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Chapter 2 : A Silver Lining
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There was still no word on the Fletcher family's killers, and the fear that clutched Molly's insides seemed to congeal, burning and freezing her at the same time. She did not like going out without Arthur at her side. She didn't feel safe without him. Apparently her mother felt the same, because the only time she did not hassle Molly about leaving the house was when Arthur accompanied her. He had quite a lot of free time these days to squire her about, as he was no longer working long hours at Mr. Fletcher's side.
After the death of Mr. Fletcher, Arthur's position at the Ministry had become quite difficult. No one wanted to have Asmund Fletcher's protégé in their department, fearing it would be too dangerous, and so he'd been shunted sideways into a minor office where people often wound up when they'd offended their superiors. The Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office was the only one in the Ministry currently willing to hire Arthur. He said he didn't mind, though Molly knew he was a little worried about it. With Mr. Fletcher, he'd been on the up and up, but now Molly had no idea where Arthur's career was headed. She thought he was probably safer that way, but hadn't wanted to voice that notion aloud. Arthur's moment in the limelight at the Ministry had been short-lived.
Mr. Fletcher's death hadn't only killed the careers of his favourite employees. The legislation he'd drafted to protect Muggles from wizard abuse had died with him. Molly's father had said it was probably what the Death Eaters had been aiming to accomplish.
They walked hand-in-hand down the street one Saturday, heading for Diagon Alley from the Muggle diner Arthur had taken her to for lunch. Molly couldn’t help looking suspiciously at everyone they passed; it was impossible to tell whom to trust any more. Arthur’s presence at her side, solid and steadfast, was comforting, and she hung on a little tighter to his arm.
Arthur glanced down at her as they hurried across the street, then his gaze went back to scanning the faces in the crowd. They were nearly at the Leaky Cauldron. Molly was silent, clinging to Arthur as they walked through the pub. The bar patrons, who had generally looked so cheerful before, looked wary and frightened now, as if they did not know how to interact with the other witches and wizards any more. Arthur led her through the pub and out the back, to the small back courtyard.
“I can’t stand it any more,” Molly said in a whisper as he tapped the brick to open the doorway into Diagon Alley. “It's so horrible. You can’t trust anyone. We could be killed at any moment.”
“I know.” Arthur looked sad, glancing over his shoulder at the pub door behind them. “It’s like a different world from what I remember as a kid.”
Molly was silent as they made their way down the street, past the wizarding shops. Diagon Alley wasn't busy and bustling with witches and wizards doing their shopping, as it normally was, and instead was quiet and subdued, with the few shoppers hurrying along in groups. The recent spates of deaths and rumours of Dark wizards lurking everywhere had put a pall on the hidden London street, and people exchanged furtive looks as they passed.
“Reid!” Arthur called out suddenly, and Molly looked up to see Reid Akins coming down the street toward them, alone and still looking rather unkempt. He had still not shaved since Cecilia's death, and the dark beard was thick on his narrow cheeks.
He looked up at Arthur's call, but his eyes didn't quite meet theirs. “Oh, hello Arthur,” he said dully.
“Are you all right, Reid?” Molly asked tentatively. He looked awful, his eyes red and puffy, as if he'd cried hard that day.
“I can't find Siobhan,” he said, and Molly and Arthur exchanged a bewildered look. Reid and Siobhan weren't really friends. They'd been friendly enough, as Cecilia's best friend and boyfriend, but without Cecilia they did not seem to speak to each other much.
“Were you looking for her?” Arthur asked cautiously, as if he thought Reid might have lost his mind altogether.
“I have to give her this,” Reid said, brandishing a piece of parchment at them without looking at the parchment or directly into either of their faces. “It came today, and I - I can't keep it, I have to – she has to take it, I can't look at it again, she has to-”
Arthur took the parchment out of his hand and Molly stood on tiptoe to see it. Her heart dropped as she read the short message on the paper.
