A/N: This is the first chapter for Eirinn Croi's Pondering Parenthood competition. I've got Harry and Al and there should be nine more chapters to come (hopefully I'll get them all done on time), though the lengths will probably very. I'm thinking this one might be on the longer side, even though it is a bit short. But I've always wanted to write something like this for Al, so I'm excited to get started! Hope you like it!

A peacefulness hung over the house. Dawn was just creeping over the horizon, dusky purple and velvet-soft as it always comes in mid-winter. Snowflakes drifted gently down, settling light and silent as feathers on the rooftops and windowsills. A few morning stars glimmered and winked like distant jewels in the lightening sky.

Harry watched the transformation with a dazed wonder through the gap in the curtains, still half-asleep and not entirely sure if he was dreaming or not. What he was more acutely aware of was Ginny's warm presence beside him, her slow, even breathing, and James's coos and sighs coming through the little glass cone charmed to bring them every noise in their son's bedroom in lieu of a baby monitor.

Moments like this, that seemed to hang as though made of nothing but light and paint, they were the ones that made him wonder how this could really be his life, or if there had been some sort of mix-up during the night. How on earth did the boy who lived under the stairs end up here?

But those moments of bliss were, as could only be expected, fleeting. The steady breathing coming from James's room was interrupted by a hiccough and then a cough and then James was wailing at the top of his lungs.

Ginny groaned and pulled the pillow over her head.

"Don't worry, I've got him," Harry mumbled, already sliding out of bed. Ginny hadn't been feeling well the last few days, and she was the one who took care of James all day. It was a sort of unspoken agreement that Harry take the graveyard shift now that James was drinking out of a bottle finally.

Harry grabbed his dressing gown off the back of the door and shuffled across the hall to the nursery. James, in typical James fashion, was screaming as loudly as he could, his little fists waving and his face screwed up as if that hiccough had been the worst thing in the world. At ten months old, James was already proving to be dramatic.

Harry rested an arm on the bar of the crib and reached down to catch one of his son's little hands with his thumb and forefinger. "Easy, mate. What's the trouble?" he asked the baby, smiling when James's cries wavered for a moment and his eyes popped open to find his father's face. A moment later, though, they redoubled in volume as he waved his arms frantically, wordlessly pleading to be picked up.

Harry complied at once, scooping James out of his cot, shsh-ing and rocking him gently as he made his way over to the changing table below the window. He went through the motions of calming James down and cleaning him up without even needing to think about it, lost in the tiny, early-morning world of his son's face, every move and sound he made.

It was things like this that caught him off guard, made him wonder if he weren't in fact in some prolonged dream and would wake up to find himself back in the middle of a war. He had gone so long believing that he would never make it past eighteen, that this life was an impossibility to him. It was surreal to be looking down at his own child, in one tiny body the most extraordinary person he had ever met, and one who held a power over him he had not been able to fully understand until little fingers had clamped around his pinky as if determined to never let go.

And Harry doubted James would ever loosen that grip he had on him.


"Ginny, I can take off. Honestly, it's no big deal. We'll probably be doing paperwork anyway."

"No – really – I'm fine –"

Harry sighed as his wife's assurances were cut off by retching sounds and pulled the bathroom door farther closed.

"What are we going to do with her, huh Jamie?" he asked the ten-month-old baby in his arms. His son squealed and stuck his fingers in his mouth for answer. "Wise words, my friend," Harry said solemnly. "Come on, let's leave her be."

He hoisted James higher in his arms and started down the stairs toward the kitchen.

"What d'you think, mate?" Harry asked as he settled James into his highchair. "Banana or cereal?"

James banged his palms on the tray and blew a raspberry.

"That's what I thought," Harry nodded, turning to the cupboard. "Better go with both. We'll split it."

By the time Ginny staggered downstairs, wrapped in a dressing gown and looking distinctly haggard, James was busily smearing banana slices around his tray and Harry was slurping down the last of his cereal.

"Feeling better, love?" he asked, brushing a kiss on her forehead as he slid past to put his bowl in the sink.

"No, but I will be," Ginny mumbled, shuffling over to the coffee pot and pouring herself a steaming mug.

"Ginny, I can take one day off so you can actually get some rest," Harry tried again, leaning against the counter and scrutinizing her. "You can't really be up for watching the little monster all day like this."

"And what happens when you catch this?" Ginny shot at him, raising the cup to her lips. She grimaced at the smell, turning slightly green, and set it back down on the counter. "Or how about when James has it? You can't ditch work for an entire week, especially not with Hermione ready to have the baby any day."

