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Chapter 1 : Come and dance...
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Cousin Florence has the most beautiful shoes Molly has ever seen.
Molly loves Cousin Florence. She is twenty one- fourteen whole years older than Molly- and Molly thinks she is beautiful. She is tall and slender, with blonde that shimmers down her back like quicksilver, a quick smile and dazzling, darting blue eyes.
She thinks Molly is cute and sometimes, when Molly sees her at Christmas or when they visit her Auntie Muriel, Cousin Florence lets Molly look at her dresses.
Florence has a lot of dresses. She has a red dress patterned with wide, white polka dots and she has a black dress shot through with red thread. She has a brown dress with lacy sleeves and a dress with a blue checked pattern all over.
She lets Molly sit in her room for as long as she likes, and sometimes- if Molly asks nicely- she will dab Molly’s face with a little make-up and tie her scruffy red hair up just like Cousin Florence has it.
Sometimes she lets Molly sit on her bed whilst she and her friends get ready to go out. Cousin Florence’s friends remind Molly of colourful, exotic birds- they are not like anybody else she has seen in her whole life.
Nobody else she knows wears the things that they wear, or can dance the way they dance. Nobody else Molly knows smokes little cigarettes out of the window or says things like sure and baby and you’re such a doll. Molly watches them dancing round Cousin Florence’s bedroom, tugging on dresses, fastening on jewellery and slipping on shoes- Oh the shoes!
What Molly likes best of all are Cousin Florence’s shoes. They are shoes made for prancing, flying, soaring, hopping and skipping and beating to the rhythm of the saxophone. When Cousin Florence lets her slip on a pair of her shoes, Molly feels her everyday anxieties slipping away to be replaced by a feverish kind of energy. The shoes Cousin Florence wears are magic shoes, and Molly knows that this magic is a completely different sort of magic to the kind her mother uses every day.
When Molly wears her cousin’s shoes- even though they are far too big for Molly’s little feet- she can be like Cousin Florence and her friends. When Molly wears those shoes, she too can prance and fly, hop and skip and beat in time to the records that Cousin Florence sets playing with a wave of her wand on her record player. This music which oozes sex and magic and has the power to send both cousins into rapture, Florence because she understands what the music means, and Molly because she doesn’t understand, but she knows it’s something important.
That’s where Molly first learned to dance; spinning around Florence’s bedroom in a skirt her cousin grew out of years ago and is still too long for her. Cousin Florence sets the scratchy needle going on the record player and takes Molly’s small hands in hers and teaches her the moves that she dances with her friends.
The Muggles don’t know a thing about most stuff, muses Cousin Florence, But they sure know how to dance.
Outside of her cousin’s bedroom, Molly isn’t really very much like Florence. She is short- shorter than all her friends with uncontrollable freckles and ginger hair. The girls her mother wants her to make friends with all like sitting indoors, and playing with dolls or tea services, or having polite conversations.
Molly can’t stand to be indoors. She much prefers rolling about the garden with her two baby brothers, or flying her little broomstick just high enough for her toes to skim the tips of the grass stems. Her dresses are always torn and grass-stained and she usually sports a graze on her elbow or her knee.
Molly’s mother sighs and rolls her eyes and despairs when Molly comes inside with her dress muddy and her hair come undone.
Why can’t you be more like Jenny Fawcett’s daughter?
But Molly doesn’t want to be like Jenny Fawcett’s daughter.
Ignore them, baby, advises Cousin Florence. Molly knows that her mother sighs and rolls her eyes and despairs at Cousin Florence too. She thinks she is a Bad Influence.
Molly is eleven years old when Cousin Florence gets married.
Molly finds it strange that Cousin Florence gets married because she has long said that she never intends to. She also finds it strange because she knows that the Muggle boy Cousin Florence goes out to dance with is not the boy she is marrying. She is marrying a serious wizard from the Ministry who seems boring to Molly, and who Molly’s mother and Molly’s Auntie Muriel (who is Cousin Florence’s mother) think is splendid.
The wedding is not much like how Molly thought it would be either. She had imagined that Cousin Florence would wear one of her dancing dresses and a pair of her fabulous shoes and she would walk down the aisle to one of the records she liked to play to Molly with all her friends watching, but in the end, she turns up in a dull white dress- the like of which Molly had never seen amongst the array of her favourites and the shoes she is wearing do not look like they would be very good shoes for dancing in at all.
Worst of all, at the reception, the music is nothing like the music that Molly knows Cousin Florence loved and is rubbish for dancing too. Not that Molly isn’t going to try.
Hey Cousin Florence! Can we dance?
