Arthur sat on the front stoop of his parents' house, charming a paving stone different colours to pass the time while he waited for Molly to arrive.
Easter had seemed to come very quickly this year. Normally he would have been quite pleased about that, but this was his final year at Hogwarts and the thing he'd been dreading seemed closer than ever: N.E.W.T.s were in only a few months, and he felt less and less prepared for them as the school year drew to a close. Every time he thought about the exams, his stomach felt like a ball of lead.
It didn't help that his mother had been talking about N.E.W.T.s non-stop since he'd gotten home. And now she was throwing an Easter party for the family, and the house was overrun with relatives asking him if he was ready for the exams.
All in all, Molly's visit was going to come as something of a relief. He could only hope that her presence would serve as a shield against all the questions of how many N.E.W.T.s he thought he'd manage and whether he was worried about failing altogether.
A popping sound drew his attention, and he scrambled to his feet as Molly appeared in the yard. She looked lovely as always, wrapped up in cabled knits against the March cold, a purple beret perched on her red curls. She smiled when she caught sight of him.
They met in the centre of the walkway, and he folded her gratefully in his arms.
“Thank God you're here, I've been going mad,” he said, kissing her.
Molly laughed. “I missed you too.”
She leaned her head against his arm, their hands entwined, as they walked up to the house. His uncle Octavian was passing the front door when they came in, and stopped to quiz Arthur about exams while Molly hung up her coat and hat and fixed her hair.
After Octavian had wandered off again, Molly quirked an eyebrow at Arthur and said, “I see what you mean.”
“They're driving me mad,” he agreed.
Molly headed straight for the kitchen, where the Weasley wives usually congregated during family gatherings, and Arthur stole a few mini-tarts while everyone hugged his girlfriend. His father, sitting at the table with a bottle of butterbeer next to Constantine, smiled at him. His little nephew Basil was sitting on Constantine's lap, gnawing on one of the tarts.
Arthur brushed the crumbs from his hands as his mother rounded on him.
“You stay away from those, Arthur,” she warned him, shaking a wooden spoon in his direction.
“Mum's in a bad mood today,” Constantine told Molly helpfully as Bilius came in and waved to her.
“I am not in a bad mood. It's just that your grandfather has brought that horrible ear trumpet again,” Cedrella said crossly. “I don't know why he won't just use a proper Hearing Charm the way the Healers at St. Mungo's showed him.”
“Dad says he doesn't trust newfangled charms when an enchanted ear trumpet was good enough for his father and his father's father before him,” said Arthur's father, sounding rather tired. “It's better than him sitting in a corner and shouting 'What?' every time someone says something.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. His grandfather had been slowly going deaf ever since he could remember, and at this point could only hear when you shouted into the admittedly horrible ear trumpet he carried with him. It was an enormous brass structure with runes carved into it and looked to be about two hundred years old, from the tarnish and grime.
“It gives me the collywobbles, that thing,” Bilius said with a shudder. “Don't touch it, Molly, it's got bundimuns in it.”
“It does not have bundimuns in it,” Septimus said sternly. “Now be nice to your grandfather, he may not be with us much longer.”
Constantine rolled his eyes at that, tucked his son under his arm like a Quaffle, and set off for the living room. Arthur took Molly's hand and they followed his brother.
“How old is your granddad?” Molly whispered.
“A hundred and two,” he said in a low voice. “He keeps saying he's only ninety-five. I don't know why he bothers, he's not fooling anyone.”
She giggled as they sat down on the floor next to Glynis and Constantine, who had handed the baby over to his wife. Arthur looked around, listening to the conversations in the room as his cousins and uncles mingled, and Molly chatted with his sister-in-law.
A few of his cousins were playing Exploding Snap in one corner, while a few more were crowded around them, watching. His uncle Vespasian had a bag of money in one hand and an eye on the cards, and as Arthur watched, Bilius joined the group. After a low-voiced exchange with Uncle Vespasian, Bilius handed over a handful of Sickels. Arthur grinned.
“So, do you think you two will have one of these soon?” he heard Constantine ask, and his attention snapped back to his immediate companions.
