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Over The Anvil by momotwins

Format: Novella
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 18,619
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Romance
Characters: Arthur, Molly, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Arthur/Molly

First Published: 05/02/2010
Last Chapter: 07/24/2010
Last Updated: 07/24/2010

Summary:


In the wake of the biggest tragedy of Molly Prewett's young life, everything changes with three little words.

Let's get married.

**Part of the Unsinkable Molly Prewett series* *Banner by kerobberos**


Chapter 1: Dark Clouds
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Cecilia Arcadia Fletcher
Beloved Daughter
born 8 August 1950
died 21 July 1968




They stood around the grave in silence. Most of the mourners had gone; there was only now the small knot of teenagers standing there. The funeral had been small, attended mostly by Cecilia's friends from school, and by friends of Cecilia's parents, whose bodies rested beside their only child. A few relatives had turned up: one of Cecilia's mother's aunts, and her father's reprehensible relation, Mundungus. There was no official word on who had killed the little family, but the whispers had rippled through wizarding society: Death Eaters, and the wizard whose name was beginning to be too feared to speak aloud...

Molly Prewett was sniffling into her handkerchief, her eyes red from the long days of crying after Cecilia's death. She stood next to her boyfriend, Arthur Weasley, whose long face was sombre, his arm wrapped comfortingly around Molly's shoulders. Hattie Habbershaw, Molly's best friend, stood on her other side, in a black hat and black robes, a pink handkerchief pressed to her nose, her eyes watery. Petula Cordingley stood opposite them on the other side of the fresh grave with her fiancé, Thomas Ockham. Thomas had not known Cecilia very well, but he had come to her funeral to support Petula, who was not holding up well, and stood swaying slightly as she cried. Dunstan Birtwhistle stood solemnly next to Petula, staring down at his hands, clasped together in front of him.

Reid Akins stood next to them, his face raw and lined as he stared at the grave where his girlfriend now rested, his eyes rimmed with red and his dark hair unwashed and unkempt. Molly didn't think he'd showered in days, not since Arthur had gone to him to tell him the news. Siobhan Fitzgibbon, who had been Cecilia's closest friend, stood alone at the foot of the grave, her rusty brown curls wild in the evening mist, her face expressionless. Her gaze was locked on the elegant carving that marked Cecilia's name on her headstone.

“I can't believe she's really gone,” Hattie said softly. “She was just at the pub with us last week, and now... It just... It doesn't feel real.”

Petula let out a little sob, and Thomas pulled her into his arms. Dunstan winced and patted her back a bit.

Molly looked at Cecilia's headstone, feeling as if the world had fallen apart in a few short days. She had felt so safe and happy last week, despite the growing unease in the wizarding community, and it was as if a bomb had blasted everything she knew to pieces. Cecilia had been so full of life; all her capacious energy now channelled into her new job at the Ministry, working for the Council of Magical Law with her father, and into her somewhat tempestuous relationship with Reid, whom she had started seeing at the end of sixth year. She had been boisterous and lively, laughing and flirting and happier than Molly had ever seen her. And now...

Siobhan had found them. She'd come over to get her best friend for a night out with the girls, and discovered Cecilia and her parents dead on the floor of their dining room, their dinner untouched and cold on the table. The house was a wreck, broken furniture and smashed glass everywhere. Mr. Fletcher would not have gone without a fight, a trait he'd passed on to his only child. The whispers said they had come for Cecilia's father, and killed his entire family.

Molly had come to drag Siobhan out of the house while Ministry officials examined the bodies. She'd been filled with a sick dread at the sight of the yawning green skull, its tongue a serpent, floating in the air above the house, and she'd stood frozen in the street outside the front steps for a while, too terrified to go in, tears pouring down her face and heart hammering in her chest with fear and horror. Siobhan had refused to leave, and Molly had been forced to get Arthur there to help. He'd carried Siobhan out of the house while she tried to punch him, screaming that she couldn't leave Cecilia, and all the while Molly had cried and apologized to her friend. It had been the worst night of Molly's life. She had tried not to see Cecilia's body, but a flash of familiar face, pale and still beautiful in death under her glossy dark hair, had seared itself into Molly's mind, and she now saw it every time she closed her eyes.

“They shouldn't have put her middle name on the headstone,” Siobhan said suddenly. “She hated it. She always hated it.”

“It's standard, I think,” Arthur said quietly. “Everyone in our family plot has their full name on their headstone.”

“She hated it,” Siobhan repeated, then lapsed into silence again.

“She did hate it,” Reid agreed in a thick voice, speaking for the first time since they'd arrived at the cemetery. He stared for a moment longer, then turned abruptly and stalked away.

Molly called after him, but he didn't turn around. Arthur gave her hand a squeeze, kissing her temple.

“I'd better go after Reid. I'm sure you girls want your privacy anyway.”

“Thank you, Arthur,” she murmured, looking up at him briefly as he walked away, slowly relinquishing her hand. Across from her, Thomas was whispering in Petula's ear. She nodded, not looking at him, and he followed Arthur, chasing after Reid. Dunstan followed them without a word.

The girls stood in silence around the grave, each lost to their own thoughts, for several minutes. Siobhan was the first to speak.

“It just... it isn't fair, you know?” She stared down at the headstone, shifting her weight back and forth as if she couldn't bear to be still.

Molly sniffed, but didn't say anything. Hattie's hand grasped her arm tightly, her eyes filled with tears. Petula stood alone now across the fresh grave from them, her arms wrapped around herself protectively, her face wet and eyes red.

“It isn't fair,” Siobhan said again. “And I know, life isn't fair. I know that. But it should have been fair for Cecilia.” She was still staring at Cecilia's name on the headstone as she spoke.

Petula gave another little sob, and Hattie's hand shook a little on Molly's arm. Molly watched her friend, feeling heartbroken and a little ill. It seemed so impossible that Cecilia was gone, that a single night could leave so much devastation in its wake.

“It should have been fair for Cecilia,” Hattie agreed, her voice unsteady.

“She should have had more time,” Siobhan said harshly. “She should have had a chance to be really happy. She should have... married that jackass, and had some babies, and gained some promotions at her job. She should have had time.” Suddenly Siobhan's face crumpled and she gave the dirt on Cecilia's grave a vicious kick, shouting, “She should have been happy!”

Hattie put her hands to her mouth, looking stricken, and Molly reached out to Siobhan, pulling her toward them at the same time that Petula stepped forward. They wrapped around Siobhan, the three of them, and held her as she cried desperately, and the outpouring of grief seemed to encompass all the feelings Siobhan had buried for years.

*

Molly flopped down on her bed, feeling drained. Arthur had accompanied her home to her parents' house and had kissed her good-bye at the door before going back to the Leaky Cauldron. Their parents were all on edge lately, after news of the Fletcher family's death had gotten around. Mr. Fletcher had been a highly-placed Ministry official, his family the first purebloods to be murdered by You-Know-Who's followers. Molly's mother hadn't wanted her out of her sight, had only let her go to the funeral because Arthur and Hattie would be there, and she seemed to seriously consider, for the first time, not sending Molly's little brothers back to school in September.

Molly stared at her ceiling, thinking about Cecilia, and poor Reid, who was drinking himself into a stupor with Arthur keeping watch by his side. He did not seem to know how to cope with Cecilia's death, and was trying to drown his sorrows in firewhisky. Arthur and Dunstan had sat with him for a while, their faces filled with pity as they watched soberly in the Leaky Cauldron, but Reid's continued silence and determined drinking had not shown signs of abating in the near future, so Arthur had brought Molly home and then returned to finish his vigil over Reid.

Siobhan had disappeared after breaking down at the graveside; Molly did not know where her friend had gone and could only hope she was safe. The tiny room that Siobhan occupied, rented from a little old witch who was Hattie's great-aunt on her mother's side, had been empty when Molly and Arthur stopped to check on her. Hattie's aunt had assured them she would Floo a message as soon as Siobhan surfaced, and they had left it at that, not knowing where to look for her. A cold knot of dread had lodged in Molly's stomach; Siobhan was Muggleborn, and wandering about alone these days when one didn't have a wizard family was very dangerous.

A knock at the door broke her from her reverie, and Molly's mother entered with Hattie behind her.

“Are you all right, dear?” Antonia Prewett asked in a quiet voice, searching her daughter's face.

“As well as I can be. Hello, Hattie.”

Antonia closed the door softly behind her after Hattie had sat down on the edge of Molly's bed.

Hattie stripped off her hat and gloves. She was always dressed to the nines, a proper lady, with clever little hats and beautiful travelling cloaks, but her face was sombre and drawn as she looked at her friend. She used the pink handkerchief still in her hand from the funeral to wipe her eyes.

“I went home, but it was so empty,” she said. “I couldn't bear to be alone after this morning.” Hattie lived in a tiny flat above the ice cream shop in Diagon Alley, working in Flourish and Blott's by day and spending her evenings with her friends and lunching with her new stepbrother. The good life, Hattie called it.

“You can stay here tonight,” Molly offered. “My mum won't mind. She doesn't think your flat is safe anyway.”

“Nowhere is, these days,” Hattie sighed. She kicked off her shoes and curled up at the foot of Molly's bed, tucking her feet underneath her. “How are you getting through this?”

“I keep seeing her face,” Molly said in a low voice. “That night... I tried not to look, but I couldn't help it... And now I see her when I close my eyes...”

Hattie shuddered. “I can't imagine how Siobhan must be feeling. To find them like that... It must have been awful.”

“Did she come home yet?”

“If she has, Aunt Adelaide hasn't seen her.”

“I hope she's all right,” Molly said fervently.

“I hope we all are,” said Hattie sadly.

Chapter 2: A Silver Lining
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The weeks passed without further incident, though the feeling of danger that hung over the wizarding community lingered. Siobhan had returned to her rented room three days after Cecilia's burial and refused to say where she'd been, but the whiff of stale whiskey about her said it had probably not been church. Molly was so grateful her friend was safe that she didn't even lecture her about her drinking.

There was still no word on the Fletcher family's killers, and the fear that clutched Molly's insides seemed to congeal, burning and freezing her at the same time. She did not like going out without Arthur at her side. She didn't feel safe without him. Apparently her mother felt the same, because the only time she did not hassle Molly about leaving the house was when Arthur accompanied her. He had quite a lot of free time these days to squire her about, as he was no longer working long hours at Mr. Fletcher's side.

After the death of Mr. Fletcher, Arthur's position at the Ministry had become quite difficult. No one wanted to have Asmund Fletcher's protégé in their department, fearing it would be too dangerous, and so he'd been shunted sideways into a minor office where people often wound up when they'd offended their superiors. The Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office was the only one in the Ministry currently willing to hire Arthur. He said he didn't mind, though Molly knew he was a little worried about it. With Mr. Fletcher, he'd been on the up and up, but now Molly had no idea where Arthur's career was headed. She thought he was probably safer that way, but hadn't wanted to voice that notion aloud. Arthur's moment in the limelight at the Ministry had been short-lived.

Mr. Fletcher's death hadn't only killed the careers of his favourite employees. The legislation he'd drafted to protect Muggles from wizard abuse had died with him. Molly's father had said it was probably what the Death Eaters had been aiming to accomplish.

They walked hand-in-hand down the street one Saturday, heading for Diagon Alley from the Muggle diner Arthur had taken her to for lunch. Molly couldn’t help looking suspiciously at everyone they passed; it was impossible to tell whom to trust any more. Arthur’s presence at her side, solid and steadfast, was comforting, and she hung on a little tighter to his arm.

