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We are losing it,
Can't you tell?
- Radiohead

 


It's a Saturday. Peter likes to spend the first day of his weekend in bed. He needs the time to recover from the working week - not that his job is particularly strenuous; he works behind a desk at the Ministry's Wizengamot Administration Services and spends more time quill-pushing than wand-waving. But there is something about 9-5 working life that he reckons is like being around Dementors all the time.

If Peter had his way, he would be in bed all day, listening to the radio and reading the day's Prophet. Unfortunately, there's an Order meeting in the evening, and his friends have insisted on meeting up for tea before it. God forbid they let a weekend go by without engaging in a social activity of some kind.

Peter looks up at the clock every once in a while, counting down. It's already noon, and he hasn't even washed or eaten yet. One o' clock comes and goes. Two. Three…

"WORMTAIL! OI!"

Peter leaps out of bed – he fell asleep, and now Sirius is calling him from the fireplace in the kitchen, why did he ever bother having the Floo installed in the first place…

"Bloody hell," greets Sirius's disembodied head, floating in green flames. The scowl on his face only serves to make it even more handsome than usual. "What's with you?"

"Sorry, sorry, I was asleep."

"Where were you Thursday? We missed you at the pub quiz!"

"Late night at work," mumbles Peter. This is not strictly true, but Sirius doesn't need to know that. He was just too tired to go, because going to the pub quiz at the Muggle pub near Sirius' place means staying up late and inevitably getting drunk. Both things make getting up for work the next day very difficult indeed. Peter's boss had been decidedly unimpressed the one time Peter turned up at the office hungover.

"Work," scoffs Sirius. "What do they have you doing anyway?

Peter opens his mouth, but Sirius carries on.

"I don't know why you bother with the Ministry, everyone knows it's gone to the dogs. The only thing worth doing now is working for the Order."

Easy for Sirius to say, he has his Uncle Alphard's inheritance and James's not-inconsiderable wealth to live of off. Peter is the only one of the group who is employed; James supports Lily and Sirius, and Remus can't keep a job long enough for it to count, bless him.

"Anyway, are you coming to the Three Broomsticks for dinner or not?" continues Sirius impatiently. "We're waiting for you."

Peter looks over at the clock. He's not even late, it's only half-six. "Sorry," – damn it, why is he always apologising, even when he isn't at fault? – "I'll be over in ten minutes."

Sirius's head disappears from the fire, and Peter reluctantly pulls on his robes. His night in will have to wait.


***


Weeks pass, turning into months, and with them goes the small hope that the Order of the Phoenix will ever win this war. The meetings are mostly depressing, although people like Dumbledore and Edgar Bones are keen to keep spirits and morale up. His friends still insist on volunteering for every Order duty or mission under the sun.

"Are we all signing up for the mission in France?" asks Sirius after one such meeting, as they make their way out of Hogwarts.

"Course," says James, hooking an arm around the delicate shoulders of Lily, who nods in affirmation. Everybody looks back at Remus, who has his head down and hands in his pockets. He doesn't say anything, and only shrugs non-committally in reply.

"Can't, I don't have enough days off at work." says Peter, although no one seems bothered about his answer.

Sirius rolls his eyes, and Lily and James both nod, although only Lily's eyes have any real understanding in them. Remus is quiet, lost in his own thoughts.

Peter's job at the Ministry of Magical Law Enforcement – headed by Barty Crouch, Sr., who practically demands his employees to be workaholics like him, even the insignificant subordinates like Peter - is turning out to be a very robust excuse. Especially since Peter decided – after he returned from the last botched Order raid unconscious, with a broken leg and bleeding eye, not to mention all those barely avoided Avada Kedavras - that the whole going-out-to-save-the-world thing is not for him.

"It's going to be brilliant," says Sirius, exiting the castle interior with long, confident strides. "We'll be heroes yet." He exchanges a grin with James.

