The Leaky Cauldron was doing a brisk business when Molly and Arthur arrived. A small crowd of witches were laughing uproariously by the bar, and people were bustling in and out toward Diagon Alley and into Muggle London. Molly had to stand on tiptoe to look for their friends.
“Over there,” said Arthur, who was tall enough to see over the crowd better, and led the way toward a large table in the corner. Hattie waved at them as they approached, and Molly was pleased to see she'd even managed to get Cosmo Graham there. Cosmo was a friend of Arthur's who would be starting his seventh year at Hogwarts that fall.
Reid seemed very alone at the far end of the table, looking pale but improved, Molly was pleased to see as they exchanged greetings with their friends. He had showered and shaved, finally, and his face was thinner than it had been, as if he hadn't been eating properly. He looked interested though, the old intelligence back in his face as he looked up at Arthur with fever-bright eyes.
“All right, everyone's here now,” Hattie said, though her face looked a little drawn. It was hard to say everyone was present without Cecilia.
“What's going on, Molly?” Petula asked.
She felt a blush creeping up her cheeks, and glanced at Arthur. He grinned and announced, “We got married yesterday.”
Hattie let out a deafening shriek.
Siobhan made a pained face, rubbing her ear. “Bloody damned hell, Hattie-”
“Language,” Hattie said, but she was grinning at Molly and Arthur, her hands clasped at her breast in ecstasy, reminding Molly strongly of her new mother-in-law. “I'm so happy for you! Oh, it's wonderful.”
The others were grinning, all looking very pleased and calling out congratulations, except Reid, who managed a ghost of a smile only.
“You promised me I could be your bridesmaid,” Petula said accusingly, though she was obviously trying to hide a smile.
Molly laughed. “I'm sorry, Petula.”
“Well, I suppose I can forgive you.” Petula stood and came around the table to give Molly a hug.
They were soon enveloped in a cloud of hugs and congratulations. Dunstan gave Arthur a thump on the back, and even Reid managed to shake his hand. Siobhan didn't hug anyone, but did hand Molly a glass of firewhiskey.
“Well done, Arthur,” Dunstan said heartily as he resumed his seat.
Petula elbowed him in the ribs, and Molly turned to her with a smile. “Where's Thomas?”
“Working late,” Petula said. She didn't look concerned. “What did your mum say when you told her? What did Arthur's mum say?”
“Well...” She didn't want to talk about her parents' reactions. “Mrs. Weasley was very happy.”
Petula and Hattie, who was listening, both gave her a knowing grin. They had both met her mother many times.
Petula leaned in and said in a low voice, smiling mischievously, “So if I wanted to ask you some questions about – erm, you know – would you tell me now?”
Molly could feel her cheeks flushing. “Petula!”
Petula laughed, though she was blushing a bit too.
“What are you two talking about?” Dunstan asked, giving them a suspicious look.
“Nothing,” they said in unison, waving him away.
They stayed at the corner table, comfortably chatting, for another hour before Cosmo announced he had to get home and headed for the fireplaces. The conversation derailed a bit after that, and Molly had a moment to look around the pub. It seemed brighter now, less dangerous, than when she'd been there only a few days before with Arthur, just before they'd eloped. She knew nothing had changed, that there was still danger for them, but it seemed infinitely easier to face now. It was probably silly to feel that way, but as she looked over at her new husband, she couldn't bring herself to be quite so afraid now.
Arthur leaned back in his chair and gave Reid a long once-over. “You're looking a bit better, mate. Well rid of that horrible beard, I think. How are you doing?”
Reid shrugged, but after a moment he confessed, “I can't sleep at night. It's too quiet. Cecilia... she always snored. I could hardly even sleep for the noise, and now I can't sleep without it.”
“Molly snores too,” Arthur said in commiseration.
“I do not,” said Molly, outraged.
“Yes, you do,” Hattie told her. Siobhan and Petula both nodded their agreement.
“You do, Molly,” Petula added in a murmur, looking slightly apologetic.
Molly crossed her arms below her chest and frowned at her former dorm-mates. “Oh, bugger off, the lot of you.”
Reid cracked a smile, then began to chuckle, and then to laugh heartily, shaking his head. It was the first time Molly had heard him laugh since Cecilia's death, and she couldn't help smiling at him, even though he was laughing at her expense. Arthur was grinning, and Hattie had a motherly smile as she watched Reid laughing. Petula and Dunstan were smiling too, but Siobhan stared at Reid with an inscrutable expression.
“Oh God,” Reid said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. “I really miss her snores. I must be going mad.”
“Molly's louder,” Siobhan said then, and Reid started laughing again.
“You poor bastard,” he said, clapping Arthur on the shoulder.
