An Alternate Chain of Events

Volume 2 - Chapter 1 - Family Reunions

Volume Two

Chapter One – Family Reunions

Tanned, tired and utterly relaxed, the Potters returned from their Greek holiday to their cottage in Godric's Hollow.

"It's so typical that it's raining." Harry moaned. "Ron said the weather was excellent while we were away."

"Sod's law mate," said James, yawning as he heaved their trunks into the house and sent them upstairs with a wave of his wand.

"We might have one more day of sunshine before winter." Lily collected the post and joined James and Harry in the living room. "Merlin's beard!" Lily exclaimed. "Petunia wants us to come round for dinner!"

"Why?" asked Harry and James in identically unenthusiastic voices.

But Lily wasn't paying attention; she was too absorbed by the letter. "It's this Friday." She finally looked up beaming. "Petunia's finally building bridges! This is just the chance that I've been waiting for."

"So you want to go?" James asked tentatively, while Harry grimaced behind Lily's back.

"Of course!" Lily exclaimed. "James you know how much I want to make things right with her."

"Then of course we'll go." James smiled back at Lily, who looked delighted. "Won't we, Harry?"

'"Yeah." Harry tried to smile but he didn't think he was doing a particularly convincing job. It didn't matter, Lily was too ecstatic to notice.

Just as the Potters sat down for their dinner, a Patronus in the shape of a dolphin appeared in the living room.

"Lil, I know you've just gotten back but there's an emergency and Gerwin is off sick himself. I'm sorry but we really need you here."

Harry thought he vaguely recognised the voice but couldn't quite place it.

Lily sighed and finished her mouthful of food. "That's Veronica, I'd better go." She kissed James. "Don't wait up, I'll be late." She squeezed Harry's shoulder and left for work.

"Was that Remus's girlfriend?" Harry asked.

"Yes." James smiled.

"Dad?"

"What?"

"Do we really have to have dinner with the Dursleys?"

James looked up. "Yes, Harry. We're going to sit there politely for your mum."

"You hate them too." Harry sighed.

"I don't hate them." Harry looked at him sceptically. "I just really dislike them."

"I just can't see how mum and her are sisters." Harry shook his head and took another mouthful of mashed potato. "Were mum's parents like her?"

"God no." James replied. "They were lovely people. Petunia's the black sheep. It happens in loads of families though, look at Sirius."

"What about him?"

"He was the black sheep in his family." James replied. "You'd never think he was related to your pal Draco, would you?"

"Sirius is related to Malfoy?" Harry was disgusted.

"Malfoy's mum is his cousin, they grew up in the same house."

"I don't believe you."

"I'd say ask him but it's not exactly his favourite topic of conversation. He ran away when he was sixteen. Then he was practically adopted by my parents."

"Blimey." Harry exclaimed. "You think you know a person."

Lily spent the early evening of that fateful Friday changing her clothes; doing her hair and making sure Harry and James were in their muggle best.

"Even their house is boring." James commented as the Potter's stood outside Number Four Privet Drive. "It's so square and similar to the other houses."

"James, please." Lily said nicely. "Behave. For me."

"Just getting it out of my system now." James replied. "I'll be so delightful tonight that you'll mistake me for Remus."

"Shut up James."

"Yes sweetheart." He winked at Harry who had to fight to keep a straight face.

Lily rang the doorbell and waited. A bony, rather horse-faced woman answered.

"Tuney!" Lily exclaimed and hugged her. The bony woman gave a rather forced smile and patted her sister very awkwardly on the back. "It's so lovely to see you."

"Hello, Lily." Petunia's high-pitched voice sounded rather pinched. Lily took no notice of her less than friendly welcome.

"Hello, Petunia." James said as Lily let her go. He held out his hand, "it's been a long time." Petunia took his hand with two fingers and immediately let it go. "And you remember Harry." James added.

Harry smiled and said hello. Petunia led them inside, Lily immediately followed while Harry and James trailed behind sharing defeated expressions. It was going to be a long night.

The Dursley's house was sickening in Harry's opinion, it was overwhelmingly floral and peach. The stuffiness of the house was only matched by the personalities of its occupants. Vernon Dursley was a large as Petunia was bony and their son Dudley reminded Harry of the Giant Squid at Hogwarts. Harry hadn't seen his cousin in many years, and after twenty minutes in his unendurably dull company he would quite happily refrain from seeing him for many more years to come.

