Time melted into a blur of sound and noise for Harry as they remained in the room, and just when his bum-cheeks had gone numb from the hard floor did Harry even think of standing back up. Shaking himself from his stupor, he shakily got back onto his feet, Hermione watching his movements from her place on the sofa, where she had sat silently staring off into space. Her brown eyes met Harry's green, and he walked over and sank himself down beside her.
Not long after he had entered the room, claustrophobia had settled in the pit of Harry's stomach, and it still clung at his insides making him feel queasy and faint. He looked towards the one door into the room, more than once he had to stop himself from pulling it open.
He felt Hermione's fingers interlock with his own; but he didn't drop his eyes from the windowless exit.
"Do you want to get something to eat?" she asked. Stunned at the normality of the question, Harry was sure he had imagined Hermione's voice saying it and to make sure, he turned around to her. Her brown eyes were gazing at him.
"No," the word itself didn't come out, but she got the idea, and a second later, his stomach gave a low gurgle of protest. When was the last time he had eaten anything?
But even the mere thought of it felt selfish to him.
Hermione tucked her legs underneath her, her head settling down onto the arm of the chair. Harry watched her movements.
"Why are you still here?" it came out harsh and spiteful, startling Hermione to lift up her head, her hair tossed to one side.
"What?" she asked, her forehead creasing.
"Why aren't you-,"
"Because I thought I would be better help by being here with you," she retorted, her voice husky with tiredness. "They have the best healers looking after Albus, they don't need me, you on the other hand do," and she flipped her legs out from under her and sat up, her eyes throwing daggers at Harry "Don't you dare start accusing me," she hissed.
Not wanting to look her directly in the eye, Harry dropped his focus, but could still feel her eyes burn into the side of his face; he didn't answer. Letting Hermione's words buzz angrily in his ears.
"Don't start pointing fingers Harry," she continued, her voice back to being gentle, "there's nothing that you or I can do to save him and you'd be doing more damage than good."
As per-usual, Hermione was right, she didn't deserve to get slatted by Harry. But Harry wasn't going to say sorry.
Hermione pulled her legs back up onto the sofa, and laid back down, with her head resting on the arm. Harry sat himself straight up, too afraid to make himself any more comfortable that he would risk falling asleep and being unconscious for the moment the healers came into them.
"But he promised me that they would do everything to save him," Harry mumbled, thinking back to his first meeting with the senior healer, Mark Lucas.
"They have, Harry," Hermione mumbled.
A rap of knuckles tapped on the door and the two of them stumbled onto their feet as the light filtered in from the hallway.
"Mister Potter?" and the form of the one person who single-handedly got him out of prison, Elisha Johnson, stood in front of them, and Harry didn't know what words to say to her. When he said nothing, she turned to Hermione.
"Miss Granger," and the two colleagues shook hands.
"How is he?" Hermione asked.
"We have everything under control," and they both sighed in relief. "We had to put him into a heavy sleep, which we can get him out of when needs be. Would you like to see him?"
"Yes," Harry nodded, forgetting to tell the woman how immensely thankful he was for what she did- his son was more important at this time, "thanks," it came out blunt, but Elisha seemed to understand.
"He's been moved to the ward that's through the second door to the right," she explained, holding the door open for them. Harry didn't need much persuasion to leave, he was out the room before Elisha had finished the sentence. Hermione closely following.
"Do you want to be left alone?" Hermione asked as they stopped outside the door.
"No, come with me," he said, holding out his hand; Hermione took it, a look of anticipation on her face.
But Harry didn't move, there was no glass in this door, so he couldn't see inside; and now he didn't want to. Silently Hermione moved him and herself so she was ahead, with a little reassuring smile; Harry gripped tightly onto Hermione's hand as she pushed the door open. Harry followed her, tilting his head to the side to look around her.
There were three more patients in the ward, two of whom were crowded by visitors, who's chatter lowered as they noticed them.
A healer broke away from the visitors at the end, her lime-green robes fluttered as she walked towards them, a mastered smile on her lips.
"Mister Potter?" she asked politely, her hand outstretched, but in the second bed to Harry's right, a crown of black hair had caught his attention. Harry didn't shake the Healer's hand, but edged around her and towards the bed.
There was a pop, stopping Harry in his tracks, and he looked up at the rails that hung in mid-air above the bed, a second later light blue fabric tumbled elegantly from them, to hang around the bed.
He looked over his shoulder at the healer and Hermione; it was obvious who had done the spell as the healer was grasping her wand in her hand.
"I'll be here if you need anything," she smiled, before floating off, not looking the slightest bit phased at Harry's coldness.
Harry pushed the opening in the curtains further apart, and stood looking into him.
"This wasn't what I had planned," he whispered, his fists gripping a clump of the blue material. He knew Albus was sick, but still thought he would be well enough to be at home, chatting away in front of the fire while they all enjoyed a bowl of Bertie Botts.
"I don't think anyone could have seen this coming," Hermione replied, her voice coming from his shoulder. Harry looked back at her, and she gave him a reassuring smile.
Trying to muster up the courage, Harry walked up beside the bed, and sank down onto the plastic chair, his eyes never leaving his son.
