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Chapter 16 : I Say A Little Prayer
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Oh, how I'll love you
Together, together, that's how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me
Arthur left Apparition lessons in high spirits. Contrary to Petula’s loudly expressed beliefs, neither Roddy nor Cecilia had Apparated that afternoon. Reid had been the first Gryffindor to Apparate, and Arthur was quite proud of his friend and pleased with the day’s lesson, and not just because Reid’s Apparition had won him five Sickles from Cosmo and Dunstan.
The schedule had been interesting. Molly had drawn up a very detailed homework schedule for him, with his every hour blocked out. He’d wanted to laugh at her and hug her at the same time when she’d presented it to him, telling him briskly that he would get more done if he was better organized. It was very sweet of her to try to take care of him. To him, the schedule showed Molly cared for him, even though it was in a typically bossy and headstrong Molly Prewett sort of way.
His friends had, of course, not seen it that way. He’d tried to keep it from them at first, but Dunstan had seen Molly handing him something at breakfast and wanted to know what it was as soon as the girls had left for their homework session. The uproar of mirth that resulted as they passed around the schedule was extremely annoying.
“Hey, who’s getting snogged every day here, eh?” Arthur said crossly, snatching the schedule out of Reid’s hand as Reid brushed a tear of laughter off his cheek. “Not you lot. And it does help to see all the assignments laid out like that. I know I won’t forget anything. Not to sound like Reid or anything, but you know what else this means,” and he tapped the schedule as he sat back in satisfaction. “She loves me.”
Dunstan was grinning still. “Well, you might have a point about the snogging, mate, but come on. She made you a schedule?”
“You think that shows she loves you?” Reid asked, pulling a sceptical face.
“Yes. And I’m going to tell her I love her at the concert.” Arthur waited for his friends to be impressed by his emotional daring.
“I suppose if you have to go to a Celestina Warbeck concert, you may as well get some really good snogging for it,” Reid said, and Dunstan nodded agreement.
Arthur scowled at them. “I’m not telling her because I want her to snog me, I’m telling her because I do love her.”
“Are you going to buy her some lingerie, then?” Dunstan asked.
“I don’t know why I talk to either of you,” Arthur said.
He managed to talk Molly into agreeing to go out after their homework was done in the evenings, but the resumed nightly assignations he’d been hoping for did not quite work out: most nights their homework was taking so long that by the time they’d finished it, they were both too worn out or too stressed to go out together. They’d only been out once last week, and now as the concert approached he wasn’t sure any longer that he’d be able to convince her to go. They really needed to leave by half past seven, maybe a quarter to eight, and that was so early…. The letter with the tickets said the doors would not reopen once the concert started, so he wanted to be sure they didn’t miss it.
His nerves were jumping on the day of the concert, and he didn’t think he heard a word of his classes that day. He spent all of History of Magic rehearsing what he was going to say to Molly to convince her to go out early in the evening, before she’d finished her homework.
He rushed upstairs after dinner to change out of his school robes and had to tear apart his entire school trunk looking for the tickets before remembering that he’d left them in his bookbag. By the time he got downstairs, Molly was firmly ensconced with a pile of textbooks in one of the overstuffed chairs in front of the fireplace, wearing a set of blue robes with a sort of strange flounce at the bottom hem and flared sleeves that she had undoubtedly knitted herself. Arthur wondered about girls and fashion sometimes.
Cecilia, Siobhan, and Hattie were all sitting around the fireplace as well, and Siobhan looked up at him expectantly as he approached them and began his practised invitation to Molly to go out with him that evening. Hattie was sneaking glances up at them while she pretended to read her Herbology textbook, and Cecilia abandoned all pretence and snapped her book closed as he began speaking, watching him steadily. It was a little disconcerting to have all four girls watching him closely as he spoke, even though he knew Molly’s friends were on his side for the night.
“I am not going anywhere until my homework is done,” Molly said firmly, interrupting him in the middle of his carefully rehearsed speech. “You know we said we wouldn’t go out any more until afterward.”
“But, Molly,” he began.
“Arthur, there’s only one more day before the weekend, we can just wait until tomorrow night.” She was giving him an exasperated look, as if she could not believe he was disagreeing with her.
“Molly, it can’t wait until tomorrow. Please, just come with me.”
