Written for the HP football bets over at LJ, to the prompt "I never bet, I don't know what came over me". My thanks, as always, to Kelly Chambliss, the best beta one could have. I'm glad I'm not a Prewett, for I wouldn't know how to begin repaying, even.
"… and you see, Auntie Muriel, I thought, well, I wondered …" Molly Weasley paused briefly. Was it a good idea to speak up at all? Auntie was as proud as the devil. She might resent it. On the other hand, they were beholden to her, ever since the War. And the old lady wasn't quite herself; that much was clear. Molly took a deep breath and stumbled on. "I mean, you wereworried, the other day, and I felt … it was wonderful of you to let us use your house as a Safe House, and everyone is so grateful for that, but … having us all there. It must have cost you a fortune. Is that why you're upset? Are you in … well, in financial difficulties? Because if you are … I don't have much, but you've practically saved our lives, and I could … I would …"
Molly faltered and looked at her aunt. Yes, the old lady was worried. Not so that an outsider would notice, of course. Her back was as straight as ever, her hair and clothes impeccable. And the tea she had just served Molly was perfection. Paper-thin slices of toast, generous supplies of butter and honey, and a magnificent sponge cake set in the middle of the table. That was typical for Auntie, too: tea, everymeal, was served at the table in Muriel Prewett's house. No dinner on a tray. No mugs by the fire. Starched napkins, matching plates and cups. But there was no denying it: Aunt Muriel's hands trembled slightly as she raised her cup and saucer.
Finally, the old lady spoke. "You're a good girl, Molly, in spite of your … Never mind. You turned out well enough, after all. Mind, you could have done a lot better for yourself, with my connections to help you. But you're a decent girl, and that's a fact.
"And no, I'm not in financial difficulties. My vault may not be quite as full as it once was, but it'll see me through to the end, and with quite a bit left as well. But you're right in that I have been upset, lately. It's … well, never mind. It's a silly thing. Nonsense. Not worth mentioning."
As Muriel put down her cup, she heaved a deep sigh. Suddenly, Molly felt a rush of sincere sympathy for the old thing. She had been hellishly difficult to live with, had Auntie Muriel. She had had her own way in everything for as long as anyone could remember, and it had been hard for her to adjust to the presence of so many others. Poor Mr Ollivander, who had been so very ill. Luna, who had been there briefly, but long enough to make a startling, spot-on remark or two. The twins, who had insisted on running their business from the front room. "We've worked too hard to stop now," George had said, and Fred had added … no! Don't go there. Not now. This moment was about Muriel, not …
"Tell me," Molly said. "Tell me, Aunt Muriel. A trouble shared is a trouble halved."
Somehow, Muriel had picked up on the change in her mood. "That's just it," she said, unexpectedly kindly. "It's such a silly little thing to trouble you with. Not worth it at all. Not after …" She put her hand on Molly's. "Actually, it's such a silly thing, it might amuse you to hear it. And that will be some good, at least, to come from it. You know about the big fund-raising function at Hogwarts, last week?"
Molly nodded. Ginny had been there. Had played in the Victory Quidditch Match between students of all four houses and the junior team of the Holyhead Harpies. "Ginny played …" she started.
"I knowGinny played for Hogwarts," Muriel snapped. Clearly the benevolent mood was short-lived. "I was there. We were all watching the match, all the Hogwarts Board Members and the teachers. And somehow that Augusta Longbottom ended up near me. Don't know why she was sitting with us in the first place; it's not as if she's on the Board. But there she was, enthusing about the game. She told me the idea of a fundraising match came from Madam Hooch, who's no better than she should be."
"Well, she was a famous player, once. With the Harpies, too," Molly said. "And I hear she's a fine Flying Instructor."
"Nice gels don't play Quidditch for money. At least, they didn't in my day. And then there are the rumours," Muriel added with a sneer.
"Rumours?" Molly asked, intrigued in spite of herself.
"Rumours. About her and … Well, you're a grown woman now. I can say it. About her and other women." Aunt Muriel looked for all the world as if You-Know-Who himself had just entered and grabbed a sandwich.
