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James was sat with the baby on his lap, smiling softly at Lily, who was laid on the sofa opposite him, fast asleep.

After the initial shock of being issued with a ready-made baby, James had found that he actually quite enjoyed playing Dad.

Admittedly, the first few hours of parenthood had not been smooth ones…

Eleven Hours Earlier

“Oh my God!”

“James, it’s only a bit of poo!”

It had been four hours since Professor McGonnagal had introduced the seventh years to their little bundles of joy, and some were adjusting far quicker than others.

“But it’s all runny, and smells like sh-”

“James! Kindly do not swear in front of the baby! And of course it smells like the ‘s’ word – that’s what it is!”

“It could at least have the decency to use the loo, like other human beings do!”

“It’s five months old!”

“So?”

“Oh, I give up!” said Lily, exasperatedly.

She glanced down at the screaming baby and shook her head.

“I just can’t understand why he’s still crying,” she said, frowning. “I’ve changed his nappy, you fed him at lunch, and-”

“Uh, well actually…” began James, apprehensively.

“You didn’t feed him?!” cried Lily, staring at him disbelievingly. “What is wrong with you?!”

“I just… kind of… forgot?”

“You forgot?! How could you forget?! Wasn’t all the crying a bit of an indication to you that you may have forgotten to do something?!”

“Well, no, not really! I just assumed babies cried all the time!”

Lily mouthed soundlessly at him.

“What?! It was one teensy mistake, Lily!” cried James, trying to defend himself. “It’s not like it’s the end of the world!”

“He could have starved James!” screamed Lily, holding the baby protectively against her. “Doesn’t that mean anything to you?!”

“It’s not real, Lils!” shouted James, unable to see why she was getting so upset about the situation. “It’s just an illusion!”

“You are unbelievable,” spat Lily, staring incredulously. “You really really are! How can you just… just… just be like this! Are you telling me that there is not a single paternal bone in your body?!”

“I’m seventeen, Lily! I don’t need to feel paternal right now!”

“Oh, that is so immature, James!”

“So, I’m immature because I don’t feel the need to knock some girl up?! How is that bad!?

James’ ear-drums were saved from Lily’s reply by the sudden addition of a new screaming baby, who was held in the arms of a weary looking Sirius.

“I am never, ever going to get a girl knocked up,” he informed them, looking at the baby in his arms as though it were some sort of alien life form. “I just can’t take it!”

“You know what, Potter,” snapped Lily, ignoring Sirius. “I think you should look after the baby for the next couple of hours – maybe then you’ll show a bit of maturity!”

And with that, she put the baby back on the changing mat and stormed out, leaving James to stare apprehensively at the, once again, screaming five month old.

He looked at Sirius, who backed away, shaking his head.

“Oh, no,” he said, staring wide-eyed at James. “I can barely deal with one baby, let alone two! No, mate, you’re on your own with this one!”

And then he too left just as fast as he could, holding his baby awkwardly in one arm.

James watched him go as mild panic began welling up inside him.

How on earth was he meant to cope on his own?

Lily seemed to know instinctively what to do, yet he felt as though he were floundering in the middle of the black lake, without a life-belt.

And then sudden inspiration hit him.

Picking up the baby, and popping it on his hip, like Lily always did, he started rummaging through the bag of things they’d been given to help them look after their baby, and pulled out a book entitled ‘How to care for your little one’.

The relief that swept through him as he flicked through the book and found all the instructions he needed was second to none.

The first thing he knew he had to do was feed it. Finding an empty bottle in the bag, he settled himself down in one of the armchairs near to the fire and repeated the incantation he found in the book next to a diagram of a bottle filled with milk. The bottle filled up before his eyes and he smiled.

Adjusting the baby so he was in the right position to feed, he placed the teat of the bottle to its mouth.

The baby’s eyes flicked up to look at him, as though saying, ‘Are you sure this is alright for me to drink?’

James couldn’t help a small smile appearing on his face as he watched it decide that it was ok, latch onto the teat and begin sucking greedily.

Despite all the crying and dribbling and stuff, the baby really was rather cute.

He continued to feed the baby, but levitated the book in front of him so that he could continue to read it.

By half past two in the afternoon, the baby was fast asleep and he felt as though his brain could absorb no more.

He’d decided to name the baby Al, after a famous muggle actor Lily was always going on about.

He did, after all, want to make her happy.

He was slightly annoyed that they’d already had a fight, and had barely been friends for a day!

It was then that Lily’s friend Alice walked in, looking absolutely shattered.

“Alice,” he whispered, getting carefully to his feet, Al in his arms, still fast asleep.

Alice jumped about a mile.

“James!” she cried, putting a hand on her chest. “Don’t do that!”

“Shh,” James hissed at her, nodding at Al.

Alice put her hand to her mouth and whispered, “Sorry!”

James smiled.

“It’s alright. Sorry I scared you.”

Alice shook her head.

“Don’t worry about it, I’m just tired. Mine and Frank’s baby just won’t stop crying. Thankfully Frank’s volunteered to look after it whilst I catch up on some work, and then we’ll swop later. Anyway, what’s up?”

James shifted Al slightly on his hip, and then said, staring embarrassedly at the floor, “Um, it’s about Lily. I, uh… I kind of upset her. But I want to make it up to her… I just don’t know how.”

He looked up to see Alice smiling knowingly at him, and blushed.

“Shut up.”

Alice pretended to not know what he was talking about.

“What? What did I do?”

James raised an eyebrow, and said sourly, “You know.”

She grinned.

“Alright,” she laughed, a glint of mischief flashing through her eyes, “So I do know what’s up. But, seriously, James – you need to stop making screw ups like this. Lily’s never going to agree to date you if you keep causing her to doubt you…”

James’ ears pricked up at this.

“Wait. You think she’d date me?”

“I’m not saying a word,” she said, shaking her head, but smirking all the while. “What I will say, though, is that Lily likes romance. She likes a guy who can surprise her - in a good way, I mean – and one that takes the time to notice and listen to her.”

I listen to her!” cried James, hastily lowering his voice as Al stirred in his arms. “I love listening to stuff she’s got to say!”

“Then prove it,” replied Alice, staring him straight in the eye. “You’ve got that Head’s meeting in the Room of Requirement, right?”

James’ eyes widened.

“Oh, yeah! God, I completely forgot about that!”

“Yeah, well, Lily hasn’t. And she’s just expecting it to be a boring, painful affair, so why don’t you spice stuff up a bit – give her an evening she’ll really remember…”

“But how do I-”

“Not my problem,” said Alice, with a wave of her hand, as she started to make her way to the girls’ dormitories. “I’ve given you your starting point – the rest is up to you!”

Just as she was about to go up the stairs, she turned round and said to James, who had been watching her go with a panicked expression on his face, “Oh, and James? Remember – Lily is a vegan. So don’t go giving her any of those disgusting Pork Scratchings you and Black like so much.”

Then she disappeared up the stairs, leaving James to wonder – what on earth was a vegan?

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