It took me a long time to finish this story, but I honestly loved writing it and I'm a little sorry to see it go. I just want to say thank you to everybody who has read and reviewed these past twelve chapters, despite how long it took me to finish and post the last two. ;o) You all rock, and I seriously can't put into words how grateful I am for your time and appreciation.
"I have no idea what is going on," Percy admits as he paces nervously outside Audrey's room in St. Mungo's maternity ward, stopping occasionally to look through the little window in the locked door. "They keep shoving me out here and none of them have bothered to tell me why."
"Maybe it's because you keep getting in the way?" George says with a shrug. "Somehow I don't think the Healers appreciate being told that they're stupid every time they ask you a question about your wife."
"I did not say that!"
"You launched into a ten-minute rant about how the Healers couldn't pass their N.E.W.T.'s with an open textbook just because they asked you what Audrey's middle name was."
Percy makes an odd, groaning noise in the back of his throat, but his eyes never move away from the door to Audrey's room.
"Look, I'm not sure what you want me to say," George says. "Maybe I should go and get Dad. He'd know what to do, and he could –"
"No!" Percy clutches at George's arm. "Stay with me, please? I don't, I can't –"
"Okay," George says quietly, clasping Percy's shoulder in a comforting way. He smiles at him, then, and for a brief second his eyes cloud over when he looks past Percy's shoulders. He motions towards the door and Percy turns to find that not only was it open again, but one of the Healers was beckoning him inside. Smiling, George gently pushes him through the door. "Go, Audrey needs you. Good luck, Perce…I think you're going to need it."
"Is everything all right?" Percy asks nervously once he's passed through the doorway. The Healer continues scribbling on her clipboard and when she finally looks up, there's a flash of recognition in her eyes but her brow furrows in concentration, like she knows who he is and can't put his face to a name. Percy, however, knows exactly who this woman is: she's the same Healer who delivered his and Penelope's son, all those years ago.
"Everything's going perfectly, Mister…Weasley," she says, glancing down at her clipboard for confirmation. The name doesn't seem to spark a connection, but that's just as well; she's been here for years and has delivered thousands of babies. There's no reason she would remember one she lost. "Don't worry. If you need anything, just call for Valerie Spinks." She squeezes his arm in a reassuring manner and sweeps out of the room, lime-green robes billowing in her wake.
"I think it's getting close," Audrey says quietly from the bed, drawing him out of his thoughts. "I can't really tell. I don't know what they're saying half the time." She looks so small, curled up on her side, one hand cradling her stomach and her dark hair stuck to her forehead in sweaty tendrils. Percy goes to her immediately and kisses her cheek, stroking her hair tenderly as she winces in pain.
"Do you want to move around?" he asks, feeling utterly helpless. Audrey shakes her head.
"I'm so tired," she whispers. "I don't think I can move from here."
Percy sits by her, rubbing her back, wiping her forehead, holding her hand. Healers come in and out, but they've stopped shooing him away. Maybe they could see how tightly Audrey held onto his hand and they knew they'd have to break her death grip just to pry him loose…if it wasn't already broken. He doesn't know, but he can't feel his fingers anymore and no one tells him to leave.
Percy whispers words of encouragement until she tells him to shut up, and presses her hand to his lips when she cries out, but mostly he just feels numb and helpless and more than a little out of place. The Healers all seem to know what they're doing; more than once they move Percy from one side of the bed to the other, and he gives Audrey ice chips when she asks for them and he helps her back into the bed again when she tries and fails to sit upright. And suddenly, there is a frenzied movement and a yelp of pain from Audrey, and the room seems to swarm with people. Audrey moans loudly and before he knows it, Percy is sitting behind his wife, holding her to his chest as Healer Spinks encourages her to push.
When the pink, squalling bundle is placed into her arms, Percy thinks he stops breathing. It isn't blue. It's breathing. It is breathing and it is screaming and it is alive, alive, alive, and so is Audrey. Audrey cries as she clutches at the slippery little body and someone thrusts Percy's wand into his hand, but he doesn't know who. He's too busy staring at his newborn child.
"You can cut the cord, Mr. Weasley," Healer Spinks says, smiling as she lays a hand on his arm. "Just a simple severing charm should do it. Aim close."
