The cry started low, just a little louder than a hum. But as the seconds went by and no one came to check on him, the baby began to cry louder and louder. Soon enough the insistent noise could be heard in every room of the house, loud and clear.
In the adjacent room, a redhead fumbled with the sheets. Something was interrupting her dream - something very loud and obnoxious. She narrowed herself in the sheets, her long hair spread out across her pillow. She had been so comfortable, if she could just tune it out… But she couldn't, and the cries eagerly dragged her from her sleep.
Lily woke up, but did not open her eyes. In her drowsy haze she tried to understand what had pulled her – oh so carelessly – out of her dream. It took her only a few seconds to register the loud cries reverberating off the house's light green walls, she whimpered.
The answer she received was no more than a murmur.
"Come on, it's your turn." The woman whispered at the prone form lying next to her.
"No, it's not." James mumbled as he managed to wake up enough to formulate words.
"Yes, it is."
He didn't answer.
"Come on, James, it's your turn." Lily said in a drawling voice as she started to poke him in the ribs - still with closed eyes. He groaned and tried to avoid her long and ruthless fingers.
"Stop it, Lils."James groaned again.
"Not until you get up. Come on, babe, I went the last time!"
"No, you didn – ouch!" He cried when Lily hit a particularly hurtful spot.
"Yes, I did!"
"Oh, you so didn't! But okay, okay!" He added quickly by the sight of her hand retreating and getting another poke ready. "I'm going!"
The bed jostled as James got up. Lily, feeling perfect happy, grabbed his pillow, snuggled against his scent and started to fall back to sleep as the faint sound of "What's up son?" came from the other room. She was almost there when, with a hint of guilt, she remembered that she didn't get up the last time.
"Sorry, James. Remind me of doing you a favor in the morning." Lily muttered when she heard him moving back to their room.
James gave a low chuckle and lay down beside her. He got an arm around her waist and kissed between her shoulder blades, "It's already morning, love."
"At a reasonable hour of the morning, hunny."
Lily gave an unintelligible answer and turned to snuggle against her husband (much better than the pillow after all). A few seconds later she was able to fully understand the meaning of his words.
"I said seven." He replied in a voice that was at the same time hopeful yet disillusioned.
"Oh no, you didn't."
Lily was out of bed in a flash. James stayed in bed, lazily watching his wife hurriedly throw on her robes and slippers, and slowly dozing back to sleep. In his sleepiness he could only distinguish a few phrases such as "potion in the fire", "no wonder Harry is bored to death" and "we need to stop with the late hour habit". James was glad when he heard her hurried footsteps leaving for Harry's room and then with a "Good morning, petit chou", the footsteps continued down the stairs.
"James!" Lily's voice came to his ears. He groaned loudly. "You need to wake up as well! We have a big day ahead!"
By big day she meant cleaning day.
Once James had managed to put on a shirt and drag himself to the first floor, Lily had already started making breakfast. He grabbed a chair and pulled it towards him, before thinking better and getting up to steal a few of the waffles that were already on a plate on the counter. Lily gave him a reprimanding look but didn't say anything, and when she turned back to resume watching the waffles cook, he could swear he saw a smile on her face.
James started to make the coffee and Harry's food. By the time Lily was done preparing their breakfast, he had already transformed a delicious papaya and an apple into a misshapen pulp. The three of them started their breakfast in a happy silent harmony.
Soon enough, though, Harry decided it was time to play with his food, and his mother had to take the plate as far as possible, for fear of Harry re-decorating the Kitchen.
"I think he was starving." Lily said in a guilty tone. "We should have woken up earlier. It's time for us to stop with this, we can't act like irresponsible youngsters who sleep until afternoon, not when we have a child to look after."
Keeping his mouth shut with some effort, James swallowed his reply that they were still very young. He thought about the sudden pregnancy and the hurried marriage. He remembered how she grabbed his hand before they entered a battle and said "James, I'm pregnant. Just wanted to tell you in case we die over there" and the mix of excitement, fear, and a little of panic (because they were so young) that grew in his chest. But he didn't utter any of his thoughts. He didn't want to start an emotional crisis.
"No, he was not. When I woke up at eight am," he threw her a significant look, "I gave him some of the milk you left separate."
