The first time, Harry was only one and a half. This was the most famous time, the most lamented.
Halloween 1981, Harry's world had crumbled. Your parents died fighting. Your parents loved you. Harry had heard all the variations dozens of times, and each time he smiled, as if the words helped. They didn't. Sometimes, the words made him angry, or they had, when he'd been younger, because no matter how many times he heard about how proud his parents would be, it didn't really matter. Because h would know what his parents would be if they were still here. And he would rather have them there. But Harry knew at a young age that everyone died.
The second time, it was less tragic. Vernon Dursley's elderly parents died within a week of each other, a testament to their love, or so their son claimed (Harry thought, looking back, that it was their mutual hatred that had sustained them to eighty-three years old). Harry was six, and he'd gone to the funeral, but only because the Dursleys were hosting the reception afterwards and it would have been uncomfortable, Petunia had pointed out, were a guest to get home and Harry be there, with all of his issues. So he'd gotten a suit (that he'd had to use until he was ten, despite the very different sizes of six-year-old Harry and ten-year-old Harry) and gone and pretended to be sad. It only reinforced the idea that everyone died.
The third time, Harry was fifteen.
Harry had gotten a second chance at parents, or at least a parent; Sirius. For two years, he'd had someone to write home to who yelled at him when he did stupid things not because he was mad but because he was scared. And then Sirius had died the most fucked up of all deaths; he'd fallen through a veil. And then, poof, dead. What the hell. Harry had been angry then, right from the moment it happened. More than angry; he'd been irate. He'd wanted to kill Bellatrix for pushing Sirius through a damned veil and he'd wanted to kill Lupin for not letting Harry try. But he'd gone on and thrown a few tantrums and sworn retaliation and eventually recovered.
So, by the time Harry was 25, he had contemplated mortality a few times.
Rarely, though, had he done so in an actual hospital. Only once before, actually, when Mr. Weasley had gotten half-eaten by Nagini and he'd seen it. Which somehow made it worse, now. He didn't know what he was doing. And neither did anyone else, because everything everyone said somehow made Harry hate them, just a little bit.
"She'll be fine." Ron had said this thirty times. Easily. And Harry, who frequently wanted to punch his best friend, was once more faced with this urge. "So will the baby. Everyone will be fine." Harry knew that Ron just kept repeating this because Harry had yet to say anything, because Bill was leaning against the wall angrily and George was sprawled beside Charlie in the chairs across from Ron and Harry, and Hermione and Percy were both standing at the little nurse's kiosk, demanding second-to-second updates. And Molly and Arthur were huddled in the corner, fatigue and concern evident in every corner of their bodies. But Ron couldn't handle silence, so he filled it with those stupid, false promises. And they were false. Because everyone eventually died and Harry should have known that Ginny and the baby were too good.
"She'll be fine." George agreed quietly. "It was just a little spill—" He stopped, there, because that was just false. It hadn't been a little spill. It'd been a spill where Ginny clipped her forehead on the countertop when Harry had been at work and just laid there, unconscious, with blood on her face and on the floor and everywhere else, lots of blood. It'd been a spill where Harry had gotten home and thought, for a terrible two seconds, that the love of his life and the baby she was very pregnant with were dead.
But she'd had a pulse, so Harry had grabbed her and apparated and then made more frantic phone calls than he could remember. He was sure he hadn't called so many people, but somehow, a lot of people knew. A lot of people had already sent notes to him, in the hospital, asking for updates. Harry ignored them, though. Partially because had nothing to offer them, and partially because he really hated the idea that people were talking about Ginny and the baby in the same hushed voices that they talked about his parents in.
"We're not even sure when she fell." Charlie murmured glumly. "It could have been last night for all we know, she could have been there for hours—" A quick elbow to the ribs from George and a badly-aimed kick from Ron shut Charlie up. Harry didn't care, though. It was just true. Say the words or not, they were still true. Ginny literally could have been there for…how long had he gone in, for that emergency shift? Six hours? Seven? Oh, God.
"She'll be fine." Bill said firmly. He looked at Harry, and Harry just stared balefully up at him. She'll be fine. That was not agiven. It was especially not agiven because if she was fine and James was not, neither Ginny nor Harry would be fine. Ginny was eight and a half months along. They'd named this kid. They'd bought a crib, they'd written it into their will. This wasn't like losing a baby at the very beginning of the pregnancy, which was tragic, but in a different way. This was losing a child.
Bill seemed to see this on Harry's face, because he continued. "What are you naming my niece or nephew there, Harry? Because everyone's going to be fine and I want to know what color stuff to buy this kid before it shows up."
Harry exhaled, staring at Bill. Bill was the first person to volunteer this kind of confidence in the status of Ginny and the baby. Did Bill actually believe it would be okay? Or did Bill just want to get the suicidal look off Harry's face?
"What's my godkid's name, mate?" Ron asked, voice a little rough, elbowing his best friend, when Harry didn't respond. Harry looked at Ron, his gaze distant, then looked down at his hands. He knew he was scaring the Weasleys, but Harry's worst-case scenario was unfolding, right here. He couldn't bury his wife, his kid. He couldn't bury Ginny. But you mustn't think that way. He reminded himself. Ginny wouldn't need burying. Neither would James.
