Chapter 25 : Baby I Need Your Lovin'
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Some say it's a sign of weakness
For a man to beg
Then weak I would rather be
If it means havin' you to keep
Arthur spent the evening after the explosive fight in a shell-shocked silence in a quiet corner of the common room, wondering what he should do. He was sure the word had gotten all around school by then, but was quite grateful that none of his friends came to hunt him down and ask what had happened. He did not go down to dinner, and the silence in the common room while everyone else in the castle was at dinner was a relief to him. He dreaded when the students would start filing back to Gryffindor Tower after dinner, because he knew he'd see her, and did not know what he ought to do.
He considered whether he should just beg her forgiveness at any cost, but wasn't sure she would even speak to him. If she refused to speak to him, or worse, shouted at him again, he did not think he could stand it. Perhaps she needed time to cool off.
Molly was one of the last to arrive from dinner, surrounded by her friends in the tight knot they always seemed to form when one of them was in distress, and though the common room was now crowded again with students who played games, chatted loudly, and even studied, and he was tucked into a shadowy alcove near a window where no one seemed to have noticed him, her eyes seemed to find him immediately.
Her eyes filled with angry tears as they met his, then she turned and ran upstairs to her dormitory. Her friends looked stricken, and Hattie broke away from the other girls to rush upstairs after Molly, while Siobhan and Cecilia looked daggers at Arthur, no doubt for making Molly upset.
Arthur decided he had had enough and fled to his own dormitory, drawing the curtains around his bed and then flopping back onto the pillow and staring at his feet.
How could this have happened? He'd thought things were going so well, just last night they'd been caught snogging by Cecilia and Thad, and she'd seemed so happy. He'd been so happy. How could she just break up with him like that? Her anger had surprised him, though he knew she had a temper and had heard her shout at her brothers occasionally, it had been jarring to have it directed at him. He didn't particularly enjoy being shouted at, and didn't quite know how to react when Molly's anger was focused on him. Her brothers seemed to mostly shrug it off, knowing she'd come back to yell at them again another day; she was their big sister and they'd always have each other to pick on. But he didn't feel he had a permanent tie to her that would bring her back, as they did.
She'd said she loved him. But then she'd said she never wanted to speak to him again. He didn't understand how she could say that if she really did love him. Had he ruined everything with one stupid prank? It had sounded so funny when the twins explained it, he'd gotten carried along by their enthusiasm, but then he'd seen things happening the way Molly must have seen them, and suddenly it wasn't funny any more.
And then she'd said she never wanted to speak to him again...
The curtain was ripped back abruptly and the sudden light made Arthur wince as he looked up to see Cosmo, Reid, and Dunstan standing there.
“There you are,” Reid said unnecessarily.
“Where've you been, and what the hell is going on?” Dunstan demanded.
“Molly...” Arthur couldn't quite bring himself to say it aloud, and swallowed hard. “She...”
“What?” Dunstan frowned at him.
“I heard she chucked you,” Cosmo said, leaning against one of the posters of Arthur's bed. “I thought it must be a rumour, you're usually mooning all over each other, but I saw her crying at dinner, so I did wonder. Did she really chuck you, then?”
Reid raised his eyebrows. “What did you do? If it had anything to do with fireworks, I can tell you from experience, they're not a good idea.”
“She said...” Arthur stared at his feet again. He couldn't meet their eyes. “She said she never wanted to speak to me again.”
They were all silent, and he could feel their pity, even from Reid, who'd just been chucked himself. It was almost worse than the horrible feeling of bubbling acid in his stomach that threatened to swallow him.
“I heard her brothers had blown up that staircase and something happened with you two right afterwards,” Dunstan said. He sounded surprised, and the pity was there in his voice, making Arthur uncomfortable. “They were in the headmaster's office over it earlier.”
This made Arthur feel even worse. The twins, known troublemakers, had taken all the blame for the afternoon's mischief, while he had gotten away without a mark. He wondered if he ought to turn himself in, if that would make Molly forgive him. He hoped her brothers weren't angry with him as well.
“She really said she'd never speak to you again?” Cosmo asked softly.
“Shouted it, actually. She couldn't mean it,” Arthur said numbly, partly to himself. “She said she loved me, she wouldn't really chuck me over this.”
“If you say so, mate,” Reid said.
“Not helping,” Cosmo murmured out of the corner of his mouth.
“You're better off without her, anyway,” Dunstan said with bullheaded cheerfulness. “A girl who shouts at you like that isn't a girl you want.”
Arthur looked at his friend and suddenly felt a rage quite like Molly had displayed. How could his life possibly be better off without Molly in it? How could he get along without her now that he'd gone this long with her love? What the hell did Dunstan know about any of it anyway? He was seized by an urge to hex his friend.
“Better off without her?” he repeated slowly.
Cosmo's eyes widened as he took in Arthur's expression. “Run,” he advised Dunstan.
“He does know some good jinxes,” Reid agreed.
“I'm going to the library,” Arthur said, heaving himself out of his bed and shoving past them.
He could feel his friends' eyes on him as he left, and knew they would talk about him as soon as he was out of earshot, but he didn't care just then. He had to get away.
Cecilia and Siobhan were sitting on the sofa in front of the fire, and he avoided their gaze as he passed them, knowing they would also be talking about him as he left. They probably hated him too. He couldn't take anyone else's eyes on him or anyone speaking to him, and retreated to the library, where he found a deserted corner near a dark and snow-dusted window that seemed to reflect his desolate mood perfectly. He stayed there, curled in the chair with his cheek pressed against the cold window, feeling angry and hopeless and numb by turns as the hours passed, until the librarian came to throw him out when the library closed.