Peter doesn't get the big deal about this hero business. As a child, he'd never dreamt of being a hero. Or if he did, he cannot remember it. He dreamt, perhaps, of escaping into the fictional worlds of the storybooks he used to read - stories where there were kings and queens and magic beyond even the world of wizards and witches. He likes the idea of escaping; it comes with the prospect of doing whatever he wants. Which for Peter, is absolutely nothing. He doesn't feel the need to fill the silences or the minutes (or evenings and weekends) the way Sirius and James always do.

Sirius and James, even Lily - they are more suited to the hero lifestyle. They are dauntless, and had been so even as wee eleven year olds. Nothing can stop them.

Peter is so not so invulnerable, and he counts the conscious realisation of this as his turning point. If a group of Death Eaters came calling at his door, he would not be able to repel them by sheer force of will, like Lily, or charge at them with hexes blazing like Sirius. Nor does Peter have an Invisibility Cloak like James, to hide under… not that James would need to use it, with his aptitude for spells and exemplary Quidditch reflexes. Peter protects himself the only way he can - by keeping his nose down, out of trouble.


***


One late night at work – ironically, it actually is a late night, and not one he faked to placate his friends – he finds out that it isn’t enough. He is walking down the deserted corridor towards the lift when he is cornered by Evan Rosier.

Standing there, right in the midst of the Ministry, with a wand pointed at his nose, Peter finds – not for the first time in his life - that bravery doesn't come to him the same easy way it does for his friends.

Maybe that's why he admires them so much. How though, could he explain it to them - they who have courage at the tips of their fingers? And principles, oh no, let's not forget principles. But what's the point of having principles if you can't even stay alive to keep them?


***

Remus watches the swirling Firewhiskey in his glass. Under the dim light, through the refractory glass, the liquid seems to take all shades of colour from amber to near-translucent. It is almost hypnotic, and for a few moments, he forgets that just hours earlier, he'd looked upon the corpses of the McKinnon family, slaughtered by Death Eaters.

The rest of the Order had been in Dartford, trying to stop even more Death Eaters from destroying a Muggle transport tunnel. When Order members could finally be sent to the McKinnon household in Inverness, they were greeted by the sight of a grotesque green skull floating in the green sky, watching over six lifeless bodies. Marlene was a known member of the Order, and she was punished for it - along with her whole family.

War, Remus finds, makes him ask a lot of questions he isn't sure he wants the answer to. Why? is constant and all-encompassing, and of late, so is Who's next?

He looks around at Peter and Sirius, both of whom are similarly absorbed in their drinks. Remus isn't the only one looking shabby these days – they are all haggard from stress, and the lack of proper sleep.  

His blood runs cold. They know – the Death Eaters know they are here. Once again, the tables have turned on the Order. Remus should not be surprised, the last Order raid was an ambush and there are all those close calls that are having James and Lily moving from house to house every other week, barely escaping before Death Eaters can come bearing down upon them…

"Oh my god! Get out, out, now!"

"The wall, make sure the wall – "

"Lupin, on your right!"

"LOOK OUT!"

There are always a few moments in a battle when you narrowly avoid a flash of green light and you don't even think about it. Save a fleeting thought that you might be dead now if chance or fate or luck hadn't intervened. During a battle, there isn't time for reflecting on near-death experiences. It's in the aftermath that it comes back to you, catching you during a blank moment, or a happy one, when you're eating your pathetic dinner with only yourself for company or having a cold shower because you can't afford heating. All those near-misses (and not-misses, as they were for the Prewett brothers and Dorcas Meadowes and too many others) accumulate and come back to you with a clarity that's all the sharper when it's unexpected.

Sirius laughs as the Death Eater falls, and Remus catches a glimpse of his friend's expression as he turns to meet his next challenger - triumph mingled in exhilaration, echoed in his laughs...

Sitting in a worn-out armchair in Sirius' flat, with the silence that tends to accompany four o' clock in the morning in Elephant & Castle, Remus fancies that he hears Sirius's laughs ringing in his ears. Must be the alcohol. He refills his glass, and drinks.

