professor Ampara's impending departure from the school had spread throughout all the students by the end of the week, and it eventually became clear that the Defence teacher would either have to confirm or deny the rumour in order for her students to give their studies their full attention again. Arthur was not surprised to see her waiting in front of the classroom with an impatient air on Friday as the sixth-year class shuffled in. She tapped her wand loudly against the desk to draw their attention to her as they all took their seats.

“Some of you may have heard that I won't be coming back next year.” Professor Ampara squared her shoulders as her gaze scanned the faces of her students. “I'd like to tell you now, it isn't true. I will be here next year, and I will personally make sure every one of you passes your N.E.W.T.”

Cecilia looked relieved, and sat back in her chair with one hand at her throat. Molly and Hattie were smiling at each other, and Petula gave an exaggerated sigh of relief, resting her head against her desk. Arthur's brow wrinkled as he leaned forward on his desk to look at the professor more closely, adjusting his glasses. Her face was pale, her dark eyes huge in her thin face, and a long white scar that had not been there before crossed her neck from her left ear to her right collarbone. She had lost some weight since the beginning of the year. She looked as if she'd been sick for quite some time. He wondered, not for the first time that term, what was wrong with Professor Ampara.

He glanced around the room then. The other students were chatting quietly with an air of great relief, and Professor Ampara had gone behind her desk to write something on the chalkboard. No one else seemed concerned about her appearance. There was only relief on the faces in the classroom.

It gave Arthur a distinctly bad feeling.









A/N: I just wanted to apologize for the long gap between updates. I've been a travellin' fool this summer, but I'm home again now and getting back into the swing of things. I'm working to finish this by the end of September, after which keep an eye out for new fics on Cecilia, Hattie, and Molly and Arthur of course :) Thanks for sticking with me, and a huge thank you to everyone who nominated me and voted for me in the Dobbys!


Chapter 37: In the Midnight Hour
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Wilson Pickett, “In The Midnight Hour”
I'm gonna wait till the stars come out
And see that twinkle in your eyes
I'm gonna wait till the midnight hour
That when my love begins to shine



As the summer drew nearer, Molly's time with Arthur was restricted by the impending exams. They both had to spend most of their evenings studying, so the nights they spent together began to get later and later to make up for it. One night shortly before exams, they met up after curfew to sneak out into the castle for a midnight stroll. Arthur found a quiet, secluded spot on a sixth-floor corridor where they could look out a window at the stars but no one was likely to find them.

Molly conjured a fluffy purple blanket for them, and she leaned against Arthur while they discussed their classes, Professor Ampara, and Gryffindor's plummeting chances of winning the House Cup. They stayed for a few more hours, curled up together on the blanket, watching the stars and occasionally forgetting to talk altogether.

“It's a shame we can't sit in the courtyard and look up at the stars,” Molly said at one point. “You can't see much out the window.” A small sliver of moonlight fell across them, and though it was romantic, she couldn't help thinking it would be even more romantic if they were out on the grounds somewhere where they could see the entire sky.

“It was fun sitting under the stars in your parents' orchard,” Arthur said, stretching out his legs. Molly scooted closer to him, and he made room for her so she was sitting between his legs with his arms wrapped around her.

She settled back against Arthur's chest, feeling his warmth. “That was lovely, wasn't it? Maybe we can sneak out this summer as well.” She wondered if it was a bad idea to bring wine again.

“At least we won't have to sneak around forever,” Arthur said, resting his chin lightly on the top of her head.

“What do you mean?” She could feel Arthur's body tense up slightly, as if he was about to say something very important.

“Well, if we were married, we wouldn't have to sneak around, we could spend every night together.”

She turned her head a little to look up at him. His arms tightened around her. “Are you serious, Arthur?”

“Yes.” His voice was rough. “If we were married...” His voice trailed off, but she could see his eyes in the shadowed corridor, and they were filled with longing and something more intense.

She reached up to put her hand behind his head, pulling him down for a kiss, but just before his lips met hers, Arthur went completely still.

“Did you hear something?” he breathed. She felt a pang of disappointment as he pulled away.

Molly strained to hear, but there was nothing. “Maybe it was something out in the forest,” she said hesitantly, but there was something different on the night air now, and she felt a thrill of fear run through her. “What time is it?”

“Going on four in the morning, I should think,” Arthur said, glancing out the narrow window. The moon was low on the horizon now, falling into the dark forest; though the sky had not begun to lighten yet, the feeling of impending dawn hung over the night.

“Oh no, we're out far too late-” Molly cut off with a squeak as Arthur put his hand over her mouth. He put one finger to his lips to hush her, and this time she did hear something: footsteps were coming down the corridor toward them.

Molly started to gather up the blanket, but Arthur rose, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet.

“No time,” he whispered.

They took off at a run down the corridor, and Molly could hear Mr. Pringle's voice calling. He'd found the blanket and knew someone was there.

They rounded a corner and dashed through a shortcut, Arthur pulling her along by the hand, and she could feel her heart in her throat, her breath burning in her lungs. As they came around the next corner, Arthur suddenly pulled her sideways behind a tapestry that covered a small niche. She could hear the sound of the caretaker's grumbling about students out of bed and the sound of Peeves the poltergeist cackling.

