Chapter 35 : Higher and Higher
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I'm so glad, I've finally found you
Yes, that one, in a million girl
And now with my loving arms around you
Honey, I can stand up and face the world
Arthur returned to school after the Easter holiday feeling quite triumphant. It ranked at the top of his all-time favourite holidays, both because he'd had quite a few late nights alone with Molly and because she had finally met his family.
He didn't think she even realized how well she fit with the Weasleys. His mum loved her, had waxed rhapsodic about her for ages, and his dad had given him a pat on the shoulder after Molly had gone home, which for his father was akin to his mother falling over in a dead faint of happiness. Bilius, Constantine, and Glynis all liked her. Even Uncle Horatio, who didn't like anyone who wasn't a Weasley and still called Glynis 'that girl' after she'd been married three years to Constantine, had said that Molly might not be so bad.
Seeing her sitting on the lawn holding his infant nephew while she chatted and laughed with his father tugged at something deep within Arthur. The sun had made her hair shine like bronze as she cooed over the baby in that odd manner girls tended to have about babies, and it had occurred to Arthur that this could be his future: Molly and a baby smiling at him from his parents' backyard. The possibility of her becoming his wife had seemed to grow closer to his reach over the holiday.
He felt a little ridiculous thinking about marriage when he had only just turned seventeen, but he was legally an adult now, so he thought maybe it wasn't so ridiculous. Besides, there were only two things he was certain of for his future, and he'd been certain of them for a long time. He wanted to do something to help the Muggles, to work with them somehow, and he wanted to marry Molly Prewett. Was it so bad to know what you wanted out of life when you were young?
Arthur got caught up with his friends that evening in their dormitory. Dunstan seemed to be still smarting from his rather embarrassing argument with Petula, and did not want anyone to spread around the fact that Claudia Patterson had refused to go out with him. Arthur thought he was probably hoping to make Petula jealous or angry, or both, since she seemed to greatly admire Claudia, for reasons that escaped Arthur. Dunstan had spent the holiday sulking on a beach in West Wittering with his brothers.
Reid didn't want to talk about his holiday, and Arthur thought he must have spent it pining over Cecilia, who was angrier than ever with him after his graffiti before the holiday. Reid seemed, however, quite inexplicably even more smug and insufferable than ever. It was very strange. Roddy and Thaddeus had apparently spent most of their holidays sleeping and listening to Quidditch commentary on the Wizarding Wireless Network, which sounded like a nice holiday to Arthur.
None of them seemed at all surprised that Arthur had spent the majority of his holiday with Molly.
Cosmo's holiday was the main topic of conversation the next morning at breakfast. He had spent the week with his mother and sisters in London, attending an outdoor film festival. Arthur had heard of films briefly in his Muggle Studies classes, but had never actually seen one, and was a little disappointed that Cosmo had not actually seen the projection (another difficult word to pronounce) machine. The films Cosmo had seen sounded fascinating, and one in particular set all the girls to giggling, though Arthur did not understand why “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was funny.
“What's so funny?” Cosmo asked suspiciously as Molly and her friends giggled and snickered into their breakfasts.
“Oh, nothing,” Petula said airily, grinning at him. Dunstan had fled the table at her approach, and she had thrown him a dirty look as she sat down. Arthur rather thought someone was going to have to intervene to reconcile them.
Cecilia let out a snort as she turned a page in her Transfiguration textbook. Siobhan, sitting next to her with a copy of Cecilia's Charms notes, was grinning widely.
“It's a horror film,” said Cosmo. “Not a comedy.”
Hattie covered her mouth with one hand, but Arthur was sure she was still laughing. Petula's shoulders were shaking now, and she held a piece of toast with marmalade forgotten in front of her. Girls really were very strange.
Reid made his way down the table then, and Cecilia's smile faded from her face. She gave him a vicious scowl and started gathering up her books. Reid sat down next to her with a wide grin.
“Good morning, o light of my world,” he intoned in a deep voice, grinning at her annoyingly.
“Jump in the lake and drown, Reid,” Cecilia said haughtily, stalking away.
“I think I'm getting through to her,” Reid said cheerfully as soon as she was out of earshot.
Arthur eyed his friend doubtfully. “If you say so, mate.”
Siobhan shook her head at Reid and stood. “I'm going to go say good morning to Andrew. I'll see you girls later. Reid, you really should at least consider acting like you're not a complete ass.”
“Language, Siobhan,” he replied with a cheeky grin.
Hattie smiled. Siobhan rolled her eyes as she left.
Reid seemed determined to torment Cecilia for the rest of the day, sending her endless notes folded in the shape of small animals, and by the afternoon, while Arthur waited outside the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom with Molly tucked up against his side and Hattie chatting happily with her, Cecilia was starting to look as if she might commit a justifiable homicide.