Molly glanced over at him with a blush, then back to Constantine. Little Basil had crawled into her lap and was tugging at her curls, and it was clear his brother was referring to the baby. “Well...”
“Constantine,” Glynis said reproachfully. “That's entirely too personal to ask.” Then she turned back to Molly. “When do you think you'll get married?”
“I...” Molly glanced at Arthur again, obviously looking for help.
He didn't want to make any pronouncements about their impending engagement, in case Molly got upset with whatever he said. He felt he undoubtedly ought to run it by her first before he gave his family any definite ideas, since their getting married someday was sort of a vague understanding at the moment. “We're not even out of school yet,” he said instead.
“It's nearly over,” Glynis said, seeming quite oblivious to the fact she was sending her brother-in-law into a panic. “It's only, what, two more months until N.E.W.T.s? And then you'll be done. Where are you going to work, Arthur?”
A job. He hadn't even thought about that yet. Once exams were over, he was going to have to start looking in earnest. Something at the Ministry, maybe. He'd need decent prospects in order to marry her. He tried to picture Mr. Prewett's face if Arthur asked Molly to marry him without a job. Oh, dear.
“Um,” was all he managed.
“Mum's not going to put up with you not having a job,” Constantine said sternly. “Not when Bilius still
hasn't found one.”
Arthur glanced over at Bilius. This was very true. Their mother had not been pleased with his brother's continued unemployment. Bilius hadn't managed to keep a job longer than a week for some time now, but seemed quite content with his situation, despite their parents' lectures.
“Maybe you could work with Constantine in the Department of Magical Games and Sports,” Glynis suggested. “Or you could work for Gringott's. Nestor likes it there, and he does very well. Are you getting a N.E.W.T in Arithmancy?”
“No,” said Arthur, with a glance over at Molly, who did take Arithmancy. It had always seemed a beastly subject to him, but she seemed to like it.
“You'll need something you can make decent wages at, so you can support a family. You know Weasleys are very fertile, you're bound to have children straight away.” Glynis turned to Molly. “Did you plan to work after you're married?”
Molly appeared a little stunned at the direction the conversation was going. “Um,” she said.
Arthur looked at her. This was something they'd never discussed. Molly would have N.E.W.T.s in several difficult subjects when school was finished. She was very smart, no question. But she'd never expressed any plans for a career. He didn't know if she wanted one. Her mother did not work, like his own, and he rather thought Molly hadn't planned to, either. He didn't want her staying home because she felt she had to, though. If she wanted to work, that was fine with him. Really, to be perfectly honest, anything Molly wanted was fine with him, just so long as she did marry him.
Clearly there was a lot more to this marriage stuff than he'd thought, though. He was seized by a sudden mad wish to be ten years old again, running around barefoot in the backyard without a care in the world or a thought for the future. No N.E.W.T.s, no jobs, no bills to pay, no one depending on him for their health and happiness.
“I don't really know,” Molly said finally, glancing over at Arthur. “We haven't... talked about it...”
Constantine and his wife exchanged one of those world-weary looks that older people so often did when talking to teenagers. “Well, you have to think of these things when you're planning a future together,” Constantine said condescendingly.
They managed to escape before Constantine and Glynis brought up any more embarrassing and uncomfortable questions. Arthur didn't mind thinking about the future, but he didn't particularly want to make those sort of plans with Molly because his brother told him they ought to, and certainly not right in front of his brother. He wanted to make them alone with her, in that cozy little bubble that always seemed to form when no one was around and the world shrank to just him and Molly. They hadn't even left school. There was still all the time in the world to finalize the details.
They hid in the backyard, sitting in the swing under his mother's prized peach tree. It was really too cold to be outside, but it was quiet and private, unlike the overcrowded house. Molly cuddled close to his side, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
“I think your family was trying to hint at something,” she said in a tone that was obviously meant to be light and playful, but had a brittle overtone to it that told him she was rattled.
He winced. “Sorry about that.”
“It's all right.”
