Chapter 11 : Epilogue
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“Shhh. C’mon little man, your mummy is trying to get some sleep! Your dad could use a few winks himself, come to think of it. Please, please stop crying. Mum, help!”
Turning to the portraits on the mantelpiece, he searched out his mother. To his complete dismay, all the frames stood completely empty. Switching James to yet another position in hopes of calming him, he moved closer and called again. Instead of his mother, his dad appeared.
“Fun stuff, huh son? Sirius says he isn’t coming back until the baby’s twelve. Then Uncle Sirius can impart his ‘knowledge’. “
“I’ll make a mental note to keep James out of my study after his twelfth birthday. Dad, do you know anything about babies that might help?”
The older James Potter looked tenderly at the younger, with a certain sadness in his eyes.
“Actually Harry, this is all I do remember about being a dad. It wasn’t too long after this that your mother and I…. lost you. There’s a potion for colic, you might try that. It worked wonders on you. Also, you could try holding him against your chest and humming. The vibrations seemed to lull you when you were little. Other than that, I’m afraid that’s all I’m good for. I was a young, dumb father for about fifteen months. My experience was wonderful, but brief.”
His words struck Harry, for he had known that he grew up without a dad, but he hadn’t really understood it from his father’s point of view. All those things he missed not having parents around for—first day of school, birthdays, Quidditch games, holidays—his dad had missed them, too. Then another thought came to him. His dad could give him advice about little James now, but what about later? What would he do when his thirteen year old wizard snuck out on his broom and terrorized the neighborhood? Or what if James started hanging out with the wrong type of kids and getting in trouble? How did he handle that? Meeting his father’s eyes, he saw the look of wistful longing as he gazed at Harry holding James. He shifted James into the position his dad suggested and began to hum, of all things, the Gryffindor fight song. A little slower and softer than usually called for, but it was all he could think of. James Sirius snuggled down and sighed against his daddy’s neck.
“Hey! It worked! Thanks, Dad.” Harry smiled, and continued his off-key hum toward the door.
“Glad to be of help. Your mother often said I was as useful as a one-winged hippogriff, but I’m glad to be of service.”
Harry smiled and bounced slowly as he closed the door. The conversation still rang in his ears as he walked down the stairs to the living room. The realization of being a father had hit him hard about a week ago, and the idea of being totally responsible for another human being just felt overwhelming. If his dad could only advise him now, what would he do later when his older son came to him for some fatherly wisdom? An army of what-if’s rose up in his mind, and he began to doubt his abilities to steer any young man in a positive direction. After all, look at all he’d done and the trouble he’d been in at school. And it certainly wasn’t like he’d had the best guidance from Vernon Dursely. He knew that Ginny and Hermione would tell him he was just borrowing trouble, but the feelings of inadequacy that washed over him as he stared down into the face of this tiny person he’d brought into the world just made his knees weak. How would he raise this baby into a good man?
A whirl of green flames appeared suddenly in the grate, and Harry recognized a tall, balding figure materializing from the fireplace.
“Arthur? It’s almost three in the morning! What are you doing here?” Harry took in the sight of his father-in-law, dressed in flannel pajamas no less, standing in the middle of his living room looking slightly abashed.
“Well, Harry, it’s like this. I couldn’t sleep, and I was tinkering about with that Muggle ‘mighty wave oven’ but couldn’t figure it out, and then I remembered Ginny told her mum she couldn’t wait to get some sleep tonight because it was your shift with little Jim here, and here I am. I thought maybe you could use some company. Dads have a hard job, Harry, and we need all the support we can get. Fancy some tea?”
Suddenly, the tension melted out of Harry’s neck and shoulders as the worry of being an inexperienced father disappeared. When the time came, he would find the help he needed here, in this goofy, brilliant, wonderful man that had taken him in as his son long before he married his daughter. He might come off as a little eccentric, but he was one hell of a dad.
Harry gently handed the baby off to Arthur, who picked up humming the fight song very well, and set the kettle on the stove. Later they might wait up for James together after his first date, or commiserate after his first letter home from Hogwarts announcing a detention, but tonight Harry would enjoy being here with his newborn son--- and his father.