With a shaky hand, Percy does as he's told and then the baby is whisked away, leaving Percy feeling lost. The Healers congratulate Audrey and clean her up and the baby is screaming like a banshee as they wrap the tiny body in soft green blankets. In the middle of it all Percy stands as if he's been petrified, his wand dangling from nearly nerveless fingers, with no idea what to do.
"There are a lot of anxious people in the waiting room," one of the Healers says kindly. "Why don't you go and put them out of their misery? When you come back, your daughter will be ready for you to hold."
His daughter. He has a daughter.
"Our baby," Audrey laughs, and he feels a smile tug at his lips as he leans down to kiss his wife. He can see the tufts of dark red hair on his daughter's head as the Healers check her over and suddenly, Percy wants to shout the news to the world. He dashes to the doors and shoulders them open, hurrying down the hallway to the little waiting area at the end. Charlie is pacing with Lily lying asleep on his shoulder and Ron is pulling Al and Rose down from the back of one of the couches. George is sprawled, snoring, on one of the hard chairs and Verity, who is so heavily pregnant that she looks as though she could give birth right there, is anxiously watching the hallway. She springs out of her seat when she sees him and when she calls out his name, the room turns as one. George wakes up and stares at him expectantly, and Percy feels the grin spreading across his face before he can stop it, but he doesn't want to – this is the best feeling in the world.
"I have a daughter," he says simply, and then George leaps up from his chair only to pick him up and swing him around, whooping loudly as the rest of their family descends upon them. Percy can't stop laughing, can't stop grinning, can't bring himself to contain the excitement he feels in every inch of his body. Healer Spinks practically pulls him back into the room by the collar of his robes, and he's about to protest because he wants to stay outside with his family, wants to celebrate this joyous occasion with the people he cares about the most, and how dare she interrupt them? But then Spinks nods towards where his wife is sitting in the hospital bed, propped up against pillows and their daughter wailing in her arms, and his mouth goes dry. How could he forget about this?
"Would you like to meet your daughter?" Audrey asks, her voice cracked and strained with the effort. She's crying a little, her nose as red as their little girl – who is still howling as loud as her lungs will let her and filling the room with the noise – and a wide, tired smile spreading across her face.
And by now, Percy isn't sure if he remembers how to breathe. He walks towards the hospital bed and although he's done this a thousand times before, nothing could have prepared him for the moment where Audrey places his daughter – his own child – into his arms. Speechless, he stares at the tiny little girl in wonder as she quiets in his arms, looking right back at him with eyes as blue as his own.
"She's…she's beautiful," he says, his voice sounding far too loud in the newfound silence. "Oh, Audrey, she's, she's –"
"I know," she says, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand and chuckling softly at the way Percy is holding their daughter like she's going to break in his arms. "But we need to pick a name for her, though. I don't think we can go through life just calling her 'she' all the time."
"What should we call her, then?" he says as he holds the baby a little tighter to his chest. "We never settled on a name for a girl…all we really decided was on 'Roger Arthur' if we had a boy."
Audrey leans back against the pillow propped up behind her. "Aileen," she says, her tone soft and final. "Aileen Weasley has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
He pauses in rocking their daughter and stares at his wife; she stares back, the corners of her mouth quirking up into a tired smile. She knows what she's doing, and suddenly Percy feels like his knees are going to fall out from under him. He sits on the end of the lumpy hospital bed and the little girl in his arms starts to fuss.
"We…we can't just call her 'Aileen', Audrey. We'd need something before it."
"Molly, then." She stifles a yawn with her hand. "Molly, for your mother."
"People are going to think I've monopolized the naming process, you know."
"So what? It's our life, isn't it? She's our daughter, isn't she? Let them think what they want. Now give her here and let your family in – your mother's probably giving some poor candy-striper the talking-to of her life because she's blocking the door to her grandchild."
He kisses her forehead and Audrey takes their daughter's – Molly's – tiny hand and uses it to wave at him as he backs away from the bed, unwilling to look away even for a moment. He opens the door and motions for his parents and siblings and their families to join him, and as they crowd around his newborn daughter in groups of three and four he can't help but feel like everything has somehow fallen perfectly into place.
This is his family, and Percy knows that he wouldn't have it any other way.