Here's an interesting fact I just made up. In a strange universe slightly disconnected from this one, Harry Potter was born premature on the 31st of July 1980. In this story, he wasn't. Born 27th of September this is a Harry Potter with no scar, new classmates, and a strange diary belonging to T. M. Riddle.
Disclaimer: I've merely borrowed these playthings from JK Rowling's toy box. I'm sure she doesn't know that I've borrowed them, and I'll most likely return them in good condition before she finds out. If I do accidentally break one, never fear, I'm pretty good with glue and spellotape.
Rated T for some rude words, off colour content, bad grammar, and Bertram.
What James Potter expected to gain from his pacing of the hospital waiting room was anyone's guess. All he knew was that sitting down quiet, calm, and still was certainly not an option at the moment. Taking nineteen measured steps to go from the left wall to the right and for some reason twenty steps to traverse from right to left, he trod with a finger nail nibbled between his teeth and his mind a whirl with thoughts. At the left hand wall he was greeted by a cheerful litany of helpful posters that warned of heart disease, cancer, cholesterol, smoking, flu, and strokes. The posters were dotted with dissected blackened lungs, clogged greasy arteries, and one had an old man huddling in a chair with a blanket. It was all very sombre stuff, and he wondered how muggles managed to survive from day to day when they were plagued my so many problems. At the other end he was greeted by a large clock and a calendar that announced it was 8:22PM on the 31st of July 1980, and at the current rate the second hand was swinging around the clock's big white face it would be 8:22 on the 31st of July for about four months or so.
He didn't know which terminal of his pacing was worse, the posters telling him he was as good as dead or the clock that cruelly defied the passage of time. All he did know for certain was that he was panicking again. It was fortunate in many ways because he'd had a lot of practice at panicking and therefore considered himself somewhat of an expert on the subject. Indeed, for the last seven months his entire life had revolved around bouts of blind panic interspersed with stretches of sheer terror and sprinkled liberally with moments of unbridled fear. The panic attacks mostly centered around the safety and well-being of his currently pregnant wife and unborn child (note to self: Don't call it baby-blob around Lily). To his masculine brown eyes the whole baby and pregnancy business seemed strange, alien, and frighteningly out of his control. He was the man of the house, and he should be responsible for protecting and providing for his family; he should not be told to calm down and leave it be for nine months as things developed outside his control. It felt like being sat on the broom bristles whilst someone else tugged the handle, and it made him jittery, anxious, nervous, and prone to panic. So yes, James Potter was a self-certified master at panicking.
It would be unfair to lay all the blame at the door of his darling wife, his soon-to-be son, and his outdated misogynistic view on the world. There was the ongoing war of terror being fought on all fronts around them that was headed by a deranged and powerful Dark Lord with an intense disliking to James to consider too. How he'd become Lord What's-His-Name most infuriating enemy wasn't entirely his fault. You see the comic book adventures of Little Lord Soiledshorts was the brainchild of Sirius, and James only drew (and, with incredibly short-sightedness, signed) the comics. Anyway, declaring himself the creator of sixteen popular comic books written and animated with the sole intention of insulting the Dark Lord had done little to enamour himself with the insane loon. Then, to make matters worse he married his beloved Lily Evans, an event some newspapers announced on the front page as, "Another Ancient and Respected Bloodline Diluted" whilst others filled their front page with, "The Magical Couple of the Future".
Overnight he and his wife had become the propaganda chew toy for two opposing armies in a war, but only the bigoted pure-blood extremists had aimed their wands in a very definite direction with a very definite purpose. They wanted his wife dead due to her apparently unpure blood, they wanted him dead for marrying her and "diluting" his apparently pure blood, and now they wanted their son dead because he was a symbol of all that was bad and unholy in their union. So far the Dark Lord had tried twice to eradicate them from the face of the earth. Once using his horrid minions and once making a personal but brief appearance himself, neither had been successful. They had managed, with a lot of luck, to escape both times with bulging belly, morning sickness, maternity dress, and all. Needless to say with all this panic going on it was a wonder he wasn't going bald.