Vernon kept shooting James wary glances from across the table while he talked about drills. James couldn't remember what a drill was. Despite the utter drivel Vernon was speaking, James was quite enjoying their effect on him. The great expanse of flesh on his face kept flushing an ugly shade of puce and his piggy eyes were so narrowed they'd almost ceased existing. James always paused after beginning any sentence with 'ma' or 'wa' or 'wi', he never actually said magic, wand or wizard but the stricken expression of his in-laws would brighten his imagination for days to come. After the fifth time he threatened to say the dirty words Lily had kicked him under the table. The only Dursley unabashed was Dudley. It was clear he knew that Lily and Petunia didn't get on, but it appeared that the Dursleys had never told him why.

Although the night was not going catastrophically, Harry was quite ready to leave after dinner. Desert was going to drag on and God forbid that they stay for coffee and awkward small talk. No bridges were being mended. As far as Harry could see, all this dinner had served was to emphasise was how far apart Lily and Petunia were. The only person who seemed unaware of this was Lily.

"May I go to the toilet?" Harry realised that this was the first time that he'd said anything all evening.

"Through the corridor, on the left." Petunia shot at him.

Harry left the dining room into the hall, pausing to laugh at a peculiarly still photo of Dudley in a sailor outfit as a child. As Harry opened the bathroom door there was a loud crack. He jumped backwards pulling on the light and praying he hadn't broken anything, but to his enormous surprise there was a house elf standing in the Dursley's fussy, frilly loo.

"Harry Potter, sir."

"Hello," Harry held out his hand. "Do you work here?" Harry was positive that the Dursleys were muggles, so they couldn't have a house elf, could they? Maybe it worked differently if you knew about magic, but still, it's not like they came out of catalogues, they were passed down through wizarding families.

"No, Harry Potter sir, I is not working here, Dobby is coming to warn Harry Potter that he should not go back to Hogwarts." Harry stared into the elf's oversized tennis ball eyes and saw his own surprised reflection.

Lily was over the moon. She was finally starting to get her sister back. She wasn't stupid, she knew that Petunia was still very uncomfortable in her presence, but the important thing was that she had made the effort.

"So Dudley, how's secondary sch-" but Lily never managed to finish her question. There was an enormous crash from the kitchen. Petunia scurried in and let out an awful shriek.

James and Lily jumped up in alarm and hurried through to the other room. Harry was stood in a brace position with Petunia's beautifully and ornately decorated desert smashed on the floor.

Lily looked to Harry in horror. He was utterly lost for words. "I'm sure it was an accident Tuney, wasn't it Harry?"

"Mum it-" but before Harry could explain what had happened an owl swooped in through the Dursley's kitchen window, dropping an official looking letter in Harry's hands.

"Dad!" Dudley shouted. "Dad! Did you see that? An owl just flew into the kitchen and gave him a letter! I want an owl, dad! Why can't I have an owl?" No one paid the slightest bit of attention to Dudley's temper tantrum. All eyes were on Harry.

"OUT!" Vernon boomed after a moment of silence. "This was all a mistake, you've passed your abnormality on to your offspring and we shall not have such behaviour in our house."

"Hold on, Dursely." James stepped in. "I won't have anyone speaking like that about my son."

"And what are you going to do about it?" Vernon tried to sound self-assured, but even he heard his voice wobble as much as his many chins.

"I think you have a very good idea about what I could do about it." James sounded completely calm but the threat in his voice remained evident.

"James!" Lily said in horror. "Tuney I'm so sorry. I don't know what happened." Lily pleaded to her sister, looking for some compassion.

Petunia tilted up her chin in particularly horsey fashion. "You heard Vernon. Get your nasty freakish family out of our house."

Lily dragged James away before he could react and the three of them went home. No one would listen to Harry about the house elf.

"I can't believe you'd do something like this." Lily gave Harry a look that made him feel so ashamed that he almost forgot that he was innocent.

"Lily, it wasn't going that well beforehand." James said gently.

"You never wanted this to go well!" She was welling up as she spoke. "You've never wanted me to mend this relationship and you've got your wish James! Between the two of you I don't think that Tuney and I will ever speak again. I really hope you're both happy." Lily left the room in floods of tears.

Harry looked hopelessly at James. He didn't look angry, just weary. "Dad it really was a house elf!"

James flopped onto a chair. "Harry you don't have to lie, I'm not angry. I probably would have done something similar at your age." James rubbed his temples and took off his glasses. "Maybe it's best if you just go to bed."

That same Friday night, Ted and Andromeda Tonks were having a perfectly ordinary night in when someone knocked at their door.