Arthur glanced down at her as they hurried across the street, then his gaze went back to scanning the faces in the crowd. They were nearly at the Leaky Cauldron. Molly was silent, clinging to Arthur as they walked through the pub. The bar patrons, who had generally looked so cheerful before, looked wary and frightened now, as if they did not know how to interact with the other witches and wizards any more. Arthur led her through the pub and out the back, to the small back courtyard.

“I can’t stand it any more,” Molly said in a whisper as he tapped the brick to open the doorway into Diagon Alley. “It's so horrible. You can’t trust anyone. We could be killed at any moment.”

“I know.” Arthur looked sad, glancing over his shoulder at the pub door behind them. “It’s like a different world from what I remember as a kid.”

Molly was silent as they made their way down the street, past the wizarding shops. Diagon Alley wasn't busy and bustling with witches and wizards doing their shopping, as it normally was, and instead was quiet and subdued, with the few shoppers hurrying along in groups. The recent spates of deaths and rumours of Dark wizards lurking everywhere had put a pall on the hidden London street, and people exchanged furtive looks as they passed.

“Reid!” Arthur called out suddenly, and Molly looked up to see Reid Akins coming down the street toward them, alone and still looking rather unkempt. He had still not shaved since Cecilia's death, and the dark beard was thick on his narrow cheeks.

He looked up at Arthur's call, but his eyes didn't quite meet theirs. “Oh, hello Arthur,” he said dully.

“Are you all right, Reid?” Molly asked tentatively. He looked awful, his eyes red and puffy, as if he'd cried hard that day.

“I can't find Siobhan,” he said, and Molly and Arthur exchanged a bewildered look. Reid and Siobhan weren't really friends. They'd been friendly enough, as Cecilia's best friend and boyfriend, but without Cecilia they did not seem to speak to each other much.

“Were you looking for her?” Arthur asked cautiously, as if he thought Reid might have lost his mind altogether.

“I have to give her this,” Reid said, brandishing a piece of parchment at them without looking at the parchment or directly into either of their faces. “It came today, and I - I can't keep it, I have to – she has to take it, I can't look at it again, she has to-”

Arthur took the parchment out of his hand and Molly stood on tiptoe to see it. Her heart dropped as she read the short message on the paper.

Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test Results

Cecilia Arcadia Fletcher has received:

Ancient Runes:                                      O
Arithmancy:
                                          O
Astronomy:
                                           O
Charms:
                                                 O
Defence Against the Dark Arts:          O
Potions:
                                                   O
Transfiguration:
                                    O


“Oh, Cecilia,” Molly whispered, putting a hand to her lips. She would have been so happy – and so smug – about those N.E.W.T. results.

Arthur folded the parchment back up, gazing at Reid with sympathy. Reid's anguish was etched onto his face, and Molly looked away, trying not to cry. Naked emotion on Reid Akins was difficult to take in.

“We'll give it to Siobhan for you,” Arthur said quietly. “You don't have to look at it again.”

“I got eleven 'Outstanding's,” Reid said, as if he hadn't heard Arthur. “Eleven.”

Molly drew in her breath to compose herself, and gave him a watery smile. “Well done, Reid.”

“I'd better go,” Reid said, looking around. He seemed unable to bear meeting their eyes. “Better go. My dad's waiting, he said I needed to start work this week. Have to go. Meet him. Bye, Arthur. Bye, Molly.”

They let him pass without another word, and watched him disappear around a corner. Molly couldn't imagine Reid would be much use to anyone in his present condition, and thought Mr. Akins must be trying to jar his son back to life rather than actually expecting him to work.

She never would have guessed anything could have this much effect on Reid, who'd always been very cocky and sure of himself at school. Losing Cecilia seemed to have broken him in a way Molly had never thought possible.

Arthur sighed and looked down at the parchment in his hand. “I suppose we'd better hang on to this until we see Siobhan again.”

“Poor Reid,” Molly whispered, “getting that owl, why did they send it? Shouldn't they know she's...”

Arthur shook his head, still looking very sad. “Why did they send it to Reid in the first place?”

“I don't know. She did spend a lot of time at his flat.” Molly sighed. “Or maybe she wanted them to get their N.E.W.T.s together so she could gloat in case she beat him in something.”

“That sounds like something she would do. Would have done, that is,” Arthur corrected himself, and they were both silent for a moment. Molly searched her handbag for a handkerchief, sniffling and trying to hold back fresh tears, and Arthur pulled his out of his pocket and handed it to her.

“Let's go,” he said finally. “We can Apparate to your parents' house and owl Siobhan. See where she is.”

“We should have our N.E.W.T. results today too, I suppose,” she said, though receiving the final results of seven years' worth of her life suddenly did not seem as important as it had done only a few weeks ago. Seven 'Outstanding's hadn't done Cecilia any good, after all.

“I suppose,” Arthur said, not sounding particularly enthusiastic about it either. “I'm sure my mum has already opened mine.”

“Mine probably has too,” Molly said with a sigh.

“Poor Reid. I never thought I'd see him like this,” Arthur said then, and it seemed to be weighing heavily on his mind.

She nodded. “I know what you mean. It's as if he's become a whole different person.”

“I couldn't stand it, if...”

Arthur stopped abruptly, and Molly gave him a quizzical look. “If what?”

Arthur's brow was knitted, and she couldn't tell what he was thinking, but he looked very serious.

“Arthur?”

“If it were you,” he said in a low voice, full of intensity. “I don't know what I'd do. I can't stand to think of anything happening to you.”

Molly stepped closer to him and put her arms around his waist, feeling his arms encircle her tightly and breathing in his scent. She tried to picture what she would do if someone told her Arthur had been killed, and her mind shied away from the image. She could understand easily why Reid had broken down so completely.

“I can't either,” she said softly.

They stood there for a while in each other's arms, and Molly closed her eyes as she listened to his heart beating steadily, reassuringly, against her cheek. She felt him drop a kiss into her hair, and the rumble of his voice was so soothing that it was a moment before his next words registered with her.

“Let’s get married.”

“What?” Molly pulled back and gave him a look. “Now?”

“Yes, now. Let's elope. You said once you would marry me if I asked you.”

She stepped back out of his arms, unconsciously getting some distance. He looked very earnest. Very serious. Far too serious.

“Well, yes,” she said dryly, “but I thought there would be some time between the asking and the marrying. We’re only eighteen. It isn't the right time.”

“Marry me, Molly Prewett.” Arthur grabbed both her hands and held them tightly against his chest. “I love you, and I want you to be my wife. Let’s get married, please.”

Molly wanted to melt into his arms, but her practical streak overrode her romantic side. “Oh, Arthur… I love you too. But don’t you think we’re too young?”

“I’m old enough to know that I love you, and that I’ll always love you, and that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Arthur gave her a wicked smile then, and added, “And you’re older than me, so you should know all that too.”

Molly pulled one hand away long enough to give him a little slap on the shoulder. “Arthur Weasley!”

“Don’t you want to be Molly Weasley?” He gave her a winning smile and a quick kiss.

Molly Weasley… It sounded wonderful. She did want to be Arthur’s wife. She loved him, and she knew that wasn’t going to change. He was a good man, and he wanted to marry her. She'd been thinking about marrying him for nearly two years.

She didn't want him to change his mind. She wanted to say yes, knew she would say yes eventually, no matter what. And she didn't want to regret making him wait if...

“Our parents are going to kill us,” she said.

His eyes were eager as he asked quickly, “You’ll marry me then?”

She could feel the certainty settle over her like a warm blanket, wrapping her in the rightness of her decision. Suddenly she couldn't believe she'd hesitated. Of course she would marry him. She couldn't see anything else in her future but him. What was the point in waiting?

“Yes, I’ll marry you.”

Arthur let out a loud whoop and grabbed her tightly, spinning her around in a bear hug. Molly giggled and clung tightly to him, her arms around his neck. When he finally set her down, and kissed her thoroughly, he took her hand again and said excitedly, “Let’s go!”

“Wait,” Molly said, pulling him to a stop before he could take off. “Wait, Arthur, we need a plan. Where are we going?”

“Gretna Green,” he said immediately. “It’s where all the Muggles go to elope. Cosmo told me about it.”

He would want to take her to a Muggle town to elope. Oh well. She didn't have a better idea, and a Muggle town might actually be safer than a wizard town. Less people to look for them, certainly.

“Well then, we’ll need more Muggle money, won’t we?”

Arthur stopped tugging on her and looked down the street in the opposite direction. “Oh, yes. We’d better make a stop at Gringott’s.”

Molly was a little surprised to hear that Arthur had his own vault. She had rather thought he'd still be storing his money in a sock under the mattress, like her brothers did with their money. She climbed into the cart next to Arthur, reflecting fondly on how grown-up they both were. Getting married was such an adult thing to do, just like having one's own Gringott's vault. She sat up a little straighter in the cart, feeling very proud of both of them.

“I got it only last month,” Arthur told her proudly as they rode down toward his vault. “It used to be my grandfather's vault, but Dad's had to take over everything for Granddad these days, so he said I should go ahead and take it when I got my job. It's been a Weasley vault for ages.”

Molly had been to Gringott's with her parents before, and Arthur's vault wasn't as deep in the bank as the Prewett vault was, but it seemed to be roughly the same size. When the goblin opened the vault, however, she saw there was quite the difference inside: Arthur had only a rather small pile of coins. He hadn't had a job very long, and hadn't built up much savings. It gave her a strange, squirmy feeling in her stomach to see it.

Arthur seemed quite unabashed at the contents of his vault, and swept the lot into his money pouch without hesitating.

“But Arthur, that's all your savings,” Molly said, feeling a flutter of nervousness.

“It's only money, it's not important,” Arthur said, grinning at her. Apparently he could tell that this had not calmed her fears, so he added, “Don't worry about it, I've still got a job, remember? I can make more money.”

“If you're sure...”

“I've never been more sure in my life,” he said firmly, and Molly smiled at him.

They left the bank quickly after cleaning out his meagre savings and changing most of the Galleons and Sickles into the very strange-looking Muggle money. Molly dashed down the marble steps to the street with her hand in Arthur's. He quickly led the way to a corner that was commonly used for Apparition in and out of Diagon Alley.

“Well then, are you ready?” Arthur was grinning down at her, and she couldn't help smiling back.

“I'm ready.”

“Here we go,” he said, and turned over his shoulder with her wrapped tightly in his arms.

Chapter 3: Over The Anvil
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They reappeared in a narrow alley between two whitewashed old cottages. People were walking past down the street outside, and Molly had to cover her giggles. Apparating into a Muggle town was far more adventurous than anything she normally did, and it made her oddly giddy to do something so reckless.

“I suppose we're lucky no one saw that,” Arthur said, smiling at her giggles. She stepped into his arms and let him kiss her for a few minutes, there in the alley.

When they emerged onto the street, Arthur started telling her all about Gretna Green. She didn't have the heart to tell him that she wasn't interested. He liked Muggles very much and always seemed to hope she would as well if he talked about them enough.

“Muggles have been eloping to Gretna Green for hundreds of years,” he was saying excitedly. “The marriage laws are different in Scotland than they are in England, you know, so loads of people who couldn't legally marry in England have come here for a runaway marriage.”

“Arthur,” she interrupted him in a low voice when he paused for breath, “Don't say Muggles. Someone will hear you.”

“Right,” he said sheepishly. “Sorry.”

She looked around the village as they strolled down the street. It had an aura of romance about it that was almost magical. She felt as if reality had fallen away from them when they'd left London, leaving only the core of her being, only the desire to belong to Arthur, finally and completely. “Where do they do the weddings?”

