Part 1 - The Blow and the Fallout
It was the last week in October. The weather had been stormy, cold and grey, with lots of rain and a strong wind, that blew the leaves from the trees with a vengeance. A young man pulled up the collar of his Muggle coat up to his ears and his scarf up to cover his mouth. He had his hands firmly in his pockets and walked against the wind and the rain to cross the park that was a convenient shortcut to reach his home a bit quicker.
The young man had slightly shaggy light brown hair and unusual eyes. Normally they were a lighter shade of brown, but when there was candlelight they shone in a warm amber colour. His face was an even oval, with a nicely shaped nose and high cheekbones. He had a nicely curved mouth and soft lips, which he worried, while he walked. A quick look at his watch made him speed up. It was late and he was expected to be at home by now. His roommate was already suspicious of his long hours of 'work'.
When he finally reached his destination the door to the flat seemed to burst open all by itself and Remus Lupin was greeted by a Sirius Black who looked furious about his delay.
"Where have you been?" he shouted.
"I'm sorry, Sirius, we ran late…"
"Who is 'we' this time, Remus?" Sirius wanted to know.
Remus sighed, pulled off his coat and his scarf, hung everything on the coat rack and cast a quick drying charm on the rather wet clothes. He hardly dared to look at Sirius.
"My team at work, Sirius," he said calmly.
Remus needed every last bit of his usual calmness to stay friendly. He couldn't tell Sirius where he had been and with whom.
"Well then… I just waited for you to come home, because I need to go out now, Remus. It'll probably be late…" Sirius said.
Remus just stared after his friend, who quickly got dressed into his leather coat and grabbed his helmet, dragon-hide gloves and the keys to his motorbike.
"Ride carefully, Sirius!" he whispered at the retreating back.
Remus closed the door and sighed again. He didn't even ask where Sirius vanished to, it would either be James and Lily's house or wherever he turned to these days. Remus really wasn't so sure about his friend anymore. They had hardly talked lately, and when they had talked they hadn't said much of anything at all. Remus went to the kitchen, tapped the kettle with his wand and made fresh tea, which he kept warm by his side and sat down in the living room to spend the rest of the evening reading.
But he couldn't concentrate on his book. His thoughts followed Sirius, the man he secretly loved. Remus had known for a long time, that his love interest wouldn't be a woman and he had fallen for his best friend a few years ago already. When Sirius had asked him to move in with him after school he had quite gladly accepted. He knew that once he left Hogwarts he would be in need of someone close, as he would have difficulties to find a job. There was no way he would be accepted at the Ministry, regardless of his near perfect NEWTS marks. It would be hard to find anything in the regular wizarding economy either, because it wouldn't take employers long before they found out about his condition. After more than a year of trying Remus had given up and found work in the Muggle world. He worked at a switchboard of a large department store, with very irregular hours, where he could swap shifts and have free days when the moon was full. It didn't even pay so badly and Remus was quite content, even though he had to spend much time in the Muggle world with a pretty boring job.
Sirius had found a job at the Ministry. He had just finished his legal apprenticeship in the Department of Law Enforcement and was now a junior lawyer working for Bartemius Crouch. It was quite a brilliant start of a career.
Remus saw the image of Sirius in his mind's eye. Dashingly handsome with his shoulder length black hair, steely grey eyes, considerably warmed because they laughed most of the time, his broad shoulders and well shaped long legs. Remus was still amazed that Sirius had chosen this branch of the Ministry, but he had to admit that Sirius was working quite hard to learn the tools and tricks of the trade. Sirius had never been a beacon of correctness at school, but Remus knew that he possessed a keen sense of justice. Sirius absolutely despised injustice in any form. He was constantly on the barricades when someone mistreated Remus. He was quite an able defender in court by now and Remus expected him to go on in this line of work, becoming a lawyer with a firm of his own once he was trained up.
Sirius had stormed out of the house, but as soon as he was on his bike and in the air he cooled off a bit, even though it was mostly because of the cold weather. He drove straight to Godric's Hollow, a tiny hamlet in Wales, where Lily and James had bought a cottage two months before. They had just finished moving in and were warding it off. Less than a month ago Dumbledore had informed them about a prophecy, which had been given to the old professor something over a year ago. Dumbledore believed in it and took it for real. Sirius wasn't quite sure what to think of it. James regarded him like a brother and the two never kept any secrets from each other, so he had told Sirius the full text of the prophecy.
James had also taken steps to have everything in order for his family should he fall victim to an attack. And he had good reason to do so, as Lily had just had another baby, only a year after Harry was born. Sirius thought fondly of the two little ones, Harry, the lively boy of fifteen months and his tiny sister Hannah, just ten weeks old now. James and Lily had made a testament, declaring Sirius to be the guardian of both of his children, choosing Remus, Hannah's godfather as the second guardian.
But they felt that regular wards, even the ones Remus had set up, would not be enough for their protection. Lily and Professor Flitwick had found an old charm, which they were going to use now. In the last meeting of the Order of the Phoenix they had discussed it. The Fidelius Charm would be perfect for them, Remus had beamed when he heard what they would do. The charm asked for a Secret Keeper, a person who would guard the knowledge of the Potters' whereabouts once the charm was cast. Sirius was chosen and even though Dumbledore himself had offered to be the Secret Keeper James would not have anyone else but Sirius. Sirius was ready to die to keep his friends and chosen family safe.
And now Sirius was on the way to see his friends to tell them that he had second thoughts. He reached Godric's Hollow just after seven, it was already totally dark and the weather had become even worse. Sirius spelled his bike impervious to the rain and left it in the short drive in front of the cottage. He knocked on the door and James opened to let him in.
"Hi Sirius. I was beginning to get worried…"
"Remus only got home ten minutes ago. He's running later every day…"
"Well, it's shortly before Halloween, they must have more calls where he works…"
"Yeah, I know."
Once they sat Sirius was delighted to find out that Harry was still up, even though the little one was quite tired. But he wasn't too tired to say hello and goodnight to his beloved 'Pafoo'. Sirius played with the toddler for a few minutes, then he gave him a hearty kiss on the cheeks and passed him to James, who took the little one to bed. Lily was still busy with Hannah, who she nursed. Sirius had a few minutes to settle down before James and Lily returned from their children's rooms to join him.
"Did you have dinner, Siri?" Lily asked.
"I've had a quick something, yes, thanks, Lily."
"Okay. So what's so important, Sirius?" James asked.
Sirius took a deep breath.
"I suspect it's Remus…"
"Why do you think so?" James asked, baffled.
"Well, the spy can't be either of you, since you're the targets. I know it's not me and we will probably agree that dear Peter really can't be the one, because he's really not much of a wizard, let's face it. Voldemort has more than enough idiots around already, I really can't imagine that he'd engage another one if he can have a powerful wizard like Remus. And I've heard he's been going for the werewolves lately."
"Where have you heard that?" Lily asked.
"I've talked to the Prewett brothers. Fabian told me. He's had it from the Werewolf Registry, where they're really worried. And then they've discussed new legislatures in the DMLE to make it even harder for them. I told those idiots that this would be the very thing that would drive every last one of them right into Voldemort's arms. I don't think it's going to go through this time, Dumbledore has been after them to leave their fingers from it, too. I don't think Remus does it out of his free will, I can't imagine he'd do that, James!"
"Well, that doesn't change anything about our plans, now does it?"
"No, but it disqualifies me from being your Secret Keeper, James! Remus knows about it, we have to switch!"
"Who should substitute then?" Lily asked in a tight voice.
