Molly Weasley sat in her bed, hands on her eight-and-a-half-month swollen abdomen as her gaze rested on the crib of her ten-month-old son. Outside, the first snow of the new year was falling gently on her window; internally she was counting the days until school was in session again so that her two oldest children would be back in Hogwarts and the daycare center reopened to take the younger four. The extended bed rest demanded by this pregnancy told her more clearly than any Healer's warnings that this would be her last child. Downstairs, she heard the sounds of her husband clumsily trying to get their horde of sons prepared for their day, the raucous male voices adding to her melancholy.
Quietly as she could, she crept out of the bed and went down beside it on her hands and knees. Reaching underneath, she pulled out a dust-covered pink box and felt tears fill her eyes. She sat back and crossed her ankles, pulling the box toward herself protectively for a moment before finally opening it. Inside were several pieces of delicate, lacy clothing in sizes ranging from newborn to those suited for a child of around three years of age. Molly reached into the box and pulled them out one by one, unfolding and laying them against her chest. The tears began to fall faster, and she bit her lip to keep from crying out, even though the sound would likely not be noticed amidst all the noise below. At the bottom of the box lay a photo album, also lace-trimmed and pink. Molly picked it up gently and laid it on the top of the clothes on her belly.
Opening the album revealed pictures of a happy little girl with vibrant blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair, first as a tiny baby in pictures with her parents and two very young flame-haired brothers. The images brought to mind the idea of Irish Twins, and Molly gave a sad laugh. The three children were each less than a year apart.
Turning the pages, the girl grew from a wrinkly newborn into a fat, giggly infant constantly gallivanting for the camera. Her eyes twinkled in every picture, little fingers reaching for the lens as if begging the viewer to pick her up. Tears rolled unchecked down Molly's face as she turned the pages, watching the child take her first steps, learn to dress herself, and chase after her brothers. All too soon, there were only empty pages left in the album.
Molly couldn't stop herself from letting out a shuddering sob as she closed the album and hugged it to her chest, rocking herself back and forth in an instinctive comfort motion.
Within seconds, Arthur was there. He took in the scene in one quick glance before gathering his wife and all the clutter into his arms. He rocked her gently, hands rubbing soothing circles on her back and shoulders. Slowly, cautiously, he gathered her up off the floor and returned her to the bed, then returned the album to the box and began refolding their daughter's clothes.
Molly rolled over onto her side, her sobs never lessening as she turned her back to her husband and pulled her knees up as close to her stomach as they would reach. The sounds of her six sons all crawling into bed with her barely registered in her overwrought brain as she cried herself to sleep once more.
An hour later, Arthur gathered up his sons from their nap and set them off to play elsewhere around the house. He crawled into bed with his wife and felt her unconsciously curl into his warmth. He wrapped his arms around her and began lightly stroking her face until she opened her eyes.
"I'm sorry Arthur," she said, voice still rough from crying.
"Hush, now, love. It's all right."
"No, it's not. It's never been right since she died,," she hiccupped.
"Shh, shh... Molly, you don't mean that, it's just the exhaustion talking."
"No, all these sons, every one of them has made the word 'daughter' more precious to my ears. I can't bear the thought that this might be yet another boy, Arthur. I need a daughter." Her tears started again with the last sentence.
Arthur's face went through several emotions in quick succession - dismay, heartbreak, disappointment, sorrow - before finally settling on pity. He shared her misery and sense of loss from the death of their little girl, their third-born child, but he couldn't begin to comprehend the depth of her emotion in this regard. He had sons, children who might grow to look like younger versions of himself, and through whom he could relive his own youth. Molly had lost that with their daughter, and now she was carrying what she knew would be their last child. The four sons born since that lost daughter would never need to shop for ball gowns, would never need their hair fussed with on their wedding day. As much as he could understand her loss, he knew he did not share the depth and breadth of the experience she was going through.
Molly looked up into his face, her gaze searching, and he hoped that she could find some comfort there. He took a deep breath and tried to consider his words carefully before speaking. "I don't know what to say, love. I can't guarantee this child will be a girl. We've used every charm and spell we could find to try to encourage a daughter to join us again, but we tried those with the last four also. If this is another boy..."
Molly sighed. "If this one is another boy, I'll love him as much as I love our other children." She stared off into space as she uttered the words, her voice hollow.
