Chapter 11 : Heart on the Shelf
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She still hadn't figured out what had been on Arthur's mind at his birthday a fortnight ago. He'd seemed rather odd about the Muggle diner. She'd thought it would go over very well with him, and it had once the idea had sunk in, but she'd been surprised it had taken him so long to remember his Muggle enthusiasm. She wondered what had distracted him so much that he'd forgotten to be excited about seeing Muggles.
Well, whatever it was, it had been a good trip after all. Her brothers had given him more batteries for what seemed to be a collection now, but she rather thought lunching with actual, real Muggles beat silly old batteries any day.
“What's in your letter, Hattie?” Petula asked, brushing toast crumbs off her jumper.
“My mother's boyfriend proposed to her,” Hattie said, folding the letter again neatly.
“That's wonderful!” Petula exclaimed, then frowned a bit when she took in Molly's expression. “Isn't it?” she added uncertainly.
Molly didn't know what to say, and looked over at her best friend for a cue to how she should react. Hattie had been trying hard to be happy for her mother for some time now. She'd even written to her mother's boyfriend via her mother, since she'd no idea how to send post the Muggle way, but Molly wasn't certain Hattie would be happy now her mother was finally engaged. She didn't like to think of the fallout with Arthur should Hattie continue being upset that her mother was dating a Muggle.
“Yes, it is,” Hattie said firmly, to Molly's relief. “She's very happy. I haven't seen her this happy since before my father passed away. It is wonderful.”
“Please pass my congratulations to your mother,” Molly said fondly.
“Yes, mine too. Well, what's he like?” Petula rolled up her Muggle Studies notes, her smile back in place.
“He's... Well, he's very nice, actually,” said Hattie, glancing over at Molly somewhat sheepishly. “He wrote me a letter and he was very kind and polite.”
Molly smiled. Hattie valued good manners very highly. Being kind and polite was going to take her future stepfather quite far in Hattie's estimation. Molly couldn't imagine Mrs. Habbershaw dating anyone with less than impeccable manners, for that matter.
“I'm glad you got to know him a bit better,” she told her best friend.
“What's his name?” Petula asked. “Are you going to use his surname?”
Hattie shook her head. “No. I'll always be a Habbershaw. His name is Ernest Newsome.” She paused for a moment, then said, “Mum asked me to be her bridesmaid.”
Molly couldn't hold in her squeal. “Oh, Hattie, how lovely!”
“It does sound like fun,” Hattie admitted, smiling.
“I want to be a bridesmaid,” Molly sighed.
“You're both going to be my bridesmaids when I marry Thomas,” Petula told them.
“Thank you,” Hattie said, looking flattered.
“Petula, you're so sweet,” Molly said, overcome with joy and regretting all the times she'd made rude remarks about Petula. “You'll all be my bridesmaids when I marry Arthur, too,” she added.
Hattie smiled, but Petula looked a bit confused. “Did he ask you to marry him, then?”
“No,” Molly told her cheerfully. “But he will.”
“Who will what?” Siobhan asked, sitting down next to her. “What are you lot talking about?”
“Weddings,” they said in unison.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” Siobhan scooted off the bench and moved to the next table down.
Petula snorted as Siobhan fled the conversation. “She must've stopped oozing romance.”
Molly had to hide her laugh behind her hand.
The next meeting of the Duelling Club fell that evening, the same as Quidditch practice. Thad had increased the number of practices the team had per week now their game with Hufflepuff was looming. Molly had to hold in her disapproval of this, though knowing it wouldn't last long made that a bit easier. Still, she rather thought two nights a week more than sufficed. Arthur had said that Thad wanted them to do four, and it was only through Francine Allen taking him aside to talk to him that Thad had agreed to three nights. Molly was starting to feel that she hardly got to spend any time with Arthur and was counting down the days until the next game and the less frequent practice schedule it would bring.
Molly was pacing up and down the corridor outside the Charms classroom just before Duelling Club was slated to begin, waiting for Arthur. Students streamed past her, headed to their clubs and common rooms. She paused in the middle of her route and stood on tiptoe to see above the heads of the other students.
“Where is he?” she demanded.
Siobhan was sitting on a wooden plinth in an armour niche, leaning against the suit of armour. “Probably practice is running late. Don't worry so much.”