Reid arrived just as they were all seating themselves. Professor Ampara looked quite possibly even more haggard and grey than she had before the holiday, and Arthur wondered again what was going on with the Defence professor.
“She doesn't look good, does she?” Molly murmured next to him.
He gave a slight shake of his head. “Do you think she'll come back next year?”
“Probably not,” Molly said with a sigh. “They never do, do they?”
Arthur frowned up at their teacher with concern, but she had begun her lecture, and he soon stopped worrying about her as the lesson took over his concentration.
Reid came back to the dormitory one evening shortly after the Easter holiday, looking slightly annoyed. He tossed his bookbag and telescope on his bed and turned to Thaddeus, who was stretched out on his bed with a book about Quidditch.
“What exactly can prefects deduct points for?” he demanded.
Thad glanced over at him, surprised. “Why, what did you do?”
Reid gave him an evasive look. “Why do you think I did something?”
“Cause he's not new here,” Roddy said dryly. “What have you done to Cecilia now?”
“Don't try to deny it, the only prefect likely to take points from you in a questionable way is Cecilia,” Thad said, grinning at Reid's expression. “What happened?”
“Just a little... incident... up on the tower.” Reid looked shifty again. “She took forty points from me.”
There was silence for a moment. Thad blinked in surprise and Roddy's face darkened. Arthur stared at Reid in shock. Forty points? What on earth had happened up on the Astronomy tower?
“What the bloody hell did you do?” Roddy demanded angrily. “We're already behind the Hufflepuffs in the House Cup, we can't stand to lose any more points.”
Reid ignored him, looking at Thad. “Can she really take those points?”
Thad shrugged. “It depends what you did.”
“Damn.” Reid ran a hand through his hair. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Thad shook his head. “You might want to reconsider messing Cecilia about, old chap. She's got a bit of a temper.”
“That's the understatement of the century,” Reid muttered, and snapped the curtains on his bed shut around him.
Arthur headed to breakfast the next morning with Cosmo, Reid, and Dunstan. He spotted Molly sitting at the head of table with Hattie and Petula and made his way to her. He had already started to sit down when he realized Dunstan had disappeared. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Dunstan huddled down over the table between Thad and Roddy. Petula had seen him too, and she frowned at him briefly before turning back to Hattie.
“Good morning, ladies,” Reid said cheerfully.
Arthur gave Molly a swift kiss on the cheek. She smiled at him and began ladling scrambled eggs onto his plate.
“Someone lost a good chunk of rubies for Gryffindor,” Petula said bad-temperedly. “Did you see the hourglasses this morning?”
“Ruddy first-years,” Reid said easily.
Arthur and Cosmo turned to stare at him.
“Reid, what are you on about? You know that was you,” Cosmo said. Hattie turned to Reid in surprise, and Petula's eyebrows contracted in a dark scowl.
Reid grinned. “She didn't mean it. She loves me, you know.”
“Oh for the love,” Molly said, setting the ladle down with a clatter. “Reid, what on earth have you done now?”
“Shh,” Hattie said, nodding up at the professors' table. “Professor McGonagall.”
Professor McGonagall was rising from her seat, dropping her napkin on the table. Her gaze was directed at them. Silence spread around the table as she approached. Reid choked on a mouthful of cereal when she stopped next to him and gestured to him with one hand.
“Mr. Akins, with me, if you please.”
“Yes, ma'am,” he said nervously as he got to his feet.
Arthur watched them go apprehensively, then turned to look at Molly, who was frowning at Reid's back.
“Why won't he just leave her alone?” she asked.
Arthur shrugged. He had some sympathy for Reid's obsession with Cecilia, since he had loved Molly from afar for so long, but he didn't think Reid was going about things the right way. All he was doing was making Cecilia more angry.
“What do you suppose McGonagall will do to him?” Cosmo asked around a mouthful of eggs.
“Detention maybe,” Petula said. “I don't know if the points Cecilia took will stand.”
“I hope they do,” Hattie said severely. “Maybe he'll learn something.”
“We still don't even know what he did,” Cosmo pointed out.
Hattie gave a little sniff. “Cecilia wouldn't take points from him over nothing.”
“Are you sure about that?” Arthur asked, trying to keep the scepticism out of his voice. Cecilia hated Reid, and it wouldn't surprise Arthur at all if she had overreacted to something he'd said.
Molly threw him a look. Arthur smiled half-heartedly at her, wishing he hadn't said anything. Hattie was giving him a similar dirty look, but Petula covered her mouth with one hand, and he was sure she was smiling.
“Professor McGonagall can't give back the points Cecilia took,” Molly reasoned. “It will undermine the authority of all the prefects.”
“I suppose that's true,” Cosmo said thoughtfully. “So maybe he won't get a detention.”
