'That's it dear. One more good one and he'll be here.'
Lily panted, willing herself to hold that pressure but not push for a moment. It had never been so hard not to do something.
There was a bustle around her that seemed detached from her as she lay concentrating on what she was supposed to not be doing.
And there it was again. That building pressure towards the almost unbearable, yet welcome, pain. She redoubled her grasp on the ropes of sheeting as the midwife chirped 'Here we go, lovey. That's it. Bear down. One… two… threeeeee… fo…' There was a tiny squeak. 'Okay darlin', hold off now. Let me take it from here.' She snatched a cloth from the waiting hand of her assistant and busied herself.
Lily kept herself pulled up, panting frantically and wondering why she had to stop. From the feel of it, the baby was still inside her and she was stretched further than a woman was meant to be stretched. James, who had been by her shoulder, offering murmurs of support and love, was now down by her hips; jaw gaped with a look of absolute amazement.
'Okay, here we go,' called the midwife again, but there was no need to tell Lily. Her body would not have allowed her to resist.
Again that unbearable pressure, then suddenly it was gone. In only a moment her body was washed in an unbelievable wave of relief and release. Suddenly she felt empty and the room was filled with shouts and cheers and cries.
She fell back, panting again, but this time with exhaustion. She looked down to see her husband, wand in hand, performing a severing charm. The assistant was vigorously drying the baby and the midwife was busy doing something beyond Lily's sight. She began to shiver violently and a warmed blanket was draped across her. Then James was by her shoulder again, holding a tightly wrapped bundle that was still crying with amazing strength for his size. He laid the baby across her chest, still staring at it in wonderment.
'Our son,' he murmured, pressing his lips against her sweaty brow.
Lily looked down at the red, wrinkled little face and felt her heart explode. Their son. She gathered him into her arms as James adjusted the pillows behind her back and head. She was vaguely aware of another contraction and the midwife continuing her ministrations, but all she could see was the face of her beautiful son, with his tiny rosebud mouth working and yawning. All she could feel was her husband planting kisses on her temple and the top of her head. Together they explored the tiny body, counting fingers and toes, wondering at the perfection that was this human being they had created and laughing at his little squeaks of protest at being poked and probed. Soon he had fallen asleep and she felt she could join him easily. James lifted him from her arms and she felt that sense of emptiness again. James laid him in the Moses basket that stood beside the bed then returned to her side. He rearranged the pillows and tucked the blankets around her. Sleep was coming quickly now and the last awareness was that of James humming a lullaby. She wasn't sure if it was for her or the baby.
She wasn't sure how long she had slept, but she awoke to the humming again and a sense of heaviness in her breasts.
'There you are,' a cheerful voice said. 'We were waiting for you.' Lily opened her eyes to see James holding the baby and his little finger in the baby's mouth. James' mouth twisted in a crooked smile. 'I don't think he's going to be satisfied with this much longer.'
Lily pulled herself into a sitting position and reached for the baby. James handed him over and sat on the edge of the bed, gazing happily at both of them.
Lily held the baby in the crook of her arm and his head turned immediately towards her, rubbing his face against her, his mouth open.
'A bit keen, isn't he?' James laughed.
Lily chuckled whilst unbuttoning her gown. It took a few fumbles and adjustments, but it didn't take him long to latch on. He began to suckle with enthusiasm. Lily gasped with surprise at the sensations. It hurt somewhat, as her nipple was tender, but it also caused ripples of gentle contractions in her belly. It didn't take long before they both found their rhythm and there was a minor protest when Lily shifted him to the other side.
Having had his fill, the baby was soon asleep again. One handed; Lily closed and adjusted her gown.
'Do you want me to put him in his bed?'
'No. I'll just hold him a bit.'
James patted her blanket-covered leg and rose. 'I'll go take care of some things. I'll be just out there if you need me.'
The baby, Harry, she reminded herself, lay peacefully in her arms and she gazed down at him. She didn't think she'd ever have enough of just looking at him. She ran her finger along the back of his hand and his fingers flexed. She slipped her finger against the palm of his hand and he closed his fist around it. Lily felt as if the tiny hand had clamped around her heart.
A lump rose in her throat, threatening to choke her. For the first time since she had gone into labour, she thought of the information Dumbledore had brought them months ago.
'Neither can live while the other survives.'
Lily looked down at the sleeping face. The face of an angel. The face of a saviour. No, he was too little. Just a baby. How could he be the one to destroy the evil that was Voldemort?
A blanket of snow muffled the noises outside. She could hear the voices of their neighbours, calling Christmas greetings to one another. Harry wiggled and giggled as she tried to bundle him into the heavy leggings and jacket. As quickly as she pulled the knitted cap over his unmanageable black hair, he would reach up and yank it off again. James came in the door, brushing the dusting of snow off his shoulders.
'I've cleared the walk, again. It'll probably by covered again by the time we come back from church. It's really coming down out there.'
'Here,' Lily said, thrusting the squirming boy in his father's arms. 'You put his hat on him. He refuses to keep it on.' She was thrusting her arms in her own coat and wrapping a scarf around her neck. Outside a cacophony of bells began to sound. 'Oh, we're going to be late,' she fretted, stuffing her own hat on to her head.
Outside they joined other couples and families making their way to the small stone church whose windows stained the snow with warmth and colour. They hurried in, claiming one of the few seats left open in a rear pew, and shook off their wraps. The organ burst forth with songs of celebration and joy as the message of the first Christmas was told in word and song. Harry settled quietly against his father's chest, listening to the music, enjoying the rumble of his father's voice against his ear as they sang, and drifting off to sleep with his thumb in his mouth.
The warmth of the crowded sanctuary, the flickering candles and the voice of the reader comforted Lily as he read the story from the Gospel of Luke.
Her eyes fell upon the statue of Mary in the crèche. Tears welled in her eyes. Had Mary ever looked at her sleeping son and wondered why it had to be him? Had Mary ever abused God in her prayers, telling Him he had no right to her son? Had Mary ever looked at her son in absolute awe, knowing what was said to lie in store and wondering if she could, in any way, change what had been prophesied? Why should the fate of the world and all it's evils lay on her son's tiny shoulders? How could she raise her son, knowing what he would have to face someday?
Lily was pulled from her thoughts by the movement of the congregation standing for the final blessing. As the organ burst forth with a joyous hymn she and her husband and tiny son made their way back into the cold night and another story came to mind.
They couldn't flee to Egypt, but they could hide their son. She wove her mittened hand into the crook of her husband's arm and walked with him back to their cottage, the snow muffling their steps.