“Yes but the club will start in five minutes! They never run this late. I told Thad we have a meeting tonight.”
“I'm sure he'll be here soon.” Siobhan didn't look terribly concerned. “Thad wouldn't dare disobey you and keep them late.”
“Oh, hush,” Molly said sternly, and Siobhan grinned.
Cecilia arrived with Reid in tow and took the two of them in at a glance. “Waiting for Arthur?”
“I saw Roddy in the halls a moment ago, they must be done by now,” Reid volunteered.
“Do you want us to wait with you, Molly?” Cecilia asked.
“Oh, don't be silly, you go on in. You don't need to wait with me, I'll be fine.” Molly shooed the three of them into the classroom.
She leaned back against the cold stone of the corridor. The castle was often freezing at this time of year, and resuming her pacing began to sound quite appealing, if only to warm up.
A few stragglers were still headed for the Charms classroom. A pair of fifth-year Ravenclaw girls whom Molly recognized from Duelling Club were approaching, and one curled her lip up as she caught sight of Molly.
“Look who it is,” she said to her friend in a low voice that was still quite carrying.
The other Ravenclaw girl shook her long dark hair aside, her nose in the air, and regarded Molly with a snobbish air. Molly was suddenly quite sure that they were purebloods, and did her best to ignore them. Half the school was snobby about blood purity these days. She took a slow breath through clenched teeth and tried not to let it bother her.
“Probably waiting for her blood traitor boyfriend,” the first girl stage-whispered to her friend as they walked past her. “She's turned into one too. Such a shame, she's from a good family, but she's practically a Weasley herself now.”
Hot rage boiled up in Molly, and she whipped around and aimed her wand at the girl, casting the first spell that came to mind.
The fifth-year let out a shriek as the spell hit her in the torso. Molly's vindication was immediately tempered with regret, but before she could do or say anything in the way of apology, a familiar figure stepped in front of her.
“What have you done?” Acacia Bushby-Ferris demanded.
The fifth-year girl left in a hurry, hustled along by her friend. Acacia looked torn for a moment whether to assist them or to make sure Molly was punished, and when she turned back to Molly with a frown, she knew Acacia had settled on her.
“She started it,” Molly said, aware that she sounded about ten years old, but it was true. “She said-”
“It doesn't matter what she said. You attacked her in the middle of the corridor,” Acacia said coldly, her arms folded across her chest. “I ought to have known to expect such behaviour from one of your lot, but I keep thinking a seventh-year surely must know better.”
“Shut up, Acacia,” Molly snapped. Her cheeks were flaming now, because she knew Acacia was partly correct.
Acacia's eyes flashed. “Twenty points from Gryffindor, Molly Prewett, and I hope it teaches you a lesson.”
“What's going on here?”
Molly turned around to see Arthur walking toward her, his face wary. He stopped at her side and took her hand, sparing Acacia a glance before asking, “Molly, are you all right?”
“I'm fine. Let's go in.” She gave Acacia the evil eye as she went into the classroom. Acacia stared stonily at her, standing tall in the corridor.
“What happened?” Arthur asked in a low voice.
She really didn't want to tell him any of it. “Nothing. Don't worry about it.”
Molly narrowed her eyes at her brothers as she and Arthur made their way to where Siobhan was sitting with Reid and Cecilia. Gideon and Fabian were sitting very close to Professor Flitwick, whom they greatly admired now it seemed, given his past as a duelling champion and their newly-discovered aspirations of becoming champions as well.
“Why don't they just go away?” she said irritably to Siobhan, who rolled her eyes.
Arthur sat down next to her and took her continued complaints about her brothers in stride, as he did with nearly everything. He picked up their entwined hands and pressed a kiss to her fingers. “Molly, you have to get over this. They're not bothering you-”
“Oh yes they are,” she grumbled.
“Molly,” he began seriously, but Professor Flitwick was calling them to attention, and Arthur had to subside.
Molly listened to Professor Flitwick's instruction with half an ear, stewing about the Ravenclaws in the corridor and her brothers. The entire school was gossiping about her being a blood traitor and the two of them were stealing the one thing she was good at. They always had to butt in, they could never just let her have something all to herself. Why did they have to be good at duelling too? It wasn't fair.
