Chapter 34 : The Secret Keeper
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Melora rubbed the bridge of her nose, a migraine pounded in her head. “Almost two months. He stopped by for Emily’s birthday."
Beatrice frowned, “And before that?”
“He came by for Easter and left presents for Valentine’s Day and Christmas but I didn’t see him.”
Bea took a sip of her tea. “So it’s over than?” she asked.
Melora’s hand instinctively went to her engagement ring, still dutifully worn on her finger. “I don’t know,” she admitted, twisting the band.
Bea seemed to sense her anxiety and she quickly changed the subject. “So I heard Alice had her baby, a little boy named Neville. Lily’s due any day now, right?”
Melora nodded. “Her last letter said she was in a right strop after the Healers forced her on bed rest.”
“She said she was in a right strop?” Bea raised a brow.
Melora smirked. “Well I may have just inferred it. But can you blame her?”
The brunette laughed and finished off her tea. “Do you think she’d mind if we paid her a visit? Since Emily will be with your parents for a few more hours? I still feel awful I missed the wedding.” Officially, Beatrice was only in town for a few days on business, but Melora knew she wanted to visit as many of their school friends as possible before having to leave.
“I don’t see why not,” she grabbed a piece of parchment and scribbled a quick letter to Lily asking if she was feeling up to some visitors and sent it off with her owl Archie.
He came back not long after with a reply from James eagerly informing the women that Lily would most definitely like to see them, but unfortunately she was a little caught up in labor and he would gladly let them know when it was over so they could come meet the newest Potter.
“Holy shit!” Melora squealed as she finished reading the letter aloud.
Bea was practically bouncing with excitement. “We can take Emily to meet him!"
Unfortunately (mostly for Lily), the owl informing Melora and Bea that they could come over to see the Potters did not arrive until the next day.
Harry James Potter was born in the early morning hours of July 31st
“I just can’t get over how adorable he is Lily,” Melora grinned widely as she peered down into the cradle. Lily beamed in response.
Harry was a few weeks old now. Beatrice had unfortunately not been able to make it to see the baby before she had to depart back to America. They had plans to visit right after Harry had been born, but James and Lily had canceled abruptly and Melora hadn’t heard from them again until yesterday when they invited her and Emma over.
Emma however, looked less than sure. “Small,” she whispered to her mother. Melora laughed and picked up the girl so she could get a better view.
“You were that small once too Emma,” Melora told her.
Emma gave her mother a doubtful look and Lily giggled behind them. “He’ll grow Emma, the two of you will be running circles around me in no time.”
“Play Kidditch?” She asked.
Melora smiled and nodded. James had been enthralling Emma with the sport since they had arrived earlier that day. Her pronunciation of the game was less than perfect but she certainly understood the premise. She had been chasing James around on a toy broomstick borrowed from their neighbors all morning.
“James’ll love that,” Lily laughed, “He’s already going on and on about how Harry will make the Gryffindor Quidditch team by his second year.”
“I dunno Lily, if his brain is anything like yours, perhaps it’ll be the Ravenclaw team you’ll be cheering for,” Melora suggested with a wink, setting her daughter down.
“Perish the thought!” James cried, entering the room with a flourish and presenting two mugs of tea, “Harry’s a Gryffindor through and through!”
“Oh Merlin,” Lily sighed, taking the mugs and handing one over to Melora, “Isn’t it a little earlier for the house loyalty nonsense? He’s only a month old.”
Melora set her mug down on the table. “It’s only the beginning. When Emma was born Sir-”
She froze midsentence at James and Lily’s suddenly attentive demeanor. Emma looked up from baby Harry, confused by the sound of her name.
“Mummy?” she questioned, tugging on Melora’s skirt.
Melora looked down and smoothed her daughter’s blonde hair down. “Sirius tried to deck her nursery out in red and gold. Thank Merlin for color spells.”
James and Lily nodded, both still looking uncomfortable but Emma lost interest, returning to Harry.
“Eww!” she squealed.
The three adults were confused for a moment, but when the smell hit them, her meaning became clear.
“Ew indeed,” James nodded, lifting Harry from his crib, “We’ll be right back with a fresh nappy, eh Harry?”
When he left, Melora gave Emma a small nudge. “Why don’t you go collect your toys, love?”
“Kay,” Emma said, toddling off to the playroom.
“You want to head out?” Lily asked.
“It’s getting late,” Melora replied.
Lily glanced at the clock behind her. “Are you sure? You don’t want to stay for dinner?”
