The screams that tore through the air on that sunny afternoon had nothing of a human sound in them anymore. Instead they sounded like those of a wounded animal, fighting for its life.
It was satisfying for the midwife to see even the purest and noblest witches reduced to their primal instincts, to see them like the commoners they so despised.
In labor they were all the same.
The woman on the bed arched again as another contraction took hold of her, the brown curls matted with sweat atop her head. She had grown weaker throughout the morning and afternoon. Her husband, who had paced a track into the hardwood floors by now, slumped on a chair, was anxious that something might have happened to his wife and hopefully, heir.
Finally, the woman on the bed seized up, caught in the age old rhythm of pressing to bring new life into the world.
The midwife began to encourage her, artfully distracting her patient.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the head of a child began to emerge. The midwife took her wand and began to cast surreptitiously.
"What are you doing?“ The woman on the bed grasped her hand with surprising strength.
"Just making sure that your baby gets enough air.“ The reply was delivered in a neutral tone, after all it wouldn't do to make her patient even more nervous. So the calming charm washed over the exhausted witch, who didn't have enough strength left to resist.
A last mighty push brought the baby into the world, and as the midwife had already suspected, it was a beautiful baby girl. A quick silencing spell made sure that the baby's cries couldn't be heard. Another spell turned the healthy, squirming bundle into a limp puppet of flesh. An artful illusion turned the head into something deformed and purplish-blue.
A moan came from the bed. The midwife smiled, ready to play the role of her life.
"How do you feel?“
"How is my baby?“ The woman on the bed tried to raise herself up, desperate to see her child.
"I am so sorry, it seems that the little one didn't make it.“
The wail that tore from the woman's mouth caused her husband to storm into the room.
“What’s going on? Has something happened to my heir?“
The midwife dropped into a curtsy.
"I am sorry, sir, but your daughter didn't make it. She was severely deformed and wasn’t breathing when she came into this world. I did all I could to make sure your wife stayed alive.“
"I want to see the baby.“
She took the bundle from the bed and held it out.
The noble man took one look at the deformed face and said, "Take it out of my sight. We will try for another child as soon as my wife has recovered sufficiently.“
The midwife felt something akin to sympathy for the sobbing woman on the bed, lying with the man of the house, with his cold, dark beady eyes and his hook nose surely was no pleasure; she knew how those pure-blood marriages worked. But it was only a small ember of sympathy, quickly subdued. She didn't get paid for kindness.
The sobs and cries of the desperate woman accompanied the midwife out.
The bundle in her arms began to squirm again. She smiled. The baby was pretty, it would fetch a tidy sum.
Her accomplice waited outside, ready to take over.
"Already done. He is waiting for us.“
And they left, leaving behind grief and anguish.