The waiting room of St. Mungo's Emergency ward was a roiling sea of predominantly red hair as Administrator Percy Weasley Floo'd into it through Charlie's head in the hearth. Brushing himself off, Percy saw that his mother and father were questioning the harried medistaff at the intake desk with Alicia looking worriedly on; Bill, Fred, George, and Angelina were in an altercation with Rita Skeeter in front of the door that led to the Apparation courtyard; Ginny and Fleur were minding sleeping, screaming, and belching children; and Charlize, Charlie's wife, was standing a little to the side of the room with her hand on Neville Longbottom's shoulder while he stared disconsolately beyond a gesticulating Skeeter at his wife, who was twirling one radish earring slowly between her fingers. Straightening up and ignoring Charlie's panicked, fire-called questions, Percy strode toward the entrance and seized Skeeter by the arm, pulling her through the door and into the Apparation courtyard.
"Take your hands off—"
"Miss Skeeter," Percy interrupted, shoving the reporter onto the Apparation point, "leave now, or be Vanished."
Skeeter, who knew better than almost anyone about Percy Weasley's war-time role and spell of choice, elected to Disapparate without further protest.
"Make yourselves useful and find a healer for Luna. She's in shock," Percy ordered his family members, before turning on his heel and approaching the intake desk. "Mum," he said, a bit loudly to cut through her argument with Stevenson and Banks, the two medistaffers on duty, "the girls could use your help with the children."
"But they won't tell us anything!"
"Percy," Arthur said, placing his hands on Molly's shoulders to steady her, "we know that Harry brought them here and that they're with the healers. Could you find out more?"
"That's why I'm here," Percy replied, nodding as he headed behind the desk and through to the back, trying to ignore the hurt he was feeling at having not been summoned to the hospital by his family.
When he had achieved the corridor off of which the examination rooms were laid, he stopped and took a deep breath. You can do this. You have to do this. It's your sodding job to do this, Weasley.
"Administrator Weasley!" a mediwitch called to him from the threshold of Emergency Room Five, "we could use your help. We can't get him to leave your sister-in-law's side, and it's a bit cramped in there."
"What's her condition, Frances?" Percy asked, moving toward her.
"You'd best prepare yourself, sir. It's bad."
Frances jumped at Percy's snap. "She's suffering breaks to her back, legs, and right arm. Her left hand is crushed, she's concussed, there's internal bleeding, and we're not certain we'll be able to stabilize her in time to save the baby."
Percy stopped walking and swallowed, hard. When Stevenson had fire-called him, she had not mentioned anything about Hermione being pregnant.
"Ron's already stabilized? His injuries weren't severe?"
"Sir, your brother . . . hasn't been see—"
"Then why haven't you had a medistaffer restrain him for examination?"
"You don't understand—it isn't your brother in there. It's Healer Krum. He won't—"
Percy walked past Frances and into the room to find Viktor clutching Hermione's hand while Healer Spriggs and his assistants worked around him within the sterile field that had been automatically generated about the witch. "Viktor!"
"She's dying, Percy. She's—"
"Not. Your. Wife."
The room fell utterly silent.
"Frances," said Percy, "please take Healer Krum to my office and keep him apprised of . . . ."
"Sir," Frances replied crisply, following the path of Percy's eyes and understanding perfectly his distress.
When Viktor had left the room, Healer Spriggs said, "I'll know more when she's stable."
"Who's treating my brother?"
The noise level in the room, which had been climbing, dipped again.
"Krum was treating your brother, Administrator Weasley," Spriggs told him softly, never taking his eyes off his task.
Percy froze. Frances has never been any good at giving bad news, has she? "Well, I'll leave you to it."
He just made it to the loo before he was ill.
It was almost a relief to Percy, sometime later, to feel the chill air of the morgue against his face when he entered it—feeling like a coward. He had not told his family, after he had collected himself and consulted with Frances about the need to summon someone from the Spellcraftres' Guild, about Ron; he had focused instead on reporting Hermione's condition and then left to make some urgent fire-calls.