Arthur leaned forward to peek around the edge of the tapestry, and Molly pressed her back up against the stone wall.

“What are we going to do?” she whispered. “We'll be in so much trouble.”

He looked back over at her and picked up her hands, giving her fingers a squeeze. “Do you trust me?”

“Of course,” she said without hesitation.

“All right. I'm going to go out first, and draw him away, then I want you to run for Gryffindor tower.”

Molly shook her head. “He'll catch you!”

“No, he won't. Don't worry about me, Molly, I'll be fine. I'll meet you back in the common room.”

Molly stared at him. His face was set, and as he gazed steadily at her, she realized that he meant to be caught if that was what it took to keep her out of trouble. “Arthur-”

“Just, please, do as I ask, Molly.”

Pringle's voice sounded in the corridor again, looking for them, and Molly's stomach contracted. “There must be another way.”

“If you've got a better idea, I'm listening.” His lips twitched a bit into a tiny smile, but she wasn't reassured. She didn't have any other ideas though; they were trapped, and one or both of them were going to be punished.

Pringle was getting closer; his voice sounded harsh in the dark silence of the castle. Molly looked at Arthur beseechingly, silently pleading him not to go.

Arthur put a hand to her cheek and kissed her gently. “I love you, Molly,” he said, and then darted out from behind the tapestry.

She stayed crouched, ready to run, and listened as his footsteps pounded down the corridor, and Pringle followed him, shouting angrily, with Peeves laughing madly as he passed Molly's hiding place. As soon as it seemed safe, she ran out.

Gryffindor tower seemed to take forever to reach, and her pounding heart sounded very loud in the empty corridors, but Arthur must have drawn Pringle away from the quickest route to the common room, and she made it there safely, breathing hard and clutching a stitch in her side.

Puffapod,” she gasped to the Fat Lady, who was blinking at her groggily.

“What sort of time d'you call this?” the portrait asked in surly tones.

“Let me in, please let me in!” Molly said desperately, looking over her shoulder down the corridor.

“It's almost dawn! What do you think you're doing out of your dormitory at this hour, young lady? You should have been in bed ages ago. I've half a mind to call the headmaster. The school has rules for a reason, you know.”

“Puffapod! Puffapod! Please!”

“I ought to make you sleep in the corridor,” the Fat Lady said huffily. “It would serve you right. Disgusting behaviour, unbecoming to a Gryffindor.”

Let me in right this minute!” Molly shrieked.

“Oh, all right, there's no need to take that tone,” said the Fat Lady, but she finally swung open.

Molly dashed through the portrait hole and collapsed against the wall. The common room was completely deserted, still dark in the pre-dawn light, and she slid down the wall, tears pouring down her face. He wasn't here. She'd half-convinced herself that he'd have gotten away, would be waiting for her when she got to the common room. He must have been caught after all, Mr. Pringle would do something horrible, she was sure of it. And he'd done it so that she wouldn't be caught as well. She loved that he was so chivalrous, but at that moment she wished he'd been a little less chivalrous and a little more clever instead, and thought up a better plan.

She was too keyed up to even think of sleep, even though she'd been up all night; she didn't think she would even blink until she saw Arthur again. Her heart was still pounding, whether from the frantic run or her terror over Arthur's fate, she wasn't sure. Maybe both.

She sat curled up on the sofa in front of the fire, her knees hugged to her chest, waiting for Arthur. The common room grew brighter as the sun rose, and a few students began to straggle downstairs from their dormitories, but still Arthur did not return. Molly had a sick feeling in her stomach: something had gone wrong, he should have been back by now.

Hattie was the first downstairs of her friends, looking fresh and happy, her brown curls bouncing as she hopped down the last few steps. She saw Molly on the sofa and came over to sit next to her, immediately looking concerned.

“Molly, what's wrong?”

“It's Arthur,” Molly said in a rush, and continued somewhat incoherently, “we were out late last night – and Mr. Pringle caught us – he should have been back by now, even if he was caught, and I'm sure he was, he meant to get caught so I could get away-”

Hattie had her hands over her mouth in horror. “Oh no, poor Arthur!”

“I need to go find him,” Molly said, feeling a little frantic. Her heart was still beating far too quickly.

“Find who?” Reid Akins dropped into the chair next to them with a yawn. “Did you lose Arthur? I don't think he ever came back to our dormitory last night.”

“He got caught, by Mr. Pringle,” Hattie told him. “They were out late-”

“Pringle caught him?” Reid asked sharply.

Molly felt her stomach knot up again in fear. “He must have done, or Arthur would have been back by now.”

Reid rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Arthur's tougher than he seems, he'll be all right.”

“Have you ever been caught out by Mr. Pringle, Reid?” Hattie asked, frightened. “What happened? What did he do?”

“He took his walking stick to me once,” he admitted quietly, with an uneasy glance at Molly, as if he did not want to tell her that.

Molly felt the blood draining from her face, horrified. “He can't do that, can he?”

Reid shrugged. “He has before.”

“It's supposed to just be detentions and points,” Hattie said indignantly. “He can't beat students! I thought it was just empty threats!”

Molly thought she was going to faint. “I have to go find him.”

“I'll come with you,” Hattie said immediately.