James's face swims into Remus's line of vision. You have to understand, Moony, Sirius was raised to see most people as inferior, and that a good proportion of those people aren't even worthy of being alive.

You know how nutty his family is - apparently his mum beheaded a house-elf because she didn't get all the lumps out of the white sauce they were having for dinner. I know, it's crazy, isn't it? And she made Sirius and his brother watch, and had the other house-elf clear up the corpse. That's just another day at Sirius' house, from the sound of it.

James is always happy to make excuses for his mates; it's partly why no one else found out the truth behind Remus's once-a-month afflictions. Remus raises a mental toast to his friend, long in hiding and well-missed, and downs his Firewhiskey. He really should go home and get some long-needed sleep.

But fifteen year old James isn't done with his lecture.

Eleven years of days like that - well, I'm not saying it excuses what he did, but you can sort of see why Sirius doesn't care if Snape lives or dies. He didn't mean for you to get into trouble - you know how he is, he can be thick as a troll sometimes. Don't doubt his friendship - he wouldn't be working so hard on this Animagus thing if he wasn't bothered, you know?

He didn't mean to hurt you - just Snape.

Remus doesn't think this is necessarily better. But if James Potter asks you to do something, it is hard to say no. And so Remus had let Sirius's little prank pass, although he has never forgotten the fact that Sirius is the sort of man who laughs in the face of death.

The sort of man who laughs in the face of death.

"Did you see that purple slashing curse?" says Sirius suddenly. "The one that hit Meadowes."

An image flashes before Remus's eyes: A tall Death-Eater wielding his wand as if it were a violently slashing knife, and Dorcas Meadowes screaming as if she had been cut open, before hitting the ground with a sickening thud. Like lightning, the memory comes and goes in an instant, and Remus is left with the rumbling thunder of emotions that remain. He swallows more Firewhiskey, forcibly reminding himself that Dorcas would make a full recovery. Eventually.

"…I reckon it was Dolohov," continues Sirius. "Bellatrix, doesn't have the subtlety to come up with that, nor her crony husband for that matter. Why bother when you've got the Cruciatus, or Killing Curse."

"Stupid, callous, entitled Bellatrix," he adds under his breath.

Brilliant, callous, inbred, entitled Bellatrix, is what Remus would have said instead, who always did whatever she wanted at school and always got away with it.

It's a rather apt description of Sirius, as well. Remus frowns. Bellatrix and Sirius are a lot alike. They even have the same way of laughing in a fight…

"There's no doubt it was her idea to –"

Remus bangs his glass on the coffee table, sick of Sirius's voice. "What's the point?"

Sirius turns to him, his head moving slowly. "Excuse me?"

"What's the point?" repeats Remus. "What's the point of talking about it? Marlene is dead. The rest of us almost died. Just like the last time, and that's probably how it'll be next time. Half the Order's already gone that way, and the Death Eater population doesn't seem to be shrinking. Why do we even bother?"

He is drunk and exhausted, filled with a sudden, malicious need to say horrible things, a need to hurt, draw blood, cause a fight. Anything would be better than dwelling in grief and doubt.

It works. Sirius' eyes flash and he lurches to his feet. Peter, who is sat between Sirius and Remus, looks up between them fearfully.

"You know bloody well what the point is," growls Sirius.

"Yes," sneers Remus, a gesture that is mostly foreign to him but that gives him an almost delicious, vindictive pleasure - is this how Sirius feels, when he puts forth the Black hauteur he pretends not to have?

"It's all of us being picked off one by one till no one is left," Remus barrels on. "Maybe it would be better if we stopped fighting, Voldemort's going to win, anyway - at least this way, some of us will still be left to fight him when he does! " he is going to add, but a jolt of light from Sirius' wand cuts him off.