What was even less fair was that she could hear a voice in her head telling her she was being childish about the whole thing. Hexing fifth-years, losing House points, complaining about her little brothers, and she was fully aware that she was being silly, which somehow made it all worse. It was all just too much for one day. Her nerves were stretched to the breaking point.
The club was getting to their feet, and she moved over to a side wall with Arthur, and before she could force herself to relax enough to duel, her brothers appeared in front of them with annoying grins.
“How about a go with each of us, eh?” Gideon asked. He gave Arthur a nudge in the ribs, and Molly thought this might have been more effective if Gideon weren't so much shorter than Arthur. He practically had to stand on tiptoe to reach Arthur's ribs.
“Sounds like fun,” said Arthur, and Molly felt like kicking him.
She paired up with Fabian ill-temperedly, wishing she could just hex him into unconsciousness so he would stop showing off.
It took him ten spells to break through her Shield Charm. She was quite proud of that, especially since it seemed to frustrate her little brother. He managed to knock the breath out of her with his tenth spell, but it hadn't disarmed her. She glanced over at Arthur and Gideon as Fabian prepared his Shield Charm for her to attack, and her heart leaped into her throat.
“Arthur,” she gasped.
Gideon hit Arthur with some kind of curse, and there was blood pouring down his face from a gash in his forehead. Molly ran forward without thinking, deflecting the spell Gideon had sent immediately after the first one, too late to stop after he'd seen what the first had done. Her brother was knocked off his feet by the force of her spell.
Arthur was trying to staunch the blood, and she pointed her wand at him and cast a spell she'd seen her mother use dozens of times on the twins' minor injuries. “Episkey.”
“Molly, I'm fine-” Arthur tried to say, his glasses in one hand as he used his sleeve to mop the blood out of his eyes. She couldn't tell if he was still bleeding, and the room had become airless at the sight of Arthur's face covered in blood. She couldn't draw a breath, her chest constricted with fear that felt like a steel band around her lungs.
“Hey,” said Fabian, frowning at Molly. “That was between Arthur and Gideon. Jumping in is dirty pool.”
Gideon had regained his feet, and he and Fabian exchanged a glance, then simultaneously aimed their wands at Molly.
She had a Shield Charm up just as their combined spell came rocketing toward her. It ricocheted off the shield and hit the ceiling, smashing off a bit of stone, which crashed down to the floor, gaining the attention of the rest of the club. Professor Flitwick finally noticed what was going on, looking over at them in surprise.
“Perhaps we should stop,” he squeaked, but no one was listening.
“You little berks,” Molly exclaimed, waving her wand at the twins.
Fabian grabbed his brother's arm as they were bowled over, their legs knocked out from under them.
Professor Flitwick was waving his arms at them. “Now, let's all lower our wands and-”
“You cow – Tarantallegra!” Gideon yelled, scrambling to his feet.
Molly dodged Gideon's hex and shot another curse at her brothers, her heart pounding. She was consumed by a sudden rage at the two boys, feeling out-of-control and wild. Gideon had hurt Arthur. A tiny corner of her attention had noticed Cecilia cleaning the blood from Arthur's face and hair with her wand, but she was too focused on the duel with her brothers to really see them.
“I see where your priorities are,” Fabian said, looking a little angry. “You defend Arthur and have a go at us! We're your brothers!”
Molly gasped. “I've been defending you your entire life, you ungrateful little-”
“Miss Prewett-” Flitwick tried again.
Fabian tried to hex Molly again and she deflected it, turning just in time to send a curse from Gideon flying across the room as well. It smashed an oil lamp out of its bracket on the wall, and Flitwick was distracted from their duel, waving his wand at the lamp just as it caught the tapestries on fire.
Molly aimed her wand at her brothers, and Arthur grabbed her wrist, plucking the wand from her hand and dragging her into his arms so she was crushed against his chest, shielded by his torso. He put up a Shield Charm just in time as Fabian cast another spell at them.
“That's enough, Molly,” Arthur said forcefully, then looked over at her brothers disapprovingly as he dropped the shield. “And you two as well.”
Professor Flitwick was spluttering slightly, eyes bulging, the tapestry wet and smoking behind him where he'd put the fire out. “Well – that was – good heavens, Miss Prewett, you-”
“It was just an accident. Apologize to each other,” Arthur said, putting his hands on her shoulders and turning her to face Gideon and Fabian.
