Chapter 1 : Grief & Circuses
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Molly leaned against the door frame, arms folded across her chest, and tried not to smile as her two little boys set off down the road. They paused at the gate to wave cheerfully at her.
“We’ll send you an owl when we get to the circus!”
She waved back, and couldn’t help but laugh. They were so full of mischief; their antics always brightened her day, frustrating as they could be at times.
Percy, five years old, appeared next to her. His face was worried. “Mum, aren’t you going to stop them?”
“Don’t worry, dear, they’ll be back.”
Molly ran through the chaos in the Great Hall, staring wildly around for glimpses of her family. Her husband was safe: Arthur, there, helping Kingsley lay out one of the bodies: the dead boy must be just barely seventeen. Molly couldn’t look at him; another mother’s son would never come home, but for now, she had to find her own children.
Ginny sat with Xeno Lovegood’s daughter, both looking exhausted. Molly felt a wash of relief that her only little girl had survived, followed by a sting of irritation that she had disobeyed her and left the Room of Requirement. She was so much like the twins. Molly slowed for a moment and almost went to Ginny to give her a bit of hell for disobeying her parents, but then realized, any of her children would have done the same at a time like this. That’s how she and Arthur had raised them, that’s why all seven of her children were Gryffindors. They would never stand aside while others fought and died for them.
She still hadn’t seen Ronnie, but he was with Harry and Hermione somewhere, and she trusted the three of them to keep each other alive. She knew Hermione well enough to know she would never let anything happen to Ron. Harry was in more danger than any of her children, and though she worried for him and loved him like a son, for now her attention was completely focused on the children she’d given birth to, her seven little babies.
Molly busied herself with the baby, her newborn little girl, and waited for her eldest to report back. Bill was almost eleven now; next year he’d be going off to Hogwarts, the first of her babies to leave her for school. She would miss him and his help with the younger children. The twins really listened to him. And little Ronnie, only 17 months old, loved his oldest brother and toddled around after Bill and Charlie everywhere. She was glad Bill and Charlie were born late in the year and she could postpone their departure to Hogwarts. She wanted to keep all her babies close to her.
Bill was following the twins now, making sure they were all right, ready to put them in their wagon and bring them back to the house when their little legs got tired, or they changed their mind about the circus. She glanced at the clock and saw the twins had been gone for all of fifteen minutes. It wouldn’t be long now.
There was Bill, with Charlie and Fleur, bringing in a body. Fleur’s beautiful face was streaked with tears as she walked next to her husband. Molly looked at the face of the body they were bringing in and stopped short. Remus Lupin.
She walked over to her children and her daughter-in-law threw herself into Molly’s arms. Molly patted Fleur’s silver head absently. She felt dazed. Remus was dead. Remus, who had been so tough, living as an outcast, a werewolf, and had finally found love with his young wife and newborn son.
Bill looked up at his mother as he and Charlie went past with Remus’s body, and his expression was so old, she thought she might cry from it. “Tonks too, Mum.”
Molly’s breath came in a sharp gasp and she held tighter to Fleur. Remus and Nymphadora, new parents, now both gone. “Come on, Fleur, let’s get them in to the Great Hall.”
Fleur took her to Tonks’ body, and they lifted her together, Fleur still crying silently. Bill and Charlie had already laid Remus down with the other victims of the night’s battle when Molly and Fleur reached the entrance to the Great Hall. They came to take Tonks’ body from Molly and Fleur, and laid her down next to her husband. They looked so peaceful in death, Molly’s heart wrenched.
George was running toward her, and she felt weak with relief to see him. “Mum,” he called, out of breath, “have you seen Fred?”
The color drained from her face. “He’s not with you?”
“I was helping Lee, Fred took off with Perce,” George explained, looking panic-stricken. “I haven’t found either of them.”
Bill had joined them now. “Where’s Fred?” he asked, glancing between his mother and younger brother.
Molly’s breath caught in her throat at she looked around the Hall.
Bill burst in the back door and grinned at her. “They’re coming, Mum.”
“Thank you, dear.” Bill wrapped his arms around her waist, and Molly hugged him tightly. He was getting so tall, so handsome. She was so proud of the little man he was becoming.
Bill ran off into the house, calling for Charlie, who was playing with baby Ronnie, while the infant Ginny slept in a swing, enchanted to rock her gently. Molly stared out the kitchen window until she saw two little heads appear over the fields, their fiery hair shining in the evening light. She smiled and went to the door to wait for them.
“There!” Charlie pointed to the entrance to the Great Hall. Percy was coming down the steps at a run, and Molly knew instantly something was wrong. Her chest was being constricted, and her thoughts were jumbled. He was alive, but Fred wasn’t with him. All she could get out when Percy arrived was, “Where is Fred?”
Bill had patted Percy on the shoulder, but Percy was crying. Molly was terrified; Percy was always so conscious of his dignity, he never cried. “Mum…” he managed to get out, his breath coming out in sobs. “Fred…”
Molly shook her head to clear it of the horrible conclusion. “Percy, where…”
Bill and Charlie were staring stonily at their younger brother. “Percy, take a breath,” Charlie said jerkily. “What happened?”
“There was an explosion.” Percy was rubbing his hands over his tear-streaked face. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t save him.”
“No.” George shook his head and took a few steps back. “No,” he said again, his voice pleading.
Percy was still crying. “I’m sorry, Mum, I… George…” He collapsed against his mother, and she wrapped her arms around him.
Ginny had seen them, she was coming over. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
“Bill.” Molly heard her voice as if from far off, it did not sound like her own. “Get your father. Percy, show them where…” She couldn’t finish the sentence, but her dear brave eldest son took Percy’s arm and led him over to Arthur, whose face was instantly ashen when he saw Percy. They left the Great Hall together as Molly turned back to her other children.
Charlie was crying and hugging Ginny, who looked terror-stricken. Fleur had put a comforting hand on Ginny’s shoulder. George had sat down on a bench and was staring at the ground.
“Mum?” Ginny’s voice was tiny, scared.
Fred and George trudged up the walkway, abandoning their wagon just inside the gate. Their steps seemed to drag as they came up to the back door and gave their mother their cocky yet winsome smiles.
“How was the circus?” Molly asked, smiling.
“We missed you, Mum.” The two little bodies launched themselves at her. “Can we come home again?”
“You can always come home, my loves.” Molly hugged her little boys tightly.
Molly saw Arthur’s back appear in the doorway to the Great Hall, and felt the entire world had stopped as he and Bill came in, Percy behind them, bringing Fred’s body. The sound seemed to drain out of the room as she watched them lay him down next to Remus and Tonks.
She heard sobbing, and realized it was her own, as she went to him. George had beaten her there, dropping to his knees at his twin’s head. Molly collapsed across Fred’s chest in her grief, and felt Arthur’s hand on her back and his tears drop onto her head as she sobbed for her fallen son.
Molly ushered the twins into the house, and they took off for their room with renewed energy. They seemed to have a bottomless store of it, while hers seemed to have been siphoned off with each pregnancy. She turned to the stove to check on supper, and heard a little voice float down the stairs.
“We’ll join the circus next year, Georgie.”
“Yeah, next year, Freddie.”