“I don't know.” They stopped for a moment to have a better look. Molly wasn't sure what she was searching for exactly, and hoped she would know it when she saw it.

“There,” he said a moment later, pointing to a building at the end of the street.

It wasn't a church. It was much smaller than the Muggle cathedrals of London, a very old building with a lovely arched window next to the door with 'Marriage Room' inscribed in the glass. Written on the shutters were the words 'Old Blacksmith’s Buildings' and advertisements for books and antiquities. She didn't know what a blacksmith was, but Arthur did – he only stopped talking about horseshoes and iron when they reached the door.

There was a middle-aged woman sitting inside, and she hurried forward with a smile to shake Arthur's hand. Molly started feeling rather shy, as she always did in front of Muggles. Arthur was in his element, and before she knew it, everything was arranged and they had only to wait until the priest finished the wedding he was currently performing.

She stood clinging to him in front of the arched window while he perused a bookshelf eagerly, but she couldn't seem to focus on the titles.

The brief feeling of being so very grown-up that she'd had in the bank was fading, and she felt very young now, too young to be making this sort of monumental decision. She could feel her heartbeat speeding up, and her thoughts seemed to whirl around her in a jumble.

Did he really love her? Did he only want to marry her because of what had happened to Cecilia? What if later he realized he'd made a mistake? What if he would regret this tomorrow, would wish it had never happened?

“It's our turn,” Arthur whispered suddenly, breaking into her private panic attack, and started to step forward.

“Wait.” Molly grabbed his hand, her heart beating so fast she thought it might fly out of her chest.

“Are you all right, Molly?” He gazed down at her in concern.

“Would you still want to marry me if the world hadn’t become mad and dangerous?” she blurted out, and could feel tears rising. She tried to blink them away, looking down at her feet.

Arthur put a hand under her chin so her eyes met his. “I want to marry you, no matter what else happens, good or bad. If the world weren’t mad and dangerous, you might not have agreed to marry me now, but I was going to marry you sooner or later, Molly.”

Molly nodded, sniffing. “All right. Do you promise?”

“I promise. I’ve wanted to marry you for years,” he admitted. “I probably would have asked you when we were fifteen if you’d given me the time of day then.”

Molly let out a watery chuckle. “Silly.”

“Come on. I can’t go another minute without you as my wife.” He gave her hand a tug. “Let’s go change your surname.”

“Oh, Arthur…” Molly followed him into the blacksmith’s. She was still nervous, but Arthur looked so excited, and the realization finally settled in her mind that he didn’t have a single qualm about marrying her. She drew in a deep breath and felt the fear begin to leave her. If he could do this so bravely, she could too. She loved him, after all, and she knew in her heart that she was making the right decision.

The priest was a wiry fellow who reminded her a bit of their last Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. He arranged them around an oddly-shaped block of metal called an anvil – Molly assumed this was a quaint Muggle marriage custom, and it was only through a sharp kick to the ankle that she prevented Arthur from delaying the ceremony by asking dozens of questions that would make the Muggles suspicious – and they clasped hands over it. The priest began what sounded like a rehearsed speech about marriage. Molly wasn’t really listening, although Arthur seemed utterly fascinated by the whole thing, and was staring eagerly around the blacksmith’s shop, at its Muggle artefacts.

It wasn’t long before it was time for the vows, and though they were different than wizard vows, Molly felt as if the words were weighing on her soul as she waited for Arthur to agree.

He had stopped looking around and was now staring at her with a look she recognized from their many late-night snogging sessions, and it occurred to her that Arthur might have something else on his mind as a reason to get married. She thought she should probably feel afraid or worried about that, but she couldn't seem to spare any attention for anything but Arthur and their vows.

“I do,” he said softly.

Molly’s heart beat faster as the Muggle priest turned to her and repeated the vows that he’d read for Arthur. She could hardly hear them over the sound of her own heartbeat. Love and comfort… honour and keep… forsaking all others… It didn’t matter what was said, at that moment she would have agreed to anything to be Arthur’s wife.

“I do,” she said, and saw Arthur smile at her.

She smiled back at him, tears welling up again, and then heard the priest tell Arthur to kiss the bride. The bride… That was her. His bride. She stepped closer, forgetting the anvil was between them, and bumped into it. She smiled up at Arthur with a mixture of joy and embarrassment.

He let out a low chuckle and whispered as he leaned toward her, “I love you, Molly.”

“I love you too, Arthur.”

She had to stand on her tiptoes a bit, but the sweet little kiss over the anvil was quite possibly the best she’d ever had, her first kiss as Arthur's wife, and then the priest was congratulating them and asking if they planned to stay in Gretna Green for their wedding night.

Wedding night. This time Molly did feel afraid, and unprepared, which always made her feel more panicked. Why hadn’t she thought of the wedding night before? It had slipped her mind utterly when she agreed to the wedding.

Arthur gave her hand a squeeze, as if he knew what she was thinking, and he extricated them from the Muggles as quickly as he could after signing the marriage register. Once they were outside, he took one look at her face and led her to a quiet corner of the street, away from the windows of the blacksmith’s shops.

“It’s all right, Molly,” he said soothingly. “Don’t be frightened.”

“I’m not frightened,” she said swiftly, but her voice was higher-pitched than normal. She tried to take a deep breath, and managed to repeat in a lower tone, “I'm not.”

Arthur leaned in close and wrapped her in his arms. “It’s my first time too,” he whispered against her hair. “But we don’t even have to do anything tonight. Please don’t be afraid.”

Molly clung to him tightly. Her heart was racing again. “I’ll try,” she said in a small voice, feeling rather stupid.

“Let’s go have dinner,” he said, giving her a hug and then pulling back until he could see her face. “We won’t even worry about it for now, all right? We'll just go have a bite to eat, and then figure out what to do next.”

“Yes.” Molly allowed him to steer her toward a small inn down the street from the blacksmith’s shops, trying not to think about a wedding night.

As soon as she walked in the door of the inn, she forgot all about her fears and drew in a sudden breath. The inn was small but clean, built of old, whitewashed stone and bare wooden beams gone dark with age, and decorated with small vases of wildflowers. She fell in love with it instantly. It was just the sort of home she wanted to have someday.

“Oh, Arthur, let’s stay here tonight,” she said, gazing around at the lovely little paintings in thick, unpainted wooden frames on the walls.

Arthur gave her an odd look. “All right, Molly. Let me just see if they have a room.”

Molly walked slowly around the inn’s main room, examining the ancient wooden furniture and the delicate linens on the tables. There was another young couple in the corner, seated around a small round table, holding hands and making cow's eyes at each other. Arthur reappeared shortly, holding a handful of Muggle money.

“Right, we’re set, then. The money is so strange,” he said in a low voice. “I wonder how the Muggles can keep it all straight. So many little bits of paper and tiny coins, they really are cleverer than we wizards give them credit for…”

Molly turned to him. “Can we see the room?”

Arthur smiled. “Our room…” He took her hand and they walked up the stairs together.

Molly’s stomach contracted a little when he pushed open the door to the room they would share that night. She had been out with Arthur many times late into the night, even stayed out until dawn on several occasions, and they had often stretched out on a blanket together at picnics, so she felt a little silly being so nervous at the thought of sharing a bed with him. But they had never slept next to each other, and they had certainly never done… that.

She knew the mechanics of it, thanks to years of reading Fifi LaFolle novels and an extremely embarrassing chat with her mum after her mum had caught her reading one of those novels when she was thirteen. She had to admit that during some of her daydreams, those Fifi LaFolle scenes had replayed themselves in her mind with a different cast of characters. So all in all, though she could imagine herself and Arthur in that situation and it even seemed a good idea, somehow the reality of going to bed with him was making her terrified.

What if she didn't please him? What if he didn't please her? What if the books were all wrong and it wasn't any fun at all? She didn't think she would ever forgive Fifi LaFolle.

They stood in the doorway and stared at the bed in silence. Molly’s eyes traced the contours of the blanket and pillows, and she became aware that Arthur was glancing at her sidelong.

“All right, there, Molly?” he asked quietly.

She decided to put all these thoughts to the back of her mind for now. “Yes. Let’s go to dinner.”

They ate downstairs in the inn’s cosy little dining room, and Molly forgot about worrying over the wedding night as Arthur joked around and they laughed and kissed. Being married was lovely, she thought. Arthur had signed them into the inn as Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Weasley, and the innkeeper laughed when he brought Molly over to the desk after dinner to show her the guest ledger excitedly. Molly was grinning widely at seeing their names like that on an official paper, not just doodled in the margins of her notes at school. It was real this time.

They went for a walk in town after dinner, holding hands as they went into shops. It was obvious the town was accustomed to excited newlyweds, since nobody gave them much notice, just an indulgent smile now and then. Arthur introduced them whenever he could, and it gave Molly a shiver to hear him say, “This is my wife, Molly,” with a huge grin on his face. Her cheeks ached from smiling all evening.

He was determined to buy her a wedding gift, and Molly helped him count out the rest of the Muggle money from behind a row of shelves so the Muggles wouldn’t see them acting oddly. Maths weren’t one of Arthur’s strong suits, so Molly took command of the money. It was so different than the Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts she was used to, but she thought she had the hang of it; she had a N.E.W.T. in Arithmancy, after all, so what was a little Muggle money?

She picked out a silver filigree ring at the Muggle jewellery shop, and handed Arthur the money he would need to buy it. The shopkeeper, a round little middle-aged woman, was smiling at them, and said kindly, “Did you just get married?”

Molly blushed a little as Arthur nodded. “Just this afternoon, yes,” he said proudly.

The shopkeeper let out a little chuckle as she rang up their purchase, and said with a wink, “Enjoy yourselves tonight, dears.”

Molly kept her smile as they left the shop, but her stomach was twisting up again at being reminded of the wedding night. It was getting late, and Arthur was leading them back to the inn. He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, and she drew a deep breath to calm herself, letting it out slowly. She was a grown woman, a married woman now, and she told herself she was just being silly.

The innkeeper waved at them with a smile as they crossed the little lobby, and Arthur followed her up the stairs and into their room. The stairs seemed far longer than they had the first time, and yet she reached the top far too quickly, and a moment later she was opening their bedroom door, feeling the butterflies batting around in her stomach.

They stood in the middle of the room, looking at each other, for a moment, then Arthur gave a little cough and asked, “Do you want to wear your ring?”

“Oh.” Molly nodded. “Yes, please.” She sat down on the edge of the bed, still feeling nervous, and Arthur sat next to her as he unwrapped the little box and opened it for her, proffering the ring. Molly plucked it out of the box and examined it for a moment with a smile, then slid it onto her finger and held out her hand to admire the effect.

“I love it,” she said. “Thank you, Arthur.”

“You’re welcome.”

There was an awkward silence for a few moments, then Arthur coughed again and asked, staring at the small fireplace, “Shall I light a fire, then?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, it’s August,” Molly said.

“Oh. Right.” Arthur stared around the room again, and Molly realized he was nervous as well. He had said it was his first time, which she'd known anyway, and she wondered if he was worrying about the same things she was. Somehow that made her feel less afraid, and she leaned toward him and kissed him softly on the cheek.

Arthur turned to face her, and they kissed again, but he pulled away quickly.

“We really don’t have to do anything tonight, Molly,” he said earnestly. “We'll wait until you're ready. I don’t want you to be afraid.”

Molly didn’t say anything, but she scooted closer to him and kissed him full on the mouth. She kept kissing him until he got that little growl in the back of his throat that she loved, and then pulled back abruptly and said seriously, “We don’t have to do anything tonight if you don’t want to.”