"You mean she's a lesbian?" Molly asked. "Well, I dare say you're right, but what does it matter? Surely …"
"Unnatural tendencies should matter to every proper-thinking person. And she a teacher, too! I know that these days people feel everything should be allowed, but I don't hold with such notions. I don't hold with them at all. That's what I told the Longbottom woman, who seems to be as lackadaisical in her opinions as you. She just laughed! To think that we fought a war to get some standards back …
"But Rolanda Hooch's aberrations aren't the point. Let me finish my story, girl. Well, there I was, with Augusta Longbottom next to me. Who said that Hogwarts was bound to win, since her Neville supported the team, and her Neville knew what was what, had always known, and was the spitting image of his father and a War Hero, too.
"As you will understand, the bragging annoyed me even more than her regrettable moral outlook. It was not her Nevillewho accompanied the Chosen One, was it? It was our Ron. So I said I favoured the Harpies. She disagreed in a most unbecoming manner, and then she proposed a wager. She said that if Hogwarts lost, I could ask something of her. And if the Harpies lost, I had to do what she asked of me. And I accepted. I never bet; I don't know what came over me."
The last words were almost a wail. Molly tried to look suitably compassionate. Poor Auntie. So utterly dictatorial, so set in her ideas – and so outspoken about them, too; Auntie on one of her high horses was a laugh a minute. And now she was honour-bound to do … what precisely? "Did Mrs Longbottom ask something very difficult?" Molly asked, taking great care to keep every trace of glee out of her voice.
"She hasn't asked anything yet. She said she'd let me know. I've been waiting ever since that match. She said it was time I did something outrageous. That I should live a little."
Molly couldn't help herself: she smiled.
"Don't grin. Live a little! It's an insult. I'm hundred and eight years old; I've lived a lot. And Merlin knows what that Augusta Longbottom will come up with!"
"It may not be so bad," Molly said soothingly. "Augusta is quite a proper woman, from what I've heard. Does a lot for St Mungo's."
"That's as may be," said Auntie Muriel darkly. "But Augusta Longbottom's idea of normalis walking around in a hat with a stuffed, moth-eaten vulture. Merlin knows what she'll ask of me."
What, indeed, Molly wondered. A visit to a nightclub? Auntie Muriel dancing the Macarena? A tattoo? Surely not a tattoo?She started to say something, but in the end she merely nodded and poured Auntie another cup of tea.
Owl from Augusta Longbottom to Madam Rosmerta, Owner of the Three Broomsticks
Thank you for your Owl. The menu you suggest sounds delicious; I quite look forward to it.
As we've discussed, I'll need a table for seven. Make sure it's in a private booth.
We'll arrive around 1:00 PM, on November 18th.
Owl from Pomona Sprout to Augusta Longbottom
Thank you for your lovely letter. I'm doing much better indeed, and it looks as if I'll be back at Hogwarts after the Christmas holidays. And I can stay on as Head of Hufflepuff as well – the Healers told me last week. I know Minerva was worried about it – well, so was I. Min has quite enough on her mind with the Headship and the rebuilding; she shouldn't have the additional burden of appointing a new Head of House. And I'll be glad to see the hothouses again. It'll be a long time before they are back to what they were, if they ever quite will be. But then, that goes for each and every one of us, doesn't it?
But let's not be morose. There is much to look forward to, most of all your wonderful invitation. Willa and I are both overjoyed, and may I add that I feel quite honoured as well? I've never been a witness at a marriage before, and there's no-one for whom I'd rather perform that duty – as you know, we've always had a special connection. It isn't a duty, even, it's a pure pleasure.
Of course I understand about you arranging everything and making the request; I didn't think it odd in the least. We all know how frantically busy our War Heroes have been after the Battle. All the attention and all the work. It must be quite overwhelming, especially for someone who always stayed in the background before. So don't give it another thought.
You can expect us in all our finery on November 18th. Willa sends her love and says she will personally see to it that there isn't a whiff of unicorn or dragon dung around us. I assure you that we can scrub up nicely.
A hug from
Owl from Muriel Prewett to Molly Weasley
You were kind enough to listen to an old woman's worries when you came to tea the other day. I feel I owe it to you to let you know the outcome of that silly wager.
