That Look In His Eyes
I would like to thank Celtic for her suggestion of writing TLIYE´s epilogue. Be warned that the present story is not Beta'ed and there may be grammatical and spelling mistakes (English is not my first language)
Rose and Patrick O'Reilly are featured in TLIYE and I just could not wait to write more about them. Rated for strong words -a birth is not a Victorian tale, folks- and references to sex and messy stuff. Nothing too graphic or gory. Based on my own personal experience and the brief period I worked at ObGyn.
Asseline Alexandre was a medieval midwife whose services were prized among the upper classes. There's nothing that tells us that she was a witch, but there's no evidence against it, either ;-)
Ron had been so annoyingly sure that the baby would arrive on his birthday, that she had been ridiculously proud of making it past the first of March, despite the fact that she was beginning to hate each day that passed still resembling a clumsy seal.
"Labour can happen anytime between the thirty seven and forty two weeks, that's five weeks, and as you're not really sure of the date of you last cycle, I wouldn't be surprised if the baby arrives in April," Rose had said. Ginny had mumbled something about not being late to find a proper midwitch who gave her something to shoot that baby out. Rose had just laughed in that infecting way she had and patted Ginny's arm.
"There are potions for that, but they're only for when the baby or the mother are not well, and it's not your case. Try the classics methods instead; raspberry leaves, chocolate, spicy food, walking… and sex, of course." Harry had snorted and put a stupid grin in his face, that had slipped off his face under Ginny's glare.
Although she was the consultant Healer for the Auror Office and not a midwitch, Ginny had asked her to take care of her pregnancy and delivery because of the stablished friendship between Rose and her husband Patrick, the Potters and the Granger-Weasleys, born from the several occasions Rose had had to patch up Harry and Ron, a shared passion for Quidditch and Hermione's interest in wandless magic, in which Rose was skilled. She wanted a home birth, like nearly every witch had -Harry had insisted she should go to Asseline Alexandre's Wing, the maternity ward, and explained that most Muggle women had their babies in the hospital, but Ginny refused point-blank. She trusted Rose and that, she told a reluctant Harry, was important to have an easy and safe delivery.
So she had sent Harry to the apothecary's, to buy dried raspberry leaves, but the infusion made her gag, so the packet had been left forgotten in a kitchen drawer. Spicy food had not been a good idea either.
"What's hot at the entrance, it's hot at the exit, too. Didn't you know?" he said scoffing, before running away from the bathroom due to the need to keep the giant Bat Bogeys off his face.
They went on daily walks around the Harpies' grounds, Ginny shooting hateful looks at her teammates that dared to greet her on their way back from training, because she had not been allowed to ride a broom since she had been put on leave.
"What would I give to fly," she grumbled.
"So would I," he answered. "I spent six hours this morning tailing Creeks, and now more walking with you. I'm tired." This time her hex crashed against his shield, but only because he had been anticipating it.
She had to admit that the rest of the time, he had been at her beg and call. Each day he returned home with a slab of the finest Honeydukes' chocolate. Each day after work he cooked a savoury dinner, insisted that she put her feet up, and put the leftovers in containers so they had enough cooked meals for the first days with the baby. He had painted the spare room in soft green and gold, and sorted with her the piles of clothes they had been given by family and friends.
"You're very lucky, not all the partners volunteer to do that stuff"," noted Rachel, Gwenog's wife and her nearest neighbour.
"I would've been happy picking a random cloth and wrapping the baby in it, to be fair, but he was the one excited to do this," whined Ginny. "Nesting instinct, my arse. I'm so bloody tired all I want to do is sprawl on the sofa."
"You should be taking advantage to rest and sleep now, you won't be able to get much of that later," said Rachel.
"I'm already getting none of that, I swear this baby thinks my liver is a punching ball and my bladder's a trampoline. Not to mention the heartburn." Rachel had laughed and welcomed her into the sweet world of motherhood.
"You know, there's one thing suggested by Rose we still haven't tried," said Harry with a wink the night after that. Ginny had been complaining about the unfairness of the fact that both Fleur and Angie were both tall women who had carried their pregnancies with grace and apparent ease, while she looked just saddled with a pumpkin grown in Hagrid's vegetable patch.
