|SIYE Time:11:35 on 22nd February 2018|
In Time For Christmas
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Story is Complete
Summary: “D’you want to be someone's dad?” Ron asked. “Like I said mate, they’re better when you can give ‘em back.”
Hitcount: Story Total: 9903
Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
This is the third story (or first, if you are counting chronologically) in my 'Birth trilogy'. It started with 'The Bravest Person' and I continued it with my Phoenix Song Anniversary Challenge fic 'An Unceremonious Beginning'.
The idea is that these fics are in the same universe and that the universe is the same as the Rebuilding Life universe. If there are continuity errors it is because I am dumb :P .
Harry wound his way between the tables to where Percy was waving around a picture of the newest Weasley. His brothers gave perfunctory glances to the bald newborn before they poured another Firewhisky and grabbed a handful of peanuts from the bowl in front of them. It wasn’t really a chore to hang out at the pub; nevertheless Harry heaved a big sigh as he shrugged his cloak off and slipped into the seat next to George.
“Long day at the office, Harry?” George asked, pushing a glass and the bottle of Firewhisky over to him. Harry shrugged and poured himself a drink, wincing only slightly as the liquid burned down the back of his throat.
“Harry!” Percy called excitedly. “Have you seen the latest picture of our little treasure?” He thrust the picture of the squalling, pink bundle under Harry’s nose. Harry smiled softly.
“She’s great, Perce,” he said sincerely.
“Audrey said she might bring her out on Sunday,” Percy said fondly, staring at the picture for a moment before slipping it into the pocket of his waistcoat. “The book apparently says that after those first six weeks the bonding process should be finished, and they’ve built up a bit of immunity so she’s willing to bring her out and about.”
“Mum’ll be glad to finally do more than peer at her namesake from behind glass,” George muttered out the side of his mouth as Percy excused himself and headed for the restrooms. Harry snorted.
“If Hermione ever buys a book like that I’m going to burn it,” Ron mumbled as he finished his glass of mead. “There isn’t anything wrong with Freddie. He never had to be wrapped in some bubble for six weeks. Vic and Dommie weren’t ever kept home either.”
“You put out, Uncle Ronnie?” Charlie said as he smirked at his younger brother across the table. “Someone wants to hold the ickle baby.”
“Why not?” Ron sounded offended. “That’s my niece and I’m not allowed near her!”
“Have a kid of your own then,” George said, throwing a peanut at him. Ron shuddered visibly.
“We like to give ‘em back, mate.”
“We’re going to have one more,” Bill said. “Not yet … but, later.”
“We’ll have ‘em when Hermione says so, that’s when,” Ron added. Charlie snickered. Ron gave his brothers a haughty look, “and that’s how I like it.” No one argued his statement.
Harry remained quiet, sipping his Firewhisky as he stared into space. It had been a difficult day at work with no less than six wizards suspected of Dark Magic. All six of them had to be interviewed and processed and in the middle of that Andromeda had Flooed him. Teddy had turned his hair pink at school again and really upset his teacher. He’d only been at school for two weeks and had already performed no less than three bouts of accidental magic.
Apparently today’s incident had been sparked by the fact that Teddy had no father. Next week for ‘show and tell’ they had to talk about their dad and Teddy had thrown a fit and run away from school. Once at home the little boy had climbed the highest tree in his back garden and refused to come down. Andromeda had contacted Harry, at her wits end. It had taken six stories about Remus teaching Harry at Hogwarts and five photographs of Remus and Tonks to coax Teddy out of the tree and then two cuddles, a kiss and four stories to convince him to bathe, eat tea and go to bed. Tomorrow Harry was going over to help Teddy with his ‘show and tell’ project and he still had no idea how to turn a moving wizarding photo still, so it could be taken into a Muggle Primary School.
“Oi, wake up, Potter!” George’s jovial tone cut into his thoughts and Harry looked up. His brother-in-law was grinning at him. Once he had Harry’s attention, George continued. “I was just telling everyone that me and Angie finally did it.”
“Planted a seed!” George cried, throwing his arms wide. “Created life! Multiplied!”
“Spawned,” muttered Ron sarcastically.