"I think, Peter would be the best choice…" Sirius suggested, "He's kept out of everything so far, I mean, he's really been just there, nothing else…"
While James was ready to consider this choice, Lily protested:
"As much as I like Peter, I'm really not sure I want to entrust him with our lives, Sirius!"
"No one will know about the switch. We won't even tell Dumbledore about it. Everyone will think it's me and the Death Eaters will certainly come after me, and no one will think of Peter. I don't think anyone would expect you to do this…" Sirius insisted.
"You know, he has a point there, Lily," James said.
"Yes, he does."
They discussed it for an hour before Lily was convinced that it was a good idea. But then James finally got up and went to the fireplace to call Peter over. They asked their friend and Peter accepted after a bit of coaxing. Sirius hugged both of his friends tightly, because he expected not to see them for a very long time. He then left the house and Lily cast the charm with Peter Pettigrew as their Secret Keeper.
Sirius returned home and found Remus still in the living room, his book open on his lap, his head tilted on top of the back of the sofa, asleep. Sirius looked at his friend and felt tears welling up. He had never been able to tell his friend how much he loved him. He loved him far beyond the affection for a friend, Sirius had loved him ever since he had found out about the werewolf. He had always known he loved Remus, but only about a year ago had he started to feel a different quality in his love. He felt it in his groin as well as in his heart. The revelation had been a shock for a moment and it had taken him about half a year to even accept it. Sirius had never thought about relationships much, he mostly enjoyed his friends and wasn't exactly looking for lovers. Being one of the best looking boys at Hogwarts had not led to him accepting the adoration of the female population of the school. On the contrary, it had made him very uncomfortable at most times. Now he understood the reasons for these feelings and after half a year of self-doubt and analysing he had come to terms with the fact that he was gay.
He had no idea how Remus felt. His werewolf friend had never looked after girls, but he had never looked after boys either. Sirius suspected that his friend didn't allow himself to think of love because he feared rejection as soon as people would find out about his affliction.
Sirius took off his outer clothes and hung them on the coat rack. Then he went to the living room, plucked the book from Remus' lap and laid it on the coffee table. He lifted Remus up very carefully and carried him to his bedroom. He laid him down gently and pulled the blankets over him. Then he left the room and closed the door.
Every day during the following week Sirius went to check on Peter. Wormtail always greeted him quite cheerfully and confirmed that everything at Godric's Hollow was okay, that he went to see them every other day. On Halloween evening Remus was out again working late until midnight. At eleven Sirius fire-called Peter as usual and didn't get a reply. Peter had told Sirius he'd be in that evening. Sirius was getting worried, so he got dressed and left to check on his friend in person. He found Peter's small apartment completely in order, but also completely empty. Now Sirius was really worried. There was no sign of a fight or even a struggle. He wondered if Death Eaters had somehow learned about Peter being the Potters' Secret Keeper. Sirius jumped back on his bike and all but flew over to Godric's Hollow, worried not only for James and his family, but also for Peter.
He could see the explosion from far away. It blew a part of the roof away, a green light shone out of a hole in the wall on the first floor, where Harry's nursery was. Sirius came too late!
He landed, jumped off his bike and dropped it almost carelessly on the ground, then he ran inside the house. In the lounge he found James' dead body. Sirius dropped down next to his friend, completely speechless. With a sob Sirius returned to where James lay and crouched down next to his friend again.
"James! Come on, James, wake up! James! James! Come on, Prongs, you can't do this to me, wake up, for Merlin's sake!"
All of a sudden he heard a slight swishing sound and looked up, just seeing the tail of a rat vanishing out of the corridor to the open door. Sirius understood in this moment who the traitor among them was. He was back up on his feet in a second and pulled his wand to stun the rat, but he was too late, once he got out of the lounge the rat was gone.
Sirius broke down again, sobbing. James was still almost warm, he couldn't be dead! Then Sirius looked up, worried sick about the rest of his family. He became aware of Harry screaming at the top of his lungs. He had never heard the baby scream that way, Sirius all but ran up the stairs to the nursery, wand still in hand. On the way he checked little Hannah's crib. The baby was asleep. To make sure Sirius checked that she was breathing and had a pulse. She was completely unharmed. Sirius sighed, relieved that at least the little one was still alive, too. He knew that Lily always set up a one-way silencing charm, so that the baby wasn't disturbed by noise from the others in the house. Then he moved to Harry's room. And found Lily. She was dead. She still had her wand in her hand, and a furious look was frozen on her face. Harry was in the cot, still screaming, but Sirius wasn't astonished as he saw a small wound on the little boy's forehead. It still bled. Sirius pulled his wand and quickly healed the cut, but he couldn't seem to get it to heal without leaving a scar. He lifted Harry from his cot and held him tightly, soothing him, kissed his cheeks and looked around.
Slowly Sirius got enough breath to assess the situation. He had not seen a Dark Mark above the house. What could have kept Voldemort from setting it up after he'd killed. He'd seen the explosion, which must have come from the Avada Kedavra curse cast in Harry's room. Harry's nursery had a huge hole in the wall where the window had been, just above Harry's cot. There was a considerable amount of rubble from the ceiling in the room, but most of it had been blown right out. Then Sirius looked around the room. As an investigator he had learned to look around for traces at a crime site. He had only just lifted up Harry, because the baby needed to be comforted. All of a sudden Sirius saw a pile of black robes. His eyes widened as he recognised them to be Voldemort's.
"Voldemort?" he wondered aloud. "His clothes all in a pile? So he didn't leave this place?"
He looked at Harry. What had happened here? He hadn't seen Voldemort here, only knew that he must have been around. His train of thought was interrupted when he heard heavy steps coming up the stairs. He looked out to see Hagrid squeezing himself through the hall.
"Sirius! Wha' are ye doin' 'ere, lad?" Hagrid asked.
"I went to check on Peter and when I didn't find him, I came here, because I was so worried. But I was too late, Hagrid! Help me to take the children to our flat, they're orphans now…"
"I'm told to take anyone still alive to Dumbledore, Sirius! I can't leave them to you…"
"You have to. I'm their legal guardian now. I'll speak to Dumbledore myself."
"No, I can't, I 'ave to take 'em there meself, Sirius!"
"And I won't let you, Hagrid. Harry is completely beside himself, I'm his godfather, I'll take care of him and Hannah… help me taking them to my place. We can contact Albus from there, okay?"
"I'll stay there until you contact 'im though, Sirius! I'm not goin' agains' 'is wishes!"
"That's okay, I don't want you to, but I'm not going to let these children out of my eyes. Something has happened here, don't touch anything, I'll have to cast a couple of Muggle-repelling charms, because we need to really find out what went on here before they're allowed to swarm this place! When I approached the house I saw the explosion that did this to the wall…"
Sirius nodded to the gaping hole in the wall where the wind and rain got in.
"Okay, I'll hold 'arry, you pick some stuff together to take along, okay?"
"Here, let me dry the blanket…"
Sirius dried the blanket and wrapped Harry into it, then he let Hagrid hold the baby. And then he packed up Harry's dresser and toys and even the cot, made everything small and put it into a bag.
"I'll fetch Hannah now…"
Sirius went to the other nursery, packed up Hannah's things just like Harry's and carefully placed the baby into the sling Lily always used.
"I'm sorry to wake you, little one, but you need to come to your godfather Moony and my place tonight…" Sirius whispered.
He returned to Hagrid and the two left the house. Sirius quickly cast the minimum amount of Muggle-repelling charms.
