James sighed heavily, and looked towards his wife. Her face was as white as snow, and not due to her natural complexion. His arm was around her, he could feel that she was still warm, despite the appearance of being frozen. He, too, felt like being sick. He turned to the man sitting in the chair.
‘And are you sure it’s true?’ he gulped.
The man nodded. He had long white hair, and his long fingers were extended, touching at the tips. His eyes were fixed on James’ own brown ones. James knew he was telling the truth, but it was impossible to believe.
‘It is true, James. I heard it myself; I know that he’s been informed. There is only one twist, there is another family involved.’ He said all this as calmly as though he was asking them about their wedding.
‘Who is it, Albus?’ James asked.
‘The Longbottoms, and their son –’
The two men looked at the woman on James’ side. She hadn’t spoken in over an hour, but had whispered this name. She looked up at them, her red hair hanging over her face.
‘Neville, that’s his name… their son. ‘Her eyes were watering, ‘It’s either their son or ours…’
Suddenly she jumped up, and walked over to the cot where their son was sleeping. She knelt down beside it, and stroked her son’s tiny face with her finger. James saw her shoulders begin to shake, and immediately ran over and placed his hands on both of her shoulders.
‘Our son, James… Harry… no, no, NO! This can’t be true…’ she cried. The fact that their son was in danger – Lily had never even considered the possibility, ‘Albus, ‘ she said, turning to the man, her voice was horse and her sparkling emerald eyes full of desperation. ‘Albus, you have to do something. You must have a plan. Help… us… Please… ’
‘Lily, you know I will go to any means to protect your family. I do have a plan, and it will need to be executed quickly.’
‘We’ll do anything.’ said James, still trying to comfort his wife.
‘Would I be right in assuming you understand how the Fidelius Charm works?’
‘Fidelius…’ Lily whispered under her breath. ‘Fidelius… Albus, you want us to go into hiding?’
‘Yes, I believe that is the only way,’ he said, ‘Now, you will need a Secret Keeper, someone you can trust. I would be more than happy if you wanted…’
‘No,’ James said, ‘We can use one of my friends; we’ll ask Sirius.’ He turned to Lily, as though seeking her approval. ‘He’s Harry’s godfather; he will want to do it.’
‘Mr. Black? Are you sure?’
James looked at Lily, indicating that she should answer. After a long pause, she took a look at the sleeping Harry. Then, she nodded.
‘Fine, then I will let Mr. Black know. Is there anyone else you would like informed?’
‘Peter and Remus. I’ll tell them–’
‘No. No, James, I think it’s best if you just stay out of the way. I will tell them. Now, I’ll be back later tonight, we can perform the Charm then.’
With that settled, James showed Albus to the door. When he came back into the living room, Lily was sitting on the ground. She had now taken Harry out of his bed. He was awake and crying. She was holding him in her arms, tears rolling down her face, rocking him back and forth.
‘James… James, I think he knows, James. He won’t stop crying. I can’t make him stop. He knows, James… our son, our beautiful son. He’s only a year old. He knows…’ she broke down, sobbing uncontrollably.
James walked over to her and held her in his arms. He wiped the tears from Harry’s eyes. He had his mother’s eyes, bright green, he looked perfect, even when his face was red and screwed up from crying.
‘Lily, he will fall asleep again. Let’s put him back.’
‘No,’ she said forcefully. ‘No, he needs us, James, we need to make him feel better. He needs us.’
James managed to pry Harry from his mother’s arms as Lily crumpled to the floor in tears. James laid his son back down in bed. James kissed his forehead, tears now running down his cheek. He watched for another five minutes as his son fell asleep.
He then turned to his wife and tried to lift her up. As she stood, she used James for support, her shoulders hunched, her elbows glued to her sides. She couldn’t speak for weeping, and James pulled her close. He stroked her hair, and she shook her head in denial.
‘Ssshhh, it’s going to be okay, it will all be okay,’ he whispered to her, trying also to reassure himself.
The doorbell rang at about seven, James called to his wife.
‘Lily! Everybody is here.’
She emerged from the kitchen, covered in food, her hair up in a messy bun and an apron on. Since the events of that morning, she had busied herself by cooking. They now had enough food to last them a week.
‘Oh, no! I hadn’t finished the buns!’
James walked over to her. ‘It’s okay; they’ll not be very hungry. How are you feeling?’ His eyes were wide and full of concern.
‘Yes, yes, I’m fine…’ she said hurriedly as she ran up the stairs to get changed. ‘James, answer the door!’ she shouted back down at him.
He opened the door, and a man with long black hair pushed past him into the house. His usually handsome face was lined with worry, his eyes were alight.
‘Where is he?’ he demanded.
‘In the living room, sleeping,’ James said, pulling this friend back as he lunged towards the door. ‘Sirius, he’s asleep, and he is safe for now. Don’t disturb him.’
‘He’s my godson!’ Sirius roared in response. ‘I can see him if I want –’
‘Yes, and he is James’ son.’ Another man stepped inside. He had fair hair, and his face made him look older than he was. ‘Hello, James,’ he said, turning to give his friend a hug. ‘How’s Lily?’
James cast a nervous glance up the stairs, to be sure his wife wasn’t coming down, and he lowered his voice as he said, ‘Not too great. Initially, her reaction was understandable, but awful. Remus, I don’t know what to do. After she got over the shock, she just began to bake, and she hasn’t mentioned it at all. I’m worried about her; I’m scared she might do something stupid.’
‘It will be fine,’ Remus said, patting James on the back. ‘Peter and Dumbledore are on their way now.’