It misses him and hits the fireplace mantle instead. Sirius is apparently too inebriated to aim properly. Just as well, because Remus is too inebriated to have dodged it properly. Now he just wants to get away from this place. Struggling to his feet, he storms out, not bothering to be gentle with the door, especially not while he can hear Sirius on the other side of it, yelling, "That's right, run off to hide and wallow in self-pity! That's what you do, isn't it?"


***


Sirius's eyes fly open, but his body remains locked in the rigid paralysis brought about by deep sleep. A piercing coldness pervades him, as if he were in the presence of Dementors - but it's transient, and as the last vestiges of nightmare leave him, his body relaxes. He can't recall much of his dream save for a few fleeting images, and the distinct feeling that it was thoroughly unsettling. His mother swinging the old family battle axe above the neck of Kreacher's mother... Gideon Prewett's chest being blasted out of his body... Sirius preemptively counter-cursing a Death Eater, whose arm recoils and sends a jet of light straight into James instead... Fabian Prewett, falling into place beside his brother, both their eyes wide open and lifeless.

Sirius closes his eyes briefly, and draws a deep breath. He is covered in a sheen of sweat, as are his nightshirt and hair, both sticking to his skin uncomfortably. His limbs are trembling, as if he'd just run a long distance in a short time and then forced himself to lie still in bed. In some weird synchronicity, his heart thunders along, joined by the throbbing artery in his neck. Or is it just his head, feeling the effects of too much Firewhiskey?

Exhaling deeply, he rolls onto his side. A chill fills the room through the open window, although his night terror leaves him tepid. It is still dark outside, but that doesn't mean anything. Winter has arrived early this year, encroaching into fall and bringing cold and darkness even as the trees barely finished their shedding. If Sirius believes in omens, he would see it as a worrisome sign. But he doesn't hold any store by all that divination hogwash – especially not since he out found his Animagus was a Grim, that most famous of omens. Turning into it every so often makes things like that far less threatening. And his friends are still alive, at any rate.

How long they'll stay that way is anyone's guess, given the way things are going for the Order, lately.

Sirius's eyelids fall to a drowsy close, but there's a jolt in his stomach and his eyes open wide again. Fear of his own dreams makes sleep a struggle, even though he is in desperate need of it, bone-weary from night shifts and raids for the Order. But he is afraid to close his eyes. Who knows what lies in the darkness, waiting for him to drift off before attacking...?

The snake winds its way around his body, its length apparently never ending as it continues to coil about him for what seems like eternity, squeezing the air out of his lungs slowly, excruciatingly…

A green light flashes -

Bellatrix laugh is a mingled in a scream. "CRUCIO!"

An army of the dead, lost ones returned to caricatures of their former selves. Inferi. He recognises Marlene McKinnon and her two younger sisters, all brown-haired and once lovely, bearing down upon him: "Why didn't you come to save us, why, why…"

Worst of all is Regulus - not bearing down upon him but being dragged away by the army of Inferi, into the lake where they sleep, even as Sirius fails to reach him, intoning, "You left me. You found another brother. You failed me."

Once again, Sirius wakes up with a start. He is not used to feeling fear so potently that he can taste it in his mouth. It is always worse after battles or skirmishes, if someone dies. That is when he starts on the Firewhiskey. Or the Goblin wine. When unable to sleep, pass out from alcoholic stupor.  The only downside is that it makes the nightmares worse.

Giving it up as a lost cause, Sirius leaps out of bed, reaching for his wand so that he doesn't have to be surrounded by the lightless night any longer. Almost reflexively, his other hand reaches for a bottle of Ogden's, while his mind turns to the war. Sirius didn't use to dwell on it so much – but then James went into hiding, and Sirius has been mostly left to the company of his own mind. That is never a good thing, and the dwindling numbers of the Order is hardly helping.

It seems like the war has reached a turning point – and now it's moving away from Dumbledore and his Order of fighters, and towards Voldemort. The key is clearly the treacherous Order spy and the information he or she is providing. There is something in James, Lily and the Longbottoms that Voldemort apparently fears, so perhaps they are another key. The only one left to the Order, some might say, but it's not like they can do anything while hidden away. It's hopeless.