“I'd come along, only I've got to wait for Cecilia,” said Reid. “She still won't admit that she secretly loves me.”

“You're an idiot, Reid, she hates you,” Molly said, and dragged Hattie with her toward the portrait hole. Reid waved at them with his fingertips as they left.

“I don't even know where to look,” Molly said, feeling a little hysterical, as she and Hattie walked down the stairs from Gryffindor tower.

Hattie put an arm around Molly and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “I hate to suggest it, but let's check the infirmary, shall we?”

Molly let out a tiny moan, but followed Hattie to the infirmary. Madame Luscinia met them at the door.

“Where does it hurt?” she asked briskly, surveying the two of them.

“It's not us,” Molly blurted out. “We're looking for someone. Arthur Weasley.” She peeked over the nurse's shoulder and could see a bed with a privacy curtain surrounding it.

Madame Luscinia nodded. “He's right back here.” She started for the curtained bed, and Molly's heart leapt into her throat again. What had happened to Arthur?

The nurse drew the curtain aside to let them in, and informed them that they had fifteen minutes to visit. Molly barely heard her. Arthur was stretched out in the hospital bed, shirtless. His shoulders were striped with livid red marks.

“Oh my,” Hattie whispered next to her.

Arthur smiled at them, looking a little embarrassed. “Good morning, Hattie.” He turned his gaze to Molly then, quirking an eyebrow. “Molly.”

“What happened?” Molly cried, rushing toward him to look at his shoulders.

“Pringle almost caught me,” Arthur told them. He leaned forward so Molly could see the marks more clearly. “He did catch me, really, with that walking stick of his, but I got away from him.”

Hattie was staring at Arthur's shoulders. “But if he sees you now, won't you be in trouble again? For running away?”

He shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe not, since I wound up here.”

“Why didn't Madame Luscinia just heal you?” Molly asked in a low voice, so the nurse wouldn't overhear.

“She did,” Arthur said ruefully. “Pringle must have put something on that stick, because it still left marks even after she healed the bruises.”

Molly felt her eyes well up with tears at that, and she looked down, staring at Arthur's hand where it rested on the bed. She couldn't stand to think of him being hurt for her.

“Well,” Hattie said, “I suppose I'll leave you two now. Arthur, I hope those scars aren't permanent.” Her eyes flashed, and Molly knew she was still angry at the idea of the caretaker caning any student. Hattie was not a believer in corporal punishment.

Molly waved to her best friend as Hattie ducked out from the curtain and left the infirmary, then turned back to Arthur.

He changed position and winced a little. Molly couldn't help staring at the vivid red remains of the bruises on his shoulders. She thought the marks must be permanent if they were still there after a healing spell.

“Are you sure you're all right?” she whispered.

“I'll live,” he said, giving her a brave smile that she was sure was purely for her benefit. He really did seem to be all right, just a little sore. Her knees felt a little weak with relief. “I'm supposed to stay here the rest of the day to see if the marks will fade. It is a little sore,” he admitted. “But it's not bad. Don't worry, Molly.”

Molly looked around the edge of the privacy curtain to make sure the coast was clear, then climbed into the bed next to Arthur and laid her cheek on his bare shoulder, curling up next to him. He looked surprised for a moment, then wrapped her closely in his arms and dropped a kiss into her hair.

“You are the most chivalrous man I've ever met,” she said fervently. “You saved me from Mr. Pringle.”

“It's a shame I couldn't save you without getting caught myself,” he said wryly.

She turned so that she could fold her hands together across his chest, resting her chin on them and staring into his eyes. His skin felt hot under her hands.

“I'm sorry you were hurt, Arthur.”

“I'm all right,” he said. He seemed to be mesmerized by her gaze.

“I really do love you,” she said on a sigh.

“I love you too.”

They kissed gently for a moment, then Molly put her chin back down on her folded hands. Arthur lifted one hand to stroke her hair, and she turned her face into it, her cheek pressed into his palm.

“Do you know, I would marry you if you asked me,” she whispered.

His arm tightened around her. “Good, because I wasn't joking about that, you know.”

“I know.”

The curtain drew open with a snap and Madame Luscinia appeared, looking very surprised to find two people in the hospital bed instead of one. Molly slid off the bed quickly, and stood next to Arthur, feeling the blush crawl up her face.

The school nurse frowned severely at Molly. “Shouldn't you be in class, young lady?”

“Oh,” Molly said, then as realisation hit her, “Oh! I've got Charms now.”

“Run along then.” Madame Luscinia made shooing motions with her hands. “You're already late. And you, Mr. Weasley, need your rest.”

“Right. All right then.” Molly wanted to say good-bye to Arthur but wasn't sure what to do in front of the nurse. “I'll come by at lunch, Arthur.”

“See you later, Molly.” He added in a silent whisper as Madame Luscinia examined the marks on his shoulders, Save me!

Molly giggled, and as she was leaving the infirmary, she could hear Madame Luscinia's voice rising sternly from behind the curtain.

“This is a place for healing, young man, not for you to invite girls into your bed.”

She didn't hear Arthur's response, but she could imagine him blushing at the comment, and giggled a little as she started down the corridor toward the Charms classroom. She felt very relieved. If he could joke, then he really was all right. She made it to Charms only a few minutes late. She explained to Professor Flitwick that she'd been in the infirmary with Arthur, and avoided any penalty for her tardiness.