He didn't know what to say, or do, he knew it was pointless talking to him, he couldn't hear. He knew from common sense, people don't hear a word when their sleeping.
Hermione moved to stand on the other side of the bed, a frown on her face as she looked down at Albus, before she looked at Harry.
"I can't tell you what to do," she whispered. She bent down and kissed Albus' forehead.
"I'll leave you two be," she whispered, beginning to walk back out.
"No!" Harry stopped her, she smiled.
"It's okay, you need to be alone," and she left.
There was no sound penetrating into him from the other side of the curtains, a dead silence ringing in his ears. Harry leaned closer to his son.
"Your mother would be turning over in her grave if she saw what we've become," he whispered, reaching over and taking a hold of his son's hand. "Why aren't I allow to have a normal life? One where I have my family?" he asked, gazing at his little face.
"Tomorrow, I feel it, we're going to get you out of here and we can put all this behind us. I won't ever leave you for one single day ever again and there will be no more strangers taking you away," and his hand began to rub his hand in comfort, "Auntie Hermione is living with us now, and so is Loony," and he smiled, leaning his chin down onto the side of the bed. "You're going to have great fun with Rose and Hugo, and we can get Teddy to stay over. You like Teddy," and he sighed.
"You owe you're brother big time, I hope you know that. Even if he's noisy and easily excited, he means well and loves you more than you will ever know."
"Your nan is going to have a party when we get home, get all the family around to the Burrow, and she'll get all the sugary sweets you can ever eat, you'd like that won't you? All your cousins are probably missing you like crazy. I haven't seen most of them in some time, it would be nice to catch up."
"But I did see your nan, she's a brilliant woman nanny Molly is. She's always accepted me like a son, and she always has time for everyone, should have talked to her when it got too much, would have made this a whole lot easier to handle, wouldn't it?"
Harry huffed, entwining his fingers between his son's tiny one's and squeezed it gently.
"You know," he began, "I don't think I ever left the war, it just followed me. You could call it a war, couldn't you? Just there's no Voldemort or Death Eaters," and Harry looked up, they were still alone. "or I'm still just bad luck, people I love just end up getting hurt," and he looked at Albus again. "I feel sorry for you then, it's not your fault you're my son, right? You don't choose who you're born to because if we did I wouldn't be The-Boy-Who-Lived now, would I?"
Harry settle his chin on the white blanket, and stopped talking for a long minute, just wanting to soak in this moment, the way Al looked.
"If I knew all this was going to happen, I wouldn't have married your mother, I would have left right after defeating Voldemort, turned on my heel and disappeared. Left everyone alone to have a happy life in peace. If I did, she would still be alive," and then he remembered what was going to happen in the next few hours, he needed to talk it out with him.
"They think I'm being selfish for even considering-you know," he whispered, he looked away from him, "But I'm not, they don't know what's it's like, to love someone more than anything in the world, and I do, I love you more than Quidditch," he smiled at the little joke he and the boys use to have, when he loved Quidditch more than them, but only by a little bit. "yea, there I've said it. I love you, your sister and brother more than Quidditch," Harry grinned at the memories, reaching his hand up, his fingers brushed through Albus' hair."Quidditch isn't that great, if I'm honest. Especially when it rains and it's freezing cold," he whispered "It's not the most comfortable either, you wouldn't be missing out on much," and he bit his lips together.
"And you know, I would do anything for you," and he sighed "Most people wouldn't even think about what I'm thinking about, and I don't want to, but if it means that your healthy and well, and a billion miles from this place, than I will."
"You'll be happy and with parents that love you."
Harry closed his eyes, his hand still holding onto Albus', he could feel the emotions rising in his throat and he buried his head into the blankets of the bed. If Ginny was here now, she would have scooped Albus into her arms and marched him out before another word was said; but she wasn't. It was only Harry, a broken and bet down Harry who, if this happened a few months backed would have done the same. Scooped him up and walked.
"Hermione says you wouldn't hate me, but-," and he pulled his head up, tears slipping silently from his eyes as he gazed at Albus' sleeping face. "I know you would, you would hate me because I would be the reason why you know all about Hogwarts and in a family that's famous, and you would have to go to a Muggle school and miss out on everything that your brother and little sister would get up to."
"I wouldn't blame you for hating me, I would hate myself," and Harry stopped talking. Letting the silence linger between them, knowing he could never have enough time with him
Harry's body had gone stiff from the amount of time he had been sitting in the squash position beside the bed, where he had been trying to absorb every single detail of his son that his memory would allow. He looked around to see the young face of a healer, and remained sitting as the healer stepped inside the curtains and they closed behind him.
"I am sorry for disturbing this moment," he started, "Mark Lucas isn't here at the moment, so I've been asked talk about your decision," and he paused, looking at Albus and then back at Harry. "Would you come with me and we can discuss the next step you want us to take with your son?" he had said the words slowly and with great sympathy.
It was sudden, but it wasn't unexpected.
Looking back around at Albus. Harry nodded and stood from the chair and he gently let go of Albus' hand. The touch leaving a tingly feeling on his skin. No matter what came from his mouth in the next few minutes, it was going to be the wrong answer.