“Oh, shut up, Reid,” Molly said, but she was still smiling. She added tentatively, “You do look much better, especially since you shaved.” She wanted to encourage him in his recovery, but didn't want to hurt his feelings. He seemed to have cheered up a bit since Siobhan had made him laugh. His features, still drawn with exhaustion and pain, were relaxed now in a grin that almost held his old level of cockiness.
“I had to, didn't I?” he replied, eyeing her without rancour.
She wasn't sure what he meant. “Did you?”
Reid stuffed a chip in his mouth and said around it, “Hattie came over. Dragged me out of bed, threw away all my liquor, and told me to shower and shave or she'd hex me into next week. Practically force-fed me some beef stew. She frightened the life out of me, I tell you. The stew was good, though.”
Hattie looked embarrassed. “Oh, Reid,” she muttered reprovingly.
“It's true. You were so rude to me, for a moment I thought you might be Cecilia, coming back to haunt me for those bloody fireworks.”
“Language,” said Hattie, but she smiled.
Molly wasn't at all surprised that Hattie, the peacemaker in their circle of friends, had been the one to go give Reid the kick in the behind that he'd needed. Hattie was often overlooked in their group because she was so quiet and ladylike, but she hadn't been a Gryffindor for nothing. One of the reasons Molly had always found Reid tolerable, even at his most obnoxious, was that he had always seemed to really see and appreciate her best friend.
“I suppose someone had to do it,” Arthur remarked. He gave Hattie a fond glance.
Of course Arthur also understood Hattie. Molly turned what she knew was a lovesick glance at him and smiled.
Petula began what seemed to be a monologue about her own upcoming wedding, and before Molly knew it, she and Hattie had been pulled into the plans. Dunstan and Reid, looking distinctly bored, began talking about Reid's new job. Siobhan looked just as bored as they did, but before she could make a snide remark, Arthur leaned in and said something in a low voice that Molly couldn't make out.
Siobhan seemed rather startled, and rose from her seat, following Arthur to a quiet corner a few yards away. Molly watched them talking, though she couldn't hear a word of it. After a moment, Arthur pulled a folded-up piece of parchment from his pocket and handed it to Siobhan, who regarded it as if it might bite her, but after a moment she took it. She didn't open it, only held it loosely in one hand, and as Arthur put a sympathetic hand on Siobhan's shoulder, Molly realized what it was.
“Oh dear,” she whispered, then excused herself to go join them. Petula didn't seem to notice, but Hattie gave her an understanding smile.
Molly could see Siobhan's face as she approached. Her friend's expression was even more closed-off than it normally was. Arthur was saying something, she couldn't make out the words, but his tone was earnest and soft. She hung back a bit, not sure if it was the right moment to join them, and moved instead to stand behind a wooden pillar, trying to gauge her moment to interrupt them.
But then she heard Siobhan's voice and forgot all about finding the right time to join their conversation.
“I'm going away.”
Molly peeked around the column until she could just see their faces. She supposed it was rude to eavesdrop, but she couldn't help it. She simply could not miss hearing this conversation, and she knew it would cease if they knew she was there, especially after Siobhan's next statement.
“Don't tell Molly and Hattie.”
Arthur looked a little pained. “I'm not very good at keeping secrets from Molly.”
“You'll only have to keep this one for a short while. I'll write them after I've gone.”
“Where will you go?” Arthur asked softly.
Siobhan pushed her unruly curls away from her cheek. “Somewhere far. Egypt, maybe. India. I can't stand to stay here any longer.”
“Because of Cecilia?”
“I'll come back, someday, to visit her,” Siobhan said in a faraway voice, staring down at the tightly folded parchment that was the last record of Cecilia's life. “But I need to leave. My grandmother always said I had a wandering spirit. I only stayed because of Cecilia.”
Arthur made a sympathetic murmur.
“I thought she and Reid would be the first to run off together,” Siobhan said. “I reckoned you and Molly for a big church wedding and Cecilia for the elopement.”
“He was going to ask her,” Arthur said quietly. “The day she... He says he was going to ask her that day to run off with him, but she was going out with the girls, so he put it off...”
Siobhan smiled. “She would have said yes. You can tell him that. She probably would have smothered him in his sleep one day, or poisoned his afternoon tea, but she would have said yes.”
Arthur chuckled. “You should tell him. You were her best friend.”
“I don't talk to Reid, really,” said Siobhan, looking a little uncomfortable. “You're his friend, you'll have plenty of chances to tell him.”
“You never cared for Reid much, did you,” Arthur remarked, with what seemed rather surprising insight to Molly. She hadn't realized he could read Siobhan so well.
“I like him well enough, I suppose, even though he's a bit of a jackass. I just wasn't sure he was right for Cecilia,” Siobhan admitted. “Don't tell him I said that.”
“He did make her happy,” Siobhan mused. “She was happy with him, tell him that too.”
