An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 4 - Going Home

Chapter Four – Going Home

October wove into November and as the weather got steadily colder James noted that Harry's attitude towards them had progressed in the same fashion. Lily's mood had significantly improved since she had been out for drinks with her work lot, James could see she was sorry for the way that she'd acted.

"Have you noticed we've hardly heard from Harry this term?" James said over breakfast.

Lily looked sad. "I know." She drummed her fingers on the wooden table. "Do you think we were too hard on him?"

"No." James shook his head. "But I think he's taken our words to heart and now it's time to build bridges."

"Agreed, what do you have in mind?"

"I want us to go to the first Quidditch match of the term and cheer him on."

"What?" Lily squeaked. "I thought he didn't want you there."

"That was last year when he was new. He mentioned over the summer that he'd like us to watch once." James didn't notice anything unusual in Lily's voice. "I'm going to write to him and ask. Ok?"

Lily just smiled. James kissed her and left for work. If James was going to Hogwarts he would be where Severus was and Lily would have to tell him what happened. The guilt had been eating her up, but the longer she left telling him, the more difficult it was becoming to work up the nerve.

When James arrived at work Kingsley Shacklebolt was leaning against his cubicle.

"Morning." James said suspiciously.

"Morning." Kingsley nodded. "Come with me." He led James into the empty meeting room and flicked his wand so that the blinds on the windows quickly shut. "Dumbledore dropped me an owl this morning, it appears that the caretaker's cat was petrified."

"Mrs Norris has been petrified?" James asked in surprise. "How?"

"Well that's where the story gets bizarre," James looked at him, "or more bizarre. There was a message written on the wall saying 'The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir beware.'"

"I thought that the Chamber of Secrets was a myth?"

"So did I." Kingsley agreed. "However, whether it's a myth or not, something nasty is going on at Hogwarts." Kingsley flicked open the blinds. "I'm going call a meeting, I just wanted to give you a heads up."

"Thanks." James said. He paused at the entrance. "I'm thinking of going to Harry's next match, I could have look round while I'm there, it wouldn't have to be official."

"That would be useful. Take Black with you, I'm sure he'd enjoy a game of Quidditch." Kingsley replied. "James there's one more thing."


"It was Harry and his friends who found the cat."

James sighed. "Of course it was. Thanks Kingsley."

Sirius turned up unexpectedly at his cousin's house that evening. "Is everything alright?" Andromeda asked, taking in his face.

"It's this bloody house." Sirius followed her into the living room. She summoned them two cups of tea. "Thanks." Sirius didn't speak immediately. "It's cursed, Dromeda. Things in my life were going well until that house cropped up again."

"I'm really not following, will you start from the beginning?" Andromeda said patiently.

"My girlfriend wants a baby and she thinks that the reason I don't want one is because I'm scarred by memories of our family. She thinks that once I've been to the house and let those memories go I'll be healed." He was scoffing.

"You're very good with Harry, I've always thought you'd make a wonderful father Sirius."

Sirius groaned. "It has nothing to do with my ability to be a good father, I've already learned everything not to do. I just don't think that it's fair to bring a child into this world when there are dark forces are lurking."

"You're talking about You-Know-Who?"

"Yes." Sirius nodded. "But she won't accept that!"

Andromeda considered this for a moment. "Well if you ask me, if you think like that then you've already let him win." Sirius didn't reject this, so Andromeda pressed on. "Children are a good thing, and there will be a time when we'll need more good things in the world."

Sirius didn't reply at all. He was sat in deep thought.

"Since when have you been seeing anyone?" Andromeda asked.

"Oh, since late May early June."

"And you're already talking babies?"

"Ah." Sirius paused. "Well the relationship isn't that new. It's Emilia."

Andromeda looked at him in shock. She wished she had asked this before telling Sirius to go ahead and have children.

"How did that happen?" Andromeda's tone was rather sharper than she intended.

"She turned up at my flat one day and we talked. It turns out the whole break up was based on a giant misunderstanding, can you believe that?"

"No." Andromeda said frankly. "Sirius, when you split up she broke you."

These memories made Sirius very uncomfortable. "Like I said, it was a big misunderstanding."

"You're moving very quickly, you really need to be careful."

"You sound just like James," grumbled Sirius. "Why can't everyone just let us be?"

"You sound like a child." Andromeda sighed. "We care about you."

Sirius looked at the floor. Andromeda was reminded of when he was a moody teenager and 'misunderstood' by everyone. He was right about the house cursing them back into their past.

"What do you want to do about the house?"

"Go and see it, then go from there." Sirius looked up at her. "Will you come?"

