Chapter 2 : On Board
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“Jeez, Luce. What did the trunk ever do to you?”
Lucy’s eyes flashed up to regard the only other person in the compartment. Roxanne Weasley was slouched in the seat opposite, dark eyes crinkled in amusement.
“It’s not the trunk,” Lucy objected. “It’s what the trunk represents.” Her cousin raised one sceptical eyebrow.
“What’s that, then?”
“Well it’s not my trunk, is it?” Lucy explained to her fellow fourth-year. “It’s Molly’s. We’ve been moving for at least an hour and she hasn’t come to collect it. She’s probably locked up with Matthews in some compartment somewhere and doesn’t even remember where it is. I know for a fact her robes are in there and…” Roxanne rolled her eyes and leaned back in the seat.
“It’s just a bloody trunk, Luce. And Kieran Matthews is a fitty.”
“He’s a whiny little drama queen, is what he is. And that’s not the point. I know Molly. If it wasn’t for him, she’d have come for her things. He drags her down and she’s too blind to – ”
Before Lucy could truly get in her stride, the sound of the carriage door opening cut her off. Molly’s friend and fellow Gryffindor, Andrea Thomas greeted them curiously from the doorway.
“Hey Lucy.” She cast a quick look around the compartment. “Molly not with you?”
Sure, she’s locked in the trunk. Lucy bit back the sarcastic response and instead shook her head. “No. Why?”
“We’ve looked up and down the entire train. Nobody’s seen her. And now Lisa Carver’s kicking up a fuss about Molly not 'fulfilling her Head Girl duties'. It's been an hour and she's desperate for that badge; she's already threatening to complain. Figured Molly could do with a heads up.”
“Oh. Well she might be in the Prefects’ carriage…” That was Lucy’s instinctive response but even as she said it she felt the claws of doubt creeping upon her. “Or the toilets.” Now Lucy was trying to reassure herself. When she’d last seen Molly her sister had been cutting it awfully fine to board the train. And it was unlike her to be an absentee Head Girl.
“Checked and checked. No sign.”
“Are you sure?” Lucy told herself she was worrying for no reason. Molly couldn't have actually missed the train.
“Of course.” Andrea nodded down at her. “I’m sure she’s here somewhere, though. You came together, right?”
“Yeah. She's probably still talking to Matthews.”
“Kieran?” Andrea's little pixie-face knitted into a confused frown. “He's here? Last I heard he was dropping out.”
“What?” Lucy stared fixedly at Andrea. “He's dropping out?” Something wasn’t right and Lucy’s mind raced to fit the pieces together. She wasn’t the only Ravenlaw of her family for nothing.
“So I heard.” Andrea shrugged. “Who really cares? If Molly's with him it was probably just a rumour.”
“But have you actually seen him in the last hour?” Andrea gave another unhelpful shrug. “Right.” Scrambling to her feet, Lucy grabbed Roxanne’s hand and dragged her from her seat. She ignored her cousin's yelp of surprise as she brushed past Andrea to the door. “Do me a favour. Let me know if you find Molly?”
“And in the mean time... could you not let anyone else know you didn’t find her? Molly must be on the train somewhere and I don't want to give Carver more ammunition.”
“Of course. But Lucy - ”
The end of Andrea's sentence was cut off as Lucy barged out of the compartment. She marched down the hallway, dragging a confused Roxanne behind her.
“Luce!” She ignored her cousin's startled shout. “Have you gone mental? Luce!”
“You take the left side, I take the right. Look discreetly for Molly. Please, Rox,” Lucy added as her cousin opened her mouth to object. “I'm worried.”
Twenty minutes later, Lucy's search had proved as futile as Andrea's. Peeking in to every compartment they'd seen nervous first-years, rowdy third-years and sleeping seventh-years but no bossy Head Girl.
“Lucy.” Roxanne's voice was quieter now, concerned as they came to a halt. Lucy chewed her bottom lip in a nervous habit left over from childhood. “What's wrong?” Lucy stood frozen in the middle of the hallway then turned to face her cousin.
“I don't know, Rox. I honestly don't.”
The panic Lucy had determinedly suppressed threatened to creep up on her. Molly wasn't on the train. She wasn't. And Lisa Carver was trying to get her removed as Head Girl. Molly had been so excited when she got that badge and their dad had been so proud. She could be anywhere. She was going to get in so much trouble.
