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Chapter 31 : Stay In My Corner
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There'll be times when I may fail
I'll need your love to comfort me
but just a kiss from you
will make things sweet
Arthur was just coming through the portrait hole after class, ready to grab some extra books from his dormitory and meet Molly in the library to study, and bumped into a familiar pair leaving the common room.
“Sorry there, Arthur,” Gideon said.
“Got a minute? We've been meaning to talk to you anyway,” said Fabian.
Arthur followed them back through the portrait hole and into the common room, where they ducked into a secluded corner. He hoped they weren't going to hassle him because they'd missed a Hogsmeade weekend to serve detention while he was in town enjoying himself. He still felt a little guilty over it.
“We have a little adventure planned, and wondered if you'd like to come along,” Fabian said.
“We could use a third pair of hands on this one. And Frank's still got a scar from last time he helped us, so he doesn't want to lend a hand.”
Arthur frowned at them warily. “It isn't something dangerous again, is it?”
“No,” Fabian said immediately.
“Not at all,” Gideon assured him. “It's just something funny, that's all. No one's going to get hurt.”
“What is it?” Arthur asked suspiciously.
“Well, the Hufflepuff common room doesn't have a password, you see,” Gideon said.
“And we have this badger-”
There was really no way in which those two sentences could lead to a scenario that ended well. “I really don't want to get in trouble with your sister again,” he said, rubbing his temple.
Gideon waved this concern away. “She'll never know! You won't tell her, we won't tell her. We'll stay in one piece.”
Arthur gave him a doubtful look and the twins exchanged a glance. He was sure they knew their argument was not swaying him.
“Well then, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Fabian said optimistically. “Besides, I'll bet there isn't an actual rule against going into someone else's common room. They don't even have a password. We won't even be breaking in like we did with the Ravenclaws.”
“They should've asked a harder question if they really wanted to keep people out,” Gideon said. Fabian murmured agreement.
“I'll bet there's a rule against putting an animal in someone else's common room,” Arthur said dryly.
“Bet there's not,” Fabian retorted. “Look it up.”
“I will, you know.”
“All right,” Gideon said. “If there is a rule that says you can't do that, we'll owe you a Galleon. If there's not a rule, you're going to help us get the badger in the common room. Deal?” He put out a hand, and Arthur shook it.
“It's a bet.”
Two hours later, Arthur found himself standing in a dungeon corridor under the Entrance Hall, his wand held aloft to keep the angry badger in the air in front of him from falling and clawing his ankles off, and wondering how the twins kept talking him into these situations. He'd been so sure there would be a rule against this. There certainly would be by tomorrow. The badger was making a weird growling noise that did not bode well for when they finally released it from the Levitation Charm. This was not a happy badger.
“It's making too much noise,” Fabian whispered. “Can't you Silence it or something?”
“I never got the hang of that charm,” Arthur admitted. He didn't think he could cast it and keep the badger in the air at the same time anyway.
“Just give it a smack on the nose, Arthur,” Gideon said encouragingly, then addressed the badger. “Oi! Quit it there! This is a stealth mission.”
“Bad badger,” Fabian told the badger. “Bad.”
The badger bared its teeth at them.
Arthur grimaced. “I see now why you wanted help. Do I want to know where you got a badger?”
Fabian grinned at him rather annoyingly. “Probably not. Right, so the Hufflepuff common room is behind a still life painting. That one's the kitchen, down there, so I think it's probably this one.”
“Not fair, is it, how easy must it be to sneak out for a midnight snack?” Gideon remarked. “Lucky 'Puffs.”
“We really need to work out how to do that Disillusionment Charm,” Fabian told his brother, who nodded agreement.
“Erm, can we get on with it, boys?” Arthur asked, glancing worriedly over his shoulder. “If your sister catches me down here, I may never hear the end of it.”
“All right, here's the plan. Fabian will open the door, you remove the Levitation Charm, and we all shoo the badger through the door and hide over behind that tapestry to watch the Hufflepuffs come running out screaming their heads off.” Gideon rubbed his hands together eagerly.
