The date was October 31st. All Hallow's Eve or as the neighbours across the pond called it, Halloween. It was a fairly normal day, filled with the laughter of young kids as they ran around in their costumes and the crisp crunch of richly coloured leaves underfoot. Shops were filled with customers, grouching over the expensive candy and blaming the last-minute shoppers for the increased prices. Of course they ignored the rich irony that they were those last minute people.
The magical communities were a bit quieter, though they went about their decorations and social gatherings with just as much enthusiasm as their Muggle counterparts. Today was a day for friends and relatives, for gatherings, laughter, parties and entertainment. For most of the magical world in any case.
James Potter leaned against a window frame, watching the kids chasing each other through the streets with a wry smile. He watched as two fathers gathered their rambunctious children and stood laughing as they conversed about some trivial matter. A Quidditch match result or some such thing. Running a hand through his hair he sighed a little.
After a moment he seemed to realise his brooding nature and took a step back, pulling out his wand and waving it in a pattern. Though not as good at Charms as his wife Lily, the brightly twinkling lights looked realistic as he strung them across the two front windows with sweeping motions of his wand.
He stuck his wand back into the back pocket of his trousers (to hell with Moody's 'constant vigilance', he was NOT going to accidently curse his own bum). He smiled and cheerfully turned around to walk the short distance to the sofa. It was about 5 o'clock in the afternoon and Lils had just disappeared upstairs with little Harry. WHAT the woman was doing with their 15 month old son that was taking so long he had no idea. He figured it had something to do with a costume.
He couldn't resist a snigger of laughter as he remembered this time last year. Sirius and Remus had been over and Sirius had gotten it into his head that he knew a better idea than a costume. James had to admit that Harry had looked adorable, but the fire in Lily's green eyes had been downright terrifying when she'd seen their 3 month old son in the form of a black-haired, green-eyed puppy. The thing had been cute, with one upright ear and the other flopped over.
Moony had taken one look at her face and quickly changed Harry back. Gone was the pup, replaced with a little boy who lay on his back with chubby arms in the air and a small scowl on his face. Sirius had paled rapidly as the enraged new mother had approached, grabbed him by the ear and dragged him out of the room. James had gathered his son up and shared a wince with Remus.
Mutual sympathy for their friend had been interrupted by a canine yelp and whine. James had dissolved into laughter at the sight of the Grim staked to the front yard by a collar and long rope. Sirius had whined pathetically until he'd asked Lily if he could release him. She had sharply replied, "Not for 15 solid minutes, James Potter. You and Remus had just better be thankful you're not out there with him."
His wife's occasional bout of Slytherin cunning had shown through, for it had taken them another 15 minutes to figure out how to reverse her Charms. Clever girl to use a real collar and anchor her spells with it.
A happy gurgle from the doorway interrupted James' musing and he turned to the sound. He was unable to stop a soft laugh and a bright grin at the sight of 15 month old Harry in a full miniature Quidditch outfit on the tiny toy broom Sirius had given him for his birthday. He waved his hand in a subtle gesture as he stood and the colors turned from neutral gray and brown to scarlet and gold.
"There's my little imp!" He chuckled to the little boy, picking him off the broom and into his arms, spinning him around until he was crowing with laughter.
"James," Lily said disapprovingly, "you're not supposed to choose the colors!"
"Oh and why not," James pouted. "He's quite obviously going to be a little lion, what with his lioness mother."
He leaned forward and kissed her on the mouth, to which she sighed and said, "You are quite honey-tongued still, aren't you?"
"Ahh," he replied with a wink, "just because I have won my fair lady doesn't mean I stop treating her so."
She smacked his shoulder but smiled at him. "Prat," she said fondly.
James followed his wife into the kitchen and sat Harry in his spot. Their small family dinner was filled with quiet chatter from James and his wife, punctuated by Harry's gurgles and chatter. Harry made them laugh several times, he was the bright warmth and light in their quiet home.
They sat on the sofa together after dinner, cuddling their son and sharing a couple of glasses filled with the sweet wine left over from their anniversary. When little Harry yawned widely enough to show the few teeth he possessed James chuckled softly and placed a kiss on the small forehead.
