Overall, James Potter is pretty secure in himself. Father, husband, and contributing member of society – he’s ok with who he is. And not to sound arrogant (Lily and Sirius wouldn’t let that fly) but he’s also a rather accomplished wizard: top of his class second only to Lily and proficient enough in all things Transfiguration that McGonagall’s called him in as a substitute professor the two times in the decade since he’s graduated when she was literally bedridden. Which is a compliment, since in the past, she was generally a ‘wheel my bed in and get on with it’ type.
And some of that likely does have to do with his ‘new’ skill development post-war, namely his animagus abilities.
He and Sirius did wait a while to officially reveal themselves (though Peter was outed to the appropriate individuals so Sirius was exonerated) but once enough post war legislation was passed to ensure that any accidental reveal of Remus’ condition that resulted from their reveals wouldn’t make his already difficult life more so.
So things aren’t perfect, but they’re improved, and James has put his efforts over the years into actually doing something with the clout and position the Potter name gives him.
Still, if he was pressed to pick an achievement other than his son (and the as yet unnamed Potter still on the way) that he’s proud of, he’d still probably say his animagus transformations. Largely because it feels like something he earned just for himself. Plus Harry’s always loved it, giggling with his baby cheeks round and red, and more recently clapping his lanky hands and begging for a ride on Prongs’s back.
They’d never avoided tales of Santa, but tended to stick to general terms until Lily unearthed a favored tome from her childhood while searching for her favored holiday napkins. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Because as much as Harry idolizes Sirius and fawns over Remus, James is a cut above, second only to one Lily Potter née Evans. So when the trio is tucked up on the couch, cozy beneath their haphazard blanket fort with Lily’s swollen belly propping up the worn book, and Lily reads those final words ‘…and to all a goodnight’ and Harry says Rudolph is the coolest thing he’s ever seen, James is a bit distressed.
Not that he thinks his son likes a fictional flying reindeer more than his own father –the man from whose loins he sprung – because that would be ridiculous. At least that’s what he tells himself late that night when Lily is dead asleep, snoring into her pillow like she only does in the second trimester.
He has half a mind to wake her and ask what he ever did to deserve being the second coolest cloven-hooved individual in his son’s rankings. But the little mango-sized Marauder her been keeping Lily up by performing complicated gymnastics on her bladder each evening, and he’s fairly sure he’ll lose the ability to father any future offspring if he wakes her up to complain about some poseur deer.
Apparently though, he’s not as still and unobtrusive as he thought – which shouldn’t be a surprise given his life long reputation as a generally dramatic individual – because Lily twists toward him in the bed, blanket wrapping around her middle. “Do you need a glass of warm milk or somethin’? You twitch when you’ve got insomnia.”
James waves her off with a grunt and snuggles down further into the blankets with a bit of an attitude. Lily prods his side. “Maybe a story – always helps Harry drift off.”
Perhaps he’s feeling a bit childish, but he can’t really be bothered to behave otherwise at the mo’, so he just scowls into the darkness. “No. No stories,” he huffs, “That’s how this whole mess started.”
Sighing, Lily props her head on one hand, hair falling in a burgundy curtain, lit by silvery moonlight as it trips over the crack in the curtains and slides silken across the room. “S’pose I should ask ‘what mess’?”
“How soon would you leave me if I said I’m jealous of a fictitious reindeer?”
And despite his tendency to spiral down a dramatic hole when it concerns his son, Lily does manage to talk James through and convince him of the concept that his son will always love him more than a fictional cloven-hoofed demon deer. Which sounds like it could be fake, but he’s pretty over tired so he falls asleep to the soothing sound of Lily’s voice and feels somewhat pacified – especially after a good night’s rest.
Until he sits down to breakfast and Harry’s got the antlers Sirius bought him to be Prongs Jr., but he’s drawn on his nose with Lily’s red lipstick because he wants to be like RUDOLPH. James’ jaw clenches and he’s really torn, because he’s jealous and that’s his baser instinct, but he’s also got that warring with his ‘my son is happy so I’m happy’ feeling too. Because the only thing cuter than Harry on a regular day is Harry when his little cheeks are rosy with happiness and he’s smiling with that big toothy grin that James recognizes from Lily’s own baby pictures.
In the end, he does manage to be a mature adult and focus on his son’s own needs and doesn’t throw a fit when Lily comes in the kitchen armed with baby wipes and her camera. But that doesn’t mean he’s not particularly surly at the Wizengamot that day.
Which does mean he wins a few arguments he’s been agonizing over, but by the time he comes home that evening, he’s in something of a strop after he’s cornered by a sore loser, bigot-of-a-man on his way out of the Ministry for the day.
