A/N: I've always loved the Epilogue. I'll be the first to argue about its plot holes, but the thought that Harry becomes a wonderful dad always has me in tears. The only true issue I had with this ending was the name-hogging, as it was horrendously out of character for everyone involved. Aside from epic crack theories, I've never heard a reasonable explanation for this. But I recently got into the broadway show "Next To Normal" and a plot bunny came hoping. It was thus that the song 'How Could I Ever Forget' inspired an angst-laden answer.
As I destroy everything I love, I wrote the following.
General Disclaimer: If this had been the Epilogue there would've been rioting in the streets. Thank Merlin I'm not J.K. Rowling.
"No spell can reawaken the dead, Harry. I trust you know that". Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The room was silent. Harry wished there was (at least) the dull thumping of a muggle heart monitor to divert his grim thoughts. Instead, his contemplations were left by themselves. They thus jarred at him, shifting between a choking morbidity and a numbness as sterile as this room…but he couldn't bring himself to care about either.
A part of him knew that spells and potions were invisibly returning Ginny to health, and he was all too aware of what had occurred. But that didn't stop him from continuously checking her pulse and glancing at her stomach. They implied two highly different things, but it didn't matter to him. Feeling the unsteady beat made his own heart return to normal, and when he saw the still-protruding bump he could fool himself for a single, hopeful moment.
But Harry always just leaned away, flinching as reality swept back in. The bump was still an 'empty' bump.
The silence continued. He restlessly tapped his leg.
Harry wondered why he couldn't hear anything from the hallway. There was no crying, no sound of shuffling aurors or healers: nothing. Though he figured a silencing spell must coat the walls, he still shivered. It was too unnatural. Too still. Instead of being calming, it grated on his already flared nerves.
So flared, indeed, that he had to bite away an urge to race around the room…throw a chair against the door…or start flinging hex after hex at the too-white walls until he collapsed to the floor. He wanted to scream, to shake Ginny until she woke up. To effing cartwheel, to do something—anything! Because he couldn't stand this stillness. He was one for action, not waiting, and he couldn't stand sitting here, watching her, with only his macabre thoughts for company.
He didn't know how longer he could sit in this silence. Where every uneven heartbeat told him there was nothing he could do, that he was out of time, and that there was no one to save.
Harry let out a low exhale, tapping his foot harshly against the ground. Forcing these urges aside he tried not to act like a maniac. Because he knew that he was being unreasonable. He berated himself for losing his head: it wasn't as though he'd never seen her at St. Mungo's before. Sure, he was the one usually ending up in hospital, but they were both far too acquainted with being knocked unconscious as well as being the one sitting vigil at the bedside.
Yet, it'd never been like this. Nothing nearing this. For more times than naught, he'd awaken after an auror mission gone wrong to Ginny scribbling out how they'd make a break from hospital—"Sweetie, you're awake! About time. Sorry, but we'll have to go out the window. Oh come on you, it's just a magically broken leg. But the orderlies are multiplying and mum's recruited everyone to barricade the hall, so how'd you like to try out some muggle 'bung-y ropes' George brought over? They sound brilliant! You won't even have to use your legs, see? It's perfect."
Then when the roles were reversed, Ginny would yawn awake after a rough Quidditch match to open air and her husband's sheepish grin—"Hi love! Don't worry, you just had a small fall on the pitch. Yes, you won. Jeeze, priorities? But yeah, you'll be fine. The healers were overzealous and…what? Huh, right. Why we're up here. You know how I really don't like hospitals? You were unconscious a pretty long time, and I sortofmight'vemaybe levitated your bed and made a break for the roof. Possibly. Sorry? So…anyways…fancy a trip to the Continent so I won't be killed by your mum?"