He wanted to ask her if her family had been dropping broad hints about marriage and the future to her, as well. Maybe they weren't. Maybe they didn't want her to marry him. A small tremor of panic went through him. Was he supposed to ask her father's permission before he proposed to Molly? A lot of pureblood families were very traditional about things like that. What if he mucked it up entirely, or worse, what if Mr. Prewett said no? Would Molly still marry him without her parents' approval? He thought the Prewetts liked him well enough, but his family did have a reputation, after all.
Maybe he should just do it, just ask her. They were all alone. He tensed, wondering if this was his moment.
But then she reached up to pat his arm that was draped over her. “It'll be all right, Arthur. Everything will work out. Let's just worry about our N.E.W.T.s for now, shall we? The rest of it we can work out later. We've plenty of time.”
Maybe not. He made himself relax again, despite the sting of disappointment, gave her a kiss, and settled back into the swing, his head swirling with all the things he had to worry about after school was over.
Arthur met Molly outside the Potions classroom shortly after the Easter holiday ended. Neither of them had discussed his family's meddling since their return to school, and Arthur thought he rather preferred it that way. Exams and Quidditch were giving him grey hairs enough as it was without having to plan for his future responsibilities as the head of his own household as well. There would be time for that over the summer. They were both young, and as she was still around despite the rather horrifying debacle with his brother and sister-in-law at Easter, it seemed neither of them was going anywhere. The future could wait a bit longer.
The third-year Potions class met right after the seventh-year, and Arthur caught sight of Lucius Malfoy smirking at him as the students shuffled into the classroom. A flash of anger went through him at the boy's expression, but he didn't say anything, hoping Molly had not noticed anything.
But of course, she had. “You're not still arguing with him, are you?” she asked suspiciously, glancing over her shoulder as they set off down the corridor.
“Not lately.” Only because he hadn't seen the stupid boy for a few weeks. He knew it was futile to argue with the Malfoy boy, but he couldn't seem to stop himself when he saw him. Fortunately their paths did not often cross.
“Well, good. I don't want you provoking him and getting in trouble for hexing him.”
“I know better than to hex a third-year,” he told her, feeling rather irritable at her choice of words. If anyone had done the provoking, it had been Malfoy. “I'm very sensible, you know.”
Molly gave him an incredulous look. “Badger in the corridor?” she reminded him.
Arthur winced. That had not been one of his finer moments. “That wasn't my idea.”
“And yet you were the one holding the badger when I came along.”
“Now Molly,” he said with determined cheer.
“Don't 'now Molly' me, Arthur Weasley,” she said, shaking her finger at him. “You stay away from that boy. School is nearly over, you don't have time for getting in trouble now.”
“I can handle Lucius Malfoy,” he said. She didn't look as if she believed him.
“He's only a third year. You leave him alone. I don't want you duelling with a Malfoy.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “I'm not an idiot, Molly. When have you ever seen me in a duel, anyway?” He remembered last year and swiftly added, “When I wasn't affected by a potion, that is.”
She turned bright red at the reminder of the love potions, and said tightly, “I only have your best interests at heart, you know. He comes from a very powerful family. His father is on the Board of Governors. I don't want anything to happen to you.”
He really, really did not want to hear any more on the subject. There was nothing he'd like better than to give Lucius Malfoy a sound thrashing, but he knew he could not, and hearing about it from Molly did not help matters any. They had reached Gryffindor Tower now, and Molly gave the password.
“You're far more likely to get in a duel than I am,” Arthur pointed out as they climbed through the portrait hole. “Need I remind you about what happened with your brothers?”
“Oh dear, is that Hattie calling me?” Molly said, cupping a hand to her ear in the direction of the girls' dormitory. “I'd better go.”
He watched her escape with a small grin. It was getting much easier to divert her before she built up a head of steam. He was starting to feel he really understood her. Suddenly the pressures of future responsibility seemed quite a lot lighter as he contemplated spending the rest of his life with Molly. It was difficult to worry about being responsible for her well-being when he remembered her flinging her brothers against the Charms classroom wall because one had accidentally drawn blood in a duel with him.
Arthur took the stairs to the boys' dormitory two at a time and flung his bookbag onto his bed. Dunstan was sitting on his bed with a Care of Magical Creatures book on his lap, scrawling notes into the margins, and glanced up at him.
“All right there, Arthur?”
