Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JKR, of course. Just puttering about in her world.
A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on – Carl Sandburg
For months afterward, Harry's strongest memory of the hospital was the smell, a cloying array of cleaning fluid scents that brought back unpleasant memories of a childhood spent using the strongest disinfectants to satisfy his aunt's devotion to destroying even the tiniest germ that ventured into her territory. At least the hospital had good reason to stink of disinfectant.
The second strongest memory was the clock, which had an echoing ticking sound that overshadowed even the whispering of the exhausted elderly couple huddled in the uncomfortable surgery waiting room seats. It didn't matter where he sat in the room. The ticking followed him, each tick driving home his fear and grief.
Just when he thought he'd go completely mental from waiting, the door slowly opened and a petite nurse in green scrubs glanced around the room. Dismissing the couple, she focused on him. "Mr. Potter?"
"Come with me, please." She stepped aside to let him exit the waiting room ahead of her. "Dr. Foster is waiting to speak to you."
All hope he'd been holding onto fled as they rounded the corner and he saw the familiar kindly features of the obstetrician. Dr. Foster reached out and took one of Harry's hands, holding it between hers.
"I'm so sorry, Harry. We couldn't save her, and it was touch and go even getting the baby delivered. I know you're aware of the seriousness of the baby arriving at 25 weeks." She squeezed his hand gently. "But we've got one of the best neonatal units in the region. We'll be doing everything we can."
He simply felt numb. From experience, he knew the devastating grief was lurking, and it would overtake him probably when he least needed to crumble. It took three tries to find his voice. "Can I see the baby?"
She nodded, and keeping one of his hands in hers, she led him to the NICU, using the walk and elevator ride to quietly detail the devastating reality of having a micro-preemie baby. The part of him that had never quite stopped being a wizard began to wonder if the baby's odds were better if he returned to his own world.
Standing at the incubator, he touched the plastic that protected his newborn son from the world. So little of the baby could be seen, between the tubes and monitors and wrappings, and he ached to be able to hold the single remaining member of his family. He'd listened as carefully as he could as Dr. Foster turned him over to the pediatrician, who began a recitation of facts beyond the overview he'd gotten on the trip over.
It had strengthened the idea that he needed to make a trip to the wizarding hospital, to find out all the options for his son. He was glad he'd settled in an American city that had one. He slipped his hand into the glove of the incubator, moving his hand to let the baby's miniscule fingertips barely touch his smallest finger. Tiny eyelids fluttered.
His eyes met those of the nurse, who gave him an encouraging smile. "Talk to him, Mr. Potter. Even if you can't hold him yet, they often know their parents' voices anyway."
It took four tries for Harry to manage a simple "hello" to the baby. There was no reaction from the baby, but once started, he couldn't stop. The words poured forth, describing the family they'd lost today and how much he would do everything in his power to be the best father he knew how.
When the words finally ceased to come, he slowly slipped his hand out of the incubator and looked to the waiting nurse. "I need to go make start making arrangements," he said, hating that it sounded like he was doing something as simple as planning a move, not a funeral.
She nodded. "There's paperwork they need you to fill out, for the baby, and an emergency contact form. You've got a cell phone, right?"
"Yeah." He patted his pocket almost by instinct to make sure he had the gadget.
"Good. We'll call you the second you're needed." She came around the incubator to place a gentle hand on his arm. "Had you decided on a name?"
Harry took a shuddering breath, closing his eyes and seeing the baby names book and small spiral notebook that had been a near-permanent resident of the living room coffee table since the first positive pregnancy test. "No. But I think that Richard suits."
"A good name for a brave boy." She patted his arm and then moved to take the baby's chart to note the name.
His gaze went back to the baby, managing something that passed for a smile, before going to complete the paperwork the hospital needed, so he could leave and make sure this brave, delicate baby got every possible chance – Muggle and wizarding both.