To save Hermione's baby would take extraordinary measures, measures which Percy knew might not work even if a surrogate could be found on such short notice—virgins who were willing to become pregnant on behalf of other witches being rather rare—but he had done what he could. Now, all he could do was wait.
He would wait with Ron.
With Ron's body, he corrected himself. "No, with my baby . . . with my baby brother."
His tears surprised him, but soon, Percy realized that he was not the only one crying. Looking around, he saw that the antechamber of the morgue was empty, which meant that the sobbing he was hearing was coming from inside the morgue proper.
Percy had forgot about Harry, which irked him. He hated forgetting anything.
It's not right that he should be alone, Percy thought, pushing open the door that led to the room in which Ron's blue-lipped, waxen-faced body was lying on an industrial-looking metal table.
Harry was clutching Ron's hand in much the same manner that Viktor had been clasping Hermione's.
Viktor's words kept repeating themselves in Harry's mind, as did everything that had happened up to the point of hearing them as Harry knelt by Ron's body and clutched his friend's hand, praying that it would grow warmer.
He had eventually steadied his broom and himself and made for Hogwarts, where he had known that, if Madam Pomfrey could not heal Hermione, then she would be able to help him Floo Hermione to St. Mungo's.
"She can't be Floo'd, but I've a Portkey. Get Ronald. I'll see to Hermione."
Harry had immediately returned to the Shrieking Shack to find Severus, Neville, and Luna carefully bearing Ron's body out of the wreckage.
"Mr. Potter," Severus had greeted him somberly.
"Ron," Harry had mouthed, leaping off his broom and running forward to take his friend's body into his arms.
"Oh, Harry, I'm so sor—"
"St. Mungo's—he should be with his wife," Harry had told them, ignoring Neville's attempt to apologize and Disapparating.
When Harry had appeared in the Apparation courtyard, Krum had tossed away his fag with an exclamation of alarm and begun screaming for medistaffers, screaming orders—screaming, there had been so much screaming as Harry had followed everyone inside.
And then those quiet words of Viktor's had sliced through the white noise in Harry's head: "I'm sorry."
Oh, God, I'm sorry, too. Ron. Ron, I'm—
—sorry. I didn't mean to kill you. I'm sorry. Ron, please, you have to know that—
"Harry," someone said, and a warm slender hand was suddenly on his shoulder. "Harry, I think we should have a healer examine you. Ron . . . Ron won't mind."
"P—Percy?" Harry asked, as he felt someone begin to uncurl his bloodless fingers from around Ron's hand.
It took him a moment to realize that the person doing so was Percy.
"No. I want to stay with him—he's so cold," Harry said, beginning to rub Ron's fingers.
Percy's words echoed over-loud in the room, but a dull, gray-colored blanket came floating toward them after a few moments.
"Here," Percy said, pulling the blanket out of the air and unfurling it over Ron's body. "Let me cover him. His . . . his hands should go underneath the blanket, as well."
"Want him to be warm. I know. Come on, Harry. Help me."
Reluctantly, Harry released Ron's hand and tucked the edge of the blanket under Ron's body.
"There, now he's warm."
The absurdity of treating a morgue like a bedchamber knocked Harry partially out of shock. He turned his head in Percy's direction and tried to speak, but words failed him.
"He's warm now. We should go."
He'll never be warm again. "He's dead." And I killed him.
"I know that, Harry."
"I killed him."
"The hell you did!"
The vehemence in Percy's tone startled Harry, but he persisted. "I killed both of them."
"Stop it. Hermione needs you."
"Hermione's not . . . ?"
"I won't lie to you," Percy answered, laying his hands on Harry's shoulders. "She might not survive."
Harry began to tremble violently but was steadied by the increase in pressure of Percy's hold on him.
"There may be a way to save the baby."
"Come with me now, all right? We can talk upstairs."
"I can't . . . . I can't face them."
