“You won’t be gone long, will you?”
Earl James Potter turned to stare at his manservant incredulously. “Bloody hell, Padfoot – he’s not even a toddler yet – don’t be so nervous!”
At this Sirius Black spluttered incoherently, causing James to smirk. It wasn’t often he saw his old friend this flustered. “I am not nervous!” Sirius finally snapped, glaring at him. James just laughed.
“Whatever you say, Black, whatever you say,” he said, turning his back on the still flustered servant. Hurried footsteps told him Sirius was following as he made for the door.
“You still haven’t answered my question,” Sirius reminded him as they stepped outside. “How long?”
“Sirius, you’re not worried, are you?” came an incredulous voice and James turned, still laughing, towards his driver.
“Apparently so, Peter,” he confirmed, grinning.
Peter started laughing, automatically stroking the horse as it gave a start at the sudden sound. “Merlin, Sirius – he’s only one!”
Sirius was definitely looking grumpy now. “I know that, Peter, thank you,” he snapped, glaring. “It’s just… well, what if he starts crying? Or I accidentally drop him? Or he… you know – hey! It’s not funny!”
“I think it is.”
“Well, then… both of you have an appalling sense of humour.”
“Oh, relax, Padfoot,” James said, slapping Sirius on the back. “Lily and I are only going for four days and then we’ll be back. Besides,” he added, adjusting his cloak, “it’s not as if you’re going solo on this – there’s Remus and Arabella as well.”
“Yes, and luckily Remus has some smidgen of sense, unlike you,” Peter added, now double checking the horses’ shoes. Unluckily for him, this meant he not only provided an excellent target for Sirius’ foot, but also ensured that he didn’t see it coming. “Oof!”
“Hmm… you’re right, James – I suddenly feel much better!” Sirius said lightly, before skipping back into the house before Peter could recover.
Peter watched him go with a bemused smile on his face, before shaking his head and turning back to the carriage and horses. James himself pulled on his gloves and wandered just past the horses to survey the grounds. Even after living all his life at the manor, he never grew tired of the view it afforded of the surrounding lands. Rolling hills shone emerald in the overhead sun, dotted with spots of colour for the various flowers that flourished. To the left hand side a forest hid the main road and a small lake from sight. As the wind played softly through the trees it brought with it a hint of lilies... he breathed it in, sighing contentedly.
“James? Are you ready?”
James turned at the soft voice from behind and smiled lovingly at his wife. Lily Potter smiled back, walking to his side. She had on a simple green cloak over the finery beneath, the emerald bringing out her beautiful eyes. James himself had opted for a plain black cloak, which Lily now took the time to tug into place. James just rolled his eyes and let her, watching her face.
“So, I hear Sirius had a minor panic attack,” she said, conversationally.
James sniggered. “You could say that,” he agreed, catching her hands as she finished. “He’s a superb valet but… baby sitter, he is not.”
“That’s why I insisted Remus stay behind, too,” Lily pointed out, leading James back to the house. She sighed. “I wish Harry was old enough to come with us.”
James full out laughed then. “You wait until he is, and then you’d be wishing he had to stay behind!”
Lily opened her mouth to retort, when she was cut off by a squeal of laughter. Glare turning to a grin, she pretended not to hear James’ teasing comment of “Speak of the devil” as she turned to Marlene, who held a laughing Harry in her arms.
“Come here, you little monster, you,” she said, reaching out and taking Harry from Marlene’s embrace. Harry gurgled delightedly, small hands immediately reaching out for Lily’s red locks.
“Er, maybe Daddy should take the little monster,” James interjected hurriedly, before Harry could displace any of Lily’s hair. Goodness knows it had taken Marlene an age to do it in the first place.
Not to be outwitted, Harry’s grasping hand immediately latched on to James hair instead. However, as James hair naturally resembled a bird’s nest – and no amount of gels, lotions or even potions could do anything about it – it didn’t matter in the slightest.
