Chapter 1 : 1. William Arthur Weasley
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The slender bronze hand, inscribed with the letters Molly G. Weasley, had not budged from its position on the clock face all night. It had remained steadfastly next to the hand reading Arthur C. Weasley, hovering over the word home. Gazing bleary-eyed up at the clock, Arthur wondered about this briefly; did it say more about the resilience of his wife, or the skill of the midwife that it never even twitched in the direction of mortal peril? Cold grey light stole through the windows and bathed the shadows under his eyes and in the hollows of his cheeks. It had been a long night. He ran a hand through his thick red hair, stifled a yawn, and tried to focus on the parchment lying on the table in front of him:
…arrived safely at five o’clock this morning. Molly was just brilliant. She and the baby are fine. We’ve decided…
His thoughts were interrupted by a soft shuffling noise as a large grey-haired woman entered the kitchen, a misshapen carpet bag tucked under a sloping shoulder.
‘I’ll be off in a minute, Arthur,’ Judith Sage smiled, her eyes crinkling with fatigue. ‘Molly’s having a rest. Could you take her up a cup of tea when you’ve finished your letter?’
‘Of course,’ Arthur said, throwing down the quill and blotting the parchment in his eagerness to be of use to his wife. ‘Would you like some too?’ He grabbed a copper kettle and began to fill it with water at the sink.
‘That’s kind, but I won’t keep you. I’ll be back to check on you all later, so I’d better head home for a snooze.’ She manhandled the bag onto the kitchen table and rummaged through it, eventually pulling out a small vial of swirling pink liquid. ‘Betony and silverweed. Pop two drops in the tea, it’ll help with any discomfort and help her to rest.’
Arthur hurried across the kitchen and took the vial gratefully. Noticing the young man’s pallor, Judith rested a wide, firm hand over his shaking wrist.
‘You’ve done very well, son. Your wife and the baby are fine; in fact, Molly seems to be a bit of a natural at all of this. Now,’ she smiled at him kindly and gave his arm a gentle squeeze, ‘Go upstairs and enjoy your first day as a family.’
After the midwife had left, bulging carpet bag held firmly under one arm as she Disapparated at the end of the garden path, Arthur poured tea from the whistling kettle into a teacup, added a couple of drops of the pink liquid, and started towards the stairs. A hot splash on his thumb made Arthur wince, and he realised that his hand was shaking. He fumbled for his wand and pointed it at the teacup, whispering ‘Wingardium Leviosa.’ The tea cup floated out of his quivering hand, and he followed it up the stairs.
Molly was sitting up in bed, her hair loose around her shoulders and a small bundle held closely to her chest. She looked up as the teacup hovered into the room, closely followed by her husband. He grinned sheepishly as he guided the cup onto the bedside table. ‘Didn’t want to spill. My hands are a bit shaky.’ Arthur perched on the bed, and gently tickled a tiny foot protruding from the blankets in Molly’s arms. He gave a small sigh of contentment. ‘I’ve always known you were special, Molly, but this…bringing our son into the world… you’re amazing.’
She gave an almost beatific smile. ‘I couldn’t have done it without your help.’ Arthur grinned and raised an eyebrow. ‘Arthur! Not that. Well, yes – that. But last night, when I was scared and in pain… You kept me going; in fact, Judith said you’re a natural.’
‘That’s funny; she said the same thing about you.’
For a moment, they both gazed at the baby and wondered the same thing; if they were naturally good at having babies, maybe they could do it again - the pain and exhaustion of the night was momentarily forgotten as the Weasley parents absorbed the utter perfection of their newborn son. Molly shifted slightly, wincing as she re-positioned herself against the pillows.
‘Here, you hold him whilst I have my tea.’
Moving slowly and deliberately, Arthur took the baby into his arms. Cradling his son’s head in the palm of one hand, Arthur took in the dusting of red hair, the strong chin just visible in the wrinkled features of the newborn. He’d held the baby in the heart-thudding first moments after the birth, but now, with the dim November sun creeping through the bedroom curtains, they had a chance to properly contemplate one another. The baby’s blue eyes were open, and he tried to focus on the face in front of him, soft brow rumpled in what looked to Arthur like concentration.