Melora followed her eyes to the clock. Lily had been checking it frequently since she and Emma had come this morning. Particularly every time Melora tried to leave and Lily came up with a reason to stay.
“He’s coming, isn’t he?” she sighed.
Lily reluctantly nodded. “Was due about two hours ago.”
“Well that’s Sirius for you,” Melora said stiffly, “Suppose his plan would have worked if he’d only just shown up.”
“He said you haven’t been returning his letters.”
“Can’t answer what I don’t read.”
“Melora, you’re not being fair.”
“I’m not being fair?!” she scoffed, “He had plenty of chances Lily! Plenty of chances to make this right. But he didn’t take them. Instead he put your stupid bloody Order first and I just,” Melora met her friend’s bright green stare, “I’m not like you Lily. I’m not brave.”
“I can’t take not knowing, waiting up every night for him to come home bloody and bruised or worse…” she trailed off, “It’s just easier not seeing him. And he was right, we’re safer this way.”
Lily opened her mouth to rebut, but was cut off by Emma’s reappearance, toys in her arms.
“Come on sweetheart,” Melora collected the toys and stuffed them quickly in her bag, “We’ve got to get going.”
“G’bye?” she pouted.
Lily kneeled down and gave the little girl a kiss on the forehead. “Goodbye, Emma.”
Melora made her visits to the Potter home sparse after that.
Time flies when you’re risking your life.
Or so it seemed to be in Sirius’s experience.
One day it was his daughter’s birthday and the next his godson was born and the next it was suddenly November and he hadn’t seem either of them in months.
“I’m a shitty person,” he told Mad-Eye, who just looked unimpressed.
“Yer fightin’ a war, boy,” he retorted, “Not exactly a great time for moral dilemmas.”
Sirius didn’t bother explaining. Instead he made a silent vow that when this watch shift was over he would go to visit the Potters and he’d owl Melora again and if she didn’t answer he’d owl her parents.
He made good on one-third of that vow. Which, he decided as he stood over sleeping Harry’s crib, wasn’t the worst thing he could have done.
“Hey mate,” James shuffled in the room, yawning, “Hate to kick you out but it’s getting late and I’ve got Order duty in the morning.”
Sirius nodded. “Yeah no problem, sorry Prongs.”
One day it’s November and then it’s Christmas and he gets one of the two packages he sent returned. A white gold bracelet set with rubies with the added note ‘Emma loves the lion. I can’t accept this. –M.’
He didn’t really think she would, but he’d put a tracking charm on it just in case. He’s glad about the lion though. There’s a tracking charm on it too. Just in case.
One day it’s November, the next it’s 1981 and Dumbledore offers him a mission in Romania. Three months. The Order is filled with talk of spies and Dorcas Meadows has just been found killed and James’s father and mother dies within two weeks of one another. He tries to check the tracking spell on the lion, but it’s been removed.
He takes the mission but returns two weeks early with an owl that reads ‘Urgent, I need you Padfoot –Prongs’.
“Sorry, I’m still a little confused,” Sirius shook his head, “There’s a prophecy about Harry?"
“It’s possible it’s about Harry,” Dumbledore nodded, “It could also be referring to Frank and Alice Longbottom’s son. But we believe Voldemort thinks it is in regards to Harry.”
Divination was never one of Sirius’s favorite subjects and it was slowly making its way lower on his list.
“So what do we do?” he asked.
“I believe the best choice of action would be to place the Fidelius Charm on the Potters.”
“How does it work?” Lily said anxiously. The four of them sat huddled around the Potters’ kitchen table. A light spring breeze blew through the open window and James stood up to shut it. His normally bright smile was set in a stern line.
“Wait, what is it?” Sirius interjected. Dumbledore had already informed the Potters about his idea, but Sirius was still in the dark.
“A powerful protection charm,” Dumbledore explained, “Lily and James will pick a Secret Keeper and that person becomes the only one with the knowledge of their location. It will make it impossible for Voldemort to find them.”
“And if that person tells someone?”
“Whoever they tell would know as well, which is why it is extremely important to choose someone you have the upmost trust in. I have already offered my services to the Potters, but-”
“We want you to do it Pads,” James said quickly.
Sirius couldn’t help but smile, despite a nagging feeling of guilt. He knew James had chosen him over Remus because he suspected their friend of, well, Sirius tried not to think about it. Remus had been deep undercover with the werewolves on Voldemort’s side, but that didn’t mean anything.
“Of course I’ll do it,” he responded.