Lily looked apologetically at him. James smiled at his wife and picked up Harry, trying to hold him still while she cleaned his face.
As soon as breakfast was over and they had cleaned the table, Lily started to delegate the duties of the day. James was to vacuum, polish and, do-something-about-the-way-the-garden-seemed-unable-to-stay-tidy. Lily was going to do the cleaning upstairs and then take care of the widows.
"And you, mister James Alexander Potter, do not pretend you have finished it before me, because if I find any little stain in the formic, I am going to make you clean it without magic next time."
James mumbled something along the lines of "it was only one time" but obediently picked Harry up and went to the living room to start the oh-so-pleasant cleaning. He left the baby in his playpen and looked around at the house, wondering what would be less painful to start with.
He had already vanished all the dust and was starting to polish the surfaces by one o'clock, when Harry made him stop and spend a good hour running after him on his fake broomstick around the house. When Lily went down stairs after dealing with her tasks, she found James lying exhausted on the floor, with a happy little one sitting on top of his stomach. Harry would take his father's glasses off and put them in his mouth, or throw them to the other side of the living room, just to watch James summoning or clean them before he did it all over again.
Watching her husband and child with amusement, Lily cleared her throat. "Shouldn't one of you be cleaning?"
Her husband raised his eyes with a guilty smile.
"Not my fault," he said sheepishly, "he is the one to blame, or maybe Sirius, who bought him this demonic present."
The redhead laughed and sat down on the floor by their side, grabbing Harry and putting him on her lap.
"I though you adored the broom."
"I did," James answered while watching Lily play with their son's fingers, "but you are not the one keeping him from destroying the house."
"The exercise will be good for you. I think you are growing a little belly," She laughed at his outraged expression, "and I did married a Quidditch star, not… the next Slughorn." James made a funny noise as Lily threw an arm around his neck and pulled him into a kiss.
They emerged from the kiss a little later, awakened by the sound of a squirming kid. Both of them looked down to see an annoyed face.
"I'm sorry, mon amour." His mother said half laughing.
"Can't I have one turn with the lady?" James ruffled his son's hair. "You jealous little boy."
"Actually, now it is his turn," Lily said looking at the magic clock in the wall, "it's food time."
She gave Harry to his father, got up and took him in her arms again, then she made upstairs and into his bedroom.
Harry's room was impeccably clean (from her previous work in the morning). She walked to the cream armchair, grabbed some cushions and sat. Looking at Harry, she saw his eyes gleaming with anticipation. Lily thought about how much he already looked like James, and questioned herself if he would grow up to become more or less similar. He had his nose, his eyebrows, and his chin. Only in a much tinier version.
Once she noticed he was almost finishing eating, Lily made a movement with her wand and the curtains were shut, ending the view of the bright sun, gleaming upon the leaves. In the almost dark room, smiling at her son, she started humming, while Harry happily embraced sleep. She didn't stop watching his little face even for a moment.
While Lily put Harry down for his afternoon nap, James continued the cleaning he was distracted from earlier. He reached the kitchen, and had already started polishing the counter when he found an obstacle. Lily's old cat was lying on the table, with a not-so-friendly face.
"Hello Mr. Purr, how are we doing today?"
The cat gave him a cold look, his greyish face narrowed in a scow. He sighed. Lily's cat had never liked him, ever since first grade when he had accidentally stepped on his tail. The animal didn't seem to understand that now he was supposed to like James, once his mommy had married him. However, he was as faithful as ever to his hatred.
"Come on, I need to clean the table." James shooed the cat.
Mr. Purr stayed still, his yellow eyes boring his face.
"Please-oh-please? Lily will be mad at me." He persisted, trying to clean around the old cat.
James thought he saw a mischievous grin forming on the cat's face. Shaking his head, he reminded himself that the cat couldn't possibly be wishing his doom. He decided to take another approach.
"She will be mad at us, you know. Because I will tell her you are the one who stayed upon her table. And that you ruined that cushion she loves – the one I gently repaired so you wouldn't have to be scolded."
The threat had little affected on Mr. Purr but James persisted, staring the cat down. Mr. Purr apparently deciding he was done with their little exchange, threw a spiteful look in James' direction and gracefully leapt to the floor.