"There's my bike, it's big enough for both of us, Hagrid. It'll take us there within a few minutes…"
Only a quarter of an hour later they arrived at Sirius' flat. It was two o'clock now and they found a very worried, but very awake and frazzled Remus who gaped at them when they turned up with the two children and a huge bag full of the babies' things.
"Sirius! Hagrid! What happened? I thought, James and Lily were covered with the Fidelius, how could you get to the children?"
"Remus, help us to quickly set up the children in their room, then we'll have to contact Albus and we'll tell him and you everything!"
Half an hour later Harry and Hannah were asleep again. All three men looked down on the children and Remus tip-toed over to Hannah to kiss the little one on the forehead. Then he set up the one-way silencing charm Lily had always used and followed Hagrid and Sirius down to the living room.
"Now, Sirius, you've been their Secret Keeper, tell me what happened!" Remus said.
"No, Remus, I wasn't. We switched. Peter was their Secret Keeper…" Sirius said tiredly.
Both, Hagrid and Remus stared at him. It wasn't like Sirius to shift off his responsibility, so they insisted:
"Sirius, but what happened then?"
"Let's get Dumbledore here, then I don't need to tell it twice…" Sirius replied with a sigh.
"I'll go get 'im, Sirius. You're stayin' 'ere?"
"There are two little children sleeping upstairs, Hagrid, what do you think? That I would pull them out of their sleep for a second time in one night?" Sirius asked back angrily.
"Don't get shirty with Hagrid, Sirius. I'll make sure he stays here, Hagrid, go on, get Albus…"
It didn't take Albus long to get to them. He came to the flat with Minerva McGonagall and Hagrid, and he looked very, very angry.
"Explain yourself, Sirius," he said curtly.
"Before you get all over me and put me down, listen to my story, please, Albus!" Sirius said and offered them all seats.
Remus brought tea and once they had settled down Sirius started to tell them about the switch.
"I know you don't believe me, but it's true and I'm ready to take Veritaserum to repeat my statement."
"So let's get over the event one more time. You saw an explosion with a lot of green light when you approached the house, is that right, Sirius?" Albus asked.
"And there was a hole in the wall just over Harry's cot?"
"Over and behind. What's amazing is that the cot was completely okay. In fact I've taken it along so Harry can sleep in his familiar bed. Whatever he's been cursed with blew the wall right out of the house."
"I suppose that no one apart from us knows what happened there yet, so I'd like to go there with some Ministry people to have everything investigated. Is there something else you need to tell me, Sirius?"
"Yes. Two things. The most amazing one is that there was no Dark Mark in the sky above the house. It seems like Voldemort was there, but hasn't left the place. And the other… you know where Harry's room is, if you step into the room you'll find a pile of robes and clothes right next to the door on the right side. They're Voldemort's, I'm dead sure. Harry was still in his cot when I took him on my arms. He was screaming louder than I ever heard him scream before and you know he isn't actually a cry baby. But if Voldemort is gone it's still strange, because there was no wand on the floor. I haven't touched the pile though, it could be underneath. I didn't want to touch anything but Harry and his things. And I've seen Peter leave the house when I checked on James."
"And you couldn't catch him?" Dumbledore asked, baffled.
Sirius shook his head.
"Unfortunately not. He was too quick. There is something else I will need to tell you, Albus, but that can wait until after you've seen the house, it will only be important to catch Peter… and you'll understand why I couldn't get him."
"I will be back then. Now we have to discuss what is to happen with the children…"
"They're staying with us, Albus. James and Lily have it in their will that I'm their legal guardian," Sirius said firmly.
"Sirius, they need to be completely safe. Voldemort is still after them," Dumbledore said.
"And where would they be more safe than with us? If they weren't safe with their parents they won't be safe anywhere, Albus, we can only do our best," Sirius insisted.
"We will discuss this further when I'm back from Godric's Hollow. Minerva, may I ask you to stay here until I return?" Albus asked.
"Yes, of course, Albus."
"Good. I shall see you later."
Sirius was livid. He knew that Dumbledore didn't have any legal right to claim Harry and Hannah, so he stayed as calm as he could, but the stress of everything that had happened and the guilt at not having done the right thing to protect his best friends and the realisation of James and Lily's death started to set in and he broke down. Remus, who sat next to him on the couch, pulled him into his arms and they cried together for their best friends. Minerva blinked away the tears and remembered something practical:
"Lily nursed Hannah, didn't she?"
"Well, we need to get bottles and baby food then, to make her formula! She'll certainly be hungry soon."
Remus blanched. He swallowed and looked at Sirius.
"Sirius, can you hold on for a while? I'll go to the night apothecary to get what we need for the baby."
Sirius looked at Remus and nodded.
"I can. Be back soon, Moony!"
Remus got dressed warmly and went out. When he returned less than an hour later he found Sirius still on the sofa, with Minerva next to him, holding him. Sirius was asleep.
"He's only just fallen asleep now, Remus," Minerva whispered.
"I'll take him up to his bed then…" Remus replied and put his stuff down.
He levitated Sirius up and into his bedroom. Once he had covered his friend he came back down to the living room where Minerva looked at the baby food.
"We'd better prepare some, so it will be ready when she wakes up…" she suggested.
Together they managed to prepare the baby food. They cooled the bottles they had filled and left them in the kitchen. No ten minutes later they were woken by little Hannah who was hungry and cried for food. Remus ran up and picked his godchild out of her crib.
"There, there, my sweet one, food is ready, it's waiting for you already, love…" he said soothingly.
Luckily Harry had not woken up. Remus checked on him quickly and carried Hannah down the stairs to the living room. Minerva turned up with the bottle from the kitchen.
"Now then. Have you ever done this?" she asked Remus.
"With Harry when Lily stopped nursing him… you can give me the bottle. Might as well start to get used to it…"
Remus sat down, the baby firmly on his arm and offered her the bottle. But that wasn't what she was used to get, so it took quite a while before Remus had her convinced that this was all he could offer her. Finally she did suckle a bit and after a while she at least had enough to still her hunger. Remus put the bottle down and lifted the baby up to burp her. He was just finished changing her nappy when Dumbledore returned. Minerva let the old professor into the house.
Remus still had the baby on his arm. One glance at Dumbledore told him that the headmaster was very worried.
"Remus, I believe, I have reconstructed what must have happened in the nursery. – Where's Sirius?"
"Asleep. He broke down and cried. I had to go and get baby-food for Hannah, when I came back he was asleep. I took him up to his bed."
"I'll go and wake him up…" Minerva offered.
"Yes, please, Minerva, do so. He needs to hear this."
Sirius turned up with Minerva a few minutes later, wiping sleep and dried tears from his eyes. He sat down. Dumbledore conjured up fresh tea and told them of his findings:
"I found everything exactly as Sirius described. The pile of clothes lay next to the door, there was no wand. If what Sirius says is true and Peter was the traitor, then he might be the one carrying Voldemort's wand now. I expect it will not be too difficult to get hold of him, he is not the most talented of wizards…"
"I'm afraid that on the contrary it will be very hard to find him, Albus. Because Peter has a talent you know nothing about. He is an Animagus and his form is a common garden rat…" Sirius said straight out.
McGonagall jumped straight from her seat.
"What? Impossible! You know how he always had the greatest of problems in Transfigurations!" she cried.
"But he's still an Animagus. Ask Remus, he will confirm it…" Sirius said.
"Is that true, Remus?" Albus asked.
"Yes, I'm afraid it is…" Remus confirmed.
"But… how? And… when? You're not telling me that he did this all by himself, Sirius!" Minerva spluttered, very much out of her character.