Augusta Longbottom has made her request. It's exactly the sort of thing one could expect from that woman, but you'll agree with me that it could have been much worse.
I am to appear at the Ministry on the 18th of November, to be a witness at a wedding. Augusta has informed me that there may be some press attention, and I'm to lend full support to the event, should a journalist ask for my opinion.
Well, as you know, I think a lady should be in the newspaper only three times: when she's born, when she's married, and when she dies. The idea that I'm to serve as bait for some journalist is utterly distasteful to me. But I'll do my duty – for that's what it is.
Here are my thoughts on the matter. It's clear that Augusta's grandson, that Neville she was so full of, is about to get married. He has, to some degree, the status of a war hero; hence the press attention. It's equally clear that there is a problem with this marriage, or she wouldn't ask me to give my full support. It can only be one thing: the bride must be visibly pregnant already.
Now I think it's the Lovegood girl. Luna. She mentioned a certain Neville on several occasions during her stay; mentionitis is always a tell-tale sign in a girl. I didn't make the connection until I got Augusta's request, but Luna must have meant Neville Longbottom.
The girl is to blame for what happened, of course. But I'm glad – yes, I'm truly glad – that Neville makes an honest woman out of her. And I'll pretend to support the whole sorry affair for her sake. I found her an odd girl when she stayed with me, and strangely outspoken. But one must remember that she lost her mother at far too early an age. And she survived imprisonment by You-Know-Who. There is steel in Luna Lovegood; I respect her for it.
If my presence can give her some degree of respectability (and it can; we Prewetts are, after all, one of the oldest and most venerable wizarding families,) then I will perform my part.
After all, a Prewett always pays her debts.
Letter from Neville Longbottom to Luna Lovegood
Is everything well with you and your father? I really enjoyed that drink we had a few weeks ago, and I meant to write sooner. Well, so did you, I think, but we've both been very busy. These days I keep in touch with half my friends by reading about them in the newspaper.
Did you see that both Harry and Ron are accepted into the Auror Traineeship? Silly thing that they had to apply in the first place, if you ask me, but that's the Ministry for you. And Hermione plans to go to university after all. Well, no surprise there.
I've had a bit of luck, too. Professor Sprout will come back to Hogwarts. The back injury isn't quite as bad as it seemed at first. She shouldn't have neglected it to begin with, but that's how she is. Keeps going. Anyhow, she'll take up teaching again after Christmas, and I've been hired as her apprentice! I can do the heavy work, lifting plants and bags of earth and such, and it's just the best apprentice-ship I could hope for!
But that's not why I'm writing today. Thing is, Gran is up to something. It's a party of sorts. I've no idea what it is, but she told me to come to the house on November 18th, at 10.30 in the morning, and she would explain everything then. She also said I could bring a good friend, so that I'd have someone my own age to have fun with. I know she probably expects me to invite Harry, but actually – well, the good friend I'd really like to spend time with is you.
Shall I be at your place around ten? We can then Apparate to Gran's together. I do hope you can make it!
Hope to see you the 18th,
Molly Weasley looked at the gleaming jars of apple jelly and nodded approvingly. It had set beautifully. Always a tricky thing, apple jelly – before you knew, it was too stiff to spread properly. But this batch had turned out very well, indeed. Perhaps she should make some more today?
No. Molly straightened her back. She had made apple jelly for the past two days – even if she used half of it for Christmas gifts (and a very nice gift, too, the way it had turned out), there was more than the family could possibly get through. What she would do instead was make her apple chutney.
She swallowed. "That's what you'll do, Molly Prewett," she said out loud. It had been Fred's favourite. That boy could eat it with a spoon – could gobble up half a jar at a sitting. In fact, he had often done so, and she had berated him for it on occasions. And then he would smile and tell her it was all her fault for making it so bloody brilliant in the first place …
Molly blinked a few times. There, that was better. The whole family loved that chutney; she had made it every year since the apple tree first yielded a decent crop. And she would make it again this year. That part of life should continue. She would gather all the ingredients and start on it – it would be finished before Ginny came home. And she, Molly, would look perfectly all right again. For there was only so much one could blame on cutting the onions that gave the chutney such flavour.
