Sirius Black raced through the streets of Godric's Hollow, arriving quickly at his destination. What was going on, he didn't exactly know, but James had said it was urgent. A sinking feeling filled the man's stomach as he walked to the front door of the Potters' house. He hoped whatever his friend had to tell him wasn't something concerning Lily. James would be crushed if anything ever happened to his wife, and Sirius couldn't stand thinking of the hell his best mate would have to go through if he was to move on from losing her.
Not that Sirius actually knew she was gone, he reminded himself. But it was unnerving; Lily Potter hadn't been seen by anyone - except for James, apparently - in months. No one knew why, and James refused to say anything about it, other than that Lily was 'fine'. Concern for the redheaded witch was greatly relieved, however, when Albus Dumbledore confirmed that Mrs. Potter was indeed alive and well.
But that didn't stop Sirius from worrying that more was going on with the couple than his best mate was letting on. If only he knew how right he was. . .
Pulling over on the side of the street, Sirius Black made his way nervously to the Potter's front door. James must have watched him arrive, because he greeted his friend before Sirius had made it halfway up the walkway. James looked. . . tired. There was no other way Padfoot could think to describe it. So many emotions were present on the bespectacled man's face that Sirius couldn't make out one.
"Come on, come on," James ushered him into the house, and closed the door with a click indicating that the locks - both magical and Muggle - had been re-secured. Not understanding what was going on or what was compelling James Potter to act so nervous, and even worried, Sirius silently followed him through the house.
James led him to the master bedroom; standing in the doorway, Sirius saw Lily Evans (now Potter) sitting on the bed, holding something close to her.
"Hey," Sirius said, wondering if the blankets in her arms could contain what he thought they did.
Her emerald eyes flicked to his face only for a moment before gazing lovingly back down at her bundle. "Hi," she said softly, so as not to disturb the precious thing she held.
James ushered Sirius closer to the bed, his eyes also transfixed on what his wife held. "Sirius, meet my son."
"Your- your son?"
The proud father nodded, reaching over to gently tickle the baby's stomach. He carefully took the infant from his mother and placed him in Sirius' arms. "Watch his head."
Sirius' only response was a slight nod as he carefully adjusted his hold on the baby. He had already fallen in love with the beautiful baby boy. "Hey, little guy. I'm your Uncle Padfoot. I'm gonna teach you all sorts of pranks, so you can drive your parents insane, yeah." His words were soft so as not to startle the child he gently bounced in his arms. "He has your eyes," he said to Lily as the baby's curious orbs searched his smiling face. It was true; the infant's eyes were the same startling green, the prefect mirror of his mother's. The baby's small tuft of dark hair even stood up in every and all directions, just like his father's.
Before anyone could say another word, an old man with long, silver hair and beard stepped into the room. From behind half moon spectacles, his blue eyes sparkled as he observed the scene before him. "I take it you still need some time then?" he asked with a knowing smile.
Sirius looked up from the bundle he was holding. "Time for what? Prongs, what's going on here?"
James looked around, first at his wife whose breathing had turned deep, then to Albus Dumbledore who had taken a sudden interest with the ceiling corner of the bedroom, and finally to his best mate who was still holding his son.
With a deep breath, he began to say what he had rehearsed over and over in his mind, waiting for this moment, but never finding an easier way to say it. "When we first knew Lily was pregnant… we wanted to keep it a secret, you know, so she wouldn't be targeted for the baby. We only told Dumbledore so she wouldn't be asked to do anything dangerous for the Order or anything.
We were going to tell you guys once she was showing, but then Dumbledore told us about the Prophecy." He drew a shaky breath before repeating what had plagued him for months now. "The Prophecy says that a child will be born at the end of July to parents who have defied Voldemort three times. That child would be marked by Voldemort 'as his equal', and there was something about having 'powers the Dark Lord knows not' and… and that one would have to kill the other, for 'neither can live while the other survives'."
By the time James was finished, Lily was silently crying into her hands while James himself struggled not to break down with her.
Sirius was in shock as he looked down at the innocent newborn in his arms. Was James seriously suggesting this child – this child – would one day have to kill or become a victim of murder? He knew Lily and James had defied Voldemort three times together; he himself had been there with them… but July… "It's August," he said in disbelief. How could James, Lily, Dumbledore, think the Prophecy referred to this baby if it was August?
"He was born a week ago, Sirius, July thirty-first. Just before mi-midnight." Lily broke down again, crying harder even as James put his arms around her. "Let me hold him," she choked out through her sobs, holding her arms out to where her baby was.
Sirius nodded numbly, handing the infant to his mother. "But, I. . . I don't understand. . ."
"We- we can't risk Vol-Voldemort coming after him; he might not want to the chance that- that we changed the date of birth."
"I still don't understand." And Sirius didn't, even after what Lily said; how many times the Potters had defied Voldemort was known to the Dark Lord, but the day their child was born on was not. What more could be done to convince Lord Voldemort the Prophecy did not refer to the Potters' son?
"Sirius. . . Voldemort can't know that we're his parents." James had held himself together magnificently all things considered, but saying these words broke him. "We can't raise him." James lowered himself on the bed next to his family, silent tears falling down his face. "You need to."
"Wh-what?" He must have heard wrong. How could he, Sirius, raising this child make any difference? "But how will that help? I defied Voldemort three times too. . ."
"On the contrary, Mr. Black."
Sirius jumped. He had been so wrapped up in what James was saying that he had forgotten the old Headmaster was still in the room. "But, sir. . . I was there with Lily and James. . . There were only three times."
"Three times after you left Hogwarts, yes; but one time before."