Harry's soft grin at these memories scattered as his heart was suddenly in his throat. He arched towards Ginny with a panicked scramble for her wrist ('Did she skip a breath? No no no, not again'), racing to find a vein to press and—
—1—2—3—1. Too slow, but steady. He'd been imagining it. A wave of sick relief sweltered through him; he sat back once more. He shuddered: no, panicking didn't help. But now he couldn't go back to being numb, he couldn't relax while Ginny's hand was so pale and cold. Her freckles were bitterly sharp and—as his eyes rose to her face—he drew in an unsteady breath. Unclenching their fingers he brushed the tears from her sleeping form. His skin barely touched hers.
There was a small creak as the door opened, accompanied by a murmured whisper of his name: something about a doctor and how there was no news to tell. Harry might have said something back, but it was so soft not even he understood it, and honestly he didn't think his ears were working very well. Or his head. Or all three.
"Harry?" The word broke through the haze. A few footsteps sounded before tan hands cupped his chin. Hermione's creased tone and expression overflowed with concern, but he shifted away, gaze settling back on his wife.
The brunette (drawing her arms back to her sides), sunk onto the other bedside chair. Her voice was barely louder than a whisper. "You've got to get some sleep. They're both stable. We'd wake you if anything changed."
"I'm not tired." Harry mumbled, the syllables swaying together. He sensed his friend open her mouth to argue, but all that came out was a sigh. A few moments of silence lingered between them, only dissipating in a haltingly clutched inhale.
"At least eat." Hermione said softly, false enthusiasm cluttering her tone. "Breakfast? You wouldn't believe how much food Molly smuggled in."
"I don't feel like it." Harry idly noted that, at any other time, his irritation would be raising at lightning speeds. But after waking up to blood, hearing Ginny's shriek, realising there were no intruders and no spells, and spending however many restless hours at St. Mungo's…no, he couldn't bring himself to care. Though he had lied earlier: he was exhausted. But this wasn't a weighing tiredness that sleep could heal.
"Treacle tart." Hermione tried again, attempting to make the pudding sound appetising. "Or just something to drink?"
"Leave me alone." His gaze didn't leave the shallowly breathing redhead. The knot in his chest never unclenched, nor did the sweltering grief. Worry and guilt were there as well, but all were muffled as though cotton had tied him up inside. "I'm not tired, I'm not hungry, and I'll be fine as soon as Ginny is."
A pause was only interrupted by an exhaled sigh.
"Harry," her fingers crept around his own, the latter shaking, "you shouldn't be alone. If not Ron or I, then Teddy? He wants to see his godparents."
Harry felt his feeling of choking increase at her last word. It took a moment for him to gasp out the answer. "Later. Okay? I'll, I can't—"
"You don't want him to see you like this." Hermione finished softly; understanding but not agreeing. Still keeping one hand clasped with Harry's, her other moved to wipe away some of the wetness around his eyes (unknowingly echoing his earlier gesture with Ginny). "Teddy knows what happened. He—we want to help. If we can do anything…"
He ducked his head, suppressing an inappropriate urge to laugh. For the endearing but ultimately useless platitudes in Hermione's statement was so utterly her, and made him again want to start hexing the room.
Hermione's fingers stilled, perhaps sensing the attitude change. Her next words were even more hesitant. "If you want to—I can't imagine how hard this must be, but the healer just brought him out. It's why I came in. You, you can see him whenever you want."
Harry jerked around, hands flinging away as he stared at Hermione is disbelieved horror. Any thoughts of dark laughter fled as imagined images chased through his mind: of a mutilated foetus with accusing emerald green orbs, of a perfect little baby with a tuft of red hair and eyes that would never open…
"Breathe! Please, calm down." Hermione's voice pitched in worry, staring pleadingly at him as she gripped his heaving shoulders. She talked rapidly, trying to alleviate his panic with reassuring words. "I meant James! James Sirius, your son. He's so lovely and, oh! He already has everyone wrapped around his finger. You should've seen Minerva's face when she heard his name, but everyone loves him to bits and…" her tone softened, slowing as his breathing evened back out, "…he's beautiful. A bit small but so, so strong. Just like his parents. Even looks like a blend of you two; Ginny's hair, but he'll have your smile."