She had better get out her recipe, then, and assemble the ingredients. As Molly made her way to the kitchen, there was a thudding sound in the fireplace. She turned around. Who on earth …
"Molly! I just had to call!" It was the exited, grinning head of Mary O'Flanagan, Molly's closest friend ever since they had shelled puffapods together as ickle first years. "Have you seen the paper today?" Mary asked. "Have you seen the news?"
Seen the paper, yes, Molly thought. Read it, no. It's too full of war stories still. Too painful, especially on a day like this. She wouldn't have the heart to make chutney after seeing all those trial reports.
"Well, no," she said, "I've been rather busy. Just about to start on my apple chutney, I was."
"Yes, I see," Mary replied thoughtfully, and Molly couldn't help thinking what a comfort it was that Mary actually did see, without needing to be told, why apple chutney and The Daily Prophetcouldn't be combined.
"I called for a good gossip," Mary continued, "but I have a better plan. I'll set the house to rights and Apparate over. In the meantime you read the Society Page, my girl. And then we'll have coffee and a face-to-face gossip. I'll even help you with the chutney afterwards – if you let me have a jar, that is. Now go and check that paper. I'll see you in a few minutes."
With a swoosh, Mary's head disappeared. Molly walked over to the kitchen table. It was uncommonly good of Mary to keep calling, to try and get her interested in everyday life again. And now this offer to come over and help with the chutney, and then make it sound as if Molly did her a favour by giving her a jar. It was true kindness, and if Mary insisted she, Molly, read the Society Page, then that was what she'd do.
Quickly Molly turned the pages till she saw Rita Skeeter's face winking at her from an exaggeratedly-glamorous picture. She looked at the page's headline.
And looked again.
She reached for her reading glasses and put them on. She looked at the headline once more. It was still the same. She drew the paper closer and started to read.
"Well, I never …." she said. "Well, I never …"
The Daily Prophet, November 19th. "Minerva McGonagall Finds Happiness At Last", by Rita Skeeter
1998 is a heady year for Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. After years of living in the shadows of Albus Dumbledore, she gained war heroine status by her courageous defence of Hogwarts Castle. Her legendary duel with Severus Snape has already been compared to the famous Dumbledore/Grindelwald confrontation – a claim that Headmistress McGonagall dismisses with her customary modesty. "Severus and I had agreed on the duel beforehand," she stated – soon after Harry Potter outed Severus Snape (posthumous bearer of the Order of Merlin 1st class) as the hero he undoubtedly was.
And yesterday we learned that Minerva McGonagall has found happiness in her private life. During a quiet civil ceremony at the Ministry of Magic, she married Augusta Longbottom, grandmother of the well-known Neville Longbottom, whose courageous stand against You-Know-Who turned him into a role-model for his generation.
Professor Pomona Sprout, witness for Headmistress McGonagall (who made a most charming bride in exquisitely-elegant, night-blue robes) claimed to be overjoyed. "It's wonderful to see Minerva so happy – especially after that ghastly year we've all had," she said. "Augusta and Minerva have known each other forever. They were at school together, but they had lost contact. They met again when Neville came to Hogwarts, and I'm so very pleased for both of them!"
I asked Professor Sprout how she felt about a married Head of Hogwarts – a first in Wizarding history. Does she feel that Minerva McGonagall's commitment to her new partner may lead to the same level of absenteeism that we have seen during Dumbledore's Headship?
"Of course not," was Professor Sprout's hasty disclaimer. "I think Minerva is just what Hogwarts needs. Albus himself always had every confidence in her. Everyone knows how close they were."
Everyone knows, indeed. And those who have read The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, especially the chapters describing his veryintimate friendship with Gellert Grindelwald, will readily understand just why Dumbledore felt he and Minerva McGonagall had so much in common.
The witness for the 'other' bride was, surprisingly enough, Madam Muriel Prewett, long-time member of the Hogwarts Board of Directors. Madam Prewett has always had outspoken ideas on the management of the school. During the last years of Dumbledore's headship, when his staff appointments became increasingly eccentric, she was among those who openly opposed him. When the Wizarding World learned the full facts on former DADA teacher Remus Lupin, Madam Prewett declared that, "while lycanthropy clearly is a dreadful affliction and one cannot possibly blamethe victims, it is madness to risk our children."
