Chapter 1 : In A Heartbeat
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The moment before she could react, her wand raised above her head, her heart vulnerable to attack, stretched out before her in an eternal split-second. Molly blinked minutely, unwilling to tear her eyes from the face of the woman before her. Lashes meeting, touching, pulling apart... rapturous malevolence was glowing in the red light of curses flying past Bellatrix's face... Laughter filled Molly's head... the bitch was laughing... She could feel the warmth of the children behind her - the touch of Ginny's hand was like a kiss on her shoulder - and the future splintered before her, shards flying into her heart with a cold sting of fear and fury. For the briefest nanosecond of electricity humming and intercrossing and colliding in her brain, Molly saw flashes of futures, saw how the next heartbeat could unfold...
...a possibility plays out in her mind... Molly steps forward, slashes the air with her wand, and watches as Bellatrix once again dances away from the curse... Sees the words form on the cruel mouth, hears her daughter cry out from behind her, and cannot move, cannot breathe, as the green light of the killing curse blooms towards her... it is all over. She will never see Arthur again, never hold her children at arms length and fuss over their appearance, never cradle a grandchild in her arms... Fred... She will see Fred again... and even as her soul aches, and her eyes widen, she knows that it is not fair... Fred should be here, not waiting for her... Fred never waited... Please, she thinks with the last beat of her broken heart, please, if I have to die, at least give our son back to Arthur...
...another future flashes before her... Molly turns to her daughter, sees the growing dread and terror on Ginny's face, the pale moonlight of the Lovegood girl, Hermione Granger's tear-stained cheeks... Molly opens her mouth to tell them to just go, run, find the others and get away, and her arms are spread wide like an owl swooping in to land. The girls are shielded by Molly's body, the very body that brought seven children into the world, that nursed and held them, as Bellatrix's death spell hits her squarely in the back, and Ginny screams as her mother falls gracelessly onto the cold stone floor beneath her feet...
... a third possibility unfolds in Molly's mind, unformed, dancing like smoke... She lets the anger flow through her body, finds curses mingling with venom as she slashes and hacks her way towards Bellatrix, the name of her lost son still glimmering on the unworthy lips of the bitch who dared utter it. She sees shock and horror bloom on the witch's face as her curse cuts an ivory cheekbone, sends blood spilling, washes Fred's name away. Molly is about to laugh herself, triumph rising in her throat, when Bellatrix parries, the curse bright green and jagged like lightning... Molly ducks, darts to her left, and feels a moment of relief... but it lasts only a second before a scream rends the air. She spins on the momentum, and sees Hermione bent in two over a lifeless body, hit by Bellatrix's errant spell... the red hair flowing across the stone like a river of flame cuts Molly's heart in two, and she has lost everything... everything... She cannot save her children...
... the futures disappeared, for they never existed, and the shards of splintered possibilities flew together, forming something imperfect but whole, and Molly allowed instinct to take over. No more planning, no more hoping, just a wand, and a heart.
Molly felt air fill her lungs, her chest rising, as she stepped forward. She could not, would not, allow this arrogant, loveless person to harm another child... She would not let this be the last time she ever heard the name of her sweet, naughty, wonderful son. Bellatrix would not have that privilege. The bitch was still laughing, her self-assurance a cold draught filling Molly's body with an electrical storm, bringing her blood to boil and turning her thoughts to ice... She poured every ounce of hatred, every drop of anger and grief and every single blinding, scorching, thrilling atom of love she possessed into her wand, as she sliced the space between her and Bellatrix. The air hummed with magic, with a moment suspended like a fragile glass ball, ready to shatter. As Molly brought her wand down, down towards the laughing face of the woman who'd had the girls in thrall, she heard herself bellow, a cry that came from somewhere deep within her, speaking what she knew to be the truth.
'You - will - never - touch - our - children - again!'
The curse struck Bellatrix like an arrow, and Molly watched, her body filled with terror and exhilaration as cold fear and shock registered on the woman's face for the tiniest of moments. The corpse hit the floor inelegantly, like a doll dropped by a careless child, and the world came to life once again.
- the heart beats, but is not beaten -
Author's Note: 'What will happen to your children once I've killed you? When Mummy's gone the same way as Freddie?' and 'You - will - never - touch - our - children - again!' are from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, chapter 36, page 590 (UK edition, Bloomsbury).
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