Miss Margaret Prewett was a lovely young woman of sixteen who had no discernible faults to her person other than a minor obsession with perfection, although she would merely insist that this was, in fact, a virtue and should be praised as such. If one were to ask Miss Prewett herself if she did indeed possess any flaws to her character she would spend a few good minutes puzzling over it and then politely inquire if having been bestowed such an unfortunate name as "Margaret" counted as a flaw.
It was a stroke of good luck then when on the day she was born her elder brothers found themselves unable to properly pronounce her Christian name and so baptized her with a new one: Molly.
With her new name there was nothing that could blemish her person. She was charming, well-spoken, intelligent, and very attractive (Though her mother would often chastise her for being too "plump" and "chubby"! Molly, however, insisted that she was merely curvy and well-made.). However, even good traits could turn into traps for it was her beauty that left Molly in quite a state on the day of her sister's wedding when she beheld her reflection for the first time in her new set of robes. It was not that the robes were ill-fitting or of a horrible shade of color (Such as chartreuse! What an ugly, unpleasant color! So tacky!) but rather they were too beautiful and made her look too pretty. Of Sir Andrew Prewett's two daughters, Molly had always been referred to as "the pretty one."
"Have you seen the Prewett girl lately?" One bonneted busybody would say to another.
"You mean Lydia?"
"Good heavens, no! The pretty one, of course."
And so on and so forth.
Unlike her sister, Miss Lydia Prewett was not pretty nor intelligent nor interesting. In fact, she would have been described as ugly if she were not the daughter of a baronet, and so was simply called "homely." Wealth and titles could certainly improve a woman's looks more surely than any potion. But the truth of the matter was that Lydia was far from pretty and if there was one day a woman should look beautiful it was on her wedding day. It wouldn't do to have the bride's younger sister upstage her at her own wedding.
But then the robes were specially made for the occasion by her Aunt Muriel and surely it would be impolite not to wear them. On the other hand it was not as though her aunt would be attending the ceremony, but still… Molly pondered thoughtfully at the dilemma. What would be the proper thing to do? She wondered if there was enough time to check her copy of The Civilized Witch: A Complete Guide to Etiquette and Manners.
Molly had to breathe deeply to keep from grinding her teeth together. There was only one person who still insisted on calling her by that name. Molly's mother ascended the stairs, frantic with worry and pressed for time. "Margaret, what are you still doing here?" She demanded. "The wedding will begin soon!"
"Mother," Molly replied reproachfully. "I must change. These robes are inappropriate."
"What are you going on about now?" The older woman demanded. "Your Aunt Muriel had those robes custom made by Madame Villiers in Paris!"
"They're nicer than Lydia's wedding dress," Molly answered as she pulled lightly at the wispy blue fabric. All hand-embroidered by Madame Villiers herself. It must have cost Aunt Muriel a fortune, but then her aunt could afford it. There was nothing that Aunt Muriel enjoyed more than spending vast amounts of galleons and pretending as though it had meant nothing more than a few knuts to her. Her mother, Lady Eloise Prewett, insisted that it was but another way for her sister to demonstrate her power. Molly knew that her aunt couldn't be so crass; Aunt Muriel was a proper lady, just like Molly. It was unthinkable that the older woman could be so devious. No, Molly knew the real reason was simply because it was impolite to droll on about such things as money and gifts.
However, her aunt was not completely faultless and sometimes she was oblivious to certain things. Such as the impression Molly would make in these robes. It was a mere oversight on her aunt's part, she was sure.
Lady Prewett groaned dramatically at her daughter's continued fussing. "Muriel will be upset if you don't wear them, now come! You don't want to be late, do you?"
Molly sighed and shook her head. It was an impossible situation. She doubted her book would have the answer. How was she supposed to do the proper thing if her family kept insisting on being so, so… vulgar?
When she entered the drawing room, Lydia was standing by the window, watching as the guests took their seats in the garden. Despite Lydia's unfortunate appearance, the two sisters were in fact quite similar. Both had curly red hair, their father's brown eyes, and the same mouth, but whereas Molly was short with a rounded, feminine figure and a classically beautiful face, Lydia was broad and tall with a fleshy neck, a large nose, and cheeks that were scarred from acne. Yet her white gown and long veil seemed to lend her older sister a certain kind of loveliness that only brides could achieve. Lydia turned and gave her that sweet, shy smile Molly had always liked. She leaned down to hug her sister tight as Molly tried to fix the slightly crooked diadem that Aunt Muriel had lent her. "Molly, you look beautiful in your new robes," Lydia murmured. "I'm sure Sebastian won't be able to take his eyes off you."