"Of course." Andromeda nodded. She squeezed his hand in support. "Ted will too. He's always been curious about the old prison, and I doubt Dora will want to miss a trip down memory lane. She's too curious for her own good."

"Yeah I've noticed that." Sirius smiled wryly. "She's going to be very good at her job, you know."

"I was always afraid of that." Andromeda said sadly, and Sirius patted her shoulder.

"Do you fancy going up to Hogwarts this weekend?"

Sirius looked at James in surprise. "Is this about the Chamber of Secrets rubbish?"

"Of course not," James said nodding his head. "And Harry's Quidditch match."

"I'd love to mate, but I've got something on this weekend."

"I'm sure Emilia won't mind if you cancel you're weekend plans this once," James said testily.

"It's not that, actually." Sirius replied coldly. "I'm going with Andromeda to clear out my mother's house. It's recently ended up in my possession."

"Oh." James said in surprise. "Sorry."

"That's ok." Sirius replied, albeit awkwardly.

"You alright?"

"I really wish people would stop asking me that."

"Ok." James nodded. He left Sirius alone at his cubicle. When he was in this mood there was nothing that James could do. They hadn't been their usual selves since Emilia had moved in with Sirius. James decided he would invite Remus to go with him since Lily was busy with work.

When Harry walked out on to the Quidditch pitch and looked up into the stands he waved happily and also felt an unpleasant nervous sensation. What if he disappointed his father on the Quidditch pitch as much as he had in every other aspect of his life recently?

Remus and James were happily sat in the teacher's stand next to Dumbledore. To James's displeasure, Lucius Malfoy had also come to watch the match; it appeared as though he had bought his son's way on to the team.

"Now gentlemen, I trust that we'll be pleasant." Dumbledore sounded merry but there was no hiding that he was ordering them to behave.

James battled against all his instincts and kept silent around Malfoy. He did notice that Snape kept shooting him wary glances, surely Malfoy's lapdog wasn't worried that James would actually kick off? With a small laugh, James turned his attention back on to the game.

The match hadn't been on for more than two minutes before James realised that something was wrong. A Bludger kept targeting Harry. At first he thought he was being paranoid, but it was undeniable, a Bludger had been tampered with in order to sabotage his son.

"Albus," James started.

"Yes I see." Dumbledore nodded before James could finish his sentence.

"Well, well, Potter." Malfoy smirked. "I see that you've chosen to come to a losing match."

James didn't even turn to look at Malfoy; his eyes were glued to the speck on the pitch trying to avoid a rogue Bludger. To James's enormous relief there was a time out, but his relief was short lived, the match resumed and the Bludger kept directing itself at Harry.

"Albus!" James said in alarm, as the ball narrowly missed Harry's head. "It's been tampered with, this is dangerous!"

"Ah, Potter. We can't all appeal to the headmaster when our side is losing, can we? It's hardly in the spirit of fair play."

"Shut up Malfoy!" James spat. "I don't think buying your son's way on to the team is in the spirit of fair play but you went ahead with that, didn't you?" Malfoy's pale face flashed pink.

"James," Remus said warningly, but James ignored him.

"And while we're on that subject-"

"JAMES!" Remus said more insistently, he grabbed James's arm and turned his attention to the pitch.

"Jesus it's just broken his arm!" James exclaimed. "Albus you've got to call off the match!"

But before Dumbledore could act, Harry had dived at Draco.

"What is your son doing?" Hissed Lucius in alarm.

It soon became clear that Harry had gone for the Snitch. "He's caught it!" James shouted in delight. "Quite literally under your son's nose, Malfoy."

The crowd erupted in to cheers. Remus and James were cheering with the rest of them, even Dumbledore gave them a small wink.

James watched Harry fly to the ground and fall over. "I'm going down there."

"Not to worry, James!" Said a blond man with a glittering smile. "I can take care of that and the Bludger problem, if I may Headmaster?"

"By all means Gilderoy." Dumbledore nodded.

James made his excuses to Dumbledore and followed Lockhart down to the pitch with Remus at his heels. He wasn't at all confident in Lockhart's ability to fix anything. They'd just gotten on to the grass when they caught sight of Harry, he was sat up holding his arm. He didn't look pained, and his arm didn't look broken. In fact it looked like –

"He's taken all the bones out of my arm!" Harry yelled incredulously.

"Ah," said Lockhart. "Yes. Well that can sometimes happen."

James and Remus rushed over. "I think I'll take him to the hospital wing now, if you don't mind professor."

"Ah, yes, erm, yes, jolly good." Lockhart made a quick exit back to the castle.