“Crap.” Molly was the most responsible person Lucy knew. If she wasn’t here, something must be wrong.
Lucy strode down the corridor once more, this time heading for a compartment at the far end. She didn't know what to do. But since before Lucy Weasley could walk, when her biggest problem had been Roxanne hogging the toys on their play-dates, there had been one thing she could always do.
Lucy arrived at the last carriage and slid open the door, Roxanne hot on her heels. Boisterous male laughter died away and five heads turned at the sound of her abrupt entrance. Lucy searched the mass of sixth-year Gryffindor boys and found the familiar caramel eyes of her cousin.
“Freddy.” Her eyes issued a plea and she knew her tone was desperate. “I need your help.”
Molly Weasley spun around in time to see the carriage doors bang to a close. She gaped through the glass as the train began to move, passersby on the platform morphing into a grey blur. What did I do?
Turning into the carriage she found Kieran Matthews gaping at her, eyes bulging from his seat a few metres away.
“What are you doing?” demanded Kieran, echoing her own thoughts as she moved towards him. The few muggles scattered nearby looked up at his alarmed tone. “What the hell are you doing?”
For some reason, his horror served to calm Molly down. She knew exactly what she was doing.
“We were talking, Kieran. Tell me what’s going on.”
“Are you just going to act like nothing’s happened?” Kieran hissed, as Molly took the empty seat next to him.
“Nothing has happened,” Molly smiled. “We’ve simply relocated our conversation.” There was a small part of her in complete panic but Molly knew she couldn’t let it show. Kieran wouldn’t hesitate to exploit any sign of weakness. She felt him shuffle around next to her and knew he was getting his emotions back in check. Sure enough, when he spoke again it was in that dry, aggravating tone.
“I don’t remember inviting you along, Molly.”
“Then this must be a particularly nice surprise.” He gave her a hard look.
“At the next station, you’re going to get out and call your parents. They’ll take you to Hogwarts.”
“Don’t be silly. Why would we own a phone?”
“Well you must know someone who does.” She did, actually. Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny owned one, Teddy owned one, Uncle George owned one, Grandpa Weasley owned five. Despite his attempt to keep calm, Molly sensed the frustration in Kieran’s tone and shrugged noncommittally. She’d always found those telephone numbers too long to memorise anyway.
“I’m not going back unless you agree to come back too.”
“Seriously, Molly?” He sounded distinctly unimpressed. “You’re trying to blackmail me into finishing school?”
“Or explain to me why you won’t.” With a groan, Kieran banged his head repeatedly against the cushioned seat.
“Maybe I just wanted to get away from you. Did you consider that?”
“No.” Kieran turned away from her, looking again out the window. “Tell me the truth. You came to say goodbye.” Molly couldn’t keep the slight note of accusation from her voice. “Did you ever plan to see me again?”
“No,” Kieran answered honestly, and Molly felt her stomach twist at the words. “Look, Molly. I don’t care what you do but you’re not tagging along with me. I have something to do.”
“Since when did I have to explain myself to you?” Kieran’s eyes were cold as they met hers. “We’ve not been friends for years. So what – we dated a bit? Don’t tell me you’re still holding on to that. We were kids. It meant nothing.” Oh wow, Molly caught her breath. That hurt. “Have a little pride.”
Molly sat there, speechless. She didn’t know how to respond. Maybe there was nothing left of the boy she had known after all.
“You came to say goodbye,” she pointed out and hated herself for saying it. Her wonderful mother, her fierce Aunt Angie, her extraordinary Aunt Hermione... The list went on. There were so many strong women in her life; how had she turned out so pathetic? Lucy would be disgusted.
“Fine,” said Molly. “I’ll go.” She had no idea what station they were approaching or how she would get back to Hogwarts. Truthfully, she didn’t care. She evaluated her options dispassionately. Knight Bus? How long would that take? Could she find somewhere to Floo? Then she put her head in her hands as she came to an awful realisation. “I don’t even have my wand.” This last, she murmured to herself and was relieved when Kieran didn’t hear. All of her things were safely and uselessly on board the Hogwarts Express. Without a wand, she couldn’t even summon the Knight Bus.
