Chapter 2

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Early October 1981

“This was a mistake.”

James Potter raised his eyes from the stove to his wife. Lily held up a slip of parchment and sighed as she collapsed into one of the chairs surrounding their kitchen table.

Her son squealed from his place in the high chair beside her, indignant that his mother’s attention was elsewhere. The redheaded witch giggled lightly and leaned forward to plant a sloppy kiss on the boy’s cheek.

“What was a mistake, Lily-flower?”

Sadness leached into her emerald eyes as she turned to face her husband again. “Trusting Dumbledore. Albus is convinced that Harry is the boy in the prophecy. He’s refusing to believe that it may be Frank and Alice’s son. He’s painting a bloody target on our son’s back!”

James quickly abandoned their dinner as he flicked the stove off carelessly. Two steps were all it took until he was crouched in front of his wife, his hands cupping her cheeks gently. “Nothing will happen to Harry. I promise.” The couple embraced tightly as Lily fought back frustrated tears. “Have you heard from Severus?”

A huff of laughter escaped her as she pulled back, wiping the single tear that had managed to escape. “Yes. He can arrange a meeting in the coming weeks. But we have to be absolutely sure. This isn’t something to take lightly. It changes everything.”

“Ma!” Fed up with being ignored, Harry banged on the tray of his high chair. Lily and James burst into laughter as they stared at their son. James stood and lifted the boy from his seat, hugging him tightly against his chest. Lily followed suit, wrapping her arms around them both.

“Have Severus arrange a meeting. I’ll tell Padfoot, though he’ll be unhappy.”

“He’ll come around though. He loves Harry almost as much as us.”

The couple smiled at the small boy sandwiched between them. They’d do anything for their little boy, even if it meant embracing the man they’d fought so hard against. Nothing was worth losing their son.

x . x . x . x . x

“Are you sure?”

James placed a hand on his best friend’s shoulder as they stared into each other’s eyes. “Dumbledore won’t listen to reason. This is the only way.”

Sirius Black sighed. From the moment Albus had come to them with this bloody prophecy and outright declared that it couldn’t possibly refer to anyone besides James and Lily’s Harry, he’d known it would come to this. The old wizard was much too arrogant to consider the possibility of being wrong.

“Don’t do anything reckless.” Lily raised an eyebrow as she fastened her cloak at the hollow of her throat. Sirius rolled his eyes as a smile lit his face for the first time that night. “Alright, don’t do anything too reckless.”

Lily pulled her husband’s best friend into a tight hug. The leather of his jacket, still cold from the ride over on his motorcycle, was a welcome distraction from the danger they were about to walk into.

“Now, Harry’s already had dinner and a bath. Do not let him fly that blasted broom in the house this time! I mean it, Sirius!” James and Harry laughed as she stomped her foot childishly. “Both of you are incorrigible! Honestly!”

“Up!”

The word was clearly a demand, despite the adorable delivery, and Lily complied as she lifted Harry into her arms. “Now, you be good for Sirius. We’ll be back before you know it.” Her voice wobbled as she clutched Harry tighter in her arms.

James frowned as he caught sight of the large grandfather clock in the foyer. “We have to go. Severus will be waiting.”

“Give Snivellus my best!” Lily rolled her eyes at Sirius as he grabbed Harry from her.

“Be nice, Pa’oot!”

Harry’s parents burst into laughter as Sirius’ face morphed into one of mild disgust. “Yes. Be nice, Padfoot. We’ll be back soon.” Lily kissed both of their cheeks before rushing out the door in a flurry of dark fabric.

James paused in the doorway, glancing over his shoulder at his best friend and his son. Yes. He’d do anything for Harry.

x . x . x . x . x

The fireplace flared with green flames as Albus Dumbledore stepped through to the kitchen of number 12 Grimmauld Place. He glanced around, puzzled to find no one in residence.

He prowled through the first floor, careful to avoid disturbing the portrait of Walburga Black. There were slight creaks of movement from the floor above and he sighed. If he caught Sirius with another one of the trollops he insisted on bringing back to headquarters, he’d have to start putting more protections in place to keep the Order safe.

“…telling you, Moony.”

Dumbledore paused just outside the library, hidden in the shadows as he eavesdropped.