Bloody hell, he's starting to sound like Moony. Always the cynic, even when he isn't using his werewolf condition as shield. Even so, Sirius can't remember ever seeing Remus so... defeated as he has been recently – the few times Sirius has actually seen him, that is. Such resignation seems out of character, compared to the Moony from school… but Moony at Hogwarts and Moony after Hogwarts are shaping up to be two very different people. Maybe it is the fact that they are not seeing each other for almost all day, every day, and Sirius is just seeing Remus at his worst – and everybody is at their worst after battles or during depressing Order meetings. But why is Remus is so often absent from the few gatherings that are still occurring, with only feeble excuses to give in return? Surely, after all the things that he, Sirius, Peter and James have shared, there is no need to keep secrets between them?

Hmm. It merits further consideration, preferably in the daytime when he isn't half-dead or hungover. He makes a mental note to ask Peter if he's noticed anything.

For the moment, Sirius settles back into bed for an uneasy sleep, dreaming of, amongst other things, a wolf bearing down on its prey, ripping the antlered head off the rest of its sinewy body...


***


Harry monopolises his godfather's time from the moment Sirius steps into number ten, Boswell Close, Godric's Hollow. Soon enough, however, he becomes sleepy, and James has a chance to talk to Sirius without the distracting presence of a one year old. He waits for the door to close shut behind Lily before speaking.

"Will you be ready to set up the Fidelius tomorrow?"

"I think Peter should be Secret-Keeper instead," says Sirius at the same time.

Neither of them laughs, as they once might have done.

"Peter, as Secret-Keeper?" asks James sharply.

"He would be the perfect decoy," says Sirius. "No one would expect it to be him – and between him and myself, I think he can be well hidden, and not too many people would notice if he lays low for a while. "

James exhales with a huff. Peter has kept so many of their secrets over the years, and can always be relied on to provide cover – but the only person James trusts as much as he trusts Sirius is Lily. And this isn't the secret of who stole Freya Jones's French knickers in fifth year or who desecrated the Slytherin common room with Gryffindor colours prior to the Qudditich cup final in second year… it's beyond even Remus's lycanthropy or James, Peter and Sirius's statuses as illegal Animagi. The lives of Lily and Harry (and James himself, obviously, but he counts that as slightly less important than the first two) are more important than anything.

"We can't tell anyone that we've switched Secret-Keepers," says Sirius. "For the sake of security – if people don't know that Peter is the Secret-Keeper, if they're not even aware of the possibility that it's not me, they aren't going to think about him…"

"Makes sense," says James. "But that means no one else can know the secret, because Peter would have to tell them." It means setting themselves up for an even greater isolation than the one they are currently experiencing. It would be necessary, of course, but…

"Surely we'll be able to tell Dumbledore, or Madam Bagshot?" he asks, frowning.

Sirius raises an eyebrow. "You mean old lady Bathilda, Grindelwald's great aunt, who claims Dumbledore and Grindelwald were once great friends?"

"How did you hear about that?"

"Lily told me."

"Bathilda said Dumbledore and Grindelwald were friends when they were kids," says James slowly. "Dumbledore's had ages since then to try and take over the world, if that's what he wants. Why wait so long and do it now?"

"It would be easier to let someone else lay the groundwork?"

James raises an eyebrow, and Sirius shrugs. "Just playing devil's advocate."

"I can't believe ol' Bagsy is capable of anything even remotely sinister, either," continues James. "Unless inflicting her vomit-smelling banana crumble on the world counts. I'm surprised she even manages to visit us as often as she does. She's getting on and is a bit addled in the head, if you ask me."

"A year ago, I would have not have believed that anyone in the Order was capable of treachery," replies Sirius. "However, I think the spirits of the Prewetts, McKinnons and countless others would beg to differ. These days, anybody is a suspect."

James concedes the point. "Fine. You, Peter and Remus will be aware of the change of plan, and only you three."

