Chapter 1 : A Flicker of Hope
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Alice knew that her and Frank’s absence meant a great deal to the running of the Order, especially ever since her former Headmaster offered her the position she now held for over 2 years. She felt especially guilty for leaving them now, with danger closing in tighter than ever before particularly because she was not the only one who had to go into hiding to deliver her baby safely. Alice knew that somewhere out there Lily was preparing for the big moment as well. A smile danced on her dried lips as she imagined the red-head bustling around the house taking no notice whatsoever of the huge belly slowing her movement, causing her to go out of breath every other step. Lily never stayed in one place for long.
Alice closed her eyes against the refreshing summer breeze while she absentmindedly stroked her belly back and forth with a soothing rhythm. She knew she had to calm down at all cost. Every time emotions overwhelmed her she could feel baby Neville kicking against the inside of her womb in protest. She knew he was feeling everything she was feeling, though how she knew that, Alice could not tell. It was a bond unlike anything she had ever shared with anyone.
However, mastering her emotions was nothing short of difficult these days. Her distress for the safety of the friends and mentors she left behind, coupled with the mounting anxiety of the inevitable moment of her approaching birth were slowly eating away at her inner peace. She knew that it was imperative to calm down, but there were moments when this was too much to ask of her, especially with the worrisome news that kept reaching her ears. She knew perfectly well that it was no use listening to the Daily Prophet since Edgar had left it, but she had other ways of finding out what was going on outside of her protective shield and the stories she heard were deeply unsettling.
She remembered a particularly difficult moment, a few days back, when Frank had to force a cup of Draught of Peace down her throat because she had learned of a new attack on the Order members that were carrying out a difficult surveillance mission. Shortly before going into hiding, Alice had tasked Fabian and Gideon Prewett with supervising Death Eater Antonin Dolohov. She had been tipped off that Dolohov was preparing an ambush, so she had spent more than two weeks verifying this piece of information and preparing the safety measures to ensure the safe return of the Prewett twins. However, she never got to supervise the actual operation because hours later of issuing the assignment, Dumbledore asked her to go into hiding after she had a particular bad case of anxiety outbreak. With a pang of guilt she remembered being beyond herself with anger at him because he was sending her away when she was needed most, and recalled his sad smile as he rested his hand on her belly. “Your baby’s safety is more important than anything Alice. He is the first of the next generation who will hopefully live to see a different world. He has need of you. Please do as I say,” he told her before turning on his heels and marching out of the room. Of course, he had been right. She had to remind herself that her duty to the Order now came second to the duty she had to her unborn child who needed the protection and attention of his mother.
Despite her best efforts, it was difficult shaking off the constant rumbling that had settled into her stomach, making her feel sick with emotions. She was sure she couldn’t have coped with any of it without Frank.
A small smile brightened her face as she allowed herself to happily imagine how her life would be after this terrible war would end. A clear image crept its way behind her closed eyelids as if it were a real life motion picture: Frank bending over little Neville’s crib, making funny noises and scooping him out of it to hold him. A chuckle escaped her lips as her imagination led her further, showing her more and more happy images in a blur of color, smiles, kisses and hearty laughs.
‘What’s so funny, Pinky?’ asked a familiar voice close by. Alice’s eyes shot open, and in a second her wand flew up to meet the person the voice whose shadow now loomed over her. As she realized it was only Frank, who looked stunned at the wand with his hands in the air, her arm relaxed and she let out the breath she never realized she had been holding. ‘Don’t scare me like that, Frank,’ whispered the woman while resting her arm again on the chilly grass beside her body.
‘I’m sorry, I never meant to scare you. I just heard you laughing and was curious to know what was so amusing,’ said Frank sitting down next to Alice, face turned towards her.
Alice pushed herself on an elbow and stood watching him for a few moments. Her eyes traced his features taking in his short, neatly kept dark brown hair, his startling blue eyes that she always shone with a special bright when they looked at her, his slightly protuberant nose which made him feel somewhat self-conscious in terms of looks, his thin lips that always seemed ready to smile when he was talking with her. Unbidden tears filled her eyes as a rush of gratitude washed over her. She truly couldn’t have asked for a better man in her life. Whenever she looked at him and remembered everything he’d done for her and how much she herself sacrificed to be with him, her heart swelled inside her chest.
‘Wh-why are you crying?’ asked Frank, startled to see tears shining in her eyes.
‘It’s nothing. It’s silly,’ said Alice blushing furiously and purposefully avoiding his searching gaze, ‘I just wanted to thank you for always, always being there for me. I know I haven’t made your job as my husband easier, and that I can sometimes be as stubborn as a mule, but no matter what I did - or said for that matter-, you were always there and that’s something I’m never going to be able to –‘. Her effort of pouring her heart was stopped by a finger he had placed on her lips. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at him and saw him grinning stupidly. Despite herself, she felt a twinge of awkwardness building in the pit of her stomach. Why was he grinning? And why was he not saying anything? She felt her face hot against the pleasant, crisp breeze of the evening.
