“Thanks,” Harry grumbled, as the old Mercedes Benz pulled up outside the front door of his deserted house. He pulled out a handful of Galleons from his trouser pocket as the driver looked over his shoulder at him.
“Mister Potter, please. I don’t want your money,” he said with a wave of his hand. Harry looked up at him.
“Keith, please. Have a drink on me,” Harry said, handing a few less Galleons over to him. Keith, who was a fellow Ministry worker, pushed his hand away.
“Sir, I think you and your children need the money more,” he said. Harry dropped his hand and looked at his lap, he nodded. So the news of what happened to Ginny was already spreading throughout the Ministry. Harry bit down hard on his lips, so that he wouldn’t let the emotions run out of him in full-view of one of the many people who admired him.
“Thanks,” Harry grumbled. Keith smiled sadly at him. Harry reached over and took hold of the pink baby-carrier with the sleeping Lily from beside him. “I’ll see you around,” he said, popping the car door open and clambering out.
He shivered as the cold wind whipped across his skin; in an attempt to keep warm, he pulled his jacket tighter around his body and popped his collar up so that it would stop the coldness from drifting down his back. As he began to walk, the graveled ground crunched under his every step. He pulled out his wand and gave it a lazy flick towards the door, this was quickly followed by a low creak as the door swung open.
Harry pushed smoothly past and closed the door behind him, shutting off the bitter wind from entering the house. He was breathing heavily, and out of habit, he ran his hand through his messy black hair.
There was a low meow and Harry turned to see Misty, Ginny’s grey Tabby kitten, plopping herself onto the smooth surface of the dining table, her golden eyes staring unblinkingly at Harry as her tail flicked from side-to-side behind her skinny body.
“Hey girl,” Harry said, walking up to the cat and stroking her behind her ear with his finger, making a low purr escape her throat. Harry gave her one last rub before scooping her up in his hand and placing her onto the floor.
“Go and chase the garden gnomes,” he said, with a wave of his hand as if they cat could understand what he was saying. Misty wrapped her thin body around his ankles and stared up at the basket Harry was holding, curious at what it held. Harry shook Misty off of him, which received him an angry glare from the feline, and with her tail held high in the air behind her, she stalked away.
Harry gently placed the silent Lily down on the table, and pulled off his overcoat. He flung his jacket over the back of one of the kitchen chairs and sat down.Then peeled off his high-polished shoes, and sighed in relief as the blood rushed back into his toes. His eyes drifted over to the scattered bundle of envelopes covering half of the dining table and Harry wearily lifted his chair up off the ground and stood back up, his back creaking in protest.
“Stupid flipping...” he grumbled to himself as he brushed the letters together into three neat piles, he strolled over to the kitchen counter, picked up the wooden basket from beside the window and walked back over to the table. He dumped the bundle of letters into the basket and left it on the surface.
When he had finished muttering all the curses he knew under his breath, his ears began to hum from the deafening silence. He propped himself against the counter, listening to his breathing as tears sprang once more to his eyes. This was it from now on, just him and his children.
A stream of tears began to fall and he dabbed at them with his hands. They continued to roll down his cheeks and without realising it, he had managed to sit down on the tiled floor, his knees curled up against his chest.
His hands pulled at clumps of his hair on either side of his head and the veins at his temples popped out against the palms of his hands as he sobbed. The anxiety, depression, loss, fear and confusion flowing from him with each salty drop that slid down his cheeks and splashed onto his suit, leaving small wet patches behind.
Five minutes later Harry stumbled blindly into the bathroom, his shaking hands finding the edge of the basin and he stared at the reflection in the mirror- at the pale, swollen-eyed and tired looking man staring back at him. He twisted the silver knob of one of the taps, making cold water gush out and splash into the basin. Harry cupped his hands beneath the running water and threw it over his face; but a split second later, he knew it was a bad idea as his stomach lurched horribly. He twisted on his heel and just about managed to make it to the toilet as yellow projectile vomit flew from his mouth and landed noisily inside. Some specks of it splattering the wooden seat but at least he had somehow managed to keep it off the floor.
He reached out his hand and leaned against the wall, he was out of breath and panting noisily, sweat and tears rolled down his face.
Harry unbuttoned his shirt, and threw it down onto the white-tiled floor. As soon as the cool air rubbed his skin, he found it easier to breathe, and his pounding heart began to relax. He brushed his hand across his brow, picked up a towel from the rack on the wall and wiped his hands with it before rubbing it over his face. He sat on the floor for a few seconds longer, until his ears picked up on the small cries emitting up to him from downstairs.
