Disclaimer: No, I can't say as I own Arthur or Molly. And even as wonderful as the idea is to behold, I'm rather happy with J.K.R.'s ownership of them. She may not have opened all the secrets of the Weasleys wide open for the world, but at least we poor humble fan writers can have fun expanding on what we do know about them.
Worth the Risk
By the time Arthur finally returned to Gryffindor Tower it was nearly time for breakfast and students were already filing out past in groups as he came up to the portrait hole. Several gave him an odd staring at as though trying to deduce why he would be heading back to the common room with his heavy cloak over his arm and his tie slung around his neck carelessly. He could well imagine their thoughts were 'It's Saturday! He's a seventh year! Why would he want to wear his school uniform?'
Arthur at the moment was too tired and too sore to care. All he wanted to do just then was get to his dorm room, flop onto his bed and sleep the day away, but as he climbed through into the common room, it was clear that his needs would have to wait.
From before a chair just aside the hearth, several girls stood peering down at the chair's occupant. Arthur could clearly see Molly's distinctive head of hair sticking out from the side slightly, and when one girl looked up and caught sight of him coming through the opening, he saw her quickly inform the other girls. They all looked at him then, and in an instant Molly was up and turning to face him.
Arthur finished climbing through and stood straight before daring to look at Molly. The moment he did, he almost wished he hadn't. With dark crescents beneath, the young witch's eyes looked bleary from lack of sleep, but it certainly did not in the least take anything away from her accusing glare and firmly set jaw.
The young man swallowed nervously.
Molly's friends looked silently from their friend, to Arthur, and then each other before taking their queue and hastily leaving the common room.
The Irish/Welsh temper of the Prewett family was already legendary in the halls of Hogwarts and there wasn't a student or teacher there that wanted to be on the wrong side of it once it had a full head of steam for there was nothing, in most cases, short of magic that could call an end to it once a Prewett really got going. To the other girls, it was more than clear enough that this was nothing they wanted to be around, close friends with Molly or not.
In fact, everyone else in the room seemed quite aware of what was going on as well and the common room cleared out so quickly, that it was hardly a minute's time before there was no one left in the area but Arthur and Molly.
Arthur blinked with a fidget before giving a tentative smile and saying in a congenial, if somewhat hesitant sounding, voice, "Hello Molly. How are you this morning?"
Molly gave him an incredulous look before opening her mouth as her hands quickly and firmly clenched tightly at her sides. Arthur, seeing the tempest was about to let loose its fury, winced noticeably as he braced himself.
"Hello Molly? Hello Molly! Arthur Weasley! That's what you say first thing after sauntering in here at eight in the morning is simply 'Hello Molly?' And what on earth do you mean, 'How am I this morning?' You want to know how I am? I've been up sitting in this chair since four AM waiting for you to get back and here you are, just making it back four hours later! You told me that you would lead Pringle on, lose him and then get right back here! I came back to the common room thinking 'that's all he's going to do. Lose the caretaker and get right back to the tower. Couldn't possibly take him more than a few minutes at most. Sure it's nothing to worry about.' But no! Here you are, four hours later, waltzing in with a 'Hello Molly' as though nothing at all had happened."
"Ah, well, you see, Molly…um…sometimes things don't always go as planned…" started Arthur hopefully.
"I suppose not! Least of all, it seems, with you. I went out there with you. You had me completely convinced that we were perfectly fine…that nothing could happen. You had me so sure that all you had to do was run a bit and you'd be right behind me. But you weren't. And then I waited up thinking that any moment you'd walk through and everything would be just fine. But you didn't, Arthur, and I waited up."
Arthur tilted his head as he suddenly realized what she was talking about. It wasn't really about his coming in after four hours and acting as though nothing had happened. It was about her thinking she couldn't believe him. Trust. Belief in his word… That was the issue at hand.
He had told her he would be right along, cockily assured that he would be. But when he wasn't, she'd been left to sit here and worry about what was going on, and with her being the worrier she naturally was, well, it didn't take a genius to figure out that she'd stewed about it and thus manage to blow it all out of proportion.
No, he hadn't said 'he promised to be right behind her,' but to her, his convincing attitude was as good as a promise. She'd trusted him to follow through and he hadn't. He had reason certainly, but he knew that wasn't good enough for not doing exactly as she'd expected him to. He'd consider himself in the wrong for this, for her, and he was most assuredly going to tell her so. He certainly hadn't waited almost two years to pluck up the nerve to even tell her of his interest just to lose it through an instance such as this.
Catching her in a brief pause she'd taken to get a breath with which to continue, Arthur quickly put his hands up before him in a supplicating gesture and said quietly, "You're right, Molly."
"I -- what?" Molly asked in surprise with a wary look.
