James rushed through the swinging doors, carelessly shoving people aside as he pelted down the hallway. Third Floor, he’d been told, Ward Six, Room Twelve. It felt as though he’d been running for hours and hadn’t gotten any closer.
He’d been doing a routine scout of a possible meeting place for Death Eaters and when he’d returned to Headquarters, Hestia and Emmeline had turned him around and pushed him right back out the door, telling him that Sirius had taken Lily to St. Mungo’s, that she was in labour. He’d Apparated three different places before getting it right and landing at Saint Mungo’s. She’d been there eight hours or so and he couldn’t remember if that was long or short or normal for the process. It seemed like a long time, but seeing as walking on the same street as an obviously pregnant woman meant you were entitled to share every excruciating detail of your child’s birth, James had heard so many stories where the labour had lasted for days; but he couldn’t remember if that was normal or not. He remembered the parts about mucus, though.
He skidded around the corner and into another corridor, completely sure he’d run down this one twice before. Arms extended from nowhere and caught him, James let out a yelp of surprise and Sirius pale face appeared in his view.
“Almost ran past us, mate,” Sirius said, and he laughed nervously.
James twisted in his grip and righted himself; gasping for air and shaking. “Is she…has she…is she okay?”
Sirius rolled up his sleeves and scraped the hair from his face, nodding. “The Healers keep coming out and telling us she’s fine.”
“She’s been screaming a lot though,” Peter said, stepping out from behind a pillar, rubbing his hands together and sweating rather profusely. James paled and his eyes widened fearfully, it was quiet now, she wasn’t screaming. Between contractions, he thought, some idle information that surfaced in his brain at just the right time.
“Ever tried to push another person out of something this big?” Sirius indicated a small hole with his thumb and forefinger. “You’d be screaming too.”
“It’s normal, Peter,” Remus said calmly. James hadn’t even realised he was there.
James took a couple of deep breaths. “She hasn’t given birth yet?”
“Still in the process,” Remus replied, his voice seemingly softer than ever. How was he so calm? James looked around at Peter and Sirius, pale and anxious, exact mirrors of his own state and Remus stood there like solid rock as a stormy sea roiled around him.
His wife was in there, giving birth to their baby, he hadn’t been there for her like they’d planned. He wasn’t supposed to go out that day, it had been Frank’s job to take but Alice had gone into labour the day before and everyone else was busy. Lily wasn’t due for another two weeks so he’d gone, told Sirius to stop by once he’d finished his duties for the Order. He wanted to ask if he’d been there when she’d gone into labour, he wanted to know how it had all gone down because he should have been there for her, but his tongue was heavy in his mouth, it felt like he’d been hit with a Jaw Locker Curse and nothing would come to him. He wiped his damp palms down the front of his robes and leaned against the wall.
Sirius gripped his shoulder comfortingly, though a little too hard. “You should go in there.”
James looked up at him, a scared little boy again. He’d felt like a kid most of the time now, like he was too young to be doing any of this. His eyes were wide with fear and he just wanted to be told what to do. Not for the first time since Lily had gotten pregnant: he wanted his mum around.
“She’d been asking for you,” Remus told him, taking a step closer so that James could see he was scared too. It comforted him that his friends were all in this together, that he wasn’t alone in being absolutely bloody terrified. What were friends for if not to validate your paralysing fears?
“Screaming for you, actually,” Sirius said with a weak smile. “Never heard her so angry at you.”
James gave him a look and Sirius patted his arm, working up the strength to be the best friend, to think of jokes at a time like this when James needed to be reminded that the world hadn’t actually stopped spinning. “You might want to arm yourself, though, Lily always was creative with her payback.”
James choked out laugh and looked up his friend, straining to smile. He was going to be a dad, he was going to walk in that door and when he walked out he wouldn’t be the same; none of them would. Twenty years old and he was going to be responsible for another living person for the rest of his life.
And Lily was in there. Twenty feet to his left, Third Floor, Ward Six, Room Twelve.
His Lily, the little girl in pigtails who he accidentally tripped over on their first day at Hogwarts, who had hit him with the Blabbermouth Curse in Fourth Year only to be embarrassed to find out he had a crush on her, who had actually ripped a chunk of his hair out in an argument in Potions, Second Year, and thrown it in her cauldron, smiling deviously as he’d stood there, mouth agape and in awe of her.