"But- but when?"
"Do you remember when you left your family's home for Mr. Potter's?"
Sirius didn't bother to correct Dumbledore that the 'home' he left wasn't his family's. "Yeah; I was only going against my—family though, not defying Voldemort."
"I assure you, Sirius, you did defy Voldemort that day, and he knows it."
Sirius sat on a piece of furniture – he wasn't really sure which one – deep in thought. "I still don't understand what you're saying though. Why would I need to raise him?"
"We've planned it, everything. If you agree to it. . ." Lily's words were much less shaky as she gently rocked the now-sleeping infant she held. "We wanted to have at least one week with him–" She drew a breath to try and calm herself further. "We thought that we could make Voldemort believe that our baby is really your son, Sirius, and that his mother was a Muggle who kept her identity secret from you. . . everyone. . . You defied him four times, and he wouldn't think a Muggle could defy him at all, let along three times. When the baby was born wouldn't matter, because his parents don't match the description in the Prophecy. Voldemort will overlook him, hopefully."
Sirius looked over at James, whose silent tears had begun to fall. He was speechless.
After a few moments of silence, he managed to get out, "How can you keep all this a secret, though? I mean-"
"Now that is why I am here," Dumbledore answered. "Lily and James have asked me to perform a series of powerful memory charms on the three of you so that you will believe your story. Any memories I do alter, I will be able to reverse, when and if the time comes."
"Are- but you guys. . . You can't be serious!"
"No, you are," James answered; a humorless attempt at a joke through an old pun.
"But why me? Why not Moony? He'd be able to raise a kid better than I would-"
"Sirius, please," Lily spoke. "The story we've been working on, it's not the kind of thing Remus would do. Voldemort would suspect something. . . and if we create an identity for the. . . for the mother. . . we could unknowingly be putting an unsuspecting Muggle at risk. This way. . . this way is safest for everyone. . . I'd do anything to keep my baby safe." She finished in a new stream of tears, hugging her child close.
"Sirius, if you choose not to do this," Dumbledore began, "you may, of course, walk out of here with only a slight alteration of your memory."
"Yeah, mate, we aren't going to force you to do this." James' voice held a hint of badly masked hope, hope that Sirius would choose to leave without agreeing to the plan, leaving James with his son. However, no matter how much James loved the boy and wanted the world to know the child was his, he knew that it would be impossible to keep his baby safe forever against Voldemort. As long as the Dark Lord knew of his child's parentage, the infant was at risk, too much so for James to gamble with. No, he would not make his son more of a target to the most evil wizard of the age any more than he had to.
Sirius looked from James to Lily for longer than he could register, trying to make the right decision. He didn't want to condemn this baby by agreeing to raise him, but wouldn't the child be even more at risk if he were a high-priority target of Voldemort's?
Slowly, he answered, "If- if you're sure that. . . that this is safest for- for him."
James looked down, trying to hide his tears as he gazed down at his son. Lily murmured her last words of love and goodbye to her child, holding him close and kissing him softly, before carefully handing him to James, then wiping the water from her eyes. It was the hardest thing she ever had to do.
James also held his son close, slowly walking towards Sirius. "I'll always love you," he said quietly, "please know that. . ." Planting a last kiss on the infant's head, he forced himself to hand the baby to Sirius.
"Now, shall we begin?" Dumbledore asked, having recently stepped back inside the room, for he had exited when Sirius gave his answer.
Lily nodded sadly from the bed as James wrapped his arms around her.
Although his voice held none of the melancholy mood that had overtaken the room, no one could deny that the twinkle behind the old Headmaster's eyes had gone out. Walking to where Sirius stood, Dumbledore placed the tip of his wand at the baby's forehead.
"I thought the memory charms were only going on us," Sirius said, rather alarmed. The baby was far too young to remember this moment in later life, and memory charms – even ones preformed correctly – could do permanent damage to such a young mind.
"This is not a memory charm," Albus answered. Before the question could be asked, he continued, "This will change his appearance enough that he won't be recognized as the Potters' son." The old wizard muttered a quick spell, and a soft glow was momentarily seen around the infant.
His eyes had become a lighter green, far lighter than Lily's ever could have managed; and his hair became thicker, weighing down what was once thought to be impossible to tame locks.
"The spell will stay with him as he grows," Dumbledore added. Turning to Lily and James, he said, "Is there anything else, before the memory charms are applied?"
Lily nodded, though she seemed unable to speak through her tears. James, trying to stay strong for the sake of his wife, spoke. "We've discussed this, and. . . we don't. . . want to be able to have another child."
His voice ended so low that Sirius had to strain to hear him, and he looked at his friend in shock. They had been trying so long for a child. . .
"At least not until the memory thing is reversed," James went on.
"But. . . why?" Sirius asked, as Dumbledore nodded.
"I don't want to feel like I'm replacing him. . . I can't." Lily was able to push back her tears long enough to answer. "I could never replace him." But her last sentence brought them straight back.
Sirius nodded as well. He could see the problems another child would create if this took years before the baby had his real identity back.
"And Sirius?" Lily composed herself once more as James cried into her shoulder.
"Could you. . . I mean, would you. . . We were discussing names before this, and. . . would you call him. . . Harry James?"
The name wouldn't give anything away; after all, James was more of a brother to Sirius than his 'real' brother ever was.
"Of course," Sirius told her. Harry James Potter. . . no, Harry James Black.
"Now, are we ready to begin?" Dumbledore asked, as if reminding them of why they were there.
A collective nod, and Dumbledore began to cast the charms of the Potters' request.