"Sebastian?" Molly asked, wondering what her cousin had to do with anything. Still, Molly was pleased to hear that Lydia bore her no ill will for upstaging her own wedding, but then Lydia was too kind to fault something that one had no control over. Now, at the very least, Molly could stop feeling guilty and start enjoying herself because despite everything the robes were lovely and Molly did so enjoy feeling beautiful. Aunt Muriel always did have impeccable taste.
"Lydia, Margaret!" Lady Prewett chastised. "It's starting!"
Molly could feel her sister's arms shake as she squeezed her hard enough to bruise. Molly took a deep breath and smiled at her parents as she led the wedding party out into the garden where Lydia's groom was waiting. Molly's gaze shifted from the groom to glance at where Arthur Weasley was seated with his family. He was grinning goofily at her before suddenly crossing his eyes and sticking his tongue out a little. Molly had to bite back a laugh; this was a wedding, people were supposed to be serious. Molly supposed it was too much to ask for Arthur to show a little decorum, because it was Arthur and that was the way Arthur was. Silly and dreamy and wide-open.
Molly refused to look in Arthur's direction for the rest of the ceremony. She would not allow Arthur to embarrass her on such an important day with everyone watching. Let him make all the funny faces he wanted; she didn't have to watch.
There were the usual congratulations and well wishes afterwards and Molly found herself half-listening to her father's oft-told story of how his family gained the title of baronet to Lydia's new husband, Ernie MacArthur. She was almost certain that Ernie had heard the story several times before but he nodded and asked all the right questions at the appropriate times and Molly found herself liking him just a little bit more for it. Most of her family disapproved of Ernie and Molly could not blame them. Aunt Muriel had to be bullied into giving her blessing and even now she had refused to attend the ceremony. It wasn't that Ernie was Muggleborn; neither she nor her family was prejudiced, thank you very much! It was rather that Ernie seemed a little too ambitious, just a little too eager to rise through the ranks of the Ministry. There was nothing wrong with having a good career in the Ministry, working hard and seeking out promotions. Those traits were all admirable. But her mother and aunt couldn't help but wonder just how far Ernie would go to achieve this. Although they did not fault his parentage, there was no denying that he was a Muggleborn and came from a low class background at that! On his own, Ernie would never be able to get farther than a middling desk job. But as the husband of Lydia Prewett, a well-respected Pureblood and the daughter of a baronet, he could command respect. The fact that he was handsome with an easy-going charm only confirmed her mother and aunt's suspicions in their minds. After all, what would a handsome boy like that want with such a plain girl as Lydia if not for some unseen gain? Molly had tried to warn Lydia, but she was so determined. Lydia had never been popular, so Molly supposed it was only natural that she would cling to the first man that showed her a bit of attention. Molly could only hope that her sister would be able to find some happiness with him.
Molly and Ernie smiled and nodded along absently as her father, Sir Andrew Prewett, regaled them with how his ancestor, Sir Robert Pruett, helped King Edward III defeat Roger Mortimer with a well-timed Engorgio, leading to the King awarding him with a title when Lady Prewett appeared by her side. "Margaret, there you are! I've been looking everywhere for you!" She chastised. "Come along. There are guests who wish to speak with you."
"But Molly loves this part," Sir Prewett protested.
"Yes, and she can hear it once more when you tell it again tonight," Lady Prewett snapped in exasperation. "Come!" Her mother led her away from the garden and into the drawing room where she saw Sebastian, Arthur, and her brothers chatting animatedly about next term's Quidditch tryouts.
"Sebastian, Arthur," Molly greeted politely, before fixing Arthur with a glare. "Don't think I didn't see you making those faces during the ceremony, Arthur Weasley" Molly scolded as she came to stand next to her long time friend.
"What could you possibly mean?" He gave her that wide-eyed innocent look that he somehow always managed to pull off so well. Arthur Weasley was tall and long-limbed with large blue eyes. He always appeared rather awkward to Molly, like a newborn fawn that wasn't yet used to its own legs. He made it impossibly difficult to stay angry at him without even trying.
Molly tried to glare, but the effect was ruined by the smile that broke out. "I take it your parents have already left?" She inquired politely.
"Yes, you know how these things are," he answered stiffly, waving his hand at the finery that surrounded them and his own threadbare clothes. Molly could already see the red blotches that appeared on his cheeks and neck every time someone made a passing reference to his family's station. Molly didn't understand it; it wasn't as though she wanted to live in poverty herself, but she also felt that there was no shame in being poor so long as you worked hard. The Weasleys had been tenants on her family's land for generations, going back at least several hundred years. They were a respectable family, if lacking in grace and class.
Her mother made a faint sound in the back of her throat and then Fabian and Gideon were coming up behind Arthur. They slapped their hands on top of his shoulders, steering him out of the room. "We've got a treat for you, Arthur," Fabian said as they left.
"Dad just bought us the new Nimbus 1500. What do you say we do a little test drive?" Gideon finished and then they were gone.