He couldn’t get it through his head that they weren’t children anymore, she wasn’t that freckled little girl in his memory and he was the gangly little boy he’d been back then; they weren’t kids anymore because Lily was in there, having one of their own.
He didn’t feel like a grown up, standing here with his childhood gang, too afraid to go and hold his wife’s hand like he’d promised.
“You should go,” Sirius repeated, and punched James in the arm for good measure. “Go in there and finish what you started.”
James took off his glasses and cleaned them, taking a heavy step towards the door where she was. He felt a couple of hands giving him a gentle shove in the right direction and he walked, haltingly and breathlessly.
He stopped in front of the door, closed his eyes and tried to breath normally. He looked back at his friends and saw them pacing apprehensively, still children when he wasn’t anymore. He wasn’t sure if he was jealous or proud, he was just scared. He looked up at the door. Room Twelve. He was going open that door as James Potter: Husband, Member of the Order of the Phoenix and one of only four Marauders in the world and when he came out (if he came out) he was going to leave as a dad.
He took a breath and opened the door.
“James!” Lily cried the moment he stuck his head into the room. She was lying on her side, an exhausted look on her face, which was also red and puffy from crying and exertion.
He rushed to her side and took her hands in his, kissing her hands and lips, apologising for being late and for being too much of a coward to see her straight away (but he didn’t tell her that). She just looked relieved to see him and gripped his hands tightly, as if she might not let go.
“You okay?” he asked her softly, pressing a kiss close to her ear as he asked.
She looked up at him; her green eyes sparkling with unshed tears. “I was so scared.”
James looked at her in alarm. “Is the baby okay? Has something happened?” he asked her, panic rising in his voice.
She shook her head. “Afraid of where you were,” she explained. “Nobody could contact you and I was…”she sucked in a breath through gritted teeth. “Oh Christ this hurts.”
A Healer buzzed about at the lower end of the bed. “Mrs. Potter it’s another contraction, you should lie on your back again.”
Lily nodded and began to shift herself, awkwardly and arduously turning over onto her back.
“What should I do?” James asked twitchily. “I mean, er, where should I go?”
“Where ever your wife wants you, Mr Potter,” the Healer replied tiredly with a touch of acid in her tone. James didn’t have time to care about the Healer’s haughty attitude, he understood it – what with the shifts they’d been working and the things they’d seen since the war began, but he wouldn’t forgive, he’d chew her out later: nothing but the best for Lily, he couldn’t make the hurt any less and he couldn’t carry the baby for her, but this was all going to be very pleasant if he could help it.
He squeezed Lily’s hand and glared angrily at the Healer down the length of the bed. “Where do you want me?”
She had her eyes squeezed shit and the grip on his hand became tighter, almost painful. “Just…just…” she let out a scream and the Healer began to count slowly, peering up under Lily’s hospital gown with grave concentration.
“Another push, Mrs. Potter,” the Healer instructed monotonously and Lily sat up on her elbows and let out a shrill hiss as she pushed, he could feel her straining and shaking in his hands and wished he could make this easier for her.
“It’s okay,” he heard himself. “You’re…you’re doing great, Lily. Good…good girl, I’m so proud of you,” he was jabbering on uselessly, but just standing her like a mute human stress ball made him feel even more useless. Mindless chatter it was, then.
“Shut up!” she shrieked and fell back against the pillow, panting heavily and crying, her hand still clutching James’ firmly. The Healer continued to look up Lily’s robe and said nothing.
“How much longer?” Lily asked in a wearied, weakened voice. It sounded as though she was begging, he never liked to her do that. Not his wife, she was strong and when she asked things: she demanded them; he didn’t like hearing her in pain.
“Not long Mrs. Potter, a few more pushes and we should see the head. Your contractions are getting very close. Just a few more pushes.”
Lily let out a sob and pulled him closer to her. “I can’t, I can’t,” she whimpered.
James swallowed. He felt numb and helpless. Lily was crying in this nondescript little room, she was in pain and he was useless. The only one who could help her was the horsy looking Healer who kept peeking up her robes and prodding her in her privates.