“They’re convinced?”

His nose wrinkled. Remus Lupin was one of James and Sirius’ oldest friends from school, yet Dumbledore was reluctant to include him in the Order. The repercussions of harboring and befriending a werewolf just weren’t worth it. A barklike laugh caught his attention once more.

“They already spoke to him. He’s agreed not to hurt Harry.”

Puzzled, Dumbledore continued to listen. Remus already knew he’d extended his protections to the Potters. In fact, he’d been the one to encourage them to accept.

“And you trust him? Voldemort isn’t exactly one for keeping promises unless they suit him.”

“It doesn’t matter what I think. James and Lily made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

Reeling with this newfound information, Dumbledore crept quietly back down the stairs. He soon found himself in the kitchen, seated at the long wooden table though he had no recollection of how he got there.

James and Lily betrayed the Order, betrayed him. Everything he’d worked so hard for would be ruined in one careless instant if Voldemort managed to get his hands on Harry. He was the Chosen One.

The fireplace flared green once again as a disheveled redhead stumbled through. The noise of her arrival echoed off the stone walls, ratcheting higher as two boys followed in her wake.

“Albus! Are we late?”

He smiled gently at Molly Weasley as she tugged one of the twins further into the room so Bill could help Charlie as he carried Ron on his hip. Percy scowled as he appeared in the grate, clutching another wiggling twin who ran to join his other half. Albus wrinkled his nose. He’d need a way to tell them apart by the time they entered Hogwarts or he’d never get a moment of peace. Arthur stepped through at last, a small bundle of blankets cradled securely in his arms.

“Oh, is this little Ginevra?” Albus stood and stepped toward the Weasley patriarch as he held his daughter proudly. “A beauty, I see. Takes after her mother.”

His eye twinkled as he smiled toward Molly, who giggled as a blush crept up her cheeks.

“Oh, stop it, Albus! Now, where is everyone?”

“Andromeda will be here shortly with Nymphadora. She jumped at the chance to help your older boys watch the little ones.” Albus smiled toward Bill and Charlie. “The Potters should be here soon with little Harry and Sirius is around somewhere. I believe that’s everyone we can expect tonight.”

“I’m unsure whether to be gratified or insulted that you didn’t mention me.”

“Oh.” Molly’s voice flattened at the sound of Severus’s voice. “Hello. Uh, I hope you’re well, Severus. Let me just get the children settled…”

She bustled past, cringing slightly away from the man who’d recently turned spy for the light.

“Come along then. Fred, stop that this instant! Geor-” The shrill screaming of the blasted painting in the entry overpowered whatever else Molly shouted and they heard what sounded like a stampede as Sirius rushed downstairs to silence the portrait.

Albus just shook his head. Perhaps this war would be over and he could retire before the redheaded twins started at Hogwarts.

“What’s this meeting about, Albus? The Dark Lord has also called a meeting.”

“All in good time, Severus.” A draft swept through the hallway as the front door opened and closed. “That would be the Potters. We only have to wait on Andromeda and Ted.”

As if summoned by the mention of their names, a pretty brunette stepped out of the fireplace with a small girl.

“Sorry, Albus! Ted’s on his way. He got caught up at work and someone decided to change their outfit four different times before we left.”

“Ah, so she takes after her favorite uncle then!” A squeal filled the small kitchen as the girl ran toward Sirius as he rounded the corner. “Oomph! What are they feeding you, Dora?! You’re getting bigger by the day!”

Nymphadora giggled and Andromeda rolled her eyes at her cousin. “Very funny. Go on and join the children, Nymphadora.”

“Don’t call me Nymphadora!”

Molly and Arthur held the door open as the girl stalked past them on their way back to the kitchen. A cry of delight followed by a murmured conversation in the corridor heralded James and Lily’s entrance, having passed an excited Harry over to the young Tonks.

“Is this everyone?” James glanced around at the small gathering, a furrow between his brows.

“Yes. This will be brief, I assure you.” Albus stood at the head of the table as his followers seated themselves, his trademark grin somewhat lacking. “As some of you know, this is Severus Snape. He’s defected from Voldemort’s ranks and has turned spy for us. Please pass the information along to any parties who may have need of this knowledge.”