After class, she was accosted in the corridor by her friends, who had heard the story from Hattie and wanted to know how Arthur was doing. She told them about the marks Mr. Pringle's cane had left on his back and shoulders, and wasn't surprised to see the outrage on her friends' faces. Hattie's face was very red when Molly told them Arthur would be spending the rest of the day in the infirmary while Madam Luscinia tried to remove the scars.

“Why, that-” and Hattie called Pringle a name that made even Siobhan blink in surprise.

“Hattie Habbershaw!”

“You of all people can't possibly think he was right to do that?” Hattie demanded hotly.

“I'm not disagreeing with you,” said Siobhan. “I'm just surprised you knew that word.”

“I can't believe he did that to a student!” Cecilia exclaimed.

“Reid said Pringle had beaten him as well,” Petula pointed out.

“Yes, well, Reid probably had it coming,” Cecilia said waspishly, her brows snapping together in a dark line. “There've been times I'd gladly take a cane to him myself. But Arthur's a good boy. Usually.”

“Well, we were out at four in the morning,” Molly admitted uncomfortably.

Cecilia's mouth dropped open. “Molly Prewett!”

“We didn't mean to be out so late, we lost track of time.” Molly gave her friend a slightly sheepish smile.

Cecilia shook her head disapprovingly. “Out snogging at four in the morning. For the love.”

“I can see I'm the one having an influence now,” Siobhan said, grinning widely.

Chapter 38: Strangers in the Night
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Petula Clark - Strangers In The Night
Up to the moment when we said our first hello little did we know
Love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away
It turned out so right for strangers in the night



“You know, it's been ages since we had a Gryffindor Girls Council,” Hattie said happily as she arranged her pillow and blankets on the floor. Her brown curls were covered by a pink knitted nightcap with a large pompom on top. Molly had made it for her best friend over the Easter holiday.

Molly frowned thoughtfully. “It has been a while. I don't think we've had once since before Easter.”

“Everyone was busy,” Hattie said, not looking terribly concerned. Molly rather thought this was because Hattie was now one of the busy ones. She'd been spending a great deal of her free time with Silvester Bowbrick.

“I'm not busy any more,” Siobhan volunteered. She was already firmly ensconced under her blankets, stretched out on the floor with her curls spread over her pillow. “I chucked Andrew.”

“I heard,” Molly said dryly. “Right after Cecilia and Icarus broke up. But I thought you liked him because of the Clydesdale Patronus?”

“He was boring.”

“You think everyone is boring,” Cecilia said. She was sitting cross-legged on her blanket, brushing her hair. Molly thought it was about time; Cecilia hadn't brushed her hair since before exams had begun a week ago.

“Not you girls, of course.” Siobhan paused, a devilish smile on her lips. “Well, except maybe Petula.”

Petula was attempting to French-plait her own hair, with little success. She scowled at Siobhan. “Why does everyone always pick on me?”

“Someone's got to be the duffer. So what are we talking about tonight?” Siobhan rolled over onto her stomach and hugged her pillow, looking around at the other girls.

“I think we should talk about Reid Akins,” Petula said, eyeing Cecilia.

The devilish grin returned to Siobhan's lips. “Yes, let's.”

“I don't want to talk about him,” Cecilia said, shooting her best friend a warning look.

“You always want to complain about Reid,” Petula pointed out.

Molly selected an éclair and settled back onto her pillows. “You have been acting very strangely lately, Cecilia.”

“I thought you weren't going to say anything,” Hattie hissed at her.

“Petula brought it up. Besides, I only talked about her behaviour, not about her and Reid.”

Hattie frowned. Apparently this logic did not fly with her. Molly had to admit it was rather weak.

Cecilia scowled at all of them. “I'm fine. I've got better marks in my classes than any of you do. Just because Icarus and I broke up doesn't mean anything is wrong. I'm fine.”

“Why did you break up?” Petula asked. She let out a sigh then and gave up on her hair, running her hands through it to loosen the tangles she'd made.

“It was just... over between us, that's all. Sometimes that just happens.” Cecilia's expression was hunted, and the frantic look was back in her eyes, so Molly took pity on her and changed the subject.

“You know Arthur's scars from Pringle really do seem to be permanent.”

It had been a week now, and the marks on Arthur's shoulders hadn't faded any further. It was no longer paining him though, and he actually seemed to think it was funny at this point. He'd described his escape from Pringle to his friends one evening in the common room, and they'd laughed uproariously. Molly's stomach still knotted up whenever she thought how he'd been hurt so she could escape. She didn't see the humour in the evening's adventure, as he did. Boys were very strange.

Cecilia had latched onto the change of subject gratefully and assumed an outraged expression. “I hope they sack him. How dare he do that to a student!”

Hattie nodded in vehement agreement. “Poor Arthur! Did you write his mum? What did she say?”

“I wanted to,” Molly said, “but I wasn't sure how to explain what he was doing out in the castle at four in the morning. Arthur says she came by the castle yesterday to talk to Professor Dumbledore while we were sitting the Potions examination. Arthur told her he'd been sneaking out early to play Quidditch before the exams started.”

