The Road Not Taken
Author's Note: This story is written for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writer's Month (for more details on this form of annual insanity, go to www.nanowrimo.org). As such, it should be noted that I am striving for speed of writing and word count, not necessarily quality. You have been warned. Scary thought of the day: This is how I write with NO BETA!
Another Author's Note: I have long been dissatisfied with the "standard" timeline for the Harry Potter books. This timeline holds that James and Lily married right out of school, and that Harry was born the year after that. Fifteen months later, they were killed by Voldemort. By this time, they had already "thrice defied" the Dark Lord, becoming worthy enough opponents to require his personal attention, and Severus Snape was already a Master in his chosen field, and had advanced within the Death Eater hierarchy enough to provide information about Voldemort's inner circle to the Ministry. Also according to this timeline, Charlie Weasley left school just the year before Harry entered Hogwarts. I don't think this timeline is realistic; there just isn't enough time for things to happen, especially since Lily was pregnant or the mother of an infant through most of it. Therefore, in this story at least, I postulate that James and Lily did marry shortly after leaving school, but that they both worked for several years in their chosen fields before Harry was born — James in the Ministry and Lily attempting to instill a modicum of journalistic integrity at the Daily Prophet. This gives Sirius time to complete the three years of Auror training and get a little field experience, Remus to discover the difficulties of finding a job in the Wizarding world, and Snape to take his Mastery in Potions, which surely is a multi-year process. Thus, the Marauders and Snape are all in their mid-twenties at the time Voldemort strikes, and Lucius Malfoy is already past thirty. Also, there is a gap of at least five years between Charlie and Percy Weasley, allowing time for the Quidditch hysteria to build up (the cries of "we haven't won the cup since Charlie Weasley left!" in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone would mean more if he left school several years ago, instead of just last year). This means that both Bill and Charlie are in school already at the time this story starts, and will have had time to establish themselves in their chosen fields by the time Harry first becomes acquainted with them.
Disclaimer (As if I really needed one): I don't own Harry Potter or any characters or events you recognize. See the pretty blond lady over there in Scotland? She owns them. See the piles of money from Harry Potter books, movies and licensing? She owns them, too. *sigh*
The Road Not Taken
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
Took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference."
- Robert Frost
October 11, 1981 — The Dower Estate, Godric's Hollow
"Mr. Prongs hereby calls this meeting of the Marauders to order!" James Potter raised a hammer above his head with the obvious intent of bringing it down — hard — upon the kitchen table.
"James, no!" Lily Potter gasped as she grabbed his arm to interrupt the swing before he did real damage to the furniture. "This is a brand new table!"
"So? It looks too new. A proper kitchen table should have all sorts of dings and dents."
"But they're supposed to be acquired naturally, from use. You're not supposed to add them on purpose." She wrested the hammer from her husband's grip.
"Well then, what am I supposed to use to open the meeting?" he asked, pouting.
"If you must bang on the table, use this." The red-headed woman leaned down and picked something up off the floor; a short cry of protest came from under the table. "Don't worry, Mummy will give it right back. Here," she said, straightening up and presenting James with the bright orange squeaky hammer they'd bought so that their toddler son could bang on things to his heart's content, just like his papa.
"This is downright undignified," said James, accepting the hammer nonetheless.
"Mr. Padfoot advises Mr. Prongs that this is a Marauders meeting, and therefore dignity doesn't enter into it," Sirius Black drawled. He leaned back in his chair and shook his shaggy black fringe out of his eyes. The rest of his hair was drawn back in the pony tail he'd affected since his father had died; the style was the mark of the Head of the Family in the older pureblood lines, and although James had eschewed it, Sirius had decided to wear it as a deliberate insult to his family — or at least to what remained of it. As a final insult, he held it back with a Muggle elastic band instead of the traditional black velvet ribbon required for casual occasions.