Still, when he gets home, he’s not angry, just worn out. So when he stumbles from the fireplace in a cloud of green smoke, ashes flying from his robes, Harry’s gleeful face and Sirius familiar lazy grin provide some much-needed comfort.
Harry grips one of James’ legs, “Be Prongs, Dad!”
James squats down and kisses Harry’s forehead, “Sure thing mate, just let me – “
“D’you think we can give ‘m a red nose, Sirius?”
Good mood drooping a bit at that, James forces a mega-watt grin and turns to Sirius, “Figure that out while I grab a sandwich, eh?”
After grabbing a quick snack and changing into comfortable clothes, James grabs Harry and plops him on the counter. “Prongs time?”
Sirius leans against the sideboard and twists his wand like a drumstick. “Ready to go?”
Fairly quickly after that, James is clipping around the kitchen, bright red nose gleaming in the yellow light, Sirius snapping photos and Harry clapping gleefully from his perch.
Eventually, Sirius wants in on the shenanigans and they take turns giving Harry rides until they’re all collapsed in a heap in front of the fireplace. James half wakes up when Sirius drops a blanket over the two of them and disappears out the front door, motorbike sounding down the street a few minutes later.
The doorknob rattles some indeterminate amount of time later and James cracks one hazel eye open while Harry snuggles in closer, nuzzling against his dad’s rough fur.
Lily drops her things near the door and kicks her shoes into the corner, smiling affectionately when her eyes find James and Harry cuddled together. And if it were possible for a deer to blush, James’ cheeks would match his nose. Which is still glowing – and if he was a betting man, James would put his vault on Sirius being temporarily inaccessible. Prat.
So James squeezes his eyes shut and transforms back while Harry still sleeps like the dead, pillowed across his middle. “Still red, am I?”
Lily snorts, “Sorry love.”
He sighs, carding his fingers through Harry’s hair, “At least he had a good time, yeah?”
And Lily’s kind enough to let his weak smile pass without comment and let him pick what they order for takeaway.
After dinner and Harry’s bedtime, they spent most of the night trying to return James’ nose to normal – one particularly harrowing attempt ended with everything from his shoulders up blinking electric green.
Eventually though, they do get James back to his normal, rich complexion around four a.m. and James is half asleep before his head hits the pillow, Lily wrapped around him, nose tucked into his shoulder.
The following day is relatively uninteresting in most respects, the beautiful normalcy James has treasured since the war, no matter how many years pass. So even days like yesterday where James’ baser instincts leave him feeling childishly jealous are quickly overcome.
By the time James gets home, Harry’s tucked up to the table, empty plate in front of him while Lily works in the kitchen, the two of them humming a duet along with the wireless. Lily’s airy voice cuts off as she calls out, “I made Da’s favorite, so make sure he gets seconds first, Harry, love.”
Harry sighs and props his chubby cheek on one hand dejectedly before a grin splits his face as he spies James peering around the doorjamb. “He’s here Mum!”
They spend a cozy night eating entirely too much shepherd’s pie and then tucking into the trifle Harry and James had made the Sunday prior. Once Harry’s bathed and off to bed, James strips and steps under the steamy spray of the shower, washing the stress of the day free and finally feeling a beautiful measure of calm settle over him. Which is only compounded when he steals a dollop of Lily’s lavender body wash and lathers himself into relaxed muscles and soothed joints.
Once he’s dried and dressed, James pads down the hallway, hoping to wish Harry goodnight before he drifts off to dream of Quidditch victories and bottomless supplies of treacle tarts. The light’s still on, door just barely cracked and Lily’s lilting voice drifts into the hall. “Prongs and Padfoot knew Moony needed friends more than anything, so they spent countless nights holed up in the library until they found the perfect solution – “
Harry cuts her off, green eyes wide and curious behind his round lenses, “Prongs and Padfoot – that’s Dad and Sirius,” he chews his lip, “They did all that for Moony – Remus?”
Lily smiles, “Just listen to the rest, yeah? I’ll skip ahead since you seem to have caught on,” she clears her throat, “Every full moon, the majestic stag and the loyal dog bounded through the mysterious forest with their werewolf friend, keeping him safe and bringing joy to his life like he’d never really had.”
“So Dad’s a hero,” Harry answers, a tinge of awe in his voice.
Lily kisses his head, right at that Potter cowlick she’s entirely head over heels for, “I think so. But sometimes I think he needs to know that.”
As James makes to tiptoe away, Harry sighs, bedclothes rustling as he snuggles down under the sheets, “Should I make him a card?”
Sniffling as quietly as he can, James’ eyes find Lily’s and she sends him a half smile, “I think he’d like that, yeah.”