His body froze, he had momentarily forgotten about the newborn which he had left on the table, what could he do? Could he lock himself inside this room and pretend not to hear her screams for help?
Shut the hell up Harry!
Harry closed his eyes over, as if the thin skin would forever block out the horrible situation he suddenly found himself in. He inhaled deeply a few times, he could still hear the cries drifting up to him. He slowly opened his eyes.
Dropping the towel, he pulled on his shirt and opened the bathroom door and made his way back downstairs. With every step he took the cries got louder, and as he came to a halt at the end of the stairs, he saw her thrashing about in the carrier under her pink blanket.
“Shhh, I’m here,” he whispered, pulling the blanket off of Lily’s small form, and revealing her bright red face and two bare gums as she yelled.
“It’s okay,” Harry reassured her and he gently picked her up. He placed her head in the bend of his neck as he began to rock his body from side-to-side. Lily quickly quieted down, and the silence fell around them like a heavy blanket. Harry's eyes gazed out into the field at the back of the house.
While still holding Lily securely against him, he walked into the sitting room and pulled open a small drawer in the cabinet beside the sofa. He placed the piece of parchment onto the coffee table and took out his wand from the waistband of his trousers; he flicked his wrist towards the parchment and watched as curly, black writing appeared on the surface.
When his name was signed at the end, he gave his wand another small flick. The side of the parchment folded in on itself, then it slipped into the opened envelope. Harry stood up, his tired bones creaking with the effort and watched as the envelope disappeared with a faint ‘pop’.
He walked back into the dining room, and settled the silent Lily down into her carrier where she stared up at him with her big bright eyes. He handed her a white soother and continued on his way to the kitchen.
When he got to the kitchen, he opened the fridge to find that the shelves were nearly empty off any food, with only a green and fluffy chunk of what use to be a block of cheese sitting at the back. Harry groaned. Before she went into labour, Ginny was at him to go and stack up on food, but he got too wrapped up in his work that he never got around to doing it. He closed the fridge in defeat, and opened one of the presses, where he found the stack of milk bottles; he took one down.
He then turned on his heel and walked back towards the door, where the bundle of milk bottles were still sitting just inside the house, waiting to be packed away from that mornings delivery, he picked one of them up and peeled the plastic cap off with a thug of his teeth.
“You better be hungry!” he explained, pouring the white milk slowly into the bottle as he stopped in front of Lily, when the bottle was filled with the drink, he settled the milk bottle down on the table. Just as he was about to pick Lily up from her carrier, the front doorbell rang loudly. Harry let go of the bottle and walked towards the door. He could hear James already laughing loudly outside, still wide awake.
As he opened the door, the man and woman standing on the other side were smiling broadly at James who was excitedly telling them about a Quidditch game he dreamt about two weeks ago and one in which Harry had heard a hundred times. Luna, as usually, was wearing colourful and slightly weird clothing. She was the first person to look towards Harry.
“Hi Harry,” she said, the pity in her blue eyes wasn’t hard to miss and it painfully stung Harry. It took a bit longer for Harry to return her greeting with a forced smile.
“I hope they were good for you,” he said, lifting the sleeping Albus from Rolf’s arms. Harry’s right leg received a tight squeeze and he looked down to see what it was, James was hugging it.
“Hey chap!” Harry greeted him, placing a hand on James’s head and making the child look up at him with a gigantic smile on his face. Then all of a sudden Harry felt awkward as he noticed the strong pitiful looks the couple were giving him.
“Erm... Thanks Luna and Rolf for minding them for me,” he said awkwardly, “James, no wait for me!” he said, as James had started to run into the house, his scream made the child look back at him and he nodded.
“We can stay and help put them to bed,” Rolf’s voice offered and Harry turned to him. Even though he didn’t know the man well enough, he had already figured out that Rolf was always ready with a helping hand.
“No. It’s okay, seriously. I was just about to feed her,” Harry stated, adjusting the snoring Albus.
“Harry,” Luna sighed, making it obvious to Harry that she wasn’t going to back down with the offer, “You look wrecked as it is. We can get the two boys dressed for bed while you feed her,” she said, and without waiting for Harry to respond she squeezed her way past him and into his house. A smug looking Rolf took Albus from Harry as he followed her inside.
Harry’s sleeve received a thug and he looked down to see James still standing beside him; curiously looking up at him.
“Where’s mummy? Is she asleep?” he asked innocently.
Harry had lost the ability to breath, it felt like the Hogwarts Express had just crashed into him, forcing all the wind from his lungs along with a lump to form in his throat. He gave his son a small painful smile, which seemed to confuse James a little.