"Too true," his friend agreed. "Okay, now Mr. Prongs calls this meeting of the Marauders to order!" He brought the hammer down upon the tabletop with a resounding squeak. "Hey, what's that all about?" he asked in surprise, looking down at the floor. His fourteen month old son was determinedly pounding on his father's foot with a blue plush teddy bear. The bear made a little cry of distress with each blow.
"He wants his hammer back, I think," said Peter Pettigrew, looking under the table to observe the toddler's assault on the paternal anatomy. "Or maybe he wants to usurp your position and call the meeting to order himself. He's got a good swing."
James addressed the little boy firmly. "We can't have that! No usurping until you're at least as tall as the table, young man!" He picked the wriggling child up and held him in his lap.
The black-haired toddler promptly dropped the bear to the floor, where it emitted a final, doleful, "Ow!" and reclaimed his hammer, banging it enthusiastically on the table. "Bang!" he cried gleefully.
"Bang it is, then," said Sirius, raising his wine glass in salute to the boy.
Remus Lupin looked up from the remains of his dessert. It was only a few days until the full moon, and he was already feeling the effects. "Mr. Moony would like to request that Mr. Prongs get on with the meeting some time before Mr. Prongs Junior gets his Hogwarts letter," he growled.
"First item of business?" asked James.
"Mr. Padfoot would like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs. Lily Flower for providing us with such a wondrous repast," said Sirius, raising his wine glass to Lily. "And to thank Mr. Prongs for his wisdom in choosing for his life mate not only a vision of loveliness, but one who can cook."
Lily laughed. "As if my mother would let any daughter of hers get married without that qualification. She was a worse taskmaster than Slughorn."
"Oh, so that's how you did it!" said Peter, who had tried to keep up with Lily, and failed, all through their school years. "Cooking and Potions are pretty much the same thing, aren't they? Except a steak and kidney pie is less likely to explode."
Sirius' resolution was duly seconded, voted on, and approved.
"And the second order of business?" asked James as his son continued to apply himself diligently to pounding on the table.
Peter cleared his throat and followed Sirius' example by also raising his glass to his friend's wife. "Mr. Wormtail would like to thank Mrs. Lily Flower for keeping us all on track during the past two weeks. I have no doubt we'd all still be lost in the hardware store if it wasn't for her." He shuddered, remembering that first foray into that bastion of Muggle technology — the only thing that had scared him worse than James with a hammer was Sirius with a screwdriver.
"Hear, hear!" said James, and Sirius joined in. The second item was also seconded and approved.
"For the third order of business, Mr. Moony would like to thank Mrs. Lily Flower for preventing him from killing Mr. Padfoot and Mr. Prongs the second time they turned on the power while he was still installing light switches," said Remus, entering into the game. There was no doubt the first time was an accident, but the werewolf had doubts about the second time. He wouldn't put it past Sirius to have wanted to see if Remus' hair would stand on end again. His response had guaranteed that there was no third occurrence of the "accident".
The third item was seconded and approved after a spirited discussion of whether it had been fair of Remus to electrocute Sirius in turn, given that Sirius did not have the werewolf's ability to absorb damage.
"And for the fourth order of business, Mr. Prongs would like to know if his lovely wife has been sufficiently buttered up that she will take her offspring off Mr. Prongs' hands … er, lap, and change his nappy, which is quite odoriferous, even though it is clearly Mr. Prongs' turn. Whew!" he said, holding the smelly baby out toward his mother and averting his face.
Lily graciously assented to take the protesting child upstairs to attend to matters of baby hygiene, while the men finally got down to some serious talk.
"Do you really think this will work, James?" asked Peter.
"It has to," the dark-haired man said wearily. "Lily and I have spent almost a year now moving constantly, living out of safe houses. That's no way to live, and no way to bring up Harry. He deserves to have a place where he can grow up in safety. If the Fidelius Charm can do that, I'm prepared to do whatever I have to."