"I told Lily he was bloody useless," James sighed. "Come on, Harry." James lifted him to his feet and they walked up to the Hospital Wing.

James helped Harry into pyjamas and into bed. Remus, Ron and Hermione drew up chairs round the bed whilst James perched by Harry's head.

"I want to know how Malfoy managed to fix that Bludger." Hermione said darkly.

"You think Draco Malfoy did that?" James asked, looking between the children.

"We think he's the heir of Slytherin." Harry explained.

Remus frowned. "So you think that the Chamber of Secrets really has been opened?"

"You think that there really is a Chamber of Secrets?" James asked Remus incredulously.

"I don't see why not, Hogwarts is full of mysteries, this could well be one of them."

"But Slytherin's monster? It's just so unrealistic."

"I don't think anything's impossible here." Remus insisted.

"I take it you three believe that it's opened as well?"

They nodded. Ron added, "what else could have petrified Mrs Norris?"

"And you think Draco Malfoy is the heir of Slytherin?" James checked, trying to keep the disbelief out of his voice. "He can't be."

"Why not?" They asked in unison.

"We can trace his family history back a long way," Remus explained. He looked to James. "We could always get Sirius to check the family tree?"

"He'll love that." James said darkly. "But we can ask him."

The Gryffindor Quidditch team made their noisy entrance into the room.

"Harry, we'll leave you with your team mates. I'll check on you before I leave." James smiled at him.

"Alright then." Harry smiled back.

James walked two meters away before remembering. "By the way, it was an excellent game. Well done mate."

In that moment Harry was so happy, he felt on top of the world.

Sirius was having a thoroughly miserable day in London. He and Emilia were standing opposite the house on Grimmauld Place. Now that Sirius was here, he wasn't sure that he could go inside.

"It seems very grand." Emilia said conversationally. She looked up at the familiar tall terrace with its dark brick and metal barred windows.

"All I can see is a prison." Sirius muttered. Emilia squeezed his hand but didn't say anything else.

Andromeda, Ted and Tonks arrived, and with unease Sirius and Andromeda led the way into their ancestral home. Andromeda waved her wand to light the narrow hallway. It was incredibly quiet; the only sound was the creaking of the dark wood under their tread. Tonks was the last one inside the house, and as she closed the door she tripped over a troll's leg being used as an umbrella stand. "That's disgusting." There was a deafening clanging as it smashed into the floor, followed by an ear-curdling shriek.

"What on earth is that?" Sirius shouted but the screaming drowned his voice out. He followed the stairs to find the source of the noise and to his horror saw a full-length portrait of his mother glaring at him.

"YOU!" It shouted. "You disgrace. And you!" It shrieked again to Andromeda. "Traitors! How dare you besmirch the house of my fathers? You're a disgrace to the name of Black."

"Silencio!" Emilia directed her want at the portrait whose mouth continued to move silently.

"Thank you." Andromeda said, slightly breathlessly. That portrait had not been there before they left home. "Come on." She tugged Sirius's arm and led him upstairs to the drawing room. "Let's start here."

"Start? What are we doing?"

"We're looking Sirius, things that we should destroy, things we might want-"

"You shall not take any of my mistresses possessions, filthy traitors." A snivelling, tomato-nosed house elf sidled into the room, eying its members suspiciously.

"I'd forgotten about that." Sirius muttered.

"Filthy brats, oh how Kreacher's mistress would cry if she saw you back in this house."

"Kreacher. Sirius is your master now." Andromeda said disdainfully.

"Mistress Dromeda, Kreacher remembers you, Kreacher remembers how your mother said you did disgrace her and the house."

"Yes. Thank you Kreacher."

"You will not take Kreacher's Black family treasures."

"We'll take whatever we like." Sirius snapped. "Now leave us, you filthy little-"

"You has bought mudbloods and halfbreeds into this house, oh, how your motherses would cry."

"OUT!" Sirius roared and Kreacher scampered from the room.

The room was silent. Andromeda looked unhappy and Sirius's face was set in disgust.

"Wasn't he foul?" Tonks said conversationally, she was utterly unconcerned. "The ones in the Hogwarts kitchen were much more pleasant."

"He's always been a foul beast." Sirius muttered. Sirius lit the fireplace and everyone started examining the room.

"You're not on here." Emilia told Sirius and he joined her at the tapestry.

"Look at that. The old witch blasted me off." He pointed to the spot where his name used to sit. "You're gone too, Dromeda." Sirius added.

Andromeda looked at the tapestry. "Have a look at what noble stock you come from Dora."