He stared at her for a moment, then narrowed his eyes. “It’s not nice to poke fun at your husband, Molly Weasley.”

She giggled, and he grabbed her in a bear hug and pulled her backward onto the bed, so that she landed on the pillow with a bounce, still laughing.

“Are you sure you’re not afraid, Arthur?”

“Oh, I’m going to get you for that,” he said, trying to tickle her stomach while she batted his hands away.

Finally they stopped, both smiling still, and stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, with Arthur leaning over her, her hair spread out on the pillow. Molly reached up to remove his glasses, folding them and placing them on the bedside table without looking away from him. She curled her fingers into his hair, sliding her hand down to the back of his neck.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you too,” he said, and leaned down to capture her mouth in a kiss.





A/N: I took a small liberty with the timeline. In 1856, Scotland made a law to require three weeks' residency in Scotland before one could be married there, mainly to prevent the sort of goings-on that made Gretna Green so notorious. This wasn't lifted until 1977, eight years past this story. Sorry about that. Writing about Arthur fudging their way through that lessened the romance, so I decided to just ignore it.

And no, I'm not going to write a sex scene :P

Chapter 4: Back to Earth
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Molly woke early the next morning, and blinked groggily at the room, momentarily forgetting where she was or what had happened. Then the full memory of the previous day hit her, and she rolled over to find Arthur sprawled out on the bed next to her on his back, sound asleep still. She watched him sleep for a moment, then curled up closer to him, putting her cheek on his chest.

Arthur stirred in his sleep, gathering her closer, and mumbled something that sounded like her name. She lay next to him, looking at the wall, with his arm wrapped around her bare back, and thought about their little wedding yesterday, listening to his heart beating, slow and steady.

Suddenly a realization occurred to her, and she bolted upright in bed with a little squeak, clutching the blanket to her chest. Arthur blinked a little.

“What’s wrong?” he asked sleepily.

“We’re going to have to tell our parents what we did,” Molly said in horror.

He looked confused. “I’m not telling them anything that happened last night –”

“Not that.” Molly gathered the blanket around her quickly to cover up, sliding out of bed and leaving him with the sheet, although he didn’t seem to care about her seeing his nude torso, because he didn’t make any effort to pull the sheet up when she took the blanket. “I mean we got married!  We eloped!  My mum is going to kill me. My dad is going to kill you.” She scanned the room, trying to find where her bra had been thrown the previous night.

Arthur looked a little worried, but he didn’t get out of bed. “We don’t have to go home now though, do we? It’s early still.”

“We have to eventually,” she said. “Have you any idea what my mother's going to do when she realizes I never came home last night?” She found her underwear on the mantel above the fireplace, where they had apparently landed after Arthur had tossed them over his shoulder last night, and she snatched them down, trying to wriggle into them without dropping the blanket.

Arthur watched her struggling with the blanket and started to grin. “I saw you last night, you know. I don’t mind if you take the blanket off to get dressed.”

“Well, I mind,” she said crossly.

“But you’re so beautiful,” he said, and Molly turned to him with narrowed eyes to see if he was teasing her. He was looking at her a little hungrily, much like he had last night, and she realized that he truly did think she was beautiful. She smiled at him, her heart tugging.

“Oh, Arthur,” she said, and went over to the bed to collapse next to him. He wrapped her in his arms, and she sighed as she cuddled up against him. “What are we going to tell our parents?”

Arthur’s attention was clearly no longer on their parents. He was staring intently at her as he ran his hand down her arm and onto the blanket that was still wrapped around her. “We’ll think of something. We can go downstairs-” and he gave the blanket a little tug “-have some breakfast-” another tug “-and figure out how to tell them.”

Molly could feel the blanket peeling off her, but she didn’t bother to cover back up. He was right, after all; he’d already seen her last night. It seemed different in the daylight, though. She could feel her cheeks growing hot, and her insides seemed to have turned to liquid under Arthur's heated gaze.

“My wife,” he murmured as he leaned down to kiss her.

It was another hour before they managed to get down to breakfast, and Molly was starved. She ate quite a bit more than she usually did that morning, and Arthur just grinned at her appetite as he shovelled in the usual gigantic quantities. She couldn’t understand how he didn’t weigh twenty stone with the way he ate.

“You seem a little hungry this morning,” he said between bites.

“I took some exercise,” Molly said seriously, trying not to blush.

Arthur laughed.

“We have to tell them, you know,” she said then.

Arthur’s smile faded. “I know. I’m just… not ready to go yet.”

Molly nodded. She knew what he meant; she wasn’t quite ready to let go of their little excursion from reality either. Somehow being together here in this Muggle village felt safe, much safer than the wizarding world felt right now. Everything was rosy and picturesque, from the adorable little inn to the black-roofed blacksmith’s shop where they’d been married. There was no one to question their decision, no one to burst the happy little bubble they were in. She didn’t want to leave just yet either.

However, with the way things were going in the wizarding world – with Dark wizards becoming more powerful and dangerous, and especially after Cecilia's family had just been killed only a few weeks ago – if her parents noticed that she hadn't come home last night, they’d be calling out the Aurors to find her. Her mother was convinced Molly’s body would be found in a ditch somewhere if she didn’t check in with her parents every morning and night.

“Whose parents do you want to tell first?” Arthur asked.

“Yours,” Molly said immediately. “That way if my father does kill you, we’ll have already told your family.”

“Right.” Arthur was silent for a moment, examining his glass of orange juice minutely, as if it might contain the answers to the universe. “D’you think your dad is likely to actually kill me?” he asked finally in worried tones.

“I hope not.” Molly pushed the remains of her breakfast around on her plate. “He did once say he would kill you if you tried anything with me, and I think we can now safely say you have, in fact, tried something with me.”

“Tried, yes, but I rather thought I succeeded, too,” Arthur said. His ears turned pink, but he was grinning now.

Molly smiled at him. “I rather think you did.”

*



“Ready?” he asked.

“No.”

Arthur smiled and gathered her a bit closer in his arms. “Here we go.”

Molly squeezed her eyes shut and held tightly to him as the feeling of compression surrounded her. She could still feel Arthur’s arms around her, holding her close and keeping her safe, and the next moment they landed in the front yard of Cedrella and Septimus Weasley’s home.

Arthur released her, but grabbed her hand as she stepped away. He led the way up to the front door, and they paused on the threshold.

“Now or never,” he said nervously, smoothing his hair back.

Molly nodded and took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart.

The door opened just as Arthur reached for the knob, revealing a stocky young man with a shock of curly red hair who was quite familiar to Molly.

“Where,” said Bilius Weasley, “have you been? Mum’s going starkers.”

Molly’s eyes widened as Arthur's older brother surveyed them both. He frowned as he looked them up and down, and Molly was glad her left hand, with the silver ring on the all-important finger, was hidden in Arthur’s hand. Bilius seemed to know something was different about them, however.

“What have you done?”

“Go away, Bilius,” Arthur said irritably.

“We have to tell him too,” Molly pointed out.

“Not before we tell my mum, I'd never hear the end of it.”

“What’ve you done?” Bilius repeated as Arthur pushed past him. He followed them as they headed for the kitchen, where Cedrella Weasley was mixing something vigorously in a yellow bowl. She let out a loud gasp and dropped the bowl when she saw Arthur.

“Where have you been?” she demanded, ignoring the shattered remains of the bowl. “I was so worried about you!” She rushed at him and kissed his cheeks, murmuring, “Oh, my baby, my baby…”

“Mum, calm down,” Arthur said as she knocked his glasses askew.

Septimus Weasley was sitting at the kitchen table with the Daily Prophet open in front of him and blue smoke curling out of his pipe, creating smoke dragons that swirled lazily in the air above him, their wings flapping slowly as they floated upward and dissolved in the warmth of the kitchen.

“Afternoon, Arthur,” he said around the stem of the pipe. “Cedrella, get a hold of yourself.”

Mrs. Weasley ignored him, still holding Arthur’s face between her hands. “Your father was frantic with worry,” she said, despite evidence to the contrary.

“Afternoon, Miss Prewett,” Mr. Weasley said calmly to Molly, giving her a wink.

“Good afternoon, sir,” she said nervously.

“My dear girl, have you been missing as well?” Mrs. Weasley let go of Arthur abruptly and turned to Molly, putting her hands on Molly’s shoulders as she looked her up and down and Arthur straightened his glasses and smoothed his hair back into place. “Your parents must be just sick with worry.”

“I’m all right, Mrs. Weasley,” Molly said, though she felt a little uncertain about that assessment of her parents' likely state of mind. Arthur's mum probably had a point there, though livid with worry might be more accurate.

Arthur was rolling his eyes. “It was only one day, Mum. We weren’t missing.”

Mrs. Weasley stepped back and frowned at them. “'We'? Were you together this whole time?”

“It was only one day,” Arthur repeated.

Overnight?

Bilius was leaning against the doorframe, his arms crossed in front of him, looking relaxed and smiling smugly. He was clearly enjoying watching the scene unfold. “Punish him, Mum!” he chirped.

“Get a job, Bilius,” Arthur shot back at him over his shoulder.

Bilius made a rude hand gesture at his little brother, which their mother didn’t notice, her attention still focused on Arthur.

“Mum, Dad, we need to tell you something,” Arthur began.

Mrs. Weasley sat down abruptly, looking horrified. She put a hand to her heart. “What happened?”

Mr. Weasley was still holding the paper up in front of him, but he was looking at Arthur questioningly over the rims of his glasses, his eyebrows raised.

Arthur put an arm around Molly, pulling her close to his side. “Molly and I got married yesterday,” he announced proudly.

There was a ringing silence in the kitchen. No one seemed to have expected that. Even Bilius appeared surprised by the news.

Finally Mrs. Weasley said in astonishment, “You got married without your own mum there?”

“No one was there, it was just us,” Arthur said, a little irritably. “We eloped. You don’t invite your mum along when you elope, Mum.”

Mrs. Weasley rose to her feet gracefully and walked over to them. Molly shrank back a little, clinging to Arthur, her eyes wide. Though she knew Arthur's mum quite well, and knew Mrs. Weasley was fond of her, she wasn't entirely sure how Mrs. Weasley might react to her baby boy having run off and gotten married – without his mum there.

Mrs. Weasley stared at Molly inscrutably for a moment, then embraced her tightly, pulling her out of Arthur’s grasp. Molly’s breath came out in a small oof! as Arthur’s mum squeezed her tight.

“I always wanted daughters,” said Mrs. Weasley tearfully. She gave Molly a damp kiss on the cheek.

“Th-thank you,” Molly said weakly, hugging her back.

“Congratulations,” Bilius called from the doorway.

“I suppose I should have said 'good afternoon, Mrs. Weasley',” Mr. Weasley said, giving Molly another wink and shaking out his newspaper a bit as he turned the page.

Arthur beamed at his father and brother. “Thanks, Bilius,” he said happily.

“Eloped, eh?” Bilus said, grinning at his little brother. “Didn’t anyone want to see my flower trick at the wedding?”

“Not really,” Arthur said.

“Decidedly not,” said Mr. Weasley, not looking up from his newspaper.

“I thought I had forbidden you to do that again,” Mrs. Weasley said sternly. “You nearly caused a riot at your cousin Hector's wedding. I had owls about you for weeks.”

“What’s the flower trick?” Molly asked. Mrs. Weasley had one arm around her still, and Molly was actually quite glad of it. She wanted Arthur’s family to like her and was relieved this had gone as well as it had.