But not as much as you miss our daughter, he added silently.
"I have to use the loo."
Arthur helped her to a sitting position and then assisted her to stand. He watched sadly as she lumbered her way out of the bedroom.
A minute later, Molly's shrill shriek rang through the house. "ARTHUR!!!!"
He raced to the bathroom, but was out-paced by his eldest two sons. Pushing them out of his way more roughly than he intended, he knelt in front of his wife.
"My water broke and I feel the urge to push." Her voice was strained as she tried to speak through the beginning of a contraction.
Arthur did his best to school his emotions, suppressing them to the best of his ability to keep from further frightening the children and his wife. "Bill, go use the Floo and call the midwife. Charlie, go look after your little brothers," Arthur said in a rush as he picked Molly up to carry her back to the bedroom.
"It's too soon!" she sobbed brokenly.
"Hush, dear, hush, it's not that early, I'm sure everything will be fine," he soothed as he walked as quickly as was safe toward their bedroom. "The twins were much earlier than this and they had hardly any problems at all. Just relax, you know tensing up only makes it worse... breathe... deep, slow breaths and DON'T PUSH YET!"
Less than five minutes later the midwife was ushered through the bedroom door by a very worried-looking Bill. Arthur tried to give him a reassuring smile before gently pushing him from the room and shutting the door.
The midwife went directly to where Molly lay on her side on the bed and began casting charms to slow the progress of the delivery to a more manageable pace while physically checking how far down the baby had come.
"When did your contractions start?"
"I don't know, I don't remember feeling one until the one when my water broke, and I felt the urge to push almost immediately afterward."
"She had been a bit... distracted," Arthur supplied.
"Distracted? To the point of not noticing that she was in labour?" the midwife asked, incredulously.
"Well, she'd got herself a bit worked up, going through an old photo album."
A look of comprehension dawned on the midwife's face and she turned to look at Molly again. "You were looking at pictures of your dead child, were you?" She turned back to Arthur. "I thought I told youto hide those back when we found out she was expecting this child?"
"I did hide them," he replied in a mildly defiant voice. "My wife can be very... persistent...when she has something on her mind, and I have no way of knowing what she does while I'm at work. I had no idea she'd hid those things under the bed again."
Molly groaned. "Save the bloody blame wars for later, please!"
The midwife checked the progress again. "You were almost completely dilated by the time I arrived, and now you're there. Let's get you into a more comfortable position and let gravity do some of the work getting this baby out."
Molly looked desperately at Arthur, and he came over to the side of the bed as the midwife helped her to a sitting position. With a look on her face like a child who had skinned its knee, she reached her arms up toward her husband and he gathered her in his embrace, bringing her arms over his shoulders and rubbing circles on the small of her back. As he saw the midwife contorting herself to try to get at an angle to catch the baby, he took a few steps backward in a slow dancing motion, drawing Molly with him. The midwife got down on her knees behind Molly just in time to point out that the baby was crowning.
Molly sobbed in to Arthur's shoulder, catching her breath as another contraction came upon her.
"The head is delivered. Another flaming redhead, if you can believe it," the midwife narrated.
Tears formed in Molly's eyes as she looked up into her husband's face. He tried to keep a positive look himself as he saw the disappointment clearly written in her features.
"One more good push, Molly, and this baby will be here."
Tears streaming down her face, Molly closed her eyes as her body tensed with the next contraction. There was a very wet sound from near the floor that was almost completely drowned out by Molly's sobs and the newborn's first cry.
Arthur shut his own eyes and tried to soothe his wife, her sobs almost as hard as they had been a little more than an hour earlier. The midwife was talking as she cleaned the baby, but neither parent could hear a word. Finally Molly's sobs subsided enough that the midwife's voice broke through.
"She looks very good. We must have miscalculated your due date a bit; she's barely small for term."
Molly held her breath, an almost comically-startled expression on her face as she looked up at Arthur, then at the midwife. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
The midwife looked at Molly as if she'd sprouted daisies from her scalp. "I said, she looks very good and is barely small even for a term baby. We must have miscalculated your due date; I don't think she needs any special care at all. By the way, what is her name?"
"You mean it's a girl?" Molly asked, flabbergasted.
"Didn't you hear me a few minutes ago? Well, I guess not," the midwife said, rather brusquely. She moved closer to Molly and Arthur, the bundled newborn in her arms. "Meet your daughter."
