It was a bright spring day at Godric's Hollow. James burst into the living room, waving a piece of parchment and looking quite excited.
"What happened?" asked Lily, looking up from a copy of The Bewitching Bride. She'd been obsessed with wedding plans for weeks.
"I just got an owl," James said quickly. "From Brian Griswald!"
"Griswald! Keeper for the Chudley Cannons! One of the best in the league," he ranted. "He wants to come to the wedding!"
"Really?" Lily said, her eyebrow raised. "Does he even know who we are?"
"Of course. He's probably heard of my successful career on the Gryffindor team, and wants to meet me in person."
"That's nice," said Lily, returning to her book. James rushed off to tell the others.
Her reading was interrupted once again several minutes later, this time by Remus and Sirius.
"I'm not going to tell him. He'd be heartbroken," Sirius was saying. "He's got his hopes up. If he found out that I sent that letter…"
"You said he'd be able to take a joke!" Remus said, "Come on, you're not backing out now, after all we've done in school. Besides, when Brian Griswald fails to show up, he's bound to figure it out."
Sirius suddenly got an odd look on his face, the look he always got when he'd just thought of a wicked plan. "Yes, I suppose he would… if Brian Griswald fails to show up."
"Come on," Remus said, always the sensible one. "How are we going to get Griswald to come here?"
Sirius looked at his mate with a crazed glint in his eye. "Moony, old boy, get out your cauldron. It's time to brew us a Keeper."
They left the room, heads together in friendly conspiracy. Lily opened her mouth to say something, but then thought better of it and went back to her reading. When the guys showed signs of planning something stupid, it was best to leave them alone.
Several weeks later, Remus was fretting over the potion simmering over his enchanted fire. "Are you sure you prepared the fluxweed properly?" he asked Sirius, who was lounging on the sofa across the room, casually oblivious to the wrinkles he was making in his dress robes.
"Relax," he said. "It's taken care of." Remus had worried that he wouldn't be able to supervise that part of the potion-making process, which had to be done at the full moon. "You know, I admit you're smart, but the world doesn't come to a screeching halt every time you let your hair grow out," his friend admonished.
Remus smiled weakly at one of his friends' many euphemisms for his condition. It was another reminder of how extremely lucky he was to have friends who did not judge him, or try to hide his "furry little problem" like the adults always had during his childhood.
Presently, the door opened and Peter came in, a look of triumph on his round face. "I've got it," he said, digging into the pockets of his robes. His smile faded. "At least, I had it."
Sirius sat up quickly. "You didn't lose it, did you?"
"No! Here it is," he amended, reaching deep into his robes and pulling out a tiny phial, which he handed to Remus. Remus opened the phial and gingerly removed its contents: a short, dirty-blonde hair.
"Did you have any trouble, Wormtail?"
"Not much. The Cannons' dressing room seems to have quite an infestation; one more sneaky little rodent didn't catch their attention."
"And you're sure it's Griswald's?"
Peter smirked. "Unless he's got a tabby cat, it's definitely his."
"Excellent." Sirius said. "Let's get down to business."
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Remus asked. "I would volunteer, you know."
"I'm sure. Besides, I'm better at Quidditch than both of you put together. I'd be more convincing."
Remus nodded, and scooped a gobletful of the bubbling liquid out of the cauldron. Once the hair had been added, it fizzed loudly and turned bright orange. He handed it to Sirius, who made a show of raising it up in a silent salute before taking a deep swig of Polyjuice Potion.
Back at the reception, James disentangled himself from his bride long enough to see Remus returning from an extended bathroom break. "Where's my best man?" he asked, a bit of worry in his voice. "He disappeared right after the toast. Wouldn't tell me where he was going."
Remus put his arm around James and steered him away from the room where, if his timing was correct, one of his best friends had just finished turning into a famous Quidditch star. "Listen, Sirius told me to tell you that he's feeling a bit under the weather. He's having a bit of a lie down right now, and hopefully he might feel better in an hour or so."
James was anxious to see how Sirius was, but in a moment found himself distracted: by the arrival of Brian Griswald, who smiled broadly and clapped James on the back. They chatted at length about Quidditch and some of their most renowned plays, until Griswald suggested they break out the brooms and have a match. Those at the reception with athletic inclinations were eager to join in. James soon forgot that his best friend was absent; in fact, it seemed almost as if Padfoot was there all along, laughing behind James's back as if at a fiendish joke.
Barely an hour had passed before Griswald looked at his watch and announced, with a touch of panic in his voice, that he really had to be going; he was late for a practice session. He waved cheerfully at James, winked at Remus, and Disapparated with a flourish.
"It's funny," James remarked to Remus. "He makes me feel like we've known each other for years. You know, he even looks familiar. Are you okay?" he asked, as Remus had just choked on his drink.
He didn't get a chance to answer, though, because just then Sirius walked in. "What did I miss?" he said, straightening his dress robes.
"Oh, everything! We had just the greatest time with Brian," James said.
"Brian, eh? So you're on first-name terms are you?"
"Yeah, so what?" said James, almost defensively. "It's too bad he had to leave before you came back. I think you would have liked him."
"Oh," Sirius smirked. "I daresay we have more in common then you might think."
Many years later, it was Christmas Evening in Number 12, Grimmauld Place. Sirius paused in his story to take a sip of butterbeer. His gaze passed over the assembled party: there were the Weasleys… well, all except three of them; Hermione, easily the cleverest young witch he'd met; there was Remus, looking older and more serious than ever, but still as kind; there was Harry, his godson, and all he had left of the man who was more family to him than anyone who'd ever lived in this miserable house.
"Well, there's not much left to the story," he continued. "We never did tell James what really happened. But what I've told you is more than just a hilarious tale of mischief- which it is. There's a deeper, more important truth here."
Remus looked surprised. "What's that?" Harry leaned foreword with a look of earnest curiosity.
Sirius set down his bottle and looked at each of his guests again. "Well, as you can see from my story, I truly was the Potters' secret Keeper, after all."
There were a few seconds of silence, and then several loud groans. The twins whooped, and someone's forehead banged on the table. Molly shook her head and clucked disapprovingly. Remus simply smiled, his eyes wrinkled at the corners.