“She believed that?” Siobhan snorted. Molly nodded.

“And is Pringle going to be sacked?” demanded Cecilia.

“That's what Mrs. Weasley wants,” Molly told her. “And I hope he is, but I don't know. Maybe they'll force him to retire. He's getting quite old.” The end of year feast was tomorrow, so she supposed it was too late to have Mr. Pringle sacked now anyway. Pringle was at the top of Molly's enemies list now for what he'd done to Arthur, and she hoped he was gone when they came back next year.

“My mum says he was just as horrible when she was in school,” Hattie said. “And just as old.”

Petula giggled. “Well, I hope the scars aren't really permanent, anyway. Do they look like they've gotten better at all?”

“No, they look just as bad as they did when I saw him that morning,” Molly said, picking at the chocolate on her éclair and feeling guilty again for Arthur getting hurt.

“How often have you been checking his shoulders, Molly dear?” Siobhan asked slyly. “Been getting his shirt off for a good look?”

Molly could feel her cheeks turning red. “I was only looking at the marks.”

“I believe you,” Siobhan assured her with a grin. “And how do his shoulders look? I mean aside from the marks.”

Molly covered her eyes with one hand, but admitted, “They look very nice.”

Siobhan laughed. “I really am having a bad influence on you.”

*

The Great Hall was decorated in Hufflepuff colours when Molly arrived for the end of year feast. She and Hattie made their way to the end of the Gryffindor table where their friends were waiting. Dunstan and Petula seemed to have put aside their differences in their mutual enmity towards Reid for putting Gryffindor at the bottom of the House standings for the Cup, and were sitting together next to Cosmo, muttering under their breaths bad-temperedly. The entire Gryffindor table seemed very subdued by their loss, and many people were giving Reid black looks.

“Bloody Reid,” Cosmo was saying, shooting a dirty look at his friend as Molly and Hattie sat down. “Couldn't just leave Cecilia alone, could you? If you hadn't lost so many points for Gryffindor, we might have won the House Cup.”

Petula and Dunstan were eyeing Reid as if sizing him up for a coffin. Molly gave Arthur a quick kiss. He didn't seem at all concerned about the black cloud hanging over the Gryffindor table, and smiled at her happily, putting a hand on her leg under the table.

“I can't help it,” Reid said cheerfully. “She loves me.”

Cosmo picked up a forkful of mashed potatoes and dropped them on Reid's head.

“Now who's going to lose us points,” Reid said, but he didn't look terribly concerned. “Hattie, would you mind?” He bent his head slightly in her direction.

Hattie was giving both of them a disapproving look, and didn't look as if she cared to help Reid out. Molly thought her best friend wasn't completely immune to the desire to win the House Cup, but Hattie heaved a sigh and drew her wand to clean the potatoes out of Reid's hair.

“Where is Cecilia, anyway?” Reid asked, looking around. She had not come down for the end of year feast yet. Molly wasn't sure she was even planning to do so.

“She's in our dormitory,” Siobhan said calmly. “Washing her hair or packing her books or brewing a poison for Reid, something like that.”

“Aw, she's thinking of me,” Reid said, grinning at Siobhan, who rolled her eyes. “I bet she misses me this summer.”

“Her father won't, he's a wonderful aim with a crossbow, so you'd better not try anything on her at home,” Siobhan told him.

Reid frowned slightly. “Hmm.”

“Reid, please don't provoke her any more...” Molly sighed and shook her head, giving up. He was completely incorrigible, and completely delusional. Nothing she said was going to make a difference. “Nevermind. Maybe over the summer you'll get a clue.”

“Probably not,” he said cheekily.

The teachers were all looking unusually sombre during the feast. Molly wondered what was going on. Usually the end of year feast was an occasion for festivity among the staff, not solemnity. She scanned the table and noticed someone was missing.

“Where's Professor Ampara?” she asked

Arthur scanned the staff table and frowned. “I don't know. Maybe she's not feeling well.”

No one else seemed to have noticed Professor Ampara's absence, but then, she had frequently been absent from meals over the past few months. Still, normally all of the staff attended the end of year feast. Molly even caught sight of Mr. Pringle, his beady eyes peering into the hall from a side door. She gave him a baleful glare, which he did not notice. Apparently he hadn't been sacked yet. She made a mental note to mention that fact to Arthur's mum in her next letter. Between the two of them, she thought they could bring about Pringle's expulsion from the school fairly quickly.

Professor Dumbledore waited until the students had finished eating to deliver his usual speech for the close of the school year, beginning with congratulating Hufflepuff on their win.

“Bloody Reid,” Cosmo muttered again as he clapped.

Dumbledore paused for a moment after the applause had died out, and his long face was lined with sorrow as he spoke. “I am sorry to inform you that Professor Ampara's body was found in the Forbidden Forest this morning. It appears that she was killed by a werewolf.”

Molly clapped her hands over her mouth in shock and turned to hide her face against Arthur's shoulder. He put one arm around her, looking troubled and a little sick. There was a rush of whispers in the Great Hall as the students reacted to the news.

“Oh my goodness,” Hattie whispered, one hand pressed to her chest in horror.