As seconds passed by, her eyes narrowed with displeasure at his silence. He knew how hard it was for her to voice her feelings like this, offer them on a platter even to him, and yet it seemed all he could think of doing was sit there, do nothing, say nothing, just grin. Looking away from him, she fumbled with the blanket now tangled beneath her in an effort to get up. She tried putting a hand on the ground behind her back for support, but soon realized that it was not the best idea. She then turned on her right side and with her back to Frank, she scrambled hopelessly for a way to get to her feet, all the while panting heavily from the effort.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Frank in an amused voice.
‘This is not the day to make fun of me, Frank!’ said Alice shrilly in a voice of suppressed anger, forfeiting her fruitless efforts to stand and settling herself back on the blanket, but determinately still not looking at him.
A few moments passed and the only sound that interrupted the silence was Alice’s heavy breathing. Her eyes filled with tears of frustration and soon enough, everything came pouring out of her in a torrent of words broken by occasional sobs ‘I am as fat as a cow; my feet are so swollen I can barely walk any more; I am due any day now and I am more terrified than I’ve been in my life,’ she cried savagely while crossing off her sufferings on the fingers of her hands , ‘I haven’t had news from the Order in over two weeks; I can’t stop thinking that something bad must have happened; I am worried sick for Dorcas who was already missing for a week before we went into hiding, and now, for the first time in a long time I think that it might be a good idea, a SWEET idea to tell you how I feel about us and you can’t think of anything else to do but stand there and grin like an idiot – no, why are you patting my head?’ snapped Alice slapping his hand away.
When her eyes met his however, all of her rage died away as quick as it had sparked. Behind those brilliant blue eyes she could read amusement yes, but it was not mocking. It was affectionate. He was not making fun of her after all. With a pang of guilt she wondered how she could have even thought that, after all they’d been through.
A shy smile tugged at the corner of her lips and she looked away into the distance. The sun was now lazily making its way past the far away suntburnt hills. ‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered still tracing the skyline that separated the distant slopes, ‘I shouldn’t have jumped like that. I didn’t even give you time to answer. It was silly of me.’
She felt his palm close in on the fist she was using to sustain her body’s weight on the grass. Alice didn’t look at him. There was no need. She knew what that meant. They understood each other perfectly. After all this time and everything they had endured together, they came to know each other as well they knew themselves, or even better. Words were no longer necessary to express how they felt. A lingering look, a stolen touch, a furtive smile were enough to create the bridge of understanding between them. Instead, she turned her hand, palm upwards, and allowed his fingers to connect with her own.
They sat like that, hands united, until the sun had finally hid behind the far away hills, savoring the silence. The sky was a pale tint of orange and quiet reigned but for the occasional breeze that rustled the rich treetops of the garden.
Neither Alice nor Frank spoke. They relished the calm, peaceful even slightly eerie atmosphere that bathed their surroundings. After more than four years of living with terror that they might be attacked at every moment, that each movement they made could be watched; after living for so long in fear that each passing hour would bring more terrible news and countless months dedicated to anything but themselves, they were indeed happy to remain quiet, and simply enjoy their night. It was like a breath of fresh air in their life, to be able to feel something other than worry, panic, misery and hopelessness.
As night drew closer, the wind started changing from a pleasant breeze to a chilly draft. Alice was just thinking about suggesting to Frank that maybe it was time they went inside, when a sharp pain cut across her abdomen, making her stop midway through opening her mouth. Her right hand unconsciously flew to her belly and her heart picked up pace.
Frank noticed her sudden movement and turned to look at her. ‘Is everything ok? he asked urgently, jumping in a sitting position on his knees.
‘Yea, it’s nothing I think,’ muttered Alice absentmindedly, her every ounce of attention focused, waiting with bated breath to see if the pain would happen again. ‘I just felt – I – it was nothing,’ she concluded mildly, looking up at Frank and caressing his cheek. Her breath slowed down. There was nothing wrong. Nothing could go wrong; not with Neville.
‘Maybe we should get back in the house,’ finally suggested Alice turning on her left side once again. ‘It’s getting a bit cold.’
Frank got to his feet in one swift movement and bent down to scoop Alice off the rumpled flowery sheet they had lain on the grass. But as soon as Alice had straightened up, she felt the stinging pain once again. Colour drained from her face as she gripped Frank’s arm tightly.
‘Frank, I don’t know. I can’t be sure, but I think this is it. Take me inside. I think – ouch!’ cried Alice doubling over, with her free hand pressed tightly under her belly. It was a kind of pain unlike anything she had ever experienced. A cutting twinge was radiating from the middle of her torso, spreading to the back down, near the tailbone. It was as if something was biting at her muscles , like someone was pinching on her spine painfully.
Her heart was pounding and she was unable to utter another word until the pain subsided, as if an invisible hand was wrapped tightly around her vocal cords. Soon enough, the pain died down, until it faded away completely.
It was not until she looked up at Frank that she realized she was shaking. ‘Come on, let’s move,’ said Alice shaking her husband slightly by the arm because he was doing nothing but staring at her, as though in a deep trance. His mouth was slightly open and his eyes were unfocused.
