Chapter 23 : Tell It Like It Is
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Life is too short to have sorrow
You may be here today and gone tomorrow
You might as well get what you want
So go on and live, baby go on and live
Siobhan cornered Molly a few days later about the Patronus Charm. She swept into their dormitory after classes carrying a large tome from the library, which she dropped onto Molly’s bed with an air of great excitement. The book bounced a little as it landed, and Molly glanced down at the title: The Psychology of the Patronus.
“You must show me how to cast this,” Siobhan said.
“Where did you find this?” Molly asked, picking up the book to examine the table of contents.
“You went to the library?” Molly said in surprise. “By yourself?”
“I do know where it is, you know. Now, it says a person’s Patronus shows some personality traits, or is meaningful to the witch or wizard who conjures it. They’ve gone through case studies showing psychological analysis of what a witch’s or wizard’s Patronus means, and what the animal form represents, and it’s bloody fascinating. You have to teach me this. I want to see what mine is.” Siobhan plopped down onto Molly’s bed and looked up at her expectantly, looking more excited about the possibility of unnecessary schoolwork than Molly had ever seen her about anything.
Molly frowned at her friend and her amazement that Siobhan had voluntarily researched something made her forget to reprimand Siobhan for swearing. “You read this entire book? Did you do your Potions homework?”
“No,” Siobhan said, as if this were patently obvious, “I was busy reading that. I’m going to copy Cecilia’s essay.”
“I see. Well, we can work on the Patronus Charm a bit before dinner, I suppose.”
“Better make it after dinner, I need to go have a chat with Addae,” Siobhan said thoughtfully.
Molly looked at her suspiciously, handing The Psychology of the Patronus back to her. “What’s going on with you and Addae?”
“I’m chucking him,” Siobhan said cheerfully, focused on the book. She flipped through the pages.
“What happened? Why are you breaking up with him?” Molly sat down next to her.
Siobhan shrugged. “Nothing happened, I just don’t want to go out with him anymore. Look at this, this wizard, his Patronus changed when he was remarried after his first wife died. A new Patronus form, because of his new wife! Isn’t that amazing?” She tapped the page, where an elderly wizard with a young witch perched on his knee smiled happily.
“Are you wishing you hadn’t dropped Defence Against the Dark Arts now?” Molly asked shrewdly.
“Maybe a little. So, are you going to teach it to me or not?”
“I just learned it myself,” Molly pointed out. “But I’ll try.”
Cecilia was already at the dinner table, her nose buried in her Potions book, when Molly arrived for dinner.
“Where’s Arthur?” she asked, looking up at Molly.
“Watching Quidditch. He should be here in a moment.”
Cecilia nodded over at the Hufflepuff table. “It looks like Siobhan’s bored of Addae already.”
Molly followed Cecilia’s gaze and saw Siobhan giving Addae, who looked quite broken-hearted, a friendly pat. “She seems to be moving through the boys even faster this year, doesn’t she? She was only with Addae for a few weeks, really, if you don’t count the Christmas holiday.”
“Stay out of it, Molly, you won’t do any good by saying anything to her, you know how she is.” Cecilia was gazing over at Siobhan with a thoughtful expression. Molly wondered what she and Siobhan talked about during holidays when Siobhan was with Cecilia’s family, and decided she should probably leave it up to Cecilia, seeing as how they were much closer to each other than to the rest of their friends.
Siobhan seemed quite pleased with herself as she sat down next to her friends. “Well, that’s it, I’m a free woman again.” Behind her, Addae was pushing a piece of beef morosely around his plate while his twin gave him a consoling pat on the back.
“Congratulations,” Cecilia said, burying her nose in her book again.
“So, shall we get started on Patronuses tonight?” Siobhan asked eagerly, spooning some mashed potatoes onto her plate.
“If you like,” Molly said absently, still debating internally whether or not to say something to Siobhan about the rapidity with which she was switching boyfriends.
“Cilia, you could come too, Molly can tutor you while she teaches me,” Siobhan said with an air of offering a special treat to a small child.
“I don’t need a tutor,” Cecilia said airily, flipping a page in her textbook rather forcefully.
Siobhan grinned. “Oh really? What’s your Patronus, Cecilia?”
Cecilia scowled at her. “Shut it, you.”
“Right then, where are we going to practice?” Molly asked, attempting to deflect both of them.
“The dorm?" Siobhan said. "How much room do we really need?”
“I suppose. You’re really excited about this charm, aren’t you, dear?” Molly smiled at her friend.
“I think it sounds very interesting.”