“Indeed,” George agreed with a smirk, “spawning in March at a location near you!”
“I hope it’s nowhere near me,” Ron grumbled. Harry just scratched his chin.
“Angelina’s expecting,” Bill said. Harry figured he must have looked as confused as he felt and in need of clarification.
“Merlin, Harry,” said George, “don’t show too much enthusiasm.”
“Sorry, George,” Harry said. “I was just thinking about Teddy. He’s … having a problem at school. He has to talk about his dad for ‘show and tell’.”
“So, what’s the problem?” George asked, throwing back another shot of Firewhisky.
“He doesn’t have one,” Harry said, glaring at George.
“Are you chopped liver?” George asked in a casual tone, eyeing Harry carefully.
“I’m not his dad,” Harry muttered. He sighed before taking another swig of Firewhisky “I’m not anyone’s dad.”
“D’you want to be?” Ron asked, throwing a peanut into the air and catching it in his mouth. “Like I said mate, they’re better when you can give ‘em back.”
Harry just shrugged and stood up, muttered something about getting home and grabbed his cloak from the back of his chair.
“See you Sunday?” Bill asked quietly. Harry just nodded and raised a hand in farewell to Percy as he came back from the restrooms. Harry made his way outside and Apparated home.
It was quiet in the little house Harry shared with his wife of almost two years. Ginny was still at practice and Harry toed his shoes off and left them in a heap in the kitchen doorway. He padded into the tiny kitchen, shrugging his cloak off onto a chair and began rummaging around for something to eat. It didn’t take long to fix himself a sandwich of leftover roast beef. Harry flopped down on the couch and began fiddling with the knobs on the wireless. He was still there, staring morosely at the picture of Remus and baby Teddy which they kept on a side table when Ginny arrived home.
“Hi Harry! Sorry I’m late!” Ginny sang as she shut the door behind her with a snap. “We’ve really got a chance at beating those jokers next week, it means extra practice but I know we can do it. I’m sore though, never flown so many formations in one day and we were at it so long it got dark and I flew into Summers and I might have a bit of a bruise but what’s a few battle scars, hey? I’m going to get a drink.” She shuffled into the kitchen, cursing as she tripped over Harry’s shoes in the doorway and Harry heard her opening and closing cupboards, the sound of something pouring into a glass and the cursing as she tripped over the shoes again on her way back to the sitting room.
“Blasted shoes, why can’t you put them away? It’s not like we don’t have a perfectly good shoe rack in …” Ginny trailed off and walked a little closer to Harry who hadn’t moved a muscle while she’d been talking. “Harry? Are you all right?”
Harry sighed and turned to look at her. She was still in her practice clothes and her hair was coming out of the neat plait she’d tied it into. There was a scratch running down the left side of her face and a bruise blossoming on the right side of her neck. She was holding a tall glass of pumpkin juice and peering at him with concern.
“Long day,” Harry said shrugging, “sorry. Here, let me run you a hot bath, you look beat.” He eased himself off the couch, giving one last glance at the photograph of Remus holding his infant son and padded down the hallway to the bathroom.
“Did something happen with Teddy?” Ginny asked as she followed him. Harry stiffened.
“What makes you ask that?” He kept his voice casual, turning the taps and scanning the bottles of bubble bath on the shelf.
“Oh … nothing much,” Ginny replied, shedding her clothing as hot water filled the bath and the steam began curling around them. “It’s just … you were looking at the picture.”
Harry stopped with his hand on her favourite bottle of honeysuckle bubble bath. Ginny lobbed her socks into the laundry basket in the corner.
“You usually sit staring at it when you’ve had a rough day with Teddy.”
“Huh,” Harry said as he poured some of the bubble bath into the tub.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” Ginny said softly as she finished stowing her filthy practice gear in the laundry basket. She slid her arms around his waist as Harry capped the bottle and placed it back on the shelf. “But if you want to …”
“I … I had drinks with your brothers tonight,” Harry said, looking down at Ginny and sliding his arms around her, trailing his hands up and down the silky skin of her back.
“You’re not still there?” Ginny’s forehead creased. “Did George try and feed you something disgusting?”
“No.” Harry smiled slightly.
