“Shh,” Harry pleaded, bouncing a bundle of blankets cradled against his shoulder. Tufts of jet black hair and piercing screams emitted from within the soft green cotton.
Dark purple bags hung beneath Harry's eyes, the long day and incessant cries draining his energy. Sighing, he shifted the bundle to his other shoulder, bouncing and shushing, pacing the moonlit nursery. The baby's cries reverberated off the walls, ringing ever louder in Harry's ears.
“C'mon Albus.” Frustration throbbed in his temples. “Go back to sleep. Please.”
Despite his ebbing patience, Harry's voice was soft and calm, though a bit rough around the edges. This was, after all, the fifth time Harry had gotten out of bed that night to Albus's cries. The boy was nearly a month old, and Harry hadn't had a full night's sleep in that time. With James, Ginny and Harry had often taken turns getting up to quiet the bawling baby, but this pregnancy had been a lot harder on Ginny than the last. She was weak and had been sick nearly as long as Albus had been alive.
“You'll wake your mum,” Harry tried, though he knew the baby could not understand. Albus continued to cry, great shuddering breaths momentarily breaking the wails.
“Daddy?” James's small voice, thick with sleep, called from the doorway.
Harry turned to find his two-year-old son looking in on him from the hall, one hand wrapped around the doorknob, the other clutching a battered teddy bear. Dark, auburn locks stuck out in every direction from his head, large hazel eyes looking up at Harry through a tired mist.
“What're you doing out of bed, James?” Harry continued bouncing Albus, though his cries seemed to have gone from eardrum-bursting to dull migraine.
“I firsty,” James replied, his words muffled by the thumb he'd placed in his mouth.
“Oh, alright.” Harry took James's hand from the door and lead him to the kitchen. “Mind you're quiet. Your mum needs to sleep.”
James looked skeptically at the baby still bawling in Harry's arms, but simply nodded, stumbling along beside his father. Placing Albus in the high-chair, Harry winced as the baby's simmering cries returned to maximum wail. He filled a small cup with water and handed it to James who had climbed onto one of the kitchen chairs.
“Tanks.” James sipped at the cool water, watching his younger brother wriggle beside him. Harry picked Albus up and resumed bouncing him.
“Is he sad?”
Nodding, Harry watched his eldest son's curious hazel gaze contemplating the baby in his arms.
“I don't know, James,” Harry exhaled heavily. “Sometimes babies just cry.”
James grew silent, sipping at his water, a look of utmost concentration on his face. After a few moments silence, James placed his half-empty cup on the table, climbed down from the chair, and walked over to his father, now pacing the length of the kitchen. James lifted his hands above his head, reaching out toward Harry.
“Not now, James. I need to get Albus to stop crying.” Harry rubbed his eyes, willing away the itch that was growing behind them.
“Up, Daddy.” Determination crossed the boy's face as Harry looked down at him.
With a resigned sigh, Harry knelt down and picked James up, cradling him with the arm that was not trying to sooth Albus.
“Shh, shoosh,” James whispered in Albus's ear, patting his brother's messy head with a clumsy hand. “Bwe happy. It okay. Shh.”
And to Harry's immense surprise, Albus quieted, great emerald eyes gazing out of the blankets at James. Albus gurgled, a hint of a smile parting his toothless mouth. Harry wanted to laugh with relief.
As James continued shushing Albus, Harry walked slowly toward the sitting room, sinking onto the couch with the boys in his arms.
Through the arched window, Harry watched the last drifts of snow fall lazily to the frosted grass. The promise of spring lurked behind the gray clouds masking the night sky, stars blinking between gaps, the moon peaking through the mist.
Soft, measured whimpers announced that Albus had finally fallen back to sleep, James still patting his small head and shushing, though his hand rested longer on his brother's head with each pat. Soon James stopped shushing, rhythmic breaths pulling him into slumber.
Harry looked down at his sons in his arms and smiled. He couldn't believe how happy he was.
How long ago had it been that he'd decided to die for the world, throwing away every dream he'd ever had, every notion of a happily-ever-after? Harry had never thought he'd actually make it this far. He never thought he'd live.
Memories swam before his eyes, ghost-like snapshots dancing in the moonlight.
I am about to die.
At that moment, he had been completely resigned to die. No fear, no looking back. He couldn't look back. All those people were counting on him. They all stood by his side, fought with him, believed in him. Died for him.
Watching his sons sleep soundly in his arms, Harry knew, without a doubt, that he would die for them. No second thoughts, no regrets. For them, he would gladly stretch out his arms, and die.
[Author's Note: This is the first story of the series. Just a little snapshot into the life of Harry after the Battle of Hogwarts. Look forward to stories from Remus Lupin, Severus Snape, Fred and George Weasley, and the other men of the Harry Potter world.