Molly looked at her brothers warily, and she felt a sting of remorse at their dishevelled appearance. They were her little brothers, after all, and Arthur was right, it had no doubt been an accident. She'd been so frightened by the blood she hadn't thought. They liked Arthur and wouldn't deliberately injure him. She suddenly felt absolutely ridiculous. “I'm sorry.”
“Yeah, us too,” Gideon said, looking somewhat abashed.
“I'm sorry, Professor,” Molly said, turning to the tiny Charms teacher.
“Yes, well...” He still looked rather amazed. “Perhaps we should leave it here for tonight. Back to your common rooms, everyone.”
The other students shuffled out of the classroom, some shooting glances over at the Prewetts, gossiping quietly. Siobhan had a wide grin on her face, and was saying something to Cecilia and Reid that made them grin as well. Gideon and Fabian left with one last glance at their sister.
Professor Flitwick gave Molly a pat on the hand. “Wonderful duelling, Miss Prewett. You truly have a gift.”
Molly felt her cheeks heating up. “Thank you.”
“You need to control your temper better, of course,” Flitwick added sternly.
“Yes sir. I'm very sorry.”
“Yes,” Flitwick said, sympathy in his voice. “I've a brother as well. We'll say no more about it, then. Thank you, Mr. Weasley. Run along, now, both of you.”
Molly left the classroom as quickly as she could, holding Arthur's hand as they set off for Gryffindor Tower a ways behind the last of the Duelling Club students, thinking about what had just happened.
She made it to the end of the corridor, where she suddenly ducked behind a tapestry into one of the shortcuts that honeycombed the castle, dragging Arthur along with her. He seemed quite surprised as she took off his glasses and flung them aside, wrapping her arms around his neck, but he kissed her back fervently.
“I'm not sure what's got you so riled up today,” Arthur said a little while later, after they'd finally found his glasses again. “But I'm definitely not complaining.”
“I thought he'd hurt you,” Molly said in a low voice.
“Well, he did, but it wasn't on purpose.” Arthur's hand drifted to his hairline where the cut had been. There was only a fading pink line now. Cecilia had cleaned all the blood off him, but Molly could still see it in her mind's eye, and his shirtsleeve was stained a pale rusty colour where the spell hadn't fully removed the blood.
She stepped back into his arms and kissed him again, one hand on his cheek. “I was frightened. You were covered in blood.”
“Don't worry so much, I'm fine.”
“I have to worry about you, you never worry about yourself,” Molly said dryly, resting her head against his chest. He clasped his hands behind her back, holding her tight. He felt reassuringly solid.
Arthur sighed, resting his chin on top of her head. “I could say the same about you, you know. The way you just rushed in-”
“Of course I did, I love you. I couldn't let my stupid brother attack you.”
“It was a duel,” he reminded her. “He was supposed to attack me. One of his spells went funny, that's all, and I didn't block it fast enough. Not all of us can block spells the way you and your brothers can. You're all rather scary in there.”
Molly giggled at that and looked up at him, thinking he was teasing her, but he looked quite serious.
“I love you too, by the way,” he said, and kissed her again.
The twins were waiting outside the portrait of the Fat Lady when Molly and Arthur finally reached Gryffindor Tower.
“That was bloody brilliant,” Fabian said. “Where'd you learn to duel like that?”
“Will you teach us?” Gideon added eagerly.
Molly could feel her blush returning, but her spirits lifted. It was very flattering to have the twins ask her to teach them something.
“I suppose I can try,” she said.
“You can teach me as well,” Arthur put in. “Let's go inside, shall we? I'm exhausted trying to keep up with Quidditch and Molly.”
Gideon and Fabian grinned at that.
Arthur went upstairs to change his shirt, and Molly sat down on the sofa in front of the fire next to Siobhan, who had a stack of books for her Care of Magical Creatures class next to her.
“That was quite the duel,” Siobhan said knowingly, smiling at Molly in what she considered an annoying fashion. “The way Arthur just grabbed you close like that-”
“Shut up, Siobhan,” Molly said, feeling her cheeks heat up. It had been rather exciting, rather like the time they'd fought in the corridor over the badger incident. She'd been so angry up until she'd been pressed up against him, and the anger had quite suddenly turned into something else. She certainly didn't want to discuss it with Siobhan, though. Siobhan was sure to say something vulgar.