As the distinguished wizard strode purposefully toward the fireplace, the other occupants of the room shared a puzzled glance.

“Is that all?”

Without breaking stride, Albus nodded. His overactive mind worked furiously as he pondered what to do about his newest problem. Ignoring the protests of his fellow Order members, he grabbed a pinch of floo powder and disappeared into the flames.

x . x . x . x . x

Halloween 1981

“Is everything ready?”

Lily’s eyes met her husband’s as she stuffed another of Harry’s toys into a bag much deeper than it appeared.

“Yes. I’m almost done with Harry’s things. And that’s the last of it.”

James stepped into the small room that had belonged to Harry so briefly. They’d tried to make it a real home, but the feeling of impermanence prevaded enough to unsettle them.

As Harry slumbered in the small white crib under the window, James set about to help Lily pack. They worked in silence, each lost in their own thoughts as the night grew darker and darker outside their small house.

A soft knock pulled them from their musings, a tremor of fear running through them both. No one was supposed to be able to find them. Their house was a closely guarded secret.

“Stay with Harry! If you have to, run.” Lily’s eyes filled with tears at James’s whispered instructions. His hand gripped his wand tightly as he grabbed his wife in a strong embrace. “I love you.”

“James-”

“It will be fine. I love you.

Lily struggled for breath, her hands fisted into the soft cotton of her husband’s shirt. “I love you. James-”

He silenced her with a kiss. Desperation choked them as their lips met in a bruising kiss. His free hand fisted in her hair as her nails left crescent shaped indentations on his back.

Another knock, laced with impatience, sounded as they broke apart. “Go. I love you.”

James stepped away, his heart beating rapidly in his chest as he slowly descended the narrow stairs. He glanced over his shoulder one last time, the corners of his lips lifted into a smile as he caught sight of his wife.

Trepidation flooded through his mind as he tightened the grip on his wand. His footsteps sounded strangely magnified on the hardwood floors as he made his way toward the front door.

There was no peephole and the numerous wards erected around the property prevented him from discerning the identity of their caller. Gathering his courage, he gripped the doorknob tightly as he sent a silent plea to his ancestors.

Time slowed as he twisted the knob and pulled the door inward, his wand gripped tightly in his fist. His mind was clear, his mind ready to cast an immediate protego if the need arose.

“Oh!” His body relaxed instantly, the relief he felt nearly palpable in the cool night air. “I wasn’t expecting you. Please, come in.”

x . x . x . x . x

“Check and mate.”

Sirius grinned widely as Remus groaned in defeat. “You’re cheating.”

The dark haired man laughed boisterously as he stood to cross the library. He deftly grabbed two glasses from the cabinet in the corner as he perused the beverage options available.

“How in the world would I cheat, Moony? Just face it, you may be booksmart but I’ve got str-” A shiver ran through him, interrupting his train of thought.

“Padfoot?”

“I just…something’s not right.” His hands shook as he replaced the crystal tumblers on the shelf. Dread prickled his mind as he tried to figure out the abrupt shift in his mood.

Remus nodded cautiously as a chill slithered down his spine. His senses tingled dangerously as his other side paced restlessly within his mind.

“Can you feel it?” Sirius twitched in agitation as Remus nodded. “It’s as if-there’s a crack in my mind, but I can’t figure it out…”

“I should go. I’ll check on everyone. You stay here in case…well, send Kreacher if there’s news.”

Sirius nodded absently as one of his oldest friends hastened out the door, his footsteps echoing in the silent hallway.

x . x . x . x . x

Panic dulled his senses as Remus stepped through the fireplace. Startled eyes met his at the unexpected interruption.

“I’m sorry, Andromeda. Is everything alright here?”

The woman raised an eyebrow as she lowered her fork slowly. The uneaten bite of salad appeared to almost wither under the intensity of emotion rolling off the werewolf.

“As far as I know.” She glanced at her husband and daughter, both with equally perplexed expression. “Why? What’s happened?”

Dropping uninvited into a chair, Remus ran a hand through his messy hair. “That’s the thing! I have no idea! Sirius and I were playing chess and all of a sudden we just felt…wrong. I’ve been to see almost everyone I can think of, save Dumbledore of course, but nothing is wrong anywhere.”