Cecilia Arcadia Fletcher has received:
Ancient Runes: O
Defence Against the Dark Arts: O
“Oh, Cecilia,” Molly whispered, putting a hand to her lips. She would have been so happy – and so smug – about those N.E.W.T. results.
Arthur folded the parchment back up, gazing at Reid with sympathy. Reid's anguish was etched onto his face, and Molly looked away, trying not to cry. Naked emotion on Reid Akins was difficult to take in.
“We'll give it to Siobhan for you,” Arthur said quietly. “You don't have to look at it again.”
“I got eleven 'Outstanding's,” Reid said, as if he hadn't heard Arthur. “Eleven.”
Molly drew in her breath to compose herself, and gave him a watery smile. “Well done, Reid.”
“I'd better go,” Reid said, looking around. He seemed unable to bear meeting their eyes. “Better go. My dad's waiting, he said I needed to start work this week. Have to go. Meet him. Bye, Arthur. Bye, Molly.”
They let him pass without another word, and watched him disappear around a corner. Molly couldn't imagine Reid would be much use to anyone in his present condition, and thought Mr. Akins must be trying to jar his son back to life rather than actually expecting him to work.
She never would have guessed anything could have this much effect on Reid, who'd always been very cocky and sure of himself at school. Losing Cecilia seemed to have broken him in a way Molly had never thought possible.
Arthur sighed and looked down at the parchment in his hand. “I suppose we'd better hang on to this until we see Siobhan again.”
“Poor Reid,” Molly whispered, “getting that owl, why did they send it? Shouldn't they know she's...”
Arthur shook his head, still looking very sad. “Why did they send it to Reid in the first place?”
“I don't know. She did spend a lot of time at his flat.” Molly sighed. “Or maybe she wanted them to get their N.E.W.T.s together so she could gloat in case she beat him in something.”
“That sounds like something she would do. Would have done, that is,” Arthur corrected himself, and they were both silent for a moment. Molly searched her handbag for a handkerchief, sniffling and trying to hold back fresh tears, and Arthur pulled his out of his pocket and handed it to her.
“Let's go,” he said finally. “We can Apparate to your parents' house and owl Siobhan. See where she is.”
“We should have our N.E.W.T. results today too, I suppose,” she said, though receiving the final results of seven years' worth of her life suddenly did not seem as important as it had done only a few weeks ago. Seven 'Outstanding's hadn't done Cecilia any good, after all.
“I suppose,” Arthur said, not sounding particularly enthusiastic about it either. “I'm sure my mum has already opened mine.”
“Mine probably has too,” Molly said with a sigh.
“Poor Reid. I never thought I'd see him like this,” Arthur said then, and it seemed to be weighing heavily on his mind.
She nodded. “I know what you mean. It's as if he's become a whole different person.”
“I couldn't stand it, if...”
Arthur stopped abruptly, and Molly gave him a quizzical look. “If what?”
Arthur's brow was knitted, and she couldn't tell what he was thinking, but he looked very serious.
“If it were you,” he said in a low voice, full of intensity. “I don't know what I'd do. I can't stand to think of anything happening to you.”
Molly stepped closer to him and put her arms around his waist, feeling his arms encircle her tightly and breathing in his scent. She tried to picture what she would do if someone told her Arthur had been killed, and her mind shied away from the image. She could understand easily why Reid had broken down so completely.
“I can't either,” she said softly.
They stood there for a while in each other's arms, and Molly closed her eyes as she listened to his heart beating steadily, reassuringly, against her cheek. She felt him drop a kiss into her hair, and the rumble of his voice was so soothing that it was a moment before his next words registered with her.
“Let’s get married.”
“What?” Molly pulled back and gave him a look. “Now?”
“Yes, now. Let's elope. You said once you would marry me if I asked you.”
She stepped back out of his arms, unconsciously getting some distance. He looked very earnest. Very serious. Far too serious.
“Well, yes,” she said dryly, “but I thought there would be some time between the asking and the marrying. We’re only eighteen. It isn't the right time.”
“Marry me, Molly Prewett.” Arthur grabbed both her hands and held them tightly against his chest. “I love you, and I want you to be my wife. Let’s get married, please.”