Siobhan was chuckling obnoxiously, but she didn't say anything else, much to Molly's relief.
Gideon and Fabian didn't stop pestering her about teaching them duelling tricks for the next fortnight, constantly turning up in the common room whenever she was trying to study or spend time with her friends. She hadn't spent quite so much time with her little brothers since the summer, and she'd somehow not noticed how much they'd grown up since then. She wasn't sure how she felt about being friends with them.
The rest of her friends seemed to be taking it in stride that Molly's brothers now greatly admired her, and no one seemed surprised when they turned up to the match against Hufflepuff and sat next to Molly and her friends. Dunstan even shook Gideon's hand as they passed him to sit on either side of their sister.
“Are you excited about the game, Molly?” Fabian asked. He was all but rubbing his hands together in glee. She thought it was a bit unnatural how eager her brothers were over a silly game. “It's going to be a good one. Everyone's been quite pleased with how Thad's team is shaping up, and Hufflepuff's got an excellent line-up this year as well. It'll be a close one.”
“You know I hate Quidditch,” she grumbled.
“You only say that because you don't understand it,” Gideon said excitedly.
“I have no intention of understanding it,” Molly said. “I'm just going to watch Arthur and cheer for him.”
“Ah, but you won't know when to cheer for him if you don't understand the game,” Fabian pointed out in superior tones.
“I'm sure I'll figure it out.”
She spent half the match peeking out from between her fingers, her face hidden behind her hands, as Bludgers shot inches past Arthur and the Hufflepuff Chasers nearly knocked him off his broom half a dozen times. They played less viciously than the Slytherins had, though, so Molly supposed she ought to be grateful about that. The twins kept up a running monologue about the game, which she didn't listen to a word of, only catching the occasional term like 'cobbing' or 'blagging', but she didn't know what they meant. The drone of the commentator, a Ravenclaw boy with a Welsh accent, became only a background hum to Molly, part of the roar of the crowds. She really had no idea what was going on, but her heart was still racing as she watched Arthur flying. She couldn't stand the thought of him being hurt, especially over a silly game.
Petula, sitting next to Gideon, did understand Quidditch and was discussing finer points of the Gryffindor strategy with Dunstan, who sat next to her with Cosmo Graham and Acacia Bushby-Ferris on his other side. They also apparently understood the game, because Acacia occasionally made a remark that was completely meaningless to Molly but would set Petula and Dunstan off on a new tangent. Cosmo was yelling loudly, urging the team on and booing the Hufflepuffs. Molly felt like the only teetotaller at the party.
Acacia had turned up on Cosmo's arm just before the match began, and Molly had expected to have to argue with the stupid girl and gathered herself to do just that, but Acacia was ignoring her. She was also ignoring Siobhan, who sat behind Molly with Roddy Feltham next to her. Siobhan didn't seem at all bothered by Acacia's presence, and Molly had come to the conclusion that if Siobhan could rise above it all after what Acacia had said about her, then she could do the same after Acacia had taken points from her.
The scoreboard showed Gryffindor was up seventy to forty when everyone in the stands quite suddenly stood up with the loudest roar yet. Petula and Dunstan were screaming and waving their arms, and Acacia leaped into Cosmo's arms, both of them grinning hugely.
“What happened?” Molly yelled to Petula, trying to see over the heads of two sixth-year boys in front of her. She couldn't see Arthur.
“Atalanta caught the Snitch! We've won!” Petula yelled back, jumping up and down.
“Oh.” That hadn't been nearly as long as the last game, thank goodness.
Her ears were ringing from the noise of the crowds, and as the pitch began to empty, she finally caught a glimpse of Arthur, who was in a tight knot with the rest of the team in the centre of the field, leaping about like a bunch of idiots with their brooms in the air. Atalanta Weekes, the pretty sixth-year girl who played Seeker, stood in the centre, grinning and still clutching the Snitch, being patted on the back by the team so roughly that occasionally she stumbled.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Siobhan said from behind her, giving her shoulder a little shove. “Get down there and congratulate him!”
Molly grinned at her friend, and set off for the field as quickly as she could, pushing her way through the crowd. She ran out onto the pitch as the team was still celebrating, and Arthur dropped his broom and caught her up in his arms, spinning her around.
