An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 7 - Missing Links

Chapter Seven – Missing Links

Although James did not confront Snape, he remained far too angry to speak to Lily. He was sleeping in Harry's bed and trying to avoid talking to her. Lily tried her best with him. From experience, she knew to leave him to cool off before talking to him, so a few days later she started making his favourite meals, suggesting that they buy tickets for his favourite Quidditch team, basically suggesting whatever she could think of that might make him happy. She had never been in this much trouble with him before, it'd been weeks and he was still ignoring her and Lily really didn't know what else she could try.

James knew he'd forgive Lily eventually; he was just having a difficult time coming round. In some rational part of his brain, he knew that it was a fairly minor transgression, he was angrier that she hadn't told him than about the kiss per se. He needed some space to get his head around it but he couldn't go anywhere. When they had fought before he'd go to Sirius's to cool down, but that wasn't possible anymore because of Emilia.

James felt uncomfortable thinking about Emilia because of what he'd seen at Christmas. He'd been so caught up in his own misery at the time that it hadn't really occurred to him what seeing Emilia and her husband meant. James hadn't told Sirius. He'd only seen him briefly at New Year before he was seconded back to Hogwarts, and Emilia had been with him then. A part of James felt like he'd been expecting something like this to happen, he had never trusted Emilia.

Sirius had a whole weekend off and he'd agreed to meet James for a drink after work on Friday night in London. Sirius knew that James and Lily weren't speaking and felt slight guilty for his involvement but it was not taking up a great amount of his mental energy. He hadn't heard from Emilia in ten days and was beginning to worry. He was already anxious when he got back to his flat.

"Emilia?" He called hopefully. But there was no reply, the flat was cold and empty. The fire hadn't been lit for days, the sofa looked like no one had sat on it, and there was no general mess from someone living there. Sirius dropped his bag by the front door and proceeded into his bedroom. The bed was made and the sheets were very cold, the pillows didn't have the indent that a sleeping head left. Emilia hadn't been here for days at least.

Sirius felt real panic start to creep in. Where on earth was she? He sent a message to James to go straight home and he'd meet him there. Thankfully Lily was already at the cottage when he got there. She wasn't overly pleased to see him.

"Have you seen Emilia?" He asked with no preamble.

Lily was taken aback and let him past her into the house. "Not since New Year." Lily replied. "Is something wrong?"

"I can't find her!" Sirius snapped. "I haven't heard from her and she hasn't been in the flat for some time."

Lily bit her lip. "Sirius," she prodded gently. "You don't think she's gone back home do you?"

Sirius looked at Lily in shock. "You mean to her husband?"

"It'd be a place to start." Lily explained. "I don't think she has but it would save you from worrying about something awful happening to her." Sirius still looked stricken. "Look, stay here, I can go up the road and see for you."

Lily darted out of the house before he could protest. Facing Emilia's furious husband would be a small price to pay for Sirius talking to James on her behalf, she would of course have done it anyway. Lily briskly knocked on the cottage door and to her relief someone answered, it was the grey-haired man from the photograph.

"Hello," she said brightly. "I'm a friend of Emilia's, I was just wondering if she was in?" Even to her own ears she sounded like a ten year old asking if her friend could come out to play, but she couldn't think of another way of asking whether Emilia was there.

"I'm sorry, she's not in." The man was slightly pinched and unpleasant, he looked at Lily like she was something unpleasant that he had found on his shoe. "I haven't seen her in two weeks, she's gone back on a business trip to Egypt with Gringotts."

"Back to Egypt?" Lily repeated.

"Yes." The man looked at Lily like she was an idiot. "She's been working on and off there since the summer. Now if you'll excuse me." He shut the door in Lily's face.

Lily was so surprised by what he had told her that she did not protest to his rudeness. Emilia had never left him, so she just told him that she was on a business trip whenever she saw Sirius. Why on earth was she doing that? Then another thought struck Lily. If Emilia wasn't with either her husband or Sirius, it looked like she was actually missing.

By the time Lily had re-entered the cottage James had arrived and the men were in deep discussion, breaking apart only when they saw her.

Sirius looked up at her expectantly but Lily just shook her head. Sirius didn't know if he was relieved or more anxious.

"Look mate, we'll find her, I'm sure she can't have gone far. Why don't you go to the bank and ask and I'll go back to yours and look for clues?" James knew they needed to stay proactive.

Sirius nodded. "What if we still haven't found her by Sunday night? I've only got the weekend off."

James patted him on the shoulder. "If that happens you stay here and I'll go to Hogwarts, it's temporary so we can square it with Scrimgeour. Now go to the bank before they close."