Lily wrapped her arms around Harry and stood, carrying him up the stairs to his room which was decorated in pale blue and white. James sat on the sofa in front of the fire, twirling his glass of wine and staring at the pale golden liquid as he debated what to do for their third anniversary which was in four months. Valentine's Day to be exact. Sirius always joked that they'd chosen that date just to remind him that it also made him a year older.
St. Valentine indeed, James thought in amusement. That had been a school nickname for the dreamy-eyed, hard-to-get Gryffindor in school. Last he'd heard Sirius had been dating a nurse from St. Mungo's. Typical Sirius style, he'd met her when she'd been patching up his busted lip. Snivellus had punched him in the face after he'd gone a little far tormenting the former Slytherin.
His mental musings were interrupted when he heard a knock on the door. Even though the Fidelius on the house meant it could only be one person he tensed. Standing up he felt his shoulders straighten and his weight shift over his center of balance. Auror training still held even after being in hiding almost 2 years.
He turned the brass knob and opened the door. Sure enough, it was small, stuttering Peter, their quietest friend and fellow Order member. Not to mention, their Secret-Keeper while in hiding. Sirius' plan to switch over to Peter had been brilliant; no one would ever suspect Peter of holding such vital information. James had been the Bonder as Sirius had handed over the location to Peter. That had been in early August and he hadn't seen Sirius since. He missed Padfoot and his pranks.
Auror training continued to serve him well as he said pleasantly, "Hello Peter. Good to see you, aren't you out enjoying the night?"
Peter was nervous and he gave a stuttering laugh. "Me? You must be thinking of Sirius or Remus, I'm certainly not the liveliest of company!"
The other had a tight grip on his wand and his gaze kept flicking over his shoulder. Looking around he said, "Where's Lily and little Harry?"
James raised an eyebrow and looked over his shoulder. "It's almost eight, Pete. Lils probably just finished giving him a bath."
"Right," Peter replied, "I'd forgotten."
Peter looked over his shoulder again and seemed to straighten up. His voice was much calmer as he murmured, "Sorry Prongs. His power is much more convincing than Dumbledore's offers of protection."
For a moment James didn't comprehend. Then his eyes widened and he stared at Peter in rising fury. "You sold us out to Voldemort!" He hissed. "How PATHETIC of you, Peter. You two-faced rat!"
"But what a useful rat indeed, Potter," came a silky voice James had heard a few times before. His wand was out of his pocket and flying up to point at bright crimson eyes when the Dark Lord hissed, "Expelliarmus!"
James' mahogany wand flew out of his hand and landed in spidery, pale fingers. The Dark Lord flicked his own pale wand and murmured a spell. Eyeing the pale blue haze that appeared around the room he guessed it was a Silencing Ward.
"Where's your wife and son, Potter?"
"Go to hell!" James snarled.
Now he understood why the Dark Lord used a silencing ward. He always had to play with his helpless Light purebloods a little. James bit down on his lip so hard he tasted his own coppery blood. Still he refused to scream, though his arm went out and knocked against a small desk. A picture fell off the top and crashed in front of him, the glass shattering and skittering across the floor. Lils is going to be furious about the broken glass, he thought numbly.
The picture was of the Marauders from their graduating year, all standing together. Smiling and waving up at the viewer, James, Sirius, Remus and Peter all looked amused and happy, just days before leaving Hogwarts for the last time.
Concentrating on his wife and son upstairs James waited for the Dark Lord to stop the Cruciatus. Once he did James shakily stood and in a lightning-fast move punched Peter in the face. The rat dropped his wand with a gasp. James pounced on the wand and cancelled the silencing ward, screaming up the stairs, "LILY IT'S HIM. TAKE HARRY AND RUN!"
Hazel eyes latched defiantly on furious red and he lifted his chin and glared at the Dark Lord as brilliant green filled his vision. His body seemed to fall back in slow motion and he landed on his back, eyes open and staring up at the scene of angels Lily had painted over the fireplace.
Lily hummed to her precious son as she dressed him in soft blue pyjamas with little Snitches charmed to chase across the fabric. They'd been a gift from Sirius just before he'd left the last time. She ran her fingers through Harry's soft, messy black hair. She giggled softly into the dark locks as she remembered.
Just after Harry's birth James had been holding their son, smiling down at the tiny baby. Sirius had been sitting on her left and Remus was perched at the end of her hospital bed. Sirius had eyed the already messy hair and quipped, "No need for a brush for the kid, huh Prongs?"
