After twenty-five years of marriage, Arthur could almost always tell when Molly had been crying, no matter how hard she tried to hide it. He knew in a moment when he walked into their bedroom at Grimmauld Place after the Prefect celebration party and caught sight of her reflection in the damaged mirror as she brushed out her hair. Her cheeks had a slightly blotchy flush to them, and her eyes were a bit puffy; he'd wager she had been crying hard earlier, but had stopped and pulled herself together in hopes that he wouldn't notice.
She glanced up momentarily at his entrance, looking at his image in the mirror and offering a wan smile before averting her gaze, trying to appear intent on her brushing as he changed into his pajamas. She wished he would just go to bed and not question her; she wasn't keen on telling him about her earlier problem with the boggart. She wasn't keen on reliving the experience, either; it was bad enough to see her loved ones dead in her dreams without having to see them lying broken in front of her very eyes. Unable to stop herself, she closed her eyes and shuddered slightly, then jerked, startled, when Arthur laid his hands on her shoulders; she hadn't even heard him walk up behind her.
"What's wrong, Molly?" he asked quietly, rubbing her shoulders lightly as he watched her in the mirror, his own image somewhat distorted by the crack near the top of the glass. She forced a smile and shook her head, standing up from the worn bench in front of the dressing table.
"Nothing, dear. Just a bit tired, is all." As if to emphasize her point, she covered her mouth and stifled a yawn as she headed towards bed, hoping her husband would accept her answer as the entire truth and leave things be.
No such luck. Arthur stepped forward and caught her arm gently, pulling her to face him. He put one hand under her chin to tilt it up so that she had to look at him as he studied her face. Normally, Molly didn't keep much from him; they were best friends as well as husband and wife, and neither one was all that good at keeping secrets from the other. Of course, Molly had been a little more closed off towards him since the whole incident with Percy; most times lately, if he had found her with evidence of crying on her face and she had refused to give him a reason for it, he would have chalked it up to the Percy issue and left her alone. But something was different tonight; this had not been a Percy cry.
"Molly, please," he pleaded softly, holding her gaze. "What's the matter with my girl, eh?" She didn't answer, shaking her head slightly and pulling out of his grasp. Arthur racked his brain, trying to think what on Earth could have happened in the short time between Molly leaving the little party downstairs and coming up to bed. As she was about to crawl under the covers, it suddenly hit him. "Did you have trouble with the boggart?"
He saw her flinch, and knew he had hit upon the right answer. Instead of getting into bed, she sat down on the edge of it with her hands in her lap. She knew she wasn't going to be able to get out of this conversation. "It was nothing, Arthur," she insisted, but her voice was quiet. "Just...I just had to have a little bit of help with it, that's all."
Arthur sat down beside his wife, reaching to hold one of her small hands in his large one. He was silent a moment, wondering what it was that Molly had seen that was so hard to get rid of. Then again, Molly had never been very good at dealing with boggarts. If there had ever been one subject that was especially hard for Molly to broach, even with her husband, it was her own fears. Perhaps it was because Molly was fearless about a lot of things, and that made the fears she did suffer all the more acute. She was so unaccustomed to dealing with her own demons that when she was forced to face them head on, she wasn't always able to handle it. "I shouldn't have let you go after it alone, Molly. I know how you...well, I know you," he finished, hoping that she didn't find a reason to take offense to his statement. It was never easy to tell with her.
"I know you do," she answered quietly, resting her head against his shoulder. He breathed a queit sigh of relief; all the fight was gone out of her tonight, and although he loved her spirit, they had their best talks when she was calm like this.
Molly closed her eyes as she leaned against her husband, suddenly feeling worn out and tired, as though all the events of the summer, both wretched and wonderful, had suddenly caught up with her. Arthur released her hand from his grasp so that he could put his arm around her, and they stayed like that for a long moment, resting against one another.
"Do you want to talk about it, love?" he finally asked, breaking the silence. She breathed out a heavy sigh.
"I'm just so frightened, Arthur," she murmured in reply, shaking her head a little against his collarbone. "It's just...it's not fair. It's not fair that we fought for so long before and lost so much, only to have to go through the whole thing all over again..." Fresh tears were welling up in her eyes, and she tried hard to keep them from spilling over.
"It won't be as bad this time, Molly-girl," he reassured, hoping he sounded more confident to her than he did to his own ears. "We all suffered losses last time, but we still have each other, and the children--"
"Yes, but they were just babies then," Molly interrupted, her voice beginning to sound a little thick with tears. "Now they're all nearly grown up...Bill and Charlie in the Order...the twins trying to be adults when they're still children--"
"They're of age, Molly," he interjected softly, but she continued.
"--and Ron and Ginny! I'm proud of all they've come through, Harry and Hermione too, but it worries me so...and Percy..."
"Molly," Arthur said in a soft warning tone. She stopped speaking, but instead began to sob quietly. "Oh, Molly, don't," he begged tiredly, pulling her into his embrace and letting her cry against his chest. "Please don't..."
After a few more minutes of Molly crying and Arthur trying to shush her, her sobs trailed off into sniffles, and she raised her head to look at her husband with red-rimmed eyes. "And...and you being in the Order, Arthur...it's just...it's just too much," she whispered, barely trusting her voice to get the words out. "If anything ever happened to you..."
"Nothing's going to happen to me. Or to the children, or to you," he reassured firmly. "We're going to pull through this, Molly." She offered him a watery smile, and he smiled back, kissing her forehead gently. "We can pull through anything as long as we're together. And we're going to be together, you hear me?"
"Promise?" Molly asked, her brown eyes still bright with tears. She knew it was a childish thing to ask, just as Arthur knew it was a childish thing to promise. There were no guarantees for them.
"I promise," he answered nevertheless, meaning the words with all his heart. He smiled at her again. "I love you, Molly Weasley, and you're stuck with me for good."
Unable to keep from smiling back at him, Molly threw her arms around her husbands neck and hugged him tightly. He held her close, burying his face in her hair and breathing her in. And again, he repeated in a whisper, "I promise."