This did not sound like a particularly foolproof plan to Arthur, but as he didn't have a better one, he went ahead and removed the Levitation Charm as soon as Fabian flung open the door.
The badger dropped to the ground, scrabbling at thin air and growling angrily, and hit the ground running, heading straight for Arthur and Gideon.
Arthur jumped away, and went to cast a Body-Bind Charm on the badger, but his wand was missing. It was on the floor where he'd been standing when the badger ran at him. He and the badger both looked at it at the same time, and the badger picked up the wand in its jaws and bit it in half.
The twins drew in their breath in unison with a hiss, wincing.
“Bad form there, old boy,” Gideon said to the badger.
The badger let out a loud growl and started trotting toward Gideon at a frightening speed.
“It's charging!” Gideon shrieked.
“Bad badger! Bad!” Fabian yelled, shooing it with his hands.
“I think it wants to eat me!” Gideon was dancing away from the badger as it snapped at his heels. “Are badgers carnivorous?”
Fabian was still trying to get the badger to the door of the Hufflepuff common room, which had fallen shut by now. “Bloody badger. Get in there! Scare the Hufflepuffs, not us!”
Arthur leapt at the badger and grabbed it around the middle, and barely managed to heave it up off the floor. It was small but strong, and was wriggling wildly, trying to claw at him and gnashing its teeth, making the weird growling noise again. It was probably swearing at him in badger. Its claws looked much larger at close range. He felt a sharp pain in his arm as he strained to keep a grip on the stupid creature and knew he'd been caught by one of those claws.
Fabian let out a triumphant whoop.
“Good one, Arthur, now shove it through the door when Gideon opens it again, ready?”
Arthur was more than ready to get rid of the damn badger, but the next moment even the badger froze when a familiar voice sounded from the end of the corridor.
Arthur dropped the badger and turned, still crouched down on the floor. Molly stood there, hands on hips with her wand clutched in one hand and her face flushed with anger, looking as if she were ready to kill all of them. He heard a noise from the other direction and glanced back around to see the twins had scattered down the hallway away from their sister. Damn, they were fast. The badger, sensing its opportunity, was scurrying away as fast as it could in the opposite direction.
Molly glared after her brothers for a moment, spared the badger a single baleful glance as it disappeared around a corner, and then refocused on Arthur. “What are you doing? Are you trying to get yourself expelled? And my brothers as well? You’re setting a terrible example for them, breaking school rules left and right–”
“Actually,” Arthur said bravely, “I think you’ll find that there isn’t technically a rule against this. We looked it up, you see, and–”
This was clearly the wrong thing to say at that moment. Molly drew in a breath to shout at him, her eyes flashing, and looking quite like her mother. “Not technically a – looked it up – are you mad?”
He stayed crouched on the floor, sitting back on his heels, as she continued shouting somewhat incoherently, and when she finally seemed to have run out of steam a bit on her harangue, or had become so enraged she could no longer speak, she turned on her heel to stalk away.
Arthur shot to his feet, grabbing hold of Molly’s arm. “Don’t leave like this, Molly.”
She turned slowly to him, looking first down at his hand on her upper arm, then up at his face with a freezing glare. “Let go of me right this minute, Arthur Weasley.”
“Molly,” he said, hoping to placate her, “Just… Just don’t, just stay-”
She jerked her arm out of his grip at the same time as she slammed her free arm fist-first into his chest. Arthur ducked a little, trying to keep his grip on her, but she had quite a right hook on her, and she tried to leave again as he grabbed at her. Her fist brushed the cut on his arm from the badger, and he drew in his breath with a hiss of pain and tightened his hold on her involuntarily.