Cousin Florence takes Molly’s hands in hers, and suddenly they are listening to a different music, a music not being played by the boring band across the hall. Suddenly they are dancing and jiving and swinging to the rhythms that they used to swing to across the soft carpet of her cousin’s bedroom.
It’s only later, when the guests are leaving, that it happens. Molly’s mother is distracted, talking to Florence’s mother and Molly is watching them, wishing they would stop talking and come and pay some attention to her, when she feels a hand close about her wrist. Shocked, she almost cries out, but turns around in time to see Cousin Florence grimacing at their mothers and holding Molly’s wrist tight.
Come with me.
So Molly does.
They crouch at the edge of the dance floor, where the boring band is just packing up. Cousin Florence reaches forward, and lifts up an ordinary, dark coloured shoebox.
These are for you, she says, Look after them, baby.
Molly carefully lifts the lid of the box. Nestled inside, like an exotic creature sleeping for the winter, is the most beautiful pair of shoes that Molly has ever seen. She gasps in wonderment, her eyes as round as saucers. For they are not just shoes- they are dancing shoes. These are shoes that could take you anywhere, shoes that could fly and soar and come alive in the breath of rock ‘n’ roll.
Cousin Florence looks pleased at Molly’s breathless thanks but her eyes are bright and shining.
My dancing days are over, Cousin Florence says, but yours haven’t even begun. I won’t be using these babies anymore and I want you to have them. Take them. Wear them well. And I promise you they will work as much magic as you’ll ever learn in school.
Molly nods, speechless and promises to do everything she is told. There is a strange lump in her throat as she bids goodbye to Cousin Florence, shoes clutched tight to her chest, as her cousin hugs her again, and then lets her go.
Molly takes home her dancing shoes and hides them in the bottom of her wardrobe. She is afraid that if her mother finds them, she will decide that they are Inappropriate. She means to take them out right away, and begin to learn to dance like Florence could, but by September, Molly has gone away too school. School distracts Molly because it is so exciting and new and interesting. There are so many people to meet and friends to make, work to do and teachers to please.
Molly is busy, but she never quite forgets Cousin Florence or her shoes. She does it quietly- not quite secretively but she is not always open about it either. Whenever she is not at Hogwarts, she begins to learn to dance- properly now, not just the messing about she did when she was little. Molly buys records to dance to at the little Muggle shop in the village. The names she doesn’t know, but she recognises the covers from the ones Florence kept in her room. The man who runs the record shop doesn’t know what to make of Molly, the freckled, red-headed little girl who seats her younger brothers out of the way while she buys music made ten years ago. All the same, he thinks she is sweet and he likes to recommend things she might like, although she maintains a steadfast preference for the music of the 50s, the old-fashioned blues and rock ‘n’ roll.
At school, Molly makes friends fast. She has a cheery disposition and her passion for dancing makes her easy to engage with. The girls in her dormitory tease her when she practises her steps in front of the mirror before bedtime, but kindly. They call her happy feet and twinkle toes.
At school, Molly is happy.
But her shoes are not quite done with her.
The girl on the dancefloor has the most beautiful legs Arthur has ever seen.
He has been watching her all evening, though he doesn’t like to admit it to himself, peering round shoulders and glancing over heads in an effort to catch another glimpse of her. He became aware of her the moment he arrived, singled her out among the tens of fast moving bodies packed into the too small Muggle bar- the redhead in the yellow dress. Different. Beautiful.
He has never spoken to her. Her name is a mystery, and four hours ago he had never seen her face, but now the sight of her makes his heart beat faster, his eyes widen, the hazy tendrils of possibility begin to reach across his mind until it is an effort to stamp them out. He has to remember that girls who dance like that are not for him. He has to remember his rules.
Noticing her in the first place had been a complete accident. Arthur had stumbled into the place craving some time out. A place where he could sit without demand, and tune in and out of the busy thrum of human voices. A place where he could sink into easy anonymity among the bustling crowds, not having to talk, not having to justify, not having to think. It has been his way for a while, in times of stress, to slip like a fish into the Muggle world. The Muggle world does not recognise him. The Muggle world asks nothing of him. The Muggle world, he has believed, with a childlike delight, is his hiding place.
Tonight, he feels vulnerable, exposed, as if he is being examined by some unseen power. The eyes of the happy Muggles are inquisitive where they were bland; the barman is suspicious where he was bored. Tonight, Arthur feels under scrutiny, a sense which usually abandons him in his loud, sweaty, Muggle boltholes, and somehow, he finds himself blaming the red haired girl. It would be different, he thinks, if he had not noticed her. If he had not noticed her, he could have passed the night in safety. If he had not noticed her, the nervousness which presses down on him now might have evaded him. If he had not noticed her...
But he finds it hard to wish he hadn’t.
Arthur turns in surprise to see a girl with mousy brown hair and a tight dress leaning against the bar.