“Isn’t there anything you can do?!” James roared suddenly.
The Healer looked unabashed. “Nothing we haven’t tried already, Mr. Potter,” she replied calmly.
There was a gentle tug on his sleeve and a sweaty hand trailed down his cheek. “It’s okay, James,” Lily said wearily, staring up at him with tenderness. “It’s okay.”
James laughed sadly. “Not supposed to be you comforting me,” he replied.
She smiled tiredly. “I’ve been at this eight hours alone, James. I don’t need comfort to get me through,” she replied and he reeled back, a surge of remorse rising like bile in his throat. “Muggle drugs would have been nice.”
The Healer snorted disdainfully.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” James told her with real feeling.
“I was worried,” she whispered. “Sirius was too, he tried not to show it but he’s always been an unconvincing liar.”
“You see right through him,” James agreed, petting her hair. How did they end up here? In a room that smelt like the Hogwart’s dungeons, with an ugly woman between his wife’s knees, bringing their baby into the world. It baffled him beyond all belief.
“I didn’t mean that I don’t need you, you know, or that I’m angry…I was scared James, I wanted you to be here,” she told him firmly. Her voice getting back some of that nagging tone she used just for him, it made him feel better knowing she was still in there despite all the pain and the blood and the mucus. He was still his Lily, stubborn and sanctimonious until the end.
“I am now,” he replied, smoothing down the rumples in her gown.
“Are you scared?” she asked him suddenly, stilling his hand as it reached her belly.
He looked at her and grinned. “Terrified.”
“Good,” she replied with a look of satisfaction. “Because if I have to go through all this and you get to feel fantastic, it isn’t fair.”
He burst out laughing and kissed the tip of her blotchy, red nose. Tears started to fill his eyes; it wasn’t sadness or him being a pansy, just the way that several thousand emotions had decided to make themselves known. He smiled down at her affectionately and she grinned back, albeit a little tiredly. He felt her hand clench tightly and she arched back off the bed again, hauling herself up using James as leverage.
The Healer counted, Lily screamed and screeched, hands fisted in the front of his robes, pleading for it to be over. Her previously tender attitude went out the window and she cursed James vehemently for his part in all of this. He was glad she didn’t have her wand on her.
The contractions were close now. It had been around forty-five minutes and he didn’t know where Lily had found the strength, but she did, gritting her teeth and squeezing his hand until he couldn’t feel his fingers, she pushed. Sometimes, between contractions and threats of violence, she would tell him that she loved him and that she was sorry, and he hushed her, told her it was okay and wiped a damp cloth across her forehead with a trembling hand.
Lily gave a particularly haunting scream and fell back against the pillows again.
“The head is out,” the Healer, who he had since found out was called Flora Wilkins, but James preferred to call her the Evil Bitch Monster from Hell, informed them. “You could have a look if you wished, Mr Potter.”
James looked in askance at Lily, who nodded tiredly and let go of his hand, which was now throbbing somewhat painfully. He stretched out his fingers and cautiously took those few steps down to the end of the bed. The Bitch Monster from hell stood aside and fussed about with some items that he assumed were for when their baby was born.
Feeling like a prat, he leaned over and lifted the hem of her hospital gown. The incredibly disturbing image of a dark head of hair, streaked with bloody and some other horrible looking liquid, poking out from a place it really oughtn’t, greeted him. He looked back over Lily’s knees and grinned at her. “Has my hair,” he said proudly.
Her pale lips stretched into a smile. “Bugger.”
He laughed and wiped his hand down his face, disbelievingly. It was like a surrealist painting, seeing that but there was something to it that made him feel… awed. The Bitch Monster shoved him out the way and James moved back up to Lily, grabbing her hand and kissing her again. They were so close now! They were going to be parents and that tiny, squished looking thing with the forest of dark black hair was their child.
“How does it look down there?” she asked him softly.
“Disgusting,” he replied with a grin. “Perfect.” He felt warm and tingly with anticipation, the world was changing around him, spinning so fast that the only thought he could hold onto was that he was happy.
She sighed happily and sat up, preparing herself for the next round. She had a fixed look of determination on her face, like the previous nine hours were nothing compared to grand finale.
“Again, Mrs. Potter.”