There was a brief struggle where Arthur wasn’t quite aware of what he was doing, trying to keep hold of her while she hit him again a few more times, and the only coherent thought in his head was that he had to stop her from walking away from him; she had told him to come after her when she was angry. They somehow wound up a few feet from where they’d started, stopped when Molly’s back was against the stone wall of the corridor. He stared down at her for a moment, holding her hands still against his chest. She was breathing heavily as she glared up at him, her chest heaving and nostrils flaring, and he was sure she wanted to hit him again, so he did the only thing he could think of: he bent down and kissed her.
She kissed him back fiercely, as if she were pouring her rage into him. The kiss gradually softened, as her body relaxed against his, and finally he pulled back and saw her looking up at him bemusedly. Her arms were around his neck now, though he didn't remember releasing her hands.
“You’re still in trouble,” she said softly, but then she reached up to kiss him again.
The thought occurred to Arthur that this was much better than their last fight.
By the time they left the corridor, dinner had already started. The twins were nowhere to be seen at Gryffindor table, but Arthur's friends were grinning at him knowingly when he and Molly took their seats and hurriedly began dishing food onto their plates. No one mentioned a badger during the meal, so he assumed the badger had escaped without being seen, and he kept the sleeve of his robes down to hide the gash the badger had left. Molly had seen it, and had immediately set about making it up to him for accidentally hitting the wound, which was why they were almost twenty minutes late for dinner.
After dinner, Arthur went to the hospital wing with Molly clutching his hand, and had the school nurse heal his arm while Molly hovered nearby, looking worried. Madame Luscinia only sighed over the laceration and didn't bother to ask him how he'd gotten it. It was good as new when she was finished, though the evidence of it remained in the bloodstain and tear in the fabric of his sleeve.
They spent the rest of the evening studying companionably in the common room together, neither one mentioning the badger, her brothers (who were still missing in action), or their little row in the corridor. He wondered if it was technically a row if she was the only one doing any shouting. She was stroking his hand with one finger as she read from her Transfiguration textbook, and he didn't think she was even aware of what she was doing. Clearly she was no longer upset, and he was cheered by that. She got over her anger quickly. He rather thought he could take her shouting at him occasionally if he could coax her out of it the same way he had this time.
By the time he went up to his dormitory to go to bed, Reid, Dunstan, and Roddy were already in there. Reid was stretched out on his bed with a book as usual, wearing a set of purple pyjamas with ghastly little cartoon hippogriffs. Arthur shrugged out of his robes and left them in a heap on the floor next to his bed, and began digging through his trunk for his own pyjamas. Reid noticed the bloody gash on his sleeve right away.
“What happened to your arm, Arthur?”
“I wrestled a badger this afternoon,” he told him.
There was silence in the dormitory for a moment as they all stared at him, then Dunstan asked warily, “Is that a metaphor?”
Arthur heaved a sigh and told them about his 'adventure' with Molly's brothers and the subsequent fight with Molly while he changed into his pyjamas. By the time he was done, Reid was hooting with laughter.
“A badger ate your wand,” he choked, brushing away a tear.
“I wonder what happened to the badger,” Dunstan mused.
“The badger is long gone,” Arthur said. He was still feeling a little resentful toward the badger. “The badger is probably in Cornwall by now on a homicidal rampage.”
“You've really got to stop hanging around Molly's brothers, mate,” Roddy told him. “You're going to lose an eye next.”
Dunstan let out a loud guffaw just as a knock sounded on the door to their dormitory. The door swung open and the twins poked their heads around it, looking a little wary. Probably because they had left him to the wolves, so to speak, he thought wryly.
“Come on in, boys,” Arthur said, rolling his eyes.
They didn't move from the doorway.
“How's your arm?” Fabian asked.
He held it up to show them. “All healed, thanks to Madame Luscinia.”
Their faces cleared, and they strutted into the room, grinning.
“So did Molly kill you? Is she coming after us next?” Gideon hopped onto Arthur's bed and sat cross-legged.
Fabian stood behind him, leaning against one of the posters. “Should we flee the country? Assume new identities?”
“I'll be you, you'll be me,” Gideon told his brother.