“I swear, if Bill put you in a headlock again-”
“Ginny,” Harry laughed, “relax, they didn’t do anything.”
“Good,” Ginny said firmly. “They should know better, but, I’m glad it made you smile.”
“Audrey’s bringing the baby out this Sunday,” Harry said as he released Ginny and pushed her gently towards the bathtub. Ginny climbed in and sank down into the bubbles with a sigh.
“You mean we might actually get to touch her?”
“Possibly,” Harry said with a smile, thinking how much his wife resembled her brothers.
“If I ever buy some useless baby care book and get that paranoid,” Ginny said, closing her eyes, “slap me or something.” She took a breath and submerged herself under the water. Harry stared at the bubbles unseeing. His mind wandered to the reason why Ginny would need to buy a baby care book. A tiny black-haired infant waved its fists and gurgled in his imagination. Harry wasn’t sure if the thrill that went through him was of elation or terror. He was still staring at nothing when Ginny emerged from the water with a splutter a few seconds later.
“Hey,” Ginny called softly, “want to join me?” The water ran in rivulets down her face and clumps of bubbles clung absurdly to her hair. Harry smiled and began pulling off his shirt.
Ginny watched Harry carefully as she slowly morphed back from being a canary. Her husband seemed rather melancholy and she didn’t know why. He had spent most of Saturday at work and then moped around the house all Sunday morning before going for a fly. Ginny had dragged him to The Burrow early and he’d disappeared into her dad’s shed within minutes, not emerging until almost tea time. He’d smiled and congratulated Angelina when she and George had confirmed their news but he seemed sort of wistful. George had been completely jubilant and alternated between ribbing Ron and Harry for being childless and slipping Canary Creams into people’s food.
Harry was currently sitting on the sofa, his legs propped up on the coffee table, talking idly to Bill. One arm was gesturing in the air as he talked and the other was cradling Baby Molly tenderly. Audrey was hovering on the couch next to Harry. Little Molly was apparently a very placid baby; it was a pity about her highly strung mother, Ginny thought wryly. The problem was that Baby Molly had fussed and cried all day, refusing to settle for either of her parents or any other well meaning Weasley but as soon as Harry had been enticed to hold her she’d settled down and curled up on Harry’s chest, fast asleep. Ginny could see Audrey was torn between her strict book schedule and the contented look on her baby’s face.
“When are you going to have one, Ginny?” asked a voice from beside her. Angelina was looking at Ginny intently, her hands resting on the now obvious swell of her stomach. They hadn’t said so, but Ginny suspected that her brother and his wife had been trying to get pregnant for some time. They’d certainly kept the news quiet for several months already. Ginny shrugged inelegantly and turned her gaze back to Harry.
Baby Molly was waking up and began to stretch, her head wobbled alarmingly. Audrey sprang to catch her but Harry brought his free hand up to cradle her head and patted her with the other as he kept talking to Bill.
“He’s very good with babies,” Angelina said meaningfully.
“He’s had a lot of practice,” Ginny said, thinking of Teddy and the surety with which he’d held Freddie and both of Bill’s daughters as soon as they’d been born.
“You should have one,” Angelina said. “He needs one.”
“He needs one?” Ginny echoed, puzzled. Angelina just nodded and squeezed her arm gently.
“Just think about it.” Then she was gone and Ginny was left watching her husband from across the room as he shifted to cradle the baby in front of him and talked to her softly. Bill was still sitting in the chair adjacent to Harry, watching him silently. Ginny shifted her attention to Bill who raised an eyebrow at her and tilted his head towards Harry and the baby. Ginny looked away uncomfortably — straight at her mother who was smiling wistfully at Harry.
Ginny felt as though she’d been hit in the stomach with a Quaffle as all the air whooshed out of her lungs. One thing was slowly becoming clear. Her entire family thought Harry wanted a baby.
But he’d never discussed it with her.
Later that evening as they were getting ready for bed, Ginny paused as she pulled one of Harry’s old sweatshirts out of her pyjama drawer. There in the bottom of the drawer was the little bag her mother had given her just a few months ago. Molly Weasley had been cleaning out the attic and found the tiny shoes she’d bought for her new daughter only weeks after she’d been born.
