Title: A Different Path
Summary: The events that took place on Halloween 1981 in Godric's Hollow can't be changed, but what if the actions afterwards weren't so set in stone?
Disclaimer: Characters and world belong to J.K Rowling and not me. I'm just borrowing them.
Everything was wrong.
The house in Godric's Hollow was not supposed to be razed to the ground. It was supposed to be a happy place. Somewhere that cocooned the laughter and jokes of his best friends and their son. But it was not like that. Not anymore.
Peter. That rat. Hah! How true that had been!
It was his fault. All of it. The dirty, scheming little rat had sold them out. How could he? Why did he betray them? What had Voldemort offered him?
Not that it truly mattered. Not to the Potters. Not to Sirius. Nothing really mattered when you were dead. Sirius, although not physically gone, barely kept his mind functioning; surrounded by devastation as he was. He staggered aimlessly through what little was left of the house he had once known so well.
His legs failed him when he saw James.
Knees and hands scraped roughly on the rubble. Sirius' body shook uncontrollably. He crawled to his friend's side. Messy black hair. Just like always. However, unlike always James did not notice his presence.
No. No. No. No. No.
His grasping hand grabbed James' shoulder.
Not James. Not James. Not James.
He shook him gently as though afraid to wake him and then more firmly as desperation set in.
Wake up. Wake up.
But James did not wake. Did not move. No matter how peaceful he looked, he was not asleep. Sirius knew that, but believing it was something else entirely. How could James be dead? It was just a prank. Had to be a prank. Because his brother in all but blood could not be dead.
Sirius' hand dropped from James' shoulder. He was cold. He was gone.
Sirius knew that death was something he should be used to. So many members of the Order had lost their lives in this fight. This war. This stupid messed up battle where friend turned against friend and lover against lover. But he could not have prepared for this. Not for James. Not for Lily. Not for Remus. Not for Peter. Certainly not for baby Harry. He knew Voldemort wanted Harry dead. Just how could you ever grasp that it would really happen?
There was no Dark Mark in the sky. No skull. No snake. But there was death.
Was he still here? Had he not left yet?
Sirius could not bring himself to look around. All he could see was James. James and the blackened stones of the house.
He pulled James towards himself and held him tightly.
There was a soft pop. Apparition; his ears told him. Defend yourself; his survival instincts said. Sirius did not move. He just held James tighter.
Warm. A hand was on his shoulder. Another on his wrist. Kind. Gentle. Persuasive. Hands he knew as well as his own.
A voice he knew better. So calm. How could he sound that way?
"Let him go, Sirius."
No. No. No. Sirius shook his head.
The hand around his wrist moved. It cupped his cheek gently before firmly lifting his chin.
Warm eyes. Soft eyes. Sad eyes. They did not hide the pain like the voice did.
"I can hear Harry. He needs us, Sirius. Put James down and we'll go find him, all right?"
Harry? Alive? Was Lily with him?
Slowly Sirius released James. Hands helped him stand. A wand healed his cuts. An arm around his waist offered support.
They found Lily first. Red hair. Green eyes. Still beautiful. Fallen angel. The arm around him trembled slightly, but did not let go.
A pitiful cry reached Sirius' ears. Before he processed what was happening, the arm had left his waist and his strength waned once more. His legs held this time. He was not sure how.
An eternity passed. The warmth came back. With it a precious bundle of black and green and red. Red? Blood.
Sirius was nudged persuasively away from the house and made to sit on the kerb. His back to the house. His back to James and Lily.
The squirming, sniffling infant was placed delicately in his arms. Murmured incantations cleaned off the blood, but the wound did not heal. Not properly. It would scar.
A soft kiss was placed on Sirius' forehead. The warmth went away.
Harry wrapped his fingers tightly around Sirius' robes. The crying stopped. His breathing deepened. He slept safely in the arms of his godfather.
Sirius could hear spells being muttered; spells of preservation. Spells that were being placed on the bodies of his best friends. He held Harry more tightly to his chest. Harry did not stir.
"Why?" His voice sounded hoarse and for a moment Sirius did not even recognise it as his own.
"Why what? Why am I here? Why did it happen? Why is Harry alive?"
"Everything. Anything. Make it make sense."
"Dumbledore was worried. He'd heard things and knew I'd want to see for myself... I can't tell you what happened though. I know as much as you, less even."
"I wasn't... I didn't... I couldn't..."
"Sirius, I know you could never hurt them. Not everyone will believe you though. Dumbledore thinks you were the Secret-Keeper." A hand settled on Sirius' shoulder.
"But you believe me?" He needed this. A desperate, aching need not to be alone in this.
"Of course. It's James." It was as simple as that. Sirius slowly released the breath he had been holding.
Loud, booming footsteps interrupted their conversation.