“It’s best not to ask,” Mrs. Weasley assured her, giving her another little hug.

Chapter 5: Tea, or Something Stronger
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They managed to extricate themselves half an hour later, with the quite valid excuse that they had to go tell Molly’s parents. Mrs. Weasley went into raptures that they’d told her first (she appeared to have forgotten that they’d also told her husband and son at the same time) and finally let them escape after making Molly promise to call her Mum.

“Good luck with Molly’s parents,” Bilius called to them, grinning evilly as they left the house.

Molly led the way this time, holding Arthur’s hand tightly and Apparating into her parents’ front yard.

They stood for a moment in the spot they’d just landed, looking at each other and taking a deep breath. Molly's parents were far more volatile than Arthur's, and there was a much greater chance of there being a lot of shouting when the Prewetts found out about their only daughter's runaway marriage.

Arthur was staring at her parents' house apprehensively. She could see his eyes looking wide and a little scared behind the glint of his glasses.

“It’ll be all right,” Molly said, though this was as much to reassure herself as it was her new husband.

“If your dad kills me, I want to be buried in the Weasley family plot,” Arthur said quickly. “And you make sure you’re buried next to me someday.”

Molly let out a slightly frightened giggle.

“There you are,” said a voice from above them. Molly looked up and saw her little brothers hovering over her head on brooms. Gideon had a Quaffle tucked under his arm and they were both grinning at her.

“Mum’s ready to call Magical Law Enforcement to go find your body in a ditch,” Fabian told his sister.

“We told her you’d probably just run off with Arthur or something, but that didn’t make her feel any better,” Gideon said cheerfully.

Molly’s eyes widened and Arthur paled. They looked at each other in shock. Gideon and Fabian looked at them, then at each other, and then back down at Molly and Arthur.

“You didn’t really elope, did you?” Fabian asked with a frown. Molly just stared back up at him with a stricken expression, unable to find her voice.

“You did!” Gideon crowed. “Oh this is wonderful! Mum’s going to kill you!”

“Thanks a lot, Gideon,” Arthur said dryly.

“This is brilliant,” Fabian said happily. “It’ll distract Mum from being upset that neither Gid nor I were made prefects this year. We got our Hogwarts letters yesterday,” he added. “We’ve been hiding them from Mum, but now we don’t have to, because she’ll be too busy burying your bodies in the backyard to yell at us.”

“Yeah, thanks Molly,” Gideon added. “Perfect timing as usual.”

“Oh, shut up,” Molly said crossly.

She grabbed Arthur’s hand again and headed for the house with a determined stride, dragging Arthur along behind her.

“I hope you can still cast that Shield Charm!” Fabian called after her.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Arthur said, sounding panicked.

“Well, we have to now, if we don’t tell them, those two idiots will,” she said, jabbing her thumb at her brothers as she opened the front door.

“Remember, the Weasley plot,” Arthur mumbled as she dragged him into the house.

For some reason, Molly almost expected her house to look different. It had been her home since she'd been born, but the sudden huge alteration to her life yesterday made the familiarity of the house seem almost strange. The hallway was the same as it ever was: a small pile of her father's novels stacked on a table, one of many signs of her mother's constant battle against his clutter. They seemed to have been waging a private war ever since Molly could remember, and the house was the main battleground. The house seemed quite suddenly to represent her parents. Their rather forceful personalities had been deeply impressed into it, so that she almost couldn't imagine a life in this house now she was married.

“Mum! Dad! I’m home!” Molly called. She poked her head into the drawing room just as the door to the parlour slammed open and her mother appeared.

Antonia Prewett let out a scream and ran to her daughter, pulling her into a tight embrace. “I was just owling the Auror department! No one knew where you were!”

“Law enforcement won’t go look for a missing person for at least forty-eight hours, Mum,” Molly said, giving her mother a little pat on the back.

Her mother ignored that. “I contacted all your friends, and Hattie said she’d seen you yesterday morning but no one had heard from you since then. I sent your father to Diagon Alley to look for you this morning.”

Molly rolled her eyes. Her father had probably sat at the pub and had a pint instead of looking for her, just to spite her mother. “Mum, I’m fine. It was only one day.”

“You could have been killed by You-Know-Who, anything could have happened.” Antonia hugged her eldest child tightly. “I thought I’d have to have the Aurors search the ditches in London for your body. Oh, Molly…”

She patted her mother on the back again. “Where’s Dad, Mum? I want to tell you both something.”

Antonia let out a gasp and held her out at arm’s length. “Did you get engaged?”

Molly glanced over her shoulder at Arthur, who had turned bright red. “Erm, not exactly… Where’s Dad?”

“He’s in his study.”

Antonia led the way down the hall to the study. Hippolytus Prewett sat in an overstuffed armchair of a rather horrible mustard colour, cleaning his wand. He glanced up at them without stopping his polishing.

“There you are,” he said when he caught sight of his daughter. “I told you her body wasn’t in a ditch somewhere,” he added to his wife.

“Well, she might have been,” Antonia snapped. “At least I was concerned about her.”

“I was concerned,” Hippolytus said calmly, still cleaning his wand. “I just wasn’t insane.”

Antonia drew in a deep breath to shout at her husband, but he cut her off by asking his daughter, “Where were you last night? Your bed hasn’t been slept in, so don’t try to say you were home.”

“I wasn’t going to,” Molly said haughtily.

“You’d better go on home, Arthur,” Antonia said, clearly intending to shuffle him out of the house before the family got into one of their little ‘discussions’. “It’s good to see you, of course, dear. Why don’t you come round on Sunday for tea?”

Arthur looked at Molly nervously, and she told him, “You stay right there, Arthur.”

“What is going on, young lady?” her mother demanded.

Arthur seemed as if he were ready to seek shelter, and her father was watching them both with one eyebrow raised quizzically, the polishing cloth poised in his hand. Antonia had a look on her face that indicated she might explode at any moment. Molly drew a deep breath and held her chin up high.

“Arthur and I got married yesterday.”

“WHAT?” Antonia bellowed. “You got MARRIED? How could you do this without talking to me? Molly!”

“Mum, we’re in love!” Molly said loudly. “We’re both of age, it was our decision, not yours!”

“But you’re only eighteen!” her mother wailed. “I thought you wanted to go to Italy with Hattie this fall! You’re too young to be married!”

“You and Dad were hardly older than we are now when you were married!” Molly’s voice was rising in volume with every word.

“That’s how I know it isn’t a good idea!” Antonia shouted.

Hippolytus had gone back to cleaning his wand unconcernedly, as if a shouting match over his daughter eloping erupted in his study every day. Arthur eyed the large and heavy-looking wand warily and hunched down a little, trying to be unobtrusive, as his new bride and her mother shouted at each other.

“And why did your brothers know about this when you didn’t see fit to tell us?”

“We didn’t tell them!” Molly yelled, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “We didn’t tell anyone! They were just trying to get me in trouble and it was a lucky guess!”

Antonia’s face was so red, Molly thought her mother might burst a blood vessel at any moment. “Did you tell Arthur’s family?”

“Not until just this afternoon!”

“You told them before you told your own mother?” Antonia shrieked.

Molly stomped her foot, the anger and frustration threatening to overwhelm her. “Because I knew you’d behave this way! Arthur’s family was happy about it!”

“What makes you think I’m not happy?” her mother roared.

“Antonia, take Molly to the kitchen and make a pot of tea,” Hippolytus said sternly, tossing the polishing cloth onto the table next to the ugly mustard armchair and tapping his wand against his knee. A few red sparks fell to the floor. “I want to have a little chat with Arthur.”

“No!” Molly stood protectively in front of Arthur, who was looking at her father with his eyes round with terror. “Don’t hurt him, Daddy, I love him!”

Her father scowled at her. “I’m not going to hurt him, don’t be melodramatic. Go have some tea, young lady, and calm down.”

“Come along, Molly,” Antonia sniffed, pulling her toward the door.

“Women,” she heard her father say as they headed down the hall for the kitchen. “They’re easily overwrought. Delicate constitutions, you know, the weaker sex. They can't help themselves.”

Antonia let out an angry gasp. “Don’t you fill his head with your misogynist ranting!” she yelled at her husband.

“Go drink your tea, Antonia!” Hippolytus shouted back.

Antonia harrumphed loudly and stomped into the kitchen with Molly in tow.

“What do you think Dad is saying to Arthur?” Molly asked worriedly.

“Probably that he should have asked permission before he even thought about marrying you,” her mother snapped.

Molly grabbed the kettle and filled it with water, setting it on the stove and waving her wand to light the burner while her mother sat in aggrieved silence.

“Would you care for a biscuit with your tea, Mum?” Molly asked with frosty politeness as she stared at the kettle resentfully.

“Oh, forget biscuits and tea, get the firewhisky from under the sink,” Antonia said.

Molly rolled her eyes as she went to the cabinet under the sink and pulled her mother’s hidden bottle of firewhisky out from behind the cleaning potions. Her father had never found this particular hiding place, probably because he would never have touched the cleaning products to look behind them, so Antonia Prewett’s bottle of expensive firewhisky was safe. Even the twins hadn’t found it, and had instead focused all their attentions on learning how to break into their father’s liquor cabinet in his study. Molly had known about her mother’s hidden bottle since she was ten, and it had always been her secret with her mother, although she’d never been allowed to taste any, even since she came of age. Her mother referred to the bottle as 'Mummy's little helper' when she'd had a bad day with the twins.

She supposed her mother was due a bad day with her as well. She hadn't caused many over the years.

Molly grabbed a glass from the cabinet and was just about to close it when her mother said, “Get two glasses.”

Molly looked at her in surprise. Her mother wasn’t looking at her, though; she sat with her chin on her hand, staring at the display of decorative spoons on the wall. Molly picked up a second glass and set them both down on the table in front of her mother with the bottle of firewhisky.

Antonia poured two generous glasses and slid one over to her daughter. Molly sipped in silence for a few moments, watching her mother, who was still staring at the spoons.

“Did you already have your wedding night?” her mother asked abruptly.

“Yes,” Molly said warily. “It’s too late to try to have the marriage annulled, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Antonia rolled the glass around between her palms, still staring at the spoons. “That's not what I was thinking. I... I should have been there to give you advice, about being a bride and a wife.”

“It's all right, Mum,” Molly said, thinking privately that that conversation sounded like it would have been a laugh.

Antonia finally looked over at her daughter, searching her face. “And are you happy?”

Molly smiled then. “Yes,” she said on a blissful sigh. “I love him so, Mum.”

“All right then, dear.” Antonia patted her hand. “Drink your firewhisky before your father sees it. Then we’ll pour ourselves some tea.” She downed her firewhisky in one go while Molly finished the rest of hers. Antonia snatched up the empty glasses, and hurried to put the bottle away. The kettle was whistling, and Antonia set a pair of teacups and a box of tea leaves on the table.

“I feel safe with him,” Molly said softly. “It's like everything is wonderful and happy again when we're together. I haven't felt safe since... since Cecilia died.”

Antonia stirred her tea, her face suddenly drawn. “Poor girl. She was so young.” She sighed, looking at her daughter. “So young.”

Molly nodded, her eyes on her mother. “I'm sorry I made you worry, Mum.”

“I was afraid your body would turn up, like the Fletchers,” said her mother in a quiet voice, and Molly felt her cheeks burning with guilt. “Anything could have happened to you.”

“We were in a Muggle village,” Molly said uncomfortably. Her mother had a point, but the little golden bubble of wedding happiness had kept them from seeing it. She was so accustomed to her mother being melodramatic that she hadn't stopped to consider that this time, her mother's fears might have been justified. “And Arthur knows how to duel. So do I.”