"Why not the Hollow, then? Why spend weeks renovating this place?" Sirius waved his hand to indicate not only the surrounding room, but the entire house. The Dower House lay on a small, separate Estate from the main Potter holding of Godric's Hollow. It had once been used as a residence for the widows of Potter lords of the manor so that they would not be forced to share the Hollow — and control of the household — with their daughters in law when the heir took his place. It had long fallen into disuse, however, and by the time James found it and took it over as his secret playhouse when he was a boy, everyone had long forgotten it was there. Over the past year, James and Lily had arranged for improvements to be made, such as bringing in electrical service and hooking a new pump up to the old well. That could only be done by Muggle contractors, who were properly paid for their services and carefully then Memory Charmed so they wouldn't remember any details about the nice young couple trying to renovate the tumble-down house out in the woods. Then the four Marauders had descended on the old house with hammer and saw and paintbrush to make at least a few rooms of it habitable. They wouldn't have been able to do it without the house elves, who came down from the Hollow and swarmed over the Dower House to replace the roof, plaster the walls, refinish the woodwork, and renovate the gardens. All this had required careful human supervision, of course, lest the elves get completely carried away, and somebody had to go out to get the equipment and materials from Muggle suppliers, but at least it had kept the hammers out of James' hands, for the most part. Peter and Remus both had experience with Muggle things, so were far less dangerous when weilding the equipment.
"It's too obvious. Too many people know it as the Potter seat. Even with the Fidelius Charm, it might be found. But almost nobody knows about the Dower Estate, even if it is part of the family land and does adjoin the main property. Nobody's used it for a couple hundred years or so. Hopefully the fact that we renovated it the Muggle way will have kept it off the scrying mirror at the Ministry, and when we do the Fidelius we should be able to disappear completely."
"I just wish I knew how long this was going to have to last," Remus said fretfully. "It's one thing for you to hide out for a short while, but if Harry is the one who will 'vanquish the Dark Lord', it could be years. Maybe until he's an adult. And we're not even sure it's about him. I wish we knew more about that Prophecy. It sounds incomplete somehow. We don't even know where it came from, or how You Know Who got it. Dumbledore says we can trust it, but I'm just not sure. Prophecies are awfully dicey things to be messing around with."
"I've never held much faith in divination either, but I trust Albus, and he says it's reliable. If it takes years, then it takes years," said James. "Lily handed in her resignation at the Prophet before Harry was born, and I've put in for an indefinite leave from the Ministry. Minister Bagnold said she was sorry to see me go, but understood why I had to. I can't say that Crouch was all that unhappy to see the back of me, though. We'll last it out. Who knows, once we find out exactly how the spell is working, I may be able to leave the property and come visit you from time to time. Albus said there would be work for me to do, and I'm sure we'll be able to be in contact."
"It won't be the same, though."
"No, it won't. But hopefully we'll all live through it and throw a massive party when it's all over."
"I assume you've picked your Secret Keeper, then?"
"Yes, but I-"
"Don't tell me, I don't want to know," Remus interrupted. "We all know there are certain elements who don't trust me, even in the Order. I'm a Dark creature, and everybody knows we can't be trusted," he finished bitterly.
James nodded somberly. "It's unfortunate that people think that way. I mean, we trust you, but you're right. You miss a lot of meetings, too … not just the ones that happen around the full moon. You've begged off some missions. You've never even let anyone see where you live. People are wondering why."
"I don't have any choice in that," said Remus, wearily. "And I don't want to talk about it right now. It's best if I don't know who your Secret-Keeper is. But I'd like to say I don't think it should be Sirius."
"So you don't trust me?" said Sirius, standing abruptly. "You think Peter would be more dependable?"
"No, that's not it at all. I don't think it should be Peter, either. Look, we know the Death Eaters are looking for you. Whoever the Secret-Keeper is will be in danger, and if they were caught, they might be tortured to get the information. How long do you think you could hold out, Sirius, if the Death Eaters were really going at you? How long could Peter hold out once they start using the Cruciatus on him?"
"Me?" squeaked Peter. "Probably about two seconds. I know my limitations. This may sound bad, but I kind of wish it could be you. You have the highest pain tolerance of all of us."