“I still think it would be better coming from you.”
Siobhan shook her head. “I... Arthur, you tell him. You're his friend.”
“All right,” Arthur said gently. Molly smiled at him fondly. He must know how difficult it was for Siobhan to have lost Cecilia, and sense that speaking to Reid was more than she could bear. She was far too private to let him see the full extent of her grief.
Arthur looked up then, and his eyes met Molly's. She ducked back behind the pillar, out of sight again, and listened to him sending Siobhan back to their friends.
“Petula better not be talking about her bloody wedding any more,” Siobhan muttered as she walked away.
Arthur waited a moment, then rounded the column.
“Eavesdropping?” he said mildly.
“I couldn't help it,” Molly admitted.
He just shook his head, smiling. “I won't tell if you won't.”
She smiled at him, enjoying the feeling of the two of them against the world, even if the world was only one of their friends at that moment.
“We should go back,” Arthur said, and glanced around the pillar. “I don't think they can see us from this angle.”
She looked up at him in time to catch his kiss. It was a few minutes before she recalled where they were, and that undoubtedly the rest of the pub could see them.
When they'd rejoined their friends, Hattie gave her a teasing smile, and Molly tried not to blush. She was a married woman now, after all, and if she wanted to kiss her husband in the middle of the Leaky Cauldron, she felt she was quite entitled to do so. Her cheeks still felt a bit hot, however, despite her attempts at being blasé.
She sat down next to Siobhan, not sure whether she should let on that she knew what was going on. But Siobhan only smiled at her somewhat wistfully, rolling her glass of firewhiskey between her palms, and there was such fresh pain in her eyes that Molly decided not to push her.
“How are you, dear?” she asked gently instead.
“Fine, I suppose,” Siobhan said with a shrug, taking a drink of her firewhiskey.
No one seemed to be listening to them; Petula had now begun haranguing Dunstan about proposing to his girlfriend, Gemma Folwell. He looked as if he were ready to bolt. Reid and Arthur seemed to find this quite funny and had joined in teasing their friend.
“Cecilia would have been really happy,” Siobhan said then, and Molly didn't question the apparent non-sequitur. Cecilia had been much on her mind tonight as well.
Molly wasn't sure whether to tear up or smile, and compromised by doing both. “D'you think so?”
“She always liked Arthur. She thought you two were sweet together.” Siobhan looked over at Arthur. “She'd be annoyed that she missed it by only a month.”
Molly nodded, sniffling a little.
Siobhan turned back to her with a wicked grin. “She'd want to ask how your wedding night was. So I'll ask for her. How was it?”
Molly let out a watery chuckle. “Cecilia wouldn't ask that, you would. I'm not going to tell you anything. That's private.”
Siobhan was still grinning, not looking at all surprised by Molly's refusal to share details. “Well, since you always said he was a good kisser, I reckon he'll be a quick study at other things as well.”
“Not everyone can have as much experience as you, dear.”
Siobhan threw her head back and laughed. It felt good to be laughing again, and to look around and see her friends smiling and laughing. Molly smiled fondly at the little gathering, and wished Cecilia was there too.
It was going on one in the morning by the time they all left the pub. Siobhan had drank far more whiskey than Molly thought was good for her, but it had seemed to cheer her up, and when she set off down Diagon Alley with Hattie, she was singing something about Galway Bay. It always rather surprised Molly that Siobhan's singing voice was so very sweet when her speaking voice was nearly always saying a swearword.
Dunstan had left with Petula on the Knight Bus, promising to see her home to Yorkshire before he returned to his parents' house. Arthur had decided Reid ought not go home alone, and so he and Molly deposited their friend in his flat, where Molly was fairly certain he would pass out on the sofa. He was snoring already when they left.
“Just think,” Molly said as they walked hand-in-hand down the stairs to the street, “We're at the end of an evening out, and you don't have to see me back home.”
Arthur stopped in his tracks, and Molly backed up a step so she could see him better.
“You're right,” he said, sounding rather amazed. “I never have to see you home to your parents again. We'll go home together.”
“Only to your parents' house tonight,” she amended. “We won't be entirely alone.”
“We will in every way that counts,” he said firmly. “I don't ever have to spend another night without you again. I get to take you home to bed with me.”
She could feel the blush creeping up her cheeks, but no one was around to hear them, and he was, after all, her husband now, so she said, “Take me to bed, Arthur.”
He looked as if he wanted to dance with glee, but he dashed down the stairs and out the door to the street, then pulled her into his arms. “Are you ready?” he asked, and she could feel his body tensing to Apparate.
Molly wrapped her arms around his neck, holding tight. “Let's go home.”
A/N: The end! Ah, it's nice to finally have this posted and complete. I hope you enjoyed it, and thank you for reading - and hopefully for reviewing as well!