Molly was a little apprehensive about Siobhan’s sudden interest in Defence, which she had only scraped through to O.W.L. level and barely passed with an Acceptable. It made Molly wonder what about the Patronus had Siobhan so intrigued. She forgot about this line of thought when she saw Arthur and Thaddeus coming into the hall with Dunstan and Cosmo behind them.
Her heart fluttered to see him, and she thought how silly she’d been only a few months ago, making a love potion for Thaddeus when Arthur was right there in front of her. Thaddeus’s golden good looks seemed less interesting to her now, compared with Arthur’s fiery hair and gentle spirit. He was so handsome and noble and –
“Try not to moon over him at the dinner table, Molly,” Cecilia said. “You’re ruining my appetite.”
There was apparently a large Quidditch match next weekend against the Slytherins, because the boys were all fired up about the day’s practice. Molly would have preferred not to talk about Quidditch at dinner for the third time that week, but since Cecilia and Petula also followed the games closely, it seemed she didn’t have a choice. Molly was left to plan the evening’s Patronus lessons with Siobhan. Hattie listened politely while they planned but did not seem to have any interest in joining in. Hattie had gotten an O.W.L. in Defence and then had happily dropped it to focus on Potions and Herbology.
Though Siobhan’s interest worried her a little, Molly was quite pleased, because she enjoyed teaching and did not often get a chance to shine at it, since Cecilia was the one who usually gave extra help to her dormitory mates. It was nice to be the one who was top at something for once.
Arthur appeared to realize that he had not paid sufficient attention to his girlfriend by the time the pudding was laid, and left the Quidditch discussion to listen to Siobhan lecturing about what she’d read that afternoon while she was supposed to be writing a Potions essay. He put a hand on Molly’s knee under the table and she promptly lost the thread of what Siobhan was saying.
“So what do you suppose a weasel represents?” Arthur asked.
Molly only half-heard Siobhan talking about information gathering and stealth, and gave Arthur’s hand a squeeze under the table to tell him to stop distracting her. He responded by rubbing her knee gently, and it took her a moment to realize Siobhan was addressing her.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” she asked distractedly.
Siobhan smiled at her knowingly. “Would you like to postpone the Patronus lesson to tomorrow so you can pursue, erm, other interests?”
“Yes, thank you,” Molly said politely.
Molly spent breakfast and lunch the next day closely entwined with Arthur, and had nearly forgotten her promise to teach Siobhan how to cast a Patronus when Siobhan accosted her in the hall outside Defence and demanded they go straight to the dormitory and get started.
“I’ll come too,” Petula said after Molly had agreed somewhat guiltily. “I could use some more practise.”
They’d spent the day trying Patronuses again in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Petula was still unable to get more than a few slips of mist. Cecilia gave them all a dark scowl and flounced away down the hall, heading for Astronomy with Reid and Dunstan behind her. She had not made any progress with her Patronus yet.
“Any interesting Patronuses from the Slytherins?” Siobhan asked as they walked up to Gryffindor Tower.
“There’s only Sophronia Lefeuvre taking it at N.E.W.T. level,” Arthur said. “She’s got some sort of a large spider, it seemed. I didn’t get a close look at it. She keeps to herself mostly. And she, erm, doesn’t like me,” he admitted sheepishly. “She called me a blood traitor fourth year.”
Molly felt her cheeks warm with anger. “Oh she did, did she?”
“Oh, who cares what people say?” Siobhan said, glancing at Arthur. “I never do, and I’m Muggle-born, you know what Sophronia calls me.”
Molly supposed this was her friend’s way of reassuring Arthur, but it didn’t soothe her temper. “That horrible, wretched cow, how dare she say that to you!”
“I don’t care what she calls me,” Arthur said calmly. “Don’t worry about it, Molly, it was two years ago.”
“Yes, don’t go hexing her now, Molly, you promised to teach me the Patronus,” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes. They had reached the Fat Lady now and she added to the portrait, “Juglandine.”
Petula and Siobhan went up to the dormitory while Molly took advantage of the nearly-empty common room to say good-bye to Arthur in a private corner, where he assured her again that it didn’t matter a bit what people said about him, as long as she knew his character. Molly went up the stairs to the girls’ dormitory and opened the door in time to hear Petula asking after Addae.
“Oh, I chucked him yesterday evening,” Siobhan said, giving her wand a little flourish as if she were casting a charm.
“But you were so happy just the other day!” Petula exclaimed.
“Well, now I’m looking for someone new.”
Molly pursed her lips but didn’t say anything. Siobhan was always looking for someone new. None of the boys she’d been with had ever kept her attention for long. Molly would have loved to tell her friend that this was because she was making up for her father’s emotional absence, but Hattie had tried that once during fifth year and the row that had ensued had not been pretty. Siobhan was quite vocal when she was displeased. Apparently the only psychology she was interested in was that of snogging. And Patronuses, oddly.