Molly's eyes filled with tears again, but there were no sobs this time. She took the swaddled baby into her arms, then immediately proceeded to the bed and completely unwrapped her new child, exposing every inch of baggy skin until the baby's genitalia were visible.
"A girl. Arthur, it's a girl." The shock and awe in her voice visibly spread through her entire body in an instant.
Arthur fought back his own tears as he approached his wife and new daughter.
"I was so afraid of getting my hopes up, I never thought of a name for her," Molly said as she stroked the baby's cheek and quickly re-swaddled her.
"Same here, love. But we better think quickly, we need to tell her brothers their new sister's name."
Molly contemplated momentarily. "How about Virginia? Since she is a new start for us, after all."
Arthur smiled at his wife and daughter. "Such a formal name for such a small person."
"Well, I have an aunt named Virginia and everyone calls her Ginny," offered the midwife.
"Ginny," the parents said in unison.
"I like it," Arthur whispered, gently rubbing a finger on the baby's cheek and smiling as she turned her head toward his hand.
"I do too," Molly replied.
"Welcome to the world, Ginny Weasley," the midwife murmured as she went back to cleaning up the birthing supplies.
A few minutes later the room was back in its prior state of order. "Shall I make us a spot of tea?" the midwife offered.
Both parents nodded their assent without taking their eyes off their daughter, so the midwife proceeded toward the door. At the door, the midwife stopped and looked back at the parents, a wistful smile on her face as she opened the door to exit. The smile turned into an open-mouthed look of shock as two toddlers fell onto her feet and six pairs of eyes looked up at her, ready to be chastised.
The sound of the falling twins attracted the attention of their parents, and the children visibly braced themselves for the angry shout they expected to follow. Instead, Molly smiled and extended her right arm to them, beckoning them to meet their new sibling, lying cradled in her left arm. The boys solemnly piled into the room, Charlie carrying a half-asleep Ron on his back, and each crawled onto the bed with their mother for the second time that day.
The weather was finally warming and Molly was getting very stir-crazy from being alone in the house every day with a small infant. Finally one day, her resolve broke as the temperature rose and a balmy late-April breeze came through the window. Checking that Ginny was asleep in her bassinet in the kitchen, Molly stole up to the second floor linen closet and levitated out the box she knew was hidden at the back of the top shelf. The box was considerably lighter now, holding only an old photo album and a hand-knitted baby blanket, since most of the clothes it had contained were currently in use by the youngest member of the family. Molly ran a gentle finger along the spine of the album with her right hand as she removed the blanket with her left, then replaced the lid on the box and sent it back to its allotted place. She returned to the kitchen and wrapped a long piece of fabric around herself, securing it over her shoulder before placing the sleeping baby within the cradle it formed. Smiling gently at her baby, Molly headed toward the front door and went out into the early spring sunshine.
The trek to Ottery St. Catchpole was long but Molly found it pleasurable in the company of her daughter. She walked through the town, smiling at the faces of folks she knew and stopping a few times to let people peek in at Ginny, who was now awake and quietly attentive to her surroundings. Molly felt her heart swell as Ginny blessed a friendly Muggle with a brilliant smile, then continued on her way through the town's center.
On the far edge of the center she turned toward the church and let herself into the gate. Her footsteps were less sure now than they had been walking through the town and she strained her memory to recall exactly where she was headed. Her eyes shone brightly with unshed tears as she spotted the small grave marker she was looking for. It was low to the ground and shaped like an empty travel bassinet. Engraved within, where an infant should have rested, it read:
beloved daughter and sister
Molly knelt down and pulled Ginny from the wrap. The baby looked at her mother with uncertain eyes, then at the marble bassinet so like her own shinning in the late-morning light. The baby reached out a hand and ran her fingers along the carved wicker, earning a bittersweet smile from her mother.
"Isabelle, meet your little sister."
A/N: Never let it be said that Michele and Aibhinn are the only Founders who can write High Angst. Esh... I think they're rubbing off on me. This was inspired by Michele's TNP Chapter 15, the song "My Immortal" by Evanescence (from which the title of the fic comes), and random pregnancy hormones/sleeplessness.
Oh, and as for what happened to Isabelle… don't ask me, the voices in my head didn't bother to clue me in. They could barely utter her name so I'm not surprised that they're not ready to deal with what actually happened to her.