Dawn's Vigil

A/N: For my own precious red-heads. May you always be safe and loved.

They tried to kill my children.

"Mrs. Weasley, if you will come with me, please."

The voice seemed to come from a great distance, but it was enough to startle her out of her reverie. The tall young man with the Head Boy's badge shining on his robes was holding his arm out, ready to usher her up one of the many stairways that converged upon the entrance hall. She knew the way already. Through the years, she had been ushered into the hospital wing countless times. It was inevitable when one was the mother of seven Gryffindors, but this was different.

They tried to kill my children.

It had been a difficult year. She knew it would be from the moment Dumbledore had asked her if he could count on her and Arthur's support. But she hadn't quite been prepared for the endless days filled with fear from dawn to dusk, the lack of sleep, the waves of worry that constantly ebbed and flowed in her midsection. By the eyes of Agrippa, she was so sick of it all! As she topped the stairs and turned to make her way to the doors of the infirmary, she could feel the adrenaline snaking through her body and buzzing in the mask of her face. She'd been told it was bad.

They tried to kill my children.

Those foolish children had left the safety of the school and somehow gotten themselves into London where they'd been caught in a trap set by Voldemort himself. The details were sketchy, but both Ron and Ginny had gone with Harry, who had been misled into thinking that Sirius was in danger. Ginny was fine – only a broken ankle – but when she'd asked after Ron…

"Just go to the school, Molly." Remus Lupin was dripping with sweat and covered with scrapes and bruises. A trickle of congealed blood had worked its way down his temple from a cut above his eye. His warm brown eyes were dull and unfocused. Something was terribly wrong.


"Molly, I…" Lupin couldn't seem to form words. He closed his eyes and shook his head with a tortured expression, then seemed to gather himself back together. "It's bad, Molly. Just go to the school. Your children need you."

Terror knifed through her, making her feel cold and hot all at once. "Harry?…"

"Harry is safe. He's with Dumbledore."

"Remus, there's something you're not telling me. What is it?" Panic was starting to set in.

Lupin looked as though every word was costing him years off his life. "Your family are all alive for now, Molly. Go. We'll talk later."

"…for now?" She had flown into action.

They tried to kill my children.

They had just been through all this with Arthur – keeping a nightlong watch while he fought for his life, the years of their courtship and marriage playing themselves out in her mind in a torturous tableau as she'd held the hand of the only man she'd ever loved. She wished he could be here with her now. She hesitated as she reached the infirmary doors.

Poppy Pomfrey bustled over to greet her.

"Poppy…My Ron?"

With a gruff little cluck of sympathy, Poppy took Molly into her arms in a business-like embrace.

"We see each other too much like this, Molly. Your boy's hanging on fine for now, but he's had a very close call, and it will be a long day for all of us. He'll need to be watched closely."

"What happened?"

As best she could, Poppy related the previous night's events as Molly's face stayed frozen in a look of horrified realization. Death Eaters. Her children had been in a direct confrontation with Death Eaters. Despite all she had done to protect them, her worst fears had taken shape as she'd slept through the night.

Hermione Granger had been gravely injured as well, and her parents were expected at any moment. She would stop and see Hermione once her parents had arrived – they should be the first to see her, and just now every fiber of her being was screaming at her to get to Ron.

They tried to kill my children.

She allowed herself to be led to a curtained-off area of the infirmary, one of several. Just how many children had been involved? Molly took a deep breath and schooled her face into a calm expression before entering the cubicle. Ron lay on the bed pale and still, without a hint of his customary restlessness, Ginny dozing in a chair by his side. His face was bruised and covered with small nicks and cuts, and his freckles stood out starkly against the white of his skin. He was shirtless. His chest and upper arms, which looked strangely mature to her, were covered in deep open welts, the surrounding tissue nearly black with collateral bruising. A bluish light pulsed in the wounds, indicating that Poppy had performed healing charms that were unsuccessfully trying to take hold.

According to Poppy, thoughts, stored at the Department of Mysteries, had wrapped themselves around her boy in an effort to consume him. Poppy had told her that Remus had worked nearly twenty minutes to extricate Ron from the powerful tentacles. Healing charms were ineffective. She was in the process of concocting a salve to penetrate the prejudicial barriers that accompanied most thoughts, rendering them impervious to new thoughts and ideas. After all, spells and charms were just thoughts brought to physical existence by the forces of magic. Thoughts, Poppy had explained, could kill. Ron had also been hit with a very strong Derangement Hex that had damaged both his mind and body. He'd sustained numerous internal injuries and had apparently been deprived of his ability to reason before he'd lost consciousness.

