Harry's shrieks wafted in from the living room.
Without even realising it, Lily ran out to check on her precious boy - she told James to be careful! - but to her relief, he was cradled in James's arms, unhurt. They were both watching a large, silver dog that was sitting in front of them. A Patronus - Sirius's, in fact. Lily must have come in at the tail end of the message, because it dissipated soon after her arrival.
"What's happened?" she asked, hurrying over to them both anxiously. "What did Sirius say? Did something happen, is everyone alright?"
Fear clenched her heart - who had died this time? It had been Edgar Bones's father, just last week...
"He's fine, everyone's fine," James assured her, but Lily noticed that his posture was tense, eyebrows furrowed in a deep frown. "There's just been... an incident, and the Order's been called out. Sirius won't be joining us tonight."
"Oh!" Lily said, nodding. It was Harry's birthday, and they had a small dinner planned. Nothing fancy. "Of course. Order business comes first."
"Yeah," echoed James. Harry was wriggling out his grip now, eager to continue playing with his stag plush toy. Setting him down, James scratched the back of his head. "So why do I feel so crap about it?"
"I know," sighed Lily, moving to embrace her husband. "This isn't how I envisioned us spending our first-born's first birthday."
"Stuck in an old house having dinner with a crazy old lady, yeah," said James, his voice muffled as he buried his head in Lily's hair.
"Oh, be nice," admonished Lily, though she smiled even while doing so. "Besides, at least Sirius left his present here."
She paused. "Come to think of it, I'm wondering if that isn't the reason why he's decided not to come - is it something I'll take issue with?"
James laughed. "You know it is."
There was a pause, and James pulled away from Lily.
"It'll be okay, Lily" he said, looking at her intently. "We'll be okay. Soon this will all be over, and we'll give Harry a proper birthday party next time."
Lily looked away from him, directing her gaze at Harry. For all the isolation of this past year, raising a child under such conditions had been a struggle. It was difficult to believe there would be an end soon, not while the Order was slowly being picked off and the Death Eaters gained power. Lily wasn't sure James even believed his own words.
The Stag plush toy was now joined by its friends Dog, Wolf and Rat, and all were tickling Harry, eliciting squeals and giggles. Lily couldn't help but smile, despite her own melancholy. It was difficult believing that there would be an end to this long, drawn-out war - but she would keep hoping. For love of James, and Harry, she could do that much.
As for the birthday party, so long as there was cake, presents and cheer, Harry would be a happy baby. And that was all that mattered.