The darkness was heavy and impenetrable, as if she was submerged under a mile of inky water. It pressed on Tansy's eyelids and seeped into her mouth and ears, gradually obscuring both her mind and body with its darkness. The harder she fought against it, then the deeper into it she seemed to sink. She lost track of all time, of all sense of being. She only knew that she was still alive. Still fighting although she couldn't remember why. She couldn't even remember what she was fighting for.
When the change came, it happened slowly but Tansy gradually became aware of a light gleaming in the darkness above her: A tiny flickering bead of hope that shone brighter and stronger the longer she looked at it, until it finally became so intense that she was forced to close her eyes to shut it out. The thin membrane of her eyelids did very little to block out the fire but when Tansy tried to turn her head to look away, she found herself frozen in place and unable to move even the slightest muscle. There didn't seem to be anything else for it but to embrace the light before it blinded her.
It happened instantaneously as she made the decision; Tansy's eyelids fluttered open automatically and she felt herself recoiling with surprise when the familiar sight of the Hogwarts hospital wing swam into focus. She was alive and awake – that came as a surprise too. The room seemed to be full of people. They were grouped in clumps around the walls and most of them seemed to be in tears. Their voices distorted over each other with a strange discordance, which was impossible for her to understand. They looked oddly familiar.
For perhaps twenty seconds Tansy struggled to remember their names. Then, a strange, high-pitched whimper cut through her concentration and her eyes found the source of the strange noise; a tiny baby held tightly in the arms of man with red hair. He was crying so desperately, so hopelessly that Tansy felt her heart clenching with pity for him even as a part of her mind recoiled at his familiarity. Tears dripped down onto the baby's head and it whimpered and squirmed in discomfort, its tiny, starfish hands reaching out and grasping at thin air, its mouth opening and closing like a baby bird's. As the baby opened its mouth and cried out again, Tansy felt a strange sensation in her chest; as though a fist had reached inside her rib-cage and clutched her heart briefly before releasing it once more. It erased the numbness that filled her chest, leaving a strange warmth in its wake.
Something clicked in Tansy's brain.
She could name everyone in the room.
The memories flooded back and she recoiled at their intensity. She remembered everything that had happened. Everything that she had done. She cringed slightly, her fingers twitching automatically towards her stomach. The strange, fluttering thing inside her was gone and her stomach felt strangely light and empty... the baby, her baby was gone...
With one swift movement she pushed herself up the bed, still staring with wide, disbelieving eyes at the baby in Fred Weasley's arms. The baby she had resigned herself never to meet.
There was a shocked silence as everybody in the room looked towards the bed and froze. Tears ran dry, stopping in mid-flow, and there were a few startled cries before all the sound in the room became muted as everyone stared at the girl on the bed in stunned disbelief. Tansy ignored them all; her eyes were still on the baby, cradled in Fred's arms.
'Tansy?' Tansy dragged her eyes away from the child's tiny, perfect face in time to see Professor McGonagall sagging in her chair in a dead faint. This seemed to be the cue that everybody else had been waiting for and they all surged forwards towards the bed, their voices jarring over one another. Tansy had reached out a concerned hand towards her adoptive mother but she now felt herself shrinking backwards instinctively as the surrounding area suddenly became crowded. It didn't matter that they were her friends; the close proximity of so many bodies made her heart skid and she suddenly felt claustrophobic and anxious. Her brain felt like it was going to explode from the confusion of it all; she couldn't understand how they could all be here… how the baby could've made it… how she herself was still alive. The last thing she remembered was that slightly surreal conversation she'd had with Sirius, right after the blood magic ritual, but that was surely months ago. Just how long had she been unconscious in the hospital wing?
'Give them both some space.' Madam Pomfrey seemed to have recovered enough from her shock to form a coherent sentence and she now stepped forwards and started hustling the others back with her hands as she bent over the unconscious Professor.
'Tansy?' Tansy turned as she heard her name being spoken for a second time – Fred was standing at the end of the bed, the baby in his arms cradled tightly to his chest as he rocked her instinctively. Tansy dropped her eyes back to the baby's face; it was easier than looking at Fred and this was where her eyes were being drawn to anyway.
'How are you…? Oh, it doesn't matter!' When she glanced up at the question, she saw that the tears had started flowing down his cheeks again and he closed the small distance between them and placed the tiny bundle into Tansy's lap before enveloping them both in a tight hug.