Arthur nodded as he continued in his calm tone.
"You're completely right. I said I would do something, told you I would be right in, and I failed you. You trusted that I was going to keep my word, but I didn't. I wasn't able to, not that I'm going to let that be an excuse, but I should have tried a little harder. I let you down, Molly. I worried you, and I am sorry. I never meant to. Honestly."
Molly blinked slowly and Arthur could see her anger ebbing away as her incensed expression began to soften. Though Arthur could say that her fiery spirit, that indomitable will, was one of the things he adored most about her, he much preferred that she didn't have to show her strength of character so fiercely because of hurt. Now, if he had playfully instigated her temper for the sole purpose and pleasure of watching her fuss and fume over nothing, that would have been completely different.
Arthur nodded once noting the young woman's slight confusion. He thought perhaps it was because no one had ever conceded her an argument because they really thought she was right. Or perhaps she was just surprised that he had actually figured out what she had really been meaning all along even if she herself hadn't. In either case, it was a novel moment and Molly was clearly trying to figure a way to respond. Trying and, surprisingly, failing.
Arthur smirked inwardly. A Molly Prewett without word was something just as unique as the moment more than likely was from her point of view.
"Well." Molly broke her eye contact with Arthur and looked about distractedly. "Well."
She huffed slightly.
"I suppose…I suppose that as long as you're apologizing, I should probably apologize too."
Arthur shook his head. "You haven't a thing to apologize for, Molly."
"Of course I do. I didn't have to yell at you like I did. It's just…I was worried and upset…I didn't know where you'd gone off… I don't even know what happened to you and here I am nearly taking your head off."
Arthur couldn't help it. He smiled broadly and letting his natural bent for humor run with it, said, "In a rush to put me in the same crowd as old Nick, are you?"
"It's a small enough crowd you know," said a rather flat voice from the left as Nearly Headless Nick came gliding through with a slightly miffed look at Arthur for so casually dismissing his own position in death. "We could always use some new company. The more the sadder as we say."
Then to Molly he said, "Remember. Not half way and not all the way. Only nearly."
With that, he exited the other side of the common room.
Arthur and Molly looked at each in disbelief before Arthur smirked with a flick of his thumb in the direction the Gryffindor Ghost had gone. "With lively and rousing company like that, I think I would rather be headless."
Molly rolled her eyes skyward with a shake of her head and Arthur chuckled. He watched as she sighed and then looked back at him.
"Really, Arthur. I am sorry. It wasn't fair of me to get angry like that at you."
Arthur shook his head as he stepped forward, "No, I told you, Molly. There's no reason for you to apologize. You were perfectly justified in worrying and I should have tried more to get here as quickly as I'd promised you."
There was no reply from Molly to that and, noticing that she had turned her eyes to look downward, Arthur wondered for a moment why.
"Arthur! What happened to you?"
It struck him then. The limp. She'd noticed it. In focusing so completely on Molly, he'd entirely forgotten that his ankle had been hurt and now that he was walking, it made itself known once more.
Arthur stopped and gave a chagrined half smile and Molly quickly came over to stand in front of him, her eyes blazing for an explanation.
"What happened, Arthur?" she insisted. "Why ever are you limping?"
The young man looked down in embarrassment. "Ah. Well, that would be because I tripped."
"Tripped?" she asked incredulously.
"Tripped," he confirmed.
"Is that why you were so late getting back?"
"Well, what's the other part?"
"Because I tripped, I was caught."
"Caught? By Pringle?"
Molly gasped, her eyes going wide. "Oh Arthur! He caught you? What did he do? Are you alright? He didn't hurt you, did he?"
The smile had faded from Arthur's face and unable to look at Mollyand lie to her at the same time, he averted his eyes.
Molly's firm warning tone issued forth, compelling him to look back at her hesitantly.
Now it was his turn to sigh. He was going to have to tell her. There was just no other way around it. One other notable thing about Prewetts besides their tempers was their unwillingness to let anyone weasel out of something.
"When I was coming around the front of the school, I tripped on that bit of stone sticking out of the ground just past the corner and twisted my ankle as I went down. I slide down it a few feet, got a bit scraped, but other than that…"
Molly grabbed his right hand and inspected the palm for scrapes or cuts to verify the fall just as he knew she would. What he hadn't expected was that she saw something more. As her left hand continued to hold his right, the fingers of her other hand trailed up to push the unbuttoned cuff of his sleeve up and away carefully, revealing a series of dark bruises and deeper vertical cuts, complete with dry (and not so dry) blood, on his wrist. She quickly checked his other wrist and found more of the same.
She looked up at him, the hurt in her eyes shining so clearly he immediately looked away remorsefully.
"You weren't going to tell me about this?" Molly asked in whispered incredulity.
