"Arthur, darling," Molly said quietly, as Arthur's eyes fluttered open. His face was pale, twenty years older than Molly ever remembered him looking, and his eyes—Molly's stomach turned—his eyes were dull, not laughing or smiling, for the first time ever.
"Molly," he managed weakly, before his eyes slid shut again. His uninjured hand twitched slightly, and Molly leaned forward, picking it up and linking their fingers.
"I'm here, sweetheart, I'm here," she whispered, feeling the tears fill her voice and sting her eyes. "You're all right, darling, you're going to be fine, I know it…"
"The spare vault key…is…in my…batteries…" Arthur murmured, not opening his eyes. "And the…the will is…nnh…it's…where you…you put it still…in the…back of the…clock…"
"Arthur, no," Molly said, knowing that her tone was far from commanding at the moment, for tears were pouring down her cheeks. "No, you're going to be fine, Arthur, please stay with me," she asked desperately, trying not to be too loud in this little ward. "Bill's going to be here soon, sweetheart, he's going to come and see you—"
Arthur gave a dazed grin, his eyes opening just a fraction, and, to Molly's horror, he reached out and laid his good hand on her stomach. "The baby," he murmured. "…Be here soon…"
"No, Arthur, no, that was—that was twenty-five years ago," Molly told him gently, though she was feeling as though restraining her hysteria was becoming increasingly difficult.
"I love you," Arthur mumbled, meeting her eyes. Blue, like Bill's eyes, like Ron's, Molly thought, feeling a stab of horrible grief. His eyes sought hers out frantically, and through a haze of pain and potions Molly could just see the little spark of Arthur, flickering faintly.
"I love you more than anything," Molly whispered, gripping his hand tightly and holding it to her tearstained cheek. His eyes were closing again, and he had gone even whiter, almost the color of the bandages on his arm. "Arthur, please…"
Damn the monitoring charms on these horrible beds, Molly thought numbly, but she did not look away from Arthur's face, they're far too sensitive. It didn't matter—the only voice in the world was his, the only eyes were his, the only thing that mattered in the entire universe at this one, split second was Arthur.
"Mrs. Weasley! Mrs. Weasley, you need to move, please, now!"
And Molly was suddenly aware that several sets of hands—not Arthur's, they were rough and unfriendly and unwelcome—they were pulling her away from Arthur—no, they couldn't do that—she grabbed for Arthur's hand again, but she was now being dragged away—someone was screaming a great deal—who was doing that? This was a hospital, for goodness' sake!
Wait—it was her own voice, Molly realized, as she was forced from the critical care ward by these same rough hands that didn't belong to Arthur…and immediately, she stopped screaming. She looked up—the unfriendly hands had an owner, a small, sad-faced, elderly little nurse who was holding tightly to Molly's forearms.
"Let me go, please," Molly begged, but the nurse said nothing, looking desperately over Molly's shoulder—and then, more hands—these ones are warmer, kinder, familiar if not welcome— "Bill," Molly cried, turning and grabbing her oldest son tightly. "What's happened, what's happened?" she moaned miserably, as she clung to him.
"Mum, it's okay," Bill said softly, and Molly looked up, meeting his eyes.
"I—what?" she gasped, still crying.
"It's okay," Bill told her. "He's gone."
"What?" Molly said as the breath left her body completely. "No! No, he's not, he's just there—" she turned around, but the ward was empty now. Arthur was no longer in the bed. What was going on? Where, where were the Healers? Molly looked all around; the ward was dark.
"He's gone, Mum," Bill said again, and Molly looked back to him. Suddenly, he wasn't alone. Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny were all gathered around him, watching her—but something was wrong—they weren't themselves. Their faces were blank, empty…and their eyes…
"W-what are you—" Molly stammered.
"Dad's gone, Mum," Bill told her. "Come on, that's enough. Let's go. We've got things to do."
Molly gaped back and forth between her children, who all, somehow, had Arthur's bright blue eyes—it was all wrong, something was very wrong.
Ginny stepped forward, taking Molly's hand, and Molly leapt back, chills chasing up and down her spine. "No!" she cried. "He's not gone! He's—he's here, he's fine—" she turned back, and the empty hospital bed still stood behind her, brightly lit in white. Then, suddenly, it was her bed, hers and Arthur's, and there Arthur lay, white-faced, bleeding profusely from his side—
"NOOO!" Molly screamed, covering her face with her hands as realization crashed over her. It was the end, the end of everything, the end of her, her children, her family—how could they survive? How could they go on? How could she go on if she didn't have Arthur? There was no life after Arthur, she was certain—how could there be?