“I have confidence in your abilities, Molly, and I'm sure Arthur can take care of both of you, but these are dangerous times,” Antonia said.

The door to the study opened, and they both looked around to see Hippolytus shaking Arthur’s hand as he ushered him out, and then gave him a hearty slap on the back that sent Arthur staggering.

“Run along and have some tea with your wife now, my lad,” her father said cheerfully as he shut the door behind Arthur.

Arthur turned bemusedly to meet Molly’s eyes. Antonia rose to get another cup as he stumbled into the kitchen.

“What happened?” Molly asked worriedly.

“He just congratulated me for taking you on and wanted to know if I had a job, that’s all,” Arthur whispered back, sitting down next to her. “Then he talked about the new book he's reading and asked if I like Auror novels. I don’t think he’s angry.”

Antonia had apparently overheard this and let out a snort of laughter. “You are very brave to take on Molly,” she said with a grin, setting a cup in front of him and pouring some tea.

“Mum,” Molly said reprovingly, frowning at her.

“Well, she’s your problem now, not ours,” Antonia said brightly. “Good luck, Arthur.”

Mum!

Arthur smiled mischievously. “I’ll do my best, but it won’t be easy.”

Molly gave his shoulder a little shove. “Arthur!

“Congratulations, my dears,” Antonia said with a chuckle.

“Thanks, Mrs. Prewett,” Arthur said.

“Thanks Mum.” Molly quirked one eyebrow at her mother.

“So,” Antonia drawled as Arthur took a sip. “When do you think you’ll have children?”

Arthur choked on his tea.

Chapter 6: Burrowing In
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“Your N.E.W.T. results came yesterday,” Antonia Prewett remarked.

“Did you open them?” Molly asked, smiling. She already knew the answer. Her mother's nosiness knew no bounds, and exam results like those would be impossible to resist.

“Four Exceeds Expectations and one Outstanding,” her mother said promptly. “In Defence Against the Dark Arts. The parchment is on your father's desk.”

“Well done, Molly,” Arthur said, leaning over to kiss her temple.

She murmured her thanks, blushing a little at him for kissing her in front of her mother. She supposed he felt very bold now that they were married and everyone knew. Well, nearly everyone. They hadn't told their friends. Molly pictured Hattie's transports of delight and smiled at the thought. Hattie was quite the romantic.

“Did yours arrive yesterday as well, Arthur?” Antonia asked, turning her attention to her new son-in-law.

“I assume they did. I forgot to ask about them when we stopped by my parents' house this morning,” he admitted. “It completely slipped my mind that we ought to be expecting them.”

Molly let out a low chuckle at that, but kept her comments to herself, since her mother was sitting next to her, and it seemed unlikely she would find them at all droll.

Before Antonia could remark further on this subject, a loud bang sounded from upstairs, followed by the muffled sounds of someone dashing about and Gideon shrieking his brother's name.

Antonia heaved a sigh and rose from her chair. “I'm sure something is on fire right about now. Do excuse me while I kill your brothers.”

They watched her go in silence and listened as her footsteps thudded up the stairs. There was a brief pause, and then Molly could hear her mother shouting.

“Well,” said Arthur, staring up at the ceiling, “it was much quieter when we told my parents, surprisingly enough.”

“Yes, but we haven't heard from the rest of your family yet,” Molly pointed out.

“Oh, don't worry about that,” he said. “My mum will throw a little party.”

Molly rolled her eyes. Mrs. Weasley's idea of a small party normally included a guest list of over a hundred people. Arthur had seven uncles, and every time she visited the Weasleys there seemed to be a couple of new cousins Molly hadn't met before, and they all loved to tease her. She couldn't imagine what they'd do for a wedding party.

“I wonder how loud it will be when we tell all our friends,” she said.

“Yes, speaking of that, we ought to do so immediately. Your mum said she Flooed all your friends when she was looking for you. They're probably worried.”

Molly let out a little groan. “Oh dear. We better had. I'll have Hattie arrange a get-together for tonight, and we can tell the lot of them.”

Arthur sat on one of the pink toile chairs in the drawing room (the pink, which had begun in her parents' room, was now spreading throughout the rest of the house, as if her mother were testing how far her father would allow it to get before admitting that he was, in fact, not colour-blind) while Molly went to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of Floo powder. Once the flames were burning brightly green, she stuck her head in and announced the name of the bookstore Hattie worked at. Hattie was immediately visible when the flames stopped spinning.

“Molly!” Hattie dropped the small stack of books she'd been holding and bent down to the fireplace. “Where were you yesterday? I was so worried when your mum said she couldn't find you, I thought I might faint. I've been thinking about you all day, but I didn't know what to do.”

Molly's insides squirmed a bit at the reminder of the worry their absence had caused. “Everything's fine, Hattie. Can you get everyone to the Leaky Cauldron tonight? We'll all have a few drinks.”

“All right, but you'd better tell me tonight what's going on.” Hattie glanced over her shoulder. “I have to get back to work. I'll see you tonight. I'm glad you're all right, Molly.”

Molly sat back on her heels, pulling her head from the flames, which died down almost instantly. A bit of soot clung to her sleeves, and she brushed it off as she looked over at Arthur.

“Now what?”

“Lunch?” he said hopefully. “We haven't had a bite to eat since we left the inn this morning.”

She had forgotten entirely, but she might have know that he wouldn't forget about his food. Arthur did like to eat, and since she quite liked feeding him, she led the way to the kitchen to prepare a late lunch for the two of them.

They made their way with the small basket of food out to the orchard on the Prewetts' land, and Molly conjured up a blanket under an apple tree. Arthur sat down next to her and held up his hand, and she laced her fingers with his. They watched the bees flying around the wildflowers in the orchard in silence for a few moments, then Molly spoke.

“Where will we live?”

Arthur started as if she'd broken him out of a reverie. “What?”

“We didn't talk about any of this,” she mused as she began unpacking the food. “We both live at home still, where will we live?”

“I suppose we'd better start looking for a flat,” Arthur said thoughtfully. “We can stay at my parents' house for a while, they won't mind.”

“We'd better ask to be sure,” Molly said, though privately she was sure Mrs. Weasley would happily let them stay for years. “I'm sure we could stay with Hattie, too.”

Arthur bit into a sandwich and gestured a bit, smiling. She took this to indicate his approval of Hattie's generosity, and leaned over to kiss his cheek.

“I think we'd better stay with your parents, on the whole. Hattie's place is quite small.”

He nodded, his mouth finally clear of food. “We won't have much privacy there, though. Hattie would leave us alone more often than my mother would.”

Molly pursed her lips, and Arthur went on, “We'll just have to find a place of our own quickly, that's all. We'll go to my parents' house after lunch, I'm sure Mum's already got Constantine and Glynis over to tell them the news.”

After lunch, Molly went upstairs to pack a small valise, and Arthur chatted with the twins, who seemed to be taking their sister's sudden marriage in stride. Molly wondered if anything would affect the monstrous self-assurance of her brothers. Certainly not their mother's ranting: Antonia Prewett was slamming kitchen cupboards and muttering to herself about the state of her younger children's education and manners when Molly came back downstairs.

“Told Mum about your Hogwarts letters?” she asked.

Fabian rolled his eyes. “Is it obvious?”

“She'll be all right,” Gideon said, then winced at a particularly loud slam.

“I think she cracked the wood on that one,” Fabian said judiciously. “Time to flee the scene, I think.”

The twins dashed up to their room, and Molly poked her head into the kitchen to tell her mother good-bye. She was examining a crack in the wood panelling of the cupboard door. It wasn't the first time she'd cracked one in a fit of temper.

“Bye Mum, we're off to Arthur's house.”

Antonia turned. Her face was still rather flushed. “Are you staying there tonight?”

“Yes. I'll be back for the rest of my things later,” Molly said, stepping fully into the kitchen. It occurred to her that though she was now a married woman, she still owed her parents an explanation of her plans. “We'll probably stay with Arthur's parents until we get a place of our own.”

“I rather thought you would,” Antonia said, but she sighed and held out her arms. Molly went over and hugged her mother, who said in a voice muffled by Molly's curls, “I'll miss you, my dear little girl.”

“I'll miss you too, Mum.” She could feel her throat tightening. She hadn't thought it would be this hard to leave. “I'll be back. I'll come visit you every day.”

“You won't,” Antonia said, releasing her. She was smiling, though her eyes were rather damp. “You'll be busy with being a wife and setting up your own home. But you'd better come every other day.”

Molly smiled, and threw her arms around her mother again. “I do love you, Mum.”

“I know, my darling. Go now. I'll see you tomorrow, shall I?” Antonia shooed her out the door, and waved to Arthur out the kitchen door. “Come tomorrow for dinner, all right?”

He waved back. “Yes, Mrs. Prewett.”

Molly nodded. Her mother went back into the kitchen. Molly heard her muttering a repairing charm.

When they arrived at the Weasleys', Constantine and Glynis were in the living room with Arthur's father. Their young son, Basil, was on his grandfather's lap, tugging at his glasses.

Glynis rushed over to hug Molly, and Molly smiled happily as she held her sister-in-law close. She liked Glynis very much, and was quite pleased at the thought they were now related.

“Congratulations, Molly,” Glynis said, patting her on the back.

Constantine shook his younger brother's hand. “Well, we expected this to happen, but not so suddenly. Well done, Arthur.”

“Thanks,” he said, his ears turning red.

Mrs. Weasley bustled in with Bilius trailing behind her.

“Oh good, you're back,” she exclaimed when she saw them. “How did it go with your parents, Molly?”

Bilius slouched over to the couch and sat next to his father. Basil climbed onto his lap, and Bilius began making faces at him.

“It went...” She tried to think of a word to describe it, and settled for “...well. Mostly.”

“Mostly?” Mrs. Weasley echoed.

“There was some shouting,” Molly admitted.

“We ought to have your parents over for dinner. Perhaps tonight?”

“We've already got plans tonight, Mum,” Arthur said firmly. “Dinner with our friends, you know. We haven't told them the news yet.”

“Oh of course. Tomorrow, then.” Mrs. Weasley didn't wait for agreement before going on, “Arthur, you didn't even look at your N.E.W.T. results this morning. Don't you want to open them?”

“Failed all of it, did you?” Bilius said slyly. Arthur ignored him, but Mr. Weasley slapped him lightly on the back of the head.

Arthur gave his mother a placating smile. “I'll look at them in just a-”

Mrs. Weasley pulled a folded piece of parchment from her apron pocket.

“Oh,” Arthur finished, reaching for the paper. “I'll just look at them now, then.”

Molly leaned over his shoulder as he unfolded the exam results. He'd gotten Exceeds Expectations all around. She smiled proudly at him.

“Five E's,” he announced.

“Not bad,” Constantine said. “No 'Outstanding's, eh? I got six O's,” he added, directing this comment at Molly.

“Shut up, Constantine,” Arthur said easily. “It's better than Bilius did.”

“That wasn't my fault,” Bilius said, though there was no heat to his argument. It seemed they'd been over this topic before. “The exams weren't fair. The professors didn't like me. I was sick at the time.”

Arthur and Constantine rolled their eyes in unison. Molly and Glynis exchanged a look, and Molly had to hide her chuckles behind her hand.

Mrs. Weasley's lips were pressed tightly together as she regarded her middle son, but Mr. Weasley murmured congratulations to Arthur, who quickly changed the subject.