“I advise all of you once again that the Forbidden Forest is off-limits,” Professor Dumbledore continued gravely, “and remind you to be aware of the dangers that are out there. As a dear friend of mine reminds me, we must practise constant vigilance.”

Molly looked up at Dumbledore's words. Somehow she didn't think he meant only the dangers in the forest, but something bigger. Her stomach was icy with fear. Arthur's face was grave when she looked up at him.

“A werewolf...” he murmured.

“Poor Professor Ampara,” Hattie said tearfully.

“I told you there are werewolves in the Forbidden Forest,” Molly said to Arthur, but she couldn't put the sternness into her words that she would have otherwise. She was too frightened at the thought of the poor Defence professor being killed so brutally.

“I don't think there are normally,” he said, glancing at Professor Dumbledore. “I can't imagine they'd be allowed. We don't have a gamekeeper for nothing, you know.”

“That's true,” Molly allowed. “But how did one get to Professor Ampara?”

Hattie was wiping her cheeks. “I can't believe she's dead. She was such a wonderful teacher.”

“Getting mauled to death by a werewolf has got to be right up there with eaten by a dragon as a top five worst ways to die,” Reid said thoughtfully.

Molly stared at him in shock. Hattie was looking at him with wide, horrified eyes.

“That was a tad insensitive, mate,” Arthur told him.

“What? It was probably just a freak accident, it's not like a werewolf hunted her down deliberately. She was just a teacher, why would they care?” Reid didn't seem terribly upset by the professor's death.

Molly scowled at him angrily, and thought Siobhan spoke for all of them when she said, rolling her eyes at him, “You're a jackass, Reid.”

“Language, Siobhan,” he said, smiling.

“No, she's right,” Hattie said sharply. “You are a jackass.”

Reid turned to her in surprise. Molly thought it was probably the first time he'd ever heard Hattie use a swear word. She could probably count on one hand the number of times she'd heard Hattie swear, but now it had been twice in one week.

Siobhan grinned proudly then. “I'm having a bad influence on everyone.”

*

The carriage ride to the train home was very quiet that year, with Molly, Arthur, Hattie, and Petula sitting in the horseless carriage together. Siobhan had told them once that winged, skeletal horses pulled the carriages, but Molly had never been able to see them.

Cecilia went ahead onto the train to secure a compartment for everyone, and they milled about on the platform, waiting for the others to join them, while the other students boarded the train. Dunstan soon joined them, and Cosmo with Siobhan on his heels. Reid was nowhere to be seen.

“Where's Cecilia?” Siobhan asked after looking around for her best friend.

“She went in to get a compartment. Shall we?” Molly led the way onto the train, holding Arthur's hand, and they made their way onto the train.

Petula ducked into a compartment at the front of the train to flirt with Thomas Ockham, a Hufflepuff in their year, and Molly continued peeking into compartments as she headed for the back of the train, looking for Cecilia.

“I hope she found somewhere near here, I'm getting tired of lugging this junk around,” Siobhan said, stopping to give her school trunk a kick. “Where the devil did she go?”

“Language, Siobhan,” Hattie said, peering through the glass doors as they walked down the train.

Siobhan ignored her rebuke, as she usually did. “I should have kept Andrew around to carry my luggage.”

“Very sentimental,” Arthur said, grinning at her.

“Well, he had to be useful for something other than snogging. Where is she?”

“Are you looking for Cecilia?” Acacia Bushby-Ferris asked, leaning her head out of a compartment a few doors ahead of them. “She's two doors down.” She smirked at them as she ducked back in with her friends, and Molly frowned as she went down to the appropriate compartment, but when she looked in the open doorway, she stopped in her tracks. She could feel the others behind her, crowding in the doorway, but couldn't find her voice.

Reid and Cecilia were alone in the compartment, wrapped in each other’s arms and kissing passionately.

Molly felt her jaw drop. Perhaps they had fallen into some kind of alternate reality where everything was backward. Perhaps the pod people weren't just a story after all, because the real Cecilia would not be sitting on Reid's lap and kissing him as if she were about to tear his clothes off.

“Why are you lot standing there?” Petula’s voice came from down the corridor. She was hurrying toward them. “Are we not all going to fit in the compartment? What’s going on?” She stood on tiptoe to see over Cosmo’s shoulder and her breath came out in a loud gasp. “Cecilia!

Cecilia pulled away from Reid and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. Molly could feel her eyelid twitching at the sight. Hattie let out a tiny squeak. Reid was grinning widely as Cecilia turned around to glare at their gathered friends.

“Can't you see we're busy here?” she demanded.

“Is it cool in here?” Arthur asked judiciously. “It feels cool in here to me. I think hell must have frozen over.”

Dunstan burst out laughing. Cosmo was still goggling at Reid and Cecilia in shock, and Hattie’s eyes were as wide as saucers as she stared open-mouthed at Reid’s hand resting on Cecilia’s knee. Reid looked very smug.

“I think I’m having heart palpitations,” Molly finally managed to say, putting a hand to her chest.

“The next time you ask us if we know what he did to you, Cecilia, I’m going to have an entirely different response,” Siobhan said with relish.

“Bugger off, all of you,” Cecilia said, and turned back to Reid, who smirked at them over her shoulder and then went back to kissing her.