"Men, always the same." She glared at him. "How can you possibly find me shaggable stuff if I'm the opposite of attractive? My feet are swollen, I look like a stuffed Flobberworm, I have stretch marks all over my bump and I can't even roll in bed, I'm worse than a beached whale," she sniffed, feeling a lump in her throat. Oh, brilliant. Bloody hormones on top of everything.
Harry scowled. "That's not what I see."
"Oh, please, don't be ridiculous-"
"No, don't you be absurd," he snapped. "I was hit once by George's swelling hex and spent three hours complaining much louder than you. You've made it this far without half of the moaning I did. Whenever I look at you I can only see my brave, fierce wife, carrying our baby at great personal cost."
Ginny knew he was not making that up, because he had that look in his eyes. Like he wouldn't believe his luck. Like he did not dare to accept that something that good was happening to him. Months ago, on the morning they had decided to keep this unplanned baby, he had told her a Scheherazade-style story about one particular look she had, a blazing, hard stare he had witnessed in some significant moments of their life. In exchange, she had told him how she prized the times she had seen him giving her that particular look of him.
Which, by the way, invariably had the same effect on her. She licked her lips.
"Your face glows, your hair is rich and all shiny, that stretch marks you hate- Well, life gave me a bunch of scars, and you still like me, I'd be a hypocrite if I had some objection, because they're the scars that this new life has given you."
She cocked her head. "When did you get so wise?"
"I'm just stating something obvious." His look changed; darker and more intense. He caressed the side of her face. "Like the softness of your skin…" He kissed her lightly on the lips and left a trail of kisses on her neck. She felt goosebumps and made a purring noise.
"… and don't get me wrong, but your breasts have never been more attractive than now."
Oh, to hell with it, she thought, and surrendered. Words she could resist, but not what his mouth and hands could do to her body- and not precisely talking.
"Harry- Harry, wake up, it's started."
He was sleeping on his stomach, all warm and relaxed, and at first he refused to acknowledge the voice that was coaxing him into waking up.
He eventually opened an eye, and saw Ginny in front of him, jumping excitedly. "What are you doing? It's still, what, nine o'clock? It's a Sunday, Gin, let's have a lie in."
"Fine, I'll go push this baby without you. It worked, Harry!"
He raised his head, now fully alerted. "What do you mean?"
"The sex! It worked! I'm leaking fluid and having contractions… I'm in labour!"
Panic rose inside his stomach. He threw back the duvet and was on his feet in a second, holding her at arms' length and examining her. She was excited, her face was flushed and her eyes were twinkling.
"Right. Labour. Right, of course. Shit! What I must do now is… towels. I'll go and get towels. Kettle, too. I'll fetch-"
Ginny giggled and grabbed his hands. "It's still early, silly. I've sent an owl to Rose to let her know, but we probably have hours, even days, ahead."
"Right, of course. Are you- are you sure of this? Don't you want to go to Asseline's?"
She grimaced. "That's for complications and women whose houses are unsuitable, Harry. I am young and healthy, I know where I'm getting into. And the press would be at the door the moment we set one foot inside. I want to have this baby here, in our home."
"But the pain…"
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there. Now come down with me, let's have breakfast, I want to enjoy these last hours alone. Once my mother gets wind of what's happening here, there's no way we are going to have another moment of peace."
So he did as he was told, and made bacon and eggs, and they ate them in silence, giggling every time their eyes met. Every now and then Ginny rubbed her bump, and Harry jumped at her side, but she assured him it was still virtually painless. She even joked that if it went on that easy, it was no wonder how her mother had done that six times. They were cleaning up the kitchen when Rose and Patrick arrived. She was carrying her medical bag, and her husband a basket with scones, a pot of coffee and a bottle of Ogden's.
"Fuel for the waitin'," he said winking an eye.
"Everything seems in order so far," said Rose after checking on Ginny. "It's still early, though, so I'll leave you alone. Walking is recommended to get this progressing, but you can also take a hot shower or nap if you don't feel up to it. I wouldn't eat anything heavy- there's a chance you would end throwing it up. I'll be back in a few hours, but call me if you need me."
"Are you sure this is safe?" Harry asked weakly. Both Rose and Patrick chuckled, and he patted his back. "I've been through this five times, lad. You'll survive. Better this than goin' out to chase Death Eaters, in any case. If only marginally."
"Oh, right, of course," he had mumbled, although to be frank, he was beginning to think that he would rather face Riddle again that going through this birth.