At any other time Sirius would have grinned. To witness his very sovereign Transfigurations teacher in such a frazzled state would have been a treat had the situation not been so grave.
"Peter was an Animagus, but he wasn't the only one. I'm sorry, Remus, I know we promised to keep this among us, but I suppose it's time to own up. When we learned about Remus' werewolf we decided we wanted to do something to help him. Now we knew that there was no cure for his lycanthropy, but we were convinced there would have to be something that would at least make it possible to make his transformations easier for him. And after many nightly library raids we finally found out in several sources that werewolves rarely harm other animals and that animals couldn't be cursed. So from then on we looked for a way to become animals. That was when you brought your Animagus lecture in third year. Of course that was our solution, so more nightly library raids helped us to find out how to go about it. We managed our initial transformations around Christmas of our fifth year."
Dumbledore and McGonagall both stared at the young man and listened with interest as Sirius told them how they went about their task and how they managed their initial transformation in their fifth year.
"What's your form then, Sirius?" Albus asked.
Instead of a reply Sirius simply transformed into Padfoot. When he came back, Minerva said:
"That explains your ridiculous nickname…"
"I'm hurt, Minerva, he's got that nickname from me!" Remus said with a smile.
"What was James?"
"A stag. That's why we called him Prongs," Sirius said and his eyes filled with tears again.
Not only his. Dumbledore sighed. He returned to his findings:
"Now then. We found Voldemort's wand missing. It's a very peculiar one, yew, thirteen inches and with a phoenix feather. I know that, because it was a feather from Fawkes. When Fawkes gave a feather for Ollivanders to use I asked him to tell me once the wand he made from it would be sold. I then checked on Lily. He's killed her with Avada Kedavra. She must have put up quite a fight, from the way she looked. She might have sacrificed herself, because taken from the prophecy Voldemort couldn't have been interested in her. Lily and Hannah weren't really in danger, but Harry was his main target. I'm afraid that he has now marked the boy as his equal, Sirius, which is why Harry is still in a terrible danger. He needs to be safe where his mother's blood dwells and as there is only one surviving relative I will have to place him in his aunt's family."
"You are not going to split the siblings and I will not give my consent to that, Dumbledore. You have no idea how Lily's sister is. She resents everything that has to do with Lily and us. She will completely neglect Harry at best, but I suspect that she will hurt him instead if you put him into her hands. She has forbidden Lily to even get near her and her husband and especially her son who's six weeks older than Harry. There is no way in hell I will allow for this. Rather I go somewhere abroad with Remus and the children to keep them safe than that! It would be cruel!" Sirius stormed.
"I'm afraid I have to agree with Sirius there, Albus. I've met Petunia and Vernon Dursley, and all I can say is that they are probably the worst kind of Muggles you can meet. And I really don't have any problems with Muggles otherwise as you know very well. I fear, if you hand Harry over to those two they might as well help Voldemort in his task of killing Harry," Remus confirmed.
"But Harry needs to be safe! If that prophecy is true, and I now believe that more than ever, then we will have to face Voldemort again one day and then we will need Harry."
"Just so you understand that well, Albus: Harry is a living, breathing being with a soul and a heart and we will not tolerate you to regard and treat him as a weapon to get rid of Voldemort one day. For the moment he seems to be gone anyway!" Sirius said.
"Voldemort may be gone, but there are still all the Death Eaters around, Sirius, and who do you think they will be after as soon as it gets known that Voldemort has been vanquished by a baby of fifteen months?" Dumbledore insisted.
"Harry. But by the time they will know that he will already be nicely covered with the Fidelius charm with you as his Secret Keeper," Sirius shot back.
Dumbledore was rarely caught unawares but he found himself caught unawares now. He shot Sirius a look and the look he got back from Sirius clearly told him that he had found his match in his former student. Dumbledore knew in this moment that Sirius wasn't only a very talented and powerful young wizard, but that he would be a formidable adversary if he ever turned to the other side.
"And where will you live? This is a fine flat, but it's definitely too small for a family of four," Dumbledore said.
"Take your pick. I have inherited three houses from my uncle Alphard. Three, Albus, and all three are suitable. Personally I'd prefer the one in Cornwall, because it was uncle Alphard's favourite and the one he lived in most of his life. It's more than big enough with six bedrooms. We could still fix it up a bit, but it's inhabitable. Remus and I have spent some time there last summer."
Dumbledore considered this. Remus spoke up.
"I think, that is a very good idea, Albus. The secret you will keep is that Harry is with Sirius, Hannah and I, this way he will be covered wherever he goes with one of us. I would think that in a few years the charm will not be needed anymore and can be lifted anyway. I'm sure, Professor Flitwick would perform the charm for us, or yourself…" he suggested.
"That is actually a very good idea. You can still tell a chosen few about them, Albus. You might want to cover Hannah, too, because people could guess where Harry is when they see his sister," Minerva threw in.
Dumbledore sighed. He knew that he had no legal right to claim Harry and he had just learned that Sirius would fight like a lion to protect the child. He had not doubted the affection Sirius held for his godson, he was just afraid to lose the boy. If Dumbledore was quite honest with himself he had let himself be driven by his fear to lose the key person to vanquish Voldemort for good whenever that would be.
While he scratched his chin through his beard and contemplated, Sirius and Remus looked at each other. Remus was already thinking of quitting his job to take over the role as the children's surrogate mother and was putting together a mental list of everything they would need to do at the house to make it ready for the new family.
"Well, I can see that you will not give in to my preferred security measures, so we will have to do with your suggestion. It would probably have worked well if you hadn't put your trust in the wrong friend. But the investigation is not yet over, Sirius and we will have to ask you to testify under Veritaserum still. Be prepared to turn up before the Wizengamot soon."
"Anytime, Albus. I can come there with you right now. Apart from putting my trust in the wrong friend, as you say, I have done nothing wrong and as mad as I am right now at Wormtail, I will be there to help catch him but otherwise I won't touch him at all. I can't bring James and Lily back to life, but I know my responsibility towards their children and I'm ready to take it," Sirius said firmly.
Remus looked at him with adoration in his eyes. He loved Sirius when he was so determined and sincere. He still held Hannah on his arm, but the baby had fallen asleep a while ago. He just kept her there, because he didn't want to miss a second of this argument. As long as she was sleeping it was fine with him.
"I still think that Harry would be best off if he could grow up far away from the wizarding world. He'll be dragged through the media for weeks and months to come, Sirius, and then everyone will know him. He'll be famous for something he won't even remember. He'll be harassed all over the place from people who he doesn't know. There will be more than enough attention for him to put ideas into his head…"
"Albus, you do know the location of this house in Cornwall, don't you?"
"Not precisely, no… I've never visited Alphard there, only in his London house."
"Which he left to Andromeda. Well, it's on Gargle, one of the Scilly Isles, and not one that is otherwise inhabited or even seen and known to the Muggles. In other words we'll be completely outside of the Muggle and the wizarding world. As are most of the Black estates this whole island and the house are unplottable. It is still Floo connected, but we can restrict that if you wish. If you ask me it provides you with the best possible hiding place for Harry," Sirius explained in a very haughty tone.
"I suggest we can go there and see it today. Then I'll decide."
There was much to do. Remus and Sirius didn't even unpack the children's luggage beyond nappies for them and a change of clothes. They packed what they wanted to take along from their own things. Remus wrote his mental list of things to buy down and went on a shopping trip as soon as the shops opened. When he returned Sirius and Albus were already waiting for him in front of the fireplace. Minerva seemed to have returned to Hogwarts. Sirius put Harry on Remus' arm and said:
"I'll go ahead. The house is named Gargle Hall. That's also the Floo name."