“Did you see me make those goals?” he asked excitedly as he set her back down, his hands still on her waist.
“You were wonderful, Arthur dear,” she said, and stood on tiptoe to kiss him soundly.
Arthur seemed to forget that the entire school was in the stands, probably still watching them, and kissed her back with a force that took her breath away and made her forget about everyone else as well.
Really, she could get used to being a Quidditch girlfriend.
Petula cornered her after the game while she was waiting for Arthur to return from the changing rooms. The common room was already gearing up for the celebratory party, and only needed the team to come to Gryffindor Tower before things got into full swing, but it was already quite loud and raucous. It was amazing how crowded the common room felt just after a Quidditch match.
“Can I talk to you about something?” Petula asked nervously.
Molly followed her warily to a corner that was slightly quieter than the rest of the common room and afforded some privacy, and they sat down on the window ledge. Petula looked very awkward as she began speaking in a low voice.
“I just need to know a few things about, well, after Thomas and I marry – and I can't ask my sisters, it's too embarrassing, and I just... I thought you could help.”
Molly glanced around to make sure they weren't overheard. No one seemed to be paying them any attention, so she said in a whisper, “Do you mean... sex?”
Petula looked ready to die of mortification, and only nodded.
“Well...” Molly had to stop herself from squirming uncomfortably. “Perhaps you should ask Siobhan? I think she knows far more than I do about... that.”
“I already asked her,” Petula whispered, blushing furiously. “She wouldn't tell me anything. Haven't you and Arthur-”
“No, we haven't,” Molly said with finality, hoping Petula would go away and stop talking about this. It was more embarrassing than she could have imagined.
“Oh.” Petula looked a little disappointed, but unsurprised. “I suppose I ought to have known. You're waiting until marriage, aren't you?”
“Well, yes,” Molly said, and a new feeling crept up on her. “What do you mean, you ought to have known?”
“You're not the type to, well, you know, before you're married.”
Of course she wasn't that type, Molly thought. But she thought of Arthur, and suddenly a tiny wish sprung up in her mind that she was that type. What was wrong with her today?
“Petula, if you can't even say it, you shouldn't be doing it,” Siobhan's voice said behind them.
Petula turned even redder. “I just want to know a few things, that's all.”
“I'll tell you when you're older,” Siobhan said, rolling her eyes.
“I'm two months older than you,” Petula said haughtily.
Siobhan laughed, and Petula left in a huff, still blushing to the roots of her blonde hair. Siobhan sat down next to Molly, rolling her eyes again.
“Knowing Petula, she'd wind up pregnant the first time she tried anything.”
Molly frowned at her. “We really shouldn't be talking about this.”
Siobhan shook her head, smiling ruefully. “You and Hattie, I swear. It's 1968, not 1868. It's all right to talk about sex. Modern women have sex and don't feel they have to run off and get married because of it, you know.”
“Siobhan!” Molly could feel her cheeks turning red.
“Well, modern Muggle women anyway,” Siobhan amended. “Witches seem a little behind in the women's rights movement.”
“Can we change the subject, please?” Molly begged.
“I broke up with Roddy just now.”
Molly sat back and stared at her friend in silence for a moment. “But I thought you really liked him,” she said finally, astonished.
Siobhan was examining her fingernails, and shrugged as if it was unimportant, but she didn't meet Molly's eyes. “Things change.”
“Oh, Siobhan...” Molly reached a hand out to Siobhan, who shot to her feet quickly, escaping from the small physical contact.
“I'll see you later, Molly,” she said in her normal tone, though her brogue was a little heavier.
Molly watched her disappear into the crowd and wished there was something she could say to make things better for Siobhan, something anyone could say to convince her that loving Roddy was all right. Molly was suddenly immensely grateful that she had Arthur, and that despite her apparently old-fashioned embarrassment about sex, at least she had an easy time with love.
A roar went up in the common room, and she could see the team coming in through the portrait hole. Arthur scanned the crowd, and she waved to him. He made his way over to her, and she watched him, thinking how very handsome he was as he grinned at people who congratulated him.
“What a game, eh?” he said as he sat next to her, draping an arm around her shoulders.
“I love you, Arthur,” Molly said, unable to hold it in.
He grinned widely. “I love you too.”
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