Sirius scoffs. "I think telling Remus would be worse than telling either Dumbledore or Bagshot, but I'm fairly certain you know that. Unless you haven't actually been listening to me these past few months…"

"I know what you think, and I know that I don't agree," says James shortly, standing up. He paces the length of the sitting room, where just minutes earlier Sirius was clowning about for Harry's amusement. "And I'm 'fairly certain' you're well aware of that, too."

Sirius shakes his head. "Look, I understand where you're coming from. It was a long while before I could even consider Moony, myself. You haven't lately seen as much of him as I have, which in itself is admittedly not much… but when was the last time you saw him? And the last time before that?"

James stares at the window. "We haven't seen much of him," he admits finally. He can't deny it's frustrating - especially since Peter makes time to visit, despite being so busy with work, and Sirius maintains mail correspondence even if he can't call at the Potters' personally. Unlike Peter, Remus doesn't have the excuse of a full-time job… on the other hand, he doesn't have the cushioning comfort of normalcy or wealth either, as Sirius does.

"But that could just be whatever Dumbledore's got him doing," says James firmly. "From the sounds of it, you don't have that much time off, either. And obviously the full moon knocks him out for a few days, at least."

"It's not just that," insists Sirius. "He isn't Moony anymore – something isn't right with him."

"Give me an example."

"Okay. You've heard about the Folkestone Bestiary raid?"

James nods. That was the fateful night that Benjy Fenwick died, blasted into a million little pieces.

"Well, Peter was supposed to be at the Tunbridge Wells safehouse as backup," says Sirius. "But when I spoke to him earlier that evening, he said he switched shifts with Remus, because he had some deadline at the Ministry that he was struggling to cover; you know how Crouch runs his department."

"Bloomin' slave driver and uptight deadline whore are some of the descriptions I've heard," agrees James. Despite Peter's lowly administrative position in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, the perpetual stream of Death Eater attacks means even he is kept busy at work. And Bartemius Crouch is a notorious stickler for even the smallest bureaucratic details, which must make the sort of paperwork Peter has to do a nightmare.

"Right, so we were camped out around the boundaries and it didn't take long for things to go tits-up. I sent my Patronus to the safehouse, once I realised it was an ambush. Meadowes did likewise, I believe. Remus didn't respond, and by the time the others had turned up - without him, I might add – it was too late. "

James bows his head, remembering the fallen "So… what happened to him?"  

Sirius exhales, frustration etched in his handsome features. "Moody made the non-Aurors scarper from the scene to Tunbridge Wells when it looked like Ministry people were about to arrive. Peter was at the safehouse when we got there  – said he had just taken over from Moony, since they'd switched shifts that night, as I mentioned earlier. And Moony didn't say anything to Peter about the raid or the messages we sent."

James swears loudly. Sirius is right, that doesn't sound like Moony at all. But… "There has to be a logical explanation, though," he insists. "Haven't you talked to him since then?"

Sirius shakes his head. "I've hardly at the chance to. As I said before, he hasn't been around much.

"The only logical explanations I can think of are these: either he knew what was going to happen and kept himself out of harm's way by ignoring the Patronus messages… or, he left his post at the safehouse to join the Death Eater party that ambushed us – returning in time so that Peter didn't notice anything was amiss."

James's jaw drops, and he stares at Sirius in shock. His friend has been hinting and implying his suspicions of Remus for a while, but he's never outright said anything. Until now.

Maybe Sirius realises he's crossed a line, because he stands up and puts his hands up – palms out – placatingly. "Mate, I'm just trying to look out for you and Lily and Harry."

The door to the lounge opens, and Lily steps in. "Well," she says, huffing. "I finally managed to get Harry into his pyjamas and put him to bed." Her smile fades as she looks between James and Sirius, taking in their tense postures. "What were you boys talking about?"

James flops back down on his favourite armchair, and jerks his chin at Sirius. "You tell her."