“Now, who’s going to be a good boy whilst Daddy and Mummy are away?” James asked Harry, holding him up in front of his face.
Much to James’ amusement, Harry actually seemed to ponder the question before solemnly replying, “Moony.”
James grinned. “Correct. And who is going to terrorise Uncle Padfoot whilst Daddy and Mummy are gone?”
Harry grinned. “Me.”
James grinned over at the recently re-emerged Sirius. “Sorry, mate, but he seems to be incorrigible – hey!”
He glared at Lily, who had just swatted him around the head before taking back her son. “Honestly, James – at this rate you’re going to give Sirius a heart attack,” she reprimanded him, before turning to smile at Harry. “Now, Harry, you ignore anything your father says and be a good boy to Sirius and Remus and Arabella, ok?”
Harry nodded. “’k” he agreed, smiling.
Lily gave him a kiss, before handing him back to James. “Good bye.”
James, too, gave him a kiss. “Bye, Prongslet,” he murmured, before making to hand him over to Arabella. Harry looked at him, curiously, for a few moments, before he started to cry.
“Don’t worry, Master Harry,” Arabella said, bouncing him. “Your Mummy and Daddy will be back soon.” It didn’t stop him crying, however – in fact, he just cried all the louder.
Lily looked worried, but Arabella just smiled and waved her off. “Don’t worry about it, my Lady. He’ll be fine.”
Lily smiled at the older woman, although her eyes looked worried still. James went and took her arm. “Come on, Lily,” he gestured, pulling her to where Peter was waiting with the carriage. As he passed Sirius, James added, “Give Remus my best when he’s up – and make sure he gets some rest over the next couple of days. I know what he’s like.”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, I know – now get going before you’re late.”
James grinned at him. “Worst comes to worst we’ll just apparate.”
Sirius raised an eyebrow now. “You know Countess McGonagall will kill you – it’s extremely bad manners.”
James shrugged. “Well, she’ll definitely kill us if we don’t turn up at all, so I’ll take the lesser of two evils, thanks.” So saying, he swung himself into the carriage. “See you, Sirius. Off we go then, Peter.”
Peter, already waiting, clicked and the horses took off. Waving out at the window to Sirius, Arabella and the still sobbing Harry, James turned to look at Lily and Marlene. “Wake me when we get there,” he said, ignoring their rolling eyes and pulling his cloak over his head. He was very tired – with the full moon just last night he was exhausted and hoped to provide at least a semi respectable face at Lady McGonagall’s ball that night. He droned off to sounds of Lily’s chatter with her maid.
It was raining. It had started raining three days after the Potters had left Potter manor. It had been raining for a total of three days by the point that Potter household staff were getting worried. It had been raining four days when they decided to take action and get in contact with the party. It was on the fifth day of rain that the front door was ominously knocked on. It was on this fifth day that their lives crumpled around them.
And now, as they dressed themselves and little Harry in their best blacks, it was still raining for the funeral of Lily and James Potter, Marlene McKinnon and Peter Pettigrew. The four of them stood in the rain, watching as they committed their best friends to the earth. Arabella was sobbing, clutching at the small form of Harry. Harry didn’t understand what was going on, and was more interested in trying to catch the falling raindrops and watching fascinated as they slid off him instead (Remus and Sirius had cast the impervious charm to protect themselves, Arabella and Harry from the cold and wet).
Remus and Sirius stood side by side, silent and stiff, as if moving would cause them to break. Both of them had had their lives changed by the Potters. Sirius, whilst from a noble family, had been disgraced and disinherited, banished into the world of commoners without so much as a knut to call his own. It was James, his unlikely friend from boarding school, that had come through for him – welcomed him, given him a home and a job. Sirius knew that James would have let him live with them as an equal, but Sirius’ pride was having none of it. Despite the fact that they were now master and servant, James had never treated Sirius any differently.