“Oh my God,” Petula exclaimed. “I can't stand it.” She turned and fled down the corridor away from Reid and Cecilia, shoving past a group of third years.

“I can't either,” Molly agreed, and grabbed Arthur's hand as she followed her friend. They couldn't find another empty compartment, but Siobhan ousted a few first years from one and they all sat down together. Molly still felt a little shell-shocked, and everyone else looked quite the same, except Siobhan, who was never surprised much by anything.

“God only knows how that happened,” Cosmo said, shaking his head.

“I really think I might be scarred for life from seeing that,” Petula said. “If I fail all my N.E.W.T.s next year, and I probably will, I'm going to blame it squarely on seeing that.”

Dunstan grinned at Petula, and Siobhan chuckled. Molly narrowed her eyes at Siobhan.

“You knew, didn't you?” she demanded. “You knew they were snogging and you didn't tell us.”

“I shall never reveal my sources,” Siobhan said smugly.

“Oh, Cecilia always tells you everything.” Petula frowned at her friend and sat back in her seat with her arms crossed.

“She hasn't been snogging him,” Siobhan admitted. “He kept trying to snog her whenever they were alone, following her all over, and she kept getting angry and going more and more insane from it. I guess she gave in after all.”

“Reid's going to be impossible to live with next year if he finally wore her down,” Arthur said, shaking his head. “He already thought he knew everything.”

“Oh God, you're right,” Dunstan said, rubbing his hands over his face. “He's going to be even more of a cocky bastard.”

“Language. I suppose that's why she kept taking points from him,” Hattie said thoughtfully. “If he was trying to kiss her and she didn't want him to.”

“I don't think she knew whether she wanted him to or not,” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes.

“Well, at least we won't have to listen to them fighting any more,” Molly remarked, leaning into Arthur's side. He put his arm around her and gave her a casual kiss on the temple.

“Have you met Cecilia?” Siobhan asked, pulling a sceptical face. “They'll probably fight even more now.”

Arthur laughed.

Chapter 39: See You In September
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The Happenings, “See You In September”
I'll be alone each and every night
While you're away, don't forget to write
See you in September
See you when the summer's through



Strange though it was, the encounter with Reid and Cecilia had lightened the sombre mood for everyone, and when the train arrived at Platform 9 ¾, Molly bounced down the steps happily. The school year was finally over and the hot summer months stretched out before her, filled with the promise of seeing Arthur as often as she could.

He wants to marry me, she thought with a fierce happiness, watching Arthur as he brought her trunk down off the train for her.

She decided staying close to the crowds of students exiting the train was the best way to avoid their parents for a nice long good-bye with Arthur, and put her arms around him right there next to the train. He looked surprised for a moment, but grinned and bent down to kiss her.

After a few minutes, Molly drew away and looked around the platform to see where their friends had gotten to. Cecilia and Reid were wrapped in each other's arms again, kissing passionately. Molly still found this very disturbing and had to look away. Petula was standing with her parents, and her father seemed to be lecturing her. Petula looked bad-tempered, her arms crossed tightly in front of her chest.

Hattie was hugging her mother, who looked very much like Hattie, both beaming and chatting to each other animatedly. Hattie's mother was very sweet, much like her daughter. Siobhan waited alone near the gateway to the Muggle platforms; she would be flying home to Ireland soon on a Muggle aeroplane and probably wanted to say good-bye to Cecilia before she left. Arthur had been a little disappointed on the train to hear that Siobhan didn't actually know how an aeroplane worked.

She saw Thaddeus Peabody and waved to him. Thad waved back as he headed for his parents. Dunstan had already disappeared through the barrier with his parents, and Cosmo was surrounded by his sisters and mother, looking happy to see his family again. Roddy Feltham stood near his parents and a younger sister wearing Hufflepuff colours, watching Siobhan, and Molly felt rather sorry for him that Siobhan didn't return his affections. She turned to Arthur; he was watching Cosmo's family as if they were utterly fascinating, and she distracted him by brushing his hair off his forehead.

He looked down at her with a smile.

“I suppose we'd better find our parents,” she said reluctantly.

“I think I see your dad over there,” Arthur said, pointing further down the platform near where Reid and Cecilia stood.

Hattie was waving to her. Molly stood on her tiptoes as she waved back. Hattie always came to her house over the summer for visits, so she wasn't too worried about saying good-bye to her best friend.


Arthur looked over at Molly as she waved to her friend. I'm going to marry you someday, Molly Prewett.

She was beaming, and her curls bounced as she dragged him out of sight of her parents. They hid behind a brickwork pillar and she straightened out his collar, brushing his shoulders with her fingertips as if to clear invisible lint from his robes. Her fingers were gentle; she was probably thinking of the marks from Pringle's cane. They didn't hurt any more, but the marks were still there. Still, getting caned had almost been worth it to have Molly lying in bed with him, resting on his bare chest, if only for a moment.

“Now, you're going to come see me this summer, aren't you?” she asked briskly.

He smiled down at her, holding her around the waist. “Every day, if I can.”

“Good.” Her hands were still on his collar, and she pulled him down to her, wrapping her arms around his neck then as she kissed him soundly. He returned the kiss, not caring who was watching them.

