Author's Note: I apologize for the slow update. I have a lot of projects going on right now, but I haven't abandoned this story. Thanks to all my reviewers.
Severus' mind was a flurry. There was going to be a raid on the Potters' home tonight. But why? Not just to teach Severus a lesson, surely. Perhaps the Potters were considered dangerous enough Order members that the Dark Lord had decided to deal with them personally.
He listened with half his mind as they were all instructed on their positions and roles in the raid. The Dark Lord did not speak himself, but allowed one of his underlings to give instructions while he sat back like an all-knowing god, smiling to himself. Severus was surprised when he heard his name called alongside that of only one other – Nigel Grayson – an idiot who was even younger than Severus, a new recruit.
"You two will be some of the first on the scene. You'll disabling the wards around the house and searching for traps before you join the rest of us," the underling said. An important job that would normally go to someone both trustworthy and experienced.
Severus looked at the Dark Lord as the underling continued to read out names and he thought that he could detect a flicker in the red eyes. This was a test then. The Dark Lord was fond of tests. Severus wouldn't be watched at every moment because he was being given enough room to prove himself – or enough room to hang himself. If the mission failed because of him he would be severely punished – perhaps killed. If he succeeded then his clout with the Death Eaters would rise.
This meant that the only way to save both Lily and himself was to make the mission fail without failing at his task of disarming the house.
On the positive side, it also meant that the Dark Lord didn't really suspect Severus of being a spy or of defecting to the Order – if that had been the case, Severus would have been watched much more closely. No, the Dark Lord suspected that Severus had some residual fondness for a muggleborn and he meant to squash it. He also suspected that Severus had lost the will to kill in his service and he meant to correct this as well.
As soon as the underling stopped talking, Severus would be expected to leave and get to work disarming the Potter house. That was the way these missions went – only a select few knew anything beforehand.
After the briefing was done, Nigel Grayson approached Severus. "Well, it looks like we'll be working together, mate," he said.
"I'm not your mate," Severus replied automatically and then decided that, as usual, rudeness was the best tactic. "And you better not do something idiotic and ruin this mission, Grayson. I've got a lot riding on this and it's not going to be undone by some inept pretty boy."
Nigel blinked in surprise. He really was a pretty boy and had the look of the clueless teenagers who joined the Dark Lord simply because their parents were prejudiced purebloods, and not out of any incredible devotion to the man. Severus was annoyed with him already. "I won't bother you, then," Nigel said in a cool voice.
"See that you don't," Severus said. "Listen, we'll apparate to the street corner and approach the house from the back."
"Who made you the boss?" Nigel muttered.
Severus glared at him. "I'm older than you, I've been in the Death Eaters longer than you, and I'm betting that I know three times more defensive spells than you do. I'm leading. Like I said, we'll apparate to the street corner --"
"And approach the house from the back," Nigel finished, rolling his eyes. "You've already said that, Snape."
"See that you remember," Severus said, secretly congratulating himself. Nigel's unwillingness to get the finer details would hurt him later on. Severus ignored Nigel until a few minutes later, when they were both approached by a Death Eater with his mask on. Wordlessly, the dark figure slipped a piece of paper into Severus' hand and Severus stared at the words written on it for a few moments. Just a normal London street address. It seemed so strange that he should find out Lily's address in this way when he'd known her most of his life.
"Lemme see," Nigel said, leaning over to take the paper from Severus' hand. Severus knew that he must act quickly now. He needed to warn someone and then delay his mission as long as possible.
But who could he warn? Dumbledore seemed the only feasible option since it seemed that he couldn't get to Lily herself. But Dumbledore would be in Hogwarts and it was impossible to apparate onto the Hogwarts grounds. By the time he walked all the way to the school, his absence would be noted and the mission may very well be completed.
Privately, Severus cursed the Headmaster for not giving him contact with more Order members for occasions such as these, but there was no use dwelling on it now. He knew where a few of Lily's girlfriends from Hogwarts lived, but as far as he could tell, she didn't see most of them anymore. Reluctantly, he considered his last option. Potter's friends.
As much as he hated Potter's toad-like cronies, they did at least seem to be fiercely loyal to Potter himself which was what was needed in this situation. He didn't know where either Black or Lupin lived. But Pettigrew – now Pettigrew was an option.
Severus knew where Peter Pettigrew lived because the Pettigrews had lived on the same street for generations. And Severus would have bet his wand that Peter Pettigrew still lived with his mother.
Severus pulled his mask over his face.
--- -- ---
Peter brushed his teeth, preparing for bed. It was a strange night. Peter had a sixth sense for danger which was why he was sometimes able to crawl out of it. His back was tingling as if someone were watching him. Even so, he did not expect to see what confronted him when he turned around.
Standing in Peter's bedroom, among his Quiditch posters and old textbooks, was a Death Eater, in full costume. Peter screamed at the top of his lungs.
"Please. Please," he said as the hooded figure advanced on him. "Don't kill me. I'll do anything – anything."