In spite of the distraction of the baby in her lap, Tansy flinched away at his touch and instinctively pulled the baby in towards her chest, her heart skipping slightly as the child turned her head and started nuzzling Tansy's front. Fred took an automatic step backwards as he felt Tansy recoil from him. Tansy glanced up at his face and then looked away again immediately, wishing she hadn't. His face bore a half-concerned, half-understanding expression. He looked so much like his brother. Too much like his brother.
'Ah there we go…' Madam Pomfrey sighed with relief and took a step backwards away from Professor McGonagall as the other witch stirred feebly in her chair.
'Miss Granger? Mr Weasley? Could you please take Minerva out and get her a cup of something hot and sweet? In fact…' The matron looked around at the assembled crowd and then back at Tansy, whose face still showed her discomfort and confusion at the situation. '…could you all wait outside while I asses Miss Laverstock? I'm sure she's very confused and we don't want to cause her any unnecessary distress.' Nobody argued with her but everyone seemed reluctant to leave the room. Tansy saw the longing on her best friends' faces as they stared back at her as they made their way over to the double doors and felt a twinge of guilt. Slowly the hospital wing emptied, leaving Tansy, Fred and the baby alone with the matron.
'And now Miss Laverstock…' The matron choked suddenly and wiped at her eyes with the hem of her robes. '… I never thought I'd have the opportunity to say that again.' She sniffed loudly and swallowed before continuing. 'I have no idea how you did that… I'm…' She seemed to be at a loss for words as she stepped forwards and started waving her wand over the young witch. Tansy looked between her and Fred in confusion, winced slightly and looked back towards the matron even though it was Fred who answered the questions in her eyes.
'You… you… we thought… we thought you were dead.' His voice was still thick with tears and that made it easier for her to listen to the words rather than comparing the sound and timbre to that of his brother's. 'We thought that when the baby was born you would die. You stopped breathing and your heart stopped…'
Tansy glanced down at the baby's face once more, still unable to believe that this was her baby, the little thing that she had felt fluttering inside her all those months ago. Her baby… this tiny, perfect child. For the first time since waking up, she felt tears starting in her eyes and her throat closed with emotion as she drank in every inch of her daughter; she was tiny but perfect. Her eyes were huge and dark blue in her pale face and she had a microscopic tuft of auburn hair. She blinked several times as she tried to focus on Tansy's face. Someone had dressed her in a pale pink Babygro.
Tansy thought back to the sacrifice that she had made on the castle lawn when she performed the blood magic ritual in order to protect her friends from the wrath of Voldemort. She remembered the betrayal she had committed when she sacrificed her own life while carrying another. She winced as she remembered the pain of that betrayal. Then she thought back to the surreal conversation she'd had with Sirius in the Transfiguration classroom and she remembered the choice she had made; she had chosen to protect her baby even if it meant that she herself had to die. Tansy knew that it would take her some time to get her head around the guilt; guilt of the betrayal that had been so instrumental in the blood magic ritual. But she also knew that she had made the right choice eventually.
'Her name is Hope.' Tansy looked up automatically but the sight of Fred's tear-stained face sent a wave of anxiety fluttering through her again and she dropped her gaze immediately.
'Are you in pain Miss Laverstock?' The matron had finished waving her wand over Tansy but she looked confused and concerned by her findings, so much so that she was asking Tansy's opinion, something that she rarely did; Tansy had a history of downplaying her symptoms. Tansy shook her head automatically but then considered for a few seconds; her body felt fine physically, slightly stiff and sore but that was to be expected. On the other hand, her mind felt like it was going to explode.
'I really don't understand.' Tansy had never heard the matron say those words before and found them slightly alarming. 'You've proved me wrong on occasion in the past, Miss Laverstock but this time I am totally at a loss. Every organ in your body was failing but now…' She waved her wand once more, as if the diagnosis might've changed in the thirty seconds that had passed. 'Now, aside from the slight residual trauma from the labour, you seem to be in perfect health, if a little undernourished.'
The labour; Tansy cringed slightly at the thought. Somehow, impossibly, she'd given birth to the baby in her arms. There was a part of her that was glad she'd been unconscious, and yet, another part of her grieved for those lost hours with her daughter.