Molly did a quick pat down of the pockets on the muggle clothes she had worn to King’s Cross Station. Her train card was shoved into her right jean pocket and a clean tissue in the left but otherwise... empty.
“What?” Kieran asked, finally distracted by her fidgeting. Molly ignored him. She wanted his help as little as he wanted hers. Diagon Alley was in London somewhere. Uncle Bill, Aunt Fleur and Uncle George all worked there. But was she still in London? This was the problem with living in the countryside during holidays, a remote Scottish Castle during the terms and taking the Floo/Knight Bus/associated magical transport the rest of the time. It did leave one rather unfamiliar with muggle cities. “What?” Kieran repeated. Molly got up from her seat.
“ ‘What’ nothing. I’m going.” She rose from her seat as the train began pulling into a platform. She would find some sign of magic and get help or send an owl. But first she was going to get away from Kieran. She walked the few metres to join the small crowd of people gathering by the doors.
“Look – ” She could sense the reluctance in Kieran’s voice as he called out to her from his seat. “Come on, do you even know where you’re going?”
“Yes,” Molly lied firmly, giving him her most stubborn glare.
“Really?” She saw his face brighten at that, though he did his best to hide it. Her heart sank. He really was glad to be rid of her. She stood by the doors, waiting with the other commuters for them to open. Just then, a glittering from the platform caught her eye.
Molly’s eyes were drawn to the small group of people waiting to board the train, specifically the two men in poorly fitting charcoal suits. The taller of the two was wearing trousers that were too short by at least three inches and it was his thick yellow socks that had glittered. This was strange enough but Molly’s eyes narrowed as she saw the bottom of a familiar logo. Much to her Uncle Ron’s disgust, her sister Lucy had a pair of those socks. They had come free with her subscription to the Wimbourne Wasps Quidditch team fan club.
Molly gave a sigh of relief. Wizards. What were the chances? They could point her to Diagon Alley. From there, she could Floo from Uncle George’s shop to the Longbottom’s pub in Hogsmeade. Turning, she realised Kieran was watching her. His curious eyes followed her gaze and he peered out of the window to see what had caught her attention. As Molly watched, his spine stiffened and his face turned suddenly pale. Molly took the few steps back towards him as the doors of the carriage drew open.
“Kieran?” she asked, concerned. He jumped up from his seat and spun around in alarm. “Kieran?” His head turned back to the platform outside and now the two men were looking right at them. The taller of the two said something and both men rushed for the open doors. At the same time, Kieran grabbed a hold of her wrist. He yanked her in the opposite direction.
Lucy looked around at the boys, who all regarded her in surprise.
Her cousin Louis was lazing across two seats in the same careless-yet-refined way he did everything. Opposite him, James Potter had fallen silent with his mouth still open and arms gesturing in midair. Clearly, she had interrupted him halfway through some hilarious anecdote. Next to the window sat Cynric Zabini. This one, Lucy wasn’t related to. Good thing too because Lucy judged him to be the best looking boy in Hogwarts. If she didn’t have Molly on her mind, she would have taken the opportunity to savour those high cheekbones and beautiful jaw line. Warner Mitchell sat opposite Cynric and his kind, open face watched Lucy curiously. Lucy took this all in within moments and then turned back to Roxanne’s brother.
“Fred?” she prompted again.
“What’s wrong, Lucy?” Fred leaned forward in his seat. His eyes moved from Lucy to Roxanne and at their nervous expressions, his brow furrowed. “Are you okay?”
The Weasley-Potter family were all close but with Lucy and Roxanne only months apart in age, Lucy had spent a lot of time at their house growing up. Fred and Roxanne had spent a lot of time at her house too, since their father – her Uncle George – visited regularly with the sole purpose of tormenting his older brother. Lucy’s dad always huffed and puffed during these visits but as soon as Uncle George left, her dad smiled in a way that suggested the visit might be a highlight of his day. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that Fred had become more a big brother than a cousin.
“Rox?” Fred continued, when Lucy didn’t reply.
“It’s Mol-“ Roxanne’s answer was cut off by Lucy’s sharp elbow to her side. Lucy willed her cousin to be silent as her eyes flickered over Cynric Zabini and Warner Mitchell. She had committed to being discreet about Molly’s absence. James and Louis she could trust; these other two weren’t family.
James was the first to realise the problem.