Ginny did not seem to share his worries; she went to the baby's room and made the cot, and then decided to make bread. Harry asked her if she wanted to go our for a walk, but she refused.
"I don't feel like going out, it's game day and there will be people everywhere. I don't fancy talking to anyone."
So they stayed in, baking loaf after loaf of bread, eating warm slices with leftover chicken salad for lunch. Contractions came and went irregularly and they did not look to be bothering Ginny; she simply kept rubbing her belly, occasionally commenting how the last had lasted longer or had come earlier. Harry was beginning to feel a little calmer when it happened.
Ginny's napkin had fallen to the floor, and before Harry could do anything, she bent down to grab it. Suddenly, her eyes widened and she gasped. She straightened up, and he saw a puddle of fluid pooling between her feet.
"Harry, I think my waters finally broke."
The flames in the fireplace turned green, and Molly Weasley stepped out of them. She took in the scene, and began to bark orders. Ginny sighed, and suddenly grimaced. She put a hand in his back and whined quietly. Then she locked eyes with him.
"Harry, call Rose. Game's about to start."
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Holy shiiiiit. Hell, this is worst than Gwen's workouts! I must be close… Merlin, please let me be close…
"Six dilated, almost fully effaced; excellent, Ginny."
"Only six?" She let out a desperate groan, and sought Harry's hand. He grabbed and rubbed it with his other hand nervously.
"Gin, there's still time to go to Asseline's, you don't have to go through this, they have pain potions, numbing spells, whatever."
"I told you, I don't want to! I'm not sick, I want to be here, at home! Not surrounded by strangers, with the press at the doors, bloody Rita trying to sneak up on us in her beetle shape, and you Sneakproofing everything right, left and front."
"But this is inhuman, Gin-"
"The Cruciatus was inhuman, not this- this I can cope. I will cope. I have to cope- Aaargghhh!" She gritted her teeth and endured a new wave of pain, squeezing Harry's hand hard, but without screaming. She did not want to scream. She had to be in control. Not like when she had been under the curse. This was not torture; she was giving birth.
Immersed in her thoughts, she did not notice Harry sucking in a breath and beginning to shake, until the pain receded and she heard Rose.
"Harry, go down. Send me Molly, but not immediately. Tell Patrick to fix you some special tea, with those exact words." Her voice had changed; it had not the cheerful, kind tone it was usual in her, but a firm, serious and clipped one. He did not argue; pale and shaking, he nodded, kissed Ginny's hand and walked out of the room.
"Harry… something's wrong with him, Rose, we should-"
"Did he know you had been tortured, Ginny?" asked Rose. Ginny swallowed and looked down.
"He didn't. I… I skipped that part when I told him about my sixth year. Nobody else knew, and Crabbe died in the Battle, so there was no need of reporting, or telling in the trials. I chose not to worry anybody. Merlin knows we all had enough on our plates to- Argh!" Another contraction gripped her body, and she scrunched her face, trying to contain the need to cry.
"Ginny, you must scream. You're trying to be the good girl, never showing weakness, but this is not a game."
Ginny shook her head. "It's not that." Her eyes filled with tears. "I screamed a lot under torture, I wasn't even conscious of that, but that scum told me, bragging about how he had made Potter's whore cry. I don't want Harry hearing me. He's suffered enough-"
"He is anyway, Ginny. But you can't worry about him know. Like Muggles say, this is your party, cry if you want to. Give your husband some credit. The man's tough, he'll manage."
"He will, but I still don't like this, we shouldn't be remembering the war in this moment but even after all this time, it keeps taking its toll on us, it's just not fair!"
Rose nodded gravely and gave her a handkerchief. She took it and finally let the tears fall. Rose pulled her in a hug, and she wept in her shoulder until a new contraction made her tense.
"You're fighting against the pain, Ginny. That's not the way to do this. Nobody's torturing you. This is not the war. You have to let yourself be carried away. Think of it as a wave; don't swim against it, let it carry you to the shore. Open your mouth. Cry, yell and curse, you're allowed to do that."
Ginny shook her head, and Rose huffed, exasperated. "Ginny, look at me." She did that, still tight lipped. "Darling, this is not a suggestion. I'm now your captain, and this is an order. The wider you open your mouth, the wider your cervix dilates. So yell. Cry. Swear. For goodness sake, girl! Nobody taught you how to swear? Who are you, Umbridge's little sister? Give me a big fuck right now!"