Remus, likewise, was an outcast. Whilst born to one of the lesser noble families, Remus was turned out from his family at the age of 6 because he had been bitten by a werewolf. In fact, the family had meant to kill him, rid themselves of the shame, but Remus had escaped them. It had been Harold Potter, James’ father, who had found the young Remus, exhausted and alone and had brought him into their house. He and James had effectively grown up together.
Now, to be here, to have to feel this… it was almost more than the two men could handle. And if it weren’t for Harry, both suspected they would have broken down, unable to cope. As it was, they had something – someone – to live for. And they were going to make damn sure that Harry knew all about his parents – and Peter and Marlene, too. Both had similar stories, although they had belonged to wealthy merchant families, rather than the nobility. Those two had become especially close in the last few months and James, Remus and Sirius were betting on when Peter would finally have the courage to ask for hand… a bet that would never come to fruition.
“Mr Black, is it?”
Both Remus and Sirius whipped around to face a portly man, dressed somewhat uncomfortably in a cloak and dark black breeches and shirt which pressed uncomfortably at his too large belly. He was soaking wet, and kept running a hand over his eyes to get rid of the excess water. He nodded stiffly at them. “I am Baron Fudge, Earl Potter’s lawyer.”
When that got nothing out of the two, Fudge shifted awkwardly. “I’ve, uh, been detailed by his Majesty to oversee the dealing of the Potter estate.”
That got a response from the two men. “What do you mean, ‘dealing’ of the estate?” Sirius exclaimed, angrily. “There’s still a member of the family alive – it’s not going anywhere!” Besides him, Remus nodded angrily.
Fudge looked even more uncomfortable at that. “Well, yes… but Godric’s Hollow is a very prominent estate – the Potter’s are a very important family – and his Majesty is… uncomfortable with the idea of the estate being managed by two servants until Earl Potter comes of age at 17…” He trailed off, paling a bit as he saw the furious expressions on the two ‘servants’ faces. But then he remembered that, not only was he a noble, he had been appointed by the crown and he gained self importance. “The King has commanded that, as the paternal line has no relatives, the closest maternal relatives will take over the Potter estate until the boy is ready.”
“Closest maternal… you can’t mean the Dursleys!” Remus exclaimed, incredulously.
Fudge looked quite surprised at Remus shock. “Well, they are the closest relatives the boy has now, not to mention a very respectable family.”
Remus was still staring at Fudge as though he was insane, as Sirius scoffed angrily. “Oh, yes, very respectable,” he snorted. “There is no way that James put that in his will, so I want to know why you’re deliberately not following a document that is bound by law,” he growled menacingly.
Fudge, despite being obviously intimidated by Sirius’ superior height and bulk, was getting a little angry himself. “I am not following the legal document in question because it calls for one of the country’s oldest and most prominent noble families to be handed over to the care of two servants, that’s why!”
“I’ll have you know that both Remus and I come from equally noble blood lines!”
Fudge scoffed. “I am aware of that fact. I am also aware that both of you have been disowned and publicly disinherited, making your ability to look after the young Earl even more questionable!” He took a deep breath. “I am sorry for your loss,” he snapped, “but if you don’t start behaving in a manner more fitting to your station I shall have both of you shipped off to the Americas tomorrow!”
Sirius opened his mouth angrily – presumably to tell the Baron where he could shove it – but was stopped by Remus’ vice like grip on his arm. “We apologise, Baron,” he apologised, bowing his head. “Grief has caused us to act rashly and out of character. We mean no disrespect, sir.”
Sirius stared at Remus incredulously, before Remus squeezed his arm even more, hissing, “Think Padfoot – if we’re gone, who’ll be there for Harry?” Eyes widening slightly, Sirius managed to mumble an apology, glaring at the ground.
Fudge was still glaring at them, but the force of it had lessened. “Yes, well. The Durselys will be arriving to take up residence in a week’s time. Make sure you have the house in perfect condition. They are your masters now.”
And he turned on his heel and walked out of the cemetery, leaving them devastated all over again.