Her voice was raw and haggard as it slipped from her throat. The words danced past the screams and yells of their infant and into her husband’s abused ears. Their faces wore an identical expression: exhaustion. Exhaustion and impatience competing with the desire to remain loving. They adored the ball of colicky baby more than anything, but he just wouldn’t stop crying.
“Maybe you should try nursing again?” James rubbed his fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp as he spoke.
“I’ve tried nursing a hundred times! Maybe you should try it.” Lily knew she was being unreasonable, and that James couldn’t actually try to nurse, but that had been his only suggestion all evening.
How many times did she have to hold their baby against her warm flesh and attempt to nourish him, only to have his screams strengthen and his little fists bang against her? He didn’t want nursing. He didn’t want rocking. He didn’t need changing, burping, soothing. She was starting to think he didn’t even need her.
“I know, I know. I’m sorry. I just don’t know what else.” James adjusted his position on the floor so that his back was leaning against the fireplace.
Lily sighed and rolled onto her stomach, banging her forehead against the cream colored carpet a few times before resting it in her hands.
They weren’t sitting on their couches. Their much too expensive couches that James’s mum and dad had purchased for their wedding present, because those were actually comfortable.
Both of them were terrified that if they were even remotely comfortable they would fall asleep and Harry would cry himself to death; not even witches could protect their babies from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
So, instead of nestling into one another and watching a film on the muggle television, they were sprawled out over the unforgiving carpet and trying to stay sane.
Their small house was filled with the scent of lavender, something her mother had often used to calm her as a child. Also something that failed to work for their son. She couldn’t see the kitchen table from the living-room, but she was sure it was covered with abandoned plates and to-go containers that were full of the half eaten food they never seemed to be able to finish before Harry woke up.
She felt her heart grow heavier as she thought about all the things she wanted to get done.
She couldn’t function well in a messy house, and that’s exactly what it was. Messy. She hadn’t been able to take a shower longer than five minutes since the baby had been born.
And reading! She barely remembered what it felt like to relax in the backyard Hammock and slip into a novel.
As these thoughts invaded her mind, a new one took over; her baby was bawling and all she could think about is what she wanted to do.
“James?” Lily looked up and met his hazel eyes. “James. What if, what if it’s me? I’m his mum, I should know, or at least feel what he needs. I mean-” her words got caught in the back of her throat as the tears tried to take over. Harry was her baby. Her baby. She should know what to do to relax him, if she was a good mum she would be able to help.
To Lily’s surprise, James laughed.
“Oh yes, I’m sure it’s you that’s the problem. The mother who gives him the softest skin to nap on and more love than all the children in England combined, why didn’t I think of that?” Sarcasm was the last thing that Lily wanted to hear coming from her husband’s voice, but she couldn't help laughing.
“If all that were true he wouldn’t still be screaming!” she counteracted through her nearly inaudible mixture of crying and laughter.
She flipped her body over and felt their cat rub up against her feet, purring through the ear splitting ruckus that probably had the entire neighborhood awake. At least she could make Butterscotch happy, cats were much more agreeable. If Harry spent the rest of his baby years crying, then she was absolutely never having children again. Never. They’d get Scotch a brother or sister. Hell, he could have five brothers or sisters as long as they just cuddled and purred.
“Stop it, Lily.” James’s voice interrupted her fantasy of a life full of only cats.
“Chewing on your lip.” He walked over to her and nearly collapsed, then nuzzled his head against her chest and let out a long sigh.
“No, you will not use me for a pillow. If I can’t sleep, you can’t sleep.” She tried to shove him off of her, but her tired arms did little more then push him an inch or two. “Maybe we should try taking turns again?”
“We can’t take turns, Lily. You cheat. Remember when you switched my pocket watch two hours ahead so I would believe it was your turn to nap and mine to watch Harry?”
Lily chuckled at the memory of James catching her in her trick within seconds. The infuriating man could read her like a book.
“Do you think this is how it'll be for the next few years of our lives? Getting minutes of sleep every few hours, with our faces tired and our eyes so saggy and black that we look like we just got into a fist fight?” Lily rubbed her face as she spoke, as if trying to buff out the appearance that she just described.
“Our faces? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never looked better a day in my life, darling.”
“How can you joke, James? How? He’s been screaming for a million bloody hours. Our child won’t stop yelling and we don’t know what the fuck to do about it!” Lily’s patience was seconds away from shattering. She felt like one of those strings that you know is about to break, the middle is thin and weak, and all the sudden it just snaps.
James looked up at her, his expression filled with amusement.
“You just said the f word in front of our two month old child,” he teased.
She covered her mouth, her green eyes widening like a deer caught in headlights. “No I didn’t!” she quickly denied.