“Cyn, Mitchell.” He turned to both boys with an apologetic smile. “Give us five?”
Cynric’s dark eyes met Lucy’s as he unfurled himself from the seat. “Sure.” His lips curled in slow amusement. “I’ll just go hit on Rose Weasley for a while.”
“Oi!” James Potter was almost on his feet as he glared angrily at his best friend. Louis choked back a laugh and Fred gave a small smile.
“Oops. Did I say that out loud? Come on, Mitchell. We’ll leave them to their fun.” Lucy stepped quickly aside so they could reach the door and Cynric gave her a nod of thanks.
“Sorry,” Lucy said weakly. She hadn’t meant to kick them out of their own compartment. Cynric looked back at her and his smile made it clear he wasn’t annoyed. Lucy’s answering smile was one of relief. As soon as they were gone, she closed the door and turned back to her cousins.
“You don’t think he’d really make a move on Rosie, do you?” James asked.
“I’d be jealous of her if he did.”
“Rox!” Fred eyed his sister with disapproval.
“What? A blind man can see he’s gorgeous.”
“She has a point,” Louis interjected, head still lolling back against the seat. “This straight man can see it too.”
“It’s your own fault, Potter. You’re too easy to wind up.” Fred shifted to Lucy while James grumbled in response. “But I’m guessing it’s not Cyn you came to talk about.”
“No.” Feeling the panic begin to well up again, Lucy launched into an explanation. “It’s Molly. I don’t think she’s on the train.”
“What?” James’ exclamation turned into a snort of hilarity. “Molly missed the train? I wouldn’t worry Lucy. I know she hasn’t passed the test yet but she’ll contact your dad and side-along apparate to Hogsmeade or something.”
“Uncle Percy is going to kill her,” Louis drawled, snuggling back into the seat and eyes falling to a peaceful close.
“I wonder if she’ll think to ask Teddy instead. Uncle Percy never has to know.”
“No!” Lucy snapped. “That’s not the point. Wake up, Louis!” The boy somehow managed to raise an eyebrow with both eyes still closed. “You know Molly got Head Girl and she was really happy.”
“Oh yes,” Fred interrupted. “We got Uncle Percy’s many owls. Dad threatened to use the next one in a Wheezes product.”
“But now,” Molly continued, ignoring him, “Lisa Carver has realised Molly wasn’t in the meeting. She’s threatening to report Molly and make a proper fuss. She could lose the badge.”
“She might get a warning or a slap on the wrist or something but I don’t think she would lose the badge,” Fred said kindly. He didn’t point out that it was only a badge but Lucy knew it was what they were all thinking. “Not for missing one meeting.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. Professor Wellington hates the whole family,” Roxanne pointed out, referring to their notoriously awful Head of Gryffindor House. “She’ll do everything she can to undermine any explanation Molly gives.”
“Assuming she’s there to give an explanation!”
“What do you mean?” Fred asked.
“Well she didn’t just miss it. She was on her way to the train then that Kieran Matthews turned up.” At his name, the boys were suddenly more alert. Louis even opened his eyes. “Molly was talking to him, chasing after him, I don’t know... It all seemed quite serious and you don’t know what she’s like when it comes to him.”
“She’s still friends with him?” James was annoyed.
“He’s alright,” Louis protested.
“Would you want him dating Molly?” James challenged. After a moment of hesitation, Louis sighed.
“And apparently Kieran is dropping out this year, so I don’t know what he was doing on that platform unless he was there for Molly. And if he isn’t coming back and now she isn’t here... I know my sister. Something isn’t right. What if she’s off with him? What if she’s not coming back either?”
“Okay, Luce. Now you’re being silly,” Roxanne said. “Of course Molly is coming back. School, Hogwarts it’s what she does. She’s not going to throw away her future over some guy.”
“Not ‘some guy’, no. But he’s not ‘some guy’. She’s in love with him.”
The earnestness in Lucy’s voice took them all aback.
“Did she say that?” James asked awkwardly.
“Yes.” Lucy didn’t tell them about the nights she had sat up with Molly this summer while her sister worried about Matthews. Or the nights Molly had cried the year before because of some thoughtless remark the boy had made. Molly didn’t need to say it. With only that and his reputation to go on, it was no wonder Lucy loathed him. “Please guys. Surely there’s something we can do?” There was a moment when they all exchanged glances. There seemed to be some silent communication between her cousins and then James gave a small nod.