“We'll need a place to stay while we look for a place of our own,” he said with a hopeful glance at his father.

This drew Mrs. Weasley's attention immediately. “You'll stay here, of course,” she exclaimed, looking startled that they had even questioned it.

“Not for long,” Mr. Weasley said, to Molly's surprise.

Arthur looked rather nonplussed as well. “Dad?”

“I've had a word with your uncle Gaius today,” Mr. Weasley said. “As you know, his rheumatism has been getting quite painful lately, and so he's decided he can't manage living alone any longer. His wandwork isn't what it used to be, thanks to the rheumatism.”

“Poor Uncle Gaius,” Arthur murmured. “Where will he go?”

“He's moving in with your uncle Pompey-”

“That should be interesting,” Bilius said.

Mr. Weasley continued as if he hadn't heard his middle son's remark. “-and when I told him that you'd eloped with your Miss Prewett, he offered up his house to the both of you.”

Molly was stunned, and had to make an effort to close her mouth. She could not believe the Weasley family sometimes. They were so generous, even though they weren't by any means wealthy, and after she'd just run off with one of their own. Now they were offering them a house. She couldn't quite take it in.

Arthur's eyes were wide with excitement. “Really?”

“It's over in Ottery St. Catchpole,” Mr. Weasley said to Molly. “I know that's not terribly close to your parents, but you'd be fairly close to us, and of course you can come to visit here any time you like. Cedrella would love to have you for lunch, I'm sure.”

Mrs. Weasley was clasping her hands ecstatically at her breast. “We can invite Glynis as well! Oh, it'll be such fun, I have daughters now...”

Mr. Weasley ignored his wife, and gazed expectantly at his son over the rims of his glasses. “Well? What do you think?”

“A house?” Molly managed weakly.

“It's small,” Arthur said, turning to her. “And we'll have to clean it out.”

“It'll take quite a lot of cleaning,” Constantine remarked. “Uncle Gaius's wife passed away five years ago and it's been a mess since then.”

“He was always a right slob,” said Mr. Weasley tolerantly. “Well, what do you say? Shall we go take a look?”

“Of course,” Molly said, still feeling a bit overwhelmed.

*

There wasn't much to the house. It had begun, it seemed, as a small stone building, and a second floor had been added on later to accommodate Gaius's brood, for he'd had four sons, all now grown men. Molly examined the interior of the house, which was in a shocking state of disorganization. The kitchen was spacious enough for her, though. She'd been quite cheered when she saw the large oven. Arthur trailed along behind her as she walked from room to room, talking about his cousins and pointing out features of the house. She didn't say anything, just began a mental list of all that would have to be done to make the little house inhabitable again.

Eventually they made their way back outside. Mr. Weasley was sitting on a bench in the garden, puffing on his pipe. The purple smoke curled lazily out of the pipe without forming any of the usual dragons, triple-masted schooners, or centaurs. It did smell oddly of elderberries, though. Arthur went to the broom shed, poking at the lock with his wand, while Molly stood in front of the house, deep in thought.

She chewed on her thumbnail as her eyes catalogued the property. The house was hidden by tall hedges and the hills that enclosed the little valley, giving it a lovely feeling of privacy. A chicken coop stood at the edge of the yard, and an overgrown herb garden was at the back. She could see evidence of gnomes, their little burrows raised in the earth like mole tunnels. There was an orchard on the property, not as large as her parents', but it was obviously still well-kept enough to fruit. She could see plums and quinces on the branches even from where she stood.

Arthur came over to stand next to her, and put an arm around her shoulders. “It's small, but we can add on to it as we need to. And that shed will be handy, plenty of storage. We can make it just like that little cottage in Gretna Green,” he added, pulling her into a hug.

“We really are married,” she said faintly. It was all hitting her quite suddenly: the elopement, the house, the reality of her marriage. Standing there in the overgrown yard, contemplating the run-down little house, the abrupt changes in her life were all suddenly almost too much to absorb.

“We really are,” Arthur murmured.

She could hear the strains of a Celestina Warbeck song faintly on the air, coming from the wireless in the open window. She put her head down on Arthur's chest, and he began to sway gently, dropping a kiss into her hair. Molly let him guide her in the slow dance, and a feeling of contentment stole over her.

She was standing in the yard of her own home, dancing with her husband to her favourite singer. It had all happened so fast, but she was struck by a sudden certitude that they would be happy here, and happy together. She opened her eyes, her cheek still resting on Arthur's chest, and she could almost see the image of their children, little ginger-haired boys running about the yard.

“Tell him we'll take the house,” she said, and felt Arthur's arms squeeze her tightly.

By the time they returned to the Weasleys', it was nearly time to go to the pub to meet their friends. A few more Weasley relatives had turned up, as they often did, and offered their congratulations as Molly and Arthur came inside.

One of Arthur's cousins teased them a bit as they escaped upstairs to Arthur's room, where Molly had left her valise earlier. She washed the grime from Gaius's house off as best she could, made sure Arthur was tidied as well (he didn't seem to see dirt, much like her brothers), and fluffed her hair in the mirror over his dresser.

Arthur sat on his bed and watched this procedure, grinning as Molly searched her handbag for lipstick.

She gave him a look. “What?”

“You're in my room,” he pointed out. “The door is closed. We're all alone. And no one minds.”

She smiled. “Enjoying being married, are you?”

“To you? Of course.” He came over to stand behind her, wrapping her close in his arms. She smiled at his reflection in the mirror, and he added, “You look beautiful, Molly. But we're late. Hurry it up, will you?”

She laughed a bit and finished applying her lipstick quickly, examined her face critically one last time, and then agreed to set off for the Leaky Cauldron.

Mr. Weasley was walking past as they came back downstairs, a chess board in his hands.

“We're going out, Dad,” Arthur announced.

“Have fun. Don't leave without saying good-bye to your granddad,” Mr. Weasley said
over his shoulder as he disappeared into the study.

Molly let Arthur lead the way, holding his hand as they headed for the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley was sitting at the table with Glynis, deep in conversation, but she broke off when she saw them.

“Are you leaving already? You just got back!”

“We're supposed to meet our friends right now, Mum. Where's Granddad?”

Mrs. Weasley's brows contracted. “In the living room. Your grandfather has forgotten his ear trumpet,” she whispered angrily. “And he won't let me charm him to help his hearing. I don't know what to do with him, honestly...” She got to her feet then, and they followed her.

Arthur's very aged grandfather was ensconced in an armchair, his cane clutched in one hand, and gazing irritably at the wireless on the table nearby, where a news program was playing that he probably couldn't hear a word of.

“Does he know I got married?” Arthur asked, not bothering to lower his voice. His grandfather was almost entirely deaf.

“I don't think anyone's told him.” Mrs. Weasley tapped Arthur's grandfather on the shoulder and said loudly, “Arthur is here!”

Arthur's granddad looked up at them both with a scowl. Arthur waved and shouted “Hello!” to him, but Molly wasn't sure the little old man had understood. He didn't answer, only glared at them ill-temperedly.

“Arthur and Molly got married!” Mrs. Weasley shouted into her father-in-law's ear, gesturing to indicate the two of them.

“Whut?”

“ARTHUR! MARRIED!” Mrs. Weasley bellowed.

Arthur's granddad was still scowling at her. “Whut?”

“Oh for goodness' sake,” Mrs. Weasley said in exasperation. “Has anyone got a quill and some parchment?”

The elderly Mr. Weasley poked at her with his cane, growling in a raspy voice, “Speak up or leave me in peace, you daft woman.”

“Oh, nevermind,” Mrs. Weasley said, turning away from him.

Arthur grabbed Molly's hand and gave it a tug. “Come on, we're already late for meeting up with everyone.”

“Have fun!” Mrs. Weasley said brightly, giving Molly a quick hug and reaching up to pat Arthur's cheek. “We'll see you tonight. I'll have Bilius switch rooms so you and Arthur can have the bigger room.”

“What?” Bilius spluttered from his seat on the couch. He hadn't troubled to disguise his eavesdropping.

“Mum, you don't have to do that,” Arthur said, eyeing his brother warily.

“You're damn right,” said Bilius. “That's my bloody room.”

“Don't be so silly, you don't need all that space. You haven't got a wife. Or a job.” Mrs. Weasley didn't appear to notice the mutinous expression on Bilius's face.

“Well, bye Mrs. Weasley,” Molly said, the urge to flee the scene giving her a jittery feeling.

“Oh my dear, call me Mum, please. You're a Mrs. Weasley now too!”

Molly smiled and waved at them as Arthur led the way to the door.

“I don't know if I'll ever get used to that,” she said as they stepped out into the cool night air.

“My mother being a complete nutter, you mean?” Arthur grinned as they walked to the front gate.

Molly had to suppress a giggle. “No, I've already got used to that. I mean me being Mrs. Weasley.”

“Well, don't be too impressed with it, there's about five hundred Mrs. Weasleys, you know.”

Molly laughed as Arthur gathered her close and turned over his shoulder.

Chapter 7: Came the Dawn
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The Leaky Cauldron was doing a brisk business when Molly and Arthur arrived. A small crowd of witches were laughing uproariously by the bar, and people were bustling in and out toward Diagon Alley and into Muggle London. Molly had to stand on tiptoe to look for their friends.

“Over there,” said Arthur, who was tall enough to see over the crowd better, and led the way toward a large table in the corner. Hattie waved at them as they approached, and Molly was pleased to see she'd even managed to get Cosmo Graham there. Cosmo was a friend of Arthur's who would be starting his seventh year at Hogwarts that fall.

Reid seemed very alone at the far end of the table, looking pale but improved, Molly was pleased to see as they exchanged greetings with their friends. He had showered and shaved, finally, and his face was thinner than it had been, as if he hadn't been eating properly. He looked interested though, the old intelligence back in his face as he looked up at Arthur with fever-bright eyes.

“All right, everyone's here now,” Hattie said, though her face looked a little drawn. It was hard to say everyone was present without Cecilia.

“What's going on, Molly?” Petula asked.

She felt a blush creeping up her cheeks, and glanced at Arthur. He grinned and announced, “We got married yesterday.”

Hattie let out a deafening shriek.

Siobhan made a pained face, rubbing her ear. “Bloody damned hell, Hattie-”

“Language,” Hattie said, but she was grinning at Molly and Arthur, her hands clasped at her breast in ecstasy, reminding Molly strongly of her new mother-in-law. “I'm so happy for you! Oh, it's wonderful.”

The others were grinning, all looking very pleased and calling out congratulations, except Reid, who managed a ghost of a smile only.

“You promised me I could be your bridesmaid,” Petula said accusingly, though she was obviously trying to hide a smile.

Molly laughed. “I'm sorry, Petula.”

“Well, I suppose I can forgive you.” Petula stood and came around the table to give Molly a hug.

They were soon enveloped in a cloud of hugs and congratulations. Dunstan gave Arthur a thump on the back, and even Reid managed to shake his hand. Siobhan didn't hug anyone, but did hand Molly a glass of firewhiskey.

“Well done, Arthur,” Dunstan said heartily as he resumed his seat.

Petula elbowed him in the ribs, and Molly turned to her with a smile. “Where's Thomas?”

“Working late,” Petula said. She didn't look concerned. “What did your mum say when you told her? What did Arthur's mum say?”

“Well...” She didn't want to talk about her parents' reactions. “Mrs. Weasley was very happy.”

Petula and Hattie, who was listening, both gave her a knowing grin. They had both met her mother many times.

Petula leaned in and said in a low voice, smiling mischievously, “So if I wanted to ask you some questions about – erm, you know – would you tell me now?”