Alice could not believe this. She was in labor and he was the one panicking. “Frank, I said move. Now!’ she shouted, hoping that that would snap him out of it. To her immense relief, she saw him shake his head slightly, opening and closing his eyes, as if he were waking from a deep sleep.
‘Yes, Pinky, yes. Home, yeah. Let’s – let’s go,’ mumbled Frank passing an arm around his wife’s back, while carefully leading her up the narrow path to the house.
To Alice the walk seemed to take forever, although she never realized at what moment did she enter the house, nor did she remember when she had been lain in bed. The pain didn’t leave much space for anything else in her mind.
Minutes seemed to go by in a blur. She completely lost track of time. The only counting she was doing now were the intervals for her contractions. They were coming at regular gaps and lasting about 60 seconds. She also noted that as time progressed, they were getting closer. And finally, when her water broke drenching the bed sheets, she could no longer deny it.
‘Frank,’ cried Alice in a strangled voice. ‘Get the – the potion Professor McGonagall gave us – before – we left. It’s on – the – the – night stand. Hurry!’ she screamed twisting her back outwards.
Her breath was now coming out in big, deep breaths. Flashes of the conversation she had had with Madam Pomfrey before departing to their safe place came tumbling one after the other into her mind.
“You will need hot water,’ she was saying in a very matter of fact voice, ’a towel and pair of scissors. Also, I must warn you not to forget to take the Supinity Potion as soon as the contractions happen often and at cyclic intervals. It will ease the pain a great deal. I am sorry you cannot give birth into a safe environment, attended by the best, but as you know that is quite impossible. But I am sure you will do splendid. Now, under no circumstances should you – “ but whatever she had been warned not to do, Alice could not remember. Another contraction made her cry out in pain, wiping the memory clean from her mind.
A sound of shuffling feat nearby made her open her eyes. Frank was standing near the edge of the bed, clutching the potion flask so hard, his knuckles were white. A soft laugh burst from her lips. As tough and hardly intimidated Frank was when facing Death Eaters, he seemed deeply shaken when facing the moment of his son’s birth.
‘Give it to me,’ whispered Alice extending a trembling hand towards him. She watched him bend over the bed, his outstretched arm shaking very bad, potion in hand, when a sudden jerk made him drop the vial. Frank made frantic gestures attempting to recover the flask before it rolled off the bed, but a second later she heard glass shatter against the floor.
Cursing loudly, she turned her head on the other side, her fingers digging deep into the white bed sheets, twisting and tugging at them in the overbearing pain of yet another contraction. She could hear his pleading voice in the background, but her skull was too full of splitting pain to focus on anything other than her back, her belly that now seemed to radiate heat. It felt like someone was crushing their elbow on her bones, intent on breaking them in a million pieces.
‘Never mind the bottle,’ snarled Alice waving her hand impatiently. ‘Just leave it. We’ll have to do without. You’ll have to help me bring our son into this world. Now, remember what you’ve been told?’ asked Alice slowly turning her head in his direction once more, as though it cost her every bit of strength she had to do so.
Frank was as blank as a sheet of paper, his eyes wide as dinner plates and his mouth gaping rhythmically. She was forcefully reminded of a fish extracted from the ocean, its mouth opening and closing in a silent desperate plea to be returned to water.
‘Frank, I need you! So you better get a grip or I swear, I will get out of this bed and hex you into oblivion,’ yelled Alice throwing a baby pillow his way.
Thankfully, that seemed enough to return Frank to normal. He was still chalk white and shaking slightly as he picked up the bowl of water, sloshing all over the front of his robes, and made his way at the front of the bed, but there was also a slight crease between his eyebrows, something he only did when in deep concentration.
The last thing she saw of Frank before he disappeared behind the top of her raised knees was his muttering under his breath, probably repeating everything he had been told of the process.
Everything that happened beyond that point was a punctured memory to Alice. When asked later, the only moments she could recall were Frank’s firm commands and the final moment, when the most wonderful sound filled the room. The cry of her baby. Of her Neville.
Heavy tears were running down her flushed cheeks, as Frank washed the baby, wrapped it tightly and handed him to her. As soon as she took one look at him, felt her skin against his, sobs erupted from her like she had been holding them in her whole lifetime.
Frank was crying too. ‘This is our boy, Pinky,’ he kept saying while constantly wiping his eyes with his sleeveless arm. ‘This is our son. He’s going to do amazing things.’
He was going to do amazing things, thought Alice, her heart exploding with love. Neville Longbottom was their bright torch in a world filled with darkness and hatred and fear. The power they needed to resist any hardships.
It was that moment they took the vow of doing anything to protect him. Anything and everything for Neville. Their miracle in the making.
Author's Note: This is a story I loved writing. As I am in the process of planning a novel that will feature Alice and Frank as main characters, being offered the chance to write from Alice's POV, get to know the characters better, has been a great opportunity. Especially since this is such an important moment in their lives. So thank you Copper, for issuing this challenge!
I would also like to give another huge, huge thanks to my beta MissMdsty for always being there, ready to check a fact I am not sure of, help me write the perfect summaries, or otherwise just listen to me complain haha You're the greatest!
I would very much like to hear what you think of my interpretation of this moment in the little box below ;)