From numerous late-night study sessions at Hogwarts, to guard duty during the Horcrux hunt, to the night he had finally defeated Tom Riddle, Harry Potter could not recall ever feeling as tired as he did at this exact moment. Little James was nearly four months old and was still not sleeping through the night. Molly Weasley gave him and Ginny constant reassurances that it would only be a matter of time before he did so, but Harry could not remember a time when James had ever slept more than six hours in one go, much less ten or twelve. Tonight, he could not even make it past three hours before he woke up again, crying for sustenance. Having dealt with him three times already, poor Ginny was now getting some much-deserved rest behind a Silencing Charm.
Because of his experiences with all-night stakeouts and early morning raids during his time in the field as an Auror, he and Ginny had decided early on that he would be the one to get up with James between midnight and breakfast. The rationale was that Harry would be better suited to trying to stay awake during the late hours and would not suffer as much. They were wrong. Very wrong.
To make matters worse, James hated taking milk from a bottle. But Harry suffered through it as best as he could for his wife's sake as well as for his son. Tonight's battle was as bad as the first time James had been given a bottle. It had taken nearly an hour for him to succumb to his hunger and accept the milk being offered to him, and now Harry could not even sigh in relief, lest he disturb the sleep that had finally claimed the youngest Potter.
Harry wanted nothing more than to down the entire dose of Sleeping Potion on his nightstand and lose consciousness for the next eight hours, but he was not the type of man to shirk his duties ... especially because his wife would have his bits on a platter if he did. He hoped he would at least be able to get a couple hours of sleep tonight. Unfortunately, even with that bit of rest he was probably going to have to leave the office a little early and have Ron cover his duties for the last two hours of the day or so.
As Harry gazed back down at the brown-haired baby in his arms, he was surprised at how easily a smile could still form on his lips after everything James had put them through this evening. He wondered if this was how his father felt, holding him when he was that age, but that was just one of hundreds of questions he would never get to ask his son's namesake. He could always reminisce with Arthur, his father-in-law, or even Bill, the oldest of his brothers-in-law, but it just would not be the same. Maybe if Sirius were still ... no, it was better not to finish that thought. He was tired enough already. There was no point in being tired and depressed. Trying to cheer himself up, he thought back to the day they brought James home from the hospital...
It had been a whirlwind of a day. Despite protestations of the baby's health, it seemed that the Healers at St. Mungo's always had one more test to run before they would allow the Potters to bring their son home. Harry was getting very annoyed, and Ginny took it upon herself to find a way to distract him before he did something he would regret.
"All right, luv?"
Harry scowled. "I just don't understand why we're still here. They keep saying James is healthy and that we'll be able to take him home soon, but it seems like Healer Wiggins keeps coming up with something else to check."
"Relax, dear. My mum says everything they're doing is what you Aurors would call 'standard procedure.' Get it?"
"I guess... I just get the feeling there's something they're not telling us."
"Harry, it's not like that at all. They're just being extra thorough. How would it sound if the son of Harry Potter was sent home with some ailment that they failed to diagnose?"
Harry sighed. "I guess you're right. I just want to get away from all this so we can start being a family."
Ginny smiled warmly at the man she loved. "We don't have to wait until we get home for that. Why don't I get him from my mum so you can hold him a bit?"
"Are you sure she'll give him up?"
"Just leave it to me."
She returned a couple minutes later and placed their son into Harry's arms. He immediately perked up and Ginny knew she had done the right thing. Moments later, however, his face fell again. Luckily, Ginny was the only one to notice her husband's sudden mood change.
"Is something wrong, luv?" she asked with a confused look on her face.
"I was just thinking... it's already started."
"What do you mean?"
"Look at him. He's so perfect right now with those curious eyes and that soft hair and those round cheeks... but he'll never be this small again. It's only a matter of time... I'll blink one day and in his place will be a young man eager to run onto the Hogwarts Express to share a compartment with his mates."
Ginny finally caught on and tried to soothe his concerns. "Don't think about that now. Hogwarts is still years away ... no need to rush into that any faster than we have to."
Harry nodded weakly. "Sorry. I guess I've just got used to losing the ones I love."
Ginny wrapped her arms around the two most important men in her life and said, "We're not going anywhere, luv. You were the one who gave us a safe world to raise our family in. Don't waste it by dwelling too much on the past and forgetting to enjoy today."
He knew his wife was right, but it was still difficult to let go of those thoughts. Even after all this time he sometimes felt as if he was about to wake up from a dream and find himself back in the cupboard under the stairs at number four Privet Drive. He did not notice that Ginny had moved her hands from his shoulders before it was too late.
"Ow!" cried Harry as he moved a hand to the throbbing spot on the back of his head. "What was that for?"
"I know what you're thinking about, Potter. Now mind your wife and enjoy what you've got before I hex you."
The message finally began to sink in and Harry gave his wife a tentative smile. "Yes, dear."
It was in times like these that Harry truly cherished what Ginny did for him that day. Being a father was difficult and would continue to be so, but it was still the best thing that had ever happened to him. He had to remember to appreciate it ... even savor it ... while he had the chance.
He gently placed his son into the crib, fairly confident that he was finally sleeping soundly enough to be put down. Ironically, as soon as he placed him on the soft mattress, Harry felt a sudden urge to scoop him back up and cradle him for the rest of the night. He was not sure if it was because he adored his son so much or because he was going mad from lack of sleep, but he resisted the impulse all the same.
He modified the Silencing Charm so that it would only affect Ginny and returned to his spot in bed next to her. He paused to look at her peaceful countenance and thought to himself that there was truly no way he could ever repay her for everything that she had given him. From her unwavering support during the darkest times of their adolescence to her continued support of his dangerous career, Ginny had never let him down. And now, she had given him a son ... one who still had to discover the benefits of a long, deep sleep ... but a wonderful product of their love all the same. As Harry finally lost consciousness, one last thought captured how he felt about the life he had earned, "I wouldn't change a thing."