With that he vanished with Hannah and Albus waited for Remus to follow with Harry, then he followed himself. He came out of an ornate big fireplace in a large open living room. The room was south faced and already filled to the brim with light from a window to the east. Albus looked around. As far as England went this was quite a lovely place. Even now at the beginning of November it was fairly warm and the sun shone quite brilliantly. A house-elf had turned up the moment Sirius had come in and he introduced the little creature to Dumbledore.
"Albus, this is Kisty, she used to be my uncle's house-elf here on the island. She still keeps the house in order. Kisty, your days of boredom are over, because Remus and I will move in here permanently with Harry and Hannah Potter."
"Master is going to live here? Oh, I is so happy, because I is having something to look after again!"
"That's good, Kisty, we'll fix the house up a bit, give the rooms a new lick of paint and so on, but we'll do that one by one, taking our time. I'm sorry to barge in so suddenly."
"It doesn't matter, master Sirius, you is very welcome and Kisty will go and make lunch for you right now…"
"Just give it about half an hour's time, Kisty, we have a look around before we eat, okay?"
Sirius picked up the large bag containing Harry's and Hannah's things and said:
"Well, let me show you the house then, Albus. This here is the front living room and dining room right over there."
They walked over to the dining room, which was separated from the living room by a glass wall with a wide glass door in a wooden frame painted in white, that swung to both sides. Turning around the corner there was a big kitchen. When they left the kitchen they found themselves in a corridor. Sirius pointed the rooms out:
"There behind the kitchen is Kisty's room. On the other side is the downstairs cloakroom with a small bathroom. Between them the main door. Then there's a study, quite nicely sized and next to the study is a small library. Then follows the small living room, faces to the west with the view of the Atlantic. We are just southwest of St. Agnes, the southernmost of the inhabited Scilly Islands. You can catch a glimpse of St. Agnes when you look out the kitchen and dining room windows. Let's go upstairs."
They climbed up the staircase and reached a spacious landing on the first floor.
"There are five bedrooms and three bathrooms on this floor. They're all nicely sized. Uncle Alphard's bedroom was this one here. My room was over there…"
Sirius pointed out two of the rooms facing south. Alphard's bedroom was clearly the master bedroom, as it was the largest of the five rooms. It had it's own bathroom. The room went through almost to the back of the house on the eastern side, where another smaller bedroom lay. Across the hall were three more bedrooms and two bathrooms.
"We'll give this one here to Hannah and the next one to Harry, Sirius, okay?" Remus suggested and pointed at the southernmost and adjoining rooms.
"Yes, unless you'd like to have the first one, then we'll give the next two to the children…" Sirius suggested.
He felt that Remus should have one of the nicest rooms in the house. The southern room on this side of the house was also a bit larger than the remaining two rooms and would suit an adult better than a small child, he thought. And then said so.
"Okay. We can still give it to her when she's growing up…" Remus gave in.
They deposited the children's bags in their new rooms. Then Sirius pointed up the smaller staircase to the uppermost floor.
"Up there is the attic, one large room, but there's nothing in it. It can be completely closed off, so if need be, Remus can use this one for his transformations. I'm otherwise thinking of just letting him outside, running always does him best and he doesn't quite injure himself like he does when he's locked up…" he explained to Albus, "We can then lock ourselves safely inside during the full moon nights."
Dumbledore looked impressed enough. They returned to the living room, where Sirius conjured a thick blanket for the baby and Remus finally let Harry down. Harry was looking for his toys, but didn't find anything, so he started to wail.
"Sorry, Harry, your toys are still all packed upstairs. I'll get some of them for you, okay?" Remus said and left to pick up some things for Harry. When he returned he placed Harry's favourite stuffed animal into his hands. Harry grabbed it and beamed at Moony.
"Ta, Harry!" he said.
"Moo'ey…" Harry said.
"Mum?" Harry asked.
"Sorry, love, but your mum isn't here right now," Remus said sadly.
Harry seemed to accept that. Remus thought bitterly that it had been good that he and Sirius sometimes took Harry for the night in the last three months, to get him used to being away from his parents and to give them ample opportunity to get used to the new baby.
"Good. The house is perfectly fine and should do well. I will cast the charm. I have to agree, that the secret should be that Harry and Hannah are with you two, not that they are in this house. But I still want you to stay here for as much time as you can spend here. I would suggest that you keep your job, Sirius, you can floo there. You can both officially move here and let everyone know that you have taken residence in the house you inherited from your uncle, Sirius. Since the children are covered with you two they should be safe this way. Officially we will have them placed with a family in Canada. I know of the perfect people who will stand in as their new foster parents if asked. That will keep sensation hungry wizards and witches from going there all too often, as we will not advertise the location. This solution allows the two of you the most possible personal freedom. When the worst is over we'll announce that the two children have returned to your care. In the meantime we might consider a few children from other Order members as playmates for Harry and Hannah. There are several choices, I'm thinking of little Neville Longbottom and Susan Bones for example. Philip McKinnon is a year older than Harry, he'd do very well, too."
"Then cast the charm, Albus. We're ready to stay here. We'll only have to pick up a few things from the flat, then we can settle in here. I have to report to work later on, and take off a few days. And we'll have to prepare for the funeral…"
"If you would like to leave that part to me, you would be most welcome, Sirius. There is going to be a big media circus, which has to be expected and the two of you will probably be right in the middle of the interest. We have yet to inform the Ministry and give the statements. The children were our first worry and now that we have settled that we can turn to the other important matters."
Remus' and Sirius' eyes filled with tears again. Both felt that they were running on adrenalin only. And they both realised that they would have to gather all their strength for the children and their daily lives and still find moments of quiet to be able to mourn. They looked at each other.
"Yes, Albus, I suppose that would be best. With the little ones we won't be able to take care of everything…"
"That's alright, Sirius, I see it that way, too. One last question before I cast the charm: who knows about this house?"
"James and Lily knew about it. I don't think any of my surviving family members apart from Andromeda and Ted know about it, as Alphard had bought it a while after his fall-out with the clan. He spent quite a lot of time here, but once they've disowned him they didn't exactly check on where and how he was. So there aren't very many people who would be able to find it. Peter doesn't know about it. He only knows we were on a vacation here on the Scilly Islands."
"Well, we'll have to do some tests about the reliability of the Fidelius charm. I cast it now. Then I will send some of my friends here to see how the two of you are doing, Poppy Pomfrey will be one and Filius Flitwick will be the other. I'll question them to find out what they've seen in here when they come back. Since they won't know about the children being here before they return their information will surely tell me how well Harry and Hannah are disguised. Now we need your house-elf, I will afterwards have to tell her where Harry and Hannah are."
"And test her first, Albus," Sirius suggested.
"Certainly. Are you ready?"
"Yes, go ahead."
Dumbledore pulled his wand and cast the charm.
"Fidelio Harry et Hannah Potter apud Sirius Black et Remus Lupin, accognoscerum Albus Dumbledore," he chanted and performed a series of wand movements while speaking the incantation.
A bulb of light came out of Dumbledore's wand and first covered the children and then Remus and Sirius and finally all four of them. Dumbledore watched as the bulb seemed to vanish inside the group of people he had just covered with the charm. He closed his eyes and dropped his wand.
"That's it?" asked Sirius.
"That's it," Dumbledore confirmed.
"Well, I'm calling Kisty then. – Kisty! Could you come to the living room, please?" Sirius called.