"But I have other weaknesses, and if rumour is correct that Snivellus joined the Dark Lord's side, then the Death Eaters know all about me. I have no illusions about how long I'd last if they pulled out silver shackles." The scarred young man shivered at the thought. "So that leaves you, Sirius. We were talking about things beeing too obvious before. You're too obvious a choice. Anybody that knows us would easily guess which one of us James would choose. The two of you have been like brothers for years. Which is why it should be someone else. Someone they don't expect. Someone in the Order, someone from the Ministry, someone in Lily's family, even."
"That's right out," growled James. "Have you met her family?"
"I had the misfortune of dancing with her sister at your wedding," Remus reminded him. "She didn't seem to like you all that much. But surely, for her sister …"
"Not a chance," said Lily, re-entering the room with a drowsy, sleeper-clad little boy in her arms. "If it were just Petunia, maybe, but if Vernon told her to, she'd sell us out so fast it would make your head swim."
"Someone from the Order, then. Dumbledore. Moody. Someone."
"I'm not sure I trust anyone in the Order," said James, his fingers drumming on the tabletop. "Not even Albus. If we had him as the Secret Keeper, there's no telling who else he'd tell. I love the man, but you know he trusts too easily. There's already information leaking, and we don't know where it's leaking from, and he's getting secret information of his own and won't tell us where he's getting it from. Until the leaks are plugged, I don't think we dare confide in anybody from the Order."
"And that goes double for the Ministry," put in Sirius. "That place leaks like a sieve. You'd think Aurors would know how to keep a secret, but the gossip in the squad room is incredible. From what Arthur tells me, the robes downstairs are just as bad. So who does that leave us? The greengrocer? It pretty much has to be one of us."
Remus sighed heavily, pushed his chair back and stood up. "I'd actually prefer using the greengrocer. Look, I have to go. You'll do whatever you decide to do. But I'm on record as being against this." He gathered James into one arm and Lily into the other for a hug. "Be safe, all right?" he whispered. "I don't think I could stand it if something happened to any of you. Especially to this little guy," he said, ruffling Harry's hair.
"I'll see you out," said James.
"You don't have to … no, wait, maybe you should. Tell you what, can you come with me for a few minutes? I have something to show you. Sirius and Peter can stay here with Lily, all right?"
Remus thought his heart would break when James hesitated. Perhaps, for all his protestations, James really didn't trust him.
For his part, James saw the pain that flickered through his friend's eyes momentarily, guessed at its cause, and decided to take the chance. "Sure. Let's go."
The two donned their jackets and went out into the crisp fall evening. The walk to the designated Apparition point for the Dower Estate was short, and neither spoke. When they got there, Remus took James' arm and Apparated them both away from Godric's Hollow.
They appeared in the middle of a small Muggle flat. "Welcome, James, to Chez Lupin," Remus said, pronouncing it in the French fashion. "This is my palatial abode. We are currently standing in the lounge, graciously furnished in the modern style."
'Gracious' wasn't exactly the word James would have chosen. The place was tiny. The walls were covered with grey wallpaper curling up at the corners, and the single window opened onto a brick wall a bare three feet away. The furnishings of the room consisted of an old fashioned, stained and threadbare couch with a crocheted afghan thrown across the back; a single end table and lamp; a scarred wooden coffee table; a rickety bookshelf that was alarmingly overloaded by a mixture of Muggle and Wizarding books, mostly Remus' collection of Defense books, and a desk with a telephone almost buried under a pile of papers. Instead of art, the one wall with a fair amount of unbroken space had a battered blue bicycle hanging from hooks on it.
"That," Remus said, pointing at the bike, "is my main mode of transportation to and from work, and also to the grocer's. It also doubles as a trendy wall decoration. All the best Muggle homes have them. Through here," he said, leading James into a room so small it could barely accommodate the single bed and a dresser, "is my cozy bedroom. 'Cozy' sounds so much better than 'not enough room to swing a cat,' don't you think? And this," he said, drawing James out of the bedroom and through the lounge again, "is my oh-so-roomy kitchen, complete with top of the line appliances." The room was tiny, possessing only one cabinet, an ancient refrigerator and gas stove, a narrow sink, and about twelve inches of counter space. The linoleum had worn through to reveal the floor boards beneath in the center of the kitchen. "Do you see why I don't have people over?"
