A father. James was going to be a father. How was that possible? Well, he knew how it was possible, but he just didn’t seem old enough to be a father. Maybe it was because his own father hadn’t been young by any means when James was born. James was only nineteen and in nine months he would be in charge of another life. He would be in charge of a defenceless baby, a baby who would be born into a world turn upside down. Merlin that was a frightening thought. He knew Lily was just as scared as he was, even more.
She was the one carrying the baby.
James was happy though; he would never say he wasn’t. He was deliriously happy and that seemed to balance out the horror he was experiencing. He knew he had always wanted to be a father. He wanted to know the joy an adult got from raising a son or a daughter. He just didn’t think it would happen when he was nineteen. Then again, he’d been married at nineteen and he hadn’t thought that would happen either. Technically, he would be twenty by the time the baby came. Still, it was so young. Merlin, there were so many things they had to think about before those months were up.
James was released from St. Mungo’s three days later with strict instructions to take it easy. Seeing that he worked at St. Mungo’s, if the Healers saw him back at work a day earlier than he was supposed to be, they would never let him forget it. So James knew it was in his best interest to stay at home. Besides, it hurt too much to walk that he didn’t want to risk reversing the healing process. He had been supplied a cane to help him get around when he needed to and Lily had made it her business to help him whenever he needed it, though James wasn’t keen on letting her. She had to take care of herself first; she had to take care of the baby.
There was a quiet funeral for Dorcas. She didn’t have much family left, aside from her sister. Perhaps it was because of this that it was even harder to go to than it had been for Marlene. Dorcas was all the woman had left and now she was gone. No one doubted she went down like a hero; they didn’t need Lily and James to vouch for her. But she needn’t have died in the first place; she could have run. It wasn’t her Voldemort wanted. He wanted Lily and James. Dorcas didn’t have to die.
And that had been the second time James and Lily had escaped from Voldemort. How many more times could they get away? According to Lily, when the explosion happened, Voldemort disappeared. Whether he had run or had been blasted out of the building, it didn’t matter. He was gone and James was alive. That was all they could ask for.
Sirius, Remus and Peter entered the Potters’ tiny flat, all wearing curious expressions on their faces. James had sent Sirius an urgent message through the two-way mirror and Sirius relayed the message to Remus and Peter. The moment those two got out of work they all made their way to see what James wanted. He had already told them he would heal okay, what was it now? “So what was so important? You’re not hurt again, are you?” Sirius asked, real concern filling his voice. He had been sick when he found out what had happened to his best friend.
“No, no, I’m okay,” James replied from his seat on the couch. His legs were still bandaged and they were propped up on a pillow on the coffee table. His cane was leaning against the arm of the couch. “Sit down.”
His friends did as he asked and Sirius posed his question again. What was it that James had sounded so urgent about?
James knew Sirius wouldn’t relax until he knew what it was James wanted, so he dived right in. “Lily’s pregnant.”
There was silence. Unlike when James announced he and Lily would be married and there had been raucous cheers, this time there was dead silence. James’s eyes darted in a panic from Sirius to Remus to Peter, waiting for one of them to say something, anything. He didn’t like that they were being so quiet. In the years he had known there, they were rarely this quiet. “Err… guys? Aren’t you going to say something?”
Maybe they should have said something right away, but they were all just shocked. James and Lily had only been married since September. The fact that they were in the middle of a war wasn’t a comforting one either, though that was more Remus’s worry than it was Sirius’s or Peter’s, who were both just shocked by the news. “That’s brilliant, James!” Sirius said, finally cracking a smile for his best friend. “Wow, you’re going to be a dad.”
A smile broke onto James’s face. He beamed at Sirius. “Thanks, Padfoot!”
“Yeah, it’s great, Prongs,” Peter told him, a small grin on his face.
“Yeah, it is,” Remus said quietly. There was a smile on his face, but worry was clearly etched into his face.
“What’s up, Moony?” James asked, narrowing his eyes. He knew that look all too well. It was best to get whatever was behind it out in the open now.
Remus quickly shook his head. He wasn’t about to ruin this for James. “Nothing, Prongs. I’m really happy for you, tell Lily I said congratulations.”
James still looked doubtful, but he nodded.