“They were a bit frivolous,” Molly said as she handed the tiny pink slippers to Ginny. “But I just had to have them. You were so tiny they didn’t even fit for about three months and then I think you’d grown out of them in another two. They’re just collecting dust in the attic and … well I couldn’t bear to give them to Fleur for the girls …”
“Thanks, Mum,” Ginny said, holding the tiny shoes carefully. She’d put them in a little bag and shoved them under her nightwear. She hadn’t given them a moment’s thought since.
Ginny reached out and put her hand on the bag briefly before she shook her head and closed the drawer shut with a snap. She pulled the faded Gryffindor sweatshirt over her head and went to brush her teeth, watching as Harry leaned over and spit into the sink, the muscles in his back rippling as he moved. He turned around and smiled at her and Ginny’s eyes went straight to the oval shaped scar over his heart. It was faded now, she rarely noticed it but tonight she felt a sudden urge to press a kiss there, over his heart, the same place Baby Molly had curled up and drifted off earlier.
Without thinking it through any further, Ginny slid her arms around Harry’s waist and pressed her lips to the scar over his heart. His arms went around her and Ginny laid her head on his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart.
“What’s up?” Harry asked her softly. Ginny didn’t move. “Gin?”
“Doyouwantababy?” It came out in a rush and Ginny could feel her heart hammering rapidly.
“Do I want a what?” Ginny could feel Harry’s heart suddenly speed up. He knew what she’d asked; the question was whether he was excited by the idea or terrified. Ginny took a deep breath and looked up at Harry. His eyes were completely guarded and Ginny couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
“A baby,” Ginny said softly. Harry’s expression didn’t change although he seemed to grow very still for a moment before he shrugged one shoulder.
“Well, we talked about it,” he said. His casual tone sounded forced. “One day, yeah?” He smiled and tugged her closer, running one hand up under the hem of the shirt she was wearing and the other into her hair. He smiled at her wickedly and dropped his gaze to her neck before he leaned down and began kissing a trail up to her ear.
Ginny was oddly disappointed. The idea of having a baby terrified her but when Harry dismissed it like that she suddenly felt a little ache start in her chest. His kisses felt wonderful and she soon lost herself in them, pushing away the question and the little ache in her chest until they were safely hidden.
Harry had seen the looks her family was giving her. They’d been doing it for months now. It wasn’t fair of them, Harry decided as he sat on the floor in the sitting room at The Burrow, watching Bill and his eighteen month old daughter, Dominique unwrap a gift as they sat under the Christmas tree. Victoire was sitting with Freddie in a pile of discarded paper and the two of them were giggling and playing in it, the presents themselves forgotten. Ginny was currently sandwiched between Fleur and Angelina. By the way Fleur leaned over and patted Angelina on her swollen tummy, Harry could tell what they were talking about.
The women in this family persisted in dragging Ginny over to look at teeny tiny baby clothes and to feel Angelina’s abdomen whenever the baby kicked. Molly had even sat her down one Sunday afternoon and taught her how to make booties. Ginny had taken it all with surprisingly remarkable grace — for Ginny. She only openly baulked at Audrey who tried to share a rather interesting story about changing nappies. For the most part Ginny smiled and nodded and went along with it.
Did she know they were trying to push her into having a baby?
Harry had remained carefully neutral for the past three or four months of the campaign. When she’d asked him if she wanted one that Sunday after tea at The Burrow Harry had distracted her with sex, knowing her question was related to the looks her family had been giving her all day. The last thing Harry wanted was for Ginny to decide she wanted this simply because everyone else thought she should have one. He waited patiently for her to bring it up again, but she never did.
“Da!” Dominique squealed loudly, brandishing a toy saucepan and little spatula. She waved it wildly and bopped Bill on the head and he grimaced. Dominique’s face fell. “Owie, da?” Bill smiled at his daughter.
“Nothing a kiss won’t make all better,” he winked at her. Dominique looked at him solemnly before she leaned in and planted a sloppy kiss on his upper arm.
“Bedder!” she squealed before she leapt off his lap and ran giggling into the pile of paper Freddie was throwing with abandon. Harry laughed and Victoire looked up at him.