Sirius does so, and his previous discussion with James is repeated with Lily.

"What do you make of all this?" she asks James. Her thick red brows are furrowed, emphasising the almond-shape of her eyes.

"Making Peter Secret-Keeper might buy us some extra time," he admits. "Just because no one will be expecting it – the obvious choice is Sirius, or even Dumbledore."

Lily's frown deepens, but James recognises it as a sign of thoughtfulness rather than disagreement with his words. "And we're not going to tell anyone, not even Remus?"

Sirius cuts in. "Lily, James, trust me on this, please. If Remus doesn't know our plans, he can't hurt you or Harry anymore."

It isn't James who speaks next, but Lily, and her voice reflects his bitterness. "What have things come to, if we see even our closest friends as threats?"


***


James is standing in the kitchen, munching on a digestive biscuit as he waits for his tea to cool. He reaches into the biscuit tin for another one.

"Try not to finish those as quickly as you did the custard creams."

He looks up with a wan grin. "Don't worry, Lily. If I get tubby, there will just be more of me to go around!"

Lily laughs. "Your oversized ego takes up enough space as it were, thanks." She props herself up onto a sitting position on the counter beside James, and reaches for a biscuit. "Anyway, Harry's finally asleep."

"Good." They've been struggling to get Harry into bed lately. "Let's hope that his nap lasts for more than an hour, this time."

"The Fidelius seems to be holding up well enough," he adds casually, picking up his tea. They set up the charm three days ago, and thus far no one in Boswell Close has shown any interest or concern in the lack of a number ten between houses nine and eleven. If they've even noticed, that is.

Lily nods thoughtfully, and looks out the window. James follows her gaze. There isn't much activity in the street at this time of day, just the occasional Muggle vehicle passing by.

His wife, on the other hand, is a curious picture – her shoulders are set rigidly, and lines have suddenly appeared around her eyes as she watches the outside world. Setting his mug down, James draws her to him.

"What's wrong?"

Lily sighs, and bites her lower lip. She waits a long moment before responding. "It's just... what if they find a way to break the charm?"

 "Between us both, you're the charms expert," says James slowly.

"The Fidelius, by itself, should not be breakable because it's contained in a person. On the other hand, a person is definitely breakable."

The words especially at the hands of curse-happy Death Eaters do not need to be said, James knows they are both thinking them. The two of them are only too aware of the lengths Death Eaters will go to serve their master and his so-called pureblood dogma. James only has to think of the near-invisible scar on his cheek - a trophy of Snape's cutting curse and a symbol of his many brushes with Dark Magic since then – to remember this.

He blinks, shifting his focus back to Lily. "Sirius said he'd make sure Peter was hidden, and no one's going to think he's the Secret-Keeper, anyway, so it shouldn't come to that, hopefully…"

"They've been rather canny about unraveling our plans in the past," replies Lily, resting her head on his shoulder. "It's not just us in danger now; we’ve happily dragged our friends along."

James sighs. He understands, only too well. "I reckon they'd be involved either way, honestly. Either way… I don't know if there's any point wondering or worrying." He runs a hand over her thick, soft red hair, continuing; "Whatever's coming, will come. If the worst happens, and it turns out to be Voldemort... well. I'd die before I let anything happen to you or Harry."

She looks up at him, her green eyes blazing. "I know you would."

The moment passes, and suddenly she sags against him. The grim determination James knows so well in her is gone, replaced with the fear and vulnerability she shows only to him.

"I know you would do anything for Harry," she whispers. "I would do anything for him, and for you. But what if it isn't enough?"

James leans back against the counter – though he keeps one arm firmly upon Lily - and picks up his tea again. He doesn't know what to say; Lily's question is one he has been wrangling with, himself. For a few very long seconds, they stand silent in the kitchen, James embracing the warmth of his mug, and Lily returning her gaze to the window, where the late October sun is already beginning to set. Finally, he speaks:

"All we can do is hope that it will be enough. It's all we have left."