“I can’t, I have to get this essay done.”
Arthur glanced helplessly over at Molly’s friends. This wasn’t going according to plan. That didn’t bode at all well for the evening. Fortunately the other Gryffindor girls were there to throw in their weight.
“Don’t worry, Molly, we’ll help you with your essay later,” Cecilia said soothingly. “Go on and enjoy yourself.”
Hattie gave her an encouraging nod. “Run along, don’t worry.”
Molly gave them a look that was both hopeful and uncertain, and Arthur knew he had her then. He glanced at her friends, sitting around the fire, and felt a burst of affection for the girls. They had done so much to help him in his burgeoning relationship with Molly, and he knew they did it with her happiness in mind, and felt quite grateful to them. They were such nice girls. If he’d had any money left after the concert, and if Reid hadn’t ruined flowers for all the girls who’d been at Hogwarts last year, he’d have sent them all flowers.
“Please, Molly,” he said again, taking her hand and giving it a little tug.
“Are you sure?” she asked, but it was directed at her friends.
“Go on,” Hattie said, smiling.
Siobhan shooed them away with a wave of her hand. “Loosen up, Molly. Go have a little fun.”
Molly allowed herself to be pulled to her feet, and as they walked toward the portrait hole, Arthur shot a wide grin back at the girls, who were all watching them leave with devilish little smiles on their faces.
Molly followed him to the fourth floor mirror that covered the passageway into Hogsmeade that he’d used to buy her birthday gift, and she gave him a strange look as they ducked behind the mirror.
“What is this, a shortcut?” she asked in a low voice.
“Something like that.”
He lit his wand tip, and Molly followed suit, as they entered the dark passageway. He could see her face in the dim light as she glanced warily at the walls. She stopped quite suddenly in her tracks after a few moments, bringing him to a halt too as her hand was clasped tightly in his.
“This is one of the secret passages into Hogsmeade, isn’t it?” she demanded.
“Molly, come on, we can’t be late.” He tugged on her hand to try to get her moving again.
“Late for what? Where are we going?” She pulled her hand out of his to cross her arms in front of her chest. “I’m not going another step until you tell me what’s going on, Arthur Weasley.”
“It’s a surprise, Molly, but please, come on.” He held out one hand to her entreatingly. “Please,” he repeated when she didn’t take his hand, feeling frustrated. He didn’t want to rush her, but he knew she’d be upset if they were late to the concert. Once she found out about it.
Molly frowned at him for a moment, then let out a loud sigh and took his hand.
“Oh, this is so silly,” she grumbled as they walked down the passageway. “We’re going to be caught and expelled. We should go back now before someone sees us.”
“We’re not going to be expelled,” Arthur said in exasperation. “Nobody’s going to see us, either. You won’t want to miss this, I promise.”
Molly looked doubtful by the dim wandlight. “I should be doing homework. I’m going to be up all night trying to write that essay.”
“Cecilia and Siobhan are doing your homework tonight. Probably Hattie too.”
“Not Petula, I hope,” Molly said, then clapped her hands over her mouth, looking horrified and embarrassed, as Arthur gave a shout of laughter. “I didn’t just say that, did I? That was so uncharitable.”
Arthur was grinning widely. “You did say it, but it’s all right, I know what you mean.”
“I’m a terrible friend. It just slipped out. Don’t tell her I said that,” Molly said pleadingly.
“I won’t tell, Molly. Come on, we’re almost there.”
Molly followed him in silence for a moment. The stairs at the end of the tunnel finally appeared, and Arthur climbed up to check that the coast was clear.
“Come on,” he called softly to her.
She looked at him doubtfully again, but she climbed up behind him and they slipped out into the station and headed for the village. There were crowds of witches and wizards heading into the village from all directions, and Arthur and Molly were able to blend in quite easily as they entered the village and headed for the concert hall. Arthur hadn’t been entirely certain where it was, but the movement of the crowd was flowing directly toward it, and he was a bit relieved to see the large marquee proclaiming Celestina’s name and the queue outside the door. They’d made it on time after all.
“What is going on? I’ve never seen Hogsmeade so crowded.” Molly saw the name on the marquee then and clutched at Arthur’s arm with a loud gasp. “Celestina Warbeck is here!”