"You go dear," Ted said grinning.

Andromeda scoffed. "And you wonder how you've gotten that belly of yours?" She stood up regardless. "Keep this up Ted and we'll be going on a family diet."

"Dora will love you for that one." Ted replied merrily.

Andromeda opened the door of the little house and was shocked in to silence. There was a familiar beautiful and haughty blonde woman standing on the other side.

"Hello." Narcissa said uncomfortably. She was looking around suspiciously, she knew she shouldn't have come, Lucius would be furious with her if he ever found out.

"Cissy." Andromeda couldn't believe her eyes. "Do you want to come in?"

Narcissa truly wanted to but she felt she was betraying Lucius too much already. She shook her head sadly. "I just wanted to inform you that our mother died this morning." To Narcissa's horror she felt tears spring up in her eyes, Lucius had already reminded her that such behaviour wasn't appropriate.

Andromeda was even more stunned than before. She hadn't seen her mother in over twenty years, the woman was a nasty old shrew and she wasn't particularly sorry that she was dead.

"I just thought you should know." Narcissa had resumed the haughty pose the Black's were famed for. She turned away but Andromeda grabbed her arm. Before she knew it, Narcissa was being enveloped in a warm hug. Andromeda let go without saying anything.

Before she went back into her house Andromeda addressed her younger sister. "I'm sorry Cissy."

Narcissa nodded. She was too choked up to speak. As soon as Andromeda had let her go she felt more alone in the world than ever before. Their father had died years ago, now their mother was dead, Bella was in Azkaban, Regulus was dead and Andromeda and Sirius had picked the other side. Narcissa had no family to turn to. She only had Lucius and Draco, and although Lucius loved her in his way their marriage was one of appearance and propriety. Draco was turning out just like Lucius, and Narcissa had many sleepless nights fearing that she was raising a monster.

"If you ever change your mind you can always come here." Andromeda said kindly and she closed her door before Narcissa could reply.

Narcissa wondered if her face had looked hateful or unapproachable, she was so used to blocking her feelings from her face that she had no idea if they even could match anymore.

'If you ever change your mind...' Andromeda's words echoed around Narcissa's mind. It reminded her of the night Andromeda had left home.

"Please don't do this." Narcissa had pleaded as she watched her older sister packing her suitcase. "Mother will never forgive you, you'll never be able to come back home."

"I don't care, Cissy." Andromeda had replied. "I can't do this anymore. I can't be around these people and I can't marry a brute. I won't marry that Neanderthal, because he comes from a pure family, to please them. I don't want to please them, Cissy, I want to be happy." Andromeda was eighteen and had just finished Hogwarts, at dinner that night her parents had tried to introduce her to her future husband.

"Where will you go?"

"I'm going to be with Ted." Andromeda smiled.

"The Mudblood?"

"Cissy, I love you but I will curse you if I ever hear you use that word again." Andromeda said seriously. "Bellatrix sets no example and neither does this family. Ted is a good man, Lestrange is a murderer. I know which life I'd prefer to have."

"It's not murder, Dromeda, it's war."

Andromeda looked at her pliable, vulnerable younger sister sadly. "Cissy, it's not just a war, it's genocide. Don't let them convince you that it's a worthwhile cause."

"Lucius says its war."

"Cissy, you can't marry him." Andromeda pleaded. "They'll try to make you when you've left school, but you must be brave."

"I want to marry Lucius." Narcissa replied defiantly.

Andromeda closed her packed trunk and took one last look around her ornate bedroom at Grimmauld place. She'd never come back here. "Cissy you're not a bad person, you just need to be brave and do what's right."

"I can't." Narcissa's bottom lip had wobbled.

"Then we say goodbye." Andromeda had given her a big hug. "I love you. If you ever change your mind you'll know where to find me."

Sirius had burst into the room at that moment. "You're leaving?" He shot at Andromeda. "You can't leave me here with these people!"

"Sirius," Andromeda looked at her twelve year old cousin sadly. He was so young and outnumbered. "I have to go. Try to understand."

He had looked to Narcissa. "Make her stay!"

"I'm trying!" Narcissa replied. "But she's made up her mind."

"You can leave too, as soon as you're finished at Hogwarts." Andromeda looked at him steadily. "Both of you." She briefly looked to her sister.

"What about until then?" Sirius demanded. "What am I going to do here without you?"

"You'll keep your head down and get out when you can." Andromeda hugged him. "You've got Cissy, too."

"Can I write?"

