Harry was asleep, well, almost asleep, when there came an incessant knocking on his door. He ignored it at first, thinking maybe it was part of a dream, but it persisted. Putting on his glasses, he stumbled down the steps of his small flat.
He pulled open the door and a sopping wet woman collapsed into his arms. She was holding something large wrapped in a blanket. He grabbed her to keep her from falling, pulling her into the house and out of the rain. He pushed back her hood and stared into those eyes which were once so familiar but that he hadn't seen in nearly two years.
"Hermione," he whispered.
She had attended all the victory celebrations after the final battle and then disappeared. No one had seen her, no one had heard from her. The deaths of her parents had hit her hard. Ron's death had come soon after. Some people said she had snapped her wand and gone to live as a muggle. Others said she lived as a ghost, traveling from library to library. There had been a lot of speculation, but no facts. Now she was here, in his living room. She could barely stand, so he led her to the couch which she collapsed onto. The lump of blankets she was holding fell back a little, revealing a small child. He looked up at her with a raised eyebrow and she looked away. After a few minutes she looked at him again.
"Harry, I'm dying."
"I'll floo St. Mungo's, we'll get a healer and.."
"No," she interrupted him, "I've already tried. There's nothing more they can do. It's a curse from the war that has been dormant for years, something triggered it. It's irreversible. I don't have much time left."
His eye wandered to the sleeping child in her arms.
"So that was why you left?"
"And why I came back."
"I don't understand."
"I need you to take him, Harry."
He shook his head.
"What about the father?"
She looked down at the child and brushed some of his dark hair out of his face.
"Dead. He was dead before I even got a chance to tell him."
She suddenly looked up at Harry sharply.
"He's going to be an orphan."
Harry closed his eyes. Damn her. It wasn't fair. She knew his weaknesses. She knew just how to get to him.
"Hermione," he pleaded, "I'm a twenty-year-old male. I know absolutely nothing about raising a child."
"You'll figure it out."
"There has to be someone else."
"There's no one else. Don't you understand?" he could hear the panic in her voice, "Dumbledore will come for him, will put him where he thinks is best. Probably with some of my stupid muggle relatives who will think he's a freak. You of all people should know the consequences of Dumbledore's decisions." She placed the child down on the couch next to her.
"His name is Justin."
"Who's the father, Hermione? And don't tell me Ron with hair like that."
"It's better if you don't know."
"Were you…umm.." She had been a prisoner of the death eaters for a short time, after all.
She glared at him.
"No, I was not raped if that's what you're trying to ask. I assure you it was fully consensual. Ill-advised, perhaps, but none-the-less consensual."
She was suddenly seized by a coughing attack and Harry watched in horror and she choked up blood onto his floor.
"Sorry," she whispered, and attempted a spell to vanish it, but her magic was too weak.
The coughing continued. Her magic flashed and then flickered. Harry did what he could for her, but she was dead by morning.
Ginny returned at dawn from her night shift as an auror to find her boyfriend on the couch holding his friend's lifeless body. He didn't seem to notice her come in.
"Harry," she whispered, taking in the scene was horror.
"Harry," she repeated louder. He looked up this time, a haunted look in his eyes.
"She's dead. Ginny, she's dead."
She wasn't sure how long her boyfriend had been sitting there holding the dead woman in his arms. The baby on the couch next to him cried. Harry stared at it with a look of terror on his face.
"What do I do?" he whispered.
She carefully helped him up, gently placing the body on the couch and leading him into the kitchen. She made him some tea and flooed St. Mungo's to get someone to come take the body away. She made a quick trip to her mother's to grab some baby supplies.
After the baby had been put to sleep and the body had been removed from the house, she entered the kitchen to find Harry still seated at the table, staring absently at the wall.
"The baby?" she asked.
"I told her I'd raise him."
Ginny nodded and bit her lip to fight back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.
"Harry, I'll stay through the end of the week, help you get set up with the baby and everything. But then I'm leaving."
He slowly turned his head to look at her, an expression of incomprehension on his face.
"Ginny, you're leaving me?"
"Don't play dumb with me Harry. Hermione Granger disappears for two years and then shows up and leaves you her child before dying."
"And?" He asked, still not understanding what this had to do with anything.
"Her dark-haired child."
"Ginny, I'm not the father."
"Then who is?"
"I don't know, but we never slept together."
"Don't lie to me, Harry."
"Ginny, there are a lot of dark-haired men."
"Really? How many of them were close with Hermione about two years ago?"
He had nothing to say to that. The two of them had spent almost every waking moment together, it was even hard for him to believe that she would have found the time to... that she could have hidden it from him...
"Harry, I'm sorry, I really am sorry about leaving you like this, with a child to take care of all alone, but I really can't do this. You have no idea how much you hurt me. I can't stay here and help you care for a child that is the result of an affair you had, especially when you won't even be honest with me about it."
Ginny was gone by the end of the week. The day after she left, there was a hard, determined knock at the door. Harry answered it to find the elderly wizard who had once been his mentor standing on the other side.
"Harry, it's good to see you."
"It's good to see you too, sir," Harry replied politely even as his hand tightened around the doorknob. He did not invite the man inside.
"I'm very sorry to hear about Miss Granger, I know you two were very close," the old man replied, eyes flickering past Harry to the interior of the apartment.
"She was my best friend."
"Yes. I'm here because I believe she left something in your care."
"She did, although I fail to see how it's any business of yours." He knew why Dumbledore was here. He had been expecting him.
"My dear boy," Dumbledore said in his patronizing tone, "the child needs to be with family. Miss Granger had a cousin who…"
"No," Harry interrupted, "the child stays with me."
Dumbledore's expression hardened and he drew his wand. Harry mirrored his motion.
"Don't think that you can intimidate me, sir. I've taken down wizards far more powerful than you." Harry's heart raced as the words came out of his mouth. Dumbledore was not a wizard you threatened. But still, Harry stood there with his wand drawn, standing up to the man as he wished someone had stood up to him when his own mother had died.
"This isn't over, Mr. Potter. I will have that child," he said coldly, turning away. Harry watched as the man apparated. It wasn't safe here anymore, if he wanted to keep the child, they would have to disappear. He packed up everything he needed and disapparated with the child in search of a house in the muggle world where they would not be found.
Harry stared at the sleeping body in the crib. What did one orphan know about raising another orphan? He hadn't exactly had the best role models at parenting. He wasn't going to lock this child under the stairs, but he wasn't exactly sure what his other options were. What could a man who had never had a family know about trying to create one out of nothing?