“Unca Harwee?” she asked, her little head tilted to one side and her blonde curls bouncing around her shoulders. “You has the baby yet?” Harry practically felt the occupants of the room freeze.
“No,” he shook his head. “Auntie Angie has the baby.”
“In her tummy,” Victoire said solemnly. Harry nodded. Victoire crawled over before sitting up in front of him. She regarded him curiously. “Where’s yours?”
“Erm … I haven’t got one,” Harry replied, knowing everyone in the room was looking at him. He forced himself to sound casual and keep his shoulders relaxed.
“Oh,” Victoire regarded him for a moment before she spoke again. “James says hurry up, because he doesn’t want to miss Christmas again.” The silence became deafening.
“Who’s James?” Harry asked in as calm a voice as he could manage. He rather thought he actually sounded like Flitwick.
“The baby,” Victoire said matter-of-factly and stuck her thumb in her mouth. “His grandpa brought him.”
“Oh,” was all Harry could manage. He stared at his niece and she just looked back at him, her big blue eyes wide.
“They were gone in the morning,” Victoire said sadly.
“Did you have a dream, princess?” Bill asked quietly. Victoire nodded.
“They had to go away again cos it wasn’t ready yet,” she said. She looked at Harry intently and kneeled up so her little face was almost level with his own. “James said hurry up.” She nodded once and then turned back to Freddie and threw a ball of paper at his head.
The room soon came back to life amidst the squeals from the children and the rumble of conversation from the adults but Harry sat stock still on the carpet. Eventually he looked up at Ginny. She was watching him, a guarded expression on her face that he couldn’t decipher. They just looked at each other for a moment before Harry stood up.
“Excuse me,” he muttered to no one in particular and edged out of the door. Harry escaped to the kitchen and summoned a glass from the cupboard. Filling it with water he drank deeply before closing his eyes and leaning against the sink. He sighed heavily.
“That was a big sigh.” A quiet voice came from the doorway. Harry snapped his eyes open to see Ginny hovering there uncertainly. Harry only shrugged. His eyes strayed involuntarily to her flat stomach and he found himself wondering exactly when it was that he’d decided he wanted a baby. There was an ache in his chest right now that he realised had been there for a long time but he couldn’t quite remember when it started.
“Kids say the darndest things, huh?” Harry said to break the silence.
“Do you want to have a baby, Harry?” Ginny asked calmly.
Ginny shook her head in amazement as her mother practically shrieked the news through the Floo. Another girl. It was quite astounding that her brothers kept having daughters. Molly Weasley was over the moon and Freddie was disgruntled. Ginny assured her mother that she and Harry would be in to see Angelina later that day and bid her farewell. Harry stumbled into the kitchen just as Ginny retrieved the eggs and began hunting for the bacon.
“Was that your mother?” Harry asked, slipping his arms around Ginny’s waist, trying not to yawn.
“Yes, it was,” Ginny turned in Harry’s arms. She looked up at him and put her arms around his neck, the bacon and eggs abandoned on the kitchen table. “Angelina had the baby last night. It’s a girl.”
“That’s wonderful,” Harry murmured, bending to kiss Ginny behind the ear, in his favourite spot. You didn’t say we’d go in straight away did you? Because this is my first day off in two weeks and I rather think we can spend it doing … interesting things.”
“I think I can be persuaded, Mr Potter,” Ginny replied. She pressed a row of soft kisses to his jaw and trailed her fingers suggestively over his bare back and Harry shivered. Ginny grinned at the effect she had on her husband when suddenly he burst out laughing.
“I can’t believe George has a kid who was born on the twenty-ninth of February!”
When they went to see the baby Ginny just stared in awe at the tiny girl in George’s arms. She’d seen tiny babies before but had never wanted one of her own quite so badly before. As George transferred his daughter into Harry’s waiting arms Ginny suddenly felt a pang of longing. She wanted to see Harry cradling his own baby in his arms and pressing that soft, loving kiss to her baby’s head. It had only been two months, Ginny reminded herself. Still, she wrapped her arms tightly around herself, holding the longing at bay so that it didn’t hurt quite so much.
