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Chapter 1: He Nearly Killed the Cat
“Come on, Harry, say, ‘Daddy.’”
“Ok, now try, ‘Daaaaaaddy.’”
“C’mon, kiddo, you know what people will say about you if you go your whole life only knowing that one word.”
“Jealous?” said a voice from the front entranceway. James lifted his eyes from the dark-haired baby on his lap to gaze at the redhead who had appeared in the doorway, holding today's post.
“Aw, now you’ve done it,” he said to his son in a mock whisper. “She’s come to bother us. Hope you’re happy.”
“Mummy!” said Harry again, positively ecstatic at this new arrival. He pointed frantically at his mother.
“I thought this was supposed to be ‘boy time!’” protested James.
Gazing at his wife again, he locked eyes with her. They remained frozen in their respective places for what seemed like forever as they held a silent conversation, which, if spoken aloud, would have made all of their friends gag.
But that was maybe the nicest thing about being cooped up here together. They may not have been able to leave the house, but they could spend all day making ridiculous faces at each other, and nobody could bother them about it.
Except, of course, for the little boy who was banging his tiny fist in frustration against James’ arm.
James snapped out of it and looked at Harry in amusement.
“Mummy!” repeated Harry for the thousandth time that day. He pointed again at Lily, then brought his hand to his mouth, made a kissing sound against his palm, and looked expectantly at James.
James stared curiously at Harry, then broke into a wide grin.
“You want me to kiss Mummy? Why didn’t you just say so?”
He leapt up from the couch, cradling Harry in his left arm, and was at his wife’s side in a second. Wrapping his free arm around her waist, he kissed her blissfully, breathing in the floral scent that followed her wherever she went.
He grumbled when she pulled away from him, as Harry pounded his small fist impatiently against her shoulder.
“Do you want one, too?” she laughed, ruffling the baby’s jet-black hair. She kissed him on the forehead and allowed him to plant a tiny kiss on her cheek in return.
“Excuse me, Mister,” said James, tickling Harry’s stomach, “but I believe that’s my wife you’re kissing.”
Harry looked at James rather insolently, blowing a rude raspberry in his direction. When Lily broke into uncontrollable giggles, Harry threw a glowing smile in her direction.
“I see I can’t stop you from flirting with other blokes even after I’ve married you,” accused James.
“Well, he’s quite handsome, you know,” she replied, cooing at Harry.
“So, what’s all this you’re holding?” James nodded at the package Lily was holding in one arm, along with the rest of the post.
She held up the long, thin parcel for James’ inspection. “It’s addressed to Harry. I suspect it’s from Padfoot – I’d recognize that handwriting anywhere. It’s even worse than yours.”
“My penmanship is beautiful,” quipped James. “The Ministry still won’t stop bothering me about coming to work for them, addressing all of their official letters.”
“Funny, I didn’t realize there was such a position.”
“There isn’t, but my writing’s so lovely, they’re willing to create an entirely new office for me as Head Calligrapher.”
“Well, maybe you can do all of Harry’s thank-you notes for his birthday gifts. Come on, let’s see what Padfoot has sent him.”
Plopping Harry on the floor, James and Lily knelt down next to him and opened the parcel. A shiny toy broomstick rolled out onto the floor.
“Harry, look!” cried James excitedly. “It’s a broom!”
“Oom!” repeated Harry, waving his arms in the air, seeming to understand that this was something to be very happy about.
“That’s right! Broom!” said James proudly.
“Oom,” said Harry again, pointing at the broomstick.
James picked the broomstick off the floor and offered it to Harry, who closed one tiny fist around the handle. For a moment, Harry was very quiet, staring intensely at the broomstick. Then his eyes grew very wide. A second later, he squealed with delight, waving the broom in the air and kicking his feet gleefully.
James and Lily beamed at each other.
“Can he fly it?” James asked Lily. “In here, I mean. He can’t exactly go outside.”
“Of course! I wouldn’t have the heart to keep him from using it. It’s not his fault we’re stuck in this house, anyway. Besides,” she added, glancing around the room, “it’s not like he’s going to do much damage in here with that little thing.”
James grinned impishly.
“Can I fly my broom – ”
Lily cut him short with a pointed look. James sighed.
“Alright. Harry, want to play with your new broom?”
“We’ll have to make sure we take pictures of this later. Padfoot’ll do me in if I don’t send him any,” said James as he set Harry on the broomstick.
Harry smiled as the broomstick rose two feet off the floor. He hovered for a moment, leaned forward, and then –
“Oh, lord, he’s off!” said James, chasing after him. Were those things supposed to go that fast? He seemed to remember the broomsticks he’d had as a child going a lot more slowly. But, of course, Padfoot would have made sure that any gift for Harry was top-of-the-line. It wouldn’t do to have James Potter’s son flying a sluggish, sub-par broom.
It was probably the safety spells that made the broom handle so well, but still James couldn’t help admiring what an excellent flyer his one year-old son was, as he and Lily chased Harry from the sitting room into the kitchen, through the dining room, and back into the sitting room. They watched adoringly – James laughing and clapping in pure enjoyment, and Lily smiling but clasping her hands together anxiously – as Harry circled the room several times, giggling madly.