That made Ginny chuckle against her will. "Fuck!" she yelled.
"That's my girl! Go on!"
"Fuck. Shit. Fuck. FUUUUUUUUUUUCK!" And she finally let herself be carried away, not fighting the pain, not caring about who could hear her, not worrying about nothing but her body, opening up to let her baby be born.
Molly had run upstairs the moment they had heard Ginny's screams. He got up from the chair and made to follow her, but Patrick's hand in his shoulder, pushing him down, made him stay.
"I have to go, Pat, she needs me-"
"Rose and Molly are with her, and you need a moment to collect yourself." He put down his tea, reached for the bottle of Ogden's, and poured a generous measure in both mugs. "Drink," he ordered. Harry obeyed, and took a deep breath when he felt the burning in his throat. Patrick nodded in satisfaction. "Now, shoot. You're shit scared, aren't you, son?"
Harry looked down, embarrassed, but who was he trying to fool? "I'd rather face Riddle again. Or Bellatrix… she was an expert torturer. I wish it was me, feeling that pain. This is my fault, we didn't want children… she's had to pause her career…"
"But she chose to have the baby, son. I've known you for nearly four years, and I know you'd sooner pull out your own teeth with your hands before makin' her do anythin' she does not want to. Listen to me. This is not war: it's just how life goes. Justice is a concept invented by humankind to permit people coexist, but it is not something you find in Nature. So she's in pain, and that's how it's supposed to be, and she chose it freely, so there's nothing you can do but-"
"Patrick," he interrupted. There was something that was nagging him, and he had to spill it. "What if she dies? Mothers can die in labour and I think… I think I would prefer to keep her over the baby, and I feel horrible for that, but I can't help it. Does this make me a bad person? I am… I am ashamed of myself, of my thoughts-"
Patrick smiled sadly. "That happened to me, too. Twice."
Harry felt shocked. "Did… did it?"
Patrick nodded. "In Abebi's birth, our eldest, and with the twins. The rest of deliveries were so quick that I remember puttin' the kettle on and never gettin' to drink the tea. But there were some serious stuff in those births and all I could think is 'not her, please, take the baby instead'. I even prayed for it. I'm certainly not proud of that, and I can't tell you how relieved I felt when everythin' ended and all was well. I love my children and I'd give my life for them. But yes, that happened to me too. I've told this to no one, but my theory is that you can't help it. You know and love your wife, but the baby is just someone you still haven't met; that will change the moment you hold him, you'll see. In the meantime, try not to judge yourself too hard."
Harry nodded and took a gulp of tea. They heard new screaming coming from the upper floor. He took a deep breath and got up from the chair. "I think I should go."
"Yeah, from what I know I'd say that son of you is ready to arrive." But before he went up, Patrick pulled him into a hug and patted his back.
"Now grow some balls, go upstairs and help your wife," he said after letting him go. "Let her curse you -not literally, women in labour can be deadly if allowed a wand. Let her crunch the bones in your hand. Cheer her like it's a game she must win. And throw one or two jokes; the worse, the better."
Harry nodded. "Thanks, Pat." He took a deep breath and exited the room.
Patrick sat down on his chair, picked up his mug and drained it. He stared at the ceiling; a new round of screams had started upstairs. He made a clucking noise.
"Me, a low-rank Hit Wizard, tellin' bloody Harry Potter, Riddle's vanquisher and future Head Auror, to buck up and be brave. Nature's bloody laughin' her arse off."
"Come on, Gin, you can do this. Think of it as a game. You're going to put that Quaffle through the loops-"
"For the last bloody time, Potter, another comparison with Quidditch and I swear to God, I will summon Gwen's bat and cheerfully club you to death."
"I was only trying to help you focus-"
"Stick up said Quaffle up your arse and try to spit it out, and then you can tell me how to bloody focus-AAAAARRRRRGHHHHH!"
"I think she might be close now, don't you think, Molly dear?" said Rose jovially. Her mother nodded, stifling a laugh with her hand over her mouth. "Ginny, when you feel up to, come to the bed so I can check you."
Eventually the contraction passed, and Ginny consented in being led to the bed, but when she was going to climb onto it, she groaned again and grabbed Harry's shoulders.
"What is it, Gin?" he asked solicitously.