James checked the outside cautiously before closing the door. He ushered his friends into the living room, giving them drinks and trying to act as normal as possible. Sirius stood over the cot, while Remus took a seat.
‘So, it’s true then, James?’
James gazed down at his son, trying not to get upset again. Truthfully, his eyes still felt raw from that afternoon. He looked up, still not answering his friend’s question. His eyes locked with Sirius’.
‘Yes. It’s true, about the Longbottoms, too. I guess it’s just down to who he chooses.’
Remus sank back into his chair, his hands on his face and sighing deeply. Sirius broke away from James’ gaze, and looked at his godson. His eyes began to water, and James looked away. He had never seen his friend cry before, and was not sure he wanted to.
‘Harry, Harry, you’re going to be okay,’ Sirius said, his hand on Harry’s head, ‘You have Potter blood in you, you’re a fighter.’
The room went silent.
Suddenly, Lily barged in. Even in this situation, James couldn’t help but notice how beautiful she looked.
‘Hi, Remus, Sirius,’ she greeted them, still fastening her robes into place. She had put her hair up in a bun, simple, but elegant. She took one look around the room. At everybody’s expressions, her face dropped.
‘Lily, I’m sorry…’ Remus began.
‘Don’t. Don’t start that ‘I’m sorry’ business,’ she said, taking a step back; her voice was cracking, ‘Nothing is wrong, nothing has happened yet.’
Sirius walked forward. ‘Lily…’
‘No,’ she shouted, her hand forward, warning Sirius not to move any closer. ‘I’m going to get some food. I’ll be back in a second.’
Then she left, and the two visitors turned to James. He just shook his head, looking defeated.
‘See what I mean? I don’t know how she’s going to cope, and I don’t know if I can when she’s like this.’ His voice was becoming unsteady, and he turned away from his friends, not wanting them to notice the tears in his eyes. ‘What do you do when the two people you love most in the word are in danger, are sad, and you can’t do anything about it?’
Silence was the only response he received. He hadn’t meant for there to be an answer, and knew his friends understood that. The doorbell rang for the second time that night, and he heard Lily call from the kitchen that she’d get it. James wiped his eyes hastily, then turned back to the rest of the room. Lily walked back in, carrying trays laden with various foods. She set them on the table.
‘Right, everybody, dig in!’ she smiled. It pained James to see her like this. Her eyes couldn’t hide how she really felt. She could smile all she wanted, but James could see through it.
Tension settled through the room. The two new guests stood near the door, Remus and Sirius staring at Lily. Nobody knew whether or not they should break the silence. James saw his wife’s smile begin to fade.
‘Albus! Peter!’ he said, walking up to them and shaking their hands. ‘How are you?’
He had said it too cheerfully, and out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Sirius gesture – from behind Lily’s back – to the notoriously awkward Peter not to say anything, and James trusted that Albus would keep his dignified silence.
‘Hello again, James.’ Dumbledore said, ‘Lily, I’m parched. I wouldn’t mind a drink, if you please.’
Taking the opportunity to escape the room, Lily jumped up to meet the Headmaster of Hogwarts’ request. Once she was out of earshot, he turned to James, looking as calm and collected as ever.
‘Not to worry, James, this kind of behaviour is more than normal,’ he said, once again demonstrating his ability to know exactly what they were thinking. ‘I think that it’s best of we just get this done as soon as possible. Sirius, I understand you were chosen. You should begin once Lily returns. I must leave; I have other business to attend to. Tell Lily I’m sorry about the drink.’
‘Albus, wait!’ James called, hurrying after him.
‘Where do you think he’s going?’ Remus asked.
Sirius just shrugged. When James came back in, they put the question to him.
‘I gave him the Cloak.’
Sirius’ jaw dropped and he looked at James in disbelief. ‘You gave him the Cloak? At a time like this, you gave him the one thing that can make you invisible?’
‘He was going to the Longbottoms’, Sirius. I don’t think Frank and Alice have friends they can trust as much we trust you.’
Suddenly, the fire that was blazing turned an emerald green. Someone’s head appeared in the flames.
‘Remus, Remus, is Remus Lupin there?’ a voice inquired.
‘Yes, I am. What do you need?’ Remus said, standing up.
‘There’s been an emergency; you’re urgently needed at the Ministry.’
The man turned to his friends with an apologetic face. ‘I’m sorry, James.’
‘Don’t worry about it.’
Lupin nodded slightly, then Apparated away. James turned to face Sirius. ‘Right, then, should we get started?’
Sirius stepped forwards. ‘Actually, I’m having some second thoughts about the choice. With my brother and my family, they are bound to find me much sooner than anyone else. Maybe Peter…’
The small chubby man finally spoke up. ‘Me? Is that all that’s left? Am I the only choice?’
‘Well, Peter, if you want to…’ James began. He agreed with Sirius and trusted all of his friends equally. Besides, with Remus gone, Peter was their only other option. ‘Lily and I would be more than happy –’
‘Where is Lily?’ Sirius spoke up suddenly.
James’ heart dropped. Lily. He ran into the kitchen, and found her sitting on the floor, crying. Broken glass was everywhere, and Lily was trying frantically trying to clean it up. James whipped out his wand and the mess disappeared in an instant.
‘Lily, Lily, come inside, we are about to do it,’ he said softly.
‘I can’t, I can’t…I can’t stand this any longer,’ she gasped. Now that her emotions had built up, she was worse than she had been that morning.
Eventually, he lifted her off the floor and took her inside. Nobody commented on Lily, and Peter had been convinced into being their Secret Keeper.
‘I can perform it if you want…’ Sirius suggested, ‘And I think it’s best if we keep this switch between the four of us…’