Molly Prewett was cleaning the attic. It was a chore she had volunteered to do, partially to escape the monotony of never-ending degnoming, but mostly just because she loved the attic. She loved the smell of old books and the texture of her great-grandmother’s clothing. And getting away from the gnomes didn’t hurt, either. Nasty little…creatures.
Even two floors up though, she wasn’t completely isolated. Snatches of conversation carried from the kitchen to the attic through a vent. Sometimes the noise was welcome and kept the silence of the attic from becoming overwhelming. Sometimes the noise irritated her and she would move to the far side of the attic. Once or twice, she had caught bits and pieces of a private conversation between her mother and sister. Molly tried not to eavesdrop – she really did – but it was so interesting to hear what they talked about when she wasn’t around. Besides, Clara was audacious enough to ask questions that Molly would never dream of asking but was curious about nonetheless.
Regardless of outside noise, the attic had become Molly’s place of refuge during this last true summer, the summer before seventh year. It wasn’t, as her mother thought, a ‘dirty, dusty chore’ that reminded her of nothing but ‘things that should have been long forgotten.’ For Molly, the attic was a veritable treasure trove of memories, a source of inspiration as to what had come before and what could come in the future.
When she had found her father’s father’s mother’s trousseau, for example. Unlike her mother, Molly didn’t find it morbid to spend hours searching through the hand-knitted sweaters and patched quilts. Instead, she imagined the work her great-grandmother had put into them, and visualized what she would do, one day, for her children.
When she found her grandmother’s wedding dress, she imagined herself on her wedding day and contemplated what her daughters would wear on their wedding days…or perhaps what her daughters-in-law would wear, because there hadn’t been a daughter born to the Weasleys in… not that Molly was assuming she was going to marry Arthur Weasley, of course. They had hardly been dating a year. Molly was only seventeen! Barely old enough for an Apparition license yet, much less to get married. And to assume that she would marry the first man she dated…well, that would just be presumptuous. But…there was no harm in fantasizing, really.
Arthur really was the sweetest boy though. He had helped Molly with Charms for several years now, and she, in return, had helped him with Herbology. Neither of them were the best of students, but they both did fairly well and had been made prefects in their fifth year. Every now and then, Arthur would surprise her with something – sweets, or flowers, or just a note. His family wasn’t wealthy, so Molly knew how dear his pocket money was to him.
It wasn’t the gifts that made Molly love him, or the words. It was some indefinable quality that made Arthur Arthur - his personality, his looks, his shy charm, his quirks. Though why someone with an obsession for Muggle ideas would be so stuck on learning to Apparate bewildered Molly. Apparition terrified Molly. Just the idea of disappearing and reappearing somewhere else made her almost sick to her stomach, so despite the fact that she had passed her seventeenth birthday several months ago, she hadn’t even tried for her license.
It was while dwelling on the contents of Arthur’s last letter – ‘I miss you every day’ – that Molly first heard noise coming from the kitchen.
Molly heard the kitchen door slam and an indistinct murmur of voices. Then she heard her mother’s voice rising in anger, and her sister starting to whine. A feeling of dread started in Molly’s chest. This didn’t sound like a normal suppertime dispute.
The sound of breaking glass and unfamiliar voices shouting confirmed this suspicion.
Slowly, deliberately, Molly walked over to the trapdoor that linked the attic to the rest of the house and cast a spell of illusion on it. Now it was impossible to tell from the hall that the house even had an attic. Not that the spell was necessary, of course. Mum and Clara were just fighting. Better safe than sorry. She didn’t want Mum to drag her into the fight either. Maybe, if she was lucky, they’d forget she was here. It was just a regular fight, that’s all. Nothing more. There was no reason to worry.
Still, Molly was feeling rather afraid. She wanted to sit by the vent and listen, but the urge to sit on the trapdoor overcame that desire.
Soon, the noise was loud enough that she didn’t need to be near the vent.
‘Please, leave Clara alone!’ her mother’s voice begged.
Molly moved her grandmother’s trunk on top of the trapdoor, and sat on it.
Her father’s voice soon joined the mix. ‘Leave my house! You have no right to be here!’ The response was little more than a mumble from where Molly was sitting, but it definitely did not seem as if the intruders were obeying her father’s commands. Molly wrapped her arms around her legs and buried her face in her knees, but quickly forced herself to look up again. The images in her mind were too vivid to close her eyes.
