Essay is going very slowly. I've therefore turned my attention to fic in an effort to procrastinate. The following is the first in a series of snippets set around a 'What if?' question. This series will just focus on one question, aren't meant to be read as a single story and have no redeeming social value other than keeping me writing.
WHAT IF: SIRIUS HAD BEEN THE POTTERS' SECRET-KEEPER?
Peter's so sweet first thing in the morning, Lily thinks, warmly pleased to have him here. She misses having her friends around for anything resembling a social gathering, so she savours the moment before James arives.
"Everyone here?" James controls whatever room he walks into, artlessly, effortlessly. He is the undisputed master of all he surveys. She used to hate that about him, hate his casual acceptance of this gift that others couldn't help but envy. She got over the hate eventually, once his head had deflated a bit, but never really got over the envy. It's not really something you can will away.
"Sirius is running a bit late, says to go on without him. He'll Floo in, in a bit," Frank Longbottom says, shifting in the armchair by the large window in the living room. "Meeting up with Alice on the way, so she'll be late, too. Can't find a baby-sitter." He smiles an apology, as if it's the silliest thing in the world that an Auror can't find someone to watch a teething baby for half a moment. "And Dumbledore's still working on the Hogwarts wards, so neither he nor McGonagall can make it. I can stop by Hogsmeade, though, before next shift, and update them via Hagrid."
"Sirius is – where, again?" Peter is fussing with Harry, trying to get him to chew on a teething ring rather than his own fingers. "Come on, Harry, that's a boy. Sorry, yes. Sirius. I'm sorry. Where was he last night?" He shifts a bit, trying to settle the recalcitrant toddler across his knees, teething ring in hand. Harry keens and makes a grab for Peter's wand, tucked into a side pocket and dangerously tempting. "There, come on, now, behave."
"Night shift somewhere in Midlothian," James answers, "Dalkeith, maybe? Accio paperweight," and spreads a map of the British Isles across the dining table.
Lily opens her arms for baby Harry in order to let Peter get a better view. Not much point her looking or knowing or planning, she knows, it's not like she could do a great deal stuck at home, but James seems to be managing to stay involved so she cranes her neck for a better look anyway. "Frank, dear, you should just tell Alice to leave Neville with us," she says, "James and I have plenty of time, it wouldn't be a problem," she says too, just to niggle a bit.
An ugly flush spreads across James's strong cheekbones, his mouth still open mid-word. His mouth snaps closed and thins, and he shoots Lily a sharp look.
She smiles back encouragingly. "Don't you think, James?"
She hasn't forgiven him for this, not in the least, not enough to let even one opportunity for a jibe pass.
"That would be lovely," James finally says through clenched teeth and turns his entire attention back to the map.
Lily sits back, satisfied. She tunes the rest of the meeting out, only stirring to kiss Sirius and Alice and Neville hello – it turned out that there really wasn't a babysitter to be had at such short notice – and sitting quiet for the rest of it. James lets up long enough for Sirius to debrief his part of it, then he's off again.
She entertains herself by making faces at baby Harry, who blinks back at her, a little unfocused. She wonders if he'll need glasses.