James had just finished with the house and was about to go to the garden when he saw Lily picking Harry's toys up from the floor in the sitting room. The air was impregnated with the strong smell of daisy that emerged from her recently showered body. She was whistling a song, and would shake her head slightly in the rhythm. Her long chestnut hair arranged in a ponytail with a few strands falling over her face. He watched her for a moment. She looked free, worriless, like she was seventeen again, like the Lily he had first started dating, back to those blessed days at Hogwarts, before the war had really taken over their life, before they could understand all its meanings.
He approached her from behind and held her tightly.
"You know, I think you own me a favor."
She turned in his arms and stared at him with narrowed eyes.
"Do I?" She asked suggestively, nibbling her bottom lip, in a seductive yet playful way.
"Oh yes, you do." He answered in a low, husky tone.
Lily held her breath and bit harder on her full lips, a smile threatening to appear. He held her tighter, their bodies connected from toe to chest.
"Hmm… I don't remember it." She replied whispering.
"You've got yourself a very selective memory. Let me help you remember." James said as he tried to reach her lips, but she diverted. Instead, Lily narrowed herself in his embrace, pushing against his body. The smile made its way to her mouth as the look in his eyes gleamed with lust. He released her hair from the ponytail and grabbed a handful of red locks, pulling her head back. Lily moaned as he kissed and licked her exposed neck. "You own me a favor", he whispered in her ear.
Breathing heavily, Lily wet her lips, part because they were drained from her hushed breathing, part to provoke James. It worked. With a low grunt he crashed his lips to her full red roses that had been teasing him for so long. They kissed deep and heatedly.
"I don't think so." Lily said between the kisses she was planting in his neck.
James almost couldn't answer, all his thoughts concentrating on the way her lips felt on his exposed skin. Pushing Lily against the couch he gently dropped them both to the plush cushions.
"But you do." He managed to gasp as Lily switched their bodies so she was on top. She reached under his shirt, her hands running against his bare chest, hastily his hands found their own way to her thighs, holding firmly under her skirt.
"No, I don't." She hummed. "It was after nine, which means you were the one in charge until four pm." a mischievous lilt in her voice.
"I still think these "baby supervision" distributions are unfair." He answered hoarsely as she rid him of his shirt and began kissing down his abdomen.
"Not my fault you can be so easily manipulated." She said against his skin, feeling his muscles tensing at every touch.
He didn't answer, he couldn't.
They had a late lunch of yesterday's leftovers - Stroganoff and cooked vegetables. Harry was still asleep, and the cat was nowhere to be seen, so it was just the two of them in the little kitchen. Once they were finished, James washed the dishes. As soon as everything was clean, they went to the living room to eat a piece of pie.
"I see you didn't finish your duties today, James." Lily said with a meaningful look to outside.
James lifted his hand to his hair and gave her a crooked smile. "Every time I tried, something distracted me."
"Like, you know… you."
They stared at each other, and exchanged a smile.
"I wonder, what the score was for the match yesterday…" James casually said.
"Who was playing again?" Lily asked distracted, looking around the room in search of the cat.
"The cannons…" James rolled his eyes.
"Don't go rolling your eyes at me, how am I supposed to know?" The redhead punched him lightly in the arm, "You only said it what, two thousand and thirty-one times? Make it fifty the next time." She quipped sarcastically.
"I'll go straight for the three hundred, that's what I'm doing…" He said in an annoyed voice, but there was a smile fighting his way to his face. "Now, why was this game important again?"
It was Lily's turn to roll her eyes.
After a long while, they slowly began to move their lethargic limbs from their entangled state on the couch. Lily had heard some noise in the upstairs rooms, and James went to check on Harry. Once alone, she decided to look for the cat whom she hadn't seen all morning, and he wasn't young anymore. She found Mr. Purr sitting in the garden and, despite his insistence in staying there, she grabbed him inside. It was, after all, a very chilly late October afternoon. The cat scratched and grunted, but stayed quiet when she threw him a severe look. He didn't, however, take his eyes off of the door.
James came downstairs with a Harry completely restored and full of energy in his arms. His parents watched him play with the new toys he had received on his birthday - everything besides the fake broomstick, James felt that it had been enough trouble for one day - as the three of them sat on the living room's floor.
