15 December 2017

Harry and Ginny, for the first time in their two years as Hogwarts parents, stood before the headmistress's desk. Ginny looked furious. Harry, if he was honest, was trying to restrain laughter. He patted James' shoulders and gave him a little nudge forward.

"I'm very sorry, Professor McGonagall," he said finally, staring at his feet. "I promise, I won't do anything like it again."

Minerva's thin lips pressed together more tightly, but Harry saw a distinct twitch at the corner of her mouth. "I accept your apology, Mr. Potter." She looked up at Harry and Ginny. "As it is the last day of term, we will not be suspending any of the boys—or the young lady. But when classes resume, they will all have detention to serve."

"Of course," Ginny said. "Thank you very much, Minerva. I'm sure James appreciates that," she added, nudging James again. He nodded quickly.

Minerva got to her feet, her expression much more pleasant, and moved around her desk. "In that case, I wish you a wonderful holiday."

"Aren't you coming to Christmas?" James blurted out, immediately forgetting that he was in trouble. Minerva looked down at him, and James resumed his staring at the floor. Harry distinctly saw Dumbledore's portrait above the desk look away to examine his interlocked fingers with great interest, and smiled involuntarily.

"I'll be there," Minerva mouthed quietly to Ginny, who nodded.

"Thanks, Professor," Harry said. Minerva nodded, and Harry followed Ginny and James from the room. The walk down the corridor was silent. James glanced anxiously up at his parents. Ginny's jaw was very tight, and she held one hand on her son's shoulder. They marched down the entrance hall staircase. It was late at night—no one was in the Great Hall, and the only light came from the torches placed along the walls.

At the main doors, they all stopped to put on their cloaks. As Ginny knelt to fasten James'—he was not foolish enough to argue that he could do it himself—Ernie and Susan Macmillan came flying through the double doors, arguing.

"Can't believe she'd do something like this—"

"Oh, Ernie, it's not that serious—"


"Oh—hi, Harry, Ginny," said Susan, stopping when she saw them. She went a little pink. "How are you?" She caught sight of James, looked at Harry's expression, and bit her lip, trying not to smile.

"Fine, thanks," Harry said, reaching forward to shake Ernie's hand. He looked very harassed.

"Sorry we can't stay to chat," Susan said. "We've got a meeting as well." She looked at James knowingly.

"Come on, Susan," said Ernie. He and Susan said goodbye and hurried up the stairs.

The silence resumed as the three of them walked down the path to the gates topped with winged boars and began the trip down to Hogsmeade.

"So," James said in a small voice. "Where're Al and Lily?"

"Gran's," Ginny answered.

"Ah, yes, very good," James said. "Probably the best place for them—" He stopped when Ginny arched an eyebrow at him. Harry was lucky it was dark—he was starting to shake from holding in his laughter.

"Gin," Harry said, in what he felt was a reasonably controlled voice. "Why don't you go ahead of us? Fetch Al and Lily and go home? I'd like to talk to James." Ginny faced him, her mouth opening angrily, but Harry cut her off gently. "Please?"

Ginny took a deep breath, walked a short ways ahead of him, and turned on the spot, Disapparating to the Burrow. When she had gone, James was still looking at the ground, unwilling to look up at Harry's face.

"James," Harry said. He didn't look up. "James Sirius."

At the use of his middle name, James did look up. Harry was very surprised to see that his eyes were full of tears. He got down on one knee, and James threw his arms around Harry's neck, crying into his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Dad! I know it was wrong!" he cried. "It was just fun! We weren't hurting anyone!"

Harry patted the boy's back soothingly. "All right, James, it's okay," he said. James pulled back, sniffling slightly. "I—I'm not angry."

"Y-you're not?" James asked. Harry shook his head, starting to smile. "B-b-but Mum—"

"Your Mum'll be fine," Harry told him. "I'll speak with her. But you should apologize to her, as well."

James nodded, wiping his nose on the back of his hand. Harry got up, dusting his cloak. He and James started to walk down High Street. The Three Broomsticks, though it was more than halfway down the lane, was alive with noise and light. James smiled and looked up at his dad.

"I used to take your Mum there on weekends, when she was at school and I was in training," Harry said, pointing at the building. The wind blew up the street. Above their heads, there was the sound of wood creaking. Harry looked up and stopped where he stood before the only other pub in town, one that had long since closed down. A bloodied pig's head was carved on the lintel, weathered and worn, and it dangled by only one chain in the cold December wind.

"That's where you started the army, right, Dad?" James asked reverently. He looked down and saw the thin white lines on the back of Harry's right hand, which seemed to clench involuntarily.

"Right," Harry told him, laying the hand on James' shoulder. "Me, and your mum, and most of your aunts and uncles. A lot of your friends' parents, too."

James nodded.

"Speaking of which," Harry added, turning to face his son. "Am I to understand that Emily Macmillan played a role in this afternoon's—events?"

James shrugged noncommittally, but it was not with a look of one trying to avoid being caught. Harry peered closely at him, and quickly realized that James was embarrassed.

"James?" Harry asked, trying not to laugh.

"Wuzzeridea," James mumbled, not looking at him.


"It was her idea," James admitted.

Harry laughed loudly. "She's eleven!" he said.

James shrugged, laughing a little, himself. "It was a good idea."

Harry struggled to regain control and patted James' shoulder. "I have to give you that one," he said after a few moments.

"What?" James asked, looking up at Harry.

"It was a pretty good idea. We've all hated that cat for as long as I can remember," Harry said, starting to walk down the street again. "Don't tell your mother I said that, though—"

"No, no, Dad! I got it," said James. "This is a serious discussion." Harry grinned a little at the grimace James put on.

They continued for a moment in silence before James spoke again. "I mean, really, me and Owen and Louis and Fred, we were only doing research for Uncle George—product testing," James said, nodding earnestly. "Emily was eavesdropping, and she gave us the idea to—er—find out what happens when a cat eats a Howling Humdinger."

"Aha," Harry said, watching his son light up with excitement. "And what, exactly, is a Howling Humdinger?"

James' eyes bugged, and he practically leapt into the air with excitement. "It's this amazing new thing Uncle George made for the shop! You eat one and you immediately start sneezing feathers!"

Harry shook his head, chuckling, as James continued to sing the praises of the Humdinger, sure that Angelina, in hers and George's house in London, only a few blocks from their own, was spectacularly angry with her husband. He made a mental note to get out an extra blanket and pillow to leave on the sofa, just in case.

James had paused thoughtfully as they walked past Honeydukes. "D'you reckon Teddy'd have one if I told him it was a treacle tart?" he asked. Harry blinked as a sudden memory rushed back to him. "I still owe him for that Puking Pastille..."

Harry smiled. "I tell you what, let's not give the son of a Metamorphmagus and a werewolf anything called a Howling Humdinger, and you and Fred can plan something for Christmas. I won't tell your mum," he added. James grinned up at him.

Heehee! For the Father's Day Competition by ChatterChick.