Chapter 20 : Canít Take My Eyes Off of You
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If it's quite alright,
I need you, baby,
To warm a lonely night.
I love you, baby.
Arthur took the Knight Bus home for Christmas. He had never particularly enjoyed riding it, but it got the job done and it was infinitely preferable to his mother turning up at Hogwarts and calling him by a revolting pet name in front of his friends that he would then hear around school for the next year and a half. He spent most of the ride thinking about Molly, and occasionally thinking about Reid’s teasing before brushing it off.
Most things didn’t get Arthur down for long. He had two older brothers, after all, and had learned to bounce back from teasing and embarrassment fairly easily. He’d never been one to dwell, and had always been easy-going. He had come to the conclusion that Reid was an idiot, and therefore anything he said was not really valid, and Dunstan could not even get Petula Cordingley to go out with him, therefore anything he said was also invalid. Arthur’s confidence had been bolstered by the knowledge that he had a steady girlfriend and his friends did not, therefore he clearly knew something about women that they did not. Well, Reid had Gemma now, but somehow Arthur rather thought that didn’t count, since she was something of a second choice for Reid.
Arthur’s mother was waiting at the door when he staggered off the Knight Bus, feeling a little sick to his stomach after the ride and dragging his heavy duffel behind him, wishing he were of age and could use magic to bring it into the house.
Cedrella Weasley ran down into the yard to hug her youngest son. Arthur felt the breath knocked out of him in a whoosh as his mother wrapped her arms around him tightly.
“Hi, Mum,” he said weakly, attempting to free one arm to pat her back, but she had pinned both of his arms to his sides in her zealous embrace.
“Arthur, my little love! Oh, I’ve missed my baby.” Cedrella released him, only to grab his face between her palms and pull his face down to kiss his forehead. “How was school, my darling boy?”
“Oh look, it’s ickle Artie.”
Arthur looked up at the doorway, straightening his glasses, which his mother had knocked askew. “Hello, Bilius.”
Bilius Weasley was leaning in the doorframe with a lazy grin. “How’s school been, little brother?”
“All right. How’s work?”
Cedrella turned to her middle son with a scowl, and Bilius’s face took on a sour expression as his mother snapped, “Your brother was sacked last week. Apparently he doesn’t feel turning up for work on time is a vital employment skill.”
Arthur grinned. The Christmas holiday was looking up already. Watching his mum have a go at Bilius was always entertaining.
Bilius frowned at his mother. “It wasn’t my fault, Mum. They were all against me from the start, honestly.”
Cedrella’s eyes narrowed, but then she turned to Arthur and gave his arm a tug. “Come inside and say hello to your father. Bilius, get your brother’s things.”
“Why do I have to? They’re his things,” Bilius said in a surly voice. “His arms aren’t broken, he can bring them in himself.”
“Since you don’t have a job any longer –” Cedrella began ominously.
“Oh all right,” Bilius interrupted, disgruntled. “I’ll bring in his bloody bags already.”
Their mother chose to pretend she had not heard that and steered Arthur through the house and into the kitchen, where his father was sitting at the table with the Daily Prophet open in front of him and his pipe clamped in his teeth.
“Septimus, Arthur’s home!” Cedrella announced proudly.
“Afternoon, Arthur,” Septimus said calmly, not looking up from his newspaper.
“Hello, Dad.” Arthur sat down at the table next to his father and picked up the sport section of the paper.
“You look peaky, dear, are you hungry?” Cedrella patted Arthur’s head. “I’ve got fresh bread just out of the oven, would you like something to eat?”
“Thanks, Mum,” Arthur said, smoothing his hair back down.
“How was school?” Septimus peered at his son over the rims of his glasses while his wife bustled around the kitchen.
“It was all right.” Arthur flushed a little and debated whether or not to tell his father he had a girlfriend. His mum set a bowl of tomato soup in front of him before he could decide, and brought him some bread. Arthur ate and looked over the latest Quidditch scores absently, thinking about Molly and how his mum might react. She would probably squeal and fuss over it; on the whole, Arthur thought he’d rather not deal with that. His brother was sure to have some fun over it as well.
Bilius came in and snatched the sports page away from him, plopping down into a chair opposite Arthur. Arthur frowned at his brother, and Bilius surreptitiously made a rude hand gesture at his little brother.
“How’s Constantine?” Arthur asked between mouthfuls.
His mother beamed, sitting down in the chair next to him. “Just perfect. He just received a promotion!”
Bilius rolled his eyes, hiding behind the newspaper from his mother. “Bloody Constantine,” he muttered.