Molly wanted to melt into his arms, but her practical streak overrode her romantic side. “Oh, Arthur… I love you too. But don’t you think we’re too young?”
“I’m old enough to know that I love you, and that I’ll always love you, and that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Arthur gave her a wicked smile then, and added, “And you’re older than me, so you should know all that too.”
Molly pulled one hand away long enough to give him a little slap on the shoulder. “Arthur Weasley!”
“Don’t you want to be Molly Weasley?” He gave her a winning smile and a quick kiss.
Molly Weasley… It sounded wonderful. She did want to be Arthur’s wife. She loved him, and she knew that wasn’t going to change. He was a good man, and he wanted to marry her. She'd been thinking about marrying him for nearly two years.
She didn't want him to change his mind. She wanted to say yes, knew she would say yes eventually, no matter what. And she didn't want to regret making him wait if...
“Our parents are going to kill us,” she said.
His eyes were eager as he asked quickly, “You’ll marry me then?”
She could feel the certainty settle over her like a warm blanket, wrapping her in the rightness of her decision. Suddenly she couldn't believe she'd hesitated. Of course she would marry him. She couldn't see anything else in her future but him. What was the point in waiting?
“Yes, I’ll marry you.”
Arthur let out a loud whoop and grabbed her tightly, spinning her around in a bear hug. Molly giggled and clung tightly to him, her arms around his neck. When he finally set her down, and kissed her thoroughly, he took her hand again and said excitedly, “Let’s go!”
“Wait,” Molly said, pulling him to a stop before he could take off. “Wait, Arthur, we need a plan. Where are we going?”
“Gretna Green,” he said immediately. “It’s where all the Muggles go to elope. Cosmo told me about it.”
He would want to take her to a Muggle town to elope. Oh well. She didn't have a better idea, and a Muggle town might actually be safer than a wizard town. Less people to look for them, certainly.
“Well then, we’ll need more Muggle money, won’t we?”
Arthur stopped tugging on her and looked down the street in the opposite direction. “Oh, yes. We’d better make a stop at Gringott’s.”
Molly was a little surprised to hear that Arthur had his own vault. She had rather thought he'd still be storing his money in a sock under the mattress, like her brothers did with their money. She climbed into the cart next to Arthur, reflecting fondly on how grown-up they both were. Getting married was such an adult thing to do, just like having one's own Gringott's vault. She sat up a little straighter in the cart, feeling very proud of both of them.
“I got it only last month,” Arthur told her proudly as they rode down toward his vault. “It used to be my grandfather's vault, but Dad's had to take over everything for Granddad these days, so he said I should go ahead and take it when I got my job. It's been a Weasley vault for ages.”
Molly had been to Gringott's with her parents before, and Arthur's vault wasn't as deep in the bank as the Prewett vault was, but it seemed to be roughly the same size. When the goblin opened the vault, however, she saw there was quite the difference inside: Arthur had only a rather small pile of coins. He hadn't had a job very long, and hadn't built up much savings. It gave her a strange, squirmy feeling in her stomach to see it.
Arthur seemed quite unabashed at the contents of his vault, and swept the lot into his money pouch without hesitating.
“But Arthur, that's all your savings,” Molly said, feeling a flutter of nervousness.
“It's only money, it's not important,” Arthur said, grinning at her. Apparently he could tell that this had not calmed her fears, so he added, “Don't worry about it, I've still got a job, remember? I can make more money.”
“If you're sure...”
“I've never been more sure in my life,” he said firmly, and Molly smiled at him.
They left the bank quickly after cleaning out his meagre savings and changing most of the Galleons and Sickles into the very strange-looking Muggle money. Molly dashed down the marble steps to the street with her hand in Arthur's. He quickly led the way to a corner that was commonly used for Apparition in and out of Diagon Alley.
“Well then, are you ready?” Arthur was grinning down at her, and she couldn't help smiling back.
“Here we go,” he said, and turned over his shoulder with her wrapped tightly in his arms.
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