“Are you sure that it’s a good idea to lift the charm? There are probably still Death Eaters out there that want us dead.” James and Peter had been arguing for almost an hour, ever since James had come through the fire at Peter’s request, to discuss the issue, “What’s the harm in leaving it up for a while longer?”
Peter didn’t respond right away. Because some of the Death Eaters still at large heard me say that I was the secret-keeper. If they ask me where you are and I tell them, then you’ll know it was me who betrayed you. I’ll be caught. Of course he couldn’t say that. He was spared the need to come up with an acceptable answer by a sudden knock at the door.
“Open up, it’s the Ministry,” came a baritone voice from outside the door.
“Wonder what they want,” James made a move to get up and answer the door to Peter’s apartment since Peter seemed to have frozen in place. He opened it to reveal two Aurors in uniform, wand poised. Ignoring the shocked look on James’ face, one of them walked over to Peter, keeping his trained on him. The other remained at the door, wand at the ready.
James was surprised to note that Peter was shaking visibly. What on earth was going on?
“Peter Pettigrew, you are under arrest on charges of participating in the activities of Death Eaters and passing on confidential information to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
The second auror turned to James who looked as if he were about to protest, “His name came up in the interrogation of Travers. He was in the presence of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named on the night the Longbottoms were attacked. He had information for him –which fortunately he never had the chance to pass on –information about you…”
The final word hit James like a sledgehammer. They knew someone was leaking information to Voldemort. Could it have been Peter? It didn’t seem possible. “How do you know Travers wasn’t lying? You’re taking the word of a confessed Death Eater.”
“He was under the influence of Veritaserum. He wasn’t lying,” the auror responded calmly to James’ enraged question. He had found the calm voice helped in the many times he had already dealt with that same question from family and friends of alleged Death Eaters.
Words could not describe the feeling of absolute betrayal that James felt in that moment. Peter was his friend, a fellow Marauder. How could he be a Death Eater? I wasn’t possible. There had to be some kind of explanation. Imperius perhaps? But even as the idea crossed his mind, he knew it was impossible. Voldemort would have had no reason to consider controlling Peter. Everyone thought that Sirius was going to be their secret-keeper.
There was no other explanation. Peter had betrayed him. Swallowing him anger, he turned to the traitor and said, his voice deceptively calm, “I suppose you were right after all, Wormtail. It is best we lift the charm.”
One Week Later
“Hello? Lily? James? Is anyone there?”
Lily looked up from the blanket she had been knitting to see that the head of Mrs. Longbottom had appeared in her fireplace, “Mrs. Longbottom? How are you holding up? What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if I could come over later today. There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you and James. I don’t feel comfortable saying it over the fire.”
“Of course you can come over. You’re always welcome, you and that adorable grandson of yours.”
The entire family was sitting in the parlour when Mrs. Longbottom stumbled out of their fireplace just after seven holding her sleeping grandson protectively in her arms. Sensing the presence of a new grown-up in the room, one-year-old Harry looked up from the toys he was playing with on the floor at the black-clad woman in the fireplace.
“Mrs. Longbottom, it’s wonderful to see you,” Lily greeted the older woman, “Oh, and you’ve brought Neville with you. He’s grown so much since I last saw him.” Neville had begun to squirm in her arms, no longer asleep. Tickling his belly she added, “Haven’t you Neville, you little dumpling.”
“Do come sit down,” added James, putting down his newspaper and standing up to greet her. “You can set Neville down with Harry. I’m sure he’d love to have a playmate.”
“Yes, yes of course.” She set him down next to the dark-haired child who had already lost interest in the grown-ups and returned to his toys. “Now play nice and do try not to break Harry’s toys.”
Assuring herself that the boys were getting along nicely, she stood up once more. “Would you like some tea, Mrs. Longbottom? I have some water boiling in the kitchen,” Lily inquired politely.
“I’d love some, thank you, dear, and do call me Augusta” she responded as she sat herself down near the fireplace.
James followed suit picking his newspaper off his seat where he had left it, “How have you been?” he asked, trying to start up a conversation with her.
“Better, I’ve been coping…” her voice trailed off and an awkward silence followed as they both sat watching the boys, who continued to play peacefully with Harry’s toys.
“They certainly seem to be getting along well,” commented Lily as she returned with a tray laden with tea and biscuits. “You really must bring him over more often.”
“Actually, the thing I wanted to ask you about…” Mrs. Longbottom’s voice trailed off. Uncertain of how to begin, she tried again, “Well you see… There are still Death Eaters…and, well, I’m worried for Neville’s sake. He’s still a target, so I was considering following through with the Fidelius Charm… and, well, I feel safest casting the charm myself, especially after…” Her words hung dead in the air. The Potter’s choice of secret-keeper had almost cost them their lives. “And so…” she continued, “I need someone to care for the boy. I know you were close to his parents and I was wondering…I understand if you can’t, especially with a son of your own to raise but I’d really appreciate…”
Lily cut her off before she could finish her request, “Of course we’ll take care of Neville, if you’re sure that’s what you want. It’s the least we can do. Alice and Frank would have done the same for us if our positions were reversed.”
“Thank you. You don’t know how much this means to me, you keeping him safe. He’s all I have left. If something should happen to him…”
A/N: Many thanks go out to my wonderful beta Aggiebell the thorough corrections and insightful comments that she delivers on such a timely basis. I would also like to thank all my reviewers once more for their kind comments and encouragement.