“Potter-Weasleys gather around,” he declared. “One of our own is in need. I warn you, Lucy. I still don’t think there’s any reason to worry but it couldn’t hurt to keep Carver off Molly’s trail and find out a bit more.”
Lucy felt a surge of relief. She had been so happy when the Sorting Hat agreed to make her a Ravenclaw and had never regretted it. She had thrived outside the sphere of her family. But being the only non-Gryffindor of their large clan did have its drawbacks. She’d lost count of the number of private jokes she didn’t understand or stories that she couldn’t be a part of because they happened in the Gryffindor Common Room. She loved her family as much as ever but – Molly, Freddy and perhaps Roxanne aside – she couldn’t deny a slight distance from them. So it felt good to have them rally around and to know, despite all, they were here for her too.
“Thank you, James.” He dismissed her words with a shrug.
“Now, troops. How do you want to do this? I suggest we bring in Cyn.”
“What?” Lucy saw Fred and Louis nod their approval at James’ words.
“Cynric dated Lisa Carver. For about half a second but she’s still hung up on him. He’d be an excellent distraction,” Fred explained.
“I trust him completely,” James put in, catching Lucy’s uncertain look.
“And he won’t mind being used as a... well... as a he-whore?”
“Bite your tongue!” James exclaimed, scandalised as he jumped upright in his seat. “That’s my friend you’re talking about.” The same friend he had looked ready to throttle five minutes ago.
“You don’t trust him with Rose.” Lucy pointed out the hypocrisy but James ignored her.
“We want as few people to note the Head Girl’s absence as possible.” Fred continued. “Maybe our own prefect could help with her duties. Louis?” Louis’ shoulders slumped slightly. His approach to being a prefect was avoiding all duties whilst taking full advantage of the benefits. It was a testament to his family loyalty that he nodded his agreement.
“I’ll get Rose in on it too. And maybe talk to Scorpius Malfoy.”
“Don’t tell him anything,” James growled. “Him I do not trust.”
“Why Scorpius at all?” Roxanne asked.
“He and Matthews are good friends. I heard Matthews spent time at the Malfoys’ over summer.” Louis always seemed to know everyone and hear everything. It was a curious trick for somebody so disinterested in it all but it was his very disinterest that somehow seemed to invite confidences. Louis rose from his seat with a long, feline stretch. “Scorpius Malfoy will know the truth about whether Matthews is dropping out and where he might go and how Molly fits in – if at all.” Looking around as he reached the door, Louis did a quick head count. “I’ll head to the Prefects’ Compartment and start the ball rolling.” He looked to James. “Do we need anyone?” James debated for a moment and then nodded his head.
“Send me Al. And Cyn.”
“One Albus Potter, one Cynric Zabini. Coming right up.” With a mockingly elegant bow that only a child of Fleur Delacour could execute, Louis slipped out of the carriage.
“It’s okay, Lucy. We’ve got it covered.” James’ comforting smile appeared rather patronising as he gestured subtly to the door. Lucy frowned.
“It almost seems as though you want us to leave.”
“Well...” James turned to Fred, thrown by the annoyance in her tone. Fred’s quick shake of the head made it clear James was on his own. “Like I said, we’ve got it covered.”
“I’m not just going to go sit back in my compartment!” Lucy exclaimed, outraged at the thought. “I came here because I wanted to do something and wanted to ask Freddy for ideas. Don’t you even think about taking over. She’s my sister.” James shuffled awkwardly but Lucy could see he wasn’t convinced. “I’m going to go find Andrea and Molly’s other friends. They’ll be wondering where she is and it’s better they don’t ask questions. I’ll feed them some story. They can help us cover for her.” Lucy’s hard stare widened from James to encompass Fred. She pointed a stern finger at them both and was reminded uncomfortably of her Nana Molly. “You two keep me informed.”
Lucy headed for the door but was cut off by Roxanne.
“I can think of somebody else it would be good to have on side.” Roxanne looked around at them all. Lucy regarded her cousin thoughtfully, wondering what they’d missed. “Does anybody know who the Head Boy is?”
A/N: Hello there *waves*. And thank you for reading! All thoughts/feedback appreciated and adored so if you have a moment.. please review :)