“How long as Lily known?” Sirius asked.
“About a month, so not very long.”
“A month seems long to me,” Peter mused.
“When you compare it to the nine months she’s going to be carrying the baby, it’s not very long.” And those months were going to be filled with Lily on an emotional overdrive. Lily was going to have strange cravings and James knew he was going to be expected to get whatever it was that she wanted. This was what he had picked up from listening to conversations, not to mention the book he had snuck out and bought the night before. He also had heard something about Lily blaming him for every horrible thing in existence when she was giving birth.
Well, it wasn’t as if he wasn’t used to that. That was how it had been for the first few years they had known each other.
Sirius, Remus and Peter stayed just long enough to congratulate Lily when she came in. They knew James and Lily would have plenty of planning and talking to do, so they didn’t overstay their welcome. James did, however, pull Sirius aside as they were leaving. Sirius was curious about this, as James had done it in the very same manner he had when he wanted to ask Sirius if he would be his best man. When James asked Sirius to be his child’s godfather, it took Sirius a moment to register what he was hearing, before beaming brightly and accepting with hardly any hesitation.
“Moony,” Sirius repeated for the third time that night. He and Remus were sitting in the living room. Sirius was working on the crossword puzzle in the Daily Prophet and a book was open in Remus’s lap, though he was obviously not reading it. He still had that same look of worry he had been wearing at James’s earlier.
“Hmm?” Remus finally turned the page of his book and didn’t bother looking up at his roommate.
“What are you worried about?”
Remus still didn’t look up from the book. Instead he kept up the charade of reading. “Who says I’m worried about anything?”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “Honestly, Moony, I’ve known you since we were eleven; I think I know when you’re worried about something.”
Remus couldn’t deny that and he knew Sirius wasn’t going to rest until he knew what it was. It was best to save them both the hassle of an arguement. Closing the book, he said, “You’re going to think I’m awful.”
Sirius grinned cheekily. “I already think that, so it can’t hurt.”
Remus ignored Sirius’s remark. “I’m happy for James and Lily, but I can’t help but think having a baby now, of all times, is not the best thing.”
Sirius narrowed his eyes. “So what are you suggesting they do?”
“I’m not suggesting anything!” Remus quickly insisted. He leaned back on the couch and shut his eyes for a moment. “I told you you’d think I was awful.”
“I don’t think that. I think you’re concerned.”
“Yes. If this was any other time, I’d be thrilled for them. We’re in the middle of a war, though. How many times have all of us almost been killed? And then you add a baby to it all and, I don’t know. I just hope nothing happens to Lily.”
Sirius saw where Remus was coming from. Lily had been in the building when the Death Eaters blasting through it. It wasn’t lucky that James had been the one who was hurt, but it was only chance that it hadn’t been Lily. If it had been, Sirius doubted there would be a little Potter on the way. Voldemort had gone after them twice now, who was to say it wouldn’t happen again? “I know what you mean. I’m happy for them, but I do worry.”
“You’re just better at hiding it, I suppose.”
“That seems to be the case.” Sirius placed his hands on his knees and stood up from his seat in the armchair. “But we’ve got to be there for them, right?”
“When Lily starts craving strange foods and James can’t possibly make them all by himself, we’re going to help right?”
“Can’t we ask my mum or his mum to help with that? Merlin knows neither of us can cook. We can even ask Peter.”
Sirius brought his index finger to his chin. “Good point. We’ll get Wormtail to do that.” He folded up the newspaper and tucked it under his arm. “I’ve got some studying to do. Moody’s got some top secret plans for training tomorrow and I have a feeling it’s going to be scary.”
“Knowing Moody, it will be.”
There was every possibility that the shriek of joy that would come out of Hannah Potter’s mouth would shatter every eardrum in all of the United Kingdom, and possibly Canada too. James was certain he should have brought some earplugs with him when he and Lily went to see his parents, just in case. James was still using the cane St. Mungo’s had provided him with, something his mother fussed over the second the newlyweds stepped through the doorway. She absolutely insisted that her son sit down.