Lily strained and pushed as hard as she could, as long as she could, making one of the strangest sounds James had ever heard; if his mind hadn’t been on other things he might have sought to tease her about it, but all he could think of was that he was going to be a dad and Lily was going to be a mum.
“Shoulders are out,” they were informed. “One more push and we’ll be done here.”
Lily nodded, James could see how exhausted she was, but also how determined she was to finish this. He put his arm around her shoulder and held her as she screamed herself hoarse.
Just as she fell down against the pillows, James heard a spell muttered and then a squalling cry. The Bitch Monster wiped the blood from the baby. “It’s a boy,” she announced primly and then handed him over to Lily, who had started crying as soon as she’d fallen back. She wiped at his brow feebly, kissing him with chapped lips and talking to him. “My baby,” she was saying, over and over again, “my beautiful baby boy,” she grasped at James’ sleeve with her fingers and he looked down at her, hand covering his mouth in disbelief. “He really does have you hair,” she chuckled through tears and he leaned over and kissed the Lily fervently and repeatedly, all over her face, he kissed his son’s hair and hands and toes not caring that he was a sentimental sod.
A boy! James lifted his glasses and wiped his eyes, crying for the second time this day as he watched Lily cradle their little boy in her arms, kissing his fuzzy head and beaming. He was a father now, of their perfect little son. James watched as his little fists curled into balls, his tiny toes wiggled on his mother’s breasts. James reached out to touch him stroking the pads of his fingers over his skin, amazed that he was here. His son had a scent, and a feel, he had measurements and weight and dimensions, he had a voice and already he was throwing his first temper tantrum. James couldn’t have felt more proud at that moment, that this tiny little thing was theirs.
“Our son!” Lily rasped excitedly, running her hands over every inch of him. “I’m your mum,” she told their son and she gingerly shifted him so that he was facing James. “And this is your dad.”
James beamed down at him; “Hello,” he said softly, feeling like anything louder might hurt his tiny ears. It was one of those rare times in life when he was struck utterly dumb.
The cord was severed unceremoniously and the Bitch Monster from Hell asked if James could bring him over for measuring. He blanched, what if he dropped him? He’d never held anything this new and special before.
“You won’t break him, James,” Lily told him, knowing him too damn well for both their goods. She shifted him in her arms again and raised him up a little, James reached beneath his head and legs, he didn’t know how this was supposed to be done – he’d had no cousins and grown up as an only child, he’d never been around babies before and now he was supposed to be responsible for one? He, whose idea of a good time was blowing up cauldrons in their owner’s faces, who had spent over three hundred hours in detention and drank far too much to claim it on youthful exuberance? Oh yes, the very image of responsibility and a moral compass for the ages.
He was certain he felt a sweat break out on his brow as he lifted their son into his arms. Picking him up like he was being tested on it by the Ministry. Why didn’t they teach this kind of stuff in school? It would have been far more useful than Divination.
“Just support the neck, okay? You’re doing really well,” Lily told him, she brushed her hand over her child’s tummy one last time, enjoying the feel of him.
James peered down at his son squirming with his eyes still tightly closed; he wondered what colour they were. Cradling him against his chest with one arm and spreading out his son’s fingers gingerly with his free hand. “He’s so tiny!” he exclaimed to Lily and she giggled.
“Didn’t feel that way to me.”
He laughed and leaned over to kiss her. “You are…you’re wonderful, you are. You’re brilliant and wonderful and so is he.”
She just smiled and tickled their son’s tummy again.
“Anytime, Mr. Potter, it’s not as if I have other tasks to attend to.”
“Healer Wilkins, nothing you say can bring me down right now, even if you are a toadying wretch,” James told her cheerfully, watching her horsy face puff up indignantly. “My son is beautiful and he makes the sunshine from your arse.”
“James!” Lily chastised. “Not in front of the baby!”
“Oops,” James told the baby. “He’ll forgive me, Lily. I’m his dad, he has to forgive me,” he trilled, beaming widely.
He carefully placed his baby on the scales, proudly declaring to his mother that their son weighed a perfect seven pounds two and was eighteen inches in length and was perfectly healthy.
His good friend Flora Wilkins took down all the details with a sour look on her face. “Name?” she asked, looking up at James disdainfully.
