Don't you know that it's only fear?
There was a knock on the door and Lily got up to open it. She was happy to see the person on the other side.
“Emmeline!” she cried, “It’s great to see you, it’s been a while!”
The dark-haired woman smiled at her friend. “Work’s been crazy these last few months. But it’s been quiet lately, so I was able to come over,” she confessed. “Where’s James and Harry? Are they here?” Lily felt her smile become a bit strained, but tried not to let it show. “James is… out. He probably went out with Gideon for a few drinks after work,” she said, like he does every night, she thought to herself. “Harry’s in the lounge with Sirius.” Lily finished, her smile becoming more genuine as she thought of her year old son.
“Sirius is here?” Emmeline questioned.
Lily laughed. “When isn’t he? I’m sure the main reasons that he comes over are Harry and my cooking!”
“Yes, well, everyone knows he can’t cook to save his life,” Emmeline replied, “The man’s capable of burning water!”
The two women walked down the hall towards the lounge chatting and gossiping. The nearer they got, Emmeline could hear a man’s voice and the giggles of a little boy. The scene they came upon was adorable, if a little bizarre.
“How about chicken, Harry? Is that your favourite animal? The ones that go bock-bock and cock-a-doodle-doo!” Sirius said, flapping his arms up and down while jumping all over the place.
“What are you doing?” Lily asked.
Sirius looked up at the two women. “I’m trying to discover what Harry’s favourite animal is!” he exclaimed. He turned back to the toddler who was watching them with curious emerald eyes. “Or is it a cow? Moo, Moo, Mooooo!” he said, crawling around on all fours, stopping and pretending to chew on some grass.
“And that’s the man you made Godfather of your son. I would contact the counsellors now, if I were you. Just so they can be prepared. Mind, at least you get free entertainment.”
Lily sighed. “He’s going to traumatize my son at this rate. And it’s not free, I just pay him in meals and the loss of my peace and quiet.”
Emmeline glanced at her friend who was watching the grown man play with the black-haired toddler on the fluffy salt-and-pepper coloured rug. There was a wistful smile on her face and her emerald eyes, which her son inherited, projected a deep longing. Lily heaved a long suffering sigh as she glanced at the plain black and white clock on the cream painted wall before turning to Emmeline.
“Do you want to stay for dinner? I really should get started.”
“Yeah, sure.” Emmeline replied. “It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do,” she said, causing the redhead to her left to laugh.
“Well, I’m honoured, your highness,” she teased, “that you hold us in such high regard.”
Emmeline walked into the modern kitchen, leaned against the bench and raised her eyebrow. “So what’s the story?” she asked.
Lily let out another large sigh, knowing what the other woman meant. “It happens every day. He gets called into work early, is kept behind, goes out to have a few drinks after. He’s not a terrible father, he dotes on Harry, it’s just that... he’s hardly ever home.”
Emmeline scowled. “James needs to learn to grow up!” she said firmly. “At least Sirius is here a lot to help out.”
Lily looked at the ground. “He’s great! But…”
Lily raised her eyes to meet her sister in all but blood’s. “He called Sirius daddy a few days ago.” she admitted in a low voice.
Emmeline’s brow creased. “Who? Harry?” Lily just nodded.
“Is it wrong?” she whispered. “I feel that I should be angry that my son is calling another man daddy, but I’m just… tired. If anything Sirius is that boy’s daddy. James may be the father, but he’s never here!”
“Maybe,” Emmeline ventured, “He’s nervous. I mean he’s quite young, only twenty-one.”
“And so am I!” Lily shot back.
“I know, I know,” Emmeline replied in a soothing voice, moving across to envelop her friend in a comforting embrace.
“What can I do?” Lily whispered brokenly, and Emmeline felt her heart break.
“Well-” she started but was interrupted by Sirius storming into the kitchen.
“I’m sorry!” he said. “I didn’t mean to!”
“What didn’t you mean?” Lily asked slowly.
Sirius looked at the ground and mumbled something.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” Emmeline asked.
“I might have, ah, broken Harry.” he said with a sheepish smile.
“YOU WHAT!” Lily yelled and rushed into the living room where Harry was sitting on the rug going baa baa.
“He won’t stop doing that! I tried to get him to stop but he just won’t!” Sirius exclaimed in a worried manner.
Lily gave a relieved sigh as she stopped checking her son over for injuries. “He’s not broken.” she said. “How could you worry me like that, Sirius Black!”
Sirius tilted his head to the side. “He’s not broken?” he asked, as Harry baa-ed again.
“No, of course he isn’t.” she replied over a louder baa.
“But then why won’t he stop?” asked Sirius, confused.
Lily sighed. “Because he’s a child, Sirius. He’s enjoying himself, it’s a child’s idea of fun.” she explained.
“Really, Sirius,” said Emmeline, “You should know that, being Harry’s age mentally.”
“I am not a child!” Sirius cried outrageously.
Emmeline raised an eyebrow. “Really?” she said sarcastically.
“Yes!” He said, glad that she understood, missing the sarcasm entirely.
Emmeline just looked at Lily and smiled.
“He never learns does he?”
Emmeline shook her head, looking at the fully grown man pouting in the corner. “Seems not. Hey, Sirius! I think we’ve discovered what Harry’s favourite animal is.” Sirius looked over as Harry voiced his agreement.