A second later the little house-elf joined them, looked around and asked, astonished:
"Where is the children? I is not seeing them around here anymore, but I is sure I is having them heard just a moment ago?"
Dumbledore smiled. He turned to Kisty and said:
"Kisty, these two children are in danger, that's why we have covered them under a charm. No one who does not get the information directly from me can see them. So I'm telling you now. Harry and Hannah Potter are with Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. – Can you see them now?"
Kisty turned to her master again and now she could see the two little ones again. She looked most relieved.
"Oh yes, I is seeing them again. Will sir have to tell Kisty again later, so she will see them?"
"No, Kisty, you will now see them always."
"And no one can harm them, even though I is seeing them?"
"No. You can actually tell anyone you like, they will still not see the children, because they don't have their knowledge from me."
"Oh, it is good then. Would sirs now like to come to the dining room and eat? I is preparing the lunch."
"Thank you, Kisty, we'd love to. This young lady here is hungry again and Harry will also like to have something in his belly," Sirius replied.
Sirius took Harry, Remus bent down to pick Hannah from the blanket. He went after Sirius and Dumbledore, looking longingly at Sirius' backside. With a little sigh he went to warm up the next bottle for little Hannah.
After lunch Dumbledore left. While Harry was napping Sirius went to report back to work and apologise for not showing up in the morning. He returned before any reporter was able to catch him and replaced Remus, who had to report to his job for another late shift. Remus wrote down his notice and handed it in as soon as he got a moment free.
"We're sorry to see you go, Mr. Lupin. You are doing very good work," his supervisor said.
"I'm sorry to leave, but I'm moving to the Scilly Isles in the next days. I'd be glad if I could actually leave as quickly as possible. I know it's sudden, but I have to go. A cousin of mine has died and she's leaving two very small children behind, the younger only ten weeks old. I'm the chosen guardian for them. We're provided for, but the children really need me now," Remus explained.
He didn't even blush as he lied.
"Oh, I see. Yes, such small children do need someone there. If you could maybe still do today's shift we would be very glad, then you are off for two days anyway and from then on you would have early shifts, so you won't be missed too badly."
"Thank you," Remus said.
He worked through his last shift, but his thoughts were far away on a sunny island in a friendly house with two tiny children and one very handsome Animagus.
Who was more than happy when Remus returned. Harry was now quite cranky, because he missed his mum and dad. They had immediately known that this moment would come and were somehow glad that it was now. Sirius carried Harry around.
"Hannah is already sleeping nicely. I've set up their rooms and started to transfigure the furniture more baby-looking."
"Oh, good. Shall I release you and take over Harry?"
"Yes, please – at least for a while. I'm out of breath!" Sirius moaned.
"Pass the little one over…"
Harry changed arms and didn't protest. Remus carried him around and when he felt Harry becoming heavier he looked down and saw that the boy was finally asleep. Sirius watched him and smiled.
"You always get them to sleep, Moony," he whispered.
Remus smiled back. The other three Marauders and Lily had often wondered about his 'secret' with which he got the children to sleep. Whenever they had trouble to get Harry to sleep James and Lily would call Remus over. So James suspected a secret method and tried to get it out of Remus, but Remus just kept smiling. He carried Harry up and put him into his cot. He covered the little boy and quietly left the room, which Sirius had decorated just like his old room had been. There was light blue wall paper with clouds and little Snitches. The furniture was all light blue as well. On the floor was a darker blue carpet.
Remus joined Sirius again. He sat down next to Padfoot and soon felt his friend leaning closer. 'If only he did that because he loves me,' Remus thought. He wondered if he would ever pluck up enough courage to actually tell Sirius that he loved him. Remus leaned his head against Sirius'. Both of them just sat there in silence, which was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable, they were just simply out of words.
"We should go to sleep, Sirius," Remus finally said.
"M-hm…" Sirius replied sleepily.
They did finally get up and walked up the stairs. On the landing Remus asked:
"You check on Harry, I check on Hannah tonight?"
"Yup. Fine with me. I leave my door open. You're off the next two days, aren't you?"
"Wow. You won't mind that I'm the provider then?"
Sirius smiled. He turned to Remus, embraced him and whispered:
"I love providing for you – and the children. We'll be a family now, Remus."
"M-hm. Thank you, Sirius. I knew I could count on you."
"I'm glad you do, Remus. Your task will be the tougher one than mine… you'll take care of those two little ones."
"How long did you take off?"
"They allowed me a full month. I will use some of the time to help looking for the rat, Remus."
"Good. – Goodnight, Padfoot."
They separated and went to their respective bedrooms. Sirius had taken over Alphard's room and changed it to his taste. He had also prepared Remus' room on the other side and furnished it to what he knew Remus would like.
Remus entered it and had to smile. The furniture was dark wood, but all the fabrics in the room were of a warm burnt orange and the wall was a soft eggshell. There was a four poster like at Hogwarts, a wardrobe and a dresser, a comfortable armchair and a small round table next to it sat at one of the windows and there was a large arrangement of bookcases and a writing desk. Remus still had to place his books in the bookcases and to put his clothes into the wardrobe and the dresser, but the book he had been reading was already on his bedside table.
"Oh Siri," Remus sighed.
It was with these things that Sirius showed Remus how much he liked his friend. And it was then when Remus loved him most. Remus prepared for bed and crept between the sheets which Kisty had kindly pre-heated so they were nice and toasty warm, just like Remus loved it. Another thing Sirius must have told the house-elf to do, because he knew about it.
'I really need to talk to Siri one of these days,' Remus thought.
Then he fell asleep. His night was interrupted by Hannah twice, when she needed food. She was still only ten weeks old, but she would suffer a lot less from the loss of her parents, since she was so small. While Remus held the bottle for her morning feeding, which Hannah now accepted more easily, he thought that Harry would probably still ask for his mum and dad for a while and that there would be questions from him sooner rather than later. They would have to be answered right away. And that would not be easy. Remus sighed again. He wondered how he and Sirius would be able to mourn for their friends in the midst of all of this.
And then Kisty brought him the morning's Daily Prophet. The front page was covered in the headline and nothing else:
"YOU-KNOW-WHO IS GONE!"
Remus was almost glad that he couldn't open the newspaper at this moment. The screaming headline lay in front of him for the time Hannah needed to suckle her fill from the bottle. Remus had a hard time looking at the baby and smiling at her while the paper lay there, calling for him to pick it up.
"It's so hard to think that you are now my daughter, Hannah. But I love you as one, little one. And I'll always love you and look after you as long as you need me to," he whispered.
Upstairs he heard Harry call for his dad. Not a minute later he heard Padfoot running over to Harry's room and taking him out of his cot. Remus smiled again. Padfoot would do the same for the children as he himself intended to do – replace their parents as well as he possibly could. Hannah finished her meal when Sirius came down the stairs with Harry on his arms. Harry still cried, but he started to slightly hiccup and the cries died down with Sirius' cooing.
"Good morning, Padfoot and Harry," Remus said quietly.
"Morning Moony, hey, Hannah-baby!" Sirius said in return.
"Think, Kisty could make breakfast?"
Remus had barely spoken the words when Kisty came in and told them that breakfast was ready in the dining room. Both men smiled widely. Sirius said:
"Thank you, Kisty! Let's go over then. While you were out yesterday I've told Kisty about all of your habits, likes and dislikes, Remus, she'll know you pretty well by now."