He tore his attention away from his son, who had grabbed one of his fingers, and looked over at Lily. “Did we really decide on a name yet?”
She shook her head wearily. “No, but we can’t let him go without a name. We could call him James Junior,” she suggested.
James made a face. “Something nice, something Muggle too, so your mum doesn’t have to worry.”
“I always wanted a boy named Harry when I was little,” she said. “After this character in a book, I can’t remember what it was now. I think I told you that.”
James looked down at his son. “Harry,” he said, trying out the name, there was a tug on his finger. “He likes it!” James reported back excitedly, e didn’t care that he was acting like an idiot, he was holding his son in his arms for the first time.
Lily smiled and breathed in deeply. “Harry it is then.”
“Middle name?” Flora asked, grinding her teeth together.
“James, after his father,” Lily put in quickly. “Harry James Potter.”
James stared at her confusedly.
“Always liked your name.”
Flora wrote that down before James could protest it and stormed from the room, spitting out instructions and informing them a Healer’s Aide would be along any second to help them.
“Harry James Potter,” James said to himself. “It’s a classy name.”
A Healer’s Aide buzzed into the room and asked to take Harry, cooing over how beautiful he was and how lucky they both were to be parents as she place him in a special little cradle next to the bed. Lily stroked at his arms through the bars and talked to him, even though she was tired and aching, she was telling their little boy stories. He recognised it as the story of how they fell in love, because nothing could be more important to him than knowing how he got here.
“You should go tell them,” Lily said, breaking away from Harry as the Healer’s Aide fluffed her pillows and gave her a Blood Replenishing Potion. “Tell Sirius he’s the proud godfather.”
James didn’t want to leave the room just now, because Harry was in here and once that door closed he couldn’t see him or touch him and there was something not right about that.
“I’ll just be a minute.”
“No guests,” the Healer’s Aide warned, “she’s much too tired for them now.”
James nodded vaguely and leaned down to kiss Harry before he left. He glanced back one final time at Lily before he left, grinning ear to ear. “I love you,” he told her. “I’ll just be a minute.”
“Okay,” she said and closed her eyes contentedly, resting her hand in Harry’s crib.
His wife and son: Lily, James and Harry Potter, a proper family now.
As soon as he’d left the room he was practically wrestled to the ground.
“How is she?” Remus asked.
“Boy or girl?” Peter asked.
“How are you?” Sirius asked him, gripping his arm so tightly that had he any feeling left in that limb, it might have hurt.
“I have a son,” James said with a grin. Sirius let out a whoop of joy and jumped into the air. Remus and Peter patted him on the back and beamed widely at him.
“Oh wow!” Peter exclaimed, looking like a bottle rocket of excitement. “Oh wow, Prongs is a dad! You’re a dad!”
“Congratulations,” Remus said softly, his frail hands trembling as he shook James’.
“What’s his name?” Sirius asked, with his arm hooked around James’ neck.
“Harry James Potter,” James told them proudly, leaning slightly to his left where Sirius was dragging him down.
“Best bloody name ever thought of!” Sirius crowed. “What’s he look like?”
James laughed and dragged Sirius over to a chair, his legs felt strangely weak now that it was all over and he just wanted to sit for a while. “He has my hair and he’s beautiful, ten fingers, ten toes, skin like Lily’s I reckon, all pale and soft.”
“All babies are pale and soft,” Peter said, that same wide grin plastered to his face.
James laughed, still in disbelief that he was sitting here explaining to his best friends what his son looked like. “Not like this, not like Harry. Oh Merlin, oh Christ, he’s so perfect.”
“Can we see him?” Peter asked.
“Don’t know, Lily’s exhausted but…I don’t know. Let me ask, I want to show him to you. He’s…he’s my son!” he exclaimed to Sirius, who laughed and hugged him. He’d been so worried when he last saw him, terrified that things were going to be different, but now that he was out here those twenty feet he’d been afraid of seemed like too far a distance to be away from them. Different didn’t mean bad. Sirius was still his best mate
He raked his fingers through his hair and nodded more times than was necessary. “I’ll go ask. Hang on, I’ll be back in a second.” He dashed back into the room, Lily rolled her head to look over at him, she looked exhausted but so content.
“What did the boys say?” she asked. “Was that Sirius I heard carrying on?”