“So now when Harry’s first word is that, we’ll know who to blame. I can’t wait to tell Sirius.”
Lily tried to make some sort of reply, but when she opened her mouth to speak a sob came out instead. She couldn’t control it, another one came out - then another. Her sobs quickly blended with Harry’s while James scooped her into his arms and carried them both to the couch.
The gentle light of an oil lamp swayed slowly, like it was about it burn out, until a quick gust of September wind flitted through the window and brought it a surge of oxygen. Lily opened her flooded eyes and watched the flame flicker against the glass, dancing to the music of the midnight air.
“James! I know!” She jumped up from his arms and rushed into their guest room. She sucked in a howl as her little toe caught the edge of the desk and sent a quick prickling of pain up her foot. Why hadn’t she lit her wand? Then she would have seen that bloody thing.
After hopping on one foot for a second while applying pressure to the injured toe, she illuminated the top of her wand and got down on her hands and knees to search under the bed. Her messy, dark red hair was falling from the bun on top of her head and into her eyes, but she was too distracted to sweep it away.
She pushed aside boxes and finally found the long black case. She dove forward, deeper under the bed, to grasp the handle and pull it out. After checking to make sure it was the correct one, she stood and fled from the room, down the narrow hallway and back into the front of the house.
James was leaning over Harry’s portable crib and rubbing his hand through the thick black hair of their still screaming baby.
“Where’d you go?” he asked. Lily could tell he was unsure what to make of the new fire in her eyes, probably trying to decide if it was determination or desperation that shined in them.
“I have an idea. Cross your fingers,” she mumbled while she set the small keyboard up on their glass coffee table.
She leaned against the couch and glanced at her boys, James really was an amazing father. He was so patient and had a deep calmness that she could probably never master. She couldn’t believe how quickly he had gone from a boy to a man. The day Harry was born was the day that she fell for James Potter all over again. Watching her husband with their child was the purest form of love she had ever witnessed.
“What?” James asked. Lily hadn’t realized she’d been starting at him as he continued to lean over the crib, she just shook her head and scooted forward to sit in front of the keyboard.
It had been months since she played, but after seven years of lessons piano wasn’t something she would soon forget. She let her body relax and silently prayed for this to work.
Her slender fingers began to dance over the keys, D to B, G to A, D to B. The tranquil sound of her own song fled from her fingertips into the tense room.
She closed her eyes tighter as Harry continued to wail, and forced herself to remain calm. She started to hum along to the melody and began to get so lost in her own swirling music that she barely registered their child’s quieting voice.
She continued to play, mesmerizing both Harry and herself with the instrument, until the room was silent apart from the song.
Her eyes were still shut but she felt James kneel down behind her. His chest pressed into her back and his lips rested on the base of her neck, kissing up it gently.
“I love you,” he whispered into her. “I don’t know how much longer I could have taken that.”
Lily smiled at his admission. She craved James's patience when her own was slipping, but it was comforting to know that she wasn’t the only one who felt like the constant crying could break her.
A bright light caught the corner of her eyes as it swept down the hall that led to the front door and into their living room. The large white Patronus dog came inches beside them and the hushed voice of Sirius came from its mouth.
“Alice and I just finished our mission. We’re outside.”
James gave Lily one last kiss before running to the front door. She assumed he must have told them that Harry just feel asleep, because both were extremely quiet as they came in.
“Hey Lils,” Sirius whispered as he sat on the couch.
Alice curled up beside Lily on the floor and started rubbing her back. “Rough night?” she asked.
“Oh, you mean I don’t look like a ball of sunshine?” Lily joked before leaning her head against her friend’s shoulder, relieved that Harry had stayed asleep despite the music ending.
“How about you guys go get a few hours of shuteye,” Sirius suggested. “We just finished following up on a tip we got about Avery’s place. He has a shack that was being used to keep a few illegal potions, we grabbed the bunch and brought them to Dumbledore. Anyway, you know how it is after a mission. You get wired and can barely sit still. We’ll watch over Harry while you guys get some rest.”
Lily was sure she was staring at Sirius like he was the best thing to ever step foot on this planet.
She barely had time to say thank you before her and James raced to their bedroom and collapsed onto the bed.
“You know Lily, we haven’t had an entire bed to ourselves in quite sometime,” James said as they snuggled under the covers.
His hands started running over the soft curve of her shoulders. But before he could trail kisses over her ivory skin, before she could tell him how much she missed being curled into his arms, before either of them could lose themselves into one another, they both fell fast asleep.
I know this was kind of a pointless little one shot, but I was thinking a lot about the year and three months that James and Lily were parents.
I hope you enjoyed this story, I would love for you to leave your thoughts on it!