Molly could feel her cheeks flushing. “Petula!”

Petula laughed, though she was blushing a bit too.

“What are you two talking about?” Dunstan asked, giving them a suspicious look.

“Nothing,” they said in unison, waving him away.

They stayed at the corner table, comfortably chatting, for another hour before Cosmo announced he had to get home and headed for the fireplaces. The conversation derailed a bit after that, and Molly had a moment to look around the pub. It seemed brighter now, less dangerous, than when she'd been there only a few days before with Arthur, just before they'd eloped. She knew nothing had changed, that there was still danger for them, but it seemed infinitely easier to face now. It was probably silly to feel that way, but as she looked over at her new husband, she couldn't bring herself to be quite so afraid now.

Arthur leaned back in his chair and gave Reid a long once-over. “You're looking a bit better, mate. Well rid of that horrible beard, I think. How are you doing?”

Reid shrugged, but after a moment he confessed, “I can't sleep at night. It's too quiet. Cecilia... she always snored. I could hardly even sleep for the noise, and now I can't sleep without it.”

“Molly snores too,” Arthur said in commiseration.

“I do not,” said Molly, outraged.

“Yes, you do,” Hattie told her. Siobhan and Petula both nodded their agreement.

“You do, Molly,” Petula added in a murmur, looking slightly apologetic.

Molly crossed her arms below her chest and frowned at her former dorm-mates. “Oh, bugger off, the lot of you.”

Reid cracked a smile, then began to chuckle, and then to laugh heartily, shaking his head. It was the first time Molly had heard him laugh since Cecilia's death, and she couldn't help smiling at him, even though he was laughing at her expense. Arthur was grinning, and Hattie had a motherly smile as she watched Reid laughing. Petula and Dunstan were smiling too, but Siobhan stared at Reid with an inscrutable expression.

“Oh God,” Reid said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. “I really miss her snores. I must be going mad.”

“Molly's louder,” Siobhan said then, and Reid started laughing again.

“You poor bastard,” he said, clapping Arthur on the shoulder.

“Oh, shut up, Reid,” Molly said, but she was still smiling. She added tentatively, “You do look much better, especially since you shaved.” She wanted to encourage him in his recovery, but didn't want to hurt his feelings. He seemed to have cheered up a bit since Siobhan had made him laugh. His features, still drawn with exhaustion and pain, were relaxed now in a grin that almost held his old level of cockiness.

“I had to, didn't I?” he replied, eyeing her without rancour.

She wasn't sure what he meant. “Did you?”

Reid stuffed a chip in his mouth and said around it, “Hattie came over. Dragged me out of bed, threw away all my liquor, and told me to shower and shave or she'd hex me into next week. Practically force-fed me some beef stew. She frightened the life out of me, I tell you. The stew was good, though.”

Hattie looked embarrassed. “Oh, Reid,” she muttered reprovingly.

“It's true. You were so rude to me, for a moment I thought you might be Cecilia, coming back to haunt me for those bloody fireworks.”

“Language,” said Hattie, but she smiled.

Molly wasn't at all surprised that Hattie, the peacemaker in their circle of friends, had been the one to go give Reid the kick in the behind that he'd needed. Hattie was often overlooked in their group because she was so quiet and ladylike, but she hadn't been a Gryffindor for nothing. One of the reasons Molly had always found Reid tolerable, even at his most obnoxious, was that he had always seemed to really see and appreciate her best friend.

“I suppose someone had to do it,” Arthur remarked. He gave Hattie a fond glance.

Of course Arthur also understood Hattie. Molly turned what she knew was a lovesick glance at him and smiled.

Petula began what seemed to be a monologue about her own upcoming wedding, and before Molly knew it, she and Hattie had been pulled into the plans. Dunstan and Reid, looking distinctly bored, began talking about Reid's new job. Siobhan looked just as bored as they did, but before she could make a snide remark, Arthur leaned in and said something in a low voice that Molly couldn't make out.

Siobhan seemed rather startled, and rose from her seat, following Arthur to a quiet corner a few yards away. Molly watched them talking, though she couldn't hear a word of it. After a moment, Arthur pulled a folded-up piece of parchment from his pocket and handed it to Siobhan, who regarded it as if it might bite her, but after a moment she took it. She didn't open it, only held it loosely in one hand, and as Arthur put a sympathetic hand on Siobhan's shoulder, Molly realized what it was.

Cecilia's N.E.W.T.s.

“Oh dear,” she whispered, then excused herself to go join them. Petula didn't seem to notice, but Hattie gave her an understanding smile.

Molly could see Siobhan's face as she approached. Her friend's expression was even more closed-off than it normally was. Arthur was saying something, she couldn't make out the words, but his tone was earnest and soft. She hung back a bit, not sure if it was the right moment to join them, and moved instead to stand behind a wooden pillar, trying to gauge her moment to interrupt them.

But then she heard Siobhan's voice and forgot all about finding the right time to join their conversation.

“I'm going away.”

Molly peeked around the column until she could just see their faces. She supposed it was rude to eavesdrop, but she couldn't help it. She simply could not miss hearing this conversation, and she knew it would cease if they knew she was there, especially after Siobhan's next statement.

“Don't tell Molly and Hattie.”

Arthur looked a little pained. “I'm not very good at keeping secrets from Molly.”

“You'll only have to keep this one for a short while. I'll write them after I've gone.”

“Where will you go?” Arthur asked softly.

Siobhan pushed her unruly curls away from her cheek. “Somewhere far. Egypt, maybe. India. I can't stand to stay here any longer.”

“Because of Cecilia?”

“I'll come back, someday, to visit her,” Siobhan said in a faraway voice, staring down at the tightly folded parchment that was the last record of Cecilia's life. “But I need to leave. My grandmother always said I had a wandering spirit. I only stayed because of Cecilia.”

Arthur made a sympathetic murmur.

“I thought she and Reid would be the first to run off together,” Siobhan said. “I reckoned you and Molly for a big church wedding and Cecilia for the elopement.”

“He was going to ask her,” Arthur said quietly. “The day she... He says he was going to ask her that day to run off with him, but she was going out with the girls, so he put it off...”

Siobhan smiled. “She would have said yes. You can tell him that. She probably would have smothered him in his sleep one day, or poisoned his afternoon tea, but she would have said yes.”

Arthur chuckled. “You should tell him. You were her best friend.”

“I don't talk to Reid, really,” said Siobhan, looking a little uncomfortable. “You're his friend, you'll have plenty of chances to tell him.”

“You never cared for Reid much, did you,” Arthur remarked, with what seemed rather surprising insight to Molly. She hadn't realized he could read Siobhan so well.

“I like him well enough, I suppose, even though he's a bit of a jackass. I just wasn't sure he was right for Cecilia,” Siobhan admitted. “Don't tell him I said that.”

“I won't.”

“He did make her happy,” Siobhan mused. “She was happy with him, tell him that too.”

“I still think it would be better coming from you.”

Siobhan shook her head. “I... Arthur, you tell him. You're his friend.”

“All right,” Arthur said gently. Molly smiled at him fondly. He must know how difficult it was for Siobhan to have lost Cecilia, and sense that speaking to Reid was more than she could bear. She was far too private to let him see the full extent of her grief.

Arthur looked up then, and his eyes met Molly's. She ducked back behind the pillar, out of sight again, and listened to him sending Siobhan back to their friends.

“Petula better not be talking about her bloody wedding any more,” Siobhan muttered as she walked away.

Arthur waited a moment, then rounded the column.

“Eavesdropping?” he said mildly.

“I couldn't help it,” Molly admitted.

He just shook his head, smiling. “I won't tell if you won't.”

She smiled at him, enjoying the feeling of the two of them against the world, even if the world was only one of their friends at that moment.

“We should go back,” Arthur said, and glanced around the pillar. “I don't think they can see us from this angle.”

She looked up at him in time to catch his kiss. It was a few minutes before she recalled where they were, and that undoubtedly the rest of the pub could see them.

When they'd rejoined their friends, Hattie gave her a teasing smile, and Molly tried not to blush. She was a married woman now, after all, and if she wanted to kiss her husband in the middle of the Leaky Cauldron, she felt she was quite entitled to do so. Her cheeks still felt a bit hot, however, despite her attempts at being blasé.

She sat down next to Siobhan, not sure whether she should let on that she knew what was going on. But Siobhan only smiled at her somewhat wistfully, rolling her glass of firewhiskey between her palms, and there was such fresh pain in her eyes that Molly decided not to push her.

“How are you, dear?” she asked gently instead.

“Fine, I suppose,” Siobhan said with a shrug, taking a drink of her firewhiskey.

No one seemed to be listening to them; Petula had now begun haranguing Dunstan about proposing to his girlfriend, Gemma Folwell. He looked as if he were ready to bolt. Reid and Arthur seemed to find this quite funny and had joined in teasing their friend.

“Cecilia would have been really happy,” Siobhan said then, and Molly didn't question the apparent non-sequitur. Cecilia had been much on her mind tonight as well.

Molly wasn't sure whether to tear up or smile, and compromised by doing both. “D'you think so?”

“She always liked Arthur. She thought you two were sweet together.” Siobhan looked over at Arthur. “She'd be annoyed that she missed it by only a month.”

Molly nodded, sniffling a little.

Siobhan turned back to her with a wicked grin. “She'd want to ask how your wedding night was. So I'll ask for her. How was it?”

Molly let out a watery chuckle. “Cecilia wouldn't ask that, you would. I'm not going to tell you anything. That's private.”

Siobhan was still grinning, not looking at all surprised by Molly's refusal to share details. “Well, since you always said he was a good kisser, I reckon he'll be a quick study at other things as well.”

“Not everyone can have as much experience as you, dear.”

Siobhan threw her head back and laughed. It felt good to be laughing again, and to look around and see her friends smiling and laughing. Molly smiled fondly at the little gathering, and wished Cecilia was there too.

*

It was going on one in the morning by the time they all left the pub. Siobhan had drank far more whiskey than Molly thought was good for her, but it had seemed to cheer her up, and when she set off down Diagon Alley with Hattie, she was singing something about Galway Bay. It always rather surprised Molly that Siobhan's singing voice was so very sweet when her speaking voice was nearly always saying a swearword.

Dunstan had left with Petula on the Knight Bus, promising to see her home to Yorkshire before he returned to his parents' house. Arthur had decided Reid ought not go home alone, and so he and Molly deposited their friend in his flat, where Molly was fairly certain he would pass out on the sofa. He was snoring already when they left.

“Just think,” Molly said as they walked hand-in-hand down the stairs to the street, “We're at the end of an evening out, and you don't have to see me back home.”

Arthur stopped in his tracks, and Molly backed up a step so she could see him better.

“You're right,” he said, sounding rather amazed. “I never have to see you home to your parents again. We'll go home together.”

“Only to your parents' house tonight,” she amended. “We won't be entirely alone.”

“We will in every way that counts,” he said firmly. “I don't ever have to spend another night without you again. I get to take you home to bed with me.”

She could feel the blush creeping up her cheeks, but no one was around to hear them, and he was, after all, her husband now, so she said, “Take me to bed, Arthur.”

He looked as if he wanted to dance with glee, but he dashed down the stairs and out the door to the street, then pulled her into his arms. “Are you ready?” he asked, and she could feel his body tensing to Apparate.

Molly wrapped her arms around his neck, holding tight. “Let's go home.”





A/N: The end! Ah, it's nice to finally have this posted and complete. I hope you enjoyed it, and thank you for reading - and hopefully for reviewing as well!

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