'Oh Merlin,' James muttered. With this thought ringing in his head he stopped pacing the small, oddly chemical smelling waiting room with a bone jarring jolt, one leg half raised in step. He brought a testing hand up and started to pat his head, his fingers searching for evidence of a barren spot. Not satisfied with the results he walked across the room and used a shiny piece of chrome on a handrail to inspect his crop of jet black hair. No, definitely not going bald, thank Merlin for that. He resumed his pacing of the waiting room and after several minutes got sick of the sickness that faced him. 'Sod this,' he growled and swinging himself around ninety degrees discovered it took him eleven paces to move to the front of the room and twelve to take him back again. Maybe one of his legs was shorter than the other, he thought. His change of scenery included such delights as a huge display of artwork from the local primary school featuring a lot of purple blobs and not a lot of talent, and a small steel sink complete with a big red sign informing him to WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY.
With a sigh of defeat he stopped in the middle of the room and came to the conclusion that Muggle hospitals were first and foremost the most dreary and gut wrenching places on the planet and that they stank something awful. Why Lily had insisted on this place instead of St. Mungos he didn't know, but he did know she had been very insistent and very scary about it.
'James, I swear to god the first medieval "healer" who attempts to touch my pregnant body will lose so many fingers that they won't be able to pick up a leech ever again. Do you understand me!' She'd growled, literally growled like a cornered tiger.
'Honey, they don't use leeches anymore,' he had defended his proud wizarding culture and heritage as best he could from the unflattering position of cowering in the corner with his hands shielding himself from the angry lady. 'They use Gold Gill Limpets nowadays, it's all very modern and—OKAY...OKAY. I'll take you to the hospital, just don't squeeze! For the love of Godric don't squeeze!'
'A proper hospital, one with real doctors and sadly underpaid and under-appreciated nurses,' Lily snapped and to show she meant business squeezed a little.
'YeeEES!' James squeaked emphatically as his voice hitched. He started to pant and blow in shallow breathes as a bead of sweat chilled a trail his forehead, 'yes, a real proper muggle one with lots of dockers and hearses and those bleeping machines you like so much.'
It was at that point when he blacked out. How it happened he didn't know, but he suspected a sneaky stunning spell or a blow to the head courtesy of his wife. It wasn't his finest moment if he was honest, but at least he could take some pride in the knowledge that he hadn't been scared of her. No, definitely not. James Potter still wore the trousers in the Potter household and there was no denying it, and he'd sic his wife on anyone who said any different.
Upon regaining consciousness some time later he had found himself incredibly wet and in the sole company of a guilty looking house elf. Gummy, who was the house elf, was dancing from foot to foot and his big hazel round eyes were swivelling left and right in a bid to find a likely escape route should he need it. 'Mistress—'
'You know she doesn't like you calling her Mistress,' James said gently and automatically. He ran a hand down his face to squeegee off the excess water.
'Miss...Lily,' the house elf said in a disjointed and awkward manner, as if he had caught himself mid-word and had changed course violently, 'says I was to be giving you this.' He trust his hand out and in his long thin fingers he held out a note.
'And the water?' James enquired as he took the note from the elf.
'She said I was to be giving you a dose of cold water when she was left, and that if I wasn't doing that she would give me a raise,' the house elf went on. 'Does Mast—Mister James want drying?'
James shuddered involuntarily as remembered his ninth birthday when he had gotten soaked to the bone courtesy of a mischievous uncle and a booby-trapped birthday cake, and he remembered the drying process given to him by Lippy the house elf, and he remembered telling himself succinctly never to endure it again. 'Nope, I'll just read the note and you can dry the floor afterwards. Floors, I feel, are far better suited to the rigours of house elf magic than squishy humans.'