“And Glynis is doing well,” added Cedrella, shooting her middle son a freezing glare. “She and Constantine have decided on Hypatia for a girl, and Basil for a boy. It will be fun for you to be an uncle, won’t it?” she said, giving Arthur’s hand a pat.
“Didn’t anyone warn her, Weasleys don’t have girls?” Bilius asked politely, but Arthur noted the sarcastic overtones in his voice and felt sure his mother had not missed them either.
“Septimus,” Cedrella said, looking at her husband, her voice taking on the ominous tone again.
“Go to your room, Bilius.” Septimus did not look up from his newspaper.
“I’m twenty years old,” he said indignantly.
“When you’re prepared to act like it, you may come back out.”
Bilius left, grumbling under his breath, and Cedrella glared at him as he went. “He’s been nothing but unpleasant since he lost his job,” she burst out angrily when the sound of his door slamming echoed down the stairs.
“Don’t be so hard on him, dear,” Septimus said absently as he turned a page, then his expression changed, and he looked aghast at the newspaper, taking his pipe out of his mouth. “Good Lord, there’s been more deaths.”
Cedrella blanched. “Who is it? Anyone we know?”
“Some Muggles in Yorkshire. The Muggle authorities have no idea what happened, of course, but there’s evidence of dark magic. They put it all the way to the back, look,” Septimus said indignantly, tapping the paper with the stem of his pipe. “Just because they’re Muggles, I suppose. If a wizard family had been killed, you can bet it would be on the front page.”
“Such a shame, those poor Muggles…”
Arthur kept his head down while his mother clucked sadly over the murdered Muggles, and his father let out a loud harrumph and turned the page. “It’ll be wizards next, you mark my words,” Septimus said darkly. “Best take care they don’t come for us.”
Cedrella looked alarmed. “But we’re purebloods, surely there’s nothing for us to worry about?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Cedrella, your own family disowned you for marrying me, do you really think You-Know-Who wouldn’t come after us all for having Muggle sympathies?” Arthur’s father regarded his wife sternly.
“Oh, Septimus, don’t say that,” said Cedrella, in frightened tones.
Arthur kept his head low over his soup as he listened to his parents, feeling quite fond of his father just then. He was proud of his father’s Muggle sympathies, even if it did mean their family was called blood traitors by some. He took another bite of his bread and thought about the poor Muggles as he ate. Suddenly teasing from his friends seemed much less important.
The holiday wore on, and he spent most of the next week trying to avoid his mother, who seemed to want him next to her all the time now he was home. She kept mentioning how tall he’d gotten in the few short months since he’d seen her and then adding mistily that her baby was growing up. Why mothers felt compelled to talk like this was beyond Arthur’s comprehension, but it was extremely embarrassing, made worse because his brother was around to hear it. Fortunately Bilius’s continued jobless condition had him in his mother’s ill graces so thoroughly that Bilius was actually making an effort to find another job, so he hadn’t been around much during the day and therefore Arthur had escaped the majority of the ribbing he’d been expecting from his brother.
Arthur was getting quite lonely for Molly, and spent a lot of his time in his room pretending to read while he daydreamed about what she might be doing and what he might do when he saw her again. He wanted to see her quite badly, and didn’t think he could wait until they were back at school in January to see her again. However, since he had yet to tell his parents that he had a girlfriend, as that sounded like a more and more horribly embarrassing chat the longer he was home, he could not see how he would get to visit her. He’d sent her an owl a few days before, but there had not been a reply yet.
He heard a loud crack out in the yard and glanced out his window to see his brother walking up to the front gate. An idea began to form in his head, but the prospect of telling his brother that he had a girlfriend and asking him to take him to her house was nearly as horrifying as telling his mother.
The return owl came from Molly on the Friday before Christmas, and he read the letter ravenously, taking in her loopy and feminine handwriting. She wrote that she missed him and wished she could see him, and Arthur grinned widely. It was signed with all my love, Molly. He read the letter again twice more before folding it up and tucking it in his pocket, and the idea popped back into his head to ask Bilius for some help.
He held out until Christmas Day, and after a long day of opening gifts and watching his mother coo proudly over his sister-in-law’s pregnant belly as his eldest brother Constantine grinned smugly at his wife, Arthur decided he could no longer stand it. He had to see Molly. He went to Bilius’ room late that night after their parents had finally gone to bed and Constantine had taken his wife home.
“What do you want?” Bilius said as Arthur knocked softly in the open doorway.
“Well…” Arthur glanced down the hall, then stepped inside his brother’s room and shut the door quietly behind him. “I’ve come to ask you a favour.”
“Oh really.” Bilius looked quite intrigued by this. “What sort of a favour? I haven’t got any money, if that’s what you’re after.”
