The Sugar Quill
Author: rocky (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Always Be Together  Chapter: Chapter One: Prongs
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Chapter 1:

Prongs

James watched her as she slowly stirred the chowder, back turned to him. Lily always liked to combine Muggle and Wizard cooking. Muggle cooking, she insisted, gave it a more loving taste. Wizard cooking, she said, was more practical. The wireless played softly next to the kitchen sink, and Lily hummed to the music, occasionally throwing in words she knew.

James heard a giggle come from behind him. Turning, he saw Harry awkwardly standing in his playpen. His green eyes lit up as he saw his father look at him. He giggled again.

Walking over to the playpen, James smiled and picked up the one-year-old. "Hello, Pronglet. Did we have a good nap?" Harry grabbed his father’s nose in reply. "Good, good," James said, removing the tiny fist. "Shall we go say hello to Mummy?"

He strolled back towards the kitchen area, still chatting quietly with Harry. As he came up right behind his wife, he said in a slightly louder voice, "I don’t think Mummy realizes she’s singing out loud, Harry."

"Mummy doesn’t care what Daddy says, Harry. Mummy knows she can sing better than him," Lily said without turning her head.

James laughed. "I think all this cooking’s got Mummy in a bit of a tizzy! Come on, Lil, sit down for a while. Let me do something. You know the boys don’t care what the food tastes like."

Lily chuckled as she gave Harry the toy wand he had been reaching for. "Let you do something? Like last time, James dear?"

"Those potatoes came off the walls quite easily with some Mrs. Skower’s."

"Yes, well, I’d rather not have to do that tonight. I want everything to be…right tonight."

"You’re a poet and you didn’t know it, Lil."

Lily shoved James playfully. "You know what I mean. We might not be able to see the boys again for quite a while…especially Peter."

James sighed. "Yeah, I know." Suddenly he wrinkled up his nose. "Oh, Harry!"

Lily smiled benevolently. "Your turn to change him."

"What, you’re keep a tally now? Joking, just joking." James held up his hands defensively as Lily’s eyes flashed. "Going right now."

James walked down the hallway towards Harry’s room. He paused on the way, looking at a framed photo hanging on the wall. It was a picture of graduation. Was it only three years ago? His photo self looked so much younger. They all did. There was Sirius, flashing that smile of his, shoving James in and out of the photo frame. Peter, trying unsuccessfully but determinedly to give Sirius bunny ears. Remus, rolling his eyes and smiling good-naturedly, and quickly succeeding in giving Sirius the bunny ears. Lily briskly walked into the picture, silently reprimanding them and getting them to behave before the picture was taken.

James smiled as the picture-Peter began laughing at something Lily had said. How he missed those days. Carefree they seemed. Yes, Voldemort had been around then. Yes, shortly after graduation they had agreed to join the Order of Phoenix. But back then he hadn’t had a family to take care of. Then Voldemort hadn’t targeted his wife, his child.

Just last week, Professor Dumbledore had broken the news to them. His sources were reliable. The Potters had to go into hiding. The Fidelius Charm was their only option. Would they consider him as their Secret Keeper?

James looked at Sirius in the photo, laughing, joking, smiling. How much he had changed in the last few years. No, James had said, Sirius will be our Secret Keeper.

Lily had instantly agreed. Dumbledore had reluctantly agreed. Sirius had reluctantly agreed. Poor Sirius. Although he didn’t show it, James knew he was frightened, just like the rest of them. Only yesterday Sirius had asked James if Peter could be the Secret-Keeper. Sirius said it was the better choice. No one would think Peter was the Secret-Keeper. James had reluctantly agreed. The Fidelius Charm was to be performed tomorrow.

And tonight. Tonight was the last time the Marauders would be together for a while. After they went into hiding, it just wouldn’t be safe to see each other anymore. They were all going into hiding, really. They were all at risk. James didn’t want to put his friends at anymore of a risk. No, better not to see them until after Voldemort had stopped searching for the Potters. Or after Voldemort was defeated. Preferably both.

James was startled out of his reverie by a loud squeal from Harry. Looking down, he found his son glaring up at him and sucking his thumb.

"All right, all right!" James said, laughing. "You’ll just have to accept it, Harry. Your dad’s getting nostalgic in his old age."

*

"Where are they? They should have been here by now."