He was sure the expression he gave her probably looked as pathetic as he sounded.
"I didn't want to worry you more."
"Of course. What you want is the important factor. What about what I want? Arthur, we need to be clear about something right now. If we really are to be more than just good friends, then you're going to have to accept that I have expectations too, one of which includes that you NOT hide anything from me and that you understand I am perfectly able and willing to share the responsibilities for actions taken. This is just as much my fault as yours and I want to know right now exactly what our actions last night have done to you."
Arthur looked into Molly's earnest soft eyes before he nodded. He should have known she would never accept less. Her opinion with relationships was about partnership. It was equal in every way or it wasn't going to happen. Her mother's over dominant ruling of her family had more than clearly established in the young woman's mind that such a totalitarian lifestyle, be it by husband or wife, was not going to work in her relationships and she would not let it.
"What did he do?" she asked softly.
"After I tripped, I rolled across the rest of the rocks then tried to get up, but my ankle hurt too much. Next thing I knew, Pringle had my ear and was practically yanking it off my head forcing me to stand and walk with him down to the dungeons. I tried to tell him I'd hurt my ankle, but he wasn't listening. He was so busy going off on a tangent about the rules and how best to punish me that I don't think he heard me complain or noticed how I was walking."
Still holding his hands in hers, Molly gently led Arthur to move before the chair she'd only recently vacated and encouraged him to sit by guiding him with a careful prod backwards. Arthur gratefully settled into the chair as she'd insisted and stretched his still throbbing ankle out before him slowly as he went on.
"He placed a set of manacles on my wrists, then hauled me up 'till I was off the floor. It wasn't far, but it was enough that my full weight was hanging by my wrists. He asked me a few questions, then he just left me hanging. I was there until all of twenty minutes before I came back in here. When he let me down, it took me almost ten minutes before I could put my arms down straight at my sides. He said he'd been nice and to consider that my warning. He said I only did about three hours, but repeat offenders get hauled up all the way to the ceiling and they hang there all night. Sometimes longer."
Molly pulled a chair over on which to sit and proceeded to unlace Arthur's shoe. She was trying to be as gentle as she possibly could, but every movement sent little knives of pain stabbing into his ankle causing him to grimace, unable to say another word until the shoe was off. She rolled the sock down to expose his foot and he saw as she made her own frown at how swollen his ankle was.
"You should go see Madame Hollis. She'll be able to take care of this in a second."
At the idea of going to the infirmary, Arthur nearly jumped out of the chair.
"No," he said firmly.
Molly looked at him surprise.
"What? Arthur, don't be silly. You have to. Your ankle is bad enough as it is, but your wrists…what if they get infected?"
"I'll risk it," was the young man's reply.
"And what if I won't?" she challenged.
"Molly, if I go to the infirmary, Madame Hollis won't even need to ask questions. She's ancient. She's been here since before my grandparents were here. She'll know without a guess what caused the cuts on my wrists. She'll have seen it before even if not for a long time. She'll ask questions and if I don't answer them, she'll go to Pringle and ask. Then he'll tell her, she'll tell the headmaster and then he'll come asking questions. I could get expelled for this and if, heaven forbid, they discovered you were involved, then you could be too," he stated resolutely. "Molly, Pringle told me that part of my warning included that he wouldn't say anything to anyone this time. It was on me to do and act better now that I had some idea of what was in store for me if I was caught again."
The young woman huffed in irritation.
"So what if they ask or know? I think you should tell the headmaster anyway. You'll have these taken care of and not risk any more pain and injury then you've already had to suffer. And I find it hard to believe that any headmaster would really let such a thing happen in this day and age. For goodness sakes, Arthur! It's the 1960's, not the 1460's."
"No, Molly. Pringle asked what I was doing out there. He asked who I was meeting…what I had done. And I didn't say a thing. Not a word. I didn't tell him about you, or how long I'd really been out there, or anything. He probably would have let me go easier if I'd admitted everything, but I couldn't do that. I couldn't get you in trouble too."
Molly seemed to study him for a long moment.
"So you didn't tell him about me? You took that awful punishment because you didn't want me to get in trouble as well? You really didn't say anything?"
"Not a word."
The young woman fixed him with a level gaze and replied, "I don't mind getting in trouble, Arthur."
Arthur returned the look and responded, "I mind you getting in trouble."
Molly looked at his hands, then his ankle.
"You understand I don't agree with this in the least."
"And if I let this go and it gets worse," she continued, "I'm not going to be very happy."
"I wouldn't expect you to be," he agreed somberly.
The witch sighed heavily.
"Alright. You stay right here and we'll take care of these. I can wash and the bandage your wrists well enough and you'll have to rest the ankle, but I'll need to see if I can get something to keep infection away."