"Your son is trying to rip me from inside," she said panting. Harry's panicked face made her regret what she had said almost immediately. "Not literally, you prat!"
"At some point, you should decide on a name," piped up her mother, while helping her lie down on the bed.
"That's up to her, Molly," said Harry. "The baby gets my surname, so she gets to choose the name. Although I have veto power over her choice; I don't think you would like to call an Elvendork to come into the house."
"Elvendork is a fine name, and it's unisex,"said Ginny through gritted teeth, while Rose checked her.
"Gin, my grandparent Fleamont had to endure constant bullying at school because of his name."
"That made him a great duellist."
"All the same, we're not calling our son Elvendork."
"You could call him Elvie," observed Rose giggling. For her part, her mother was having trouble keeping a straight face. Eventually she gave up. "Or Dorkie… after Dork." Both women burst out laughing.
"You should be- Oh, shit! SHIT! AARGH!" She tried to get up, and Harry climbed up on the bed quickly to try to hoist her up, but she suddenly flopped back. "I think… I want to push."
"Yes, you're fully dilated and effaced. Time to get this baby out."
Out. That was it. Suddenly she felt a weird feeling of apprehension and vertigo, like the first time she had rode a broom in the orchard without telling anyone. She had risen up high, over the trees, and then looked down and wondered how to get back to the floor. There was no going back nicely and safely; she had to go the hard way.
And, like that first time on the broom, she suddenly didn't want to.
"I'm tired. I don't think I can do this; I'm exhausted."
She was expecting Harry's face of surprise, but not the knowing smiles on her mother and Rose.
"I'd fancy a cup of tea, wouldn't you, Rose dear?" said her mother.
"Oh, yes, we can be spared here for a while. Rest a bit, Ginny, and call us when you're ready." And without further ado, both women left the bedroom, leaving the two of them alone.
"But what… but- they can't," spluttered Harry.
"Oh, let them go, I want to sleep," said Ginny. A low moan escaped her lips; she was having another contraction, but it was different from the rest. If she pushed, it was nearly painless. But she did not want to do it. She was tired, and it was huge- she was afraid that the baby was going to break her.
"You can't sleep now! Gin, you have to push!"
She closed her eyes tightly and shook her head. "I don't want to, Harry… I'm scared," she said in a whisper. Tears were threatening to fall; she gave up trying to contain them and sobbed against the pillow.
She noticed Harry climbing on the bed and pulling her into his arms, but he did not speak, just hugging her.
"I'm scared, too," he said eventually. "I'm blaming myself for this-"
Even tired as she was, she could not help snorting. "Merlin, Harry. It takes two to make this, and I sure as hell wasn't coerced into it. Just once, please drop your damned need of saving the world. It's no one's fault we're in this position."
"Well, except maybe the idiot who sell us that chicken sandwich at the beach, the one that made you sick."
"Yeah, well, we should've known that being sick rendered the potion useless. It's the same anyway. It's not fair, but no one is to blame."
"Patrick reckons that justice was made up by the humans, but life's not fair per se. Justices's not a concept found in Nature. This is how things are supposed to be, and there's nothing we can do but grit our teeth and just let it happen."
Another contraction gripped her, and she let out a low moan that rose slowly in volume. Pushing was inevitable. It was animal instinct; wether she wanted or not, her body was opening to give birth to her baby. Instinctively, she turned her body to kneel, gripping Harry's shoulders for support.
"You're doing it! That's it, Gin, keep going!"
"Hard not to, you idiot!" Her voice, muffled by his jumper, was a mix of sarcasm and anger. To her surprise, he giggled. "Gin, you're having a baby with this idiot."
"I hope he takes more from me than from you, then. Ow!"
The contraction ended. She allowed herself to relax against Harry's body, who was supporting her. She thought of what Harry had said. Life is not fair. Justice is for the humans. This was not exactly human -it was perhaps the most animal thing in her life.
Crabbe hated me. He tortured me just because he could and wanted. That pain served no purpose other than make me suffer for him to enjoy it. And we made justice. Had he not died at the Battle, he would have gone to Azkaban. But this pain is not like that. Nobody's punishing me. Nobody's torturing me. I love this baby, and he does not want to kill me. It's just the way it is. It's hard, but it has to be done.
