Chapter 32: The Face That We Hide In…
Harry didn't react at all.
As Healer Branchwater finished her report, telling him exactly what he didn't want to hear, the man once known as the Savior Of The Wizarding World simply nodded.
"Thank you." His face never changed expression. "You can go." It was only after the young Healer left his field of vision that he even so much as moved other than to speak.
Harry Potter looked into the face of his life-long love and smiled. Even now, so long after she had joined him in marriage, after the children and their lives together, he thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Gently, he brushed aside a lock of hair, which once had been a fiery red and now was a light silvery gray, and tucked it behind her ear. His own hair, what little there was of it left, had gone steel gray decades back. Ginny always used to say it made him look distinguished.
He sat back in his chair, as much as he could, anyway, and sighed deeply. To him, Ginny looked like an angel. She always had. She always would. Even now when she…
He couldn't make himself complete the thought. He just couldn't. It hurt too much. Harry Potter, who had faced down the most infamous and most evil wizard in history, who had performed heroics that were still taught about in schools some sixty years after they occurred, lost his nerve when it came to his wife, and how soon he would be losing her.
Harry held his head in his hands and wept.
Behind him, Healer Branchwater sighed. "Mister Potter, I want you to know… everyone here at Mungo's… we're all truly sorry for your loss." She wasn't even sure Harry heard her, but it had to be said. This was, after all, Harry Potter. "I'll leave you alone now, sir."
James Potter fidgeted. He couldn't help it. He knew that it was undignified for a person of his age, but he just couldn't help it. Like his father before him, James had always been a man who acted. It was in his nature to do something about the situation. But right now, there was nothing to do. So he paced.
"James, you'll wear out the tile." Percy Weasley, James' uncle, was rocking gently back and forth. An infant, Percy's first great-grandson Fabian, was sleeping on the older man's shoulder.
Next to Percy on the same couch, the two dowagers of the Weasley family, Fleur and Angelina, nodded at him. "Please, James. Do sit." Fleur smiled up at him. James remembered a time when she had a thick French accent, but a lifetime lived in England had worn it away.
"Come on, James." Lily Potter threw an arm around her older brother's waist. She guided him to an empty spot on one of the couches, next to where their brother Albus had fallen asleep. "Let's just…"
All conversation stopped as the Healer stepped out of the room. Almost simultaneously, all the adults in the room stood and approached her. Someone had even nudged Albus awake. When everyone started asking questions at once, the Healer held up a hand. "If you'll all please give me a moment, I'll tell you all at once."
The small crowd fell silent. The Healer took a deep breath. "I'm very sorry, but at this point it's just a matter of time… there's nothing more we can do for Mrs. Potter except make her comfortable and wait. She's unconscious now, and will not be waking up again. This will be the best time to say goodbye to her. Again, I am very, very sorry to have to break this terrible news to you."
It was Percy who spoke first. "Thank you, Healer. Thank you for telling us."
Healer Branchwater nodded. "If you need anything…" When no one responded, the Healer made her exit from the ward.
No one said anything for a long time.
Finally, James spoke. "I'm going to go in and check on Dad… and say goodbye to Mum. I'm pretty sure he can't handle all of us coming in at once, so let me talk to him and find out figure out what we should do. All right?"
"Yes, James… that sounds fine." Albus gave James a thin smile through the tears in his eyes. "I'll go round up Rosie and the younger kids from the café downstairs while you're in there."
Despite hearing the door open and close, Harry didn't look away from Ginny's face. He didn't want to miss a second of his wife's life, even now at the end. It didn't matter right now who had come in, or what they wanted. It just didn't…
Harry suppressed a sob. He didn't want to speak to James… but then it suddenly occurred to him that in the depths of his own sorrow his family, especially his children, was also suffering. He felt selfish.
Harry swallowed and turned to look at his oldest son. James had turned into a fine man. In this man of nearly sixty years, there was very little sign of the laughing prankster he had been as a boy, much to
Harry's regret. A wife and children, and then grandchildren, had taught James the value of taking things seriously to the deprivation of his ability to not do so.
Harry sighed. "James… how is everyone holding up? Is everyone here?"
James nodded. "Everybody who could come is here, except for Ron, of course. He said he was too busy, but you know that means he's holed up somewhere with his latest fling."
Harry watched his son's face grow red with anger, but this wasn't the time for it. "Please don't. Not now." He put a hand on his son's shoulder and squeezed. "Ron will come around, eventually. Trust me… from one father to another; troublemaking sons eventually stop being troublemakers. I learned that with you, you'll learn that with Ronald, yeah?"
James nodded, breathing deeply. "Yeah. Sorry, Dad. I didn't mean to…" He shook his head. "The Healer said we… the family… should take the time to say goodbye. I didn't want us all rushing in all at once, so I'm going to be sending in people in twos and threes. So… "James shrugged. He looked into his father's face and for the first time saw something other than the passive strength that had always marked it. "Dad, why don't you come get something to eat with me. Or at least have a cup of tea."
Harry shook his head and smiled at James. "No… I'm not leaving. Not until it's over. And yeah, tell everyone they can come in and say goodbye."
"All right. You're sure about the tea?" James felt something cold move through him, but brushed it off. It was nothing… just the sorrow of losing his mother.
Harry smiled again. It was a loving, if not cheerful smile. "Yeah, I'm sure. Thanks anyway. I'll be right here." Just before his son opened the door, Harry called. "James, I'm proud of you, you know."
James stopped at the door and looked back at his father. "I know, Dad." He looked like he wanted to say something more, but simply stepped out.
Harry turned and sat down again. He held Ginny's hand in his own. "He's a good boy, Ginny. A fine father, and turning into a wonderful grand-father. We did right. We did right with all of them…" He wiped the tears from his eyes and laid his head in her lap. He held her as closely as he could from the chair, feeling the rise and fall of her chest. And shortly, it fell and did not rise again.
The weeping came again, but this time it started deeper than it ever had before. The sorrow was wrung from him until he was empty. It tore at his soul, knowing that she'd never smile at him again, never say his name again, and never laugh with him.
He closed his eyes, and the words of Albus Dumbledore, dead for so many years, came to him again. "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." He hugged his wife as tightly as he could, and smiled…
James came in as quietly as he could. He smiled sadly, watching his father slumped over his mother's bed, holding his mother as tightly as he could manage. James put a gently hand on his father's shoulder.
"Dad." James said again, slightly louder.
"Daddy?" James voice became pleading and child-like.
Tears were beginning to form…His dad still wasn't responding.
"So are you ready to go? I didn't want to leave without you, so I waited."
Harry blinked at the light as he opened his eyes. The sun was very bright as it shown down through the glass ceiling of King's Cross Station. Ginny was leaning against the railing, looking as beautiful as ever in her Hogwarts robes. Her hair glistened fire-red in the sun, and he knew that he loved her and he always would love her.
Her smile was infectious. "You're a sight better than being met by Dumbledore. I'll tell you that, Ginny." He took her hand and together they walked down the steps and toward the train.
"I'm going to tell him you said that." Ginny leaned in close and kissed him. She ruffled his thick, coal-black hair and smiled at him again. "It's such a beautiful day…"
Harry could only agree. All was well.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove;
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering barque
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks.
But bears it out, even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
-- William Shakespeare
Final A/N: And that's that. For those of you familiar with my story "All Was Well", I'm sure you recognize this last chapter. And yes, it was always intended to be the last chapter of this story.
Thanks for riding along with me in this story. There will be more coming. Right now, though, I'm going to concentrate on Furious Angels.
Thanks always goes to Aggiebelle, SwissMiss, and AlianneOfTortall.