Harry had to concede the truth of this statement. Ron was already frantic enough with Hermione's due date passed up by two days.

"Besides," Ginny went on, sinking down into a chair and grabbing a napkin to wipe James's sticky fingers. "I've been able to shake it off by noon, once I'm up and moving. It's just the mornings that are rough."

Harry cut her a sideways look, raising an eyebrow. "So… you're telling me you have morning sickness?" he asked slowly.

"What?" Ginny spluttered, the napkin slipping between her fingers and fluttering to the tiled floor. "No. No, no no. I'm absolutely not having morning sickness. There's no way I'm pregnant."

"Okay, okay," Harry agreed, holding up his hands in surrender. "Just because you're only ill in the morning doesn't mean you're having morning sickness."

Ginny relaxed back in her chair, laughing weakly and shaking her head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to go on the offensive. But I'm just not pregnant."

"I believe you," Harry assured her, his lips twitching at her laughter.

James, not to be left out, squealed and slapped his sticky hands together. Ginny smiled and leaned down to rub her nose against his. Harry turned to the sink and began running water for the dishes. It was a few minutes before he spoke again.

"But, if you were – pregnant I mean – it wouldn't be the end of the world like that, would it?" he asked over the clank of plates washing themselves.

Ginny set down the spoon she had retrieved to feed James the rest of his banana. He wasn't very interested in eating the fruit, anyway, it seemed. James seemed to prefer to wear it instead.

"We said a year at least," she reminded him quietly. "We said when James was born that we'd wait until he was a year old before we even thought about another one. And now" – she grabbed James's hand as he made to push the turned-over cereal bowl off his tray, probably to enjoy the loud clatter when it hit the ground –"I was thinking we might even want to wait two years."

"But – you do want another one, don't you?" Harry couldn't help but ask. They had talked about this before, of course, but the idea of being pregnant again had sparked a far more vehemently negative answer from her than he'd expected.

"Eventually," said Ginny, chewing her bottom lip. "But not now."

She shook her head and stood up to bring James's bowl and spoon over to the sink.

"I just got back in shape from having him in me for nine months," she continued. "I was hoping I might get one last season with the Harpies. Jones said she'd take me back in a second and I want to be able to really say goodbye to it before I'm done for good.

"And I want to get to know this one before we go adding another baby to the chaos," Ginny ruffled James's hair and he looked up at her with a beatific smile, his one tooth shining pearly white. "He's only gotten the limelight for ten months. That's hardly long enough. There are three years between Charlie and Percy and I think it made a big difference. When they're two, they're just starting to really figure everything out, talking and running and drawing... Don't you want to see all of that?"

Harry sighed, admitting defeat, and Ginny leaned over to kiss his cheek.

"Timing is everything," she whispered.

"I suppose it is," he agreed, grinning ruefully as he glanced at his watch. "Shoot, I've got to get going."

Ginny laughed as she watched him dash up the stairs. Twenty-five and still like a schoolboy….

"I'm sending your mum over here today, though!" he called from out of sight, and Ginny's mirth turned into a grimace.

"No way to argue with him, sometimes, is there, Jamie?" she asked her son, rolling her eyes, but smiling all the same.

As it turned out, though, neither of them got their way in the end. Harry didn't go to work, and Ginny's mother didn't come to look after her. Because just as Harry was pulling on his coat, there was a burst of silvery light and Ron's terrier patronus landed in the middle of their kitchen.

"It's coming! It's coming now!" it said in Ron's frantic voice before dissolving into silvery mist.

Harry and Ginny froze, looking at each other, and wide grins broke across both their faces simultaneously.

"Better get over there before he starts hyperventilating," Harry beamed and Ginny laughed.

"Keep me posted," she said, pecking his cheek as he flew out the door. "Did you hear that, Jamie?" she asked, hoisting James out of his chair. "You're going to have a new cousin!"

James squealed, still staring at the place the silver terrier had been, oblivious.

Ginny carried him over to the calendar pinned to the cupboard. "What's the new birthday we'll have to remember?" She ran a finger along the rows of X's until they came to an end. The twenty-ninth. The twenty-ninth of January. She smiled. The date would never be just another date again.

But as Ginny continued to study the calendar, her smile folded itself into a frown. She squinted at the little December calendar in the corner, counting. No, that couldn't be right. She counted again. And again. Because, after all, timing was everything.

A/N: So… what'd you think? I think Harry was maybe a bit sappy in the beginning, but I think family and kids is a HUGE deal for him, like bigger than it is for most people, and it changes most people's lives considerably. Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please review!