The room was dark and a little musty when Lily Potter opened the door slowly from the hall. The only window was covered with a dark red curtain left over from when Mia Potter used the room as a study. The only remnants left in the room from Lily's mother-in-law included a dusty old desk and a very old stuffed animal.
Lily let her hand fall from the metal door handle before she swept over the door frame. Her bare feet created footprints in the shaggy rug that was colored yellow with age. Lily's eyes stayed focused on the artifact that stood on four hooves on top of the desk.
When Lily had first entered the room over two years ago, it had been covered in yarn and various potted plants. When Mia Potter died tragically from dragon pox, Lily had taken it upon herself to clean the study out. She'd sold almost every plant to old Bathilda down the road once she realized no one besides Mia could keep them alive. The yarn bundles had gotten snatched up by Emmaline Vance to make baby blankets for friends.
Lily's hand passed absentmindedly over her own stomach as she passed the corner where the yarn used to be stacked. She wished she'd saved some of the yarn now, even if she was hopeless with knitting. Still, when Mia died, her son James only wanted to keep the writing desk that stood by the covered window.
Lily sat down on the tiny stool in front of the wooden desk. Her chin fell into her hands and she stared across at the only artifact left from her in-laws besides the house she lived in. The stuffed animal had seen better days but it almost mocked Lily now as a glimpse of the future.
She remembered finding the little stuffed zebra amongst one of the many baskets of yarn. She had pulled the little guy out and was holding him up with a half a smile. It had looked so silly amongst the colors of yarn that she almost tossed it into a box to give away. Almost being the operative word because her husband had shouted enthusiastically across the room, interrupting her plan.
Lily had never seen James Potter get so excited over a stuffed animal. Sure, he exhibited great excitement over broomsticks, food and various rock bands...but a stuffed animal was the last thing Lily expected to grasp James' attention. James had quickly snatched up the little zebra from Lily and held it in his arms like it was his child.
"Zin is my childhood mate!" James had told her excitedly, "we used to do everything together! Eat! Fly! Chase dad's garden gnomes! I wondered where he'd gotten off too!"
Now, Lily's eyes crinkled at the stuffed zebra as she considered the same mental image of James clutching something so soft to his chest but with an actual baby. Her hand fluttered against her stomach again, feeling the littlest stretch to her abdomen. James was going to be a father and he still didn't know it.
Lily picked the stuffed zebra off the desk and brushed the dust from it. She considered that being pregnant was probably the last thing they'd expected while they were fighting in the middle of a war. James would likely go into shock when he heard. After all, they weren't even twenty one years old. They could barely keep a few plants alive, let alone a baby.
At least they had a nursery space.
Lily turned on the makeshift stool and looked around the dark old study. Lily didn't want her baby to grow up feeling like he was inside a cupboard. There was wooden paneling along the walls that she could paint a light blue or grey, just to lighten the room up. She could already tell that the crib would fit in the far corner with enough room for an adjacent rocking chair. The baby would want for nothing, she knew that, but she also knew the baby would be in danger.
Lily clutched the little zebra to her own chest like James has done in the years prior. She considered that because the baby would be half pureblood and half muggleborn, it would be dangerous to even have the baby in the hospital. She'd have to do a home birth or go to a muggle doctor. Babies with mixed magical blood had been disappearing from cribs for months.
Lily hugged the zebra tighter.
James entered the dark room, looking rather concerned to find her sitting alone and clutching his childhood friend. James walked over to her and knelt down beside her, placing one hand on her knee.
"Why are you hiding in mum's old study?" He poked at the zebra in her arms, "and why are you hugging Zin?"
Lily let out a sight that ruffled some of the soft fur on Zin, "I'm thinking."
"About what?" James prompted, "you left the kitchen in quite the hurry."
Lily wrinkles her nose. She had left the kitchen in a hurry but that was because he's started making tuna sandwiches and the smell was quick to agitate Lily's insides, James tried to smooth away her frown with his thumb.
"I think we need to talk." She told her husband, "about changing some things in the house."
James tilted his head adorably, "like what?"
Lily leaned forward so that their noses almost touched, "I'm afraid we need to update this room."
James looked even more confused, "mum's study? But we never even come in here."
Lily rested her chin on the stuffed zebra, "but we need this room for our new roommate."
"Did Sirius try to talk you into—"
Lily slowly slid from the stood until they were both kneeling on the ground. Lily's knees pressed against James' knees as she hugged Zin the zebra even tighter for bravery. James reached up to cup her worried expression between both his hands. They sat on the floor, both of them thinking separate thoughts.
"James," Lily finally whispered, "I'm pregnant."
James' fingers pressed down harder on her cheeks, "what?"
"I'm pregnant." She said, "we're going to have a baby."
