The Burrow filled with giggles and girlish laughter as Molly and her granddaughters tumbled from the fireplace into the kitchen. They were just returning from a very successful trip to Diagon Alley where all six of the younger girls, from five-year-old Lily to eleven-year-old Dominique, had helped their grandmother and Victoire pick out her first set of dress robes. Molly’s grandsons had come on the trip, too, but since the boys weren’t interested in trying on clothes, they’d left them in George’s care outside Quality Quidditch Supplies. The last they’d seen of him, he was guarding a large pile of brand new school books for Fred and Teddy while the boys entered the shop to exclaim over the latest racing broom and Teddy purchased a new pair of Keeper’s gloves.
Now, as she brushed soot from her granddaughters’ faces and clothes with her ever-present clothes brush, Molly happily recalled the invitation she’d received for this important trip. Fleur had related the entire story this morning when they’d met at the Leaky Cauldron.
Less than a week ago, fourteen-year-old Victoire had received her Hogwarts letter only to discover the added item in the list of required robes, equipment, pets and books. The incoming fourth year had been quite excited when she had seen the addition.
“Mum! Mum!” she had squealed. “I need dress robes this year!”
“Of course you do, ma chere,” agreed her mother, Fleur. “You’re a fourth year, after all.”
“When can we go? I want to go this weekend!”
Her mother’s musical laughter had filled Shell Cottage’s kitchen as she consulted the family calendar. “I do believe your sister and all of your cousins have agreed to go school shopping this coming Saturday. Will that be soon enough?”
“Oh, yes! Maman! I can wait that long!” Victoire had said. She paused and then asked, “May I call Grandmere and ask her to come along, please? She told me once she wanted to come with me the first time I needed dress robes.”
“I think that’s a lovely idea,” her mother concurred. “If she wants to come, tell her we’re all meeting at the Leaky Cauldron at nine o’clock on Saturday.”
Of course, Grandmere Molly had wanted to join her granddaughters, and now she helped her oldest two to sort their packages and find the two most important paper-wrapped parcels: Dominique’s freshly-chosen wand from Ollivander’s and Victoire’s dress robes.
As Molly handed Victoire the box, she said, “Go upstairs to your father’s old room and try this on. I know we saw your robes in the shop, but they always look different once you get them home. When you come downstairs, I’ll take your photo.”
Victoire hugged her and scurried up the stairs. As the door to Bill’s old room banged shut several floors above her head, Molly called to her other granddaughters, “Who wants to help me with tea?”
A chorus of “I dos!” filled the kitchen and a moment later Molly began delegating tasks. “Lily, you and Rose can set the table for eight, but we’ll need a ninth cup for your grandfather in case he wants some tea when he comes in. Roxanne and Lucy, you two can help me with the sweets and sandwiches. Molly and Dominique, please put the kettle on and find the big teapot and tea tin. We’ll need plenty of tea to go round.”
The girls went to work. As she floated a tin of chocolate biscuits down to the kitchen work surface, Molly reflected on a day long ago when she had chosen her first dress robes and encountered a very dashing fifth year boy at Madam Malkin’s robe shop.
She had gone with her friend Darlene to Madam Malkin’s because her brothers Fabian and Gideon didn’t know a thing about dress robes for girls. The last time Molly had needed dress robes for a family function, they’d taken her to the second hand shop. The robe they’d made her buy was two sizes too big, eight inches too long and she’d had to roll up the sleeves three times to find her hands. Gideon had used a shrinking charm the day Molly had needed to wear it and half-way through the affair, his charm had worn off—Molly suspected Fabian had reversed it—and she’d fallen down some steps, breaking her arm. The arm had been mended immediately, but her pride was bruised and humiliated for several days after the incident. So when Darlene invited her to come along, Molly had jumped at the chance.
The girls and Darlene’s mum entered Madam Malkin’s to find it nearly empty, save a lone young man standing on one of the risers. He was being measured for new Hogwarts robes and Molly realized that the new robes already had the Gryffindor insignia sewn to the left breast.