Lily sat by the fire, stroking Harry’s black hair as he played with his stuffed lamb. "Now, James, you know they’re usually late. Out of the three of them, I think Remus is the only one who can tell time. And I don’t know if he always cares to."

"You’re right, I know, but all the same…where are they?" James shot a glance out the window, half expecting to see a flash of green in the distance. It was normal for Sirius to be this late, but the three of them were supposed to be coming together. And Remus and Peter could usually keep Sirius in check. Were they all right? Had they…?

Suddenly, James heard a loud shout and laughter coming from outside. That was Sirius. The laughter was soon followed by high-pitched chuckles, and what sounded like some reprimands. James smiled in relief. They were all here.

Several seconds later the front door burst open. Sirius stood in the doorway, hair in his eyes and a smile on his face. "Prongs! You’ll never guess what happened. On the way here, a wild herd of Hungarian Horntails attacked Peter! We couldn’t leave Wormtail to his fate, could we? So Remus and me—oomph!"

Peter pushed past Sirius and into the room. "Hi, James," he said cheerfully, taking off his cloak. "Hello, Lily, Harry. How’s Pronglet doing tonight?"

Lily smiled and took Peter’s cloak from him. "Just fine, Peter, thank you."

Sirius glared at his friend. "Wormtail, you ruined my dramatic entrance."

"You ruined it yourself by being late to meet us, Sirius." Remus slid into the house and set his cloak on a chair. "Sorry, James. Blame Sirius."

James nodded sagely. "I usually do."

Sirius looked offended. "Oh sure, blame it on me. I’m the one who had to fight off the Horntails."

"Why don’t we sit down for dinner?" interjected Lily. "It’ll get cold soon."

"Harry!" Seeing his godson, Sirius walked briskly over and scooped him out of Lily’s arms. "Hiya, buddy! Brought you a present." Harry screamed in delight as Sirius tossed him in the air.

Lily raised an eyebrow. "A present? Don’t you think you’ve spoiled him enough, Padfoot?"

Sirius waved an impatient hand as he placed Harry gently on the floor. "Of course not, Lily darling. And besides, next week is Halloween. This is a Halloween present."

"New custom, eh?"

"Oh, shove it, Remus. Here, Harry." Sirius drew a small broomstick out from under his cloak. "Your first broomstick! Granted, it’s just a toy, but we have to get you started early! Be a great chaser, just like your dad. And me, of course."

James strode over to look at the gift. "Pretty nice one, Sirius. Where’d you pick it up?"

He heard Lily clear her throat behind him. "James, Sirius, don’t you think Harry is a little young for a toy broomstick?" she said in a voice that clearly said ‘of course he is!’

James quickly handed the broomstick back to Sirius. "Yes, of course, Sirius, what were you thinking?" he said with a wink.

Remus shook his head with a slight smile. "Perhaps we should go eat that supper, Lily."

Sirius beamed. "Yeah, one of Lily’s famous meals! James didn’t ‘help’ with it, did he? Good. Here, Peter, you can practice on the broom, since Lily insists Harry isn’t big enough for it."

Remus chuckled, and Peter gave Sirius a nasty look before turning to Lily. "Lily, my mother’s sick and hasn’t been able to do anything around the house lately, so I was wondering if…"

Lily smiled. "I’m sure we’ll have extras for her, Peter."

Peter smiled gratefully, and James laughed. "Count on Peter to be the first to ask for leftovers."

Before another word could be spoken, Lily started pushing James towards the dining area. "Come on, all of you. We’re eating. Now. Sirius, leave Harry’s lamb alone, I put an anti-transfiguration charm on it."

Sirius shot her a sullen look. "Spoilsport."

*

"Lily, you have surpassed yourself once again. Delicious, really it was."

Lily gave one of her classic smiles. "Thank you, Remus. I managed to keep James out of the kitchen, so everything ran smoothly."

James put a mock pout on his face as his friends laughed. "Not like any of you could do any better."

"You’re probably right, James," Remus said, scratching his chin. "Remember in seventh year when Sirius found out Lucy Lavelle loved a ‘man who could cook for me’, so he went down to the kitchens one night and—"

"Enough of that!" shouted Sirius. "The House elves were able to put everything back in order, thank you very much."

