Lily stopped short, curious as to what had made Heather so excited. The toddler was pointing energetically out the living room window, but the object of her attention was far from obvious— at not-quite-eleven-months-old she wasn’t very good at pointing yet.
There! Lily spotted it: the raised red flag on their Muggle mailbox.
“That’s right. It is red,” she answered, casting a glance towards the stairs that the boys had stomped up after she’d declared today to be an indoor day. They didn’t appear to be on their way back down.
“Shall we go check the mail?” she asked her daughter, lifting her up onto her hip, and pulling open the front door. The mailbox was inside the ward-line; it should be safe enough.
The toddler giggled in glee. “Hoot, hoot!”
“That’s right, the mail owl goes ‘hoot, hoot!’ but Muggles deliver their own mail, and they don’t hoot like owls.” Lily smiled affectionately and shifted her daughter to her left hip, freeing up her wand hand to check the mailbox for curses and open it.
As she pulled out a letter from Hermione, most-likely sent before the new Fidelius went into effect, Lily couldn’t help but smile at the young witch’s fortuitous timing.
Aside from Heather’s clueless babbling, the mood had been understandably sombre at breakfast, as the boys continued to digest yesterday’s close call and the newly-cast Fidelius. They hadn’t even argued with the newly-minted parental decree that they couldn’t play outdoors again until after James and Sirius double-checked the wards, and would need adult supervision once they were allowed outdoors again.
A letter from Hermione would go a long way towards cheering them up.
“Shall we go tell your brothers that they have mail?” she asked, heading back towards the house as quickly as she could with Heather weighing her down. The toddler giggled and made a nearly successful grab for the envelope.
“No, I don’t think so.” Lily set her daughter down in the entrance hall, effectively cutting off further attempts, before closing the front door behind them. “The boys won’t appreciate it if you chew on their letter.”
Disregarding Heather’s incoherent babbling—she didn’t seem overly upset at having the letter removed from reach— Lily hollered up the stairs, “You’ve got mail, boys!”
She didn’t have long to wait. Her announcement was met with near instantaneous thundering footsteps leaving the boys’ room and, less than a minute later, she found herself seated on the couch, squeezed between the boys. Gently fending off Heather’s attempts to clamber onto her lap, Lily broke the seal on the letter, and started to read aloud:
“Dear Harry and Neville,
I was so happy to get your letters, though they did leave me with tons of questions: What is Azkaban? Who is Wormtail? Why would he want to kill Harry? If Harry becomes a Secret will I forget where to mail your letters?
I’m sorry to hear that you are confined to the house. Hopefully everything will work out soon and Lily will let you out.
I still haven’t made any new friends, but my minder, Lisa, says that her best friend, Molly, has a younger sister about my age. Her family is out of town this week, but Lisa promised to introduce us as soon as they come back. Lisa’s the coolest minder ever. She plays with Annie and me, and she even helps me climb the tree in our back garden, so that I can sit in its branches while I read.
Next week she promised to take me watch The Great Mouse Detective. Maybe that will help give me some perspective on your rodent problem, though probably not...
I continue to miss you both. Good luck with your Wormtail problem.
Your friend forever,
“What’s ‘The Great Mouse Detective,’ Lily?” asked Neville.
“I’m not sure,” she admitted, “probably a film of some sort, if they’re going to go watch it. Why don’t you ask Hermione? I’m sure she’ll be happy to tell you about it, in her next letter.”
“Can we write our letters now, Mum?” asked Harry, chewing on his lip nervously. “I want to tell Hermione about the Secret, just in case she forgot me,” he added, unable to fully banish the worry, despite his parents’ multiple reassurances.
Lily sighed, but didn’t bother trying to console him. If everything she and James had said yesterday hadn’t calmed his fears, repeating herself today wasn’t going to help any. Probably the only thing that would was hearing from Hermione’s own lips that she hadn’t forgotten him.
She made a mental note to track down the Grangers’ new telephone number and to coach James through the process of calling them, on the weekend. Including Hermione in James’s Secret-telling rounds yesterday had been impossible without inspiring questions from her parents that couldn't be answered, but she’d promised Harry that Hermione wouldn't be kept in the dark for long. If she was going to continue exchanging letters with the boys, she needed to know their Secret. Not to mention, after a month of nothing but letters, it would do the boys some good to hear her voice, and her to hear theirs.
But that could wait. Right now, the boys were staring at her expectantly, waiting for her to write their letters. “Let’s go into the kitchen so that I’ve got a table to write on.”
The boys followed her meekly into the kitchen, with Heather crawling along quietly behind them. Then, they kept their sister entertained, while Lily retrieved the pen and left-over paper she’d in stored in a corner after writing their last letters, and settled herself at the table.
Finally bracing herself for an argument she asked, “Who’s first?”
“Harry should go first,” suggested Neville, showing more maturity than Lily had expected. “He’s got more to say.”
Harry smiled gratefully.
You sure asked a lot of questions. Azkaban is a really scary prison for wizards. Wormtail is an old friend of my father’s who tried to betray my family to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Mum and Dad think that maybe he escaped from prison to finish us off.
He tried to break through the wards on our home yesterday, when me and Neville were playing outside. It was really scary. So now we can’t go outside again, and Mum and Dad have decided to make me a Secret, like Neville.
Mum promised that the spell won’t make you forget about me, but, it's not safe for us to send the Secret in the mail, so don't be scared if you find that some things start getting fuzzy in your mind or memory. Mum says that it's normal, and promised that Dad will tell you my Secret soon.
If you write again before we talk, send your letter to Neville only, so that it will get to us, since you already know Neville’s Secret.
I have to go now because he’s trying to be nice and hasn’t said, but I think Neville really wants to write his letter now...
I miss you lots and lots,
Neville bounced from one foot to another while he waited for Lily to pull out a fresh sheet of paper for his letter. He knew that Harry was unhappy and nervous about becoming a Secret, and that he was worried that Hermione had forgotten about him, which was why he’d let him go first, but being patient was hard. He wanted to write to Hermione too...
Harry is right; yesterday was really scary. Even though Lily and James have told me about the time when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named tried to kill me as a baby, I don’t remember. It’s different when you remember.
Your minder sounds really cool. I can’t believe she let you climb a tree. Lily always says that it’s too dangerous, and she can cast magic to make sure that we don’t get hurt.
I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t made any new friends yet, but I’m sure you will soon, as long as you remember not to act like a know-it-all —at least not until they know you good enough. I know you sometimes do it because you’re scared, and you want people to like you, but it doesn’t work, so just don’t, okay?
What’s ‘The Great Mouse Detective’? I asked Lily but she said she wasn’t sure. I thought that mice weren’t very smart, so how can one be a detective...?
Write back soon,
A/N: I’d like to thank my wonderful beta, Arnel, who went the extra mile to help me iron as many Americanisms as possible, out of this chapter.