“That may not be sufficient disguise,” Fabian said.
Arthur grinned. It was difficult to stay annoyed with the twins. “She didn't kill me.”
“They snogged in the corridor for twenty minutes,” Dunstan said dryly. “They were both late to dinner.”
The twins looked impressed and disgusted all at once.
“Well then,” said Fabian.
“I guess you know how to handle Molly after all,” Gideon said.
“Thanks a lot for sticking around to make sure she didn't kill me,” Arthur said, rolling his eyes. “You took off so fast I hardly saw your legs moving.”
“Well, she wasn't really likely to kill you, but us...” Fabian nodded sagely. “Us, she might have killed.”
“Yeah, and you got twenty minutes of snogging out of it, what are you complaining about? Which is completely disgusting, by the way, that's our sister you're snogging, you know.”
“Sorry about your wand,” Fabian added before Arthur could comment on snogging their sister.
Arthur shrugged. “It's all right. I've already written to my mum to ask her to send me a new one.”
“Well, it'll give you a good excuse to skive off some classes, if you don't have a wand,” Gideon said bracingly. “Maybe we should break our wands.”
“Maybe you should give up your life of crime,” Roddy suggested, grinning at them.
“We're too young to retire,” Gideon told him.
“Next time we thought we might steal some Polyjuice Potion from Slughorn and turn into Professor Dumbledore, and put all the Slytherins in detention,” Fabian said cheerfully.
“Merlin's beard,” said Dunstan, shaking his head in horror.
“I think they can put you in Azkaban for impersonating a professor,” Roddy said.
“Nah, only for impersonating Aurors, Magical Law Enforcement, or Healers,” Fabian said.
“We're saving those for next year,” Gideon said. “And there isn't technically a school rule that says you can't impersonate a teacher.”
“We looked it up,” Fabian added. “See, Arthur's been a good influence on us.”
“Good Gad,” Reid said, shaking his head. “I hope not.”
He went to History of Magic the next morning, as one didn't need a wand to sleep through Professor Binns' lecture, and watched the owls arrive at lunch, hoping to see the family owl bringing him a new wand, but there was no familiar rustle of wings at his table. There was not much point in attending Charms that afternoon without a wand. He was sure Molly would lecture him if he told her he was going to skive off, and spent the rest of lunch thinking of excuses why he would have to run back to the dormitory before class, and then he would stay there. But then she would surely lecture him when she returned from class. It seemed the lecture was inevitable.
After lunch Molly stood next to the table, clearly waiting for him to walk to class with her, so he gave up on his escape plan and walked with her out of the Great Hall and then stopped in the entrance hall. She looked at him quizzically as students filed past them, headed to their own classes.
“I'm skiving off Charms today,” Arthur told her sheepishly.
“You can't skive off Charms,” she said, sounding scandalised. “Why would you skive off Charms?”
“Because I haven't got a wand,” he admitted. “I wrote Mum to send me a new one, but it hasn't come yet.”
She frowned at him. “What happened to your old wand?”
“The badger ate it.”
Molly stared at him for a moment, then she blew her breath out, making the tendrils of hair around her face flutter, and shook her head at him. “I hardly need say that it was your own fault.”
He thought it was best to just agree. “No, you needn't say that.”
“You brought it on yourself. If your mum refuses to buy you a new wand, it will be on your own head. I don't know what you were thinking.”
“Yes, Molly dear.”
She threw him a look. “Are you taking the mickey?”
“No, Molly dear.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek for scolding him. It reminded him very much of his mum nagging at his dad, and he knew she only did it because she really did love him. “Mum will order me a new wand, and I'll go to class as soon as I have it. Don't worry.”
“Apparently I have to worry,” she grumbled. “You really need to stop hanging around my brothers. They'll have a bad influence on you.”
“They say I'm having a good influence on them.”
She pursed her lips, shaking her head and looking as if she did not believe that for a moment. “One can only hope.”
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