"NOOO!" she screamed again, louder, as each of her children flashed before her eyes, dying alone, without her, without Arthur—they would never grow up, get married, have babies of their own—
"Molly! Molly! Molly, sweetheart, Molly!"
"Agh!" shrieked Molly. Suddenly, she was nowhere near St. Mungo's. She was sitting up in her bed, safe in the Burrow, and Arthur, in his old pinstriped pajamas, was standing over her, holding her shoulders. She looked up into his worried face, absolutely terrified. "Arthur," she gasped at last, and she reached up for him. "Arthur, oh, Arthur," she moaned, and he sank down onto her side of the bed next to her. Molly buried her face in his shoulder.
"Molly," Arthur said, rubbing soft circles on Molly's back, reassuring and warm. "Mollywobbles, tell me what happened…"
Molly lifted her head, tears still falling down her cheeks, and gazed into his blue eyes. She reached forward with a shaking hand to touch his thin, wispy, whitening hair. He wasn't wearing his glasses in the darkness, though he really ought to, Molly thought randomly.
He wasn't that forty-something man who had nearly died from that horrible snakebite. That was more than ten years ago, Molly told herself.
"Oh, Arthur," she said, with a great sigh of relief, hugging him tightly. "I'm fine, everything's fine—"
"Was it the nightmare?" Arthur asked, his arms secure and warm around her. "The one about—"
"Shh," Molly said quickly, sitting up and shaking her head. "No, don't talk about it, I can't think about it. It's fine, it's fine," she said happily. "You're here, you're safe, and nothing's going to take you away…"
Arthur chuckled and kissed Molly's hair. "Never," he promised, squeezing her—then Molly felt him wince.
"What's wrong?" she asked immediately, pulling back and scrutinizing him closely. "Where are you hurt?"
"I'm not hurt, Molly," Arthur said gently, leaning forward and kissing her cheek as he laid his hand on his heavily scarred arm. Molly only ever saw it when it was only her and Arthur; she alone knew how deeply it embarrassed him, how much it mattered to him that the children—though they weren't quite children any longer—not see the mark. "Just a twinge," he assured her, rubbing the scar. "Nothing serious."
Molly accepted this and nodded, sighing heavily. Then, a sudden thought occurred to her. "If it's not bothering you," she said slowly, "then why are you up at this hour? It's the middle of the night," she said.
"Ah," Arthur said, looking away. "Well, ah—perhaps you ought to come downstairs and see for yourself—"
"See for—see what?" Molly asked, laying a hand on her chest.
"I really can't say," Arthur answered, looking utterly bemused. He stood and pulled on his robe, helping Molly into her old green dressing gown. Blinking hazily and feeling very disorientated, Molly followed Arthur sleepily out of their bedroom and down the rickety stairs into the sitting room. Arthur lit his wand tip, surprising Molly momentarily.
"Arthur, it's nearly four in the morning," Molly said, blinking rapidly, before her eyes landed on the scene sprawled across the furniture in her parlor.
"Are they—?" she asked, pointing, and Arthur nodded.
"I think they just wanted a night at home," he said, shrugging and looking very confused.
Together, they surveyed their extremely crowded sitting room. Ginny snuffled softly in her sleep, clutching her enormous seven-month belly as she lay on the sofa, her arm dangling over the edge to the floor where Harry, James, and baby Albus were curled, soundly asleep and wrapped tightly in blankets.
A few feet away, on a conjured mattress, a very pregnant Hermione was patting her stomach in her sleep, cuddling Rose with the other arm as Ron snored loudly.
And last but not least, atop another mattress, directly before the hearth, was Angelina, nearly five months pregnant but already very large and plainly uncomfortable, to judge from the look on her face as she slept. Cuddled against her large belly were little Freddie, nearly four years old, and George, whose arm was resting across Harry's face as they both snored.
"All in one night," Molly said, shaking her head. She looked up at Arthur, blinking back tears, and he beamed down at her, squeezing her shoulders. "I think I'll make them pancakes in the morning."
"Lovely," Arthur told her, and together, he and Molly started climbing the stairs again. When they reached their landing, Arthur stopped her. "Bad dreams gone?" he asked softly.
"Long gone and forgotten," Molly answered, standing on her tiptoes to give him a determined kiss. Then, sparing one glance over the railing for the hilariously adorable state of the sitting room, they went back to bed.
And as Molly climbed into bed beside Arthur, she remembered dimly that sometimes, the things we worry most about are the things that take care of themselves, in the end.
For thegoodgirldoll's "Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere" Challenge! (You should all join up, it's AWESOME and I'm the only entrant so far!)