The note was short and written in Lily's tidy curly handwriting. It started with several insults aimed at his courage and fortitude before it went on to inform him that she, lacking a husband, had taken herself to some hospital or other in London. It took him nearly an hour and the help of Maria May the muggleborn Ravenclaw Sirius knew remarkably well to find her. When he did find the hospital and then subsequently found her, she was in on a big strange bed in a big, shiny, creepy, white, sterile room that came complete with a tidy little healer woman who had dimples and wore a white coat. They'd invited him to stay, and Lily had been very open in regards to sharing the experience of her hospital visit with him, but there had been those rubber tube things and those big metal things and that straps-and-pulley thing and the prospect of blood lingered everywhere he looked. He'd taken one glance at a rather sharp needle and things had gone swiftly downhill. His head had swum and the last thing he remembered was apologising to his wife and the healer woman in turn before the shiny, white, sterile floor had rushed up to meet him.
Lily, bless her, had been very understanding and once they'd revived him (without the aid of a water spewing house-elf) she had told him he should get some fresh air and that he should calm down and leave it be as everything was fine in her very capable hands. He had very bravely taken her advice and had exiled himself from that horrid room to this horrid room. That had been two hours ago, and he had grown quite sick of the fresh hair this room provided. For Merlin's sake, what did it take to get some information in this place? He didn't even know who to ask or how to ask it, whatever it was that needed to be asked.
'There you are!' a voice startled him. It came from the corner where nothing but a suspicious looking muggle contrivance that dispensed water stood. It was Sirius, and he was wearing a velvet set of purple robes and he was stood precariously atop the large bottle of water that sat on top of the water dispensing contrivance. James didn't know how the machine worked, but occasionally it gurgled and a bubble rose up through the water tank. He thought it might be digesting something, but he was too afraid to find out.
'How did you get there?' James asked. The lack of audible pop and Sirius's reluctance to apparate after the splicing incident in forth year ruled out that form of transport. He certainly didn't walk here either, because Sirius despised walking almost as much as apparating. That only left his charmed muggle motorbike, but that still made too much noise despite Remus's best efforts to silence it.
'Portkey,' Sirius declared and held up the note James had been handed upon his first resurgence from the land of the unconscious. 'I just finished my shift, popped into see how you were doing and found this on your kitchen table. Didn't hang around, did I, popped straight on over? Got to admit it bloody near knocked my pipe out hearing you were in a muggle hospital. Is everything alright?'
'Yes—I mean, I don't know. Lily's having problems, you know with the baby and all,' James admitted softly and scratched his head for want of something to do. 'And what do you mean portkey, that's not a portkey.'
'Is. It says so on the back, doesn't it,' Sirius said. He held the paper out to reveal Lily's neat curly handwriting spelling out Portkey Password: Elephant Tusks on the back. James had obviously missed it in his frantic hurry to get ready for a muggle excursion of great importance. 'So what's wrong, mate? It appears she's fine enough to berate your sterling standards of manliness and take herself to hospital, so it can't be that bad, can it?'
Despite the glib words James knew Sirius was worried. The roguish looking man had fallen into a default state where he was doing his best to put a brave and charming face on the situation, unfortunately it wasn't working. 'I don't know!' James snapped back at his oldest and dearest friend. The anxiety and the uncertainty had bubbled up to breaking point and popped. 'All I know is she woke up this morn—wait a second, this is private, and it's Lil's business. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be telling you-and will you get off that thing, you're making it buckle.'
'Bloody hell,' Sirius mocked with a low whistle and high eyebrows. 'I knew muggles could do a lot of things in their hospitals. Remove brains, kidneys, livers, but I didn't know they could cut out a fellow's humour as well.'
'I have not had my humour cut out!' James hissed angrily, 'I know it might have escaped your notice, but my wife is in hospital! A hospital you are currently doing your best to destroy!'
'Sorry,' Sirius muttered and bowed his head as the gravity of the situation befell him. 'I just thought a bit of a laugh might have cheered you up.'
'Well, it didn't,' James sighed. He got a grip of himself and shook his head apologetically, 'sorry, I know you're just...being Sirius.'