“Hannah, it’s actually good if he walks on that leg,” Charles told his wife patiently. However, when it came to her son’s injuries, Charles’s expertise as a Healer no longer had any bearings on anything. She wanted to make sure her son was comfortable and wasn’t straining himself. So James had no choice but to obediently sit down on the sofa and prop his legs up. James knew there were worse things in life than having his mother fuss over him.
“How are you feeling, James?” Charles asked as he sat down on his son’s left while Lily sat on the other side and Hannah bustled off to help Willie in the kitchen.
“Better, doesn’t hurt nearly as much. I should be allowed to come back to work in a few days.” James hoped he would get to go back to work. He was tired of being cooped up in the flat all day.
Charles chuckled to himself. “If your mother gets wind of that, she’ll beg me to have your leave extended another week.” Chuckling again at James’s look of horror, he turned his attention to his daughter-in-law. “How are things at the Prophet?”
“Oh, wonderful,” Lily said, beaming. “Mr. Lupin’s making sure I get some brilliant stories to write.” That was a definite benefit of being friends with one of the top writer’s son. Lily had never had better stories to write and she was greatly enjoying it.
It wasn’t long before Hannah and Willie entered the room, both bearing trays. Willie was carrying a tray of treacle tart and Hannah carried a tray of drinks for them. Lily instantly got up from her seat to help the woman and the House Elf. James would have gotten up himself to help, but he had a strong feeling his mother would have his head if he performed any unnecessary movement. So he simply settled in his seat, halfheartedly asking if they needed help, just to see what his mother would do. “James Charles Potter,” Hannah said warningly.
James smirked and innocently said, “I was just trying to be a good son.”
Hannah tried to keep the stern look on her face, but the corners of her lips turned up. James couldn’t help but notice something as his mother handed him a glass of pumpkin juice. His mother looked old. Of course, she had always been old. She wasn’t young by any means when he was born. Yet it showed now more than it ever had. The same went for his father. James saw this as he glanced at the man; the lines on his face were more pronounced than ever. Both of his parents were far past their youth and James couldn’t help but wonder how much longer they had left.
It wasn’t a pleasant thought, one he wanted to avoid, but he couldn’t. They were his parents and this was the way life worked. People lived and they inevitably died. Merlin knew he had seen enough death to last him a lifetime.
When everyone was seated with their drinks, Hannah curiously asked, “So what brings you two here.”
“We just wanted to visit,” James began casually before taking a sip of his drink. “And we also have some news.”
James didn’t even have to say it. Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, his mother shrieked and brought a hand to her mouth. Her eyes darted excitedly from her son to her daughter-in-law. They had already been married, what other news could they have? “You’re having a baby?”
Mothers must have had sensors for these kinds of things, James was sure of it. How else would his mother know that was what they were going to tell them? Lily hadn’t been pregnant long enough to begin showing signs.
Hannah had only to look at the look on her son’s face before she choked back a cry of joy and flung her arms around both James’s and Lily’s necks. “A grandchild! Oh, Charles, we’re going to be grandparents!” She sat back and her eyes leapt from Lily to James and back to Lily. “How far along are you?”
“Only about a month, according to the Healers.”
“There’s so much planning you’re going to have to do. There’s buying clothes, putting together a nursery for the baby, picking a name…”
James glanced nervously at his father as his mother rattled off the numerous things they were going to have to do before the baby came. James was certain his mother was failing to notice the fact that they still had quite some time before that actually happened. Merlin, he didn’t want to admit it out loud, but he was rather terrified. He was only nineteen; he was barely going to be twenty by the time the baby was born. He barely knew how to take care of himself and now he was going to be responsible for another life entirely? Being married was one thing, being a father was another completely.
He was thrilled beyond belief that he was going to be a father, but it didn’t mean he wasn’t scared.
Charles apparently saw this, as he gestured for his son to follow him into the next room. Charles sat down at the table and nodded for James to do the same. “You’re looking a little green, James. Is everything okay?”
“Of course everything’s okay. I’m going to be a dad,” James said, trying to insert some confidence into his voice. Unfortunately he failed.
“There’s nothing wrong with being nervous,” Charles told him seriously. “Do you think I wasn’t scared when I found out your mother was expecting you?”
“Yeah, but Dad, you were so much older than me. You would’ve known what to do by then.”