Peter smirked. "Good thing Dumbledore never found out who wasted a month’s supply of chocolate in one night."

"I said enough! Merlin’s beard, what does it take to forget in this house?"

"Probably some sort of charm," Lily said, yawning. "James, maybe you should take Harry off to bed…" She pointed at their son. Half asleep in his high chair, Harry’s face was dangerously close to falling into his peas.

James chuckled. "Sure thing." He glanced at his friends. "Care to help?"

Remus glanced down at his watch. "Actually, James…we should probably get going."

"What? Let me see that!" Sirius grabbed Remus’ wrist and his face fell. "Oh. Yeah, we should."

James frowned. "Oh, don’t be ridiculous. There’s still plenty of time—"

"No, James. We need to go."

James swallowed a lump forming in his throat. "All right, then."

Lily smiled. "We’ll walk you out the door."

*

Harry smiled sleepily as Sirius tickled him under the chin while putting on his cloak. "Seeya soon, Pronglet. Your mum will probably hide the toy broom in her bedroom. You can get it from there."

Remus patted Harry on the head. "Don’t listen to him, Harry. He’s a bad influence." He looked up at Lily. "Thanks for dinner."

"Of course, Remus."

Remus caught James’ eye. "Take care, alright? Be hearing from you soon?"

"Hopefully. You have a place to stay?"

Remus nodded. "Yes, yes." He took a deep breath. "All right, then. I’ll see you…when I see you." With one last tired smile, he Disapparated.

There was an awkward pause. James cleared his throat. "So, Peter…we’re meeting at Hogwarts tomorrow night to perform the charm, correct?"

Peter shifted his feet and nodded. "That’s right."

James gave a wry smile. "All right. Thanks once again, Wormtail."

"Anytime." He smiled and held up the container of chowder that Lily had given him. "Better get back to mother. See you tomorrow." Raising his wand, he too Disapparated.

Sirius looked at James. "You made the right choice, you know. Picking Peter as the Secret-Keeper. You three will be completely safe."

James could tell from the look in his friend’s eyes that he wasn’t as confident as he sounded, but he simply said, "I know, Padfoot. We would’ve been safe with you, too."

Sirius shrugged. "Maybe. Who knows." He sighed. "I should be going. Have to get my hiding place ready." He gave Harry a light kiss on the forehead. "You take care of my little buddy, James, or I’ll send a cockatrice over here, understood?"

James smiled. "Perfectly."

"Good." Sirius smiled at Lily. "Don’t let him pester you too much, ok Lil? You’re stuck with him for a while." Before Lily could respond, he was gone.

*

James couldn’t sleep. Was it nerves? Probably. What if, for some reason, they weren't able to perform the Fidelius charm tomorrow? Then what?

Suddenly James realized why he had waken up. Lily wasn’t next to him. Lily wasn’t in the bedroom. Panicking slightly, James got out of bed and grabbed his glasses. She’s probably just in the kitchen, he told himself. She’s probably just in the kitchen…

Walking swiftly down the hallway, James noticed Harry’s nursery door was open. Heart in throat, he walked into the room. There was Lily, leaning over Harry’s crib and softly stroking his cheek. James felt his heart flop over as his breathing returned to normal. He let out a sigh.

Lily turned her head quickly. "James! I didn’t hear you come in."

James walked up to the crib. "Sorry." He noticed a wet line on the side of Lily’s face, running from her eye to her chin. "What’s wrong?" he whispered, cupping her cheek in his hand.

Lily swallowed and looked back down at Harry. "James, I just—I hate Voldemort. I hate what he’s doing to us. Who knows when we’ll be able to see Sirius and Remus and Peter all together again? And Harry. My poor little Harry, he doesn’t deserve this. He’s just a baby, James! He should be able to go outside in the sunshine and play with that toy broomstick Sirius bought him and—"

"Lily." Lily stopped talking, and James stared into her vivid eyes. "Lily," he said quietly, "I love you. I always will. We’ll always be together, all of us. Remus, Sirius, Peter, you, me, Harry. After this is over, it’ll be nothing but a bad memory. We’ll always be together. Nothing can change that. Nothing ever will." He leaned down and kissed her gently.

Lily smiled as James hugged her tightly. "Promise?" she murmured.

James chuckled into his wife’s hair. "Promise."

***

//
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