'Ha ha, that joke never gets old,' Sirius laughed sarcastically. 'So, what are the muggle healers of the female persuasion like? I hear tell that they're quite delectable and wear the sweetest little uniforms. Woof!' As he barked this out he hopped down off the machine with all the grace and finesse a 22-year-old wizard possessed, which was not much. There was a clank of plastic as the big blue bottle he had been stood up popped back into shape, a ripping noise as Sirius's robes got tangled up on the now reformed plastic bottle, a cry for help as Sirius pitched forward with his arms and legs flailing wildly, and then a loud glug as the bottle was wrenched free of the machine sending a slosh of water up the wall and across the floor.
'Shit!' James squealed as he leapt over Sirius's prone form and snatched up the glugging bottle in his arms. He held it in both the best and worst possible manner, with the neck aiming straight down and at Sirius both. 'What the hell have you done?'
'Mergh!' Sirius splashed and spluttered as his attempts at getting up only managing to spray and spread more water around. No doubt he was doing it so everyone could enjoy it. 'Blearugh mah!'
'How does this thing fit back on?' James yelled out in a perfectly practised panic and tried to hammer the now empty bottle back onto the machine with little success, 'Merlin, the chairs and floor are soaked! Sirius, will you stop messing around and help me! This is your fault, after all?'
'Me!' Sirius argued as he swam towards the edge of the pool and sat against the wall panting from the effort. 'I didn't empty the bloody thing out, did I. That was all you, you pillock.'
'I'm sorry, are we ignoring the part where you just destroyed the thing with your big clumsy arse?' James demanded and pointed to the still broken machine. 'We're in so much trouble when Lily finds out. Look at this place!'
Sirius, still sat and panting against the wall, looked around at the small flood with growing interest, something caught his eye and he gave a girlish scream. 'Crap, the hole, the holes!' Sirius yelped. In a surprising move of athleticism he threw himself away from the wall and landed back in the middle of the puddle with a big splash and threw his hands over his head to protect himself. 'THE HOLES, MAN! THE HOLES!'
'What are you going on about?' James demanded as he made a final last ditch effort to fix the bottle back onto the machine. It fell off, he scooped it up and debated on whether he should beat some sense into Sirius with it.
'The plum things!' Sirius almost wept and pointed to the three holes in a 1 over 2 configuration around the base of the wall, 'Plums and water...Electisity, it'll kill us if they mix together! Get down, man!'
James, always handy in a tight spot and well practised in the art of panic, put two and two together and realised the deadly situation they were in. 'No, you fool! Get up! Get out of the water, quick!' He corrected as he remembered his muggle studies classes. He'd only joined that stupid class because Lily attended it and he wanted to be near her. Never in his wildest dreams did he think it would save his life one day.
Scrambling up onto the chair with the empty bottle in one hand James dragged Sirius up beside him. Soaking wet and trembling they clung together for dear life on their little plastic island surrounded by fine spring water. They alternated between screwing their eyes shut in terror and sobbing and watching the shimmering surface of the huge puddle for signs of escaping electisity.
Nothing escaped, but something did splash towards them and the big bottle was suddenly pulled from James's hand. From their lofty perch they slit open an eye apiece. 'Good evening,' Remus Lupin said with blasé smugness. He stuffed his wand in the top of the water bottle; filled it with a quick aguamenti charm; popped it back on the contrivance with ease; scourgified the floor, the chair, the walls, and the various magazines with a swish of his wand; dried the pair of them off with a blast of warm dry air; and finally poured himself a cup of water from the machine he had just fixed. 'Is Lily alright?' he finished nonchalantly as he pocketed his wand and looked about him for any hint or clue.
James and Sirius disentangled themselves from each other and drew apart to a respectful manly distance. With a simple look between them, the two best friends decided to never discuss this with anyone ever and in fact forget it ever happened in the first place. James got down off the chair first followed by sheepish Sirius who ran his hands through his dry frizzled hair to reinstate the lost roguishness to his long black locks.