'Do you remember what happened?' Tansy shrugged, anxiety stirring in the pit of her stomach at the question – of course she remembered. She knew what she had nearly done. She remembered the decision she had made to help the Dark Lord and then the sudden change of heart when she'd seen her friends' faces staring up at her from the castle lawn. She remembered the betrayal she'd committed. Her mouth twisted of its own accord and she felt herself starting to tremble slightly. The matron placed a gentle hand on Tansy's shoulder, trying to calm her. It didn't work.
'Look at me, Miss Laverstock.' Tansy looked up and met the matron's concerned eyes for a brief instant but then found that she had to look away again; the memories were starting to overwhelm her.
'You saved all of our lives with the blood magic ritual,' Fred said, in a low voice. Tansy blanched slightly, wondering if he knew how close it had come to a different outcome.
'Your sacrifice gave us several hours of advantage, Miss Laverstock. Mr Potter fought with You Know Who and won. The Dark Lord is dead and his Death Eaters have been rounded up and are awaiting trial in Azkaban. Nobody else was hurt thanks to you. Between the two of you, you saved us all.'
All but one… Tansy bit her lip but she couldn't prevent a single tear from over spilling and running down her cheek as George Weasley's face swam in front of her eyes. Why had nobody mentioned George yet? Maybe they didn't know what she'd done? Tansy wondered how long it would be before they found out her secret. She couldn't imagine what they would say when the time came. Nobody commented as the tear dripped lightly off her chin and onto baby Hope's forehead.
'Professor Snape found you in the forest after the battle was over and he brought you here. Everyone was so surprised that you were still alive after the blood magic ritual. After you sacrificed yourself to save us all. You've been here for just over three months. I wanted you to carry the baby to term but your body started to fail and in the end I had to deliver her early.' Tansy looked down at the child in her arms in alarm, wondering if any lasting damage had occurred. With shaking hands, he unwrapped the blue knitted blanket that she was wrapped in. Underneath the wrappings, little Hope was even tinier than she had originally thought; the pink Babygro swamped her skinny limbs.
'She's perfectly healthy, Miss Laverstock. She's small but she's strong.'
'Just like her mother.' Neither Tansy nor Madam Pomfrey acknowledged Fred's comment.
'She was born yesterday morning. Birth weight of three pounds exactly. I think she's lost a bit since but that's perfectly normal.' Tansy tried to gently lift the baby out of her blanket but Madam Pomfrey swooped forwards, her hands outstretched. 'Carefully, Miss Laverstock! You have to support the head.'
Tansy blushed but she awkwardly followed the matron's advice. The baby felt almost feather light and so breakable as she lifted her up towards her face, the sweet scent of dried milk filling her nose. Baby Hope squirmed slightly and then opened her mouth and let out a plaintive cry, her starfish hands grasping again. Tansy looked over towards the matron in alarm, afraid that she'd done something wrong and hurt her.
'It's okay, Miss Laverstock. She's just having a whimper. Hold her like this.' Madam Pomfrey helped to gently lay the baby over Tansy's shoulder. Then she turned towards the door. Tansy tightened her hold around the tiny, squirming body and started to rub the baby's back automatically.
'I'm going to check on Minerva. Would you like me to let in some of your friends now? I know they will be dying to see you.'
Tansy paled slightly at the question; she felt totally overwhelmed and she didn't know if she'd be able to cope with the sheer volume of people that had been in the room before. Then she remembered her friends' faces as they left the hospital wing. She wondered if they would still want to see her when they learned the truth.
'We'll do it a few at a time.' Tansy realised that the matron had been watching the play of emotions over her face. She gave the girl on the bed a small smile before turning on her heal and walking towards the doors.
'Tansy…' Tansy felt her heart constrict slightly at the sound of her name. She dropped her eyes back to the bed covers and felt her hands still on the baby's back. 'Tansy, I know this is hard. I…' Fred's voice cracked slightly and he reached forwards and placed his hands on Tansy's knees through the bed covers. Tansy flinched backwards and he removed them again immediately.
'Tansy… I just want you to know that I'm always… always here for you.' He reached out and stroked her face with one hand, but withdrew it again as she cringed away and placed it on the baby's head instead. 'We will get through this together.' Tansy felt her breath catching in her throat as he spoke; George Weasley's face swam before her eyes. Fred didn't know... Fred could never know...
'We will get through this together.' Fred repeated, his voice becoming stronger. Biting her lip against the tears that threatened to fall, Tansy shook her head.
Well here is the first instalment of Hope, the sequel to Not One Word. Hope you enjoy. Please let me know what you think.