"Come on, Ginny," she said to herself, "you can do this. It's just a long, exhausting game, but the Snitch's been sighted. Seekers are going for it. It'll be over soon, just hold on a little more-"
"I thought you said no more Quidditch comparisons."
She felt another contraction coming. "SHUT UP, POTTER!" I'm trying to-"
She could not keep talking; she felt the head descending. Panic rose quickly inside her, but she refused to let it invade her. Instead, she steeled herself and locking eyes with Harry, she told him "Call Rose now!"
After Ginny's desperate beg to call Rose, Harry thought that everything was going to end soon: he certainly was not expecting to be still holding his wife and whispering words of encouragement after what seemed like an hour, though admittedly he had not checked any watch.
"The best place for a clock during birth is the drawer," Molly had said, and Rose had agreed.
"Baby's fine, his heart rate is ok, and this is her first delivery; it's normal." Harry's desperation must have showed in his face, because Rose took pity on him and assured him it would not be long. Even then, he was dreading that Ginny was not going to be able to hold on much longer. She was sweating, hair plastered to her face, the epitome of exhaustion. She was not even swearing any more, just closing her eyes and collapsing in his arms between pushes.
"I can't do this anymore," she said after the last contraction. Panic invaded him again, but in that moment, Rose spoke.
"Well it's a pity, because your mother and I can see the head, and hair's definitely from the mother's side, don't you think, Molly dear?"
Harry's heart flipped. "Did you hear that, Gin? He has hair!"
"Glad I'm not birthing a beach ball," said Ginny sarcastically, but to his amazement, she began to push again with renewed energy, and this time Rose put her hands under her body to help the head out. She and Molly kept cheering Ginny, but Harry was not listening them. The ache in his arms from holding her for such a long time, the nerves and the panic, all disappeared while he watched, fascinated, how his son's head slipped out of her wife's body and into the world.
"Ginny, put your hands down and catch your son," ordered Rose, guiding one small shoulder out.
"I-can't- it burns!" she said through gritted teeth.
"Do it now, Ginny!" The second shoulder was finally out too, and Ginny, who until two seconds before had been shaking her head with her eyes closed and gripping her knees so tightly that her nails had dug in the flesh, suddenly let out a scream, opened her eyes, bent down to catch the baby and put it in her chest, sobbing unabashedly.
All happened so quickly that Harry was left speechless. While Rose busied herself with the messy, bloody stuff that was happening down there, and Molly covered both baby and mother's bodies with white, soft and warm towels, fat tears of happiness cascading down her cheeks, he could only watch stunned how his son began to cry loudly and powerfully, his features scrunched up in evident upset. He had ginger hair, but it seemed to be of a darker shade of Ginny's, although it was difficult to tell, all wet and plastered and covered with a thick layer of white grease. He had little, perfect ears in the same shape as Ginny's, but the setting of the mouth and the lips were definitely Harry's, to the point that for a fleeting moment Harry was reminded of his own baby face in the few photos he treasured from his parents.
"Strong set of lungs, good skin colour, placenta sorted out. Everything's in order. Who wants to cut the cord, Mum or Dad?" asked Rose. Harry shook his head. He felt rooted to the spot, hands still gripping her wife. Worse of all, a lump was rising in his throat and he was sure that even in the case that he could grab his wand, he was not going to be able to say the spell. He definitely did not want to cause a greater mess, so he made a head gesture towards her wife, who looked now much calmer. Ginny smiled, asked for her wand and swiftly executed a clean Severing Spell, marking the moment the baby was at last an independent self.
"Quarter past eleven; a healthy, yet nameless Potter has been born. Congratulations!" said Rose.
"Harry, are you ok? You look a bit pale," observed Molly. "You're not going to faint, are you?"
Harry shook his head again and tried to speak, but he could only make a choking noise. Rose and Molly looked at each other and seemed to reach an unspoken agreement.
"I'm going to wash my hands. Molly, didn't you say before you had brought a tin of your amazing butter biscuits? I'd love to have some with a cup of tea. Ginny will need to eat something, too. Shall we go downstairs and prepare a tray?"
"Oh, that's a good idea. I want to tell Arthur too." The two witches picked up the stained blankets ant towels and left the room, leaving the three of them alone.
Harry's vision blurred; he could not contain the tears now. He blinked, and saw that Ginny, still holding the baby, had turned her body to look at him with the same hard, blazing stare she seemed to reserve for unique moments like this one.