Suddenly, Harry took a sharp right into the hallway, brushing against a tall, narrow end table, atop which sat a ghastly vase they had received from Lily’s sister Petunia the previous Christmas.
The table swayed dangerously, and the vase teetered precariously close to the edge. They watched in slow motion as the vase lurched over the edge of the table and shattered on the floor with a crash, missing Lily’s black cat Heathcliff by mere inches. Heathcliff jumped straight into the air, hissing and spitting and glaring at James as though this were somehow his fault.
Heathcliff had never really liked James. The feeling was mutual.
“Alright, alright,” laughed Lily. “Time out.”
James grabbed Harry swiftly as Lily hurried over to the mess of porcelain on the floor. Good riddance, he thought, looking at the remains of the horrid vase. He had never understood why Lily displayed it – even she didn’t like it. But she had said it was only good manners, although they both knew that Petunia and her git of a husband wouldn’t be dropping by anytime soon.
The vase had been a lurid shade of pink, and practically overrun with tiny sculpted flowers. It reminded him of a vase that had belonged to his Great Aunt Agatha. When Agatha had died, she had left her possessions to James’ mother. And even his mother, whose taste was fairly old-fashioned, had refused to allow the vase inside her house. Instead, it had been donated to St. Mungo’s, where it was probably sitting on the bedside table of somebody so loopy that the vase had become a trusted confidant.
“Well,” said Lily, Vanishing the broken pieces of porcelain, “at least we know Harry has good taste! Now, can I trust you two to be careful in here while I go make lunch?”
James flashed an angelic smile. Lily gave him a warning look as she disappeared into the other room.
“Oom!” demanded Harry, pointing at the broomstick.
“Ok,” said James, “but don’t go breaking anything else, or Mummy won’t let you fly inside anymore. And one of us might as well be able to have some fun around here.” He set Harry on the broomstick again and watched as Harry zoomed happily around the room.
Heathcliff was perched on the sofa, observing the action reproachfully. Suddenly, Harry shot straight at him, causing Heathcliff to leap over the back of the sofa. But Harry swerved and circled around the sofa, nearly colliding with the cat attempting to take refuge behind it. The cat yowled, shot across the room, and hid underneath a low table.
James was doubled over with laughter. He had never liked that bloody cat anyway.
At some point during the chaos of Harry’s first flying experience, James’ wand had fallen to the floor. As James wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes, Harry zipped past him and scooped up the abandoned wand. Holding onto the broomstick with one hand, Harry waved the wand aimlessly with his other, leaving a trail of golden sparks in his wake.
James didn’t notice the wand until Harry shot more sparks at the cat, whose fur was suddenly standing on end as though he had been electrified. The cat hissed and disappeared into the hallway.
“Oh, shit!” he blurted out, without thinking about what he was saying. He tore after Harry. Young wizards were fairly harmless, but he had heard the horror stories about toddlers who had set their houses on fire after getting their hands on their parents’ unguarded wands.
“Shit!” repeated Harry, still waving the wand at anything and everything. A framed photograph fell to the floor, glass flying everywhere.
“No, no, no, no, Harry, you don’t say that!”
“What did he just say?” came a furious voice from the kitchen.
Harry brought the broomstick to a screeching halt and gave James a wide-eyed look that clearly said, Mummy’s going to kill one of us, and I hope to Quidditch it's not me.
James scooped up Harry, snatched back his wand, and whispered desperately, “Come on, you’re on my side, right, buddy? That’s not a word we say, alright?”
Lily was standing in the doorway looking lethal.
“I hope, for your sake, that I did not hear what I thought I heard.”
“Quidditch!” exclaimed James. “He said ‘Quidditch!’ Come on, Harry, tell Mummy your new word. ‘Quidditch!’”
“Iddick,” repeated Harry obediently.
“That’s not what I heard…” said Lily slowly.
“Shit,” said Harry, apparently proud of his newly expanded vocabulary.
Lily clapped a hand to her forehead and sighed.
“Maybe we could modify his memory?” suggested James.
“You’ll do no such thing!” She scoffed. “You are such a git sometimes.”
“Git!” said Harry, looking at his father.
“Now, see here, young man – only Mummy’s allowed to call me that! You’re supposed to call me ‘Daddy.’”
“Well, I suppose that’s deserved,” he sighed. He glanced at Lily, who – he was grateful to see – seemed to be fighting back laughter, attempting to keep a stern expression on her face. He knew he was safe.
“Lunch?” he asked hopefully.
“Come on, then,” she said, turning towards the dining room. “And what on earth have you been doing to Heathcliff? He’s acting positively paranoid.”
James smiled at Harry as he followed his wife through to the dining room. On the way, he paused where Petunia’s vase had fallen to the floor.
“One out of two isn’t bad,” he whispered to Harry. “You can have another go at the cat tomorrow.”
Harry placed a hand on James’ cheek.
James broke into the hugest grin he had ever felt on his face.
“You bet, I’ll teach you how to play Quidditch!”
Harry clapped his hands gleefully.
James Potter looked adoringly at his son.
“Love you, kiddo.”