Sirius muttered a hurried thanks before disapparating out of the door.

"James," said Lily. "Emilia hasn't left her husband, he thinks she's on a business trip in Egypt."

Lily thought for an instant that she'd broken through to him but he resumed his coldness after a moment digesting her information. "I thought as much." He muttered and without saying anything else, left.

Sirius did not find Emilia that weekend and so James took up his post at the school, much to Harry's embarrassment and Snape's discomfort. Sirius was frantic. Gringotts had not heard from Emilia and they too were wondering where she was, even her mother hadn't heard a word. In desperation Sirius had gone to Scrimgeour to ask him if there had been any untoward reports, to Sirius's great surprise he was very helpful. He said he'd put a junior on to the case because he hadn't heard any reports of Dark Activity, he also told Sirius to take the week off, "I'm not being sentimental, Black, you're just no use to me if your mind's elsewhere. We can spare you this week." It at least made Sirius feel better about taking the time.

Sirius sat in Andromeda's living room going over and over everything with his cousin and her husband.

"It's just like she's vanished into thin air." His eyes had dark circles surrounding them, he was unshaven and his hands shook from excessive consumption of coffee and anxiety.

"Sirius when was the last time you slept?" Andromeda asked. She couldn't get over how awful he looked.

"I don't know, last week sometime, I can't sleep while she's out there." His voice had a tone of desperation. "But I don't know what to do."

Andromeda glanced at Ted. "Sirius you need to get some sleep. Don't interrupt. You said you don't know what to do, you need rest and that will give you some new ideas. You're no use to her in this state." Sirius still opened his mouth to protest. "I have a draught you can take so you won't dream. Stay here tonight and get some rest."

Sirius accepted grudgingly. He left for the guest bedroom and drunk the potion in one. Before his eyes closed his saw a roll of parchment on the bedside table signed 'Cissy'. Sirius was asleep moments later and thought that he imagined it.

Andromeda saw that he was safely sleeping and crept back downstairs.

"Wherever that girl is, it means no good." Andromeda told Ted.

Ted sighed and shook his head. "Dromeda, she's done nothing wrong. Sometimes I wonder if you think anyone would be good enough for Sirius."

"That's not true!" Andromeda said indignantly. "There's just something about that girl that I can't put my finger on."

Ted looked at her dubiously and looked back at his newspaper. Ted liked to keep up with the muggle times where the pictures stayed still.

"James Potter doesn't like her either," Andromeda didn't like the insinuation Ted had made, it would make her just like the rest of her family. "Neither does Narcissa."

"The only person who loves Sirius as much or perhaps more than you do is James Potter, he probably doesn't think anyone is good enough for him either." Ted was smiling, unaware of how annoyed Andromeda was getting. She sat with a haughty expression and crossed her arms. They didn't speak for a while, Ted was sat reading whilst Andromeda shot him irritated glances. "And speaking of Narcissa," Ted looked at her. "Are you planning on telling Sirius about your meetings?"

Andromeda dropped her haughty gaze and bit her lip. "I don't know. It's been so nice to see her and I don't want him to ruin it."

"You mean by shattering the glass?" Andromeda looked at Ted curiously. "He'll remind you that your on opposite sides and you'll realise that while you're on opposite sides building your relationship will just make things harder."

"Is that what you think?"

"Yes. But I also understand why you want to see your sister again." Andromeda was taken off guard and softened.

"Thank you."

James had successfully managed to avoid Snape whilst he was at Hogwarts, and the suspicious activity had once again ceased. He was mildly surprised that his son's friend had temporarily transformed into a human cat. Harry was amazingly sketchy on the details of that one so he decided not to ask. Lily was sending him three owls a week, they started off apologetic, then irate that James was being such a child about the whole situation (he didn't even reply to those) and finally she stopped mentioning the incident and sent him conversational letters. He replied to her once a week to say that both he and Harry were fine and didn't mention the incident further. James was finally starting to calm down about the whole ordeal. It helped to boost his ego that whenever he saw Snape he scuttled away down a corridor.

"Dad," Harry repeated over breakfast. James had sat with the Gryffindor team the morning of the Quidditch match, he had been given time off to watch. Kingsley had indicated that it was to make James less miserable. "Oliver asked you a question." Harry nudged him with his elbow.

"Sorry Oliver, I was miles away." James replied. Oliver Wood was quizzing him about his day as Quidditch Captain. Ordinarily James would have loved to talk about his heyday and give him all the invaluable tips he had picked up. Today his mind was elsewhere. He had received a concerning letter from Sirius saying that he still hadn't found Emilia, and Scrimgeour was saying that he had to come back to work next week, otherwise they'd replace him. James was furious but there was nothing he could do, he planned to talk to Dumbledore at the first opportunity out of sheer desperation.