"Harry, it's ok, we're alone." And he finally let himself cry in her shoulder, and with the tears out went the nerves, the tension, the worry for the outcome, the fears and the shame he had felt. Ginny raised a hand to wipe his face, and he took it. Eventually he calmed down, and released her hand to touch her face and kiss her reverently on the lips.
"We did it, Harry," said Ginny when they broke apart.
"No, you did it; I've been just making a fool of myself, watching you doing all the hard work. And I don't mind how perfect and natural and normal they say it's been, it's the toughest thing I've had to do, watching you suffering without being able to help it."
"I happen to remember that you once walked on cold blood to your own death."
"But I wasn't alone. This was harder. You're the bravest person in the world, and I've met some of the best, but this… this is different. You're amazing, and I love you."
"I love you too…" The baby made a little coughing noise, and they both stared down at him; Ginny smiled and wrapped him more tightly in the towel. She kissed his head. "And I love you too, my little James."
"James?" repeated Harry. "Are you sure?" Ginny nodded. "No Elvendork, then?" She chuckled and swatted him.
"No, silly, that was me teasing you. It's been James for a while, but I wanted to see him first. I'm not sure about the middle name, though… I'm still waiting for a sign. In the meantime…" She motioned to Harry to sit back, and transferred the bundle to his arms. "I think it's time for you to meet your son."
Harry took the baby with practised ease, born from the multiple times he had held Teddy, Victoire and the rest of his nephews and nieces. But this time was different… the little boy in his arms was part his, and part Ginny's; he was the first person related to him by blood, his aunt and cousin notwithstanding. He touched his face with a finger, marvelling on the perfection of it, the strange but beautiful mix of features from him and Ginny.
"You love him, too, don't you?" asked Ginny softly, but a little anxious too. Harry nodded; his heart was swelling with emotion, rendering him speechless again. Patrick was right -all changed the moment he took him. He would give his life for his son. He had a family… a family of his own.
"It's the most incredible gift I've ever had. It's perfect… he's perfect."
"We don't really know, did you count his fingers and toes? Make sure he has ten of each, you know," said Ginny smiling.
"Oh, that -right," and he hastily unwrapped the baby, exposing him to the air and the light. James reacted badly and began to cry. Maybe because of the sudden change, while Harry was busy counting toes, he took revenge doing one of the few things a baby could do: peeing directly to his father's face. Ginny snorted with laughter and hastily grabbed a clean towel for him.
"Cheeky little boy… you just had to prank your father first thing after being born, didn't you? Gin, give me another towel to wrap him, this one's wet…" Just when Harry was discarding the wet towel, holding the naked baby in the other arm, James squirmed, scrunched his face and voided his bowels all over his father's forearm and jumper, sighing placidly afterwards.
"Oh, for the love of sweet Merlin! You're a true Marauder like your grandfather was!" Ginny was shaking with laughter, brandishing her wand but incapable of performing the cleaning spell. Eventually she managed to get rid of the mess, and she took back the baby to try to nurse him while Harry washed and changed.
"I know what his middle name is," she said when Harry returned.
Despite the fatigue, she was excited, still high with adrenaline, as if she had just won a long, complicated game. She could not stop watching his son, and Harry's face. What he felt was written all over it -he could not believe his luck. Even after his son had covered him in pee and dirt, she thought chuckling to herself.
She knew very well that look… but it was the first time she had seen it directed to another person that was not her. And she was not even a little bit jealous. On the contrary, she felt proud, and happier than ever. It was a strange sensation, like they had just found a piece that was missing in their lives without knowing. Harry had been adopted into the family many years ago, but now he was actually related to them. Their love had made a new life. She had carried and birthed it. There was an intangible magic surrounding all this that she, used to practise magic daily, had never seen. It was not something that you could tame with a wand, but more like it infused everything in the room. It was an odd, but not bad, feeling: Harry seemed different, like seen through a different lens, and she was sure he could feel the same because there was something special in his look. Admiration and pride, that was there before, but the reverence was new.
A knock at the door interrupted her musings. Harry went to open it and her parents entered the room, with wide smiles and bright eyes. She raised the baby for them to see. Harry took the baby from her arms and put him into Molly's welcoming hands, and his voice sounded full of the same admiration, pride and reverence his eyes had.
"James Sirius Potter, say hello to your grandparents… but please refrain to do it the way you did to me."