"Go on, try again."
Arthur took a deep breath and tried his best to focus on casting the spell. He furrowed his brow and stretched his arm out, pointing his wand at the empty space before him.
"Expecto Patronum!" he shouted, keeping his gazed fixed on the wall at the other of the room.
Despite his fiery determination, all that came out of the tip of his wand was a small streak of blue light that disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared.
Arthur flopped down onto the couch behind him, feeling utterly defeated. He and Gwen had been in the Room of Requirement for what felt like an eternity practicing that spell, yet he didn't seem to be improving. Needless to say, he was beginning to grow desperate and feel like an utter failure.
"Come on, keep trying!" Gwen insisted as she took a seat next to him. "You can't give up now!"
"I'm exhausted!" Arthur groaned, rubbing his eyes. "Can we please just call it a day?"
"But you're so close! I can feel it!"
Gwen reached down and pulled a rather large and old leather-bound book onto her lap. She began to furiously leaf through it in search of a passage that would help them with that particular spell.
"Patronuses… Patronuses…" she murmured as her eyes perused the yellow pages. "Here we are! Patronus Charm. 'The Patronus represents that which is hidden, unknown but necessary within the personality. When a human is confronted with inhuman evil, such as a Dementor, they must draw upon resources he or she may never have needed, and the Patronus is the awakened secret self that lies dormant until needed, but which must now be brought to light.'"
Arthur closed his eyes and massaged his temples, feeling a rather strong migraine coming on.
"'To successfully cast the spell, one begins by…'" she suddenly trailed off, engulfing them in a deafening silence.
Arthur opened his eyes and looked up at her, only to find her glaring at him.
"Arthur…" she smirked, obviously amused. "Have you been thinking happy thoughts?"
"Excuse me?" he cocked a brow at her.
"That was the answer all along! Look!" She moved the book closer so he could read the page along with her. "'To successfully cast the spell, one begins by mustering the happiest memory they can think of. The happier the memory, the better the charm will work.'"
She abruptly closed the book in her excited state, the resulting sound startling Arthur.
"You just have to think about a nice memory from your childhood." She beamed.
"But my childhood is filled with nothing but bad memories." Arthur sulked.
"Don't say that! I'm sure there's at least one moment in your life that's precious to you."
Arthur glanced at Gwen from the corner of his eye. She was smiling fondly at him and her dark eyes were gleaming with hope. Even after hours of restless practice she still managed to look like the loveliest creature at the face of the planet.
He couldn't help the tug he felt at his lips as they slowly curled into the smallest of smirks. She always had that effect on him. From the moment he first laid his eyes on her, it suddenly had felt like the world wasn't such a bad place after all.
"I think I do remember something." He sighed, ignoring the sudden burning sensation on his cheeks.
"Great!" Gwen clapped excitedly as she hopped off the couch. "This is the one, I just know it!"
Arthur stood up and took his position, as he had done countless times that afternoon. After taking one last look at Gwen, who was eagerly watching him, he did his best block out any distractions and clear his mind, focusing solely on the one good memory he had chosen. He once again took a deep breath, furrowed his brow and stretched his arm out, pointing his wand at the empty space before him.
That time, unlike all his previous tries, a large beam of blue light shot out of wand and took form. Both he and Gwen watched in awe as the mass of light turned into a large feline before their very eyes.
"It's a lion!" Gwen gasped.
Their gazes were fixed on the Patronus as it roared and ran around the room before vanishing without a trace. It took the two teenagers a moment to snap back into reality after what they had witnessed. When they did manage to find their bearings, they looked at each other and laughed, latching onto one another in a tight embrace.
"That was amazing!" Gwen squealed between giggles. "I knew you could do it!"
"I couldn't have done it without your help." Said Arthur. "Thank you for not giving up on me."
"I am curious, though. What exactly did you think about to cast such a powerful Patronus?"
"Actually…" he looked away, feeling himself blush again. "I thought about the day we met."
When met Gwen's gaze again, her eyes were wide and her expression was blank. He could tell she wasn't expecting that answer.
"Really?" she asked, more confused than surprised. "But why? That's a lousy memory. You had to rescue me from drowning in the lake."
"Lousy? Are you serious?" he practically laughed at her. "The moment we met is the best I can recall. It was the day you came into my life. From then on out, it felt like my existence finally had some meaning – has some meaning. Just one look at you is enough to brighten my whole day."
He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. Gwen had not moved from her spot, and from what he could tell, she was on the verge of tears. He suddenly felt very self-conscious.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but I care a lot about you, Gwen." He concluded, fidgeting with his wand to avoid eye contact.
When he looked back up, Gwen had a wide smile spread across her face; the widest he had ever seen on her.
"Oh, Arthur…" she exhaled, stepping forward to cup his cheeks. "I care a lot about you, too."
"You do?" Arthur asked, his eyes widening and his heart skipping a beat.
"Of course, silly! I thought you would've noticed by now! Didn't it seem strange to you that I was always around?"
"I thought you were just my friend. And that you enjoyed spending time with me."
"Well, I do enjoy spending time with you. Although I would enjoy it even more if I weren't just your friend, but something much more meaningful."
"You mean like my… best friend?"
Gwen rolled her eyes and leaned in, pressing her lips against his.
Arthur's eyes nearly shot out of his skull and his heart almost stopped beating. He could barely believe that was happening. It felt like a dream, but he knew it was real. Gwen Ramírez – the girl he had saved from certain death on his first day at Hogwarts; the girl whose mere presence always brought a smile to his face, even on the gloomiest of days; the girl he had grown to love over the past few years – was most definitely kissing him.
He melted into the kiss and wrapped his arms around her waist, his wand still firmly grasped in his right hand. He had to stretch upwards in order to kiss her back, given that Gwen had a good five inches on him. She instinctively pulled him closer, her hands moving to rest on the back of his head.
Arthur had never thought he could experience such bliss. This was a whole new kind of magic; one that enveloped every inch of his mind and body alike, washing over him like a wave of pure ecstasy and sending him over the edge; one that made him feel like he was flying over the clouds without the aid of a broomstick; one that he wished would never wear off.
"What's all this, then?!"
Arthur pulled away and released a rather unflattering screech as he reflexive shot a defensive spell in the direction where the voice had come from. Both he and Gwen stood petrified in shock when they turned and saw the caretaker – the one who always wore a black robe and whose face was always hidden underneath the hood – standing in the doorway, his left arm having been blown clean off by Arthur's spell.
"What are you kids doing out of bed at this hour?" he asked angrily.
"Nothing!" they exclaimed in unison as they inched away from each other, their faces as red as they could get.
"Right, that's what they all say. Get back to your rooms before I sick the headmaster on you!"
Arthur and Gwen rushed towards the door, running past the gatekeeper and out into the hallway as fast as they could. As Arthur ran in the direction of the Gryffindor common room, Gwen stopped and turned back to face the cloaked man.
"Are you going to be alright?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
She made a face and pointed towards the gaping hole where his left arm used to be, which was gushing blood onto the stone floor.
"Oh, that. Don't worry about it." He shrugged. "It's just a flesh wound."