I should do something, Molly thought. Call for help. But the only fireplace is in the kitchen and Plum is in his cage in Clara’s room. And if I open the trapdoor, they’ll know I’m here. Silently, she blessed Arthur for making her learn the illusion spell, and hoped that somehow her thoughts would carry to him, or to Dumbledore, so that someone, somehow, would know and come to their rescue. She tried to shut out the sounds of screams that were coming through the vent, and accidentally closed her eyes. All she could see all around her was Mum and Dad and Clara, screaming and writhing on the floor, and here she was in the attic leaving them all alone.
But if she went downstairs what could she do? She could get herself killed. She could get her family tortured more. If she stayed here, when the Death Eaters were gone she could find Dumbledore. The logical part of her mind insisted this was true, but the irrational part told her to rush downstairs, to do something, anything, to save them. Why wasn’t she brave enough to help them? Why hadn’t she got her Apparition license when she first had the chance so that she could get someone to help? Why wasn’t she a good enough witch to help them herself?
‘Molly is at a friend’s house, I swear!’
‘She’s not here!’
‘Leave Clara alone! Leave my daughters alone! Stop! Stop!’
They lied for her. They lied to save her, and all she could do was sit here on a trunk and hear their screams echoing in her ears.
In that moment, Molly hated herself.
She didn’t see the flash of green light, but all at once, the screams stopped. Sobbing took their place, but that didn’t last long. Soon there was only the murmur of those hateful voices, voices that Molly had never heard before and would never recognize if she heard again, but she hated them then with all her being. The footsteps traveled throughout the house, to right below where she was sitting. Once again, she thanked Arthur for his persistence in teaching her the illusion spell.
Eventually, the voices disappeared, and she heard the faint pops that signified that the intruders had left her house. Even so, Molly sat there, hardly breathing, for a long time.
Molly sat silent, listening. She moved the trunk back to where it belonged and when there was no immediate reaction to her noise, she cautiously opened the trapdoor.
Once she was back in the hallway, she tiptoed towards her sister’s room. Every creak the house made sounded like a Death Eater, and every breath she took echoed around as if it was someone’s breath behind her. But she kept walking. Plum was there, in his cage, silent. Molly forced herself to breathe again. Here was her means of calling for help.
She grabbed a quill and a piece of parchment off of Clara’s desk, but she was at a loss for words. Something about this whole situation seemed unreal, as if she would go downstairs and Mum and Dad and Clara would be there after having a huge row and they would laugh at her for being so silly and hiding.
Help. Please. Now.
Molly tied the note to Plum’s leg and whispered, ‘Dumbledore, please, Plum?’ The letter sounded stupid, she knew. But she needed Dumbledore now, not whenever she thought of a polite way to put her thoughts into a letter.
Now, she just had to wait. But to sit here, for who knows how long, until Plum made his way to Dumbledore and hoping that Dumbledore recognized the urgency of the message…the thought was unbearable. She needed to do something. Clean, maybe. But in order to clean, she’d have to go into the kitchen. The kitchen…where the fighting had been.
But if…something…had happened in the kitchen, she didn’t want to be in there. On the other hand, if it turned out that she had been imagining things then she’d go into the kitchen and find nothing wrong.
Maybe the kitchen wasn’t the place to go first. First she would deal with Clara’s room. The girl was so disorganized, honestly. She’d never throw anything away or even put anything away. That was, if anything ever had a proper place to go, which Molly doubted. She hadn’t even made her bed this morning. Molly started with the bed, resisting the urge to short sheet it, like Clara had done to her more than once. But Clara…banishing the thought before it developed fully, Molly continued on her way. When she had filed Clara’s textbooks in alphabetical order by subject and sorted them by year, she realized there was nothing left to do in the room. What was taking Dumbledore so long?
She made her way through the upper floor, straightening everything, scrubbing the bathroom, dusting, even going so far as to vacuum the Muggle way. Her parents’ room she avoided – it was their private space. Her own room didn’t need cleaning, but she did it anyway. Twice.
It seemed as if there was nothing more to be done upstairs. Then again, the curtains hadn’t been washed in ages. And they were getting so dusty. Molly took down the curtains in all the rooms and carried them downstairs.