"Of course you can." Andromeda let her cousin go and picked up her trunk.

Bellatrix swung open the door and leant on the frame, an evil joy on her face.

"Well, well, Andromeda." She sung. "You're finally leaving the fold. We'll miss you so much."

Andromeda's hand twitched towards her wand for an instant but she mastered the impulse. She did not want Sirius and Cissy to see that, it was everything she was telling them to rise above.

Narcissa watched her sisters in silent horror. The two strikingly similar women were sizing each other up, Bellatrix was full of malice and she disgusted Andromeda, there was no love between them. Narcissa loved both of her sisters, but she was scared of Bellatrix.

Sirius wasn't scared of her, he made to step forward and Narcissa grabbed his shoulders and held him back tightly. She may not have been brave but she wasn't stupid and she wasn't going to let her young cousin cross Bella's path.

Andromeda smiled at Narcissa and Sirius one last time before leaving the house. She didn't say a word to Bellatrix as she left and she never looked back. Narcissa was still holding on to Sirius until Bella's cackles had died down in the hallway.

"NO!" Narcissa had snapped. "You can't do magic outside of school and she won't hesitate to curse you if you try anything, you know that. This is not the time or place to be a Gryffindor, Sirius, didn't you listen to Andromeda?"

Sirius broke free of his cousin and surveyed her. She was so unlike her sisters in everyway. "I hate it here."

"I know." Narcissa had replied, but what she had wanted to say was, "so do I."

Narcissa was having de ja vu four years later when she found Sirius packing his bag.

"What are you doing?" She hissed, troubling to keep her voice down, she quietly closed his bedroom door behind her. "Sirius, you're sixteen! Where are you going to go?" She had made to grab him to stop him packing but he shook her off. He wasn't twelve anymore, he was now much taller than she was.

"I'm doing what I should have done years ago. I'm going."

"Where?"

"James's." Sirius pulled open draws and shoved piles of clothes and books in.

"They'll never speak to you again." Narcissa tried to reason with him. "You're not of age. This is such a stupid idea."

Sirius scowled. "It's the best idea I've ever had, Cissy." He held on to her shoulders so she had no choice but to look at him. "It's war. I'm picking a side and it's not this one!"

"This isn't a side in war, Sirius, it's a family!" Narcissa felt hysterical. She had promised Andromeda that she would watch out for him and she was failing.

Sirius shook his head and carried on packing. "How many people do you think dear Bella has killed, Cissy? And darling Rudolphus?" He closed his trunk with difficulty. "And what about Lucius? How many people do you think he's tortured and killed?"

Narcissa slapped Sirius across the face. Her wedding to Lucius was in two weeks. Sirius barely flinched. "You can't marry him, Cissy. If you marry him you're going to be just like them, is that what you want?"

"I want to be safe."

"Come with me! We can be safe away from these people, and you can marry a good man, someone who doesn't torture muggles for fun."

"You've got no proof he's done that." Narcissa's voice was dangerous.

"I think it's a pretty safe bet, and if you'd open your eyes a bit you'd see right through him." Sirius heaved his trunk off the bed and moved towards the door. Narcissa stood blocking his way.

"What about me?" She said. "You're leaving me here!"

Sirius looked at her sadly, the way Andromeda had done all those years before. "I'm not leaving you. You're just not brave enough to realise that you could be free if you wanted to be." He briefly hugged her. "See you around, Cissy. I'll give your love to Dromeda." He waited a moment before saying anything else. "And if you can't be brave, just don't become a monster."

Narcissa moved and let him pass. There were tear tracks down her pale face. "Be careful. Being brave will get you killed."

"There are worse things than dying."

The door directly opposite Sirius's room opened suddenly. "You can't go!" Regulus was horror struck. He was a head shorter than his brother but otherwise they greatly resembled one another.

"Yes I can." Sirius replied coldly. "And if you've got any brotherly affection for me at all you won't tell them I've left. I'll see you both around."

As Cissy watched him disappear down the stairs she had collapsed into tears against Sirius's open door, his empty room was tragically symbolic of their disintegrating family.

"Cissy don't cry." Regulus said stroking her arm.

"Everyone leaves me." She sobbed.

"I won't." Regulus hugged her. And he was dead minutes later, or so it felt like to Cissy.

Narcissa Malfoy entered her manor. "Where have you been?" Lucius greeted her formally.

"I just stepped out. I needed air."

"You can't dwell on your mother's death, Narcissa." He said dismissively and went to another room. Narcissa was left completely alone.

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