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Chapter 2 : James
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Frank Herbert – Litany against Fear
Condensation clung to the glass of pumpkin juice James was slowly sipping. A moody silence fell between the two men. The perch they were seated on overlooked a playground where there were several children running about. James' eyes were unfocused as he looked toward the laughing kids. "Knarl got your tongue?" Sirius asked his messy-haired friend.
James traced a finger through the moisture on his glass. In a quiet voice James answered, "I'm scared, Padfoot."
During their formidable years this remark would have been met with ridicule and weeks of goading. Now the two men were entangled in a war with much more at stake than their lives – fear was commonplace. "Prongs, you and Lily will be fine. Better than fine, you're heroes. You're already famous for escaping Voldemort, what is it, three times?"
James tried to smile but couldn’t quite master the facial expression. "It's not the war... I'm scared to become a dad," he said not meeting his friend's eyes.
It was a mere month before Lily was due to give birth. James wanted a child, several in fact, but that did not change the fear he felt at the responsibility of fatherhood being set on his shoulders. Loving Lily was easy for him, second nature even. But she did not rely on him for her every need. A baby on the other hand would require everything of James and he was not sure how much he had to offer.
Sirius was slightly out of his element with this line of discussion. He had comforted many people, mainly women, about the distress they felt about the war and danger they all lived in. He did not have words or even a basic understanding of what it would be like to face parenthood. Shifting slightly in his chair Sirius started what he hoped were words of comfort, "It's not a light task, bringing a little person into the world. Especially once you consider the additional danger you're in all the time. It won't be the same fighting evil with an infant in tow. You can hardly strap him to the back of your broom and charge off into the night to duel some ugly death eater. It might give the poor kid nightmares"
"Maybe it'd be good training for the little guy," James said with a slight smile. “You could teach him to ride that motorcycle you love so much.”
Sirius let out a short, sharp laugh. “Got to make sure your kid knows how to raise hell. You’ll have someone to carry on your legacy.” James raised his eyebrows. “Sneaking out, playing quidditch, all that fun we had except he’ll have more.”
James could tell that Sirius was trying to change the mood but a few laughs did not remove the burden that was threatening to devour James. “Rabble-rousing will be as natural to my son as flying is to a hippogriff,” James paused and took a sip of his juice. “It’s not my son’s troublemaking I’m worried about, mate.”
Before either could continue, the sound of footsteps announced the arrival of Remus and Peter. They were having a whispered argument about security. “There should be two people outside the Longbottom household,” Remus said in a hushed voice. “They need the extra security with the-“ Remus stopped talking when he saw the somber expression on James’ face and the slightly lost look Sirius wore.
“You’re both very quiet,” Peter said with a laugh. “Not discussing anything secretive, I hope.”
“Oh, you and Moony were talking about our publically announced mission to protect people from Voldemort?” Sirius said with a sardonic note to his voice. “Have a seat, you two, we need to talk Prongs here off the ledge.” Feeling grateful that he would not have to bear the burden of comforting his friend’s parental anxiety, Sirius summoned more pumpkin juice and two chairs.
Remus and Peter took a seat with James and Sirius on the patio. Shooting a sideways glance at Sirius, Remus asked, “What ledge are we talking Prongs off today?”
“We couldn’t talk him off the marriage ledge. He jumped right off that one,” Peter added with a grin that did not match the other’s mood. A momentary look of annoyance passed over Sirius’ face.
“It’s… It’s nothing,” James said avoiding Remus’ inquiring eyes.
“James,” Remus started in his official prefect tone, “The last time you said it was ‘nothing’ you had set fire to the quidditch locker room.” Sirius smirked of the memory and Peter let out a squeak of a laugh. “You haven’t set the baby’s room ablaze, have you?”
Finally cracking a smile, James decided he could confide in his closest friends. “It is the baby, actually.” Remus looked slightly alarmed as if expecting to hear that he had set some part of the house on fire. “I’m scared I won’t be a good father.” James’ eyes stung suddenly as he felt the worst thing that could have happened in front of his friends, tears.
Sighing deeply Peter offered his advice, “With the war and You-Know-Who about, it can’t be easy to start a family.” Taking a sip of his beverage, Peter continued, “The danger you and Lily are facing is enough to make parenthood daunting.”