James rocked back into his heels, taking his hands with him, Lily watched as James' fingers tangled up into his thick black hair. James seemed to be processing what she had told him. His hazel eyes were dark pools, hardly any light in them thanks to the dim effects of the old study.
"Pregnant." He croaked, "you're actually pregnant?"
Lily nodded, "I'm somewhere around 13 weeks."
"You've known for three months?" He managed, "and you didn't say anything?"
"I've only known for three weeks." Lily corrected quickly, "I was on the potion, remember? I thought everything was fine."
James grew even more concerned, "You stopped taking the potion right?"
Lily nodded, "as soon as I realized, I went right to Emmaline Vance. She thinks I got a faulty batch of potion."
James was quiet and Lily worried that he might've been angry until he looked up and had tears flooding his eyes, "is the baby okay?"
Lily's face broke out into a soft smile with relief, "the baby is just fine."
James swallowed before he reached for her, as a child might, with his hands outstretched. Lily crawled into his grasp, her legs tangled with his as they sat on the floor. James had his forehead pressed to the side of her neck. Lily kept a hold of Zin the zebra, her eyes focusing on the black and white stripes.
"I'm happy." James said against her neck, "but also terrified."
"Me too." Lily hummed, "I don't think I ever considered having a baby in the middle of a war."
"What do we do?" James asked, "move away with the baby until it's safe?"
"We can't leave."
They both had friends who'd become family that lived nearby. James' friends needed him. Lily's friends trusted her. The war effort needed them both.
"A baby." James muttered, almost in awe, "we're gonna have a real actual baby."
"We could barely keep the garden alive." Lily snorted, "now this?"
"I'd imagine babies and gardens aren't very similar."
"How would you know?" Lily teased him, "you hated Herbology!"
James' fingers slid under the edges of her sweater. The cool touches of his palms against her stomach made goosebumps rise on her arms. Lily let the stuffed animal fall to her lap as she guided James' hands to her middle. They sat there, James holding her and (subsequently) their baby. The darkness of the room seemed a little lighter now that her husband was there with her.
"We're only kids ourselves." She spoke her fears, not wanting to hide anything from James, "and now we're just supposed to have a baby?"
James' jaw was hard pressed, "and baby's are so helpless...and ugly…"
Lily grinned, "yeah they aren't very cute, remember Sarah and Todd's kid?"
"Yeah, it looked like a mandrake," James said, "but I can't call our baby a mandrake, can I?"
Suddenly, one of James' hands left her stomach and he leaned a bit to snatch the zebra off Lily's lap. James rotated the stuffed animal in front of their faces. James let out a small chuckle by Lily's left ear.
"I always wanted to have children." He said, "and pass Zin along to all of them."
"All of them?"
"I want ten kids."
"Slow down," Lily teased, "let's focus on the one, for now."
"Yeah," James pulled her closer, "I just can't believe we're going to be parents, in the middle of a war, how fucked up is that?"
"At least the baby has a home," she said softly, "and if we fix up this room, a nice little nursery."
"We could paint snitches on the walls." James suggested, "and quaffles."
"If this baby is getting your stuffed zebra," she said, "then we should have a safari themed nursery to go along with it."
James said, "why not both? Zebra's playing quidditch?"
Lily laughed and twisted in his lap so that she was left straddling her husband. James pressed his nose to hers and Zin the zebra dropped back to the floor as their limbs became tangled up.
"That's a very specific theme." She said.
"Animals playing quidditch is the perfect theme for a nursery." James countered, "What's more magical than that?"
"I wasn't aware that zebras could even play quidditch."
"Zin and I had our first flight together when I was six." James countered back, "he is an excellent co-flyer."
Lily kissed James' nose delicately, "our baby will need to be ten years old before he's allowed on a broomstick."
"Six." James countered.
"Nine." Lily wrapped her arms around him tightly.
James pressed a quick kiss to her mouth, "Seven."
"Eight and a half." Lily kissed him back.
"Seven and a quarter."
She forgot, trully, what they were bargaining for when he started kissing her more persuasively. Eventually they found themselves tangled in the sheets of the adjacent bedroom, James planting kisses up and down her body. They didn't get out of bed until the next morning.
It took them two days to go back to the study, if only because they were busy telling all their close friends the news. Baby gifts started pouring in three weeks later as Lily painted the old study cobalt blue. Sirius Black bought the baby a changing table with snitches carved into the wood. Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew chipped in to get a bookshelf to sit by the rocker. Lily's best friend Mary Macdonald sent a dream catcher all the way from America and Emmaline Vance used the last of the late Mia Potter's yarn to knit a baby blanket.
The best gift of all didn't arrive until two weeks before Lily was due to give birth. She was sitting on the sofa with swollen feet and a protruding stomach when the doorbell rang. James raced from the kitchen, shouting over the radio that he got to the door and Lily better not move.