"OW!" had been the next as she'd smacked him in the back of the head. Looking at her he'd ruefully rubbed the back of his head and said with an exaggerated sigh, "Too much to hope the temper would go away with him around huh?" he'd nodded at the baby.
"You were always a dreamer, Sirius," she'd retorted to both James and Remus' laughter.
Smiling down at the toddler she placed him in his cot, pressing gently on a small chest as he tried to sit up. "No Harry, it's time for bed."
A tiny lip started to quiver and green eyes just like hers began to water. "Crying won't help you, baby. I know you're tired."
All of a sudden James' yell echoed up the stairs. She froze in shock and disbelief. The spy we were looking for was Peter? She watched in a daze as her wedding ring slid down her finger and dropped to the floor. The rattle as it settled on the hard wood sounded very loud. Her eyes watered. She and James had made irreversible wedding vows. The rings would only be removable if one partner had died.
She whipped her willow wand out and stood just in front of Harry. Green eyes lit with fire and determination. The Dark Lord would NOT harm Harry. Not many knew it, but the Dark Lord was reluctant to kill Lily Marie Evans. She was the only Muggleborn witch to whom he'd offered a place in his ranks, he'd become quite irritated after she denied him not once, twice but three times in a row.
She had spark and fire aplenty, which made her green eyes sparkle with an energy that was fierce and difficult to look straight into. Hair like liquid flames ran down her back and her attractive heart-shaped face transformed her from simply pretty to beautiful.
Unlike her deceased husband, when she saw Peter she lashed out immediately. "Diffindo!"
It slashed through his left leg just below his thigh. Blood poured from the wound and Peter whimpered pathetically in pain. The ruby liquid splashed to the soft white carpet of the nursery, staining it scarlet around Lily's fallen wedding ring. The Dark Lord gave his follower a single disgusted glance and turned to her.
"Now, my dear, you need not be foolish," he hissed in a deceptively soft tone of voice.
Her tone was sharp as a blade in contrast. "I've told you before, Tom. NO."
With a lazy blink he said, "Severus will be disappointed."
"You can tell him to back off, I think for myself," she snapped.
"Indeed," he aimed his wand at her and said, "Stupefy!"
He didn't put enough power behind it to actually stun her, just enough to throw her out of the way. Pointing his wand at the revealed toddler he said, "Avada Kedavra!"
Flame-colored hair caught his eye and Lily jumped in front of the Killing Curse, sparing her son and dropping to the floor. The Dark Lord stared at her for a long moment and said, "Pity."
Once again he pointed his wand at the green-eyed, black haired babe who was holding himself upright by the top of his cot, staring down at his mother with a quivering lip. Bright green eyes met red as the Dark Lord snarled, "Avada Kedavra!"
The green light sped toward the baby and bounced. Red eyes widened in horror just before the light hit him. The Dark Lord screamed and his body disappeared. The black cloud faintly visible floated into the night. The rebounded magic gave a loud crack and the floorboards started to shatter. Peter gave a squeak of fright and Apparated away with a loud crack!
The floorboards continued to shatter and the glass windows downstairs and up exploded outward. Ceiling beams began to fall and just before they hit Harry his cot fell through the floor. It hit in what had been the kitchen with a thump. Little Harry started to cry, sobbing as if his tiny heart would break with the force.
It was only a few minutes before giant dustbin-sized hands scooped him and his blanket up very gently. "Shhh," Rubeus Hagrid said awkwardly, cradling the small body. Harry continued to cry, his sobs muffled by Hagrid's heavy overcoat.
"Nooo," the broken whisper diverted Hagrid's attention. Turning he saw young Sirius Black staring at the wreckage that had been his friend's home. The black-haired pureblood's eyes landed on the still form of his best friend, eyes still open and staring. He knelt next to the body and gasped raggedly as he stared at his dead friend.
"How'd you get here?" Hagrid asked him.
"My bike. Where are you taking Harry?" Sirius' voice was distant.
"Dumbledore wants him in Surrey."
"Take my bike then, I won't need it where I'm going," reaching out he closed his best friend's eyes. Pressing a kiss to his forehead he whispered, "I'm sorry, brother. I'm sorry."
Standing, he stepped outside the wreckage and disappeared.