'I honestly don't know, mate. I've been here for hours and no one has told me anything,' James admitted.
'Wait a second. How did you know we were here?' Sirius demanded suspiciously. He pushed James back gently and confronted his friend. It was a horrible thing to ask someone you had known and considered as good as a brother for over a decade, but with the current climate in the wizarding world friendships were brittle and suspicions were rife. Besides, it was no secret that you-know-who was offering to change the lives of werewolves for the better, and if anyone was going to fall prey to that sort of talk it would be Remus.
'Lily sent me an owl,' Remus pulled out a small scrap of paper and read, 'Dear Remus, I am taking myself to hospital (don't worry, I'm sure everything is fine). When that weak-willed husband of mine wakes up he will invariably find his way to St Mary's and before long that dratted Sirius Black will find him. Would you please, please, please do me a favour and supervise the pair of them. You know what they're like when they're left alone. P.S. Please stop Sirius hitting on the nurses, it's creepy.'
'Lily sent that?' James asked.
'What is she implying with: you know what they're like when they're alone? What's that supposed to mean?' Sirius demanded. The slight against his wooing ways not bothering him in the slightest.
'Need I remind you that I did find you stood on the chairs crying and holding each other in a flooded waiting room not two minutes ago?' Remus cocked an eyebrow. 'You're both destructive, hyperactive, careless chaos engines. I was half amazed I couldn't see smoke billowing up from the hospital roof when I arrived.'
'It was an accident,' Sirius assured him and looked at James to convey the all important "back me up here, mate" nod.
'Yeah, the thing just fell over,' James said, 'shoddy muggle craftsmanship, I'm sure.'
'Potter, Mr James Potter?' a woman with a sweet bubbly Scottish accent asked as she pushed her way into the room. She was wearing her blue muggle healer outfit and a reassuring smile.
Remus reached over and clicked Sirius's mouth shut and James rushed forward to present himself. 'Yes, Lily Potter, that's me, I mean, my wife's Lily Potter and I'm me-James, James Potter. I'm having a baby, I mean we're having a baby, or I suppose my wife is doing all the hard work. Please tell me she's still having a baby,' he said in a long blurt of incomprehensible English which the woman was thankfully fluent in.
'We're her brothers,' Sirius said. He pushed James aside and stepped forward to take his place before the lovely young woman. 'Is Lily alright? And I might add that is a smashing blouse you're wearing.'
The nurse gave Sirius, his auror robes, and his usual opening chat up line a suspicious look; which he was used to, and then checked her clipboard, 'Sirius Black?' she said.
'Yes, that's me,' was his reply.
With a long drawn out hmm, she turned her attention back to James and grabbed him by the elbow so as to lead him away to a quiet corner. 'Yes, you're still having a baby, but not for another couple of month or so. So please, don't worry. She's fine, baby is fine, everything is fine and she will, with all luck on our side, carry to full-term.'
'But-but she was bleeding...there was blood,' James managed to say as his brain tried to politely wrangle sensitive female anatomical information out of the woman without being rude or getting too personal.
She gave him a tight little smile full of sympathy and understanding. 'The bleeding was the result of a mild infection, but it's all been taken care of and there's honestly nothing to worry about. We'll most likely release her in the morning after she's had a good night's sleep and we have monitored the situation, just to be sure.'
'Oh, thank Merli-god or something,' James muttered as he flopped down onto old island and let out a seemingly endless breath that he didn't know he was holding.
'You can go and see her if you like,' the nurse said with a big happy smile. 'And yes, all the scary metal things and icky tubes are all nicely tucked away out of sight…sorry, but your wife told me to inform you of that. Sirius Black...she says you've to wait outside and try to refrain from being creepy.'
'Oh,' Sirius frowned before taking a deep breath. 'Oh well. Have I told you that's a smashing blouse you're wearing?'
'Try and refrain harder,' she said politely before she led James away.
A/N: This is my first fanfic, so go easy on me. :)