Arthur grinned. “That’s the surprise, Molly.” He pulled the heavy parchment tickets out of his pocket and showed them to her with a flourish.
Molly let out a high-pitched shriek and snatched the tickets out of his hand, bouncing up and down with excitement. “You got tickets to see Celestina!”
“Happy Christmas,” he said with a chuckle. “I told you you wouldn’t want to miss this.”
Molly flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and lifting her feet off the ground. Arthur had to grab her waist and take a few steps back to keep them both from falling over.
“Oh, Arthur!” she cried, kissing him firmly on the lips. “You are the best!”
Arthur hugged her close and grinned widely. This was even better than he’d pictured it. She was practically vibrating with excitement as he set her down and they queued up to get into the concert, and continued to bounce as they waited. She had the tickets clutched tightly in one hand and Arthur’s hand in the other.
“How does my hair look?” Molly asked suddenly, as if realizing that she might not have dressed appropriately. “And my robes? Oh, I wish I’d known, I would have worn something else.”
“You look beautiful, Molly. I wanted it to be a surprise,” Arthur said, feeling a little uncertain about that decision now.
Molly patted her hair a bit and smiled at him. “Of course you did. It’s a wonderful surprise, really. I’m just being silly.”
Arthur was reassured, and leaned down to kiss her. She turned to him at the last second and he ended up kissing her lips instead of the cheek he’d been aiming for. It was a nice little surprise, and he looked up to see an older witch nearby smiling indulgently at them.
He looked around and realized the concert-goers were mostly witches. The wizards there were glancing at each other sheepishly and Arthur realized they were all there only for their girlfriends and wives. There were a few who seemed genuinely excited to see Celestina, but most had an excited-looking witch on their arm and a slightly embarrassed expression at being seen outside a Celestina Warbeck concert.
Arthur had just turned to glance over the back of the line when he recognized a face not far from them and ducked down quickly, wide-eyed with shock. Molly looked down at him, startled.
“What’s the matter?” she asked warily.
“It’s Professor Dumbledore!” he said in a hoarse whisper.
Molly immediately ducked too. “You’re joking,” she said in horror. The witches and wizards in the queue around them were giving them strange looks as they huddled together, crouched down so they were hidden by the crowd.
Arthur shook his head. “I wish I was.”
“Oh, we’ll be in so much trouble,” Molly moaned. “We can’t be caught. We just can’t.”
“All right.” Arthur said nervously, his heart racing. “Right.” The line was moving now and they crept along with it, still crouched down. He said in a low voice, “Let’s just get inside and then we can find somewhere to hide until they turn out the lights. Then nobody will see much in the audience and we should be safe.”
Molly looked frightened still. “All right, Arthur.”
They got past the witch taking people’s tickets as quickly as they could, and she gave them a strange look at their still-hunched posture as she handed them their ticket stubs. Arthur ducked into the back of the auditorium with Molly in tow, and they managed to find a corner that was partially obscured by the red velvet curtains that lined the hall. There wasn’t much space behind the curtain, but he didn’t particularly mind being crushed up against Molly. He checked their tickets again for the seats, scanning the hall. It appeared they would be dead centre in the auditorium, he realised with dread.
Molly was peeking out from behind the curtain, and suddenly let out a small squeak and turned into Arthur’s arms, hiding her face in his chest. Arthur peered briefly around the curtain and caught a glimpse of the headmaster’s long, grey hair before hiding again, wrapping his arms tightly around Molly and ducking his head.
“This is a bad idea, oh we’ll be in so much trouble,” Molly mumbled.
“Do you want to leave? We could sneak out the back,” Arthur offered.
“No,” she said immediately. “I want to see Celestina. When the lights go out we can find our seats. Where’s Professor Dumbledore sitting, can you see?”
Arthur let go of her somewhat reluctantly and peeked out from behind the curtain again. He could see Dumbledore removing his tall, pointed wizard’s hat in the front row.
“He’s right in the front,” Arthur said softly. “We’ll be a ways behind him, I don’t think he’ll see us.”
“Unless he turns around, he’ll get a good look at our faces then,” Molly groaned. “Do you think it will be dark enough to cover us?”
“I hope so.” Arthur ducked back into their small hiding place as Dumbledore turned in his seat to glance around the hall.