Lily just snorted and talked to the baby, "your silly dad thinks that I can walk to the door but, thanks to you, I can't even walk up the stairs."
Lily hadn't wanted to walk anywhere farther than the kitchen in weeks. She wasn't totally miserable pregnant but she wasn't a glowing gem of a future mother either. All she wanted to do was walk five steps without wobbling like a penguin. She also would really like for the baby to stop standing on her bladder.
James entered the sitting room with a large box in his hands. His arrival distracted Lily from the light baby kicks inside her body. Lily tilted her head at her husband with clear confusion.
"Who was it?"
"I had Bathilda talk to her friend in Germany that does wood carvings." James set down the box on the sofa beside Lily, "I had him make us a one-of-a-kind mobile for the crib."
"A mobile!" Lily perked up, "oh, we've needed one!"
James chuckled at her excitement as she started ripping the tape off the box. Lily felt James sit down beside her but she was too busy opening the box to care to scoot closer to him. Her hands reached inside and she pulled out a dark wooden mobile. The top was expertly carved from four pieces of wood that had holes punctured for white chords that hung little figurines, the figures twirled in front of Lily's eyes as she held it up for a better look.
The bubble of laughter that rose from her throat was genuine when she realized the little figurines were animals playing quidditch. There was a zebra on the broomstick that was reaching for a snitch. Two strands away from the zebra was a giraffe holding a quaffle on a hand carved broom. She also spied a cheetah standing with four paws on a magic carpet and a water buffalo wearing a helmet. Lily examined each little animal, marveling at the detail.
"Like it?" James asked, reminding Lily of his presence.
Lily turned to her husband, glee written on her face, "I can't believe you had someone hand carve our baby a themed mobile."
James pressed a kiss to her cheek, "I just wanted to surprise you with something special for the nursery."
"I love it." she set the mobile back in its box, "we'll have to hang it up right away."
James did as she asked, taking time to make sure the animals still spun when he was done installing the new feature for the crib. They both examined the nursery when James was done, making sure everything was perfect for the arrival of the newest baby. Thanks to friends, their nursery was stocked in books and treasures. Thanks to Lily's sister, the baby even had an assortment of posh baby clothes that Lily would probably never even use, but it was the thought that counted.
Lily went into labor around lunchtime on the 31st of July. She couldn't remember much of that afternoon, only that James somehow managed to carry her from the kitchen to the bed in record time while she was shouting for him to get the potion for labor pains. The family healer named Emmaline arrived in time to help Lily through the birth. James got kicked out of the spare bedroom (turned hospital) for being overwhelmed and generally unhelpful.
The small babe was all hair and big ears. Lily clutched the baby to her chest as she realized that he was going to be just like his father. She wouldn't know the color of his eyes until later but she hoped that the baby got those from his father too.
James entered the room only moments after Emmaline called for him. His hair was wild as he crawled into the bed with Lily and the baby. Emmaline left to give them some privacy. James had a small stuffed creature in his hand that he placed between them.
It was Zin.
James placed a large hand on the back of the baby's head, "he's perfect."
Lily beamed at James, "we did pretty good for a couple of kids, huh?"
"So good." He agreed, "I've never seen a uglier baby."
Lily threw her head back and laughed, "he looks just like you!"
"And here, I was about to say he takes after your side of the family!"
They both giggled as the baby slept. James moved the stuffed zebra in front of the baby's face.
"Zin, this is my son." James said seriously, "he's gonna need your help growing up, just like I did."
Lily took the baby's tiny fist and held it against Zin's worn hoof, "pleasure Zin."
The couple giggled again before James tucked the zebra beside their little boy. They both grinned wide when the baby dug into the zebra's fluff with his hand. James leaned into Lily's side and placed his head beside hers on the pillow.
"I think this is the best thing we've ever made together."
Lily hummed her agreement, her fingers sliding along soft baby skin, "I've never been so happy."
He sighed into her hair, "I've never been so in love."
Lily turned her cheek to smile at her husband, "I can't wait for the war to end so that we can share him with everyone."
James brushed his thumb against her cheek, "we can finally travel, like we've always wanted."
"We'll get to see real zebras." Lily mused, "not just stuffed ones named Zin."
James nipped at her neck playfully, "Zin is a real zebra."
Lily laughed again, making the baby shake, "he's a kids toy!"
"He's real!" James countered back.
"Have you ever seen a real zebra?" Lily teased.
"No," James' hazel eyes twinkled, "have you?"
"No." She said, "but I imagine they don't bleed white cotton when they rip."
"Either way, Zin is real." James said, "only a real zebra can scare the monsters away at night."
"I'm glad our son has someone besides us to protect him from scary monsters," Lily said.
"I think that between me, you and Zin," James snuggled closer to Lily, "our baby won't ever have to grow up scared, or alone."