“Hi, Dunstan,” he said, feeling quite cheerful.
“Bloody damned fiend of a harpy-” The door banged open again behind him, and Arthur turned to see Reid, apparently in a snit.
“Cecilia?” Dunstan asked, not looking up.
“No,” Reid said coolly. “Acacia.”
Arthur wasn't surprised. Acacia and Cecilia were still at odds. Neither one of them was willing to apologize to the other for their fight in the Great Hall, despite entreaties from both Hattie, who always tried to get people to make up to each other, and Professor McGonagall, who felt someone
ought to be apologizing.
“And Cosmo abandoned us for that thrice-accursed female
,” Reid added. “Can you believe him? Damned traitor. Who does that to his mates? Over a woman
“They broke up over Easter, actually,” Dunstan said, looking back down at his book.
“They did? Well.” Reid seemed to wobble for a moment but quickly found his axis again. “Good. Bloody good riddance to her. Bet Cosmo comes crawling back to us now.”
“It was only you who didn't talk to him while your girlfriends were fighting. I was still friends with him,” Dunstan said in the sort of airy voice that Petula often affected.
Arthur tried to smother a chuckle at that, but Reid heard him and scowled. “Shut it, you.”
There were footsteps on the stairs, and Arthur half-expected to see Cosmo himself pop his head into their dormitory as he sometimes did, but it was only Thad and Roddy.
Roddy had a morose look about him, worse even than he'd been wearing since being chucked by Siobhan. Arthur still didn't know exactly what had happened. Roddy hadn't talked much, Siobhan was close-lipped as always, and Molly wouldn't tell him a thing. He suspected she didn't truly know herself.
“What happened to you
?” Dunstan asked bluntly.
“We saw Siobhan snogging Jasper Mussa outside the greenhouses,” Thad told him.
Roddy kicked his trunk. Arthur winced. Not that Siobhan snogging someone new immediately after chucking her previous boyfriend was at all unusual, but he'd thought she sincerely liked Roddy this time. Roddy had seemed to believe it as well, and had taken their second break-up much harder than their first. It seemed everyone was having women troubles today. Perhaps the planets were misaligned.
“Sorry about that, old boy,” Thad said, giving Roddy a piteous look.
Roddy heaved a sigh. “I know I shouldn't care any more. She chucked me for no reason. I can't keep doing this with her. If she can't be who she is around me, then she ought to keep looking to find someone she can be herself with. Whoever that
is. I'm not sure I ever really knew her.”
“Sorry,” Arthur murmured, knowing it was inadequate, but he didn't know what else to say.
There was an awkward silence in the dormitory for a few minutes, then Dunstan asked, “So are you going out with Francine again, then?”
“No,” Roddy said dejectedly. “I asked her out, but she told me no.”
Arthur's opinion of Francine increased a few notches at that. Roddy had treated her quite badly by chucking her unceremoniously for someone else. He thought Roddy probably had it coming to him when Siobhan did the same thing to him, though Arthur still felt sorry for his friend.
“I mean, I never thought Siobhan and I would end up married, but I did think she felt something
for me.” Roddy looked half disgruntled and half hurt that he'd misread Siobhan's affections.
Thad pulled an incredulous face. “Married? We're far too young for that.”
“Speak for yourself,” said Reid. “I'm going to ask Cecilia to run off with me just as soon as school is over.”
The others all looked surprised. Arthur had to admit he was a bit startled too. Not that Reid and Cecilia didn't seem to be in love, but somehow marriage had never seemed to be something either one of them would consider. He supposed one could interpret 'run off with' in a number of ways that did not include actual legal marriage, of course.
Reid affected a studiedly bored look at their reactions, and turned to Arthur. “I assume you'll marry Molly just as soon as she'll have you?”
“Well, yes,” he admitted. There were no surprised face at this. They'd all seemed to know a year ago that he wanted to marry Molly Prewett. Even before he'd begun dating her, he'd wanted to marry her someday. Evidently he hadn't kept that to himself very well.
“There you are, then,” Reid said, turning back to cock an eyebrow at Thad. “Not too young. Besides, there's a war starting, isn't there? All this Dark Lord business. We could all die tomorrow. I'm going to live while the living's good.”