“Are you sure?” His voice trembled. Quietly, hopefully.
She nodded and he smiled.
“Really?” And then they were crying and laughing and hugging and kissing.
Harry was nervous about telling their family they were going to be parents. Although they’d been hinting for several long, tedious months, Harry knew there was a difference between intellectually thinking that your childless sister should have a baby and the actual realisation that she’d been completely and thoroughly knocked up. Harry had been all in favour of not telling anyone and letting them figure it out as time went on but his plan was vetoed when Ginny developed a sudden and alarming case of all-day sickness.
“I’m never going to make it through tea at The Burrow,” Ginny moaned into the toilet bowl late on Sunday morning.
“Let’s not go,” said Harry.
“She’s suspicious,” Ginny replied, glancing up at him. “We’ve never missed three weeks in a row before.” The first week they’d laid around in bed staring at Ginny’s stomach and congratulating themselves on a job well done. The second week Ginny had fallen asleep mid afternoon and they’d not woken up until after dark to find a Howler waiting for them. The third week Ginny had felt queasy and they’d begged off, saying Harry was working.
“We have to go, don’t we?” Harry asked glumly.
“I don’t know why you’re so worried,” Ginny said as she rinsed her mouth out at the sink. “They all wanted this.”
“Yes, abstractly they wanted this,” Harry moaned. “Confronted with reality I think … I’m going to suffer.” Ginny laughed.
They Apparated to The Burrow and Harry adjusted his collar nervously as they approached the back door. A hubbub of voices came from inside and Harry dragged his feet as Ginny pushed the door open.
“Good afternoon, family!” Ginny sang. She even got the entire sentence out before she gagged and bolted out of the kitchen, her hand over her mouth.
“Wow,” George commented, “it’s been so long since the sight of us made her want to vomit.”
“Remember the last time Fleur did that?” Ron laughed.
“Didn’t quite make it to the loo,” chuckled George. Fleur threw him a scathing look.
“I ‘ad an excuse!” she shrieked shrilly. “Eet is not easy to carry ze babe! I would like just once to see you-” She was interrupted by Molly’s gasp and Harry avoided her as he attempted to make his way across the kitchen and to Ginny.
“Harry!” George boomed when he was halfway across the room. Harry froze like a startled rabbit. “Something to … tell us?”
“I … well … um …” Harry scratched the back of his neck nervously, his gaze swivelling from George who was wearing a feral grin to Ron who was looking disturbed and on to Molly who was — well she was glowing.
“You should expect another guest for Christmas,” Ginny said quietly from the doorway. She looked at her mother. “A small guest, but he … or she, will … need their own jumper.”
And then it was pandemonium. Molly was hugging her daughter and George was slapping ten Galleons into Bill’s outstretched hand and Arthur quietly shook Harry’s hand. Harry felt a tug at his trousers.
“Is James coming soon?” Victoire asked. Harry squatted down and looked the little girl in the eyes.
“Well, we don’t know who’s coming,” Harry said, “but Auntie Ginny is having a baby.” He reached out and tugged one of her bouncing blonde curls gently.
“James is her baby,” said Victoire confidently and she skipped away. Harry found himself swept up in another round of congratulations and he wondered why he’d ever dreaded this moment.
“I have no idea what is going on,” Harry admitted as he shifted nervously outside Ginny’s room, evading the mistletoe that was hanging there. “They keep shoving me out here and I don’t know why.”
“Maybe you’re getting in the way?” Ron said, shrugging.
“Maybe,” Harry said doubtfully, staring at the door to the little room.
“Look I’m no good at this,” Ron said. “Maybe I should go and get George. He’d know what was going on-”
“No!” Harry clutched at Ron’s arm. “Stay, please? I don’t … I can’t …”
“Okay,” Ron said quietly. He motioned towards the door, it was open again and the Healer was beckoning Harry inside. “Go, Ginny needs you, go on.” He pushed Harry gently through the door.
“Is everything all right?” Harry asked the midwife nervously. She smiled at him and patted him on the arm.
“Of course,” she said, scribbling on her clipboard and sweeping out of the room.