Harry followed the Healer out of the ward and down the corridor, where he opened a door and let Harry into the small office first.
"My name's Robert and I was asked to explain to you what's going to happen."
Harry nodded, afraid that if he opened his mouth he would lose the little self-control he had left.
"This is a decision that nobody but yourself can make, and I want to let you know neither of your options are wrong in any way," he said, walking around the desk and sitting himself down.
Harry didn't say anything, he wanted him to get a move on with whatever he was going to tell him. The healer pointed to the chair, and Harry quickly sank himself down on it.
"As you've seen, he's sleeping. If you go with the cure, we'll give him the potion and he won't feel a thing and you can have him home by tomorrow, but if you go with the foster family we will then move him to the home of a Scribe, who will act as a family friend. We will inform the couple and then perform the spells that are needed and when he wakes up, he wont remember a thing and will have a history that will be given to him by his new parents. I can assure you that it will be painless, and will be as if he's just woken up from a nap."
Harry was shocked at how easy and simple he made the whole situation sound.
"Just like that?" he asked, taking his hands from his face, "I can sign whatever piece of crappy document I need to, and walk out of here, and I won't see or talk to my son ever again?"
The healer didn't answer, there was no point.
Harry stood from the chair, and without explaining where he was going to the Healer, he walked from the room, passed the ward where Albus was and around the corner, where he pushed open the door to the men's toilets. Urinals lined the wall to his right; without looking at any of the men already there, he entered one of the cubicles.
He slammed the door shut and bolted it.
His body was shaking from it's core, his skin beginning to heat up as his hands became clammy and wet. This was worse than facing Voldemort. Straightening himself up he sucked in a breath, he needed to get a hold of himself, but as the thought came to him, his vision blurred and he hunkered down in front of the toilet.
He placed his head in his hands, his fingers getting caught in his tangled hair, as he tried to get as much air into his lungs as he could before he fainted.
A squeaky noise came into him as the two men who had been having a conversation opened the door and their voices faded as they walked down the hall, Harry was now the only person in the toilets.
How could anyone be able to make a choice like this?
Either way he would have to say goodbye to his Buddy, because he couldn't live with the hatred that he would have for him, and he wasn't ready for it; he would never be ready for it. He either did it now or later down the line, wether in a few months or a year, it was going to come.
Harry wished there was someone who could make the choice for him, because right now he wanted to stay in the tiny cubical forever, and not have to go back with his mind made up. This wasn't being brave, there was no brave to it. It was a choice between being selfless or selfish, and Harry's heart was telling him the one option he didn't want to go for. To sign the pages, and to let Albus live with another family. But could Harry be able to carry on knowing that Albus was out there? Living a life not knowing anything about Harry and not being able to contact him.
As he thought about it, it seemed straight forward, don't be selfish, take all emotion from the situation and sign the god-damn pages. Then it occurred to him, as he sat down on the floor, that there was still a tiny part of him that still thought that Albus was going to make it out of this with his magic. That what if Harry brought Albus home without giving him the potion, and in a few months he got better?
"No, don't think that," Harry scolded himself.
That was when it struck him; there was never any choices, it was always the one. That he had to be a father and say goodbye to the one thing he had lived and fought for, who made his life worth-while, who believed in him relentlessly and never doubted him for a second.
Tonight he would have to say his goodbye, he would have to let Albus live a happy life and not one filled with hatred and resentment, he would have to forget his little Buddy ever existed.
"Harry Potter, are you in here?"
It had been a long time since Harry had entered the cubical, long enough for the healer to be looking for him.
Harry grunted and rose from the toilet he had sat himself down on.
Slowly, he opened the door of the cubical. Robert was at the entrance.
"Would you like to continue with our conversation yet?" he asked, so that if they were overheard that nobody would take it for anything serious. A wizard who was in the toilets with them, dried his hands, and with a smile of greeting he passed the man and exited the room.
Harry nodded. The healer held the door open for him,and Harry took the lead back to his office, as they passed the ward, the door was opened and Harry looked in, but all he could see was the curtains surrounding his bed. That might have been the last time he would see him, and each step he now took, took him further away from where his son was and each seemed to be too big. As he reached the end of the corridor, he looked back. His body wanting to remain in the corridor, to not go any further, but Robert was waiting for him patiently, and Harry forced himself to keep walking.
They got to the office too quickly for Harry, and he glanced at the different pictures on the walls, trying to keep himself calm as his mind raced- whatever happened in this office in the next few seconds was going to change his life for good and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"At your own time Mister Potter," Robert whispered, sitting down on his chair and leaning back; mentally and physically giving Harry the space to think.
"I'm not a bad father," Harry mumbled, trying to clear the basics up.
"I never said you were," Robert responded slowly, "whatever happens, nobody would question your unconditional love for your children."
There was a long pause, and Harry knew the man wasn't going to break it, no matter how much time went by.
Taking a deep breath, to make sure he got the words out in one go, and his heart feeling like it was on the verge of quitting on him, Harry didn't look at the man as he spoke.