A/N: prompt from petalstofish for jilytober :) I hope you enjoy it in all its fluff and pointlessness :) idk why I made Harry eight instead of nine
So generally speaking, James isn't too bitter about his childhood. He had loving parents, a beautiful home to grow up in, and later on, the best friends he could've asked for. Comparatively – pick any one of his friends or his wife, come to think of it – he really had it more than ok.
Except, and this sounds really shallow when said friends and wife had things like racism and severing families and debilitating illnesses to deal with, his early childhood was a bit lonely. Sure, his parents were more than happy to spend their days with him, even when it was a bit ill advised – James can recall a particular afternoon working on potions with his dad that left him briefly without a left eyebrow – but it's not quite the same as having kids your own age around.
Which was a deficiency he managed to hugely overcome at the ripe old age of eleven, when he and Sirius became attached at the hip, proverbially speaking. Add to that their little band of mischievous brothers that formed soon enough, and James was all around a happy young wizard.
Until Halloween 1976, that is. Overall it was a pretty great day, the one he'll name as one of his favorites. It was honestly the first time he really felt like he was building to a friendship with Lily in its own right. Not a default 'my friends are friends with your friends' deal, but a genuine 'we like to hang out even if there are other choices' type deal.
They'd both wandered into the Common Room, well after everyone had gone to bed and James and the boys had long since gorged themselves on too many sweets and even more butterbeer. Which probably provides enough insight as to why James' stomach felt like it was being repeatedly pounded by a rogue bludger.
Lily seems to have her digestive tract more in hand, sipping lightly on what smells like peppermint tea and staring unseeingly but not unhappily toward the roaring fire that beats away the crisp chill.
James clears his throat awkwardly and Lily startles a bit, almost slopping her tea over the rim of her delicate cup. "Warn a bird, eh?"
Needlessly rubbing at his glasses with the sleeve of his dressing gown, mainly in an effort to look unintimidated, James answers, "That was 'warning a bird.'"
"Rubbish way to try not startling someone, Potter," Lily mumbles, taking another sip, "Have a seat, stop standing and goggling like a gargoyle."
"In the interest of avoiding a burn-motivated trip to the Hospital Wing, I've forgone tossing this cushion at you – but I did it in my heart," James answers, settling in on the couch with a healthy distance between them.
"I appreciate your self-restraint," Lily drawls, rolling her eyes. But it's new, the way she seems endeared instead of annoyed. They've both mellowed, in their own ways – he's become less of a prat and she's come to enjoy his remaining eccentricities.
Later, James discovers she really never hated him at all – when he tells Sirius, he earns himself a swift crack to the back of the head – and did in fact enjoy him long before she would admit or he would believe.
And that path, the one to finding out they really could move beyond his childish fancy to friendship and eventually – well they have a kid. There was other stuff in there too – namely dating and marriage – but the main thread of the story is about a different part of that night. Namely, when Lily revealed a certain part of her Muggle heritage that he was particularly jealous of.
If he closes his eyes, he can still see them, knees knocking and fingers stained with fudge while Lily dramatically retells her most memorable Halloween, which involved her sister, four stray cats, and what she would later learn was a grotesquely inaccurate two-person unicorn costume.
When she gets to the end, tears streaming down their faces and muffled laughter hidden behind cupped hands, James' chest feels fuller and warmer than he can remember. Despite the distraction, his brain does eventually grind into full gear and catch on to one of the preliminary aspects of her story.
Waiting until their breathing regulates, James nudges her with his elbow, then prods her twice with a single finger. "You're telling me, muggle kids get to threaten their neighbors with a prank to get sweets?"
Lily tilts her head sideways on the back of the couch, green eyes sparkling with laughter. "Well, most people don't actually do the pranks. It's mainly just a fun excuse to dress up and eat too much candy."
"Bloody hell – I've wasted sixteen years, Evans."
And to his surprise, Lily didn't dismiss him with an eye roll and a toss of her hair, but ruffled his hair and sighed. "You've got time, and me."
Which was the beginning of a Halloween tradition that continued well past their graduation, uninterrupted and unquestioned through their marriage and their son's childhood – until today.
"Dad. I'm eight."
"Eight is still young, Harry," James answers, swiping a biscuit from their shared plate while simultaneously throwing down another card.
"I'll go to Hogwarts, by myself, in less than three years."
"A small, but relevant number, mate," James answers, shaking his head with exaggerated sorrow.
