They reappeared in a narrow alley between two whitewashed old cottages. People were walking past down the street outside, and Molly had to cover her giggles. Apparating into a Muggle town was far more adventurous than anything she normally did, and it made her oddly giddy to do something so reckless.
“I suppose we're lucky no one saw that,” Arthur said, smiling at her giggles. She stepped into his arms and let him kiss her for a few minutes, there in the alley.
When they emerged onto the street, Arthur started telling her all about Gretna Green. She didn't have the heart to tell him that she wasn't interested. He liked Muggles very much and always seemed to hope she would as well if he talked about them enough.
“Muggles have been eloping to Gretna Green for hundreds of years,” he was saying excitedly. “The marriage laws are different in Scotland than they are in England, you know, so loads of people who couldn't legally marry in England have come here for a runaway marriage.”
“Arthur,” she interrupted him in a low voice when he paused for breath, “Don't say Muggles. Someone will hear you.”
“Right,” he said sheepishly. “Sorry.”
She looked around the village as they strolled down the street. It had an aura of romance about it that was almost magical. She felt as if reality had fallen away from them when they'd left London, leaving only the core of her being, only the desire to belong to Arthur, finally and completely. “Where do they do the weddings?”
“I don't know.” They stopped for a moment to have a better look. Molly wasn't sure what she was searching for exactly, and hoped she would know it when she saw it.
“There,” he said a moment later, pointing to a building at the end of the street.
It wasn't a church. It was much smaller than the Muggle cathedrals of London, a very old building with a lovely arched window next to the door with 'Marriage Room' inscribed in the glass. Written on the shutters were the words 'Old Blacksmith’s Buildings' and advertisements for books and antiquities. She didn't know what a blacksmith was, but Arthur did – he only stopped talking about horseshoes and iron when they reached the door.
There was a middle-aged woman sitting inside, and she hurried forward with a smile to shake Arthur's hand. Molly started feeling rather shy, as she always did in front of Muggles. Arthur was in his element, and before she knew it, everything was arranged and they had only to wait until the priest finished the wedding he was currently performing.
She stood clinging to him in front of the arched window while he perused a bookshelf eagerly, but she couldn't seem to focus on the titles.
The brief feeling of being so very grown-up that she'd had in the bank was fading, and she felt very young now, too young to be making this sort of monumental decision. She could feel her heartbeat speeding up, and her thoughts seemed to whirl around her in a jumble.
Did he really love her? Did he only want to marry her because of what had happened to Cecilia? What if later he realized he'd made a mistake? What if he would regret this tomorrow, would wish it had never happened?
“It's our turn,” Arthur whispered suddenly, breaking into her private panic attack, and started to step forward.
“Wait.” Molly grabbed his hand, her heart beating so fast she thought it might fly out of her chest.
“Are you all right, Molly?” He gazed down at her in concern.
“Would you still want to marry me if the world hadn’t become mad and dangerous?” she blurted out, and could feel tears rising. She tried to blink them away, looking down at her feet.
Arthur put a hand under her chin so her eyes met his. “I want to marry you, no matter what else happens, good or bad. If the world weren’t mad and dangerous, you might not have agreed to marry me now, but I was going to marry you sooner or later, Molly.”
Molly nodded, sniffing. “All right. Do you promise?”
“I promise. I’ve wanted to marry you for years,” he admitted. “I probably would have asked you when we were fifteen if you’d given me the time of day then.”
Molly let out a watery chuckle. “Silly.”
“Come on. I can’t go another minute without you as my wife.” He gave her hand a tug. “Let’s go change your surname.”
“Oh, Arthur…” Molly followed him into the blacksmith’s. She was still nervous, but Arthur looked so excited, and the realization finally settled in her mind that he didn’t have a single qualm about marrying her. She drew in a deep breath and felt the fear begin to leave her. If he could do this so bravely, she could too. She loved him, after all, and she knew in her heart that she was making the right decision.
The priest was a wiry fellow who reminded her a bit of their last Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. He arranged them around an oddly-shaped block of metal called an anvil – Molly assumed this was a quaint Muggle marriage custom, and it was only through a sharp kick to the ankle that she prevented Arthur from delaying the ceremony by asking dozens of questions that would make the Muggles suspicious – and they clasped hands over it. The priest began what sounded like a rehearsed speech about marriage. Molly wasn’t really listening, although Arthur seemed utterly fascinated by the whole thing, and was staring eagerly around the blacksmith’s shop, at its Muggle artefacts.
It wasn’t long before it was time for the vows, and though they were different than wizard vows, Molly felt as if the words were weighing on her soul as she waited for Arthur to agree.