Harry straightened uncertainly, coughing to force on a calm facade. Tugging his glasses off he rubbed at his eyes. Maybe he would prefer the previous stinging numbness to this billowing of unwanted emotions, transforming in an instant from horrid humour to sick sorrow. "I, I can't come out. Not now. Not yet and…hell. I know you're trying to help. I do. I'm just, I'm sorry."
"Don't be, take all the time you need." She stared perceptively at her brother-in-law as her own tears fell. He replaced his glasses with a grimace. "But this will get better. It will! We'll make sure of it. Any help you need with, with preparations, with James—"
"Jamie." Harry quietly corrected without realising he'd said it. He looked back at Ginny's unconscious form with a stricken expression. It was as though the frog had hopped out of his throat and the stoppered sentences were now desperately racing to the forefront. "Before this we'd, we'd thought about nicknames. One of those stupid conversations, you know? There was a lot of back and forth about, about initials, middle names and the like. But Jamie and Artie felt right."
Hermione gave a small gasp as though clutching back a sob. But she otherwise remained silent as her best friend softly continued as though reciting a confession.
"I didn't like the names Ginny first wanted. 'James Sirius' and 'Remus Albus', can you believe it?" His arms shrugged helplessly, the words now pouring out. "Not that I'm not grateful that she wanted to honour them, but it was so morbid. Jamie's alone was verging on depressing, but combine it with Artie's original one and…Merlin. It took ages to convince her around to one bloody namesake that wasn't on my side or de—" he choked and couldn't continue.
Hermione remained silent, hands raising up and down from her lap, as though yearning to hug him but not knowing if it'd help or hurt.
"That wasn't gone." Harry at last forced out, keeping his gaze on Ginny. "'Arthur Arnold Potter'. Silly, yeah, but I think she finally agreed because of the middle name. The alliteration was a bit much, though having the twins be named after our dads? It, it all made sense."
"It did." She whispered. "It was—"
"What does he look like?" He cut her off, his question escaping before he could clamp his lips shut to hold it back.
"I, what? I mentioned it before. No, sorry, I mean…" Hermione resembled a Dementor caught in a Patronus' glare, "…Jamie has the Weasley hair but your expression."
"I meant Artie." Harry's desperate words thudded out as though they'd been rubbed against sandpaper. "The healer must've told you. Does he look like Gin? Me? The giant bloody squid?"
She gaped in worry and a bit of fear. "You don't want to hear this—"
"Hermione." He at last shifted his pleading gaze to her. "Please."
She exhaled, eyes wrenching closed as more tears spilled. "Arth—Artie had your eyes."
The choking returned with a vengeance.
"But Ginny's freckles." Hermione continued with a stricken voice. "He looked…he looked so lovely. So peaceful. Oh god, I'm sorry! I shouldn't have said this, you're in no state of mind to—"
"Stop. Just stop." Harry struggled for a breath, cutting her rambling words off. "Why did this happen?"
"This, there was nothing that could be done. I'm so sor—"
"How the hell could this happen?" His numbness swelled into rage as though a switch had been flicked. Pushing against the chair he stood abruptly, startling his companion at the sudden gesture. "What's the bloody point of magic if, if…DAMN IT!"
Shoving the seat back it banged to the floor, ricocheting off the tiles like a cannon's shot. Harry paced mutinously, racing his hands through his hair as it stood on end. Hermione silently watched him mutter, though remained sitting stock-still.
"You've always been the brilliant one, so why?" Harry barked out, anger caught within the remains of a choke. "Magic's supposed to be so wonderful, so blasted perfect. So why… why can't it bring back the dead?" His voice was shattered by a sob. Throwing off her momentary stupefaction, Hermione leapt up to embrace him. "Why couldn't it save my son?"
He collapsed against her, sobs muffled against robes as his knees gave out. She whispered something reassuring, something loving, but it mostly went unheard. She knew this though continued on; perhaps to block out thoughts of her brother breaking against her. "It's horrible and senseless. I don't know why it happened. But Ginny's fine, Jamie's fine, and you're a father! Your family's still here. We'll figure it out. I don't know how, but—"
"The stone!" Harry broke away with a sudden gasp, eyes wild.