“Disgusting,” came a voice from behind them. “I think I'm going to be sick.”

Arthur broke away from Molly then, but kept his arms around her as he looked around. Her little brothers were standing there with their friend Frank Longbottom, shaking their heads and looking mildly repulsed.

“Can't you snog somewhere we can't see you? I just ate,” Gideon said.

“Yeah,” said Fabian. “I think I'm going to vomit pumpkin pasties all over you. It won't be pretty.”

Frank chuckled appreciatively. Arthur wasn't impressed by the twins' wit this time. He only had a few moments in private with the love of his life before their parents found them, and he did not want the twins interrupting.

“Go away,” he told them, still holding Molly tightly, and she smiled up at him and kissed his cheek.

“Gah,” Fabian said inarticulately, and wandered off with his twin and their friend in tow.


Molly watched her brothers go with a shake of her head, and turned back to Arthur just as her parents approached. She stepped away from him regretfully, wishing they'd had a few more minutes to themselves.

“Was that your brothers?” Antonia Prewett demanded, trying to see where the twins had gone, but they'd disappeared into the crowd.

“Yes.” Molly held Arthur's hand tightly. She didn't want to say good-bye to him, even though she knew she'd see him over the summer. She was too used to seeing him all throughout the day and didn't like to think about spending most of her day without him; she was going to miss him terribly.

“Hello Arthur,” her mother said to him, smiling warmly. Her father nodded gruffly at Arthur.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Prewett,” Arthur said. He didn't sound nervous at all, but his hand tightened on hers. She hoped he did come to see her every day over the summer. She felt so safe when he was around, warm and loved. Professor Ampara's death had shaken her more than she'd realized; the platform crowded with wizards had an air of danger that it had never had before.

“Well, come on, let's go find your brothers. Do you think I could Summon them?” Antonia added to her husband.

“I don't think that spell works on teenage boys,” Hippolytus said calmly. “Just amplify your voice and shout at them.”

“Oh, please don't,” Molly said in horror. “I'll help you find them.” She turned back to Arthur, wishing she could kiss him again, but she didn't dare in front of her father. “I'll see you soon, I promise.”

He nodded, and let go of her hand reluctantly.


Arthur watched them disappear into the crowd, searching for Molly's brothers. He stood a little taller to try to watch Molly's dark red hair move through the crowd as long as he could. He didn't want to say good-bye yet. He hadn't even gotten to kiss her again, with her father giving him the eye.

“Arthur!”

He could see his mother waving to him with a brightly coloured handkerchief in her hand, his father standing next to her, filling his pipe with bright blue tobacco. Arthur made his way toward them, and she reached up to pat his cheeks, knocking his glasses askew.

“How was school, my little love?” she asked as he straightened his glasses.

“It was fine, Mum. Please don't call me that, people can hear you.”

“And how is your young lady?” his father asked with a wink. “The lovely Miss Prewett.”

He grinned at his father. “She's wonderful.”

“Such a dear girl,” his mum said fondly. “Such lovely penmanship.”

Arthur rolled his eyes.

“Isn't it nice, now we can all just Apparate home together.” His mother waved her wand at Arthur's trunk and it disappeared, sent home to await them.

“Yes, Mum.” Arthur craned his neck a little. He wanted one last glimpse of Molly before they left.

The crowd suddenly parted a bit as if some invisible entity had heard his thoughts and swept a path clear, and Molly was there with her parents and her little brothers. Gideon and Fabian disappeared through the barrier as he watched, and then Molly turned his way as her parents argued behind her. She caught his eye and smiled brilliantly at him, her eyes sparkling. She took his breath away when she smiled like that, and Arthur couldn't help himself.

He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted to her, “I love you!”

She laughed and shouted back, “I love you too!”

Her parents looked very surprised behind her, and then the crowd closed, blocking his view again. Arthur turned his attention back to his parents. His mother had her hands clasped at her chest and was beaming at him, her eyes bright with tears.

“Oh, isn't it sweet, Septimus?” she said to his father with a sniff.

“Get a hold of yourself, Cedrella,” Septimus told her, but then he put an arm around his wife to gather her close and gave her a peck on the cheek as he Apparated them both home.

Arthur took one last glance around at the bustle of students on the platform, then spun on the spot and disappeared with a pop.


Fin.





A/N: Thank you to all my readers who've stuck with the story through the end, and a double thank you to my loyal reviewers! Your support means so much to me. You haven't heard the end of these characters from me, so keep an eye out on my author page for more. I've already begun posting the Cecilia/Reid story, "I Will Follow".



November 2010: Just a quick update to add, the Unsinkable series in chronological order:

"Fireworks" (actually a prequel of sorts)

"I Will Follow" (parallel to Unsinkable)

"Shift" (Professor Ampara's story)

"The Black Velvet Band" (summer after Unsinkable for Siobhan)

"What It's Worth" (seventh year sequel, novel-length)

"At The Hour" (directly follows 'What It's Worth')

"Over the Anvil" (the elopement! Short novella)

"All Things Life Must Be" (a series of one-shots)

"Cherry Blossoms" (a short story about Hattie).

You can find all of them on my author page. :) Hope you enjoy, and please review! I never leave a review unanswered, they really mean a lot to me.


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