"Ask Professor Valarian for some of her homemade Comfrey Root poultice," suggested Arthur. "I know Madame Hollis uses it on cuts all the time. Just tell her you want it to study and experiment on for extra credit in Potions or something. I don't think she'll ask questions of you and definitely not of Professor Slughorn. She can't stand him."
Molly made a repulsed face.
"Neither can I. He's almost as arrogant as Lucius Malfoy. Arthur, are you sure Comfrey Root will be enough for this?"
"It'll have to be Molly."
"Alright, but promise me one thing."
"Promise me that you'll try not to get caught in such an awful position again. No more daring nighttime rendezvous, no more scoffing at the rules and no more risks. I won't have you getting hurt or in trouble. Certainly not alone and certainly not for me." She held up his torn and ravaged wrists. "I'm not worth this."
Arthur leaned forward to look at her, intensity in his eyes.
"Molly Prewett, You are worth the risk of a thousand times worse, a thousand times over."
Molly returned his gaze, a strange mix of disbelief and awe written upon her features and as her eyes shone brightly, Arthur watched her lips slowly pull up into a shy smile, her cheeks turning red at the same time.
A speechless Molly twice in one morning? He was getting rather good at this.
"Well," she said, finally breaking the moment as she stood and started to head towards the portrait hole, Arthur's eyes tracking her as far as he could. "I should go and get that poultice now."
Leaning his head on the high back of the chair, Arthur continued to smile through the dull aching pain of both his ankle and his wrists as he reexamined in his mind the loveliness of a red-faced, flustered Molly Prewett. To his mind, there was really nothing finer.
The picture frame door gave the softest of squeaks as Molly opened it, and a moment after he was sure she stepped out, Arthur could hear the Fat Lady say to her, "Heading off to breakfast and not more trouble, I hope."
"No," came Molly's stiff reply. "Though it's no one's business but my own, I'm going to go see a teacher."
There was a pause as the portrait began to swing shut before he heard Molly add, "Oh, and you should know that he didn't blame me or say a word about me being with him. So it looks like you were wrong this time. That would make him better than most boys you've seen come through here then, wouldn't you say?"
"Oh yes," he re-affirmed aloud to no one but himself. "Definitely worth any risk."
And hopefully, she would someday soon say the same about him.
A/N: And there it is. Part 2, as promised. Hope you all enjoyed my little Arthur and Molly fic. Just a quick note...I made a few minor changes to Part 1, most of which you probably won't even notice if you go back and re-read. But they were little things that to me, were not quite right. I'd say the biggest change was was the gameskeeper. I had the name 'Oden' written when it was supposed to be 'Ogg'.
The only other thing I changed was where Arthur asks Molly "It doesn't matter that my brother, my parents, they might not approve of this?" It now reads "It doesn't matter that my brother, and your parents, they might not approve of this?" To me this reads better as Arthur's parents, Septimus Weasley and Cedrella Black, probably wouldn't have been as upset over the choice as they themselves are considered Blood traitors and for a Black, you really can't do worse than to be disowned right out of the Black Family tree. Molly's uncle, Ignatius Prewett, however, married Lucretia Black, and their names are still included on the Black Family tree. Nothing is said about Molly's mother and father, but I some how question the chances of her uncle remaining in good standing if the rest of her family had major issues.
Now about the inclusion of Lucius into this... By the time line I constructed for A&M in the HP world, I have Lucius as a third year (having been born in 1954) at the time Arthur was a seventh year and Molly a sixth year. There is never anything exact about dates for A&M except the years in which the children were born. It's suggested that Molly was born no later than 1950, so, I choose this year for both Arthur (Feb) and Molly (Oct). I highly doubt Arthur is younger, so in my mind that would remove them from being in the same year at Hogwarts. I don't like the idea of poor Arthur having to wait two years for Molly to get done at Hogwarts before they elope. I'm given of the interreptation that Molly and Arthur had married just as Voldemort's power and destructive ruthlessness was really becoming the massive wave (in about 1970). At any rate, to get to the point, I like this arrangement as it gives Arthur and Lucius even more time to learn to dispise each other to the degree with which they do. It opens up a wonderful world of possibility for early interaction between the two from a writers point of veiw and I've been tossing around a few ideas in that regard. It doesn't matter that Arthur is older than Lucius. Lucius's money and attitude even then would have had him acting like he owned the world. Add to that fact that he and Arthur are total opposites and are really related, if some what confusingly, and you have a powder keg. Besides the fatherly aspect, it's really no wonder why Arthur started swinging at him in Flourish and Blotts. Just for the record...I was rooting for Arthur all the way. :D
And yes, Comfrey Root is a real root that can be made into salve/poultice of sorts to encourage fast healing of cuts and such.