"The what?" Hermione replied blankly, caught unaware yet again. She leaned against the bed, flabbergasted at his change and unexplainable enthusiasm.
"The Resurrection Stone." He repeated with a hysteric note, snatching his coat from beneath the upturned chair. "The ring! It'll still be in the forest. I'll apparate to the gates and—"
"What? No! The stone?" Hermione snatched at his arms, stopping his frantic move to the door. "You know what that thing does! Just think of the legend: you dwell on dreams and forget to live."
"It's a blasted legend, you said it yourself. Who knows what's right?" Harry tried to jerk out of her grip without harming the brunette. "That won't stop me from seeing my son!"
"Your son," Hermione emphasised, holding on tighter as her panic escalated, "is just outside those doors! Along with your family, your godson, I—HARRY! Stop struggling!"
"THEN LET ME GO!" He roared, managing to pull away. Neither noticed a faint shuffle on the bed at their shouts. "I'll be right back."
"NO, YOU WON'T BE!" Hermione cried out shrilly, momentarily forgetting about the third person seemingly asleep in the room. Yet her tone almost immediately deflated. "You'll forget. About Jamie, about Teddy, about Ginny…about all of us."
Harry took an impatient exhale, glancing back and forth between the door and his sister. "I've done it before. It was fine."
"Fine?" A spasm of disbelief. "You call walking to your death 'fine'?"
"I'll be back soon." Harry ignored the comment, swinging on his coat and walking towards the exit.
"YOU CAN'T SAVE EVERYONE!" Hermione shouted. Hand already on the doorknob, he paused at the cry. "Yes, you know that better than anyone. But you're a stupid, noble git who needs the reminder. So go if you have to, but don't forget what you've gained. Yes, gained!" Her voice broke. "You're a dad. You and Ginny are going to be there for Jamie's first words, first steps, first broom-ride…first everything. Don't forget how wonderful this still is! Ginny's fine, one of my godsons is alive, and—" everything shattered with these words. Hermione, crying into her sleeve, stiffened before relaxing as arms wrapped around her. She returned the embrace without further pause.
The two figures clung to each other, sorrow palpable with tears racing down their faces. The door never opened and the room once more fell into silence. But unlike the previous cruel stillness, something that wasn't quite hope but was perhaps close to acceptance clung to the air. This feeling was a relief beyond anything Harry had ever known.
"I haven't forgotten." He finally admitted, head straightening from her shoulder, tight hug slackening. "I haven't. I'm, I'm so thankful for Ginny and Jamie. Just," he released her, stepping towards the bed as though uncertain of where he was going, "what am I supposed to do? How do I, I…how do I do this?"
Hermione opened her mouth before closing it, not knowing how to drive the frantic gleam from his eyes.
"With me." The soft whisper was enough to freeze time. Harry and Hermione, startled, swirled around as one. "You'll do it with me."
"Ginny?" Harry said as though not believing it. Rapidly sitting on the bed, he brushed fiery red hair away from her blinking eyes.
"We'll get through this together." Ginny coughed, a wrench of pain spiralling across her face. "Where's, where's Jamie? Teddy?"
Hermione—the smallest of smiles shining through her tears—stepped away from the couple. "I'll get them and let the family know you're awake. I'm so, so happy you're okay."
Ginny gave a grimace at the words but nodded gratefully. Harry leaned towards her, gently taking her hand.
Thus, as the door closed, Hermione's last image of the couple was a peaceful one. Where their bodies were drawn close and painful hope rang in two murmurs of 'I love you'.
A/N: The premise of this story was that James Sirius was originally a twin. But the birth was premature and little Arthur Arnold was miscarried.
If you want to find me I'll be sobbing in a corner and thinking about what I've done. As well as why I should nevereverever name kids or characters.