Maybe it was because she wasn’t prepared – the noise had been coming from the kitchen, after all – or maybe the sight was simply that awful. Either way, when Molly turned the corner to the dining room, she could do nothing but stand in shock.
Mum, Dad, and Clara were lying crumpled on the floor. Dad…Dad’s body…was in front of the other two, as if he had tried to protect them. Mum’s beautiful red hair was in a tangle on the floor and her skirt had twisted in an awkward fashion around her legs. Clara…she had always insisted on wearing trousers, which Mum had never approved of. But looking at her now, it seemed as if she had more dignity in her boys’ clothing than she ever would in a skirt. The compulsion to lay them out properly warred with her aversion to going near…the bodies.
There really was no denying anything now. They were really, truly gone.
Molly would have dearly loved to scream or cry or even just look away but all she could do was stand there, eyes locked on her family, curtains still gathered in her arms. She couldn’t think of anything but how pale and shocked and lifeless they all looked. She wished she could remember how they were hours ago, how Clara’s energy always seemed to fill the house, how her father’s quiet energy kept them together through everything, how her mother’s infinite patience dealt with all the problems that arose. But all she could see now was the stillness; all she could hear was the silence; all she could feel was the lack of what had been.
Dumbledore found her there. He gently took the curtains out of her arms and used them one by one to cover the bodies. Molly could see the tears in his eyes, and she could tell he was at a loss for words. Or maybe he was just respecting her decision not to talk. You could never tell with Dumbledore.
A noise from the kitchen made Molly jump.
‘Anne,’ Dumbledore said. Mrs. Weasley stepped hesitantly into the room. Molly sighed in relief. Of course Dumbledore hadn’t come alone. She could hear other people walking through the house. Molly was thankful for the sound of their voices, their calm, everyday voices. Not screaming or yelling or silent.
‘Molly, I need you to tell me what happened.’
‘Professor, I don’t-’
‘Dumbledore, if you must interrogate the girl, can we please move it to the kitchen? Let’s not stand in this room any longer,’ Mrs. Weasley interjected. Then, without waiting for Dumbledore’s agreement, she guided Molly into the kitchen and sat her down at the table. Molly’s eyes fixed on the broken glass.
‘Reparo,’ Mrs. Weasley said, noticing Molly’s gaze.
Her distraction gone, Molly started to answer Dumbledore’s question. ‘I don’t know what happened, Professor. I was in the attic and…they were…I heard noise…breaking glass…someone was yelling about Muggle-lovers and some order and something about you and they wanted to know where or how something was happening and…I don’t know what was going on, I couldn’t hear properly. And I sat in the attic the whole time and then I heard them…and then they were gone and I wrote you that note and I’ve been…cleaning since then.’
The sorrow and – was it pity? – in Dumbledore’s eyes almost made Molly break down. But still something prevented her tears. ‘I’m sorry, Molly,’ he said quietly.
What was she supposed to say to that? How was she supposed to react? Did he expect her to break down into tears or to confide in him, or was he just saying that to be nice and get her out of the way? Molly bowed her head and avoided meeting his eyes. There was a piece of grass on the floor. Molly reached to pick it up, but stopped herself. What must Professor Dumbledore and Mrs. Weasley think of her? Her entire family had died hours ago, and all she could do was clean.
Molly tried to force the tears to come, to prove to them – and herself – that she cared. She blinked her eyes a few times, and looked at the light as if she was trying to stop the imaginary tears from falling.
‘What will I do?’ Molly asked.
‘You can stay with us until September, Molly dear,’ Mrs. Weasley said, ‘and then you’ll be back at Hogwarts. After that…’
‘We’ll deal with that when it comes,’ Dumbledore said firmly. ‘Anne, why don’t you take Molly home now? There are matters I need to deal with.’ Then he strode purposefully out of the room. Molly watched him leave.
Mrs. Weasley put her arm around Molly. ‘Now that Dumbledore’s got all the information he wanted out of you – and he must, or he wouldn’t have left – you should come home to the Den with me.’
Home. The word was supposed to conjure up images of Christmas Eve in front of the fireplace, and everyone seated comfortably around the table, and Mum tucking her into bed every night that she was home even though she was much too old for it.
Home wasn’t supposed to bring up images of the living room carpet with her family sprawled across it, not getting up. Ever. But then…maybe home was all those memories. This place wasn’t home anymore.