James Potter was a man on the edge. Nothing he did could calm Harry, whose sobs were becoming louder. James scratched his head with his wand, which had not left his hand since dinnertime, and then began tapping it on his thigh the way he always did when he was nervous or worried. His other hand was slightly numb after holding Harry on his hip for so long, and he grew more and more frustrated as Harry’s wailing increased in volume.
Harry had always been a peaceful child, but when the Potters had gone in to hiding, it seemed he knew something was wrong. As though someone had flipped a switch, evenings suddenly became a trial when James and his wife attempted to put their son to bed. Every night when darkness fell, Harry would become restless and irritable. James and Lily did their best to maintain their composure as they attempted to soothe him, but they were both starting to look and feel a little worse for wear. It wasn’t just Harry’s behaviour that was troubling the Potters. After five months living under the protection of the Fidelius Charm, James was becoming resentful of his confinement and increasingly argumentative. Lately, he had started insisting that if nothing had happened by the end of the year he would come out of hiding, that two more months of seclusion was all he could bear. Knowing how difficult it was for her husband to remain shut away while their friends were out fighting and dying, Lily remained as patient and understanding as ever, but the atmosphere in the Potter home was undeniably tense.
Feeling Harry’s small body slide down his own as his increasingly numb arm slowly lost its grip, James tried to put his son down on the sofa, but the small arms around his neck only hugged him tighter. Pulling the small boy off him was difficult while he still held his wand in one hand, but he was finally able to place Harry down on the cushions. He sat down on the sofa next to his crying son and resumed tapping his wand on his thigh. Harry’s tears continued to flow. A surge of irritation flooded through James as the crying reached an ear-piercing level, and without warning there was a loud bang and a puff of smoke burst from the end of his wand.
The room was silent for a moment, and then a smile spread across Harry’s face and he began to giggle. He had caused his father to do accidental magic for the first time in years, and he seemed proud. Wand still in hand, James swept him into a hug, the sound of the young boy’s laughter soothing his own troubled mind. Lily rushed into the room looking alarmed, having heard the disturbance. Seeing that nothing was wrong, her worried expression disappeared, and she stood at the threshold for a moment watching the scene before her.
“Alright, you two clowns, it’s time for Harry to go to bed,” she finally interrupted.
James held Harry out in front of him so their eyes were level.
“There you have it, little man. Mum says it bed time, and you know there’s no arguing with her.”
He lifted Harry into his arms as he stood up again, and with a final kiss on the cheek passed him into Lily’s waiting arms. Calm at last, Harry buried his face into his mother’s shoulder as she carried him out of the room.
Now alone in the lounge room, James paused for a moment, thinking he had heard a noise outside in the garden. He adjusted the curtains so that no part of the window was uncovered. Wrapping his fingers even more tightly around his wand, he returned to the couch, where he once more began anxiously tapping his wand on his leg.
James Potter’s patience was beginning to wear thin. Harry was crying again, and James felt helpless. How could he comfort his son, when all he wanted to do was yell and scream himself? The news his visitors had come bearing tonight left him feeling weak and vulnerable. The war raged on and their friends were being tortured and killed. Perhaps Harry could sense his father’s distress.
Earlier that evening while James had stood in the kitchen deep in conversation with Sirius, Remus, Peter and Dumbledore, Harry had been his usual cheerful self, sitting on his mother’s lap in a chair by the fire, quietly chattering away to himself. When the five men had entered the living room, Lily’s body had tensed and Harry had gone silent, although he beamed up at his father and each of the other men as they filed past and patted him on the head. James led his guests to the front door and, tapping his wand against his leg, watched as they disappeared into the darkness outside. Letting out a big sigh as he bolted the door, he returned to the living room.
The first thing he had noticed was that Lily was now crying. The emotion she had fought to hide throughout the evening had overcome her. Without a word, James moved quickly towards her and took Harry from her lap, setting him down on the sofa. He then took his wife in his arms and she sobbed quietly into his shoulder. He kissed the top of her head, and she pulled back to look into his eyes.
“I’m fine,” she said, anticipating his question. “I just need something to drink.” Placing a light kiss on his cheek, she turned and walked out the door to the kitchen. Behind him James heard a whimper. By the time he reached the sofa and sat down next to his son, Harry had begun to cry in earnest.
The usual tricks just weren’t working, and James could not remember what he had done the previous night to stop Harry crying. He put his wand down on the couch next to him and buried his face in his hands, pushing his glasses up onto his forehead. Not having his wand in his hand made him feel uneasy, and as he quickly picked it up again he suddenly recalled his uncontrolled burst of magic. James frowned in concentration trying to think of a spell or incantation that might reproduce the puff of smoke that had been so amusing last night. The sound of Harry crying, however, blocked out all other thoughts. Finally deciding that anything was worth a try, he turned Harry to face him on the sofa.