Arthur had always been a gentle, peaceful sort of man. Even at school, he’d not been one to get into fights or cause trouble; he’d once given old Crispin Berryman a pop on the nose in the heat of the moment, but that had been the result of a misunderstanding involving a large quantity of mashed potato, a Howler, and his then-girlfriend Molly, and he’d apologised profusely to Berryman afterwards. Those who knew Molly and Arthur knew that they made such a good partnership partly because their tempers were so different. Molly was pure Prewett: hot-headed, mischief-making, and passionate. Arthur’s sanguine approach to life had helped to calm Molly’s temper, and encouraged her to try being a little more laid-back. Meanwhile, Molly had encouraged Arthur in his passions - from Muggle Studies to creating a home for the two of them - and challenged him regularly to embrace life whole-heartedly, even if it meant dealing with a little conflict. She’d even convinced him to elope, much to Arthur’s combined shock and delight.
Now, looking down at the little baby held in the span of his two hands, Arthur felt the strongest conviction of his life thus far, stronger even than the knowledge that Molly Prewett was the woman for him; he was now a father. ‘The Weasleys’ were no longer his parents and brothers, but himself, Molly, and the baby. He realised that he would do anything – anything – to keep his son, his little family, safe from harm.
Terrible things had been happening in recent months, with increasing regularity and a growing savageness that was frightening. A Dark wizard was gradually gaining power, gathering followers. Arthur knew that a time might come when he would have to fight. Molly’s brothers had told him of the rumours; that some sort of army was being assembled to quash the rise of this wizard… ‘A secret organisation under Albus Dumbledore’s leadership,’ Fabian had said in a low voice, eyes alight with enthusiasm. Arthur had been somewhat ambivalent about this idea, hoping against reason that the need for such a group would never come to pass.
But more and more people were going missing, and still more were being found dead; ‘Tortured, manipulated and murdered’ was the whisper running through the Ministry corridors. Some of the victims were defenceless Muggles. Arthur shuddered, and looked down at the innocent sleeping face of his son. He knew now that there really were things worth defending, fighting for – even dying for. He pressed a soft kiss onto the baby’s powdery forehead and, with infinite care, placed him in a cot next to the bed. Molly had drifted into a comfortable sleep, the teacup lying empty in her hands. As Arthur rose from the bed, she gave a little snore. He smiled fondly, and as he leaned to remove the cup from his wife’s lap, he gently kissed her freckled cheek.
Finding that his hand had steadied, Arthur carried the teacup down to the kitchen and placed it in the sink, promising himself that he would do the washing up before Molly came downstairs. He went to sit down at the kitchen table once more, but before he could reach for his quill, there was a soft rapping at the window. He looked up to see an enormous, sleek owl sitting on the windowsill, gazing in with bright yellow eyes. Arthur pushed back his chair and hurried to the window.
‘Errol!’ he smiled, opening the window. The owl sidled onto Arthur’s outstretched arm and gave a tired hoot, clearly pleased to be home after a full night of hunting. Errol had been an unexpected and wonderful wedding gift from Arthur’s brothers on the return of the newlyweds from Gretna; Bilius and Tristan had clubbed together to buy the handsomest, most agile owl they could find. They’d joked that, had Molly and Arthur had a decent owl, they may have remembered to send out some wedding invitations. Errol swooped across the room and settled onto a perch atop a bookshelf, ready for a long day of sleep.
‘Sorry Errol, you can’t sleep yet; I have a letter I need you to deliver.’ Arthur returned to the roll of parchment. His long body leaning over the table, he ignored the owl’s reproachful ruffle of feathers. Lifting the quill and dipping it into a small pot of ink, Arthur looked for a moment at the letter, searching his mind for the line he’d been intending to write. Pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, he wrote quickly:
…to name him William Arthur - probably ‘Bill’ for short. Don’t let Bilius get too big-headed about that! See you soon. Love from Arthur.
Rolling the parchment up and tying it tightly with a ribbon, Arthur motioned Errol down from his perch. The owl landed on the table and dutifully proffered a leg, to which Arthur quickly tied the letter. ‘Please take this to my parents; there’ll be a fresh vole and a snooze in it for you when you get home.’ Errol stretched his wings and prepared to take off. ‘Wait,’ said Arthur suddenly. Grabbing the quill, he pulled another piece of parchment across the table and began to write, his letters becoming blotted in his haste to finish writing before he changed his mind. Errol waited patiently, his round face thoughtful. When Arthur finished writing, he re-read the letter in silence, his face serious. He looked, in that moment, much older than his twenty years.
‘After you’ve delivered the first letter, please take this one to Professor Albus Dumbledore at Hogwarts.’ He tied it to the owl’s other leg. The owl hooted in understanding, and took off at once, flying swiftly out of the kitchen window and out across the garden. Arthur watched Errol disappear over the fields, barely blinking until the owl was little more than a dot in the distance.
Then, with a small smile, he turned and went upstairs to spend the morning watching the faces of his family as they slept.