Disclaimer: I own my words, but nothing else.
Chapter 1: Overtime
It was a late night in the Auror's office. Harry Potter leaned wearily back in his chair, rubbing his tired eyes under his black-rimmed spectacles. He had been pouring over the case files for the past thirteen hours. He was becoming mesmerized and he felt he might soon go completely blind. Three wizards had turned up dead in the past nine days and so far, nobody had managed to come up with any suspects. These deaths hit Harry especially hard because each man, like him, had a son about to start at Hogwarts and Harry couldn't imagine not being there to see his children off to school for the first time. He could scarcely believe that James would soon be taking his first trip on the Hogwarts express. He really was getting old, he thought.
Harry was getting very annoyed with this case. There had to be something in all these files that hinted at who might be causing all this mayhem. Harry grumbled in frustration and swept all the papers off of his desk. 'Come on Harry, that won't help anything.' He muttered to himself. With a sigh of regret, he flicked his wand and the paperwork fell back into tidy little piles on his desk.
"You know, I never really got the hang of that charm. Every time I try, I end up with a bigger mess." Came a deep voice from the doorway.
"I had to learn it. You've seen how much mess my kids make." Harry replied, looking up at Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister for Magic.
Kingsley chuckled slightly and approached Harry's desk. "Speaking of which, shouldn't you be home for James' birthday? A young man doesn't turn eleven every day, you know."
"Yeah, I know. It's just that this case is driving me absolutely cracked. Nine days and not a single lead! The best I've got is a witch in Leeds who says she saw the third victim outside her house the day after he went missing. I've gotta follow up on that tomorrow morning." With more than a hint of regret, he glanced at the brand new Firebolt leaning against a filing cabinet behind him. He had sent an owl home to his family earlier that evening saying that he had to work late and that he would make it up to each of them when he got home.
"Would you care for some advice?" Kingsley asked. "Go home. Celebrate your son's birthday, and then get a good night's rest. Tomorrow you'll take James flying and then you'll come in here rested and with a clear head. I've had too many cases like this to believe that anyone, even the savior of the wizarding world," He held up his hand to stop Harry's protests, knowing how he felt about being called by that title. "could solve this thing without being well rested."
Harry sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair. "You're right." He said finally. "You're absolutely right. I really should be home tonight. I'm heading home right now." Kingsley gave him a pat on the shoulder and walked out without another word. Harry stood up, stretched his tired and aching muscles, grabbed James' new broom and walked out of his office, intent on getting home as quickly as possible.
Moments later, he apparated just outside his garden gate and was relieved to see the lights still shining brightly inside his home. It was late, but perhaps he would be able to spend some time with his family after all.
When he opened the door, Harry was ambushed by James, Albus and Lilly. "Dad!" they cried in unison as they threw their arms around him. Harry had to brace himself against the doorframe to keep from falling back onto the stoop.
"Hey guys." Harry said, still struggling not to topple backwards.
"Alright, kids, come on inside before you crush your poor father." Ginny laughed from the hallway. They obliged much to Harry's thanks, and Lilly and Albus ran back into the sitting room to wait for him to enter. James, alone, stayed behind with his father.
"I am so sorry I missed your birthday dinner, James. I know that this won't make up for that, but happy birthday." He said, handing James the Firebolt. James tore off the paper and his eyes widened to the size of saucers when he looked down at his new broom.
"Dad, this is… wow! A Firebolt! Thanks, dad!" James threw his arms around his father's neck.
"So am I forgiven?" Harry asked.
"Not yet, but you definitely made a dent." replied James, still hugging his father tightly. "Say, can I give it a spin?" He asked eagerly.
"Tomorrow." Harry laughed. "Right now, I have to make a dent with the rest of our family." Together they walked into the sitting room. James rushed to show his new broom to his brother and sister who were both very interested in the Firebolt, which as Albus had said, was "just like dad's". This was not exactly true. Harry's model was several years older. Ginny had given him a new Firebolt for their first anniversary since his had been lost as he left the Dursleys' just before his seventeenth birthday. The newest Firebolts had built-in tracking systems to prevent loss. Harry wished he had that particular feature on his own, since he had lost his for a whole month a few years back.
Later that evening, after the kids were well asleep, Harry began to settle into bed. Ginny lay down beside him a moment later and wrapped her arms around his chest from behind, whispering into his ear. "So what's so important at work that keeps you from celebrating your son's birthday with him?"
Harry turned to face her. "It's this case I've been working on. People are dying and we haven't got a single clue as to who it is, or why they're doing it. It's driving me mad!"
Ginny rubbed his back in gentle circles. "Harry, I'm sure you'll work this one out, just like all the others, but you also need to take some time for yourself and for your family."
"You're right, Gin. Kingsley told me the same thing. I'm gonna do it, I promise. Tomorrow I'm gonna take James flying. It's the least I can do considering I wasn't here tonight." He replied. There was a pause as Harry lay there enjoying the rhythmic circles that Ginny was tracing on his back. Sighing deeply, he pulled her closer to him. "And I can think of a way to make it up to you too." He smiled at her, emerald eyes gleaming mischievously. He pulled her into a passionate kiss, which she returned heartily.