“It would have been better if Cecilia had put him in detention,” Petula said, pushing some food around her plate absent-mindedly. “Then we wouldn't be further behind in the House Cup. We're going to drop below Ravenclaw soon.”
Hattie harrumphed and glanced down the table at where Cecilia and Siobhan were sitting with Icarus, Andrew, and a handful of other Gryffindor seventh years, laughing and chatting, and then shook her head.
“Maybe we should suggest that to her,” Molly said.
“I'll let you do that,” Petula said dryly.
Arthur was sitting on his bed a few weeks later, reading a Muggle spy novel before bed and making notes on a scrap of parchment of the words he didn't understand so he could ask Cosmo about them later, when Roddy Feltham stormed in.
“Did you see the state of the Gryffindor hourglass? Did you see it? We're seventy points below Hufflepuff now! Seventy!” He threw his bookbag on the floor next to his bed. “We're below Ravenclaw! Can you believe it? Bloody Reid!”
“We were already behind Hufflepuff,” Arthur pointed out reasonably, though he was a little annoyed himself that they had dropped another notch in the running for House Cup. Reid had not reported the details of his conference with Professor McGonagall, but the points Cecilia had taken were still missing from the hourglass afterward, and most of Gryffindor had noticed. Word had gotten around quickly that the sudden loss of points was Reid's fault and he had swiftly become the most unpopular student in the house.
“We might have caught up if it weren't for Reid. Someone's going to have to throw themselves in front of a Stunner for Dumbledore at this point, if we want to win the House Cup.” Roddy flopped onto his bed.
“I heard Walter Campbell tried to take Reid down in the corridor after Ancient Runes this morning, but Pringle caught him,” Dunstan said.
“Too bad old Walter didn't get the chance,” Roddy said, looking disgruntled.
Reid came in then, and Arthur was surprised to see his head and shoulders were soaking wet, the water dripping down his shirt in a wet patch, as if someone had poured a bucket of water over his head. Reid looked quite pleased with himself, however, as he stripped out of his wet robes and pulled his horrible hippogriff pyjamas out of his trunk.
“What happened to you?” Arthur asked in amazement.
Reid grinned widely, but he just shook his head.
“You didn't lose any more points for Gryffindor, did you?” Roddy asked suspiciously. “I might have a swing at you myself if you keep that up.”
“No more points tonight,” Reid said cheerfully, climbing into bed.
Roddy muttered something under his breath that was probably a threat, shooting Reid an evil look, and pulled the drapes shut around his bed.
Dunstan accompanied Arthur to the library later that week, ostensibly to get some studying done, but Arthur suspected it was really to hide from Petula, who had spent the morning following closely behind Dunstan with Siobhan in tow and making snide comments about him so he would overhear. She seemed to have decided that making Dunstan's life miserable was the best revenge. And unfortunately for Dunstan, she'd heard that Claudia Patterson had turned him down and was relishing the news.
Molly and Hattie were sitting at a table in the back of the library when Arthur arrived with Dunstan in tow.
“Oh, hello,” Hattie said to them as she flipped through a stack of notes. “You're just in time, Arthur, the rest of the girls should be here soon so we can get started on Transfiguration.”
“Petula's coming?” Dunstan's face took on a hunted expression.
Molly sighed and gave him a stern look. “Don't you think you ought to apologize to Petula, Dunstan?”
“No,” he said immediately. “Why should I apologize to her?”
“Because you're a gentleman,” Hattie said, looking severe.
“And you started it by gossiping about her,” Molly added.
Dunstan looked as if he would like to argue this point, but he deflated somewhat under the combined glare of Molly and Hattie. “Oh, all right, I'll apologize to her.”
“Here's your chance,” Arthur said with a grin, nodding at the library door. Petula had just entered with Cecilia and Siobhan.
Dunstan flushed red as Petula approached. She was already frowning at him.
“I'm sorry for what I said about you,” Dunstan muttered to her.
Petula's expression changed to surprise. “You are?”
“I've just said so, haven't I?” he said, sounding ill-tempered.
“Well. Thank you, I suppose.” She gave him a suspicious look, as if she weren't sure of his sincerity. Since Dunstan probably wasn't sorry at all, Arthur thought this was rather perceptive of her.
“Glad that's over,” Siobhan said loudly. “Bugger off now so we can study, all right Dunstan?”
“Language,” Hattie murmured.
Dunstan left, looking glad to escape Petula after the forced apology, and Petula settled in smugly next to Hattie.
“It was very gallant of him to apologize, wasn't it?” Hattie asked her with an air of prompting a small child in proper behaviour.
“I suppose so,” Petula said, eyeing Hattie. “It was more than I expected of a boy whose Patronus is a pig.”
“There's nothing wrong with pigs,” Siobhan said mildly.
“It's a boar,” Arthur said, gamely trying to defend his friend.
“At least he has a Patronus,” Cecilia sighed, looking sullen.
