An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 2 - The Plan

Chapter Two- The Plan

Lily was distracted at dinner that night. She had spent the better part of her afternoon composing a letter to Dumbledore, asking for advice now that Hogwarts was only weeks away for Harry. She'd sent the owl earlier and knew that she'd be on edge until she had a response in her hand. Dumbledore always knew what to do. They were living proof of that.

Harry had been talking incessantly throughout dinner. James kept glancing to his friends in apology but they didn't mind. Since both Remus and Sirius were childless, they felt as though they shared Harry with Lily and James.

"I'm jealous mate." Sirius said, lounging back in his chair. "I wish I were going back to Hogwarts."

"Ah to be young again." Remus smiled.

"So it's really that amazing?" Harry checked for the one millionth time that evening alone.

"Yes, Harry, it's going to be incredible." James said patiently. "There's not a feeling like the first time you see the castle. You'll never forget it."

"It's an adventure." Remus added reminiscently.

"A series of adventures." Sirius corrected him.

"Adventures?" Harry repeated eagerly, looking between his father's best friends. "What adventures did you have?"

"Well," Sirius began but Lily shook her head.

"Oh Mum please." Harry had not missed this exchange. He rarely missed a trick, it was amazing that they'd gotten this far without telling him.

"No." Lily smiled. "One day, when you're older and not so impressionable."

"I'm not impressionable." Harry replied obstinately. "You always say I'm more stubborn than a Hippogriff."

Lily laughed. "Only at bedtime." Both sets of green eyes stared determinedly at each other. After a while Harry relented, accepting that his mother was not about to concede.

"So what house do you think I'll be in?" He asked the table at large.

"We'll disown you if you're in Slytherin. But no pressure." James said much to Harry's stricken expression. Sirius roared with laughter whilst Lily and Remus gave him a similar exasperated look.

"You're joking?" Harry said, a little uncertainly.

"He's joking." Lily said quickly, her eyes narrowed. "Aren't you James?"

James smiled. "Of course I'm joking." He continued to chuckle. "What house do you want to be in?"

"Gryffindor of course." Harry replied without hesitation. "Like you and mum, and Remus and Sirius." Harry paused for a moment. "I don't fancy the sorting much though."

"It's not scary Harry," Remus said consolingly.

"It goes very quickly." Sirius added. "And it's all in your head."

Harry nodded thoughtfully. He ran his hands through his hair, something he had learned from watching James, a couple of times Sirius caught sight of the thin lightening bolt scar on his forehead and glanced subtly at James.

"What subjects will I take?" He asked around.

"Well, there's Charms, History of Magic and Herbology." Remus counted on his fingers.

"History of Magic is taught by a ghost." Sirius added, to Harry's delight. "Don't get too excited, Harry. It's the most boring subject devised by wizards."

"But it is important." Lily said quickly.

"If you say so." Sirius muttered to James who laughed behind his fork.

"What else?" Harry asked eagerly.

"Erm," Lily said, thinking back. "Astronomy, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration … Care of Magical Creatures?"

"No that's not until third year." James said. "I think only other one is Potions."

"How could I forget that!" Lily laughed. "It was my favourite subject. I wish Slughorn still taught there."

"I don't." James shook his head. "The man hated me, your mother was his golden girl though." Harry looked between his parents smiling. "He told her how disappointed he was when she started going out with me." Harry stared open mouthed.

"Really?"

Lily laughed. "Your dad was very silly in lessons, Slughorn didn't exactly get the best impression." Lily looked at Harry. "But you won't be silly will you?"

Harry looked back at her attempting a straight face, but the corners of his mouth kept twitching. "Of course not mum."

"But you know who the potions master now is, don't you?" Remus said.

"Severus." Lily replied.

"Snivellus?" James and Sirius asked in unison, both shocked.

"Why is that surprising?" Lily asked. "He was wonderful at the subject."

"But he was a d- " James broke off looking at Harry. "A you-know-what?"

"No, what?" Harry asked looking at his father.

"That was before." Lily said meaningfully.

"What?" Harry asked louder.

"Severus, or Professor Snape, wasn't our friend at school." Remus explained. "He and your dad really didn't get on."

Harry looked around curiously, he was sure there was more to the story that they weren't telling him. He often got that impression. Harry was very used to being around adults, he had no siblings, and Remus and Sirius had never settled down. The only friend he had his age was another wizarding boy called Neville. But he didn't see Neville too often, so he spent most of his time with the four people inside this room. And he knew, mainly from trying to listen at doors, when they weren't telling him the whole story. He had asked Remus, who was gentler than his father or godfather, why this kept happening. Remus had not lied to him, he had only said that Harry was young and if there were things he didn't know, it was only for his own good. Harry accepted that the best he could, but he was still very curious.

"I can't believe Dumbledore hired him," James shook his head. "What's the old man playing at?"