Arthur was starved by the time breakfast came the next morning, after skipping dinner to avoid dealing with his breakup, and he went down early in hopes of avoiding the curious and pitying stares of his classmates who'd heard about the row between him and Molly. He saw her brothers sitting at one end of the Gryffindor table and thought to pass by them quickly in case they were angry with him, but they waved to him.
“Oi, Arthur,” Fabian called.
He came over and sat down next to the twins, looking wary. They did not seem any the worse for wear for their trouble, nor did they seem at all upset with him. If anything, they looked a little embarrassed. “What is it, boys?”
“We just wanted to apologize,” Gideon said abashedly. “We didn’t think Molly would get so ballistic if you gave us a hand.”
“Yeah, although we should have known,” Fabian added. “She’s always hated pranks.”
Gideon nodded judiciously at his brother.
“I'm sorry too,” Arthur said, feeling uncomfortable. “I heard you saw the headmaster over this.”
“Oh that,” Fabian said dismissively. “Nobody's been able to fix the hole in the step, apparently. We've got about a month's worth of detentions, but on the bright side, Professor Dumbledore said he wouldn't bother writing our mum this time.”
“I should have been punished as well,” Arthur muttered. “I helped you.”
Fabian grinned. “We've had worse, don't worry about it.”
“I think you got in enough trouble already,” Gideon said. “Molly chucked you over it, after all.”
The burning feeling in his stomach worsened as Arthur looked at Molly's little brothers. They exchanged a glance, and Gideon continued, “We didn’t mean to get her angry with you as well, so we’ll do what we can to make it right.”
Arthur was surprised. “Well… thanks, boys, that’s, erm, very kind of you.” He couldn't help feeling as if their help might not make things even worse, but he didn't want to come out and say that when they'd been so generous about taking all the detentions for their misdeeds.
“We know you love her,” Fabian said matter-of-factly, causing Arthur’s ears to turn red. “And she still loves you too.”
“We can tell,” Gideon put in.
“So we’ll make sure she stops being angry with you. Then you can go back to snogging all over the castle late at night.”
“Right, and she won’t write our mum what we did,” Gideon finished brightly.
Arthur stared at the two of them. “How did you know we were…”
“Snogging all over the castle? We hear things,” Gideon said proudly.
“And we saw you a few times,” Fabian added.
“You can tell that she still loves me?” Arthur asked, pretending nonchalance.
The twins glanced sidelong at each other. “Yes,” Fabian confirmed. “She loves you. She's not going to stop just because you did something stupid with us.”
Arthur’s spirits lifted a bit at that, and he grinned at the twins. “Thanks, boys. What did you have in mind to get her to forgive me?”
They exchanged another glance. “Well, we have two ideas really,” Gideon said.
“The first is just to go tell her it was all our fault and that you two are in love, and that you’re a good guy after all and she’s being stupid and should forgive you,” Fabian explained.
“But that’s very boring,” Gideon put in.
“The other idea is to stage a duel somewhere that she’ll see, have you jump in and rescue us, and she’ll realize you’re a good guy after all and that she’s being stupid and should forgive you.”
“That one’s more fun,” Gideon finished.
“I see.” Arthur surveyed them in mild horror. Staging a duel? Oh dear. They really were out of their minds. He suddenly found himself in sympathy with Molly's view of her little brothers. “And you’ve decided to go with…?”
“The duel, of course,” Fabian said cheerfully.
“Of course,” Arthur echoed hollowly.
He managed to escape Molly's insane brothers only to find himself sitting with the Gryffindor Quidditch team, where Thaddeus Peabody informed him heartily that he was utterly mad if he let Molly Prewett go so easily. He might have hexed Thad if the entire team hadn't been sitting with him.
Arthur seriously considered taking a leaf out of Reid's book and skiving off the entire day of classes so that he could stay in bed all day in his pyjamas, but he decided to go in hopes that Molly would relent and take him back when she saw him in class. Perhaps her brothers were right after all, and she wouldn't stop loving him just because of a stupid prank.
The day's classes seemed to drag on endlessly. Petula kept giving him pitying sighs and sympathetic glances in Muggle Studies, which he did not pay attention to for the first time in his years at Hogwarts, instead spending the class trying to draw a portrait of Molly, but he was no good at drawing and laid his head briefly against the desk in despair before vanishing the failed sketch. Lunch was spent at the opposite end of the Gryffindor table from Molly and her friends, with Dunstan and Reid trying to distract him from looking at her, and Cosmo giving him the same sort of sympathetic looks that Petula had given him. Molly did not look his way once, and he began to lose hope that the twins might be correct about her feelings.
In Defence Against the Dark Arts, Arthur tried to watch Molly without her noticing that he was watching her. He had a more close-up look at her than he'd gotten at lunch as she passed him to sit at the table in front of him, and he could see her eyes were red, as if she'd been crying for a long time, and he thought she must regret what had happened, but she still hadn't spoken to him. He couldn't focus on the class and gave up entirely, spending the lecture taking turns looking at Molly, wishing he could just hold her, and wondering how he could prevent her brothers killing themselves in a duel or getting expelled, which would surely make her hate him even more.
Molly gave a sniff, jarring him out of his reverie, and he wished he could see her face again. Maybe he could tell, just by looking, if she really did love him.
But she did not look back at him, though he willed her to for the rest of class, and she left at the end of class without looking at him.
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