“Are you watching, Harry? Are you ready?” James asked, trying to get the crying boy’s attention.
When he could see that the green eyes, filled with tears, were looking his way, he waved his wand and muttered the incantation. Flames sprayed from the end of the wand, singeing the cushions on the sofa. James hastily patted the smouldering upholstery and fanned away the smoke rising from the burnt patch. A small squeal caught his attention, and he turned to see Harry clapping his hands in delight, an enormous grin on his tear-streaked face. James laid his wand in his lap and started clapping too.
“Yay! Isn’t Daddy clever?”
Harry squealed again.
“I’m glad you think it’s funny, but I’m going to be in for it when your mother finds out what I’ve done to her sofa,” James chuckled.
Harry continued clapping his hands and giggling even as Lily re-emerged from the kitchen. She paused as she noticed the big smiles on her husband and son’s faces.
“What? What’s going on?”
Harry giggled again and James fought back his own laugh. “Nothing. We’re just being a bit silly,” he replied.
Lily still looked suspicious, but smiled as she scooped Harry off the couch. She gave James one more curious glance before carrying Harry out of the room.
With great effort, James pushed himself up off the couch, sending his wand clattering to floor. He immediately snatched it up again and breathed a sigh of relief once it was back in his hand. Still not feeling entirely at ease, James moved cautiously to the window and peered through a crack in the curtains. Seeing nothing outside in the darkness, he began pacing up and down the lounge room.
James Potter was a man with a plan. When Harry showed signs of becoming unsettled, he would be ready. Banished to the garden after Lily discovered the singed sofa, he had spent the day practising making puffs of smoke without also spewing flames. Now, as Lily struggled to get Harry into his blue pyjamas, James sat and watched with an amused expression on his face. When Harry cried his first tears for the evening, James opened his arms.
“Give him here, Lil, I know what’ll work.”
Lily looked up, exasperated, and blew the hair out of her eyes. With a final heave she pulled Harry’s pyjama top down over his head before picking up the struggling child and carrying him over to the sofa. “Okay, mister, show us what you’ve got!”
James raised his hands, paused for effect, and then began to flick his wand. With each movement, a small cloud of white smoke flew from the end. Harry shrieked with delight and started waving his hands at the smoke. Lily looked relieved and dropped into a chair by the fire.
“Well done. dear,” she muttered.
On the sofa, Harry was enthralled by the smoke. As he moved closer trying to catch the wisps of white, his nose wrinkled up and he sneezed once, then again. He opened his mouth wide to take an enormous gulp of air, then sneezed three more times.
“Achoo! Achoo!” James mimicked.
For several more minutes, James continued to produce puffs of smoke for Harry’s amusement. Harry in turn grew more and more excited, almost to the point of hysteria, until Lily intervened.
“Okay, I think that’s enough for one night,” she said, although she was now smiling too. She lifted Harry off the sofa and rubbed her nose against his. “Otherwise we’ll never get you to sleep, will we?” Harry shrieked again and threw his arms tightly around his mother’s neck. “That’s what I thought,” she said with a small laugh.
As Lily started to walk towards the stairs with Harry in her arms, James called out “So, am I brilliant or what?”
Lily turned and leaned down to kiss her husband on the cheek. “Yes, dear, you are brilliant,” she said before starting towards the stairs once more. “Pity about the smell.”
James smiled and stood up, stretching his arms over his head. Slowly, he walked over the window, pulled one of the curtains open and looked out into the night. With a sudden jolt he realised he’s left his wand sitting on the couch and rushed over to pick it up, stowing it away in his pocket before he returned to the window to look out at the stars.
James Potter was proud. For the first time in weeks he and Lily had not dreaded putting Harry to bed. As he always did, Harry struggled against his mother as she put him into his pyjamas. By the time Lily finished dressing him, she could see his face beginning to crumple. At this sign of impending tears, she passed the small squirming body to James, who immediately began his smoke-producing routine.
Not satisfied with last night’s success, James had again spent the day in the garden perfecting his wand movement until he could produce smoke in different colours. Harry, who was once again giggling on the sofa, clearly appreciated the effort, and Lily was glad this new variation was without the smell. From her usual seat by the fire, she watched as James entertained Harry with the coloured smoke. Before long her eyes were closed and her head had dropped back into the cushions of the chair.