The house was now relatively quiet, now that the excitable ball of energy had been put to bed and succumbed to sleep. Suddenly the sound of the front door opening and closing disturbed the silence. Sirius got up off the dark navy couch and made his way into the hall, pretty sure who he’d meet.
“Well, Well. Look who’s finally decided to come up home.”
James looked up from where he was hanging his coat. “Merlin, Sirius! Give a man a heart attack, why don’t you?” He began to undo his shoelaces. “What are you doing here?”
“Entertaining your son and helping your wife. Something you should be doing.”
James gave Sirius a dull stare. “I have work, Sirius, unlike you.”
“That’s because I’m on leave.” Sirius said in a hard voice, “I wouldn’t mind being here while you’re at work, but I shouldn’t have to be helping Lily get Harry ready for bed every night. It’s quarter past eleven; you finish work at five. It shouldn’t take you over six hours to get home. It’s a fifteen minute trip via the Knight Bus if you don’t want to floo or apparate from the ministry departments, that’s all. What takes you so long?”
James groaned angrily. “I’ve told you already, I go out with Gideon after work.”
“Every night?” Sirius questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“We either go to the pub for a couple of drinks, chill at his place, or go tenpin bowling or something. It’s not been easy for him since he and Marlene broke up.”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “Gideon is a grown man. He can find his own way to amuse himself, he can live the bachelor life, find someone else, or if he really wants Marlene back, start repairing their relationship. Nothing requires you to be there. The odd night, that’s okay,” Sirius agreed, “But every night? You have a wife who misses you and a son who doesn’t know you as well as he should. You need to pull your head out your arse, because Gideon shouldn’t be your priority, your family should. I can’t always be there. And just for the record, if you want proof,” Sirius added quietly, “Harry called me ‘daddy’ on Tuesday. You really should make a change before he truly thinks of me as his father rather than you.”
With that Sirius left James in the hall, and made his way to his own home. Finally, I can crawl into bed the thought.
James quietly crept up the stairs and down the upstairs corridor. He pushed open the white door that was slightly ajar, briefly smiling at the plaque reading ‘Harry’ that adorned the door in colourful letters. He tiptoed to the other end of the room where the crib stood, under the window. Gazing down, he took in the form of his small son, who was clutching a white wolf with a black spot on his front, left paw and had been affectionately named Wolfie by Harry. He lightly brushed his hand over the toddlers dark hair that was so similar to his own, and leant down to kiss the child’s forehead that glowed under the moonlight that streamed in from the window.
“Sweet dreams, little man,” he said, “Dada loves you.”
James retreated as quietly as he could, leaving the door open a crack, so he or Lily would be able to hear Harry if he cried. He made his way to the room he shared with his wife and found her curled up under the covers in the middle of the bed. He made his way over to the wardrobe and changed into his nightclothes. He then sat on his side of the bed and proceeded to gently wake his wife by carding his hands through her hair and brushing back the errant strands that blocked her face from his.
“Lily,” he called quietly.
“Hmmm?” was her sleepy response. “James?” she asked, glancing at the alarm clock on her bedside. “You’re home.” she stated needlessly.
“Yes,” he said, with a gentle smile. “Can you scoot over a bit?”
“Huh?” Lily hummed, eloquent as ever. “Oh, yeah, sure.” she said, moving over.
They sat in silence for a few moments before James broke it.
Lily looked at him, confused.
“For what?” she asked.
James sighed heavily and ran a hand through his unkempt hair. “For never being around.” He answered. “I should have been here, I should have helped you look after Harry. Instead, I acted like a coward, and tried to distance myself. I thought that if I helped Gideon, if I worked hard to earn us a living then it would make up for my absence. I was wrong. I forgot the true value of family, Lily, and I’m sorry.”
Lily looked away from James as she spoke. “Do you know how hard it was,” she said in a voice so quiet, James had to strain to hear her. “To do everything around the house with Harry in tow, to not know what time you were getting home or where you were, to wonder if you were hurt or if you were ever coming back-” she broke off as she choked on a sob. James immediately wrapped his arms around her. “I didn’t know if you coming home, if you’d leave me or not!” she cried. “It broke my heart to hear Harry call Sirius daddy, it should have been you. It should have been you.” she finished in a broken voice.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered again as he rocked her back and forth while she cried. “I promise I’ll try harder. I won’t stay out. I’ll be there for you and Harry. You won’t ever have to doubt me again,” he promised.
It would take time for everything to heal and for James and Lily to work past their issues, but they’d manage it. James would be there for his wife and son, Lily wouldn’t have to do everything on her own anymore, and Harry would grow up with two loving parents who were always there for him. They were a family and they’d work it out together, because as their family motto says: Family comes first. At least, that was what they intended. James and Lily were soon informed that Harry was one of two possible candidates of a prophecy concerning the defeat of Lord Voldemort and that the Dark Lord had caught wind of it. In Mid-October the Potter family went into hiding using the fidelius charm. Soon after, they switched secret keepers from Sirius to Peter Pettigrew, thinking it would be the perfect bluff. Days later, Lily and James Potter were dead, Voldemort vanquished, and little Harry an orphan. And as Sirius Black is taken to Azkaban just days before his twenty-second birthday, he thinks that at least James remembered the value of family and learnt what it meant to be father before it was too late.