He wonders why she has come to talk to him. What does she see when she looks at him? A thin, anxious young man, with tufts of ginger hair and glasses. A lonely, bored young dreamer with hand-me-down clothes, patches on the sleeves of his jacket and scuffed shoes. Arthur looks dismally down at his shoes- boring brown boots with muddy toes and worn heels. How was a man ever to make it anywhere in shoes like these?
He doesn’t want to talk to her. He doesn’t want to dance with her. Arthur is a watcher, an observer- not a participant. Arthur is a misfit, an oddball wedged in between the worlds of Magic and Mundane- one is too much, the other never quite enough, though he finds it impossible to cease his fascination with either of them. Arthur is the only one of his school friends not installed in a productive and high-earning job, the one who wears second-hand clothes and lives in a miniscule flat filled with Muggle curiosities. Arthur is the one without a career plan, without a girlfriend, with only a dreamy personality and a fondness for tinkering with inadvisable objects...
Arthur turns to say something polite but discouraging to the girl, but finds that she has already lost interest, striking up a conversation with the dark-suited bloke on her other side, her back firmly presented to Arthur. Ah well.
On the dancefloor, the girl in the yellow dress has paused. She is talking now, animatedly, to a man in a purple coat. Arthur watches her wave a hand to emphasise a point, brushing hair from her face with the other one and he is almost sure he can hear her laughter ringing across the crowded room. The man in the purple coat takes her hand and they dance, casually- almost lazily. Arthur sees him lift her hand high and watches her twirl underneath it, her hair, her skirt flying out like the flags on a sandcastle.
What would it be like to dance like that? To shed your cares and your grievances and let the music swallow you whole? What would it be like to swing to the pounding rhythm of the bass drum and totter across the dancefloor like there was nowhere else in the world?
Maybe he has been drinking too much of the cheap, foul-tasting lager that the Muggles serve, but for a moment, Arthur feels giddy with the thought. The idea of dancing like that is dangerous... beguiling. It is the kind of thing that sensible Arthur Weasley would never do...
He shakes his head to rid himself of the notion. He is tired, and stressed, and has had too much to drink. That is all. In the morning, he knows all these doubts will be gone, along with the dancing girl, the alcohol and his uneasiness. As it should be.
Arthur can already feel that momentary feeling of flight leaving him. The girl on the dancefloor is nowhere to be seen, his pint of beer is all but empty. It was foolish to come here tonight- there is no point in hiding and prevaricating. He ought to be concentrating on Important things- like that report he was meant to finish tonight, or his ever questionable bank balance.
Sighing, he pushes his empty beer glass back across the bar and reaches for his jacket. Outside it is autumn, and a real chill is beginning to permeate the air.
Arthur starts at the sudden voice. The voice is loud. Round. Full. It is the voice of a woman.
Not another one... Arthur turns around slowly, readying himself to politely decline when he is pulled up short. He stops dead, catching his breath and looks up into the kindly brown eyes of the dancing girl.
Hey. His voice squeaks as he tries to reply. She is looking at him with curiosity but not hostility.
I saw you watching me. You have been all night.
He doesn’t deny it. He doesn’t know how. Anyway, he is drinking her in- the colours of her hair and the plumpness of her lips. He is taking in way her dress hugs her body tight, like a lover, and the way pearls of sweat cling to her forehead from the exertion of her dancing.
The girl smiles slightly and holds out her hand.
I’m Molly, she says, Come and dance.
Arthur, he replies, but I really don’t think...
And he is trying to find the words to say no. He is trying to disentangle their hands because he is on the outside. He is the watcher, the observer. He does not do things like hold hands with unknown girls and dance in old-fashioned Muggle establishments.
Come and dance.
But the band is starting up a new song. And now Arthur begins to hear the rhythmic tug of the drum kit, beating just faster than a heart. Now he begins to notice the jangling guitars and the sweet, sly smile of the saxophone as it slides in for its solo. And now Arthur looks down and sees that the dancer’s feet- Molly’s feet- are clad in dazzling, dizzying, dancing shoes. They are shoes made for prancing, flying and soaring. For hopping and tapping and skipping and for falling in love. They are shoes that could take you anywhere.
He looks up at her again and she smiles slightly, as if sharing a secret with him, one eyebrow slightly cocked- like a challenge. The air around her smells of sweat, and nail polish, and early summer.
Come and dance.
So they do...
A/N: Hello there! Thankyou for reading- I hope you enjoyed my first foray into Molly/Arthur. Any feedback would be wonderfully appreciated- this story has undergone a lot of re-writing and I would love to know what you think of the finished result!
Ooh- and anything you recognise belongs to the lovely JKR :)
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