Darlene leaned close and murmured, “He’s dishy! Must be one of the sixth or seventh years we’ve ignored the last three years.”
Molly giggled, still keeping her eyes on the boy. “And he’s a Gryffindor,” she added.
The girls found the rack with dress robes in their sizes and soon found several they liked enough to try on. Molly rejected the first two sets as soon as she put them on; she didn’t even bother walking out of her cubicle to get Darlene’s approval. The third set was a burnt-orange colour that nearly matched Molly’s ginger hair. She looked at her reflection and decided she liked how the shirred bodice accentuated the slimness of the belt at her waist and the flared long skirt.
Neither Darlene and her mother nor Madam Malkin were anywhere in sight when Molly exited her cubicle—she could hear her friend whining about something in the next cubicle over—so she crept onto one of the risers to look at herself in the three-way mirror. She turned this way and that, loving how the skirt swished when tried dancing in it.
She was just wondering whether her family would approve of how much of her bare back the back of the robes showed when a soft wolf-whistle made her jump.
A deep male voice asked, “May I have this dance?” and Molly turned to see the older boy leaning on one of the robe racks. He’d obviously been watching her and now he stepped forward, his hand extended.
Molly tried not to giggle as she stepped down from the platform as she asked, “Do you really want to dance here?”
The boy’s ears turned bright red and he dropped his hand. “I… er… NO!” he stammered.
Molly took pity on him. “Neither do I,” she said and added shyly, “so you… so you like these robes?”
The boy didn’t answer aloud, instead just nodded his head vigorously. Molly smiled back at him, deciding that she would buy these robes since the boy had indicated he did. The boy cleared his throat.
“I… I’veseenyouintheGryffindorcommonroom,” he mumbled, running his words together. “You’re Gideon and Fabian’s little sister, aren’t you?”
Molly scowled. “I am,” she said coolly, turning her back on the boy and taking a few steps towards the changing cubicles. She hated it when people called her that. “They won’t be at Hogwarts this year. They’re working for my uncle now that they’ve left school,” she said stiffly.
“Wait! What’d I say?” the boy asked, sounding bewildered.
Molly turned, hands on hips. “You didn’t ask my name and made me feel lower than a toad identifying me as my brothers’ little sister,” she snapped.
The boy looked at the floor. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. His apology was so soft Molly almost didn’t hear it. “I… I’ve never done this before.” He paused, then continued in a stronger voice, “Will you tell me your name, please? I’m Arthur, Arthur Weasley… and Ithinkyou’repretty.”
The last rushed sentence melted Molly’s anger. She dropped her hands and told Arthur her name just as Darlene and her mother emerged from their cubicle. At the same time, another feminine voice called Arthur’s name and he mumbled, “Gotta go. Bye, Molly,” and scurried from the shop.
Darlene, who was dressed in a midnight blue robe with long sleeves, came over to Molly. “He spoke to you!” she gushed. Then, taking a second look at Molly’s face she asked, “What’d he say to make you angry?”
Molly sighed. “Nothing important, Darlene, nothing important,” she said and went into her cubicle to try on some more robes. In the end, though, she did buy the orange robes…
“Grandmere! Grandmere! Victoire’s come downstairs!” the shrilly excited voice of her second-oldest granddaughter, Dominique, cried, bringing Molly out of her reverie. “She looks so beautiful!”
Molly looked up to see Victoire standing in the doorway, her face tinged a delicate shade of pink that matched the elegant dress robes she wore.
“Oh, Victoire! How lovely you look! You’re pretty as a picture. Let me get the camera,” Molly twittered, feeling decades younger than she had in a long time. As she left the room, she heard Lily ask, “What’s the matter with Grandmum? She had a funny smile on her face.” Molly didn’t stick around to hear the answer. Instead, she quickly found the camera and brought it back to the kitchen.
“Come to the lounge, Victoire, and stand in front of the fireplace,” Molly said over her granddaughters’ protests that tea was ready. “This won’t take but a minute.”