"No," Lily stated quite firmly. Her green eyes were narrowed and the look she was bestowing upon her husband was none too friendly.
"But Lily, Sirius thinks..." James tried for the third, or perhaps fourth, time.
Lily interrupted him. "Sirius thinks this, Sirius says that... Bloody hell, James, what do you think?! So, Sirius thinks he's too obvious a choice for our Secret Keeper. Fine. I'll even agree with that assertion. But Peter Pettigrew? No."
James sighed and shook his head. "But, who else is there?" he asked. "Sirius is afraid that Remus has turned..."
"Don't even say it," Lily interrupted again. "I can't believe the two of you. Suspecting Remus, of all people, of turning traitor. Tell me, James, of your 'Marauders,' who is the most reliable? Who has never betrayed any of the others?"
James flushed, flashing back to the infamous Snape incident at the Shrieking Shack. Not one of Sirius' better moments. And it could have resulted in death for not only Severus, but Remus, as well. As for reliability, well, he had to admit that Peter's track record wasn't so good. He opened his mouth to counter with Sirius' werewolf argument, but Lily beat him to the punch.
"And what kind of reasoning is Sirius using, anyway? Yes, there is a leak in the Order, but it's automatically Remus because he's a werewolf? I thought we were above that sort of prejudice, or is his Black blood finally showing true? If Remus were actually working for the other side, don't you think his circumstances would have improved in recent months, rather than deteriorated? Have you seen the man, James? He's practically starving to death. He looks even worse than he used to in the first years at Hogwarts. No new clothes, no new cushy job, and evidently very few meals. Hardly the signs of a Death Eater."
"But he won't tell Sirius anything!" he exclaimed in frustration, lunging out of the kitchen chair and pacing about the room. "Sirius says he was coming home at all hours of the night looking simply ghastly, sometimes with blood splashed on his robes. And just last week he was seen in a pub rumored to be frequented by Death Eaters, getting chummy with some of the patrons."
Lily closed her eyes and counted to ten. When she opened them again, she pinned her husband with her sharp gaze. "James, Remus is a werewolf. To most people, that makes him a Dark Creature, which are known to have been favoring You Know Who in the war. Now, if you wished to try to ferret information about the goings on of Death Eaters, who would be the best choice to send out into the field?" she asked in that falsely patient tone that always signalled that she truly believed she had married an idiot.
James eyes widened in sudden understanding. "Oh shite," he whispered.
"Yes, I believe that sums it up."
James returned to his chair and slumpted down with his head in his hands. "And we've all been treating him like something you'd find on the bottom of a shoe. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Well, not all of us. And you know why. With the problem with leaks we've been having, we're all in the dark about what the others are doing." She moved up behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders, slowly massaging the tension away.
"You're sure? You truly believe Remus is the best choice?" He turned around to face her, blue eyes searching.
"Yes, I'm sure. James, we're the only family Remus has. If you had only stopped to think, I'm sure you would have come to the same conclusions I have. Too many decisions based on fear have been made already," she said, thinking of the new Ministry laws regarding Werewolves. Poor Remus had very little chance of finding a decent job in the foreseeable future.
James took one of her slender hands in his own and pressed a kiss to it. "Do you think he'll even agree? I'm sure he's noticed the cold shoulder recently."
"Of course he'll agree. I do believe he would forgive his friends most anything, as he's demonstrated before. Now, why don't you Owl and invite him for dinner tonight. The sooner the Fidelius Charm is in place, the safer I'll feel," Lily stated as she pulled away and went to inspect the contents of the refrigerator. "Tell him I"m making spaghetti. He'll never refuse that."
True to Lily's prediction, Remus Owled back an acceptance almost immediately. James could practically see the grateful joy Remus felt from receiving the invitation in the enthusiastic reply, and that just made him feel even more guilty for suspecting his friend of having turned to the Dark Lord. 'God, Remus is one of the gentlest and most caring people I know. If we start letting things like his lycanthropy influence how we think of him, then Voldemort has already won.'*****
At six on the dot, the tell-tale sound of the floo being activated carried into the kitchen, and then Remus was stepping out of the fireplace, brushing powder off his thread-bare cloak. As James got a good look at his friend, he felt almost sick with shame. Remus looked as though a stiff breeze could blow him over, and he looked as pale and drawn as he ever had on the day after the full moon. Considering that the next full moon was still two weeks away, that was a very bad sign. "Remus! Thanks for coming on such short notice," he said, holding out his hand.
Remus clasped it in a strong grip and grinned broadly. "Thank you for inviting me. I wouldn't miss Lily's spaghetti for anything!" he exclaimed.
James chuckled. "And well she knows it, too! Come on, it's almost ready, but we have just enough time to peek in on Harry. Lily fed him earlier, so he's napping now, but if we're quiet, we can take a look. Just don't wake him or you'll have to explain it to Lily!"
Remus followed James silently. He had been surprised by the invitation, but quite happy to receive it. Lately, James, Sirius, and even Peter had seemed to be pulling away from him, and he had felt helpless to prevent it. Dumbledore had him working hard on covert missions to attempt to win the werewolves over to their side, or at least convince them not to join forces with Voldemort. He wasn't sure how successful he had been, but a side effect seemed to be that his friends were losing their faith in him. It had hurt, but he supposed he couldn't really blame them. Sirius was always suspicious when Remus wouldn't share everything with him, and James usually listened to Sirius. As for Peter, well, he always had been a follower, and he almost always took his cues from James.
James eased open the door to Harry's room, smiling automatically as he gazed upon the sleeping form of his son. Moving closer, he gestured Remus into the room.
Staring down at the child in awe, Remus felt a warmth grow in his chest. This was what he was fighting for--so that the innocent would never know the horror and fear that Voldemort and his Death Eaters brought into the world.
While Remus was looking down at Harry, James studied his friend. Lily had been right--as usual. There was no way that a man who looked upon Harry with such love could have sold his soul to Voldemort. "Remus," he said quietly, waiting until the other man's eyes met his. Remus looked at him inquiringly. "Lily and I want you to be our Secret Keeper."
Remus gaped at James in astonishment. Of all the things he expected to hear, that wasn't one of them. "Wha... what?" he stammered out. "I thought... Sirius..."
"Too obvious. Everyone would expect Sirius to be the Secret Keeper. And you know that it's impossible for him to keep a low profile." James shook his head. "Lily and I agree, you're the best choice."
Flushing hotly, Remus looked back down at Harry, trying desperately to hold back the tears that were threatening. "I... I'd be honored," he managed to choke out before looking back up.
James smiled and clasped Remus' shoulders. "Good. It's settled then. And not a moment too soon. Lily has been getting increasingly worried about Harry. After supper?"
Nodding, Remus followed as James walked out of the room. He paused at the doorway to take one last look at Harry. 'I'll keep you safe, Harry. I swear it.'