Arthur agreed wholeheartedly with this view, and was quite surprised that Thad didn't want to run off with Cressida as well. “So you and Cressida-” he began, but Thad cut him off with a curt, “No.”
Arthur stared at his friend. Thad and Cressida had been going out as long as he and Molly had. It seemed rather unsporting that Thad had no intention of ever marrying the girl after nearly two solid years of dating. Arthur suddenly felt quite a lot more mature than his friend.
“I'm going to marry Gemma,” Dunstan volunteered. “Eventually. Maybe in a few years.”
“It's not that I don't care for her,” Thad said to Arthur, ignoring Dunstan. “It's just I don't want to get married until I'm in my thirties.”
There was silence in the dormitory at that as they all considered their thirties. It seemed very far away. Arthur couldn't imagine wanting to wait so long. But then, he'd already found the girl he wanted to be with. Maybe it was different if one wasn't sure.
“You can't date a girl for two years and not at least offer to marry her,” Roddy said. “Gentlemen don't do that, mate.”
Thad was beginning to look very uncomfortable. “Look, old boy, I can't marry someone for a reason like that. She's a nice girl, but... Well, I want to concentrate on Quidditch for a while. I won't have time for a wife.”
“You better chuck her before school's out, then,” Reid advised. “Let her get started finding a new boyfriend.”
“Seems a shame, she's right pretty,” Roddy said thoughtfully. “Mind if I ask her out?”
Thad gave him a very ugly look.
There was a huge uproar in the Gryffindor common room when Arthur came down the morning of the mid-April Hogsmeade weekend. A knot of upperclassmen were crowded around one of the study tables with the newspaper spread out, and more students were reading it everywhere he looked. There seemed to be rather more focus on the paper than normal, and his stomach knotted up at the thought of more murders.
“Arthur, come here!” Petula waved him over, and he relaxed a bit at her expression. She was smiling. No one had been killed.
Molly and Hattie were at the centre of the group around the table, sitting opposite Cecilia and Reid. Cecilia looked extremely pleased and proud, and Reid's tired face was relaxed and happy as he watched his girlfriend chatting with her friends. Arthur leaned over Molly, putting a hand on her shoulder, to get a look at the paper.
“Oh, Arthur, look, isn't it wonderful?” Molly flipped the paper back to the front page so he could read the headline.
ASMUND FLETCHER INTRODUCES NEW LEGISLATION TO PROTECT MUGGLES.
“Cecilia, isn't that your dad?” Arthur asked, delighted. That sort of law had been a long time in coming.
She nodded. “Yes. He's been working on that law for months.”
“It really is wonderful.” He skimmed the article over Molly's shoulder while Cecilia kept talking.
“It was scheduled to go before the Wizengamot this month, but some of the pureblooded factions in the Ministry had it delayed until the summer. It probably won't go up for a vote until July, but Dad says that gives him more time to get people on his side. Mostly it just prevents them being classified as animals or non-sentient beings for purposes of hunting them. There've been people trying to make that legal in the past,” she said, pulling a face. “It's not as comprehensive as he originally wanted, but he says it's the first step.”
Arthur turned back to the front page to examine the photo of Cecilia's father. He was standing in his office, smiling pleasantly. He had the same dark hair as his daughter, and she had clearly also inherited his eyes. He thought he saw something of Cecilia in the way Mr. Fletcher stood, as well.
Cecilia smiled fondly at her father's picture. “He did a wonderful job. I know it's going to make it into law, too.”
“I hope so,” Arthur agreed. “So much can be built onto that foundation.”
“Amazing work. Very well done there, Cecilia's dad,” Reid drawled, leaning back in his chair with a grin.
Cecilia smacked him on the back of the head, and he sat up quickly, adding, “No, I'm being sincere. It's bloody marvellous.”
“Language,” Hattie said.
“Your father will be in the history books if this passes,” Molly remarked, glancing at the newspaper over Arthur's arm.
“It will pass,” Cecilia said determinedly. “It has to.”