"Oh- I almost forgot to tell you, Lily," James said all of sudden, startling her, "Sirius is going to be late for dinner. He said he is sorry, but he can't make it until eleven."
"Hmm, that's okay. Actually, it's even better, since we've had such a late day today. But why so?"
"No idea. He said he had an important visit to make before he gets here."
"An important visit?" Lily asked in an insinuative tone, her eyes gleaming with smirk. "Do you think he has got himself a girlfriend?"
"It would be very much like Padfoot, to leave his mates and go after a bird." Her husband joked, shaking his head.
"Oh, imagine how great it would be?" She kept on, a dreamy air in her face.
"Oh yeah, sure, he gets a girlfriend, we get to deal with a giant head."
"Come on. It would be wonderful. Sometimes I feel really lonely in the middle of you, blokes."
"Yes, it would be nice." He gave up at her smile, his eyes turning back to the toddler between then.
"Do you think that might be it?" Lily asked.
"Dunno… Maybe" he added as he saw Lily's excited face. "But talking about dinner, we haven't decided what to do yet."
They spend some time discussing the matter before James left Lily and Harry, - the former singing (in a very tuneless voice) and the latter dancing (in the most adorable way) and trying to repeat her words in that squeaky voice of his - to go take a shower.
At about seven pm, Lily was beginning to start dinner while her husband and son played on the kitchen's floor. James was making funny faces and Harry would squeak and laugh while clapping his tiny hands. It was almost impossible for her to keep up supervision of the knives cutting, the pots cooking, and the spices mingling, with that lovely scene going on in front of her. She watched as James helped Harry when he almost fell, waving his little arms. He had grown so much. It seemed impossible that a little more than a year ago there was no Harry.
Their life was so different back then. They were in the Order, and every day a new mission would appear, a new deathly situation to handle. It was hard, it made them suffer, but she wouldn't go back and change it. Every loss, every wound, it was all worth it. They were fighting for a better world. She missed it, the adrenaline, the company of the others, the knowing of what was happening. Above all, she missed the feeling of being useful, of making the difference.
And she knew James missed it too. She could see it in his eyes, in the mix of sadness, anxiety and resignation. It was in the way he walked too, his shoulders slashed, that frustrated disquietude. He had never been one to stay away from the action, from where he knew he could help. No risk was enough to make him step aside.
Except the risk of losing their son.
They couldn't risk his life.
She knew he knew that, but it didn't change the frustration, neither the guilty he felt for no longer fighting side by side with his mates.
"Do you reckon Sirius is over his despite to asparagus?"
"Probably, it's been a century since he ate that rotten one. But what are you cooking anyway?" James asked while stretching his neck to take a look at the counter."
"Not going to tell you." Lily said with a smile in her voice.
"It's a surprise."
"I hate surprises." James mumbled.
"Oh, you so don't." Lily retorted, unaffected by his statement.
"You are trying to trick me into eating something I don't like, aren't you?"
"Why would I do that? What a thing to think about your lovely wife!" But her smile was getting more evident.
"I bet it is artichokes."
"You like artichokes."
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do. I cooked it last week and you ate it all."
"So you do trick me! What an absurd!"
"Like you don't do the same, mister James Potter. What was that all about the lard you gave me saying it was some fried tubercle?"
James smiled at the memory of her face when she discovered it.
"You loved it, don't complain."
"I'm not. I'm just stating how much we are perfect for each other."
James' smile grew wider on his handsome face. "Yes, we really are." He said in a warm tone. "We are both deceivers, liars and manipulative." He finished with a laugh.
"Talk about you!" Lily tried to seem outraged, but ended up also laughing.
"You're no better than me, love."
"Of course I am. Before I married you, I was completely seemly; you are the one who is corrupting me."
"Is that supposed to be a criticism? Never was a fan of people who followed the rules."
"Tell me about it."
It was past nine by the time dinner was ready, so the Potter Family sat in the living room awaiting Sirius' arrival. Harry was already in his pajamas, and would have been in bed if it weren't for the fact that his parents thought he would appreciate seeing his godfather and that they knew for sure that Sirius would have a fit if he couldn't hold Harry. That being the case, he remained awake.