“You know, I’ve been thinking...” James started, hoping to take advantage of his wife’s relaxed state.
“Should I be worried?” she enquired lazily, her eyes still closed.
“Very funny. Seriously, I was thinking that tricks with a wand aren’t going to impress Harry forever, and eventually we’re going to need something else to entertain him.”
“Yes...“ She was now starting to sound concerned.
“We need a long-term solution. Harry needs siblings,” James finished. Lily’s eyes opened suddenly. She was silent for a moment, and then burst out laughing. James looked defiant. “What? What’s so funny?” he demanded.
“You are! You think we should have another kid just so Harry doesn’t get upset at bedtime? That’s hilarious,” she replied, still laughing.
“Not just for that reason. We always said we were going to have another baby, and it would be good for Harry to have some brothers and sisters.”
“Some? Exactly how many were you thinking? It’s not as though we can just pick up a few from Diagon Alley. There’s a fair bit of effort involved on my part,” Lily teased.
“Oh, ha ha. I know all that. But I never had a brother or sister, so I always thought it would be nice for Harry to have a big family. Doesn’t five kids sound nice?”
“FIVE?” Lily’s voice was a combination of shock and amusement. “Why not go another two, make it one for each day of the week?”
“Now you’re being ridiculous. Five kids isn’t that bad,” James said in a firm voice.
“Try giving birth to one before you tell me that,” Lily shot back, and disappointment spread across James’ face at her words. “I’m sorry, you know I’m just being silly. You’re right, more children would be wonderful.”
James’ face instantly brightened up again. “So you agree? We should have another baby?” he asked excitedly.
“Well, maybe not right now. I’m kind of tired.” Lily pushed herself up out of her chair and walked over to the sofa. “Why don’t we talk about it in the morning?”
With that, she picked Harry up and carried him out of the room. James could hear her voice as she climbed the stairs.
“What do you think about that, Harry? Would you like to have a little brother or sister?”
James smiled to himself, knowing that in the morning there would be no need to convince Lily, that she was already becoming as excited about a new addition to the family as he was.
Feeling an immense satisfaction, James casually paced up and down the living room, lost in his thoughts. He paused in front of the window and peered into the darkness outside without really seeing. Tiredness suddenly overcame him, and he let out a big yawn. Unable to resist ruffling his hair as he caught his reflection in the glass, he headed towards the stairs to follow his wife and son. It was only when he reached the bottom step that he realised he’d left his wand on the couch, and slowly padded back to collect it before continuing upstairs.
James Potter was a lucky man. Evenings in the Potter home had settled into a routine, and everyone was happier for it. As Lily sat in front of the fire getting Harry ready for bed, James sprawled on the couch. The curtains were open, and he could see children outside on the sidewalk.
For the first time in months Harry was not crying, and was not giving Lily any trouble as she dressed him in his familiar blue pyjamas. James smiled as he watched the pair smothering each other in playful kisses. It was moments like these that had James marvelling at his good fortune that he, James Potter, was married to the amazing Lily Evans with a wonderful baby son. He chuckled to himself as he realised that it was on this day in their fifth year at Hogwarts that he had first asked out Lily.
“C’mon, Evans, you know you want to. Come to the party with me.”
“For your information, Potter, it would take something pretty special to make me do something as stupid as going to that ridiculous party, and you don’t even come close.”
James had hidden his disappointment behind his youthful arrogance, but he had not once thought of giving up on the adorable redhead. His determination eventually paid off, even if it was another two years before Lily finally agreed to go out with him.
“Okay, Harry, over to Dad.” Lily’s voice stirred James from his thoughts.
Knowing what was to come, Harry was already giggling as Lily placed him on the sofa. James did not make him wait, and, after fishing his wand out from between the cushions, immediately began producing the familiar puffs of coloured smoke. Lily stood and watched for a moment, then, with a satisfied smile, she sauntered into the kitchen, letting out a relaxed sigh.
By the time Lily returned to the lounge room, Harry had started yawning and rubbing his eyes in between cheers.
“Okay, boys, time for bed.”
Dropping his wand onto the couch, James also gave a big yawn. He picked Harry up off the sofa and gently placed him in Lily’s arms.
“I’ll be upstairs in a bit,” he said, and kissed her on the cheek. Watching her disappear out of the room, he yawned again and stretched his tired limbs. Yes, James Potter was indeed a very lucky man.
A tiny ‘click’ caught his attention, and immediately he knew something was wrong. He sprinted into the hallway, where he saw a cloaked figure gliding in through the front door, and too late realised he’d left his wand on the couch.
“Lily, take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off—”