Silence pervaded the small kitchen until someone cleared a throat. “Uncle Moony?”

Despite the urgent sense of anticipation, Remus smiled lightly at the small girl. “What is it, Dora?”

“Have you checked with Uncle James?”

x . x . x . x . x

Remus stepped through the floo in Potter’s Cottage to a scene of utter desolation. Moonlight filtered through the gaping hole in the ceiling, illuminating the destruction of the small house.

Rage battled with despair as he took in the devastation. Plaster dust rained from the ceiling as he picked his way carefully over toppled furniture and rubble. His wand shook as he held it aloft, the soft lumos casting shaky light over the wreckage.

His breath caught in his throat and he gasped out a sob as he rounded the corner to the front hall. His vision faded and his knees buckled at the sight before him.

“Prongs…”

It was a whispered plea, a desperate wish that he’d wake up from the nightmare he’d somehow become trapped in. Remus crept forward, his chest tightening with every careful step.

He approached his friend slowly, his knees falling with bruising force as he sank to the step beside James’s hip. His glasses were crooked. Out of everything, he chose to focus on his glasses; the way they sat slightly askew, tilted to the right in a way they’d never been before. Lily would be furious if she could see how filthy they were.

The werewolf snapped to attention at the thought of his friend’s wife. And Harry!

His muscles screamed as he scrambled up the stairs, stumbling over bits of debris. Uncaring of the noise he made, he tore across the landing and skidded to a stop. He gasped in a breath as he faced the door. The pristine white door with the small moving name plate was distinctly incongruous with the rest of the ruined house.

His over sensitive hearing picked up a heartbeat and his own leapt at the thought of Harry. Remus carefully twisted the knob with trembling fingers, terrified to see what had happened inside the nursery.

x . x . x . x . x

Sirius gnawed on his thumbnail despite the lack of actual nail to bite. Andromeda fussed around the kitchen as he stared unblinkingly into the fireplace.

He should’ve been back by now. Remus had left hours ago and while a steady trickle of Order members arrived to crowd his house, his best friend hadn’t returned.

Another flare of green heralded the arrival of yet another unwelcome visitor and Sirius drew back quickly as a blur of red launched itself toward him.

“Oh, Sirius! I just heard!”

His anxiety ratcheted higher as Molly Weasley sobbed into his shirt, her fingers biting harshly into the muscles underneath.

“Heard what?!”

His eyes swung toward Arthur as he stepped into the room and Sirius’s heart nearly stopped at the pity in his eyes.

“No. No, nothing happened. Right? Everyone’s fine.” He stumbled backward, tearing himself from the older woman’s grip. His eyes were wide, his breathing harsh and frantic as he swung his eyes to his cousin. “Andy, please! Everyone’s fine. Everything-every-nooooo….”

She approached him warily. Uneasiness coursed through her. She knew the where Remus had gone as he’d rushed to her fireplace. And the overwhelming sense of dread had only grown as the minutes, then hours, ticked by and Remus failed to return.

Another flash of green lit the room. Order members crowded the hallway outside of the kitchen as they waited for news, their ears alert for any change happening in the small kitchen.

Sirius ground his teeth and refused to raise his eyes. His cousin, his unshakeable and always collected cousin, let out a wail. And he knew.

James. Prongs.

It took a certain type of person to bring so many others together. It took charisma and charm and the unique ability to empathize without condescension. It took someone who loved unconditionally, someone lovable to even the most hardened of hearts. It was those qualities and more that James had in spades.

An anguished cry ripped through him, his chest aching with hopelessness as he doubled over and fell limply to his knees. The silence around him broke a moment later as the small boy in

Dumbledore’s arms cried out for his parents.

x . x . x . x . x

He would kill him! First he’d make him beg and then he’d kill him, along with all the scum that followed him!

Sirius appeared at the gates of Malfoy Manor, his breathing harsh and ragged as he stalked forward. He blasted the gates apart without a word, his anger simmering and lending itself to the destruction he so desperately sought.

The front door, so austere and formal, dissolved into a million slivers of wood ready to slice their way through his already ragged body. He tracked mud and rain through the entrance hall, his boots echoing loudly against the marble as his wand threw sparks into the darkness.