The figure grabbed him by the front of his shirt. "Shut up and listen," he said. "There's going to be a Death Eater raid on the home of James and Lily Potter very shortly. You are going to go warn them."
"James and Lily?" Peter squeaked, thinking of his friends all alone in their little house, at the mercy of the Death Eaters. But if he went over there, the Death Eaters might get him. "I can't – I can't --" he said, but the Death Eater interrupted, sounding exasperated, of all things.
"Yes you can, Pettigrew. And if you fail to warn them, then I'll kill you myself."
Peter wrung his hands in misery.
--- -- ---
James was putting on his pajamas when he heard a loud banging coming from the sitting room. His mind immediately went to the worst – a sign of the times. He wondered if the Death Eaters had broken in and if so, would it be better to find Lily and run or to face the threat head on? He often had thoughts like these and it bothered him that there was no definite answer. One day, his life and Lily's (and the baby's) might depend on a split second decision made in a panic situation.
James hurried to the sitting room, but found only Peter, covered in soot, coming out of his fireplace. "Oi, mate," James said. "You nearly scared me to death. You don't just drop in on a man unannounced at this time of night, if you know what I mean."
Peter looked at James frantically, his eyes wide, his skin pale beneath the soot. "You've got to get out of here," he said, lunging toward James, knocking over a large red vase in the process. "We've all got to get out of here. The Death Eaters – a Death Eater came to me tonight, said that they were going to attack your house --"
James didn't wait to hear more. He bolted from the room, calling Lily's name. She emerged from their bedroom, having already been asleep. "What is it?" she asked. She looked so sweet and vulnerable in her long, pink gown that James felt as if his heart could break.
"We've got to go," he said. "Death Eaters." Lily's eyes widened and her hand went to her stomach. Already, she was a concerned mother, James thought, with a bit of fondness through his worry.
"We'll apparate," she said. "Just let me grab a few things --"
"No time," James said. "Peter!" He ran back to the setting room. Peter wasn't there.
"Maybe he already left," Lily suggested, coming up behind him.
James looked at the fireplace. Peter's footprints were visible in the soot, but only the one set. "No. Peter was never much on apparating and I'd be able to tell if he took the floo."
He looked over at Lily who still had one hand clasped over her stomach. Was it just his imagination or was she starting to show? "You should go," he said. "I'll find him."
She crossed her arms. "I'm not just leaving you here alone with the Death Eaters coming."
"The baby --" he gestured to her stomach.
"Will be fine. Now let's go find Pete, quickly."
Things had always been this way between them. Lily was a very modern woman – not a tomboy, exactly, but very independent and brave. Anything he faced, she was willing to face alongside of him. James had always admired that about her. But now with the baby – Lily needed to remember that she wasn't just looking out for herself anymore.
There wasn't time to argue the point, though. James ran through the house, yelling Peter's name, not getting an answer. Cursing, he ran into the backyard, knowing that he was probably making himself a target for a hundred Death Eater curses. He looked around, seeing no sign of Peter, but just then, two dark cloaked figures came through the gate.
They stopped short when they saw James. Likely, they were not expecting to see him standing in the backyard. One of them cursed and threw a CruciatusJames' way which he managed to deflect. It did, however, succeed in distracting him from a silent spell which glanced off his shoulder, painfully. James gripped his shoulder, feeling warm blood on his hand.
The Death Eater who had thrown the Cruciatus stopped to laugh and James stood up straight. He had always been good at keeping his head during chancy situations. He tossed a couple of stunning spells in the direction of the Death Eaters and immediately ran back into the house, not even waiting to see if his spells had hit.
"James! James!" Lily yelled running down the stairs. "Peter's here." He looked up to see Peter, huffing and puffing and wringing his hands, come down behind Lily.
"What were you thinking, mate?" he asked Peter, sighing in relief.
"I don't know," Peter moaned. "I couldn't find you. I thought you'd left me."
"Left you?" James was insulted. As if he'd ever leave a friend to the mercies of Death Eaters.
"We don't have time for this," Lily said and James agreed. They apparated to the current headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. When they entered, James was immediately sent off with some foreign bloke named Andre who happened to be the best healer in the Order. Andre cleaned and bandaged James' shoulder.
"It must have been some spell," Andre said, looking at the wound, "that could make a cut that clean and precise."
James looked down and saw that the cut was extremely straight. It wasn't deep, but it had only glanced off. Used correctly, James guessed that the spell could be lethal. He'd only seen a spell wound like that once before. Normally, offensive slashing spells left horribly jagged wounds.
When Andre was done bandaging James' wound, he went to find Lily. She was sitting in the lounge area, talking to Peter. He noticed that her hand was cradled protectively over her belly.
"Severus Snape," he said, sitting down beside his wife.
Lily must have jumped six inches off her seat. "What?" she asked, in a shaky voice.
"Severus Snape is a Death Eater," James said. "He's the one who wounded me."