Remus threw Sirius an adoring look. And noticed to his surprise that there was an equal look in Sirius' eyes. He was startled. Why hadn't he ever seen this before? He'd seen Sirius look at him that way hundreds of times, especially in the past two years, but he had never noticed the quality in those glances. Why could he see it now? Could it be because he himself had resolved to tell Sirius? Remus shook the thought off for a moment and took Hannah on his arm. He picked up the Daily Prophet with his free hand. They would have to face the news now.
The table was set with beautiful china and a whole array of good breakfast food. Remus looked outside. It was still dark. He could just hear the sound of the ocean lapping on the shores of the little island. Today he was going to explore it with the children, he decided. Harry needed to go out in the fresh air even more than Hannah did.
Sirius put Harry into a high chair, which he had transfigured the night before. Then he started to feed the little one. Remus had it a bit easier. He could lay Hannah down on the baby blanket, which he placed in front of the fireplace. There was a nice fire going in there and the baby was kept nice and warm. Every other minute Remus looked up from the newspaper to check that the baby was still okay.
"So – what do they say?"
Remus read the article that went with the headline aloud: "Last night there was a miracle happening in Godric's Hollow. This little Welsh hamlet was the last residence of well known Auror James Potter, his wife Lily, and their children Harry, fifteen months and Hannah, still an infant of only two months. According to information given by Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, who was one of the most trusted friends of the Potter family, the following has taken place: "A week ago the Potter family has been placed under the Fidelius Charm (see special comment in box below) with their best friend, Sirius Black as their Secret Keeper. James told me he relied on his friend to 'die for him and his family if need be'. Sirius didn't die, but James and Lily were killed by Avada Kedavra last night at their home in Godric's Hollow. I was informed of the fact almost immediately, because I have set up wards there to send alarm to my office at Hogwarts, should anyone breach the other wards on the house illegally. I sent out Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts Keeper of the Keys and Grounds, to check on them and take anyone still alive to Hogwarts immediately. He came back alone, telling me what he had found there. In the lounge was the body of James Potter. Up the stairs in the nursery of little Harry he found Lily Potter's body and Sirius Black, who held his godson Harry. In the wall behind Harry's cot he saw a big gaping hole, that had been caused by the blow of a curse. Hagrid didn't know that Sirius Black was the Potters' Secret Keeper or he might have killed him on the spot! Instead Sirius talked him into helping him to take the two children to his own home. Hagrid then called me to the scene.
"I got there and the first thing they told me was that Sirius Black had not been the Potters' Secret Keeper after all. He, James and Lily had decided at the last moment to switch and make Peter Pettigrew their Secret Keeper. Sirius thought he was too obvious a choice and that no one would think Peter would stand in for something like that. Everyone who knew their group of friends also knew that Peter was the weakest of them magically. They decided not to tell anyone who the Secret Keeper was. Now we know that Peter Pettigrew was a Death Eater who used his position in the closest circle of friends to spy on them and inform Lord Voldemort about each and every one of their moves. I placed the children under the care of a family I know very well in Canada to ensure their safety from Lord Voldemort's followers who are still out there."
It is hard to believe that this young and so talented couple is gone! They are supposedly the last victims of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Of course there's still the question about how You-Know-Who found his end. Dumbledore explained it:
"We are not precisely sure yet, but what we do know is that after Lord Voldemort killed Lily Potter he turned to Harry and cast Avada Kedavra on the boy. There must have been a massive blow, which was witnessed by Sirius Black, when he approached the building at the same time. He told us that he had seen a massive green blow, which is why we know that the Dark Lord had used the Killing Curse on the baby, but for some so far still unknown reason the curse must have bounced back from Harry and hit Voldemort himself instead! The fallout from it caused the wall and the window to be blown right out of the house."
This reporter asked Dumbledore how Harry was now, since he had stipulated that the child was still alive. "Oh, he is quite fine, except for a small scar on his forehead, which has the form of a lightning bolt. Sirius was able to heal the little wound without any problems, but he couldn't get the scar to vanish."
"So where are the children now?"
"In a foster family. To ensure their safety neither the name of their foster parents nor their location will be made public. But I assure you they are both in perfect health and when their time comes, they will return to us and come to Hogwarts."
We will have to live with that information and most probably not much more will come to light about the children during the trial that will be held in front of the full Wizengamot in two weeks. Aurors are now quite busy rounding up the remaining Death Eaters and one of them in particular, Peter Pettigrew, the traitorous friend of James and Lily Potter. Their funeral will be held in a private ceremony at the Hogsmeade cemetery in four days. Albus Dumbledore has announced that only a limited amount of people will be able to attend the funeral directly."
Remus dropped the newspaper on the table.
"Could have come out worse…" Sirius mumbled.
"Could have been a lot worse. You seem to come out clean right away," Remus agreed.
"There's still the trial. How will I prove that I wasn't their Secret Keeper? Their murder will be on my soul forever, Remus!"
"I wouldn't worry about that too much, Siri. We will have to testify of course, and we'll be in the public eye for a while. But it will blow over eventually."
"I certainly hope so, Remus."
Meanwhile Harry babbled happily through his repertoire of about eight words. Remus grinned when he heard "mum, da, Moo'ey, Pafoo, Amma" again and again. Harry called his sister Amma, as he couldn't yet say the 'N' properly. He seemed to be quite content with a warm breakfast in his belly.
Sirius and Remus made themselves familiar with their island and with their new children. Poppy and Filius had come by as promised by Dumbledore and had not seen anything apart from two young men living in a large house on a very lovely island. Then they returned to Hogwarts and were back an hour later with the knowledge of where they would find Harry and Hannah and beamed as they noticed that they hadn't noticed the children at all.
"Wonderful. This charm really is the charm. Your secret will be very safe with Albus Dumbledore, children," Filius said.
"Yes, we thought so, when Kisty couldn't see the children anymore after Albus had cast the charm. She almost panicked, the poor dear," Remus explained.
"There is a lot of power in this charm. Let's just hope the worst blows over soon, so you will be able to become their new parents more openly. It must be hard to live such a double life…"
"Well, I don't think it will be too hard. I have decided to take over the children, so Sirius will continue working and for the outside world we only moved away from London to mourn our friends in quiet here on the island," Remus said.
"That's very good. And you will remember to fire-call me if you need me after one of Remus' transformations, Sirius, will you?"
"Absolutely, Poppy. Though by now I can mostly heal the smaller scratches and wounds myself. But I will certainly call you if he needs more medical care."
"I'm sure you will, Sirius, you really care for him," the matron said and patted Sirius' cheek.
Remus grinned. Sirius poked his tongue out at him. Remus grinned even more.
They received a few more visitors in the course of the next week. Albus had informed a few Order members who were, of course, sworn to secrecy, but he felt that at least some of Sirius' and Remus' friends should know and become the closer contacts Harry and Hannah would need while growing up.
The four days up to the funeral went by in a blur for both, Remus and Sirius, who were spun into the cocoon of their house and their new family. Every night they went through everything once again. They would be asked to give an eulogy for their friends and talked about what they would say about them. The frequent visits of their friends from the Order helped them through the days. Perry Prewett, Gideon Prewett's widow, came in and promised to come and help during full moons, so that Sirius, whose Animagus form was now known to a small circle of people, could be with Remus through his transformations.
The day of the funeral arrived. Since Sirius and Remus didn't want to leave Kisty alone with the two children, they decided to put the Fidelius to the ultimate test and take the two children along. Remus disillusioned the sling, in which he carried Hannah. Sirius did the same with the stroller, which Perry had brought in for Harry. They flooed to Perry's place, since she lived closest to the cemetery at Hogsmeade. Together they walked the short distance. Sirius was already used to the climate change, but Remus froze quickly after having spent a good week on the almost sub-tropical island.