He had stopped looking around and was now staring at her with a look she recognized from their many late-night snogging sessions, and it occurred to her that Arthur might have something else on his mind as a reason to get married. She thought she should probably feel afraid or worried about that, but she couldn't seem to spare any attention for anything but Arthur and their vows.
“I do,” he said softly.
Molly’s heart beat faster as the Muggle priest turned to her and repeated the vows that he’d read for Arthur. She could hardly hear them over the sound of her own heartbeat. Love and comfort… honour and keep… forsaking all others… It didn’t matter what was said, at that moment she would have agreed to anything to be Arthur’s wife.
“I do,” she said, and saw Arthur smile at her.
She smiled back at him, tears welling up again, and then heard the priest tell Arthur to kiss the bride. The bride… That was her. His bride. She stepped closer, forgetting the anvil was between them, and bumped into it. She smiled up at Arthur with a mixture of joy and embarrassment.
He let out a low chuckle and whispered as he leaned toward her, “I love you, Molly.”
“I love you too, Arthur.”
She had to stand on her tiptoes a bit, but the sweet little kiss over the anvil was quite possibly the best she’d ever had, her first kiss as Arthur's wife, and then the priest was congratulating them and asking if they planned to stay in Gretna Green for their wedding night.
Wedding night. This time Molly did feel afraid, and unprepared, which always made her feel more panicked. Why hadn’t she thought of the wedding night before? It had slipped her mind utterly when she agreed to the wedding.
Arthur gave her hand a squeeze, as if he knew what she was thinking, and he extricated them from the Muggles as quickly as he could after signing the marriage register. Once they were outside, he took one look at her face and led her to a quiet corner of the street, away from the windows of the blacksmith’s shops.
“It’s all right, Molly,” he said soothingly. “Don’t be frightened.”
“I’m not frightened,” she said swiftly, but her voice was higher-pitched than normal. She tried to take a deep breath, and managed to repeat in a lower tone, “I'm not.”
Arthur leaned in close and wrapped her in his arms. “It’s my first time too,” he whispered against her hair. “But we don’t even have to do anything tonight. Please don’t be afraid.”
Molly clung to him tightly. Her heart was racing again. “I’ll try,” she said in a small voice, feeling rather stupid.
“Let’s go have dinner,” he said, giving her a hug and then pulling back until he could see her face. “We won’t even worry about it for now, all right? We'll just go have a bite to eat, and then figure out what to do next.”
“Yes.” Molly allowed him to steer her toward a small inn down the street from the blacksmith’s shops, trying not to think about a wedding night.
As soon as she walked in the door of the inn, she forgot all about her fears and drew in a sudden breath. The inn was small but clean, built of old, whitewashed stone and bare wooden beams gone dark with age, and decorated with small vases of wildflowers. She fell in love with it instantly. It was just the sort of home she wanted to have someday.
“Oh, Arthur, let’s stay here tonight,” she said, gazing around at the lovely little paintings in thick, unpainted wooden frames on the walls.
Arthur gave her an odd look. “All right, Molly. Let me just see if they have a room.”
Molly walked slowly around the inn’s main room, examining the ancient wooden furniture and the delicate linens on the tables. There was another young couple in the corner, seated around a small round table, holding hands and making cow's eyes at each other. Arthur reappeared shortly, holding a handful of Muggle money.
“Right, we’re set, then. The money is so strange,” he said in a low voice. “I wonder how the Muggles can keep it all straight. So many little bits of paper and tiny coins, they really are cleverer than we wizards give them credit for…”
Molly turned to him. “Can we see the room?”
Arthur smiled. “Our room…” He took her hand and they walked up the stairs together.
Molly’s stomach contracted a little when he pushed open the door to the room they would share that night. She had been out with Arthur many times late into the night, even stayed out until dawn on several occasions, and they had often stretched out on a blanket together at picnics, so she felt a little silly being so nervous at the thought of sharing a bed with him. But they had never slept next to each other, and they had certainly never done… that.
She knew the mechanics of it, thanks to years of reading Fifi LaFolle novels and an extremely embarrassing chat with her mum after her mum had caught her reading one of those novels when she was thirteen. She had to admit that during some of her daydreams, those Fifi LaFolle scenes had replayed themselves in her mind with a different cast of characters. So all in all, though she could imagine herself and Arthur in that situation and it even seemed a good idea, somehow the reality of going to bed with him was making her terrified.
What if she didn't please him? What if he didn't please her? What if the books were all wrong and it wasn't any fun at all? She didn't think she would ever forgive Fifi LaFolle.
They stood in the doorway and stared at the bed in silence. Molly’s eyes traced the contours of the blanket and pillows, and she became aware that Arthur was glancing at her sidelong.
“All right, there, Molly?” he asked quietly.