“No, it’s not that.” Borrowing money from Bilius was never a good idea anyway. He charged interest. “I want to go see someone, and I hoped you’d take me.”
Bilius raised an eyebrow. “At this hour? On Christmas? Who do you want to see at nearly two o’clock in the morning?”
Arthur felt his ears reddening, but he was too far to turn back now, and said self-consciously, “My girlfriend.”
Bilius chuckled annoyingly. “Aha. Finally got one of those, have you? What’s her name?”
“I see. And you think she’ll see you at two in the morning?”
Arthur considered that briefly. She did value her sleep, but on the other hand, it wasn’t as if she had to be up early for class tomorrow. “I think she will.”
“Well, what do you need me for? Can’t you Apparate yet?” Bilius gave him an appraising look.
“I know how, but I haven’t a license,” Arthur pointed out in exasperation. “I’m underage still, remember? Will you take me or not?”
“I dunno, I’m quite sleepy,” Bilius said, feigning a yawn. “I think I’d like to go to bed.”
Arthur clenched his teeth. “Please?”
“Oh all right,” Bilius said, heaving a sigh. “I’m already up, and it might be a laugh. Come on then. Where does she live?”
They arrived safely outside Molly’s house, though trusting his brother to Apparate them both safely had been a rather nerve-wracking experience. Arthur had remembered at the last moment that Bilius had failed his Apparition test the first time, but his desire to see Molly overrode everything else, and he had grasped his brother’s arm firmly despite his misgivings over Bilius’ Apparition skills.
Molly’s house was a large and stately affair of white stone, with a black roof and window frames painted bright red, and there was snow coating her roof and lawn. Arthur opened the gate and led the way in, gazing up at the darkened windows on the second floor.
“Which window is hers, do you think?” Arthur asked nervously.
“That one’s got pink curtains, surely that’s hers,” Bilius pointed out. “Does she have sisters?”
“No, just two brothers.”
“There you go, then. Must be hers.”
There was a small flower garden next to the house, with little stones lining the beds. Arthur picked up a handful of them and tossed one at the window. Nothing happened. He glanced at Bilius, who gave him a look of exasperation and nodded at the house. Arthur threw another pebble, and it hit the window with a clattering sound that made him wince and take a few steps back: he hadn’t meant to throw it quite so hard.
“If you break the windows, her parents aren’t going to let her see you any more,” Bilius said in amusement.
The window opened quite suddenly, and Arthur’s stomach turned to lead when he saw an older man’s head peek out. The man was a bit jowly, with a round face that rather reminded Arthur of an old bulldog, and silver hair sticking out from under a maroon knitted nightcap. This had to be Molly’s father, Arthur realized with dread.
“What’s going on?” the man asked blearily. “Who’s there?”
“Erm,” Arthur said, feeling a little panicky. “I think I got the wrong window.”
Mr. Prewett looked him up and down and asked, “And who are you?”
“Arthur Weasley, sir.” He could feel his ears turning red, and heard a muffled laugh behind him from Bilius.
Molly’s father nodded. “Oh, right. Molly’s told us all about you, of course. Hippolytus Prewett. Nice to meet you. Molly’s two windows down, red drapes.”
Arthur’s eyes were as wide as saucers. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
Molly’s father waved vaguely and closed the window, pulling the pink curtains shut. Arthur turned to his brother in amazement. Bilius was shaking with silent laughter, one fist held to his mouth.
“Shut it,” Arthur told him.
“I’m suddenly quite glad I agreed to bring you here,” Bilius said, wiping a tear of laughter from his eye.
They moved down to the appropriate window, and Arthur started throwing pebbles again. It took five pebbles before Molly appeared, holding her lit wand aloft as she opened the window, dressed in a low-cut white nightgown with long puffy sleeves and blinking groggily. Arthur nearly forgot what he’d prepared to say to her when he saw this.
Her eyes widened when she saw him, and she gasped. “Arthur? What are you doing here?”
“I had to see you,” he called softly, trying not to stare at the neckline of her nightgown. She was more beautiful than he remembered, though she was presently regarding him as if he’d lost his senses completely.
“It’s two in the morning!” she called back incredulously.
“I couldn’t wait.”
She smiled then, her face softening. “I was dreaming of you.”
Arthur’s lately overactive imagination was off and running at that. Molly had noticed his brother, though, and pulled back into her room a bit to hide her nightgown, putting her free hand to her chest as if to hide her exposed décolletage.
“This is my brother Bilius,” Arthur said quickly. Bilius waved to her.
“Hello,” she said uncertainly.
