The better man

By: Amilia Padfoot

Disclaimer: I own nutting, nutting I tell you! Just the idea for the story.

Summary: A case of déjà vu proves an important point for Harry. Next Gen.

A/N: While writing my story 'Birthdays' I had to read the chapter 'the worst birthday' several times, so I wrote this. I recommend you read the chapter first or at least after you read this. Will the past repeat itself?

(Sorry I didn't put this up earlier but I thought my beta hadn't finished with it when in fact she had sent it and I had deleted it. Hehe Sorry, well here it is now, all thanks to DramionePerfected!)

Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at Potter cottage. Albus Severus Potter had been rudely awakened by the very strange feeling of something rather small and furry creeping up his leg. On further investigation, he had looked under the sheets only to find a tiny white mouse nibbling away at the hem of his pyjama bottoms. Soon enough, the rest of the house had been woken to an ear-splitting scream of 'LILY!'

"It's the third time this week, Dad! Can't you tell her to control it?" Albus complained. Before Harry could reply Lily piped up, her chocolate brown eyes glinting fiercely, a look he had often seen on his wife.

"She's bored! If only I could let her out of her cage" she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest defiantly. Harry opened his mouth to reply but closed it again as an odd feeling of deja vu overwhelmed him. Shaking the feeling off, he met his daughter's fiery gaze.

"Lily, don't be like that. You know we haven't got a problem with you taking Lucile out of her cage. I'm not asking you to keep her locked up, that's just cruel." He paused, remembering his beloved Hedwig for a moment. "I'm only asking you to keep her away from Al's bedroom. You know he doesn't get on with her." He reasoned calmly, before giving said son a small smile. Albus didn't return the smile.

"Well, neither would you if it was crawling up your leg at five in the morning." Albus grumbled. "I swear it's out to get me. The thing's evil, I tell you!" He directed the last at his sister.

Lily glared at her brother and was about the retort furiously but her words were lost when her elder brother, James, chose that moment to burp - loudly. James blushed slightly at the looks he was getting; Albus snickered while Lily looked faintly disgusted. His dad raised an eye-brow at him.

"Um...Pardon me?" He asked innocently.

"I should think so too!" Ginny scolded him, a small smile tugging at her lips. Harry could tell she was resisting an eye-roll.

"Hey mum," Al asked suddenly, "May I have some more bacon please?"

"There's more in the frying pan love." She told him before eyeing her son up, "You really are far too skinny, Al, dear. What happened to all those feasts at school?"

"James ate it all" Albus replied smoothly, shooting James a cheeky look while Lily snorted. James tried to look indignant but it was proving a hard task as his mouth was currently stuffed with food; he settled on shrugging instead, reaching for another bread roll and began to butter it.

"I'm sure they feed him fine, Gin. It's just genes." Harry reassured her, trying not to laugh at his kids antics. Ginny turned her gaze on her husband who, in her opinion, was far too skinny too. Harry grinned at her sheepishly, knowing what she was thinking; she glared at him in return.

"And you, mister, you should be setting them a better example." she told him, poking him in the ribs.

"I eat plenty" he huffed, indignantly. "I just have a high metabolism" Ginny rolled her eyes at the excuse but her eyes were softened and she reached under the table and put a hand on his leg comfortingly. She knew why he couldn't eat much. 'Stupid relatives' she cursed silently. "Though you do get enough, don't you, Al?" Harry turned to his second son, slight concern in his voice. Albus was quick to reassure him with a nod and a grin before turning to his sister.

"Pass the frying pan, Lils"

"You've forgotten the magic word" she snapped irritably, obviously still mad at her brother, among other things. It took all of Harry self control not to react to the words, this was getting weird, as Al grinned cheekily,

"Abracadabra" he said confidently. Lily rolled her eyes but laughed along with her brothers remembering the time when their dad had taken them to a Muggle 'magic' show. They had been trying to cover up their laughter, rather unsuccessfully, throughout the whole show and Albus had been obsessed buy the 'magic' words ever since, exclaiming passionately to anyone who would listen that they would turn out to be the incantation to a new and very useful spell one day. James and Lily had come to a silent agreement that Albus had been spending a little too much time with Granddad Arthur in his shed.

Harry just smiled, watching his kids interact. He loved moment like this. He knew it wasn't really that big a deal that his kids weren't afraid of using magic words even if they were fake, or other little things like being able to ask questions, not being worried about coming to him with a problem or in the night when they couldn't sleep, but to him it was. He reached up and touched his scar unconsciously, silently marvelling at how far he had come. He remembered how, when he was his eldest son's age, he had though he would never live to see this moment - or any moment like this, for that matter. To just be able to sit back and watch his children laugh at how Muggles were silly enough to want to pull a rabbit - of all things - out of a hat, was a miracle and blessing in itself. Yes, it was the simple moments he loved best. He looked over to where his daughter was picking at her toast, glaring at the plate moodily. It nearly broke his heart seeing his daughter like this. The day was far too similar enough as it was. He glanced at the clock and sighed before standing up. A hush settled over the table as everyone turned to look at him. "Well, I'd best be off" he announced and he felt Ginny stand up too. He turned to hug her as he always did before he left for work. After pulling out of the embrace he told her, in a voice loud enough for the rest of his family to hear, "I'll be home early tonight" He didn't fail to notice the look of hope in his daughter's eyes as she looked up at him. His sons looked happy at the prospect too though Ginny looked puzzled.