She decided to put all these thoughts to the back of her mind for now. “Yes. Let’s go to dinner.”
They ate downstairs in the inn’s cosy little dining room, and Molly forgot about worrying over the wedding night as Arthur joked around and they laughed and kissed. Being married was lovely, she thought. Arthur had signed them into the inn as Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Weasley, and the innkeeper laughed when he brought Molly over to the desk after dinner to show her the guest ledger excitedly. Molly was grinning widely at seeing their names like that on an official paper, not just doodled in the margins of her notes at school. It was real this time.
They went for a walk in town after dinner, holding hands as they went into shops. It was obvious the town was accustomed to excited newlyweds, since nobody gave them much notice, just an indulgent smile now and then. Arthur introduced them whenever he could, and it gave Molly a shiver to hear him say, “This is my wife, Molly,” with a huge grin on his face. Her cheeks ached from smiling all evening.
He was determined to buy her a wedding gift, and Molly helped him count out the rest of the Muggle money from behind a row of shelves so the Muggles wouldn’t see them acting oddly. Maths weren’t one of Arthur’s strong suits, so Molly took command of the money. It was so different than the Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts she was used to, but she thought she had the hang of it; she had a N.E.W.T. in Arithmancy, after all, so what was a little Muggle money?
She picked out a silver filigree ring at the Muggle jewellery shop, and handed Arthur the money he would need to buy it. The shopkeeper, a round little middle-aged woman, was smiling at them, and said kindly, “Did you just get married?”
Molly blushed a little as Arthur nodded. “Just this afternoon, yes,” he said proudly.
The shopkeeper let out a little chuckle as she rang up their purchase, and said with a wink, “Enjoy yourselves tonight, dears.”
Molly kept her smile as they left the shop, but her stomach was twisting up again at being reminded of the wedding night. It was getting late, and Arthur was leading them back to the inn. He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, and she drew a deep breath to calm herself, letting it out slowly. She was a grown woman, a married woman now, and she told herself she was just being silly.
The innkeeper waved at them with a smile as they crossed the little lobby, and Arthur followed her up the stairs and into their room. The stairs seemed far longer than they had the first time, and yet she reached the top far too quickly, and a moment later she was opening their bedroom door, feeling the butterflies batting around in her stomach.
They stood in the middle of the room, looking at each other, for a moment, then Arthur gave a little cough and asked, “Do you want to wear your ring?”
“Oh.” Molly nodded. “Yes, please.” She sat down on the edge of the bed, still feeling nervous, and Arthur sat next to her as he unwrapped the little box and opened it for her, proffering the ring. Molly plucked it out of the box and examined it for a moment with a smile, then slid it onto her finger and held out her hand to admire the effect.
“I love it,” she said. “Thank you, Arthur.”
There was an awkward silence for a few moments, then Arthur coughed again and asked, staring at the small fireplace, “Shall I light a fire, then?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, it’s August,” Molly said.
“Oh. Right.” Arthur stared around the room again, and Molly realized he was nervous as well. He had said it was his first time, which she'd known anyway, and she wondered if he was worrying about the same things she was. Somehow that made her feel less afraid, and she leaned toward him and kissed him softly on the cheek.
Arthur turned to face her, and they kissed again, but he pulled away quickly.
“We really don’t have to do anything tonight, Molly,” he said earnestly. “We'll wait until you're ready. I don’t want you to be afraid.”
Molly didn’t say anything, but she scooted closer to him and kissed him full on the mouth. She kept kissing him until he got that little growl in the back of his throat that she loved, and then pulled back abruptly and said seriously, “We don’t have to do anything tonight if you don’t want to.”
He stared at her for a moment, then narrowed his eyes. “It’s not nice to poke fun at your husband, Molly Weasley.”
She giggled, and he grabbed her in a bear hug and pulled her backward onto the bed, so that she landed on the pillow with a bounce, still laughing.
“Are you sure you’re not afraid, Arthur?”
“Oh, I’m going to get you for that,” he said, trying to tickle her stomach while she batted his hands away.
Finally they stopped, both smiling still, and stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, with Arthur leaning over her, her hair spread out on the pillow. Molly reached up to remove his glasses, folding them and placing them on the bedside table without looking away from him. She curled her fingers into his hair, sliding her hand down to the back of his neck.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you too,” he said, and leaned down to capture her mouth in a kiss.
A/N: I took a small liberty with the timeline. In 1856, Scotland made a law to require three weeks' residency in Scotland before one could be married there, mainly to prevent the sort of goings-on that made Gretna Green so notorious. This wasn't lifted until 1977, eight years past this story. Sorry about that. Writing about Arthur fudging their way through that lessened the romance, so I decided to just ignore it.