“Hello, Arthur’s girlfriend. Why does your dad have pink curtains in his room?” Bilius asked her.
“My mum chose them. You didn’t wake my dad, did you?” Molly looked a little horrified.
“Well, yes, actually,” Arthur told her self-consciously. “He didn’t seem angry, he directed me to your window. I hope I didn’t get you in trouble, Molly,” he added worriedly.
She looked surprised at her father’s actions. She had just opened her mouth to speak again when the window next to hers opened and one of the twins stuck his head out.
“Just go down and kiss him so we can all get some sleep,” he said in exasperation.
“Go back to bed, Fabian,” Molly snapped at her little brother, leaning her head further out the window so she could scowl at him better.
Fabian’s head was pushed aside and Gideon leaned out next to him, nodding to Arthur and then turning to his sister.
“Go on, Mollykins, we’re trying to sleep here. Make sure it’s a quiet snog, though, all right? Don’t want to wake Mum and Dad.”
Molly scowled and pointed her wand at them and they both ducked back into their room, the window closing behind them with a bang.
Bilius had a hand pressed to his mouth to keep from shouting with laughter. Arthur frowned and aimed a kick at him, but Bilius danced away.
“I’ll be right down,” Molly said, pulling her head back in from the window and closing it softly.
Arthur turned to his brother. “Get lost, Bilius.”
“Not bloody likely. I want to meet ickle Artie’s girlfriend properly.” He was still grinning madly.
The back door opened and Molly came out, wrapped tightly in a purple robe and wearing fluffy yellow slippers. Arthur rushed over to meet her in the doorway so she wouldn’t have to walk in the snow, and she smiled at him as she clutched the neck of her robe closed. Arthur swooped in to kiss her quickly before Bilius could interrupt and say anything embarrassing.
Bilius sauntered over behind Arthur and said cheerfully, “Good morning, Molly Prewett.”
“Good morning,” Molly said, while Arthur gave his brother a glare that clearly indicated he should shove off and leave them alone now.
Bilius disregarded this entirely and addressed Molly again. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring Arthur here tonight, but it’s definitely been entertaining enough to miss out on some sleep. Your dad seems nice, incidentally.”
“Erm, thank you. I can’t believe you woke my dad,” Molly said, glancing from Bilius to Arthur and back.
“It’s been a slightly farcical evening,” Bilius said cheerfully. “We thought the pink windows must be yours, since you’re the only girl.”
“Well, that isn’t my fault,” Molly said sternly, looking over at Arthur again. “When have you ever seen me wear anything pink?”
Bilius grinned at her and said to Arthur, who was still glaring at him, “I think I like her. All right, all right, now I’ll get lost, but I’ll be back in five minutes, so make it quick. It’s bloody late and I want to get some sleep.” He turned on the spot and Apparated to who knew where. Arthur did not particularly care, though, because he was now alone with Molly and she was smiling invitingly up at him.
“What were you dreaming about, exactly?” he asked her, putting an arm around her and drawing her further into the doorway so they were hidden from view from the windows of her house.
“This.” Molly’s arms twined around his neck and he bent down to meet her halfway as she reached up to kiss him.
The five minutes seemed to pass very quickly, for it seemed only a few seconds later that he felt someone tapping his shoulder and looked up to see Bilius standing next to them, again quaking with silent laughter.
“Did you not hear me?” he asked when Arthur looked over at him. “I’ve been calling your names for two solid minutes here.”
Molly hid her face in Arthur’s cloak, but he thought he caught a giggle escape her. She stepped away from him then, and she was smiling when she said, “Come back later today, this afternoon, you can have dinner with us and meet my parents properly.”
“I’ll be here,” he promised, and kissed her again, not caring that his brother was watching.
“You can Floo over this time, if you like,” Molly added, her gaze flickering over to Bilius briefly. Arthur interpreted this to mean he should not bring his brother along, which was perfectly fine with him.
“I will. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Arthur. It was lovely to meet you, Bilius.”
Bilius waved at her vaguely, and Molly disappeared into the house. Arthur turned to Bilius, who raised an eyebrow at him.
“Coming for dinner on Boxing Day? What are you going to tell Mum and Dad? You haven’t even told them you’ve a girlfriend, have you?”
Arthur shrugged. He was a little apprehensive about telling his mother about Molly, but he didn’t want to admit it to his brother. “Dunno. I’ll think of something. Thanks for bringing me here, Bilius.”
“Well, I can hardly blame you,” Bilius said cheerfully, clapping a hand on Arthur’s shoulder as they walked toward the gate. “If I had anyone who could snog me to the point of deafness in less than five minutes, I’d be sneaking out at two in the morning as well.”
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