Putting his head in his hands and shaking his head slightly, James said, “It’s not Voldemort or the danger.”
“Are you going to hold out for us to guess?” Sirius finally asked feeling that James had drug this out quite long enough.
“It’s fatherhood. I’ll be a bleeding parent!” James looked slightly alarmed at his own proclamation. “My parents were parents but I’m just me.” James stopped talking for a moment. He hadn’t spoken of his parents often after they died; mentioning them casually was anything but easy. “This child will need my advice one day,” James’ voice shook. “I’ll need to be a source of guidance and courage. Merlin, he’ll come to me when he’s hurt and scared.” James felt the weight of his upcoming responsibility tighten his shoulders.
Sirius looked quite helpless and Peter mouthed wordlessly. “Being a parent is a big deal, Prongs,” Remus said in a reassuring voice. “You’re right though. No one is ever prepared to take that step but they manage once it’s there.”
“You’ll have a little tyke to take care of but you have friends and family to help out,” Sirius offered feeling relief that the heavy emotional lifting was handled by Remus. “I can teach your kid to charm the witches, Remus will make sure he is decent at spells, and Peter will tell him where to hide sweets in his dorm at Hogwarts. You and Lily will keep him from blowing up that aunt of his,” Sirius smiled hopefully at his friends. Peter was avoiding the conversation by sipping from his drink during each lull in the conversation.
The four friends had faced a lot together. They had broken more laws than any of them bothered to track, except perhaps Remus, and most importantly they always helped each other out. Remus had tested their friendship first by keeping his lycanthropy a secret. Peter’s trial had been getting through difficult fourth year exams. Sirius, who had seemed above the petty troubles of others had needed room and board and people who accepted his presence when his family kicked him out. While James had tried his friends’ patience while he pursued Lily, he hadn’t quite needed their help in the same way.
That was until now.
James still looked hopeless and a bit lost. Remus took in a deep breath as if about to dive into a deep lake full of angry merpeople. “You can’t let this fear cloud your mind, Prongs,” Remus paused as James’ face darkened at his words. “Let me finish,” Remus said hastily. “If you start being a dad who is full of fear, you won’t have a clear mind or heart to love him,” Remus paused to dig deep for the right words. “There are parts of your new life that will be terrifying but I know you’ll face it with the same bravery you’ve used to face problems before. The difference is now it will be a little you who will adore you”
A few moments silence passed on the porch. It was getting late in the afternoon but the sun still lingered in the sky. James felt small amount of relief at his friend’s words. Looking around at the three of them James smiled feeling a small surge of confidence. “You’ll all really be there?” James asked ruffling his hair. “No matter what?”
Sirius laughed leaning back in his chair. “Well, I might not be there for the dirty nappies.” Finally Sirius’ humor hit the James the right way and they both grinned. “I’m a Black, I don’t change nappies.” Peter snorted into his glass and Remus rolled his eyes. James saw that his friends would get him through fatherhood like they had gotten through school – together.
Weeks later when Lily was in labor, James paced the waiting room at St. Mungo’s with Sirius, Remus, and Peter. It had been several hours and James was white in the face. He wanted to be there, in the room, with his wife but the healers would not let him in. When the healer-in-training’s words of, “You can see them now, Mr. Potter,” James smiled at his friends who were suddenly alert and tense.
Taking a calming breath James walked towards the delivery room to meet his son feeling his mind and heart racing with anticipation rather than fear. As James pushed the door open and stepped into the room, Sirius, Peter, and Remus caught glimpses of the new family. First the healer handed the bundled baby to James, then James kissed Lily on the forehead, and finally he looked out the swinging door towards he friends and grinned.
A/N: Hi!! This chapter was fun to write. I thought it’d be interesting to peek at how James could have felt about being a father. Similar to Lily’s moment of fear, his wasn’t meant to be about the war or Voldemort – it was the actual monumental step he was taking in life. I meant there to be a sense of irony and sadness in the relationship between the four friends (as it is coming to a fast end in the HP series). Let me know what you think! Was this a good point in time to examine James’ fear?
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