Harry eyes his cards and looks up, clumsily adjusting his smudgy glasses. "What if we played for it?"
James mirrors his son's movements, thoughtfully considering his own hand and the lightly smoking pile between them. "So if you lose, we go together."
"I think I should get some of your sweets too, since me winning means I have to put on trousers," James wheedles, despite the very real truth that he's had a costume picked out since August.
Still, James Ignotus Potter has never been one to back down from a challenge, and Harry's always had a knack for goading him into things - likely a skill learned from his godfather - so they draw their chairs closer to the table and leave the biscuits untouched.
It's three turns since their bet and James' cards are heating in his hands but he's still a Marauder, even a decade out of Hogwarts, so he keeps his poker face, hoping Harry's just as near defeat as he is. But if James has a Marauder's poker face, Harry's got that plus the Evans gene for keeping his cool. Which was most obviously demonstrated during the Easter egg color massacre of '88. Lily'd grilled them both in a manner eerily reminiscent of of a certain mad-eyed auror, and Harry didn't bat an eye.
Meaning, that despite his best efforts, James is caught completely unawares when Harry throws down his last card and leaves James with a smoking deck and nine unhelpful cards.
So, along with the usual sting of defeat, James' heart drops a bit at the thought of his first Halloween spent without trick-or-treating since Harry was born, although Harry's childish laughter and clumsy victory dance do bring a smile to his face. Distracted with his gloating as he is – Harry's his mother's son – James' slightly hesitant smile manages to slip under the radar and Harry's off to boast to his mother and begin preparing for his big night out.
To keep his mind off things, James putters around, cleaning up their crummy, ashy mess before Lily notices, fluffs the couch cushions – and finds his missing wand – debates calling Sirius but feels a bit of a ponce, and finally decides to pull out his Firebolt and broom care kit.
He settles down in the study, an old Puddlemere game playing low on the wireless, and soon gets lost in the familiarity of wrangling the tail of his broom – rustle, snip, rustle, snip – until his tedium is broken by three knocks on the doorframe and Harry's pale little face peers around the corner. "Alright dad?"
James sets his broom aside. "Sure mate. Need some help with your costume?"
A shrug, and Harry picks his way further into the room, sitting on the table and looking entirely too serious for a kid about to get entirely too much candy.
Patting Harry's knee, James shoots a glance toward the empty doorway. "Don't believe your mum – I'm quite crafty."
Harry's lips tick up slightly at that, but not the full smile James is going for as his son kicks at the couch lightly, green eyes narrowed in that way that has him looking for red hair and the business end of a wand. "What's up?"
A dull roar sounds from the wireless and Harry jolts a little in surprise, then turns his focus to the small hole in his jeans that Lily wants to patch, but Harry says is cool. "I was thinkin'."
"Good on you," James smirks, prodding Harry's stomach.
After delivering an eye roll that must be in the eight-year-old's handbook for sassing parents, Harry answers, "I'll get more candy if there's two of us, yeah?"
James lifts Harry onto his lap and leans back against the cushions, inwardly marveling that 'too big for supervised trick or treating' Harry is willing to let the lap sitting happen. "Well we are pretty adorable in our costumes."
Harry nods against James' chest. "Plus you can carry a bag too – double the people, double the sweets."
And, Harry's an affectionate kid. He loves his family. But James is a little suspicious of his son's sudden about face on the whole Halloween night plan before he sees Lily lurking in the hallway and Harry shooing her away. So after – "Didn't you want to be independent?"
Harry hums noncommittally and James whispers, "What's up? I won't tell mum."
"I – she said you had a costume to go with mine already."
"I can wear it here, mum says it's sexy."
Pulling away rapidly, Harry lets out a melodramatic moan Sirius would be proud of. "That's gross," he pinches James' side and whispers harshly, "And no one thinks Chewy is sexy."
Lily's snort is almost inaudible from the hallway, but both boys are too used to trying to hide shenanigans to miss her foible, perking up and turning toward the empty doorway in mirror image of each other. "I'm not here, boys, not hear and not listening at all."
Pitching his voice a little louder, James looks to Harry, "I know mum meant well, and I love her for it," Lily sighs and James continues, "But I don't want to ruin your night."
"I've got lotsa time to be grown up," Harry says with a shrug before smirking mischievously, "Plus mum'll let me stay out late if you're around."
James points at Harry, "Brilliant."
"Plus, what's Han without Chewy?"