They tried to kill my children.

"Oh, Mum!" Ginny, startled awake by her mother's involuntary sob, was suddenly in her arms. "Mum, it was awful. There were so many of them, and they were so fast. Please, Mum, don't be angry – we had to go! Harry would have gone by himself, and he needed us. They had Sirius, and they were torturing him – or that's what we thought – but it was a trap. It was a trap, and Sirius – oh, Mum, Sirius!

Molly blinked to clear the tears from her eyes and focus on her daughter's dirty, tear-streaked face. Her own voice sounded as vague and uncertain as she felt.

"Sirius? What…"

If Sirius was responsible for this disaster, she'd hex him into the middle of next week. Likeable as he was, he was dangerously impetuous and prone to lapses in judgment. All year she'd been nearly sick with worry about his influence on the children. He may have been innocent of his crimes, but she knew what kind of a hell-raiser he'd been in his youth. Twelve years inside the walls of Azkaban couldn't have been healthy either. She knew he loved Harry and cared deeply about all of them. His behavior at Christmas had left her with no doubt about the nobility of his character, but she had also seen demons inside of Sirius that no one, even the staunchest of heroes, could fight against and win. Simply put, he was a loose cannon, and somehow he was at the center of this nightmare.

They tried to kill my children.

"He died tonight, Mum. He came with the Order to rescue Harry, and he died in the fight. Neville was there – he saw everything."

Sirius? Dead? The two words didn't really fit together. Sirius Black was a great many things, but above all, he was a survivor. Almost at once, every harsh word she had ever spoken to him came rushing back in a roiling mass of guilt-ridden memories. After Arthur was nearly killed, she and Sirius had called a wary truce, but she always got the impression that he would not hesitate to undermine her efforts if he felt inclined to do so. But whatever her feelings were about Sirius, he had been a good man, who had lived a life fraught with tragedy and injustice. It was not right that he should die so young and so unfulfilled. No wonder Remus looked as though his world had come apart at the seams. And what about Harry? Her heart hitched in her chest. Sirius and Harry had meant so much to each other. That poor boy shouldn't have to sustain another loss.

The thought of Harry grieving for his fallen Godfather was too complex for her right now. Harry was being cared for and she would sort that out later. Right now, her own son's life hung in the balance, and her daughter was in need of reassurance. She felt the tears begin to flow again.

"Oh, Ginny."

She gathered her daughter to her as Ginny began to cry in earnest, murmuring softly in an effort to comfort her. "I'm here, darling. I've got you. Oh, Ginny."

"Please don't be m-mad, Mum – we had t-to g-go."

"I know, darling. We'll talk about it another time. I'm just so glad you're safe."

"B-but Ron! Ron's not safe, Madame Pomfrey says…"

"Shhhhh. There, now. I know what Madame Pomfrey said. But Ronnie's a Weasley, which means he's a fighter. He'll pull through. You'll see."

Molly wasn't at all sure of this, but Ginny needed to hear it, and it seemed to help. Ginny managed to bring herself back under control, but still looked very fragile and shaken.

They tried to kill my children.

"I'm glad you're here, Mum."

"Where else would I be? Now, then, have you slept, dear?"

"No – but I don't want to leave Ron…"

"Then we'll just have you lie down in the next bed. I'll wake you if there's any change, will that do?"

"Yeah, I guess so." Ginny's voice sounded uncertain, and she suddenly looked very young. Molly brushed sticky red tendrils out of Ginny's eyes and produced a handkerchief for her to use. She ushered her through the curtain to the next bed over, and pulled the covers up over her daughter in the tender yet business-like way she had always used when putting her reluctant children to sleep. The gesture spoke of love, but brooked no argument, and Ginny responded instinctively to the cue. No more words were spoken as she dropped a kiss on Ginny's forehead and smoothed her hair back until her eyes closed. Molly heaved a sigh that didn't seem to cleanse or revitalize, and turned back to the bed of her youngest son.

So still.