“Excellent,” Dumbledore smiled, but his eyes lacked their usual twinkle. Sirius knew he was a suspect himself and he had another nagging feeling that that was the reason the Order sent him to Romania, “The charm is rather complex and I will need a few days to prepare and James and Lily, you’ll need some time to be moved to a more secure location. There’s a small Wizarding town by the name of Godric’s Hollow, have you heard of it?” James nodded. “Excellent, we have a house set up for you there.”
He turned to Sirius, “I suggest you use the time to get your affairs in order Mr. Black. The best way to keep Voldemort from finding Lily and James will be to ensure he doesn’t find you.”
Sirius wanted to protest that even if You-Know-Who did find him, he wouldn’t spill the secret, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort, and just agreed.
“Very well,” Dumbledore stood, the others quickly following his lead, “I’ll be off then. I will see you in Godric’s Hollow in two weeks?” They all nodded. “Two weeks it is.”
“I’ll show you out,” Lily said, leading their former professor out of the kitchen.
James and Sirius slumped back down in their seats. “I don’t know how I can ever repay you for this Pads,” James said wearily.
Sirius looked over at his friend. Lines had formed at the corner of his eyes and Sirius swore there was some gray in his hair. “Merlin Prongs,” he sighed, “When the fuck did we get so old?”
James only laughed at this and shrugged.
“There is one thing,” Sirius ventured, “Try to keep in contact with Melora for me, yeah?”
“Are you going to try and see her before…?”
Sirius ran a hand through his hair. “I’m going to try.”
He didn’t bother with an owl this time. Just showed up at the house on his bike and waited on the stoop. He still had his key, but decided the last thing he wanted to do was scare her.
When Melora finally appeared, she didn’t seem to even notice him. One arm full with a bag of groceries, the other furiously rooting through her purse.
“Goddamn quill,” he heard her mumble as she grew closer, “Goddamn useless ink, goddamn useless Rigby.”
He cleared his throat when she was only steps from him and still hadn’t noticed his presence. She looked up and jumped back, startled. So much for not scaring her.
“Hi,” he started, but Melora shook her head and barreled past him.
“Not today,” she said, pulling her hand free of her purse and jamming her key into her door, “Please Sirius, not today.”
“It’s been months,” he said, following her in the house and pleased when she just shut the door behind him.
“I’m aware,” she retorted, setting down the bag on the dining room table, so she was free to turn to face him, both hands on her hips. It was such a classic Melora look, he couldn’t help the pang of nostalgia that hit him, followed quickly by an irritating bit of hope when he caught sight of his engagement ring still on her finger.
Melora followed his line of sight and quickly shoved her arm behind her. “I’ve had a real shit day at work, so what do you want?”
“I just wanted to see you.”
Melora narrowed her eyes, “Emma’s not here.”
“I know.” Lily had told him Melora’s parents watched Emma on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. “I thought you might be more inclined to talk to me if she wasn’t."
Melora looked more suspicious. “What’s going on Sirius?”
“I’m going away for a bit, well, probably more than a bit.”
“Are you going back to Romania?”
He raised a brow. She was keeping tabs on him? He tried to ignore the tingle of pleasure the knowledge sent up his spine.
As if reading his mind, Melora looked away, embarrassed. “Remus told me.”
“I can’t tell you,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box and gave it a tap with his wand, it grew in size, “But I wanted to make sure you got this before I left.”
He offered her the box and Melora took it reluctantly. “What is it?”
“A present for Emma’s birthday,” he told her, “In case I don’t get back in time. No tracking spells this time, I promise.”
“Okay,” Melora set the box down by her groceries. An awkward silence followed and she nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Sirius, do you want to stay for dinner?”
Merlin, how long had he wanted her to say those words? But now…he shook his head.
“No, I’ve got to get going.”
For a brief second he allowed himself to hope she wouldn’t take no for an answer, but she just nodded. “I understand.”
She walked him to the door. “You should,” she paused, fumbling for the words, “If you can, you should try to come to Emma’s birthday party.”
“Okay,” unable to help himself, Sirius leaned over and gave her a quick peck on the cheek, “I’ll try, Mel.”
Melora smiled as she opened the door and Sirius hurried out before he did something he regretted. “Do you think that dinner offer could be accepted at a later date?” The words spilled out of his mouth suddenly. So much for that plan.
But Melora just nodded. “I think so.”
He grinned widely. It would be good to have something to look forward to.
A/N- Getting the last chapter validated was a pain in the ass, hopefully this one doesn't take as long.
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