“James! Come on; let’s get you ready for bed!” Luna called loudly from behind them, breaking the silence. Harry looked towards her to see her smiling sadly at him and Harry was pleased that she was there.
“Can I come back down when I get my jamars on?” James asked looking back up at his daddy. Harry nodded and James hugged him once more before trotting up the stairs after Luna.
Harry stood at the door for a minute longer, trying to relax himself before he had to go back inside, where he knew he would have to do the hardest thing he would ever do in his life... At that moment in time, he would gratefully take on the Dark Lord all over again. If it meant that he didn’t have to tell his son that his mummy wasn't coming home.
Harry sat in silence, as he watched Lily drink the milk, some of it escaped from the corner of her mouth and dribbled down her chin and onto the bib Harry had put around her neck. The sound of voices and footsteps came from the floor above him as Luna and Rolf tried to get the two boys dressed.
Harry pulled the bottle out from Lily’s small mouth and placed it down onto the table. He picked her up and plopped her head onto his shoulder and started to rub her back, until she let off small belches over his shoulder.
Footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs from behind where Harry was sitting and he turned to see Luna and Rolf walk down, quickly followed by James, who now wore red pajamas with flying golden snitches imprinted on them.
“Thank guys,” Harry said gratefully. James trotted over to him and for the first time ever, in his short life, he had no happy smile spreading across his features; his expression was filled with worry and confusion.
“Don’t sweat it. If you ever need anything - anything at all, just get in touch with either of us, okay?” Rolf said, placing a comforting hand on Harry’s shoulder, Harry just nodded.
“Harry we mean it. You don’t have to do this alone.” Luna said, stepping up beside Rolf. Harry gave her a sad smile, which Luna returned, and she looked towards James who was clambering onto the sofa and back at Harry. She knew they had to leave.
“Good night Harry,” she said, with a small wave and then turned to the toddler “Night, night James.”
“Night,” James replied, looking over the back of the sofa at her. Luna and Rolf headed towards the door.
“Oh, Harry!” she said turning around the face the man again, Harry looked up.
“She’s the picture of her mother,” and she indicating with a nod of her head towards the newborn in Harry’s arms. Harry looked down at Lily, and listened to the soft click as the door opened.
“Luna? Rolf? Harry asked hurriedly, just as the couple stepped out of the house. At the sound of their names, they both turned back at him.
“Could you get me some baby milk?” he asked, they both nodded and closed the door behind them.
Harry looked down at James, who was trying to snuggle up against him.
“Wait, James. I’m just going to put her in her carrier. I’ll be back in a minute,” Harry said, standing up. The hurt which crossed his son’s face was a stab to his heart. Harry bent down and kissed his head, “I love you.”
When Harry had walked back into the dining room, he placed Lily into her carrier. He didn't put her into her nursery just yet, as he didn’t want to leave a confused and distraught James on the sofa by himself. When she was safely inside the carrier, he walked back into the sitting room where James was still sitting silently where Harry had left him.
They said nothing to one another as Harry sat down on the sofa beside him.
“Come here buddy,” he said. James stood and Harry brought him down onto his lap before lying himself down on the sofa, James’ head resting on his chest.
“James?” he asked, stroking his hair, listening to the small sound of his son’s breaths.
“Do you remember Zorro?” Harry asked. Zorro was Harry’s cat which he had only temporarily as it had got run over by a passing Muggle car. Harry felt James nod his head. “And I told you he got wings and became an angel?” Harry asked. James nodded his head yet again. At this point that dreaded lump formed in Harry’s throat and he pinched the bridge of his nose to stop the tears from falling.
“Well mummy had to do the same.”
At this statement, James looked up at Harry, his eyes still filled with confusion.
“But mummy wouldn’t leave us, would she?” he asked, his brow crinkling as he waited for an answer.
Harry smiled sadly at him. James reached out his hand and brushed way an unnoticed tear from Harry’s cheek, there was silence as they looked directly into one another’s eyes.
“James, your mummy didn’t want to go. But she had no choice, she had to go. If she did, she would have stayed with us,” Harry paused and took a deep breath before continuing “She’s now in a better place, with your grandpa and grandma-,”
“And Uncle Fred?” James asked.
“Yes, and Uncle Fred,” Harry answered.
They fell silent and James rested his head back down onto his father’s chest as tears threatened to roll from Harry’s stinging eyes. He continued to brush his hand through his son’s black hair.
“You’re not going to leave us, are you daddy?” James asked softly. Harry closed his eyes and hugged his son tighter against him.