The Sugar Quill
Author: Seriana Ritani  Story: Last Man Standing  Chapter: Part 2: Lily and James
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LastMan2

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Part 2: Lily and James
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Albus Dumbledore paused in his work when he felt a sensation not unlike having someone slash at the back of his hand with a razor blade. He put his quill down and moved his hand away from the papers he was working on, not wanting to get bloodstains on them. Severus’ message came in firm, quick strokes, painful but uninterceptible and untraceable.

Dumbledore read it quickly before the letters oozed into one another. Then, since he was the sort of person who could act quickly when it was called for (one reason he’d never gone into government) he didn’t waste a second. He locked up his papers, erased the raw shadow of the message with one of Fawkes’ tears, then went as fast as he could across the Floo network to Godric’s Hollow and the Potters’ house.

“Hello?” came James’ voice as Dumbledore stepped into the kitchen. “Who is it?”

“Myself only, James,” the Headmaster answered.

“Professor Dumbledore!” The young man entered, putting his wand away and combing his untidy hair back in a gesture of relief. Obviously he’d been ready for someone quite different to show up. “Good to see you, sir.”

“There I’m afraid you’re wrong,” Dumbledore said apologetically, “For I bear you no good tidings. Where is Lily?”

“Here I am,” said Lily, coming in after her husband. Like him, she was dressed as a Muggle, in t-shirt and trousers, and held against her chest with his head nestled sleepily into the curve of her neck was Harry, now nearly fifteen months old.

“Professor Dumbledore’s come to bring us some bad news,” James explained cheerfully.

“Oh, good. We haven’t had any of that for at least a week. I was getting bored. Would you mind putting tea on?”

James did so while Dumbledore and Lily sat down at the kitchen table.

“So what’s the bad news?” Lily asked, carefully resettling the baby so as to restore circulation to her arm without waking him. When Dumbledore hesitated, she encouraged gently, “We’re up to hearing it, sir.”

“I know you are. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I am up to saying it. But I shall nonetheless. I have learned that Lord Voldemort will very soon try to kill Harry.”

Their reaction was as he’d anticipated. Lily gasped and clutched her son, who squirmed awkwardly in her arms and began to fuss. James had been taking cups out of the cabinet, but he slammed his hand down on the counter to steady himself and in the process smashed the cup and cut his hand. Ignoring the injury, he joined his wife, as though afraid she and Harry would be whisked off if he were more than four feet away.

“Our Harry?” Lily asked. “Why would he want Harry?”

“That question requires more explanation than I have time to give at this particular moment. If any of us remains alive in the morning I will be happy to clarify. The point of interest of the moment, however, is that he does want Harry dead, tonight, and it is of vital importance that he be kept safe.”

“We’ll have to run,” said James. “Go into hiding.”

“But our work for the Order?” Lily asked.

“The Order,” said Professor McGonagall, who chose that moment to step out of the fireplace into the kitchen, “Will manage somehow without the two of you. Finally, Albus. I couldn’t find you anywhere in the school and went hunting for you immediately. Tea, Potter? I think I could use some.”

She joined the circle seated around the table and raised an eyebrow at James, who finally remembered to heal his bleeding hand and managed to get the tea poured. By the time he’d sat down with his own cup next to Lily, Dumbledore had filled McGonagall in on the situation.

“So the question remains,” said McGonagall, raising her voice slightly to be heard over Harry’s fussing and Lily’s croons to him, “Where can they hide?”

“A scheme that has recently been executed with moderate success,” said Dumbledore, “is to send a child away to inconspicuous relatives. One is easier to conceal than three, and two adult Order members are an effective decoy to draw attention away from one small child.”

James bit his lip and looked at Lily. “It could be safer for him . . .”

“But, James, who would we send him to? Petunia? I wouldn’t trust her with anything bigger than a houseplant.”

“Good point. She’d probably just set him by a window and water him once a day.”

Seeing the incomprehension on the faces of her Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress, Lily clarified. “Petunia’s my sister, my polar-opposite sister. She lives in this immaculate house in Surrey, with her loud, closed-minded, blustering husband, and both of them disapprove of James so fiercely that it probably does things to their blood pressure. Even if they’d take him, which I doubt, Petunia’s hated me so long I don’t think she could even pretend to love Harry. We could sooner leave him with Severus Snape.”

James snickered, evidently imagining that possibility, then sobered again. “We’ll hide, then. All three of us. Together.”

“We’ll have to leave this house, I suppose.”

Everyone at the table could hear the regret in Lily’s voice. She loved that house, as did James. It was their home. They’d made it together and only been able to enjoy for a short time thus far. James took her hand and squeezed it gently.

Professor Dumbledore put down his tea solemnly. “I believe,” he said, “that it can be arranged for you to stay. A Fidelius Charm.”

“Isn’t that rather risky?” Lily asked. She knew a great deal about Charms: it had been her best subject at Hogwarts.

“Spectacularly so, but no riskier than any other option. And the greatest risk would not be to you at all, but to your Secret-Keeper. If you decide to do this, I will volunteer to take that responsibility.”

Both the Potters instantly exploded with protests. “Of course not, Professor!” said James, just as Lily said, “Oh, no, Professor, we couldn’t ask it of you!”

“Who could we ask it of?” James asked his wife.

“Sirius, of course. Isn’t that who you were going to suggest?”

“Are you entirely sure that’s wise?” asked Professor McGonagall. “Sirius Black is brave, to be sure, but he’s also unpredictable and reckless. Are you sure he should be trusted with such a responsibility?”

“Yes,” said James, his tone firm as iron. “Sirius is the truest friend ever born. He’ll keep us safe.” Lily added her nod of assent.

“You had better contact him immediately, then,” said Dumbledore. “This spell should be cast as quickly as possible.”

“I should probably go get my Charms books and look the thing up,” said Lily. “James, take Harry.”

“It should be in Advanced Charms And Their Theoretical Bases,” McGonagall offered.

“I don’t know if I still have that one: I’ll check.” She carefully handed Harry over to James and went to look for the book. After a few minutes she called, “I found it!” and reentered the kitchen, flipping through the volume. “Here’s the spell . . . goodness.”

“Too difficult for you?” McGonagall asked as Lily showed the enchantment to James.

“I’ve done worse,” said James. “We can manage. I should call Sirius right away.”

“The attack is coming at midnight, but I’ll cast a ward around your house to buy you some more time,” offered Dumbledore. “After which Professor McGonagall and myself had better make ourselves scarce. The larger an audience present for a Fidielius Charm, the less effective it tends to be. Once it is cast, send me an owl informing me of your address. The letter will be unreadable to any but its addressee.”

“Who else should we send it to?” Lily asked.

Dumbledore counted off on his long fingers. “Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, Alastor Moody, Frank Longbottom. I believe that’s everyone who needs to know.”

“Thank you, Professors,” James said earnestly.

“You just take care of your family,” McGonagall ordered him. “Let us manage Voldemort for now. No more toying with death, Potter.”

James shook his head. “Not since Harry.”

“Good.”

//
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