“But you promised!” Harry stomped his feet in frustration.
His mum and dad had promised that he and Neville could have their joint birthday party at a restaurant with their friends from school, months ago. They’d even handed out all the invitations before school ended, to make sure that everyone received them. Now Mum was trying to go back on her word. It wasn’t fair!
Lily sighed. Maybe she should have waited till James was home, instead of choosing Heather’s nap-time, to break the news to the boys, but she hadn’t been expecting such a strong reaction.
Though, perhaps she should have; Harry and Neville had been really looking forward to having a birthday party with all their friends from school, and it had taken ages to get Augusta to agree to the party in the first place… but, a week after his escape from Azkaban, Pettigrew still hadn’t been caught, and the boys’ birthday weekend was fast approaching.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated, “but with Peter Pettigrew still on the loose, it’s just too dangerous.”
A week ago, when the threat of Pettigrew had still been fresh, that statement would have cowed all argument, but after a week of no visible danger, the boys had all but forgotten their initial fear. Gone were the pale, scared, little boys who had cuddled up to her and James for comfort, and had agreed to stay within the wards until the danger was past. Now, the boys were glaring at her with twin looks of anger laced with betrayal.
“But why can’t we just invite our friends over here, then?” insisted Harry.
“You know that won’t work because of the Fidelius Charm,” Lily pointed out. “Unless you want to exclude Neville from his own party...”
Harry looked down at his feet, grumbling once more at the unfairness of it all, but Neville seized on the idea, a hint of excitement entering his voice, as he suggested, “Gran could do the inviting; then everyone would know that I was here, and the charm wouldn’t be a problem.”
Lily took a deep breath, biting back her instinctive overprotective response to his suggestion. She’d had to do so more often lately, having developed a new-found respect for Augusta’s reluctance to share Neville’s secret, since Wormtail’s escape from Azkaban…
Snapping at Neville wouldn’t help though, especially since he did have a point. Having Augusta do the inviting would solve the problem of the Fidelius but, not only would she never agree to it, inviting that many people into their home was far too much of a security risk.
So, pushing back a wave of uncharacteristic appreciation for Augusta’s over-protectiveness, she managed to keep her voice gentle as she explained, “I’m sorry, Neville, but letting that many people in on your secret would defeat the whole point of trying to limit the danger that the two of you are in.”
“I know they won’t,” Lily conceded. The Fidelius Charm would prevent anyone but Augusta from giving away Neville’s secret, even if they wanted to. There was more than Neville’s secret at stake here. “But Wormtail might be able to use your friends to get through the wards, even with the Fidelius, especially if it’s Harry he’s after, and not you.”
“Oh,” Neville frowned, hope shattered, once more, “but, what are we going to tell all our friends?”
Lily placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, and smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry about that. James and I will take care of it.”
“Humph!” Harry stomped his foot loudly. “Will we still have friends after you take care of it?” he asked, his tone dripping with sarcasm. It wasn’t fair! It just wasn’t...
Lily’s hand dropped to her hip, and all traces of her smile disappeared as she turned to fix her not-yet-six-year-old son with her patent-pending disapproving glare. “Harry James Potter! Don’t you take that tone with me!”
“Sorry,” he mumbled, tumultuous expression fading into a morose frown.
Lily felt her expression soften, and she pulled him into a one-armed hug, beckoning with her free arm for Neville to join in. “I’m sorry boys,” she whispered sympathetically into their shoulders. She could understand their frustration. It couldn’t possibly be easy to be five –almost six– and cut off from their friends. “But it just isn’t safe for you to celebrate your birthday with your friends from school.”
Gently, she released the hug, and looked into two sets of glistening eyes. “That doesn’t mean we can’t have a party though. Sirius and Remus, and Gran can come over,” she pointed out, infusing as much enthusiasm as she could muster into the suggestion. “We can even invite the Creeveys over, if you want."
Augusta had suggested cutting all ties with even the neighbours, to protect the boys. But, tempting as it might have been to cut all ties with the outside world until the danger was past, it wouldn’t have been right. So, she’d told Carla a modified version of the truth; the Creeveys were welcome to come over, but Harry and Neville weren’t allowed to leave the house, until further notice, because the man who had killed Neville's parents had escaped prison, and was probably after Neville.
She was prepared to use the same story to explain the cancelled birthday party to the parents of Harry and Neville's school friends, regardless of how paranoid it would probably make her sound. Then again, Peter’s mug-shot —shared by the Minister of Magic with his Muggle counterpart—had been plastered across the Muggle news, with the caption armed and dangerous, for most of the past week, so maybe—
"But it's not the same," sniffled Neville, drawing Lily out of her thoughts. Colin had been over most days that week, and much as he liked the younger wizard –most of the time– he'd been looking forward to seeing some of his other friends.
"Yeah," agreed Harry, frowning deeply, "Colin is just one boy, and Dennis is almost as much of a baby as Heather—except that he can walk and talk."
Lily stifled a laugh at Harry’s description of the three-year-old, but she didn’t break. "Well, that's my final offer," she deadpanned, hands on her hips. "Take it, or leave it. I don't have to invite them over if you rather that I don't…"
"No. No," objected Harry, eyes widening in horror, at the threat. “Please invite them.”
Colin and Dennis might be younger than they were, but they were better that nothing, better than a birthday party with only grown-ups –even if one of those 'grown-ups' was Padfoot, who seemed to consider it his mission in life to keep them entertained...
A/N: Many thanks to my beta, Arnel, for her help on this chapter.