She stood, for a moment and simply watched the rise and fall of his chest, the angry wounds glowing eerily in the dim light of the curtained cubicle. He reminded everyone of Arthur by the way he carried himself, by his height, in his mannerisms – but here, lying so still, with no spark of consciousness to animate him, he favored her side of the family. The point of his chin, the fullness in the lips, definitely the tilt of the nose, and the square set of the jaw were all familiar features she saw in the mirror every day. He looked for all the world like her brother Gideon, who had not died right away as his twin had, but had lingered for days, never regaining consciousness. They'd only been five years older than her Ronnie was right now…

Suddenly she was angry. Angrier than she had ever been – these children were too young to be caught up in the ugliness of war. Why did they insist on being a part of the fight? The anger was a familiar feeling, an emotion she'd never had much luck controlling. All this past year, it had been worse than ever. It would surge through her without warning, seizing at the thoughts that whirled in a furious maelstrom through her head and yanking them out through her mouth before she could stop them. She would spit venom at whomever happened to be the nearest target, often surprising herself with the malevolence of her own words, helpless to control their destructive flow and desperate for a direction in which to assign blame. It never made a difference. It only seemed to strengthen everyone's determination to do exactly the opposite of what she'd hoped they'd do. She knew that it was getting to the point where important things were kept from her in an effort to maintain peace, but she was helpless to control it. Unfortunately, Ron seemed to have inherited that from her as well. She felt tears burning in her eyes again, and gulped a few lungfuls of air to calm herself. Shakily, she adjusted Ron's covers and smoothed the fiery hair back from his forehead before dropping a kiss there – a kiss that contained all of the tenderness fifteen years between a mother and her son could hold.

Of all her children, Ron had received the least attention. Born as the twins reached their terrible twos, and taking his first steps at about the time Ginny was born, he had never really given her much cause for concern until he had started school. There he had forged his friendship with Harry, who seemed to have a permanent sticking charm attached that attracted trouble. After that business during his first year, she thought he'd learn, but then he'd taken the car and flown it all the way to Scotland simply because he'd missed the bloody train. Those boys were lucky not to have been killed – by the car or by curse, if she'd gotten a hold of them. Her father had always said, "One boy, all boy – two boys, half a boy – three boys, no boy at all." Thanks be to all the magic in the universe that the third in their little group was a girl. As her thoughts turned to Hermione, she heard low voices coming from nearby, and knew that the Grangers had arrived. She hoped that Hermione would be all right. She was a good girl, who had been a good friend to both of those boys, and to her Ginny. She knew that Hermione's influence had something to do with Ron's being chosen as a prefect this year. She was so proud of him. She just knew that he would build a better life for himself than she and Arthur had been able to provide. She wondered, as she did with all her children, what that life would be like. Would he marry? Have children? She knew that Ron, young as he was, fancied Hermione, but wasn't yet ready to admit it. Everything that girl said and did seemed to get under his skin, so it was only a matter of time before that can of worms was dumped into the potion. Harry's feelings on the matter seemed very hard to read, but he was as close to Hermione as he was to Ron. She hoped for all their sakes that it ended well.

That was, if they lived.

Fear snaked through her again, and she swallowed down another sob, turning back to Ron, whose breathing had changed. His eyes seemed to be moving beneath the lids, and his fingers twitched slightly on top of the blankets. She was out of her chair in an instant.

"Ron? Ronnie, Mum's here. I'm right here, dear."

"Mum?" His voice was a barely audible croak.

"Yes, dear – I'm right here."


"Shhhh. I know. Don't try to talk."

They tried to kill my children.

His eyes never opened, and he slipped back into a deep sleep, her small, work-roughened hand clutched in his large one. Somehow, hearing his voice had helped. Somewhere nearby, the Grangers were sitting silently with their daughter, hoping she would make a full recovery, and paralyzed with fear because their only child was embroiled in a war they could not comprehend. She made a vow to speak to them later over a nice cup of tea – once the children were out of danger.

The antiseptic silence swirled around her, carrying a hundred memories and more upon its indifferent tides. The most prevalent was that of a red-headed tot, fresh from a nap and flushed with sleep, the sweet sleep-dampened smell of him in her nose and his warm body molded to hers as she hummed a tune and rocked him back to wakefulness. Without letting go of her son's hand, she pulled the chair up against the side of the bed and took a seat, keeping vigil and unconsciously humming the tune she had always used to bring him back to the world of the living.

A/N: Thanks for reading! Your reviews, both good and bad, are appreciated. The words "They tried to kill my children," repeated like a litany, is a nod to the work of Frank Herbert.