Sirius Orion Black had always been impetuous. It was one of a few faults he possessed. After saying goodbye to his dead best friend his mind focused and revolved on one detail with frightening clarity. Peter. He gripped his wand in his hand so hard his knuckles turned white. Reaching Peter's flat he didn't bother knocking.
One booted foot hit the door just below the handle and the door crashed open. The place was a mess and Peter was nowhere in sight. Things were scattered all across his floor, he'd packed in a great hurry. Crossing the floor he picked up a framed photo. It was a duplicate to the one that had smashed on James' floor. Sirius and Remus also had a copy. His fingers tightened on the cheap plastic frame.
Turning, his eyes alighted on a piece of paper sitting on the counter. With swift strides he reached it and realized it was a bus ticket stub, purchased for tonight from London to a destination in another county. Sirius glared at the paper for a moment before he turned to the door. A dangerous smile lit his face and he threw the frame to the floor, watching the glass shatter.
Booted heels crunched the glass as he crossed to the door and disappeared again. Not ten minutes later, Remus Lupin popped in, face pale. Taking in the destruction he whispered, "Oh no." Sighting the ticket, he scanned it quickly. "Peter, how were you so stupid to not get rid of it?"
Running out the door, he didn't consider the obvious placement of the ticket stub, intelligence for once taking second-place to emotion and what he held as truth. Sirius had been Secret-Keeper, the last he knew.
Peter Pettigrew knew he had only moments before someone arrived. He prepared the area carefully, placing a few packages around the space at a short distance apart. They were a magical version of Muggle bombs and a Stinging hex aimed at one would set off a chain reaction. He'd tested it in his flat with spectacular results. He paid no attention to the Muggles around him, setting up a careful scene.
He heard the crack of Apparition and looked around. Sighting black hair moving directly toward him he sighed in relief. Perfect, he thought sardonically, Sirius was always more hot-tempered than Remus.
"Bet you enjoyed handing James and Lily over to the Dark Lord, Rat!"
"Oh yes," he said smoothly, without his squeak. "It was the highlight of my life, I assure you. The rarity of ever seeing the great, noble James Potter helpless."
"He was greater than you ever will be, Peter!" Sirius spat. "To hell with turning you over, I'm going to kill you, worthless piece of scum."
Out of the corner of his eye Peter saw Remus appear to their right, too far away to stop anything. As Sirius raised his wand Peter pointed his own at his finger and hissed, "Diffindo!"
With a muffled gasp of pain he stared at the finger as it hit the pavement. As Sirius stood there and looked at him with a sneering confusion he said, "You'll be the one that pays for their death, Sirius. Mine as well, though I'll be safe and free the entire time."
Smirking victoriously he sent a Stinging Hex at the nearest package. It exploded, quickly followed by the next. Screams began as the packages caught surrounding Muggles. As the second to last package exploded Peter transformed and fell through the cracks of the street into the sewer.
Sirius watched him disappear with a numb feeling in his head. Staring at the finger he realised there was no way an observer would believe anything other than Sirius' guilt. A rather ironic smile twisted his face as he realised the truth of Peter's words. No one knew they'd switched Secret-Keepers.
He started laughing, hysteria and pain fuelling the sound. He couldn't stop, he was still laughing when the Aurors appeared and arrested him. He was laughing and simultaneously screaming, "It was the rat!" when he was brought before the Minister.
The laughter disappeared and his face paled to a waxy appearance when he was sentenced to life in Azkaban without need of a trial. Little did he know he would only been in there 12 miserable years.
Remus Lupin watched his friend murder their shy, stuttering companion with tears in amber eyes. Sobbing for the three friends who had been murdered tonight he clapped his hands over his ears to shut out Sirius' insane laughter and Disapparated. He wouldn't be seen again in England for 12 long years.
Peter floated downriver in his rat form before being discovered by a red-headed boy. He was scooped out of the water and carried into the lopsided house. "Mum, can I keep him?" Young Percy Weasley asked.
As Peter was being dried and fed fresh cheese and water, the little boy whom he'd orphaned at 15 months was placed on a Muggle doorstep. Three adults watched him with teary eyes before they set off to join the celebrations.
Thus the stage was set for the events that would change the wizarding world. Events that had already changed the life of little Harry James Potter, the newly anointed Boy-Who-Lived.