"Only now I notice just how nice and warm Gargle Island is, Sirius," he remarked and shivered.
Sirius immediately cast a warming charm over him. Remus thanked him with a smile. Sirius thought he would have done anything to get another of those smiles Remus seemed to have only for him. For the children, too, lately, but mostly for himself. He smiled back.
Around the cemetery there were crowds of people who wanted to watch the service from the outside. Aurors had to help the invited guests to the chapel. The gates were closed tightly and anyone who wanted inside was closely checked. Perry, Sirius and Remus squeezed through the crowds and reached the gates.
"Identification?" one of the Aurors asked.
"You know me, Warner," said Sirius coldly.
"I was asked to ask ANYone for identification, sir!" the guard said sourly.
"Not those two, Warner, Dumbledore would hack off your head for that," another guard, Cornelius Fudge, said.
Sirius threw a quick glance at the portly man who stood guard. He wasn't an Auror, he was the junior Minister for the Department of Magical Catastrophes. He didn't ask why the Ministry would dispatch people from this department when there were so many Aurors around. Fudge seemed to guess his question though and answered it:
"Dumbledore and Minister Bagnold decided that every Auror who was closer to James Potter would be allowed to go to the funeral…"
"Ah, I see. Thank you, Cornelius. Will you let us inside?"
The gate was opened a small bit and Sirius was able to squeeze the stroller through the gap, then Remus and Perry followed. They entered the chapel, which was a lot larger on the inside than could be seen on the outside. Dumbledore welcomed them in the entrance area and said quietly:
"You're the only remaining 'family', would you please take the front pew?"
"Yes, Albus, thank you. No one has noticed the little ones. Not even heard them, Harry has been babbling all the time."
"Very good, that means the charm really does what it's supposed to do."
Remus and Sirius sat down. They were glad for the quiet inside of the chapel. On their way to their pew they had been quietly greeted by dozens of Order members and Aurors and their families. The chapel was already quite packed and they were glad that seats had been reserved for them. Dumbledore joined them there when all the guests had arrived.
While he waited for the service to begin, Remus had eons of time to look around. He was familiar enough with the chapel, but today it was decorated for the funeral of his two best friends and no amount of flowers could bring him out of his funk. His two closest friends besides Sirius and Peter, the people he considered his extended and chosen family, they had been loved by everyone who knew them. Remus remembered how pleased his parents had been when they had learned about him having friends at school. And how delighted they were when they learned to know Remus' friends and, later on, Lily. The Lupin home had been a home for all of them, just like the Potter home. If the Marauders could choose they would definitely never go to Sirius' place, or even to Peter's. Peter's parents were only different from the Blacks in as much as they didn't state their opinions quite as loudly as the Blacks did. But Peter had grown up in a household of pure-blooded wizards just like Sirius. His parents agreed with a lot of what the Death Eaters believed in. When Peter, coming from a long line of Hufflepuffs, had been sorted into Gryffindor the other Marauders had been sure he'd be able to withstand this attitude, but in the end it turned out he couldn't.
Right in front of Remus were the two coffins. As it was tradition in the wizarding world there would be a service during which they were letting them go over to the other world through a ritual burning. Their urns would then be buried outside in their graves. The ritual was regarded as an important rite of letting loved ones pass on and helping those left behind to say goodbye.
The wizard vicar soon started the service by floating candles to everyone in the chapel. The candles were lit once the people held them in their hands. He held a short, but very touching memorial sermon. Then it was the turn of Dumbledore, who talked quietly about the two people he had held dear and had accompanied for a good part of their short lives. Since neither Lily nor James had any blood relatives left to attend the funeral it was next up to their friends to speak up. Sirius stood up first and went to stand next to James' coffin. His voice was broken and he had a hard time holding up when he brought up the importance of what the friendship with James had meant to him. The devastation he felt when he found his corpse. The loss he felt with his closest brother gone.
After Sirius Lily's best friend spoke up. She talked about the delight that Lily had felt when she came to Hogwarts. How her strict fairness and her talent, her power were remarkable. Sirius and Remus listened and didn't stop the tears from running down their faces. Both were highly aware that this was one of the moments when they could unabashedly cry and let their sadness out. When no one expected them to be strong and hold up. Remus shifted a sleeping Hannah in the sling as he got up to give his short speech. He focused on both of them, as his friends, as a couple, as his fellow prefect in Lily's case, as the couple of head boy and head girl in his last year of school. He talked about them as young parents, how much they had loved Harry and Hannah, and that they had planned to have a whole nest full of children. That James had dreamed about his 'own private Quidditch team'. That brought forth a few giggles and laughs. Remus smiled through his tears as he returned to his seat. He caressed the little one in the sling. She still slept peacefully.
Finally the vicar tapped the first coffin with his wand and set it on fire. There was a flash of fire that ate the coffin and the corpse inside in a matter of seconds. The remains were immediately placed in a Lily shaped urn, which was closed right away. Then the vicar moved on to James' coffin and treated it the same way. Sirius' tears started to flow again. He watched through a haze of tears how the vicar placed the remains in a stag-shaped urn. He was sure that many people would wonder about this form. Both urns were levitated and the vicar carried them slowly through the gap between the pews. From the first pew, which held Sirius, Remus, the children, Dumbledore, McGonagall and Flitwick the people in the chapel got up and joined the line of mourners who followed the vicar outside to the churchyard. He marched on, taking the urns to their final destination. The two graves were set up right by the wall of the cemetery. Outside was an old beech tree, many of its branches hanging over the wall and covering the spot where James and Lily would now find their final rest. Remus smiled through his tears as he noticed the tree.
"Look, Sirius, they will be back under a beech tree! How fitting!"
"Yes, remember how much time they spent under that beech at Hogwarts?" Sirius confirmed.
"I asked for this place, Sirius. I thought it would make them – and you two – happy," Dumbledore said quietly from behind.
"That's wonderful, Albus, thank you," Remus said.
The remainder of the ceremony was not too long. The two urns were let down in their respective grave. All the mourners came by and dropped their still burning candles into one or the other of the graves and then the graves were filled magically. The mason had already delivered the stone, just one for the both of them, upon which they had an inscription, that Sirius and Remus had chosen: In loving memory of the bravest mother and father, from their son Harry and daughter Hannah.
Other than that only the names and birth and death dates were inscribed on the headstone. But there was a branch with two pigeons set up on top of it, cast in bronze.
Sirius and Remus stood there for a long while. There was to be a wake held at the Three Broomsticks, but they excused themselves and left the cemetery almost immediately with a Portkey back to their home. The children had already been through enough on this day, they didn't need the loud meeting at the Three Broomsticks on top of everything.
But even with the children there it was very depressing at home. The loss of their friends was still raw, still such a shock. It drove Sirius and Remus together, they needed to feel each other to remind them of their reality, that they were still there. But both were still convinced that the other only saw them as a close friend, which led to more tension than ever between them.
"What's wrong with us, Remus? Haven't we been to too damn many funerals these past two years? We've seen that bloody chapel so often lately it should have become almost normal, for crying out loud," Sirius said, frustrated.
"I don't know, Sirius. It always hit home, but never as close as now. It's still very painful to think of my parents' deaths, but this – it's as if someone would have cut a limb from me it hurts so much," Remus whispered.
"Yeah, suppose you're right. It's just the two of us now, Moony. We'll have to keep remembering them, for Harry and Hannah. And for our own good."
"We'll see this through, Padfoot. The children will be okay…"