White is for Witness

Molly sits alone in the room, staring at the sheet-draped pallet in front of her. It's white. Everything's white. Walls, lights, even the robes of the healer in the portrait hanging opposite her. It's far too sterile, too blank- much too clean for such dirty business as the war that has brought her here.

She's waved Bill and Charlie along, and Ron and Percy as well. Arthur she coaxed on to Ginny, though her only daughter didn't want to leave and stood, weeping silently, clutching at her hand.

"Just leave us for a few, dear," she'd said, voice in check, but calming, she'd hoped. It was taking a lot out of her to manage to be as stalwart as she pretended she was. "Even your father can manage tea and biscuits until I come home."

When it was just the three of them, herself, George, and Fred's body, George broke down. She'd never had to hold him like that, one of her jovial twins reduced to a wretched, sobbing wreck. He railed, and swore and punched a small hole into the wall at St. Mungo's. Then he climbed onto the bed with his unmoving twin, rested his head on Fred's shoulder, pushed some hair out of his closed eyes, and murmured something Molly couldn't hear.

"I'll find something to say for the funeral," he'd said once he'd readied himself to leave, wiping gracelessly under his nose with a shirtsleeve. "Poem or somesuch. Come on, let's go. He wouldn't want us moping."

She'd looked at him, so diminished without his brother as none of her other children would be on their own, red eyes still leaking tears that he no longer bothered to check.

"I need just a moment, George," she'd said quietly, pulling him to her and enfolding him in an embrace. "You go on- I won't be long. But I'm his mother. I know you were dreadfully close, but I birthed him, and I need to say a proper farewell."

George had wilted, sinking to his knees and clutching her around the waist. "How can you be so calm?" he sniffled into her jumper. "It's all so fucking wrong."

She'd held him, absorbing his grief like a sponge taking water. After a bit, he'd reined himself in, stood up, and kissed her on the cheek. "Don't stay long, please," he pleaded, as she'd held his hands and then watched him leave the room.

Now she sits, fingering a heart-shaped locket with Fred and George's pictures inside, aged 6 or so. She knows she can't bear to open it, so she doesn't.

She starts when the door opens, and a Junior Assistant Healer walks in, then stops suddenly.

"Oh. I'm so sorry," he stumbles over the words. "I'd thought you'd all gone. I was just going to move the body-"

"May I have just a few minutes, please?" she asks, and he nods, retreating. "I'll come and get you on the way out. You're at the desk at the end of the corridor, correct?"

He nods more vigorously.

"Right, then."

The door closes.

Molly's not much of a drinker, but she also hasn't expected to lose her fourth-youngest child quite yet. The incident with the bloody boggart last year had been enough for her to know she wasn't ready to go through this. Certainly not with the twins, who'd had no enemies. She unscrews the ivory flask, a parody Christmas gift from Charlie, admiring the dragon carving that adorns the exterior. Then she drinks the contents.

As she places it back in her handbag, she rummages around for the other item she's brought to put with Fred through the night. Not that he needs it, as he's-

Well, she can't quite say the word yet, it's far too foreign, not one she can force herself to utter. It's much too monosyllabic and permanent. Soon, as soon as she leaves this pale, pristine sanctuary, there will be affairs to settle, plans to be made, notices to be sent on creamy parchment: 'Your presence is respectfully requestedƒ' She imagines her hand writing those words, then shakes her head.

Molly finds the embroidered linen, and pulls it gingerly from her bag. 'FXW' glows in luminous thread at one corner. In her family, anyway, it's tradition that the matriarch, in this case, her great-great aunt, sews the initials of each child onto a delicate cloth, given initially at their naming ceremony, but then handed on at an appropriate rite of passage, usually marriage.

More rarely, it's at a funeral.

She opens the handkerchief and places the locket at its centre, then forces herself up from the chair. It's only a few steps to the bed, and she crosses the room until she's standing next to her son. His face is thinner than she remembers, but she hadn't seen him for several weeks prior to the attack on their shop, and Death Eaters aren't known for making gourmet meals for their hostages.

She can't bear it anymore, and knows that if she doesn't do this quickly, she will splinter open; rage and fear and her very sanity will shatter blindingly into the room, and all that the junior healer will find is the broken, beloved body of her dead son, Frederick Xavier Weasley, and her spirit flickering about it like diamond shards.

She bends over and tucks the fabric-enclosed locket into his hands, kisses his forehead, and walks to the door.

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