Siobhan proved surprisingly easy to teach, and seemed to drink in Molly’s lecture about the charm. The hardest part was in helping her two friends find a memory that would provide the impetus for the Patronus. Once she’d explained hers and how it made her feel, Petula seemed to understand and began telling stories of what she thought would be happy enough memories. Siobhan, to Molly’s utter lack of surprise, did not seem to have very many happy memories to choose from, but she listened to Petula ramble on and stared at her wand thoughtfully.
Eventually Molly had to shut down Petula’s extended trip down memory lane and made her stand in the middle of their dormitory while she and Siobhan sat on their beds, and Petula cast the Patronus Charm, looking much more confident than she had done in class. Molly thought Petula might be feeling some stage fright in class, and would find the spell easier in private with just her closest friends. A tiny shape burst from her wand on her second attempt, and Petula crowed with delight as it ran around the room.
Siobhan let out a loud whoop of laughter at the sight of the little bird. “A quail! Only you, Petula, would have a tiny flightless bird as a Patronus.”
“Oh, wasn’t it sweet?” Petula looked at it fondly as it faded away. “I can just imagine it chirping at me.”
Molly was smiling. “Would you like to have a go now, Siobhan?”
Siobhan guffawed again. “Yeah, I think I’ve got my happy memory now. Petula did a spell that Cecilia couldn’t!”
Petula grinned proudly as Siobhan got to her feet. She was still chuckling a little as she cast the spell. Siobhan produced mist on her first three tries, but on her fourth attempt, she seemed to have come up with a different memory and an odd look came into her eyes.
This time an animal did appear from the tip of her wand, a large creature that seemed to fill all the empty space in their dormitory. It threw back its head and whinnied silently, its nostrils flaring, and Molly leaned forward to look at it more closely.
“A zebra,” she said, reaching out to touch one of its stripes just as it started to disappear.
“What does a zebra mean in your book?” Petula asked.
“That I’m wonderful and attractive, of course,” Siobhan said airily, still smiling widely at her success with the charm.
Molly laughed. “Of course.”
The end of the week saw an end to the Patronus lessons in class, and though Professor Ampara was no longer discussing them, having decided that they had enough of a foundation to survive a dementor encounter (or having realized they now had a week’s worth of catching up to do), the Patronuses seen around school had started to increase. Casting a Patronus purely to show off became quite popular among the sixth and seventh years, and even those who no longer took Defence Against the Dark Arts managed to join in.
Siobhan was now using the charm’s popularity as a chat-up line as she hunted for Addae’s replacement. ‘What’s your Patronus form?’ quickly became a fad among the older student population of Hogwarts. Molly rather regretted teaching her friend the charm now that she saw the use to which Siobhan was putting it, but she had to admit it was sort of amusing to see the beautiful silver creatures roaming the hallways between classes, and strangely illuminating to see what animal represented each of her classmates.
Dunstan was now the only one among the Gryffindors who had not cast a Patronus, aside from Cecilia, who still had a mental block about them. Molly came upon Arthur and his friends having a study session in the common room, practising the charm, a week after Professor Ampara had moved on to discussing Unforgivable Curses. Apparently Dunstan was as unwilling to give up on the charm as Cecilia, who had spent every evening in the library researching Patronuses. Molly had caught her practising a few times when Cecilia thought she had the dormitory to herself.
Molly's attention was caught by the sound of cheering from one corner of the common room, and she saw a white light shining from where Arthur, Cosmo, Reid, and Dunstan were gathered. She drew closer to make out its shape.
“It’s a pig,” Arthur said, sounding delighted, as he reached out to take her hand. Molly stood next to him, snuggling into his side a bit, and smiled at Dunstan’s Patronus.
“It’s not a pig, it’s…” Dunstan examined the large animal currently sitting on its haunches in front of him. “It’s a boar.”
“It looks like a pig to me,” Reid said.
“It’s a boar,” Dunstan repeated stubbornly, frowning at them. The pig, or boar, started to disappear and Dunstan gave his friends a reproving glare. “Look, you’ve insulted it.”
“Poor little piggy,” Reid said in mock sympathy. “Go on, bring it back, I promise I’ll be nice to the pig.”
“That’s what I meant.”
Dunstan scowled at him, but he cast the spell again, just as Molly’s friends joined their group. Cecilia seemed to be avoiding Reid’s eye; she had still not managed so much as a wisp of silver mist. Dunstan’s boar rooted around on the stone floor of the classroom.
“Is that a pig?” Hattie asked, surprised.
Dunstan gave her a dark look. “It’s a boar.”