"But I thought you had that important meeting? You know, the one you told me about yesterday, when you told me it would probably go on for a really long time and for me not to wait up for you" she said, confusion evident in her voice. In the in the corner of his eye, Harry saw Lily going back to her toast, a shadow of bitterness crossing her pretty face.

"Yeah, I forgot about that. I can always leave early though."

"Won't that compromise what you're discussing though? You told me that the meeting would probably conclude with one of the most important decisions you've ever made" Ginny reminded him, frowning slightly.

"Yea I did but still there's something more important, I really can't miss so I'll have to leave early." He explained and Lily's head snapped up so fast Harry was worried it might break off.

"What's more important?" She asked, her voice slightly higher than she intended. She blushed as everyone turned to look at her.

"Well-" Harry began while walking around the table so he was standing behind her, "I heard tell-" he wrapped his arms around her and picked her up, his Auror training paying off, "That it was someone's birthday today!" Complete shock was written across her face as she automatically wrapped her arms around her dad's neck.

"But I-" She spluttered.

"You what?" Harry prompted, reaching out to brush her fringe out of her eyes as she looked down. "You thought I forgot?" he asked gently.

"Yeah" she whispered and he shook his head slowly.

"Lils, I'd never forget your birthday." He told her fervently, tilting her chin up to look her in the eyes.

"Hang on! What!" James spluttered suddenly. "It's your...birthday?" He gazed up at his sister in utter disbelief and Lily turned her hurt eyes on her brother before a slow smile creped across his lips. "I didn't know it was your birthday." He turned to his brother. "Did you know it was her birthday?" Albus shook his head,

"Oh no, James! I completely forgot it was my only sister's birthday." He replied, the corner of his mouth twitching, "I mean, who would remember that? Say, did you know it was her birthday, mum?" Ginny was about to reply, mischief twinkling in her eyes, but Lily snapped:

"Shut up" Everybody turned to laugh at her pouting face.

"We'd never forget your birthday, love" Ginny told her warmly once the kind laughter had died down. Lily grinned at her before looking up at her dad.

"You'll be home early?" she asked, her chocolate eyes searching his emerald ones. He chuckled softly, eyes twinkling,

"I said I will, didn't I? I'll be back in time for the p..." He trailed off suddenly, noticing the glares he was getting form his wife over Lily's shoulder. "I'll be back in time" he repeated, as if it was all he was going to say. Lily gave him a look that told him she wasn't buying it, so he continued hastily. "But I've got to get going now, Lily-flower. Enjoy your birthday, yeah?" Lily nodded enthusiastically before pinning him with a classic 'Ginny' look,

"You won't be late?" Harry forced back a chuckle and arranged his face to be as serious and sincere as possible for her benefit,

"I promise": and it was one he was not going to break. It would be a snowy day in hell before he missed any of his kid's birthdays. He knew how special they were, how much it hurt to think no one cared whether it was your birthday or not, to have it ignored, to be shunned aside for meaningless thing like board meetings (or 'bored meetings' as Ron liked to call them) or 'dinner parties'. He was never going to treat his kids anywhere near how the Dursley's had treated him. Lily was going to have a party, a celebration. She was going to be surrounded by family and friends, and they would turn up or suffer his wrath. It was a special day for her and he would be damned if she looked back on this day in the future and wish she hadn't.

"But what about your meeting?" She asked, frowning slightly.

"It's just a meeting, I'm sure it will go just as smoothly if I leave early or not. It matters not. Family comes first Lils." he told her firmly, "Your more important, love. Don't ever think you're not, 'kay?"

Lily nodded to show she understood, a warm feeling rapidly spreading through her. She couldn't help the smile that spread over her lips, reaching her eyes. She knew no better word to describe how she felt but: happy. Simply happy to be in her dad's arms and know that she would always come first with him. He smiled back at her before looking at the rest of his family,

"See you guys later, then"

"Bye dad" Albus said, also for the benefit of James whose mouth was otherwise occupied and just waved at his father. Harry just shook his head fondly, getting the message.

"Have a great day, Lil" he whispered to her, before planting a kiss on her head and putting her back in her seat. The grin never left her face as she watched her dad ruffle her brothers hair, kiss her mother once more, grab his jacket from the hook by the door and, unbeknown to Lily, walk out the door, closing it softly behind him - a far better man than his uncle ever had been.

So what do ya think? Good? Bad? Ugly? hehehe yea, reviews appreciated!