An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 3 - The Hurt

Chapter Three – The Hurt

Remus left shortly after Harry had gone to bed, and Lily also retired. She always tried to make a graceful exit so that James and Sirius could have some time just them. At the beginning of her relationship with James, in a silly way, she had always felt that she was competing with Sirius for his attention. But she soon learned their bond was so strong that if she was dating James, Sirius came as part of the package. Eventually, she had grown to love Sirius as part of her family, like a brother, who's constant jibes you learn to ignore.

James opened a bottle of fire whiskey and for a while they just sat and drank.

"If the circumstances were different I'd be over the moon that he was going." James said honestly. "And I am excited and happy for him, but bloody hell Padfoot, I'm shitting myself."

Sirius smiled sympathetically. If he was nervous about Harry's imminent departure, he couldn't fully comprehend how James and Lily were feeling.

"He'll be ok. He can handle himself around the other students." Sirius offered but James shook his head.

"I'm not worried about him making friends. He's a nice boy, he takes after Lily, he'll be fine. Although, he'll have all the rumours. Those kids will know more about him than he knows himself." James frowned and then asked the question that was gnawing at him. "Do you think we did the right thing? You know, keeping it all from him for all these years?"

"Definitely." Sirius said without hesitation. "It'd be too much for him to have grown up knowing that he was famous. Not to mention, it would have put the fear of Merlin into him. He'd have been neurotic and worried. He wouldn't have had a childhood." Sirius saw he was helping. He and James often had this conversation, and it was his job as best friend and godfather to reassure him that he had done the right thing. "Harry's grown up well adjusted. Under the circumstances, I think his childhood has gone pretty swimmingly."

"I suppose it has, all things considered." James conceded. Harry was a good child, he was energetic and curious and brave, too brave for Lily's nerves but she tried to never keep the reins too tight. The only thing Harry ever moaned about was being an only child, he'd asked them again recently whether they'd have another one when he went off to school. They repeated that he was enough of a handful, but one day he'd understand the real reason.

"He's your double." Sirius said. "Snape's going to hate him."

James shook his head. "I can't believe that Snape is teaching at Hogwarts. Snape, the slimy little death eater."

"In all fairness, not that I like the guy or anything, but you can't call him that anymore." Sirius said fairly and James looked up at him in surprise. Sirius shrugged. "I'm maturing."

James laughed and told him that it was about time.

"Do you think about Hogwarts much?" Sirius asked, leaning back on the armchair with his hands behind his head.

"Now and again." James replied. "But it feels like a lifetime ago."

"It was better then." Sirius said. "Life was fun. We hadn't seen anything yet. We weren't . . ." He struggled to find the word.

"Tainted? Jaded?" James offered. "I know what you mean."

Sirius smiled thinking about it. "All we had to worry about was homework, Quidditch and detention." He opened his eyes smiling brighter. "And girls."

"I only ever worried about one girl." James replied.

"It only took you seven years mate."

"Come on, it only took six."

"Sorry, my mistake." They both laughed. "The years that you pined over Lily."

"The years you worked your way through the female population of Hogwarts."

"Ah, the good old days." They both laughed peacefully, caught up in their own memories.

"Do you ever think about Peter?" James asked.

"Almost everyday." Sirius replied seriously. "He's so woven into my memories. Tainting all my happy thoughts of Hogwarts. I try to pinpoint the moment he tried to sell us out."

James sighed unhappily. "You know, a part of me still just can't believe it."

"The damned little rat." Sirius muttered.

"He's still in Azkaban." James said, more to himself than to Sirius. "As long as he's there, Harry's safe."

They lapsed back into silence. Although they had survived Peter's betrayal, he had taken so much from them. Lily had nightmares about his escape, James jumped every time he saw a rat. But try as they might, they couldn't erase him from their lives, he was too interwoven, like Sirius said, in every memory, he was there tainting it.

"Harry will be with Dumbledore." Sirius spoke. "There's no safer place than with Dumbledore. Even Voldemort quivered at the sight of the old man."

James nodded. Dumbledore's presence was the only comfort they had about Harry leaving. "And McGonagall, Flitwick, Hagrid."

"He'll have a wonderful time." Sirius smiled. "I wish we could give him the map."

James laughed. "It's a good thing we don't have it. Lily would go mad. She says we're bad influences."

"I'll take that as a compliment." Sirius grinned. "What about the cloak? Will you give him the cloak?"

"Definitely. It's his birthright. I've convinced Lily that it's for his protection, but," he grinned at Sirius.

"It may equally protect him from detention." Sirius nodded in understanding. "I remember."

"I wonder if Filch is still there?"

"That man will never leave. He'll haunt the place long after he's gone."

"Nah," James shook his head. "He's definitely a squib. He can only torture students in this lifetime."

Hogwarts filled both their heads, they spoke about their adventures , laughing and drinking until at 1 am they were interrupted.

"What are you doing up?" Sirius asked, eying Harry who sat on the sofa by his father.

"I heard your voices." He yawned. "I though while mum's asleep I can hear your stories."

"That's very sneaky." James said, somewhat proudly. "You can hear one. But you must promise never to tell mum."

"I promise." Harry said immediately.

"Ok," James said smiling, and noticeably lowering his voice. "When Sirius, Remus and I were in our forth year . . ." Much to Harry, and Sirius's delight, he told the story of how they suspended Filch from the ceiling of the Great Hall in his nightgown because he banned them from going to Hogsmeade, for setting off dungbombs in the corridors.

Harry laughed in delight. "Did you get in a lot of trouble?"

"Ah that's the beauty of the operation," Sirius smiled. "Although Dumbledore suspected, nobody could prove that it was us."

Harry stared open mouthed. "But didn't Filch see you?"

"That's a story for another time." James answered. The corners of his mouth were twitching.

"Oh daaad!" Harry said. "You always do this."

"Well soon, you can write home leaving out details of your adventures. You can get your own back." Sirius told him.

"I might just do that."

"Go right ahead." James said much to Harry's amusement.

"Right chaps," Sirius said standing. "I'm off. Thank you very much for the hospitality."

"Bye Pad." James saw Sirius to the door.

"See you soon," Sirius said. "I think someone's birthday is coming up." Sirius ruffled his hair.

"It's in two weeks."

"I'll put it on my calendar." Sirius smiled and with a final wave, he departed.

James closed the door and yawned, but by now Harry was wide awake. Sometimes he was worse than a toddler. "Bed." James said, holding his shoulders and steering him up the stairs, despite Harry's protests.

James tucked Harry in and kissed his forehead, threatening the birthday consequences if he were to make his way out of bed before morning.

"Eugh. Night dad." James turned off the light.

"Night mate." As James closed Harry's bedroom door and went to his own bed. It struck him that the nights of tucking him in were numbered. Danger or not, he didn't realise how much the thought of Harry being away was going to hurt.

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