"I'm beginning to. But I wonder why you … Remus, you don't have to live like this."
"Don't I?" Remus flung himself down on the sofa, which sagged alarmingly under his weight. "James, your father left you more money than you know what to do with. Sirius has what his uncle left him. 'A small inheritance' he calls it. I call it a bloody fortune. And since Peter's father died, he's not exactly badly off, either, even if he has to support his mother and sister. None of you will ever want for a thing. You don't even have to work if you don't want to. A career is just something to keep you from getting bored. But me? My father didn't have much to start with, and after I was, well, bitten and my mother left us, he wasted most of what he had left on one quack treatment after another, trying to find a cure for me. You know how well that worked. And then he died during our last year in school. I still have his cottage, but it's not livable, and I don't have an army of house elves to do what we just did to the Dower House. There's an old stone barn on the property, which is where I spend the full moons. I can lock myself in well enough that the wolf can't get out. But I had to sell the few things of value left in the house to pay the inheritance taxes on the place. I can't hold a job in the Wizarding world longer than a few months. They always find out, and fire me as a precaution for the safety of other workers. I don't have the skills or documentation for any really good job in the Muggle world. I work at anything I can get off the books. I wait tables. I do day labour at construction sites. I've written a few articles for the local paper. I even babysit. Anything that comes my way, really. It's uncertain as all hell, and sometimes I have to choose between a mission for the Order and something that will put food on my table. I regret to say there have been times when I chose the food."
"Then come live with one of us, you know we won't mind. You wouldn't be a burden on any of us."
"I can't do that, James. You know I can't. Maybe it's stupid, but my independence is the only thing I have that I'm not willing to give up. I won't accept charity. I won't become someone else's dependent."
"A caged wolf is just a dog," murmured James.
"Got it in one," replied Remus. "Maybe things will be different one day. Maybe I can find something I can work at from home, where I won't be answerable to someone else. But for now, this is the way things have to be." He shook James' hand firmly. "Get back home now and take care of your wife and son. Pick someone and do the spell. Send me an owl if you can and let me know how things go."
"I will." With a sharp Crack! James Apparated back home, sobered by his look at a life he could barely imagine.
Back at the Dower House, James found Sirius, Peter and Lily deep in discussion. Harry was sound asleep on the couch, wrapped in a blanket. As James entered the lounge and hung his jacket on a peg by the door, he wondered briefly why his son wasn't in his crib, before being drawn into the conversation.
"You don't know what you're asking me to do!" Peter complained
"We've agreed Remus was right," said Sirius. "I am too obvious, and they'll come after me first thing, assuming they come after any of us at all. That means the best thing I can do is not know the secret. They can't make me tell what I don't know. But I can hold out as long as possible, maybe even give them a false address and make them waste more time."
"And what am I supposed to do in the meantime?" asked Peter.
"You do what you do best. You run. You cover your trail and hide. Don't think we don't remember which one of us kept us from getting caught all those years in Hogwarts. It certainly wasn't my foresight and discretion."
Peter snorted in agreement. 'Foresight' and 'discretion' had never been words associated with Sirius Black. Sirius had great ideas, but his lack of impulse control was legendary. Any time he tried to carry out a prank on his own, it ended in disaster. The incident with Snivellus and the Shrieking Shack was only the worst of a good many scrapes Sirius had got into because he just didn't think things through.
"You know the Muggle world almost as well as you know ours. Your mother and your sister have already retired there. You could too, and not one of the Death Eaters could find you. They have no clue about Muggle things."