"Team, pitch!" Oliver Wood declared, and Harry, along with the rest of the team, scrambled to their feet.

"Where's Hermione?" James asked Ron as they trailed behind the team. Harry turned back to catch up with them.

"She ran off somewhere," Ron shrugged.

"Library I think." Harry added.

"It's always a safe bet."

James snorted. "Just like your mum. I always found her at the library. Mind you, normally she was hiding there from me." He smiled despite himself.

They walked out into the biting air towards the Quidditch pitch. The atmosphere on Quidditch days was unlike anything else at Hogwarts, there was a tense excitement and for the team it was a wonderful mixture of terror and exhilaration. James put Sirius aside in his mind as he walked out, and for a moment he pretended that he was about to step on the pitch and chase a Quaffle.

McGonagall provided an abrupt end to James's fantasy.

"Potter!" She said in relief. Harry and James shared an amused glance. McGonagall sensed this and tried again. "James. The match has been cancelled." She gave him a meaningful look. "Potter, Weasley, you had better come with me. Dumbledore would like to see you directly, James."

"What's happened?" He asked her very quietly, only Harry and Ron could hear.

"Hermione Granger has been attacked." Her tone was very sad. "She's in the hospital wing, petrified, I thought you two would like to see her."

Harry and Ron shared horrified expressions and nodded insistently. James squeezed Harry's shoulder, he didn't know whether he was comforting himself or his son.

Harry looked up at James pleadingly, "you can't tell mum."

McGonagall whisked the boys off before James could reply and he ran up to Dumbledore's office. Their conversation didn't last long, Dumbledore just implied that if they didn't find the cause soon, the school would have to close. James was starting to see the sense in closing the school. For the first time since the attacks, he agreed with Lily and wanted Harry out of there immediately.

After he'd seen Dumbledore, James caught a brief glimpse of Hermione lying motionless in the hospital wing when he went to escort the boys back up to the tower. All three of them were very quiet.

"Dad, what's going to happen if these attacks don't stop?" Harry asked. James stopped mid-corridor and looked directly at him.

James looked down at his son with knots in his stomach. "I really don't know."

"Are you any closer to figuring out what's doing it?"

James sighed and shook his head. "We need to get to the tower, we shouldn't linger in corridors." He led them back on their original course.

Harry and Ron dragged behind, looking at each other in grim agreement.

"Dad, we may know who's behind it, we just don't want to believe it." James turned round in astonishment.

"I think this would be a really good time to let me know."

And so, they spent the rest of the journey discussing what Harry had seen in the diary. James was incredulous, not only that they were suspecting Hagrid, but because he'd been inside a memory, something that took powerful magic and Harry had just decided not to mention it.

At the portrait of the Fat Lady, James looked at them seriously. "I will check this out. Do not, and I really mean it boys, do not look into it yourself; this is not kids' work. Harry, if I find out that you've done any more digging, I will let mum pull you out of the school. Understood?"

Harry and Ron nodded solemnly and turned to walk back into the common room. James grabbed Harry and gave him a proper hug. "Be careful, this really is dangerous."

Once he'd lost sight of them James knew there was one more thing that he had to do.

Lil,

Hermione Grainger has been attacked. Harry and Ron are devastated but it looks like Professor Sprout's Mandrakes are maturing and she'll be able to revive them soon.

I'm so sorry I overreacted. This has gone on too long and life's too short.

I love you and forgive you,

Can you forgive me?

James.

Lily had never been more relieved and horrified at any piece of post.

Narcissa let Emilia go after almost four weeks of capture. Kreacher had seen to feeding her and tending to her basic needs, but she was locked inside the house without a wand. One day, Lucius had come home from the ministry and mentioned that she was missing. Alarm bells started ringing for Narcissa, this had gone on long enough. When Lucius was next occupied, she slipped out of their manor and returned to Grimmauld Place.

"Hello Narcissa." Emilia greeted her in a bored voice.

"Hello." Narcissa nodded. "I think it's finally time for you to tell me what you were doing in my cousin's bedroom? What were you looking for?" Narcissa was relieved to hear that her voice was cold and steady, this was her last chance to find out.

Emilia considered the blonde woman, the one she had heard was weak. Emilia had begun to see that Narcissa wasn't weak at all, she had the same steely determination that Sirius had when working on a particularly tricky case. For the first time, she could see their resemblance. Emilia sat on the floor and weighed up her options, she desperately wanted to leave this old house.