"Is tha' him? Is tha' Harry?" A giant of a man stood over Sirius and Harry. "Professor Dumbledore sent me ter get him."
"No." Sirius' voice stronger than it had been all night. "You can't take him, Hagrid. He's my godson and I'll look after him. It's what... James and Lily... They wanted me to look after him."
Hagrid sniffled loudly under his bushy beard. "It's what Professor Dumbledore wants. Says it's best fer Harry."
"I don't give a damn what he thinks is best!" Sirius growled. He drew himself to his full height which, although quite impressive, did very little given the size of the other man. "Look at what happened the last time we followed his advice!" Gentle hands prised Harry out of Sirius' arms as the baby stirred at the noise. Harry quieted again almost immediately. "No, James and Lily wanted me to look after him and that's what I'll do. It's the least I can do. I'll be there for their son when I wasn't for them."
"Now wait just a minute! Dumbledore did what he could ter protect Lily an' James. Yeh know that, Sirius."
He knew it was his own fault. Sirius had swapped with Peter at the last moment, but blaming someone else eased the guilt that was crushing his soul. "It was supposed to stop this from happening. They weren't supposed to... die."
"We should probably hear him out." Always the damn voice of reason. "I'll help make sure you keep Harry, but he probably knows something we don't. How about we go together?"
"Fine. We'll go. But you're not to let go of Harry. No matter what. You give him to no one other than me."
"Do you still not trust me?"
"Don't lie, Sirius. I know it's why you didn't tell me you had switched. Being a werewolf finally caught up with me where you were concerned, didn't it?" Sirius tried to interrupt, to defend himself and not have his only friend left in this world hate him, but was shot down. "It doesn't matter right now. It isn't important. Harry is though. We need to get him to Dumbledore."
Sirius knew Hagrid was not happy with this turn of events. Nevertheless, two stubborn wizards were not to be messed with; especially when those wizards had considered the Potters their family. Grudgingly, Hagrid told them where he was to meet Dumbledore, and when. But Sirius wanted this over with. Instead of going to where Harry's sorry excuse for relations lived, Sirius decided to go directly to Hogwarts. In all likelihood, the headmaster would be there. The older wizard would have run his war efforts entirely out of Hogwarts if he did not have the children to protect. This needed dealing with as soon as possible, not in twenty-four hours. No one was taking Harry away. Not when he had lost so much already. They were not taking him too.
He had to find him. Find Sirius. Make it look like he was the one. Dumbledore would suspect Sirius. Sirius should have been the Secret-Keeper after all.
Keep running. Keep searching. Find him.
Sirius would know by now what he had done. His former friend would want to find him. Peter had to get Sirius off his back, and quickly. If he shifted the blame to Sirius, that should work. He had not gone through all of this to get caught now.
Sirius would go to the house. He would have to see it for himself. He would need to see James. Not that Peter knew if there would be anything to see. Once he had told the Dark Lord the Potters' location he had not had the courage to follow. Self preservation was all well and good, but he could not watch his friends get slaughtered.
Peter made up his mind, Apparated to Godric's Hollow and quickly transformed into a rat. No one would find him in this form. He was safe for the moment. The rat scurried closer to the ruins of the house. Muggle and wizard officials rushed around trying to make sense of the disaster and cover it up.
"Such a shame," Peter heard a Muggle healer say, "too young to be killed. They should be raising a family not being put in the ground."
"Strange though, don't you think? They don't even look like the explosion touched them."
Peter swerved sharply as a wizard dashed forwards to wipe their minds and nearly stood on him. So Lily and James were dead then. Not that he had any doubt about it; they would have done anything to protect Harry. Silly really; nothing was worth dying for.
The closer he got to the house the more wizards he found.
"Didn't they have a son? I wonder where he is."
"I heard You-Know-Who himself was after the boy."
"A baby? Don't be ridiculous. What would he want with a child?"
"Who knows why he does anything?"
"Well, if he really was after the kid maybe he took him?"
No, Peter thought, the Dark Lord would have killed him just like he killed Lily and James. There was no point drawing it out any longer than he had to. Perhaps they had just missed his body? After all it was such a small thing to find in all of this destruction.
The rat ran. Through the rubble, the wood, the burnt clothes and furniture and toys towards the cot he knew Harry slept in. This devastation was strange and not what he had expected to find. The Dark Lord did not leave a mess like this. Had something gone wrong?
He reached the cot. No Harry. No blankets. However, there was a faint smell. A scent that made Peter's blood run cold. It was one he knew in his rat form very well; something lupine hidden under a human odour. Remus had been here. The werewolf had taken Harry, and that must mean...
Harry was alive? No. It could not be possible. What did that mean for the Dark Lord? Peter suddenly realised that maybe Sirius was not the only one who would be after him.