“I think it’s close,” Ginny said quietly from the bed. “I can’t really tell … I don’t know what they’re saying half the time.” She looked so small, curled up on her side, one hand cradling her stomach, her hair stuck to her forehead in sweaty tendrils.
Harry went to her immediately and kissed her cheek, stroking her hair tenderly as she winced in pain.
“Do you want to move around?” Harry asked feeling utterly helpless. Ginny shook her head.
“I’m so tired,” she whispered. “I don’t think I can move from here.”
Harry sat by her, rubbing her back, wiping her forehead, holding her hand. Midwives and Healers came in and out but they stopped shooing him away. Maybe they could see the death grip in which she held his hand and they knew they’d have to break his hand to pry him loose — if it wasn’t already broken. He didn’t know — he couldn’t feel it anymore.
Harry whispered words of encouragement until she told him to shut up, and pressed her hand to his lips when she cried out but mostly he just felt numb and helpless and more than a little out of place. The midwives seemed to know what they were doing, more than once they moved Harry from this side of the bed to that side of the bed. He helped Ginny into the shower when they told him to and he helped her back to the bed again when they told him to do that. Suddenly there was a frenzied movement and the room seemed to swarm with people. Ginny began to moan loudly and before he knew it Harry was sitting behind his wife, holding her to his chest as the midwives encouraged her to push.
When the pink, squalling bundle was placed on her tummy Harry thought he would stop breathing. Ginny cried as she clutched at the slippery little body and someone thrust Harry’s wand into his hand. He didn’t know who, he was too busy staring at his newborn child.
“You can cut the cord, Mr Potter,” the Healer said, laying a hand on his arm. “Just a simple severing charm should do it. Aim close.”
With a shaky hand, Harry did as he was told and then the baby was whisked away. Harry felt lost. The Healers were congratulating Ginny and cleaning her up and the baby was screaming as they wrapped the tiny body in soft blankets. In the middle of it all Harry stood, 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 midwives said kindly. “Why don’t you go and put them out of their misery and when you come back your son will be ready for you to hold.”
“James,” Harry whispered and he felt a smile tug at his lips. He could see the tufts of dark hair on his son’s head as the Healer checked him over and suddenly Harry wanted to tell the world. He dashed to the doors and shouldered them open, hurrying down the hallway to the little waiting room at the end.
Bill was pacing, Dominique lying asleep on his shoulder and George was pulling Freddie down from the back of one of the couches. Ron was sprawled on one of the hard chairs, snoring and Hermione was anxiously watching the hallway. She sprang out of her seat.
“Harry!” she called and the room turned as one. Ron woke up and stared at him expectantly. Harry felt the grin spreading across his face before he could stop it, but he didn’t want to — this was the best feeling in the world.
“James is here,” he said simply and then Ron picked him up and swung him around whooping loudly. Harry laughed.
He was amazing, Ginny decided. Her baby was simply the most amazing creature in the entire world. She knew she should be tired but she wasn’t, she could just stare at him forever. Her mother murmured words of love and support and her father beamed proudly, holding his two grandsons in his arms as he introduced Freddie to his new cousin. It was then she noticed Harry. He was watching Arthur wistfully, a far off look on his face that Ginny couldn’t place.
“Here you are, Dad,” Arthur said, bringing James to Harry and placing him gently in Harry’s waiting arms. “Congratulations, son.” And that was when Harry started to cry.
Alarmed, Molly started fussing but Arthur waved her away. Crouching down in front of Harry, he conjured a handkerchief and offered it to Harry.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said, sniffing, “I just … I wish …”
“I know,” Arthur said quietly. “I wish he could be here too.”
“But we’re all here,” Molly protested. Ginny grimaced. It was true; the room was so full of her family it was practically bursting. Ginny stomach dropped as she realised what her father meant.
“I’m sorry he’s not here,” Arthur said quietly. “And I know I’m a poor substitute, but your father would have been so proud today. I know, because I am. You’re going to be such a wonderful father, Harry.”
“I don’t know how to be a dad,” said Harry. He raised a tear-streaked face to Arthur. Ginny felt her heart break.
“Yes you do,” Arthur said quietly. “It’s all in here.” And he touched Harry’s chest, over his heart, and dried the rest of Harry’s tears.
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