James was spread across the couch, Harry in his lap while Lily played pica-boo with him. They listened to the WMS in hope of hearing any trustful news, when the doorbell rang.
"Is it Sirius?" Lily asked glancing at the clock.
"He said he wouldn't get here until eleven."
"But who else could it be?"
"Well, we can only found out." James said, already getting to his feet.
"No, let me." Lily got up and walked to the door. "Bathilda, dear!" The redhead exclaimed as she opened the door to a very crooked figure, a basket hanging from one arm.
"Hello Lily," the old woman greeted her, "how are you this evening?"
"Brilliant. And you, my friend?"
"I'm just fine." She smiled gently, her eyes disappearing between the wrinkles.
"Won't you come in?" Lily widened the door, readying herself to usher the old woman into the house.
"I can't darling, have some family over at my house. Just passed by to give you some cookies I baked." Bathilda extended the basket to the younger woman. "Hope you like them, it's a new recipe."
"Oh, Bathy, you shouldn't have bothered"! Lily exclaimed but accepted the offered comfit nonetheless.
"You know it's not a bother. Give James my affections, will you?"
"My affections for you too, Bathy" James shouted from the living room.
The old lady smiled and, bowing her head, retired down the street.
"That was very sweet of her." Lily said as she walked back to the room and sat on the couch again, next to her husband, who had sat straighter and was now producing puffs of colored smoke from the end of his wand, while Harry laughed and tried to catch it.
"Old Bathy is a very nice one."
"She is, isn't she?"
"Totally, I can't believe she made us dessert, now we don't have to worry if Padfoot will remember bringing it." James commented, trying to take a peek into the basket.
"I though you said you made the dessert yesterday…" Lily scolded him.
James ran a hand through his messed black hair, and turned to look at her.
"I… Made the call to Sirius and told him to bring it?" He flashed a grin.
"You are hopeless." She laughed, "Hope he gets one of those amazing cakes from the bakery on his street."
"Mmm… One of those cakes maybe."
"Or maybe the flan"
"Or even the ice cream…"
"Stop it, or I'll have to eat the dessert before the dinner, and would be a shame to waste such a nice meal." Lily said in a very serious voice.
James laughed out loud. "We can always give it two turns."
"We can, indeed. I'm planning on having you carrying me to bed, since I will not be able to move after I finish."
"I was hoping you would still be able to move when I carried you to bed…" His eyes gleamed with mischief.
"That depends on how long Sirius will take to get here." She answered, putting a red lock behind her ear, mischief of her own in her beautiful features.
"And that's because..?" James narrowed his eyes.
"I'm growing hungrier by the minute."
"Well, we could always invert the order of…"
Both adults turned their heads to look at their son's exclamation. Harry had an annoyed expression plastered in his face, and his tiny hands were grabbing the rem of his father shirt as he pleaded for attention.
"Hey little boy, I'm sorry," James said as he resumed the task of entertaining his son, "See, he almost got it perfect this time" he added to his wife.
"Bug off." Lily said as she got up to her feet. "We already discussed that Nuommy was practically identical to mummy, which means that I won."
"I still hold the point that it seemed more like Moony than mummy, which means..."
But Harry wouldn't have it. He gave a squeak to regain his father's attention once more.
"A little bit needing aren't you?" James said a little annoyed, but nonetheless warm, to his son.
"Got it from you, I suppose." Lily said amused.
"Hurt my feelings there, love."
She snorted and grabbed the basket she had left on the coffee table. "Harry is getting restless I think it's time to go to bed. Sirius can see him tomorrow or any other day." She reasoned.
James looked thoughtful. "Can't we give it a little more time?" He asked glancing at the clock.
Lily sighed and agreed, before going into the kitchen. She checked the food and set the table before going back to where her family stood.
"Okay, that's it, or Harry will be insufferable tomorrow."
"You are right." James sighed. "Well, I tried little buddy," he said to his son, "but you heard your mother, so it's good night, even I don't think is a good idea to go against her."
The redhead picked up the baby from her husband's arms and flashed him a grin. "Wise man."
"I've married you, haven't I?" He smiled back.
Lily left the room and James threw his wand on the couch beside him, stretching and yawning. He heard the front door opening abruptly.
"Padfoot!" he exclaimed and jogged after the cat to the hall. "About time old ma-"