“It's really wonderful,” Petula said then, giving Cecilia's arm a pat. “I've got to go meet Thomas, but really, it's wonderful.”
Cecilia smiled as Petula bustled off. Her departure seemed to cue the rest of the group, and they began to disperse, murmuring congratulations to Cecilia as they went to get ready for the Hogsmeade trip. Reid mentioned grabbing some money from his trunk and disappeared up the stairs.
“Let me just go get my cloak and we'll go,” Molly said to Arthur, and she hurried off toward the girls' dormitory.
A moment later there was only Arthur and Cecilia at the table. He handed her the newspaper, and she hugged it to her chest.
“You must be really proud of your dad,” he said, smiling at her.
“Absolutely.” Cecilia glanced around to make sure no one was paying attention to them, and said in a low voice, “Keep this to yourself, but he's planning some new legislation to follow this one, clarifying the legal status of Muggleborn witches and wizards so they can't be considered unequal to purebloods or half-bloods, or be classified as Muggles. He says the next bylaw will essentially erase all consideration of blood status from the wizarding world. Legally, anyway.”
“Incredible. He's doing really important work. You should be proud.”
“I really am,” she agreed, and Arthur thought he'd never seen Cecilia look so happy. He quite understood, since he admired his father very much as well, and now rather thought he admired hers just as much.
Mr. Fletcher was doing the sort of work Arthur had always planned to do someday: helping Muggles and protecting them against harassment and abuse by the wizarding community. He wondered if he could work for Cecilia's dad after he left Hogwarts, if he would have the N.E.W.T.s for Mr. Fletcher to want to hire him.
Before he could bring this up to Cecilia, Molly had returned with her cloak, and Reid was hurrying up to Cecilia. Arthur didn't particularly want to discuss the possibility of working for Mr. Fletcher in front of Reid, in case Cecilia rejected the idea immediately, so he let them fall behind as he and Molly set off toward the village.
Francine Allen passed by them as they left the castle, with Maribel McQuillen at her side. Molly waved to the two girls as they walked past, hurrying off to the village.
“She's not going out with Roddy again, is she?” Molly asked in a low voice once Francine was out of earshot. “Now he's no longer with Siobhan, I mean.”
“He says she turned him down.”
Molly smiled proudly. “Good for her.”
“That's what I thought too,” Arthur agreed.
She smiled again, and Arthur walked alongside her in companionable silence, debating whether or not to mention his idea to Molly. Eventually they reached Hogsmeade Station, where he'd first told her he loved her, and it occurred to him if he could not talk to Molly about this, there wasn't anyone he could talk to.
He said hesitantly, “What would you think of me working for Cecilia's dad after school is over?”
Molly was silent for a moment, and he started second-guessing himself. She didn't approve of him taking on the Malfoy boy's opinions, how could she possibly approve of him doing essentially the same thing but on a far grander scale? He'd be fighting the bigotry of the entire wizarding world instead of a single stupid boy.
Just as he started to wish he hadn't brought it up, she said firmly, “I think that would be perfect. I always knew you'd do something important with your life, Arthur.”
He glanced at her sidelong. “You don't worry about me taking on powerful families?”
She made the connection immediately, as he'd known she would. “It isn't at all the same thing. You'd be out of school. No one could possibly expel you.”
“No, only kill me,” he said, intending it to be a joke, but she stopped in her tracks, and when he saw the fear in her eyes he added quickly, “I'm sure they won't. I'm a pureblood, remember?”
“Don't joke about that,” she said quietly. “Just because they haven't killed any purebloods yet doesn't mean they won't eventually. Besides, your family's reputation...”
“I know.” He pulled her into his arms, and she held tightly to him, her hands buried in the folds of his cloak. Eventually he said in a low voice, “It's important, Molly. Someone has to fight for-”
“The side of the angels,” she finished, to his surprise. “I know. And I'm proud that you want to help, I just worry about you.”
“Let's forget about this for now, then, all right?” He kissed her briefly, and added, “We'll go to the Three Broomsticks, have a butterbeer, and think about all this another time. There's still a few months of school left. Plenty of time for all this later, isn't that what you said?”
She sniffed, but nodded her agreement. “Yes. Plenty of time.”