"I'm not going to wait much longer." Narcissa held her wand pointed at Emilia's head. Her hand was steady.

"I'm looking for something Regulus had a long time ago." Emilia stared straight ahead of her, not looking at Narcissa at all. "A golden locket, it was what he died retrieving."

Narcissa felt the bottom drop out of her stomach and she leant against the wall for support. They had always been told that Regulus died deserting the Death Eaters, Lucius had forbade her from mourning him because he was a traitor.

"Why do you want it?" Narcissa whispered.

"It belonged to the Dark Lord. I was helping Peter Pettigrew, he said that the Dark Lord would forgive him if I could get the locket."

"What's so special about this locket?"

Emilia looked directly at Narcissa now. "I really don't know."

Narcissa looked at Emilia in pure fury. "It was always a ploy with Sirius, wasn't it? This was always what you wanted." Emilia nodded, her jaw set. "You're going to leave him and you will not tell him why, and you will not return to him. This will not continue. And if I ever find you searching this house again, I will kill you." Narcissa gave Emilia her wand back. "Leave."

Emilia scrambled for her feet towards the door. "Narcissa, I do care for Sirius a great deal. I'd have thought you of all people would understand my position."

Narcissa was offended. "Why would I understand?"

"Because Peter's my cousin and I was trying to help him." Emilia held Narcissa's shocked gaze. "What do I tell Sirius?"

"Anything but the truth." Narcissa said firmly. "Just stay away."

Emilia nodded; there was definite regret in her eyes. There was nothing she could say to make Narcissa understand that it was never all a lie.

Narcissa made sure Emilia had left the house before she sighed with relief and slumped down the wall. The answers had not been what she had expected and she was overwhelmed with fear. The Dark Lord's return was the last thing Narcissa possibly desired.

When Sirius arrived home that evening after another hard day of searching for Emilia he found her sat on the sofa.

Emilia registered the shock and relief on his face. She closed her mind and hid everything she felt. Before he could say anything she handed him a note and whispered I'm sorry. Then she was out of the door.

Sirius opened the letter with trembling hands.

I can't do this anymore. We were wrong to think it would work this time. It's all been a horrible mistake.

Please don't come after me, it'll just make this harder.

Emilia.

Sirius re-read the short note several times. At first he thought it was some kind of joke, but the more he read it the joke became less clear. How could he have been so stupid? How had he let her do this to him twice?

There was a soft knock on the door and Sirius jumped to his feet. This wasn't happening, that was her coming to apologise because she had made a mistake. His heart flopped when he saw Lily standing at the door.

"I was just coming to check on you." She explained. He walked back in to the flat without saying anything so Lily followed him in. "Sirius has something else happened?"

He couldn't speak, he just handed her Emilia's note.

Lily looked up at him in horror. "I'm so sorry." She breathed. "Did you see her?" Sirius nodded. Lily bit her lip in indecision. It was now or never if she was going to tell him. "Sirius, she never left her husband."

"What?" He croaked.

"The night you said she was missing her husband told me she was in Egypt on business again. That's where he thought she was when she was with you."

"But they work at the same bank!" Sirius exploded. "Of course he knew that she wasn't in bloody Egypt!"

Lily had forgotten this, it had been so long since Emilia had discussed her husband. "Then why did he say she was there?"

"I don't know." He snapped. "I don't understand any of what's going on. I don't know where she was and I don't know why she left."

"Oh Sirius." Lily tried to squeeze his arm but he withdrew.

"Don't. I really don't want sympathy." He was terse and cold, pacing the room. Lily had seen him in a temper often enough to know that it would pass and that she shouldn't leave. They were there ten minutes in silence. Lily felt overwhelmed with guilt, she had pushed them together, James had been right all along, why hadn't she just left well alone?

Sirius's brain was full of unanswered questions. His disbelief and curiosity were holding the hurt and anger away as much as they could.

A silver Patronus in the shape of stag arrived and James's voice filled the silence of the room.

"The kids think that Hagrid opened the Chamber 50 years ago. Dumbledore never believed it but someone's told Fudge and he's on his way. If we can't stop him, Hagrid's going to Azkaban."

Sirius jumped to his feet and grabbed his cloak. He took the empty trunk on the bed and shouted "Pack!" clothes started jumping into the trunk of their own accord, it wasn't the neatest job but it would do.

"What are you doing?" Lily asked in surprise, following him around the flat.

"I'm going back to Hogwarts." He said tersely. "I can't do anything about Emilia now, but I can have a damn good try at saving Hagrid." He left before Lily could say anything else.

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