Tonks studied the ornately decorated names. "Phineas Nigellus Black. Wasn't he a headmaster of Hogwarts?"

"Oh yes." Sirius replied. "Whenever I got called into Dumbledore's office I could never even hear his reprimands over Phineas Nigellus's shouts, always telling me I'm a disgrace to the house and that he was telling my mother. His other portrait is somewhere in the house."

"It's in my old room, the one I shared with Cissy."

"Lucky you." Sirius replied. "Come on Em, let's look upstairs. Dromeda, let's leave all the silver, or give it to a muggle charity if we can be bothered." Sirius grasped Emilia's hand and they went up a level. This floor had three bedrooms, the first door had an ornate plaque on it saying Bellatrix. Sirius didn't attempt to open that door; there would be nothing of interest to him in there. The opposite door had two names on: Andromeda and Narcissa.

"It's all very grand, isn't it?" Emilia noted.

"If we're an awful family, at least we're a wealthy one." Sirius said bitterly. He walked up the next flight of stairs. There were another three bedrooms and he opened the one with his name on. "Welcome to my cell."

Emilia wandered around the spacious room. From her experience it was a very grand cell. "I can't be sure, but were you in Gryffindor House at Hogwarts?" She indicated the scarlet hangings.

Sirius almost smiled. "Subtle isn't it?" He sat on his dusty bed and surveyed the room with distaste.

"Is that a photo from school?" Emilia pointed to a photo of four young men with linked arms. They were smiling and waving at the camera. "There's you and James and Remus." She poked each one with her wand and they attempted to bat her away. "Who's the one on the end?"

"Peter." Sirius replied unenthusiastically.

"Did he die in the war?"

"Not quite. He's in Azkaban."

"What?" Emilia said in a shocked voice. "Why?"

Sirius sighed. "It's a long story. I don't really want to talk about it here."

Emilia didn't push the topic. She went back out into the corridor, the door opposite her had the same ornate writing on. "Regulus," she whispered running her hands along the wood.

"Stupid prat." Sirius said flatly. He hadn't heard her say anything. "Come on, I've had enough for one day. I can't do this." Sirius hopped down the stairs and after a moment more looking at Regulus's closed door, Emilia followed.

"Andromeda," Sirius said, poking his head round her bedroom door. "Emilia and I are leaving."

Andromeda looked grave. "We're coming too. You were right, we should never have come back."

Ted, Tonks and Emilia didn't understand Sirius and Andromeda's attitude, to them it was only a house. Granted it was dark and creepy, and it wouldn't take an Auror to deduce that it belonged to dark wizards, but it was only a house after all. The only thing they could appreciate as outsiders was that it must have been a grim home to grow up in.

As soon as Sirius stepped outside he felt like he could breathe again. Andromeda experienced a similar sensation, she felt so freed that even the rain was welcome.

"It's just so full of them." She shuddered. "Bellatrix hasn't lived there in twenty years and its just full of her presence."

"All I can sense is my mother and her nutty pureblood agenda." Sirius said.

"Are you alright mum?" Tonks asked, wrapping an arm around her mother's shoulder. "You look very pale."

Andromeda smiled at her daughter. "I'm fine dear. It's just been an emotional day, that's all. Shall we go home and have a cup of tea?"

"Sounds good to me, love." Ted smiled. "Are you two coming?"

Sirius answered before Emilia could. "No thanks, I need to take a shower and wash this house off of me."

"I understand." Andromeda smiled weakly. "Go to the law department in the ministry. See about selling it." She hugged him tightly. "See you soon."

"I'll see you next week. Thank you, for everything."

Sirius had never been happier to be back in his flat. It was light and airy and open, nothing like that old, Black house.

While Sirius was in the shower Emilia rifled through his pockets until she found the key. She'd have to go back there again when she could.

James and Remus had spent the evening combing the castle, even looking in all their old shortcuts and passageways. Nothing was out of the ordinary. James checked in on Harry before going up to Dumbledore's office.

"I just can't see anything suspect." James said frankly. "As a primary risk assessment I'd say you're nowhere near a red alert."

"I agree." Dumbledore rested his chin on his knotted hands. "But we still don't know what attacked Mr Filch's cat."

"No." James sighed. "Could a student have done it?"

"Perhaps." Dumbledore replied.

"Albus, we'd be happy to come back if you find more solid information or if the risk to the students increases, but for now I don't think there's anything we can do."

"Quite understandable. Thank you for coming to see us, James, Remus."

"Anytime." Remus smiled. "Goodnight Headmaster."

"Just one thing Albus, about the DADA teacher . . ."

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "So it would seem."

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