Peter chewed on his lip while he thought, nervously twisting his signet ring around on his finger. It was a habit he'd developed since he'd inherited the ring and the Pettigrew properties the year before. Lily leaned over and placed her hand on his. "Peter, please. We need you to do this for us. You're the only one who can right now."
"Unless you want me to go down to the village and knock up the greengrocer?" put in James.
"All right, I'll do it. You're right, I can hide better than any of you except maybe Lily. If necessary, I can … I can go to Australia or somewhere like that."
"Don't go too far. We'll need to be able to get in touch," said Sirius.
"Don't worry. I can set up a drop box so you can send mail to me. I'll have someone else pick it up and bring it to me." Or bring it to someone else who can send it to a post office box where I can pick it up, thought Peter, his mind already busy devising a system of drops and deliveries which would make it difficult for anyone to follow the messages. "Sirius, I'll send you an address as soon as I can."
"Good man!" said James, slapping Peter on the back. "I knew we could count on you." Sirius reached for his jacket, but James stopped him for a moment. "One more thing before you leave. We have a new Marauders project. We have to do something about Remus."
"He was our last Marauders project!" said Peter.
"This is serious — and don't even think of doing that joke again, Black! Remus took me to see his place tonight, and explained why he's been missing meetings and things. He's living hand to mouth out there in the Muggle world by picking up odd jobs. And all he has is a cheap little flat and a bicycle to show for it. This is the smartest guy we know. There's got to be some way for him to make a decent living, either in our world or the Muggle world. He's too worn out trying to make ends meet, so it's up to us to figure out a way for him. No charity, no working for us, you know how proud he is. Work your connections; we've got to know somebody who won't be put off by the fact that he's a werewolf. Or try to think of something independent."
"If we figured out how to become Animagi without him or anyone else finding out, this should be easy," said Sirius.
"Yeah, but this can't take as long as becoming Animagi did. I don't know how long he can live like that.
"I'll start work on it tomorrow," Sirius promised.
"Good. Now let's get this spell done. I'm tired, and Harry needs to go to sleep in his own bed. Lily, why is Harry even down here?"
"We need to take a drop of his blood for the spell," said Lily. "That can't be done in advance. The sooner we get this done, the sooner I can take him up to his room."
"I'll be leaving, then," said Sirius. He shook hands with the short, pudgy Marauder. "Peter, I'll be expecting your owl." Lily got a warm hug. "Take care of James and Harry, Lily Flower. They'll need you to keep them out of trouble." Finally, he shook James' hand, then gave in and hugged him, too. "I'm going to miss you," he choked out, then left the house before anybody could see the tears in his eyes. After a moment, the roar of his motorcycle's engine filled the night. Its wheels crunched briefly on the gravel of the drive, then the sound faded away into the night.
Lily and Peter left the lounge and returned to the kitchen, while James gathered the sleeping child into his arms and followed them. Lily, or perhaps the house elves, had been busy here; the dinner things had been cleared away and the kitchen was immaculate. The table was clear except for the items needed for the Fidelius Charm.
The Fidelius was an old charm, and therefore required much more than the incantation and wand wave of a modern spell. For this spell, they had to charm marker stones and bury them at the corners of the property, at each doorway into the house, and alongside the gateposts. Fortunately, this could be done ahead of time, during the day, and they had taken care of it at the same time the gardens had been replanted and the fences repaired. Then, as the caster of the spell, Lily had walked the complete circumference of the property, marking it with the tip of her wand.
While Peter read through the spell to familiarize himself with it, Lily spread a white cloth on the table, its measurements proportional to the property. She set candles in silver holders out in places corresponding to the buried marker stones. "This is just another reason why Remus couldn't be the Secret Keeper," she murmured. "Everything has to be silver, even the knife used to draw our blood." She placed a large white quartz stone, rounded and frosted from years of erosion in a nearby river, in position to represent the house. The knife she placed on the tabletop next to the cloth, next to a scroll that contained the words of the secret. The spell itself was written, incongruously, in a spiral-bound Muggle notebook which Lily consulted frequently as she set things up. "Are we all ready to begin?"