“Don’t boars have tusks?” Cecilia bent to examine the Patronus just as it dissolved. “That didn’t have tusks.”
“Maybe it’s a female boar,” Arthur suggested, his voice full of laughter. "A sow."
Dunstan shot him a murderous look. Molly had to bite the inside of her lip so as not to laugh at him.
“Don’t worry, Dunstan,” Siobhan said, giving him a consoling pat on the shoulder. “Pigs represent intelligence according to the book I’ve been reading.”
“Well then, you must be correct, Dunstan, it can’t be a pig,” Reid said.
Dunstan kicked him in the shin.
Molly was walking down a fourth-floor corridor with Arthur, looking for a quiet spot after dinner, when they were nearly bowled over by a large silver lion. To her amazement, she heard her brother’s voices rising in laughter.
“Was that…” Arthur trailed off, but he went over to the mirror in the corner, the same mirror he had taken Molly through to sneak into Hogsmeade, and they both ducked behind it.
Gideon and Fabian were on the floor, Gideon still holding his wand and Fabian rolling around on the floor laughing. They both looked extremely pleased with themselves.
“Was that your Patronus, Gideon?” Molly asked in disbelief.
They looked up at her somewhat warily. “Yes,” Gideon allowed.
“Mine is a baboon,” Fabian said. They were both watching her now as if they expected her to shout at them.
Molly wasn’t sure what to say to that. How had they learned to cast a Patronus, and how on earth had they managed it when they weren’t even fourteen for four more months? She hadn’t had difficulty learning the spell, but Defence Against the Dark Arts had always been one of her best subjects and she liked to think she had a talent for it.
“Well done, boys.” Arthur looked very impressed. “You’ve got quite a talent at Defence.”
“It’s a shame their marks don’t reflect it,” Molly said, but she was feeling rather odd at the moment. It was strange to realize that her brothers might have a talent that she’d never known, and it gave her an uncomfortable feeling to think they might be better than her at something she’d always thought she was good at. She’d always wanted to be exceptional too, and though her grades were good she’d always had a nagging feeling of being only average. She stared at them, and it gave her a bit of a shock to look into their faces and see not just the little boys, the younger brothers she’d always known, but the men they were becoming, and realized that perhaps they were the exceptional ones, contrary to all their mother’s expectations.
“Don’t tell Mum,” Fabian said, “or we’ll tell her you’ve been snogging Arthur all over the castle at night.”
Molly turned bright red, but it felt as if the world had snapped back into place. There was the younger brother she knew so well.
“Just don’t use your Patronus to chat up girls,” she said in annoyance and grabbed Arthur’s hand, leading the way out from behind the mirror.
She thought she saw Arthur wink at her brothers as they left, but decided she didn’t want to know if he was encouraging them. They had only gone a few yards from the mirror when a silver baboon burst through it and ran toward them, flipping itself upside down and looking at them from between its legs. Arthur started laughing, and the baboon dissolved as Molly pulled him away down the corridor. She waited until they had rounded a corner before she started laughing as well.
“That’s quite impressive, actually,” Arthur said, still chuckling. “I wonder if Professor Ampara knows they can do that.”
“I doubt it,” Molly said. “They had detention from her just last week for not completing their homework.”
“Well, if they can cast a Patronus at their age, they’ve no excuse.” Arthur glanced around, and Molly realized they were alone again. He tugged on her hand and she followed him into a niche, behind a suit of armour.
“If they would just stop doing so many stupid pranks,” Molly said, dropping her bookbag onto the stone floor. “It’s such a waste of their time and effort. And it’s no surprise they can’t find time to do their homework when they’re always concentrating on mischief. It’s a wonder they haven’t been expelled.” The twins had received a Howler at breakfast, although most of the school was now so accustomed to hearing Mrs. Prewett’s screaming that they continued eating as if they could not hear it. Molly was sure if they got another one, her mother would start sending her Howlers to yell about why she wasn’t keeping her brothers in line, since sending them Howlers was clearly ineffective.
“Yes, isn’t it…” Arthur pulled her closer, and she was fairly certain he wasn’t listening.
“Do you think I’m talented too?” she asked as he nuzzled her neck.
Arthur pulled away from her and gave her a serious look, and he seemed to see straight to the heart of her question. “Your brothers having talent doesn’t mean you don’t have talent as well, Molly. It isn’t a competition.”
“That’s easy for you to say, you’re the baby of your family,” she said, but his words had cheered her up a bit, and she let him go back to kissing her neck. “There’s less pressure on you…”
“Can we stop talking about your brothers now?” Arthur asked.
Molly closed her eyes and let Arthur distract her from all her worries.
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