"Let it go, James." Lily said warningly. "There's nothing wrong with Professor Snape Harry, you mustn't listen to those two."

"O-k." Harry replied, but he was still bewildered.

Not long after dessert, when they had retired to the living room, Harry had talked himself out. He was sat next to his mother and his eyes were drooping.

"I think it's bedtime." Lily said quietly. Harry was so tired he didn't argue. He said goodnight to everyone and went to bed, accompanied by Lily.

She returned five minutes later. "He went out like a light, poor little thing's been awake since the crack of dawn." Lily sat next to James who put his arm around her. "You never know, he might not be so eager to get us up now he's got his letter."

"I wouldn't bet on it." James laughed. "He has boundless energy."

"Just like you at that age then." Sirius said to James.

Lily groaned. "I'm nervous enough about Hogwarts without thinking he's going to be a repeat of you two idiots."

The room laughed and then went quiet. The occupants were thoughtful.

"You haven't told him anything yet, have you?" Remus confirmed, as Lily and James shook their heads.

"Where do we even start?" James asked redundantly. "Poor little boy was born with the weight of the world on his shoulders and he doesn't know it yet. How do you tell a ten year old that?"

It made Lily's heart hurt to think about. How to tell their lovely boy what had happened and worse, what was still to come?

"He's stopped asking about his scar then?" Sirius asked.

"He hasn't brought it up in ages." Lily replied. "Occasionally when we're at Diagon Alley people stare and I hurry him away. I try and only take him in winter when he can put a hat on." The men chortled. It was ridiculous to them all that the hat was actually necessary.

"It all started with Dumbledore. Maybe he'd be the best person to . . . explain." Sirius suggested, with a frown on his handsome face.

"It's going to be so quiet without him." Lily said sadly. James squeezed her shoulder. "I'm dreading putting him on that train."

"We'll hold you together, Lil." Remus smiled comfortingly. "Sirius and I aren't about to miss him going for the first time."

"You say that like you'll never see your child go." Lily said gently.

"Oh Lil," Sirius shook his head. "You know we won't. It's the same reason that you and Prongs never had anymore." He looked round the room meaningfully. "We all love Harry, that can be enough." Everyone knew that Sirius had a point. Although the world had been in peace for the last decade, Dumbledore had always told them that this was the calm in between two wars. Voldemort was not dead, he was simply biding his time, lurking somewhere until he could rise again. None of them could knowingly bring children into this world knowing what would eventually happen. Harry had been somewhat of a surprise in the first war and although they would never change having him, all of their doubts and guilt were completely founded.

They were all thinking about the night a decade earlier when Dumbledore had asked them to assemble in that very living room. Lily had just put a baby Harry to bed. Sirius had been pacing, while Remus had sat very still. They didn't know why it was so urgent that they met. James and Lily had just sat holding each other's hand wondering what more could be wrong, wasn't enough completely wrong as it was? At eleven O'clock there was a knock at the door. Sirius ran to answer it and was followed back into the living room by Albus Dumbledore, who bore all the signs of bringing very grave tidings.

"What is it now, Professor?" Lily asked with no preamble.

Dumbledore sat down and looked directly at Lily when he spoke. "We have a traitor in our ranks."

Everyone's already dwindling spirit, sunk even lower.

"Who is it?" Asked Remus.

"Peter."

The room was silent.

"You're joking?" James said finally, his voice shaking. "Wormtail, our friend, is trading secrets with Voldemort?"

"Yes." Dumbledore replied simply.

"How do you know this?" Sirius asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

"I have my spies on Voldemort's side." Dumbledore looked at Lily briefly, but she was looking at James in utter despair.

"What can we do?" James said finally, tearing his eyes away from Lily's face, but their hands were gripped tightly around each other.

"I have an idea." Dumbledore sighed. "And it may be incredibly risky. The question is, how much do you trust me?"

Lily and James looked back to each other and thought only of their baby, asleep upstairs, unaware that any of this was happening. Their supply of trust was running dangerously low, it had just been decimated by someone that they thought they could utterly depend on. Life seemed bleaker everyday. They had tried to stay so positive, for Harry and for Harry's future. But for that one moment they both thought about giving in. Fighting was too hard, too frightening, maybe they'd be better off altogether in the next world, where they could be at peace.

Dumbledore watched them, reading the despair on their faces. Around the room, Remus had gone so pale he resembled a ghost, whilst Sirius sat with his head in his hands. Dumbledore was struck by how prematurely old they looked, it was the sadness they carried in their eyes. They were weighed down with worry.

"If I may," Dumbledore put in, and all eyes returned to him. "I think that my plan may be your best chance, that is to say, Harry's best chance."

"You think you can save Harry?" Lily asked the aged wizard.

"I think I can. But my plan is extraordinarily dangerous and I am only 87% confident of its success."

They looked around the room at each other, silently conferencing. "Ok Albus," James finally spoke. "What do you propose we do?"

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