They stayed behind the curtain for another twenty minutes as people were seated, until the lights began to dim. Arthur crept out from behind the curtain as the house lights went down, with Molly behind him, her hand on his back, and they had just reached the aisle between the rows of seating when the auditorium was lit up by colourful lights and the band began to play.
Molly let out a squeak and Arthur grabbed her hand and ducked into the nearest cover, which turned out to be the hall leading to both the bathrooms and the back door to the concert hall building. The light show was reflecting onto the dingy white walls of the small hallway, casting flashing pink and orange shadows everywhere, and Molly leaned against the wall, looking appalled.
“A light show,” she moaned. “Why did she have to have a light show?”
They both froze then as someone called Professor Dumbledore’s name very close to the hallway. Footsteps were approaching, and Arthur glanced around for escape, grabbing Molly’s hand and pulling her out the back door of the concert hall.
The door slammed behind them as they ducked behind a large trash bin sitting behind the club. They heard the door open again, and the music sounded louder for a moment, but then the door closed again, and the sound of his own heartbeat pounding in his ears seemed to echo in the small, neglected courtyard behind the concert hall. He glanced at Molly beside him, both crouched down low to the ground behind the huge dustbin, and then took a quick look around the corner of the bin at the door. There was no one there. He stood, brushing off his robes, and pulled Molly to her feet. Her dark eyes were huge in her pale face.
“That was close,” she said in a low voice, still a little scared.
The music from the concert sounded loud yet muffled from outside the building, but the small courtyard must have been right beside the stage because as Celestina’s back-up banshees began to sing, they could hear her quite well. Arthur walked over to the door and gave it a tug, but it was stuck.
“Oh dear,” he said.
Molly pulled out her wand and said firmly, “Alohomora!” but the door did not budge.
“They must’ve cast a spell to block that one,” Arthur said, disheartened.
“We could go back in the front,” Molly suggested.
“No, they said they won’t reopen the doors once the concert starts.” Arthur gave the building a small kick.
“When did they say that?” Molly asked, clearly still holding out hope of getting back in. Or perhaps that was him.
“On the letter that came with the tickets. Damn it,” he said, frustrated. “How are we going to get back inside?”
“I don’t think we are,” Molly said, and he turned to her. She was examining a small, grassy rise behind the dirty courtyard. He could see a stain on the hem of her robes from crouching behind the trash bin, and felt a wave of embarrassment wash over him. The concert was not going at all according to plan. He had all but forgotten his plan to profess his love. Somehow the back alley didn't seem like the best place for that.
“I’m sorry, Molly,” he said. “I know you really wanted to see this concert.”
She glanced at him over her shoulder with a smile. “It’s not your fault, Arthur. Who would have guessed that Professor Dumbledore was a fan too?” She turned back to the ground and nudged it with her toe. “I’m not as good at this as Hattie is, but here goes.”
She twirled her wand in the air and a maroon blanket appeared and spread itself out on the grass. Molly plopped down on the blanket and patted the space beside her, smiling up at him.
Arthur walked over and stretched out on his back on the blanket next to her. It was large enough for him to lay full-length without his ankles being on the grass, and he smiled as Molly made herself comfortable, lying on her side next to him with her head propped up on one hand. Celestina was doing a jazzy number now that Arthur didn’t recognize, and the sound quality wasn’t too bad. It was like listening to a slightly muffled but very loud Wizarding Wireless broadcast.
“I can still hear her,” Molly said softly. “And now we’ve got moonlight and a private concert.”
Arthur rolled onto his side, mirroring her position. “I’m still sorry that you didn’t get to see the concert, Molly.”
“I’ll make do,” she said calmly, and leaned in to kiss him.
They spent the concert lying together on the blanket, watching the stars and listening to the music, or trying not to listen in Arthur’s case. Arthur decided Celestina in concert was at the same time worse than he’d expected and yet better, because the moonlight and the admittedly bad music put Molly in a very romantic mood, and she snuggled up into his side, resting her head on his shoulder. During one of Celestina’s more sickeningly maudlin numbers, Molly put her hand on his chest and traced little circles with her fingertips. Arthur decided the concert was worth every penny just for this.
On the other hand, he might as well have saved his money and just set up an unexpectedly romantic back-alley blanket rather than buying those tickets.
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