And when this newspaper disclosed the background of Rubeus Hagrid, Game-keeper at Hogwarts and a Half-Giant, Madam Prewett was again amongst the first to speak out against such a hazardous appointment.
How does Madam Prewett feel about a Headmistress who plans to combine a strenuous post-war Headship with the demands of marriage, and a highly unorthodox marriage, too? Does she feel that, while the Wizarding community tries to rebuild the good old world that we loved and fought for, Hogwarts should advocate a complete reversal of traditional values? Our young children – many of whom are traumatised by the dreadful events during the Battle - surely need a calm, safeenvironment in which they can learn and play?
"Given the events of the last years," stated Madam Prewett, "the calmness and safety of Hogwarts can only improve under Headmistress McGonagall. There's no reason why Minerva shouldn't make an excellent job of the Headship. Merlin knows she practically did the work already, what with Albus's absences. Minerva's concern for the children has always been wholly admirable, and she is one of the leading experts in her field. I've no doubt that she'll improve the academic standards considerably."
No-one will deny that Professor McGonagall can lead by example when it comes to scholarly achievements. But what if students follow her in other aspects of life as well?
"Such as?" asks Madam Prewett with her customary sharpness. "Getting married later in life? Not the worst thing to do. Marrying straight out of the schoolroom always seems the height of idiocy to me. Young people should look around a bit. Mind, I'm not saying that getting married at seventy isn't stretching it. But that's Minerva's decision, and I utterly fail to see what this or anyaspect of her private life has to do with the way she runs Hogwarts."
Madam Prewett then proceeded to give us her views on the right to privacy and the invasive habits of today's journalists. It was a fascinating insight in the notions of a bygone age, but the Society Page isn't the place to do justice to them – one can only hope that Antiquities Annualwill register this voice from the past before it's too late.
Let me just inform you that Madam Prewett declared, "I am pleased for both spouses, I wish them every possible happiness, and as a member of the Hogwarts Board of Directors, I'll give Minerva McGonagall my full support."
Other guests at this unexpected wedding ceremony were Neville Longbottom and Miss Luna Lovegood, close friends of Harry Potter. "I love weddings," said Miss Lovegood, "and I wasn't surprised, no. After the Battle it was so clear! They held each other as if they never wanted to let go again – and this time, Nargles had nothing to do with it."
Molly Weasley lowered the Daily Prophet and took off her reading glasses. She shook her head. So thatwas Augusta Longbottom's request. The sly old thing. Fancy being that quick on the uptake. Molly suddenly remembered Neville's razor-fast reflex when he killed the snake. Chip of the old block he was, then, if his Gran could come up with the idea of that bet seconds after Muriel's insulting remarks.
Molly grinned. Auntie had to hold her rant against Rolanda Hooch to Augusta, of all people. But what a revenge!
To give Muriel her due, she had paid up handsomely. Molly couldn't wait to tell Mary all about it. Whatever took her so long?
She fetched to mugs from a cupboard and put the kettle on. As she took out the biscuit tin, she started grinning all over again. Augusta hadn't just taken a clever revenge; with one master stroke she had turned a potential adversary into a strong ally. For Muriel would support Minerva up to the hilt; it was a matter of honour now. How incredibly clever! And what a story!
Suddenly Molly paused, the plate of biscuits still in her hand. Aunt Muriel had told her the story of the bet in confidence. If she, Molly, were to spread the news, she would betray that confidence, and Muriel's payment would be null and void, for everyone would know her real opinion. Which meant …
"Oh, damn!" Molly said. It would have been so nice to tell Mary. They could have had a good laugh over it, and Mary deserved to have a good laugh while visiting her. Far too long ago that had been. But there was nothing to be done about it. She'd have a gossip, but she'd be very careful of what she said. She would keep Muriel's secret and never breathe a word to a living soul.
After everything the old lady had done for them during the war, Molly owed her that much.
And a Prewett always pays her debts.