Charles shook his head. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, James. An expectant father is never going to know what he’s supposed to do until he actually has to do it. At nineteen, you’re no more lost than I was, take comfort in that. You know your mother and I are going to help you as much as we can. Your friends will be there.”
James nodded. He knew his mum and dad would help them in any way they could. His friends would as well. What was even better was that Alice Longbottom was expecting as well, that meant Frank was in his position right now. They could commiserate together when their wives were driving them up several walls at once. And, of course, Lily and Alice would be able to help each other.
“You’re going to make a wonderful father,” Charles assured him. His son cared about people he wasn’t even related to. He had no doubt in his mind James would do anything for his son or daughter.
“Thanks, Dad.” The reassurance of his father was enough for him right now. Then, with a sheepish grin, he asked, “Is it true Lily is going to blame me for everything when she actually has the baby?"
It was hard to believe it was Christmastime again. It was even harder to believe that so many of the people the boys and Lily had spent Christmas with the previous year were no longer around – Marlene, Dorcas, Benjy, and Caradoc. It was enough to remind them of what they were fighting for, so more people didn’t have to miss spending Christmas with their families. But even with the horrible things that had happened, there were still many wonderful things – James and Lily getting married and finding out they were going to have a baby. Still, it would be a truly brilliant thing if the future Potter was able to celebrate a Christmas without a war raging in the background.
It had been decided to make this a tradition. Every year, a week before Christmas, James, Lily and Peter would go to Sirius’s and Remus’s flat and help them decorate it for the holiday. Fortunately Sirius finally learned what the appropriate amount of lights was and no one had to take them away from him in fear that he would burn down the flat. They didn’t even truly care what the tree and flat looked like when they were finished. They were trying to take advantage of every spare moment they could spend together.
Sirius was preoccupied with his Auror training, which took up a considerable amount of his time. James was constantly busy at the hospital or with Lily. Peter and Remus were working more hours than ever due to the holidays and Lily was busy at the Prophet and with taking care of herself and the baby within her. There had been a time in their lives when they could spend every moment together. There was also a time in their lives when they acknowledged that this wouldn’t always be so.
They just never imagined it would arrive so early.
Christmas morning was quiet in the Black and Lupin flat. On the outside, however, there was whistling wind and snow falling in great quantities, coating everything it could reach. Sirius and Remus weren’t sure whether or not they would be able to push their front door open if they wanted to go out. Their fireplace wasn’t hooked up to the Floo Network, as they couldn’t risk Mrs. Sherman coming into the place and seeing someone appearing through the grate. There was always Apparating, but Merlin knew it was impolite to Apparate right into someone’s house, especially on a holiday.
Sirius and Remus sat in their living room, Sirius seated in front of the tree, observing an ornament through narrowed eyes. Remus sat on the couch, his feet pulled underneath him and he watched his roommate, trying to figure out what on Earth he was attempting to do. “Are you trying to see if it cracks because your reflection upsets it?”
Sirius laughed lamely. “You’re funny, Moony. No, I was thinking of turning it in your direction so your ugly mug can crack it open.” Poking the shiny ball hanging from the branch, Sirius sighed and rested his chin in his hands. “I’m bored.”
“Oh no,” Remus muttered to himself. That was never a good thing.
“Christmas is no fun if it’s just us.”
“Wasn’t that Christmas in our second year?”
“Yeah, but your mum and dad and grandparents were there! We need people!”
“Because we’re slugs.”
Sirius threw a wayward clump of silver garland at his roommate, who caught in before it made its way to is face. “What I mean is that we need our friends.”
“And if they’re doing anything for the holidays?” Remus was fairly sure Lily and James would like to spend their first Christmas together alone. He knew he could probably count on his own parents to come, but how they were going to contact them was beyond him. Peter… Remus had no idea what to expect of the fourth member of their group. Peter hadn’t exactly been approachable lately and Remus had no idea why. He assumed the war was getting to him, but it was getting to everyone.
Sirius frowned. “Yeah, I guess Prongs and Lily would want to be alone.” So what were they going to do then? They were two people – two smart people at that. They could think of something entertaining to do, especially since walking out of the house was not an option. Neither of them fancied becoming human ice blocks. And he was hungry. They had nothing good to eat, no sweets anyway. They couldn’t afford to splurge on unnecessary good items. Unfortunately biscuits had to go.