"James Sirius Potter." Harry murmured to his hands. "He's a little boy." He looked shakily up at Ron. "Jamie." Harry felt terror squeeze his lungs, suddenly; he'd named his kid after two dead men. Bad plan. Goading fate into action, he'd been.
"That's a good name." Charlie said quietly, interrupting Harry's panic. "Good, strong name. For a strong kid. He'll be fine."
"More Weasley boys." Fleur murmured, her eyes widening comically as Harry looked to her, and Harry felt a smile tug at his lips. "Mon dieu." Harry closed his eyes, ducking his head, and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. He wanted more Weasley boys. Because as much as his kids would be Potters in name, they would be Weasleys at heart. Because Harry was a Weasley at heart. And Ginny was just a Weasley.
"We bought a house, too." Harry heard himself saying, his voice shaking, now. "Ginny's begun decorating a nursery. It has extra bedrooms." Harry's voice broke. Silence fell as Harry struggled for control. Extra bedrooms for extra kids. For more Weasley boys. And a little girl.
"Where's the house?" Ron asked quietly, and Harry knew he was trying to distract Harry. That wasn't exactly possible, right now.
"Godric Hallow." Harry's voice was barely above a whisper, heavy with dread and guilt. "What kind of idiot am I?" He mumbled, looking up at Ron, his eyes red and burning with tears. Stupid, Harry, stupid. "I bought a house in the same town my parents were murdered in, I decide to name my kid after my dead dad and my dead godfather—and then I just keep going to work. I let Ginny stay home alone after—tempting fate like that—No big deal."
"Oy, stop that." Ron said crossly, frowning at his best friend worriedly. "Harry, you didn't do this. You can't—"
"Family of Ginny Potter?" A woman asked, and Harry shot up, spinning to face her, followed, a breath later, by Ginny's brothers. "Mr. Potter," She said, nodding to Harry. Harry just stared at her. He just needed to know. "Alright, Mr. Potter; to start with, your wife and your son are stable." Harry felt a rushing in his hears as Ron clapped him on the back. "We had to deliver the baby, but like I said, he's fine. Ginny Potter will have to stay overnight—her blood pressure took a bit of a dive but is back where it needs to be, and she had a bit of a concussion, which we cleared up, but we still want to monitor for bleeds." She beamed at Harry as Harry felt his knees weaken. Baby. Wife. He got to keep them. Ron was saying something but Harry couldn't hear. Too relieved. The rushing in his ears died down after a moment, reality swamping him. Son. He was a dad.
"Baby!" Hermione squeaked, pressing her hands to her mouth, and Harry glanced at her, wide-eyed.
"See, mate, they're fine." Ron's voice was so happy that Harry felt a grin tug at his lips as he glanced at his best friend. Ron looked thrilled. "Hah, you have a kid!"
"Quick question, what shall we be naming the new arrival? Your wife is still unconscious." The healer asked with a smile.
Harry stared at her breathlessly. This was the first time this had happened. This was the first time he'd hovered at this edge and come back with everything in tact. More than intact. He'd come back with a kid. His parents had died, his godfather had died. Lupin, Tonks, Fred. Everyone died. Always.
Except for these two.
Harry felt literally dizzy, nearly nauseous. Everyone always died, it was his rule. It made it easier because it was just true—everyone always died, Harry knew that. Even Dumbledore for God's sakes, though the man had been nearly one hundred fifty or something so he supposed it was valid and a long time coming even if Voldemort had sped it along. But still. Everyone died.
Not James and Ginny, though.
"James Sirius Potter." Harry said, pushing his hair out of his face and tyring to ignore the way his eyes burned with tears like a girl. He could practically hear Ginny chiding him for being sexist. "Can I please see them—I'll write it down, spell it properly, I promise, in just a minute—I just—" He ran out of breath, grinning, now. They were fine. He could barely think but for those three, magical words.
"Of course." The nurse said quietly, smiling. "Your wife is in recovery room 3, James is in there with her, in the bassinet." She cast a doubtful eye over the crowd. "She's still unconscious and I'd like for everyone to be quiet so she can rest for as long as possible—one or two at a time only, please." That was all Harry needed to hear; he felt his feet carry him forward, and then he was running, ducking through the double doors and turning down the hallway. If someone else wanted to come in with him, that was fine. They could figure that out themselves.
Room one, room two—he burst through the door of room three, and stood breathlessly, frozen in the doorway. Ginny's face was too pale, but her chest rose with each breath, and the cut on her forehead that had seemed impossibly large, impossibly unfixable, at the apartment was stitched up, now, and shrunk, and all the blood had been wiped away so the only red thing was her hair, just as it should be. And in a little plastic baby hospital bed beside the proper cot, James Sirius Potter was making curious gurgling noises, waving one tiny fist in the air and happily sucking at his other hand. Harry sagged relievedly in the doorway, closing his eyes to press his forehead to the doorjamb. James gurgled happily; Ginny exhaled softly.
They were fine.