"Then let's go say goodbye to Hermione."
"You'd come with me?" You'd do that for me when I killed Ron?
Emergency Room Five was empty when Harry and Percy arrived there, but the mediwizard putting it to rights directed them to one of the critical care rooms.
Harry flinched at the sight of Hermione's battered face reflecting the light of the diagnostic charms, but Percy's steady, quiet presence made it possible for him to enter the room.
A hushed voice behind them asked, "Administrator Weasley, may I speak to you for a moment?"
"Will you be all right?" Percy asked Harry.
"I should be asking you that."
Harry dimly heard the swish of Percy's trouser legs rubbing together as he left, but snatches of the wizard's conversation reached him as he pulled up a chair and rested his head on the edge of Hermione's bed.
"—yes, sir, but there's been no word from . . . ."
"I know that, Florence, but what about . . . ."
"—refuses because . . . ."
"That's nonsense! Why can't . . . emergency, damn it!"
"I'm so sorry, sir."
"No. I refuse to accept—"
"Percy?" Harry asked, the wizard's obvious distress having moved him to interrupt. "Is there something I can do?"
Harry knew that people might not refuse him—or his name—whatever it was that Percy needed.
"Florence has found a surrogate at the Salem Institute of Medicine in the States—"
"A surrogate?" Harry asked.
Percy answered, "Someone to carry Hermione's ba—"
"But she's not dead."
"Mrs. Granger-Weasley's injuries make it impossible," the mediwitch explained, "for her to carry her child to term."
"But Salem's Magical Obstetrics director is refusing to allow the surrogate to assist because he thinks it would be 'a waste of resources' to attempt foetal transplantation when the mother—"
A shrill alarm rang out.
"Excuse me," Florence said, rushing into Hermione's room, only to be quickly followed by several other medistaffers.
"Fuck!" yelled Percy, seizing handfuls of his hair. "Fuck! This is not happening!"
Harry was horrified by Percy's sudden loss of control, terrified by it, in fact, but he managed to push his horror down deeply within himself so that he could think. They need a witch to carry Hermione's baby. They think they can do it. They just need a witch.
He stared at the now-closed door to Hermione's room, stared through it as if it were glass—that was one of Voldemort's skills, one of the many magics Harry had gleaned from ripping the Dark Lord's mind apart—and pressed himself against the far wall of the corridor for support as he leafed through the metaphysical book into which he, with his healer's help, had "written" all such knowledge before it could drive him insane.
He thought he remembered something within it that might help, and Ron's promise, "If you let them die, I'll hate you," spurred him on as he half-watched the desperate efforts to save Hermione.
I can't fail Ron. I mustn't fail Ron. Ron, I won't let you hate me. I won't! It's here. I know it's—
"Get out of the way, Weasley!" a harsh voice ordered, cutting through Harry's frantic mental paging by virtue of its very familiarity.
Harry ignored the voice and refocused on his task.
Yes! I've found it! I can do it. It will only be for a few mo—
"Potter! Make yourself use—"
"Percy!" Harry cried, triumphant and terrified, as Percy, pushed there by Severus, fell into his arms. "I've found it! The spell—I've found a way to be the surrogate!"
"HARRY!" Severus roared, throwing himself back out into the corridor and at Harry, "don't—"
"—cast that spell!" Severus almost shrieked, too late reaching over the stumbling Percy in an attempt to press his hands against Harry's mouth.
Harry threw the wizards off, an unparalleled sensation of exhilaration rushing through his veins, and grinned. Severus looked shocked and furious; that was nothing new, but Harry did not understand why Percy appeared so frightened.
"Don't you see? I'm going to be the surrogate. It's . . . it's all right," he assured Percy. "I'll carry Hermione's ba—"
Suddenly, it felt to Harry as if his bones were liquefying; his knees buckled.
Severus caught him before he could fall and growled, "You idiot! The spell is 'excambiō sexus'—have you any idea what it is that you've done?"