Wait a moment…
Remus, who had been perusing a book he’d found on the coffee table, glanced up with a raised eyebrow. “Pardon?”
“Let’s make gingerbread men!”
Remus was silent for a moment before saying, “You know, that’s not a bad idea.” He set the book down beside him. “But do we have all the ingredients?”
“We have to have some of it. Didn’t your mum stock our cabinets the last time she was here?”
“I believe her exact words were ‘I am not allowing my son and the boy who could pose as my son to live in a house where they do not have proper baking ingredients.’ I don’t know why she thought we needed to bake, but she’s proved herself right.”
“And if we don’t have enough, I’m sure we can ask Mrs. Sherman for some.”
So that was what their Christmas consisted of - several attempts at making gingerbread men. The actual mixing of the ingredients wasn’t difficult at all. They simply took it as a Potions class that produced results they could digest. It was when they tried to get them to look like people that they had difficulty. Mrs. Sherman had lost most of her cookie cutters and so they tried at first to cut them by hand. This was something that was much better in thought than in actual execution. It was only when Remus found a spell that they had any success.
“Sirius, did you honestly have to make the Lily biscuit look so big?” Sirius had made a biscuit to represent Lily. She had red hair and green eyes, but her middle was too big to be appropriate.
Sirius laughed cheekily and looked fondly at his creation. “She’s having a baby, isn’t she?”
“She’s not that big yet. She’s going to murder you when she sees that.”
Well, there was nothing he could do about that now. Instead, he picked up the biscuit that would be him and got to work. He went to painstaking efforts to make that one the most handsome of all the gingerbread men and women. “Head’s not exploded yet?” Remus asked casually as he drew glasses on the biscuit representing James.
“No, still intact.”
It was then that they heard a muffled voice coming from inside one of the drawers. Remus and Sirius looked at each other, wondering what that could be. It took a moment for Sirius to remember that was where he had put his two-way mirror. James must have been trying to contact him. Hurrying to the drawer, he pulled the mirror out and, indeed, his friend was staring at him through the glass. “Padfoot, let us in!”
Sirius gaped at the mirror. Did he want to die of hypothermia? “You’re outside?” But there was all that snow piled up in front of the door… “Give us five minutes.”
Within those five minutes, Remus and Sirius had removed the snow and James and Lily were able to make their way safely into the flat. “What are you two doing here?” Remus asked as he took James and Lily’s cloaks and hung them on the rack just inside the living room. He had thought they’d want to spend the holiday alone. The day wasn’t over yet.
“And we did,” Lily told them with a smile. “Then we went to see James’s parents. Now we want to be with our friends.”
“We tried getting in touch with Peter, but he’s not home. Do you know where he went?”
“Maybe to his mum’s,” Sirius suggested with a shrug of the shoulders.
The four moved into the kitchen where Lily instantly suggested mixing up some hot cocoa for them all, even when James volunteered to do it himself. One withering stare from his wife was enough to make him back off. “Is that supposed to be me?” Lily asked as she spotted the biscuits lying on the kitchen table, just the faintest hint of outrage in her voice. “I am not that big yet!”
“I told you she was going to kill you.”
“Stuff it, Moony.”
Lily set four mugs steaming with hot chocolate down on the table. She took the gingerbread woman made in her likeness and took a bite. “I do make a good biscuit.”
James picked up his own mug and looked at the others. In the craziness of a war, worrying about becoming a father, it was good to know that he still had his friends with him. “So, Happy Christmas.”
Excerpt from Chapter Eighty Four - Be At Peace
“As well as can be expected,” Charles replied, his voice oddly calm. James didn’t think he could be that way if he had been in that position. He would have wanted to jump out of his skin. He would have wanted someone to do something – anything - that would reverse what was happening. “It’s not as bad as you imagine it is, James.”
James brought his gaze to his father. “I… I guess I’ll have to believe you.”
A small smiled crossed Charles’s face. “Yes, you will. I wish your mother was awake.”
“No… no, i-it’s good that she’s sleeping.” Or was she sleeping? No, James firmly told himself. He was not going to start thinking like that. His mother was sleeping, that was all there was to it. “Dad, I-”
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