James just grinned at her. “Would it be all right if I took him out to show them? I’d be careful, Lily, I think I’m getting this whole thing down.”
“You’re a natural,” Lily said warmly. She looked over at the Healer’s Aide and asked if Harry was okay to be taken out.
“Of course, all the proper Immunisation Potions have been administered, so there’s nothing to worry about. Just make sure to keep it quiet out there. I saw your friends when I walked in, the black haired one looks like he’s ready to start a fire.”
James chuckled; the look Sirius had been sporting lately did give off the impression that he’d cause a lot of trouble. Which wasn’t completely untrue, really.
He gingerly picked Harry up and kissed Lily once again, unable to resist sharing another moment just staring at him.
“Don’t be long,” Lily said, and she gave him a shove towards the door.
“I won’t,” James told her, tucking in a stray edge of the blanket Harry was swaddled in. The Healer’s Aide opened the door for him and bustled back to Lily.
He was almost pounced upon as soon as the door had opened, he’d never seen them so excited about anything, nor had he had seen them smiling so widely. James pressed a finger to his lips and presented Harry proudly to his friends, they all agreed that he was the most perfect and beautiful baby ever born. James would have thumped them if they’d hesitated, but seeing as they all had eyes and brains between them, none of them did of course.
“You’re a godfather, Sirius,” James told him and Sirius seemed to light up from within.
“Can I touch him?” Sirius asked. James nodded and Sirius pale fingers brushed Harry’s hair aside and then trailed down his pudgy cheeks. He grinned madly; James hadn’t seen him this happy in months.
“Looks just like you, Prongs,” Peter said, haltingly reaching out to touch one of Harry’s tiny hands.
“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe that my best mate is a dad,” Sirius mumbled into one of his hands. He wiped them on the front of his robes repeatedly, craning over in the crowd to smile down at Harry. “You were right about him being perfect, don’t know where he got it from,” he said with a gentle nudge to James’ side.
“Looks just like his old man,” James told him proudly, “gets all his good looks from me.”
“A lifetime of breaking hairbrushes is what he’s inherited from you,” Sirius teased. All four of them laughed, the whole room felt light and wonderful, somehow new. James wanted to take Harry outside and introduce to him everything, but that was much to dangerous, so instead he wandered over to the window, followed by his three friends, who were all grown men and experienced soldiers, but none of that mattered when Harry yawned or curled his fists around someone’s thumb; there was only one acceptable response to seeing something like that and it was to ‘awww’ and smile. It was dawn, the sun was coming up over London, it might not have been a perfect day but nothing was burning at least and the smog was at a bare minimum. It was a good day for his son to be born and for James to introduce him to the world.
“I think he just opened his eyes!” Remus announced elatedly.
“What? What colour were they?” James asked him. He’d been listening to Sirius tell Harry some story about when they were in Hogwarts, it involved Hagrid’s giant pumpkins and an Animation Charm one Halloween. He could tell that Sirius was getting into his role as godfather, almost as thrilled as James was at the prospect of passing on his stories to his son, of handing down his Invisibility Cloak when the time came and of telling Harry where all the secret passages at Hogwarts were. Teaching him how to play Quidditch in their garden, taking him to matches. James just knew that Harry was going to be as clever as he and Sirius had been and he could handle a troublemaker – after all, Harry would always be good to his parents, because he’d never want for anything.
When he looked down at Harry he could see him and Lily singing him to sleep with their dreadful voices, they'd sing him "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon because he was James' favourite and because it was perfect for Harry. They'd teach him to read and write and help with his homework (James could see himself doing it all, just so Harry could go outside and play) and they'd go on picnics and do boring things like that, things that he did with his family.
If having children always felt like this, he couldn’t wait to fill their house with more.
“I think they were…there, he opened them again!” Remus cried. “They’re green, like Lily’s! Just like his mum.”
James looked down at Harry, who was staring back up at him sleepily with brilliant green eyes half hidden behind his eyelids.
A/N: Little bit worried about the birthing scene, not having given birth I wasn't sure if it came across okay, so feel free to give me any tips and I'll happily edit the scene to make it more realistic.
Last two chapters titles were Smashing Pumpkins and Tori Amos respectively.
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