“Give it another go,” Siobhan urged her. “You haven't tried it in weeks.”
“Oh, what's the point,” Cecilia muttered bitterly, but then she frowned thoughtfully and drew her wand. Her eyes slid out of focus for a moment, her face growing oddly flushed. She held out her wand. “Expecto Patronum!”
A silver panther burst from her wand and prowled around in a circle next to their table. Arthur looked at it and grinned. The large, snarling, sleek cat seemed to fit Cecilia's personality rather well.
“Well done, Cecilia,” he said heartily when the panther had disappeared. She smiled at him, and her grin reminded him of Reid's.
“Damn,” sighed Petula. “That was the one spell I could do that you couldn't.”
“Language, Petula,” Hattie said primly.
“What were you thinking of? Your face was so red,” Molly said curiously to Cecilia.
Cecilia had a strange look on her face, her cheeks still flushed red, and Arthur thought he recognized it from a similar one on Molly's face whenever they found a quiet spot out in the castle late at night. He grinned at her. Apparently Cecilia and Icarus had been having some very good times, indeed.
“You were thinking of Icarus, weren't you?” Siobhan said knowingly, smiling at her best friend.
“Icarus-” Cecilia's expression changed; she looked as if she'd been hit with a Bludger. “He – I -” She stuttered for a moment and then blurted out, “I've got to go,” and practically ran out of the library, leaving her books forgotten on the table.
“What on earth was that about?” Hattie asked in bewilderment.
Siobhan was sitting back in her chair, staring after Cecilia thoughtfully. “Something's going on,” she said slowly. “If it's what I think it is, then...”
“What do you think is going on?” Petula asked eagerly.
“Nevermind,” Siobhan said, but she still looked deep in thought.
“Nobody ever tells me anything,” Petula said with a frown.
Molly was busily scribbling away at her Arithmancy homework a few nights later in the common room while Arthur relaxed next to her with his Muggle studies textbook, looking for references on some of the strange words he'd learned in the spy novel. Petula was stretched out on the floor attempting her Transfiguration homework with a stack of pumpkin pasties that had arrived in the morning post from one of her sisters, while Hattie sat in the chair next to Molly, reading from her Arithmancy textbook and occasionally glancing over at where Cecilia and Icarus sat cuddled together. Reid had come past earlier, shaken Icarus's hand, leered at Cecilia, and then gone up to his dormitory. Icarus still looked a little angry.
Molly glanced over at Cecilia and Icarus. “Don't you think one of us should say something to her?”
“Of course not,” Hattie said quietly, glancing at Cecilia again. “She isn't even talking to Siobhan about what Reid did. She isn't going to talk to us.”
“Well, I'm dying to know what's going on,” Petula said. “And if she takes any more points from him, someone's going to find his body in a ditch. Go on, Molly, say something.”
“Molly Prewett, don't you dare,” Hattie said, giving Petula a severe look.
“I want to know what he did up on the Astronomy tower. And why has Cecilia been acting so strangely since the holiday?” Molly set her quill down with a determined look.
“Molly, no,” Hattie said, looking alarmed.
“I'm just going to ask her-”
“She'll hex you!”
“Don't be a goose, Hattie. Arthur,” Molly said, turning to him. “What do you think?”
Hattie gave her a look of annoyance. Arthur glanced between the two of them and sighed. He didn't want Molly making the situation between Reid and Cecilia worse, which he thought was a strong possibility if she intervened, but he didn't want to be the tie-breaker in arguments between her and her best friend. However, he had to side with Hattie on this one.
“I really don't think you should get involved, Molly.”
She looked over at Cecilia again, and then turned back with a sigh. “Well, all right, if you think that's best.”
“I do. Just let them sort it out on their own.”
Molly nodded. “I'm sure you're right.”
Hattie was staring at them wide-eyed, and Petula had a pumpkin pasty poised in front of her, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. Arthur thought he knew why, but Molly gave them a wary glance.
“Are you feeling all right, Molly?” Hattie asked.
Petula's eyes darted to Arthur, and then she said out of the corner of her mouth to Hattie, “Did I imagine that, or did that really just happen?”
“You didn't imagine it,” Hattie said, then addressed her best friend again. “The only person I've ever seen you back down to is Cecilia, and that's only because she's even more stubborn and bossy than you are, not because you actually believed she might be right.”
“I trust his judgement. Shut up,” Molly said, turning a little pink.
Hattie shook her head. “You really must be in love, or you've turned into a pod person.”
“I'm still here,” Arthur said, in case they had forgotten. “What's a pod person?”
Petula grinned and took a bite of her pasty. “The world has gone mad. Molly said someone else was right, and Cecilia's losing her mind. Next thing you know, Hattie will stop liking chocolate and I'll get an O in all my classes.”
“And Siobhan will become a nun,” Hattie said dryly.
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