“Riddle!”

He paused just inside the foyer, waiting for someone-anyone-to come. To kill or be killed, he really didn’t care.

“Sirius? Wha-Ahh!” Narcissa ducked as a curse sailed past her head, shattering a portion of marble until it was nothing but dust.

“Black! Have you lost your senses?!” Lucius darted around his wife, his silk dressing gown billowing around him as he faced his cousin-in-law.

“Tell me where that two-faced bloody fucking coward is!” Hatred seethed in his chest, his magic lashing out at anything within reach. Cracks spiderwebbed across the floor and up the wall as Sirius fought to control the violence waiting to be unleashed.

Now wasn’t the time. Malfoy was nothing. A mere irritant that he had to endure until he found his true prize. Then-then he’d give Lucius all he deserved and more.

“Oi! Quiet down out there! You woke the babies!”

Sirius paused, startled into inaction by his cousin’s words, and Lucius seized the opportunity to disarm him. He barely batted an eye. If he couldn’t use his magic, he’d finish them the Muggle way. It wasn’t the first time he’d done it and it surely wouldn’t be the last, if he actually made it through the night.

Bellatrix appeared in the large arch leading to one of the Manor’s many sitting rooms, her hands braced on her hips as she glared at Sirius. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing here, Black?!” Her voice lowered into a hiss as malice seeped into her words. “I should be the one breaking down your door. After all it was your precious Order that killed my husband and destroyed my home!”

“You killed Lily and Jam-wait. What?”

Lucius stepped forward cautiously, his blond brows lowered over his eyes. “I swear to you, Black, we haven’t done anything to the Potters.”

Pushing back the wave of agony threatening to undo him, Sirius growled. “No! They’re dead! It had to be you lot!”

Narcissa frowned as she glanced over her shoulder. “Sirius, we haven’t done anything. The Dark Lord expressly forbid anyone from harming the Potters.”

His mind went blank as Bellatrix stepped forward, gently taking his arm and towing him toward the sitting room. His cousin, who he’d always known was dark as pitch and mad as a hatter, was being…loving? “Come, cousin. There’s something you need to hear.”

It was the two small children that captured his attention first. The blond boy with slate grey eyes could only be Narcissa’s son, but the brunette girl he couldn’t quite place. His eyes widened in surprise as Bellatrix stepped away and lifted her gently, ignoring the boy’s squawk of protest as his friend was taken away.

“You-you have a daughter?”

Her eyes softened as she pressed a soft kiss to the girl’s head. “She’s not born of my blood, but she’s mine. The Dark Lord tasked me with raising her.” She stepped forward cautiously, as if she thought he’d attack a toddler. “This is Hermione. And the boy trying to climb up my skirts is Draco.” Sirius glanced down and couldn’t help the smile that pulled at his lips. The little boy did seem to be trying to climb Bellatrix’s skirt.

“And what about Harry?!” His anger surged forward again as he stepped menacingly toward his cousins. “He’ll never know his parents now and someone has to pay!”

“Believe me. Someone will.”

Sirius spun quickly at the voice. “Moony?!”

The werewolf stared at his friend, his arm still wrapped tightly around the man beside him. The dark haired man let out a harsh sob and Remus turned his attention back to him as Sirius stared in confusion.

“I don’t-what…?”

“Eloquent as always, Black.” Lucius drawled. “Cissa, why don’t you and Bella take the children to the nursery?” The women left without a word as he gently steered Sirius toward his friend. “Let’s sit. Stitch?” A house elf popped into the room and stared expectantly at his master. “I believe some refreshments are in order. The elf made brandy, if you please. Thank you.”

Sirius gulped loudly as Remus rose to his full height, his eye reflecting the same agony he felt himself. “James. He’s…”

“I know, Padfoot. I know.” Remus pulled him into a tight hug, the men rocking slightly as salty tears slid down their cheeks. “We’ll make them pay, I promise you. Together, we’ll make them pay.”

“But who?!”

“Hah!” Three pairs of eyes swung to the fourth. Black eyes rimmed in red glared back as he choked back another sob. “Who else?”

Severus.”

Sirius glanced from Lucius back to his former childhood nemesis, who sneered hatefully up at him.

“Dumbledore.”

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