Suddenly Molly realized that the only ones in the room were herself, Sebastian, and Lady Prewett. Her mother stood there, hands clasped and with a wicked sort of smile that meant she was plotting something. "Well, I'll just let the two of you catch up," she said in a high, false voice. Then she was gone, practically flying from the room. Molly turned to Sebastian, curious about her behavior, when she noticed that he was blushing and smiling shyly at her.
Sebastian Birch was her cousin and the son of her mother's late brother. He was handsome with dark blonde hair and soft brown eyes, but she knew that there was only one thing that could entice Lady Prewett's attention: fortune. Other than Ernie, there hadn't been any interest in Lydia and her mother had been forced to take what she could get. But Molly knew that she and her brothers were always meant to be the bait in her hooks. The Prewetts had a title and respectability and, once upon a time, a great fortune. They had owned a large swath of land across Devon that had included three villages of good size, but now that land had shrunk to just the ever-declining Ottery St. Catchpole and its surrounding fields. They could still maintain a decent lifestyle, of course, but Molly could remember certain times in her childhood when the threat of poverty hung over their heads. Her parents always managed to pull through, however, and Molly was - if not wealthy - then at the very least, well-to-do. But in the past the Prewetts had once been giants amongst the old Wizarding nobility. When her mother married Sir Prewett, she had gotten the title but not the money. She hadn't realized just how far the Prewetts had fallen. Meanwhile, her brother Henry had made his fortune refitting Muggle technology for the Wizarding World, his prize invention being the radio. After his death, Sebastian had inherited it all. He had the money, but not the respectability the Prewetts had and anyway it was always best to keep these sorts of things within the family, lest the fortune be broken up.
Molly smiled back at him. This was to be her last year at Hogwarts; she should be on the lookout for a husband. Who better than Sebastian?
"I brought you something," Sebastian said suddenly.
"Did you really?" Molly asked. "Whatever for? I'm not the one who was married today."
"Oh, don't worry, I brought your sister a gift too, but just between us," he looked conspiratorially around the empty room as though someone might be listening in. "I always get jealous when I see other people getting lots of gifts and here I am left out-"
"Oh, I seem to recall you throwing quite a fit at my sixth birthday party because of it," Molly interjected with a light laugh.
Sebastian grinned. "I like to think I've grown up a little since then, but in truth I haven't really. So, I figured that while you're forced to watch Lydia open up her presents, you should have a little something too." He pulled out a small package from his pocket. It had been wrapped carefully and it fit perfectly in the palm of his hand. In fact, if Molly didn't know better she'd say that it was a ring box.
It couldn't be.
Molly held her breath, feeling as though her excitement and anxiety might overcome her. It was all so sudden, but then it did make perfect sense. Why waste time when everyone knew it was going to happen anyway? And proposing at a wedding was terribly romantic of him.
Sebastian held out the box and then, with a flourish of his wand, the box suddenly grew. It fit comfortably in his hand, but Molly could now tell that it was no ring. Oh, well then. She wasn't disappointed. Not at all. It was far too soon to be proposing. After all, they weren't even officially courting yet! Molly hoped that Sebastian wouldn't comment on the sudden red blush that she could feel burning her face and neck.
Molly gingerly took the present from his hand and unwrapped it, only to stare down in puzzlement at the strange metal device. "It's a radio," Sebastian explained. "A brand new model. The Muggles call it a 'transistor radio.' I noticed that your family still hasn't gotten one yet. Not that I'm criticizing, of course! After all, it's so new and there's only three Wizarding stations operating at the moment, but you can now listen to the news or music, if you like."
"Thank you," Molly said. She hoped he couldn't hear the disappointment in her voice. Despite Arthur's mad ravings on the subject, she'd never been too terribly interested in Muggle things.
She'd much rather have a ring.
Sebastian smiled warmly and nodded his head. "I'd best be seeing Mother home, but I'll be visiting Aunt Muriel tomorrow. Will you be there?"
"I'm glad!" He nodded again and walked out. Molly puzzled over the thing in her hands, wondering what she should do with it when Arthur peeked in.
"What was that all about?" He asked, before focusing in on the device. "Is that a radio?" He demanded in a tone that reminded Molly more of a child on Christmas Eve than a man of seventeen.
"Yes. Do you want it?" She asked. It was probably very rude to give away a gift and she knew that The Civilized Witch would have some very choice words to say about it, but she figured that Sebastian will soon be her husband and he would be able to make it up by giving her much more appropriate gifts. It's not as though she had any use for the thing.
Arthur's eyes lit up like it was the happiest day of his life. He snatched it from her hands and began jabbering on about electimosity or whatever it was that had him so fascinated. Molly nodded along, but her mind was far away, lost in wedding dresses and honeymoons.