The men nodded solemnly.
Lily lit the candles and a cone of incense, then turned down the electric lights so that the candles were the only source of light in the room. She consulted the notebook one last time, then began to speak the words of the spell in crisply enunciated Latin. "I bind us all here gathered, and all who belong to our family, under the Rite of Fidelius. This is the secret which must be kept." She shifted into English, reading from the scroll. "The Potter family lives on the Dower Estate at Godric's Hollow. Ego sum Lilia, mater familias. Fidelite." She made a small cut on her finger with the silver knife, placing a drop of her blood on the scroll and on the white stone. She passed the knife to James, taking Harry from him.
"Ego sum Jacobus, pater familias. Fidelite," said James, repeating the cut and anointing of parchment and stone. Then he took Harry's hand. "Harrius est, filius familias. Fidelite." He tried to be as gentle as he could when he drew the blood, but Harry woke at the sting and wailed pitifully as his bloody finger was touched to the parchment and the stone. He subsided, sniffling, when Lily performed the ancient mother's healing charm of kissing the small wound to make it better.
Peter took the knife from James. "Ego sum Petrus, custos arcanum. Fidelio." He placed his blood, too, on the scroll and the stone, and placed the knife back on the table.
Silently, they left the kitchen, leaving the candles burning, and went out the front door. The walk to the gate was short, and they shivered as they passed through it. The magic was working already. Standing on the thin strip of grass between the fence and the road, they turned to face the house. "Fidelio!" cried Peter, stabbing the earth between the gate posts. The house, the land, even the fence seemed to shimmer in the moonlight, and then the trees on either side rushed in, filling the space and becoming an impenetrable forest.
"Impressive. Now I just hope we can get back in," muttered James.
"Tell us the secret, Peter," said Lily. She jostled Harry to make sure he was awake and could hear the secret clearly; even if he didn't quite understand all the words, the meaning would imprint itself in his mind.
"The Potter family lives on the Dower Estate at Godric's Hollow," Peter read from the scroll. The scroll itself burst into silver flames. Peter dropped it reflexively, but it vanished into ash and a puff of smoke before it hit the ground. The trees rustled and the forest swept away, revealing the Dower Estate and the House once again. Harry clapped his hands in approval, then stuck his thumb in his mouth and laid his head on Lily's shoulder.
"That's done, then. I think it's about time we took this young man in and put him to bed." The three went back into the house, where Lily went upstairs with Harry and James and Peter cleaned up the ritual equipment. The pure white stone now bore four red streaks in it, where the blood had sunk into the surface of the quartz and become part of it. James took it outside and hid it in the shrubbery in the front garden while Peter put his coat on. Lily came down again before he was quite ready to go.
"One question," he said. "Harrius?"
"There's no direct equivalent for 'Harry'" she explained. "That's why I inserted the part about 'all who belong'. To make sure he was covered."
"I wondered. It seems to have worked, although that phrasing was broad enough that it could include the house elves. I'll be off, then. There's a lot for me to do tomorrow."
"I'm just looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again," said James. "Those safe house beds are either too hard or too soft or too damn short."
"Good night, James. Lily." Peter went out the front door, and shortly the CRACK! of his Apparition broke the stillness of the night.
In Scotland, an elderly man looked up from his work, aware that something had changed. He tried to remember where his young friends had moved to, which was information he had definitely had earlier that evening, but found himself unable to.
"Good job, Lily," he whispered, then returned to the report he had been reading.
In the air half way to London, Sirius Black realized he couldn't remember where he had just been, or where he had spent the last two weeks. He remembered in a general way that he had been with James and Lily at their house, but not a specific address. He could remember driving to pick up roofing supplies, but not any of the street signs or directions. Any details which might have identified the house or even the town were hidden.
"By Merlin, it worked!" he said to himself. "I just hope we did the right thing."
In the Dower House at Godric's Hollow, James and Lily Potter made sure all the lights were out, and went up the stairs holding hands.