An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 9 - And So it Begins

Chapter Nine- And So it Begins

Dirty, tired and shaken, Harry sat opposite Professor Dumbledore clutching the tattered remains of a diary. He had just finished telling Dumbledore what had happened in the chamber.

"Fascinating," Dumbledore said quietly. Harry handed him the diary and he turned it over in his hands.

"Have you been reinstated?" Harry asked hopefully.

"Indeed." Dumbledore beamed. "It appeared the signatures in favour of my departure didn't sign the parchment of entirely their own free will." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled and Harry grinned. "All is well once again."

"If you had just waited it would have only taken a little longer." Sirius muttered from where he was sitting in the corner of the room.

Once Harry had disappeared, Sirius couldn't go after him because the only piece of the puzzle he missed was the location of the entrance to the chamber. Sirius had sent a message to Dumbledore, who thankfully arrived almost immediately and managed to send Harry the equipment he needed, saving his life. Dumbledore had definitely been worried, but Sirius could also see the intrigue on his face when he told him where Harry was. When Harry had returned safely with Ron, Ginny and a bemused Gilderoy Lockhart, who didn't seem to know who he was, Dumbledore had shone with pride, whilst Sirius thought he might collapse with relief.

"I didn't know where you were," protested Harry. "She could have been dead by the time you got back."

"You could have told someone else! Kingsley, Tonks, McGonagall, Flitwick, the list is pretty endless, Harry."

"We did tell a teacher, we took Lockhart."

"Lockhart! No offence professor," Sirius indicated Dumbledore, "but taking Fang down there with you would have been just as useful."

Dumbledore smiled slightly at Harry. "It would appear that Gilderoy exaggerated his talents somewhat."

"Harry you had millions of opportunities to tell someone what you were up to and you didn't. You could have been killed yet again." Sirius shook his head in disbelief. "Would it have killed you just to let us do our jobs?"

Harry held his ground. "I told dad about the diary. You knew we went to ask Hagrid what actually happened. I told you I thought Malfoy was the heir, and we tried to tell you when we figured out where the entrance was."

Sirius couldn't think of a response. "How did you figure out where the entrance was?"

"Aragog told us a girl died in a bathroom, it was Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and she never left."

"Clever." Sirius said slowly, nodding. "I didn't make that connection."

"Hermione figured out what the monster was and how it moved." Harry continued. "But she was petrified before she could tell anyone, the answers were in her hand."

Sirius absorbed everything Harry said, he couldn't deny they'd done an excellent job. "Just one thing Harry, who is Aragog?"

"Ah," Harry thought they might hit this snag. "He's the Acromantula that Hagrid keeps in the forest. I wouldn't talk to him if I were you, his descendants tried to eat Ron and I." Harry could have laughed at the astonished look on Sirius's face, instead he capitalised on his silence. "So is Hagrid going to come back?"

"Indeed!" Dumbledore looked like he was thoroughly enjoying the entire conversation. Harry noted that Dumbledore hadn't once reprimanded him for his actions; in Harry's opinion he had looked mildly impressed.

Lucius Malfoy burst into the room and Sirius jumped to his feet.

"What are you doing here?" Sirius snapped. "I don't know how you dare show your face."

Lucius looked Sirius up and down derisively. "I got word that you had returned Dumbledore, and I'll think you'll find-"

"Ah, I think you'll find that opinions have been altered. Although those particular opinions have intimated they'd prefer it if you didn't question them or invite yourself to their homes much in the manner that you have appeared in my office." Dumbledore's tone was polite but there was a power behind every word he said.

Lucius Malfoy's pale face was tinged with an unpleasant pink colour, he was momentarily lost for words.

A small greyish elf with enormous eyes appeared behind him and waved at Harry.

Before Harry could register Dobby, Lucius Malfoy had kicked him out of Dumbledore's office and Harry could hear them thumping down the stairs.

"Professor," Harry was struck by an idea. "Can I return this to Mr Malfoy?"

Dumbledore's eyes shined in understanding. "I think that would be a wonderful idea, Harry. Quickly, now."

Harry raced from the room. And Sirius moved in front of Dumbledore's desk.

"He is extraordinary." Dumbledore noted, as one might comment on the weather.

"He has a death wish." Sirius corrected. "He's foolhardy and too brave and clever for his own good."

"He reminds me of quite a few people you may know."

Sirius smiled despite himself but sobered up quickly. "Voldemort seems to get closer every year."

Dumbledore didn't smile. "We've only ever been in the eye of the storm." Dumbledore looked at the shining sword of Gryffindor that had recently been placed in his office. "But we do know that Harry will rise spectacularly to the darkness."

"I wish we could get Malfoy for that diary." Sirius looked at the portrait of Phineas Nigellus despite his best efforts not to.

"There is no chance Narcissa would come forward? Or reassess her position?"

Sirius shook his head, for the first time in almost twenty years he felt a pang for Cissy. "She can't leave her son. Once she's made up her mind no one could change it."

"Such a shame." Dumbledore's voice was so gentle that Sirius wondered if he could read his mind.

Once Sirius had left Dumbledore's office to go home, Dumbledore addressed an old headmaster.

"You know, Phineas, I think there may be hope for your family."

Term wrapped up swiftly after the Chamber of Secrets had been closed for good. The petrified were revived, Hagrid had returned and Malfoy was furious. Gryffindor even won the House Championship for the second year running. All in all, in Harry's opinion, everything was the way it should be.

They were two weeks into the summer holidays and Harry, Ron and Hermione were enjoying a particularly sunny day in Harry's garden at Godric's Hollow.

"I've never seen one of these before." Hermione picked up the rather potato-like garden gnome. "Aren't they funny?"

"They're ruddy gits." Ron insisted and stay away from their-"

"OUCH!"

"Teeth." Ron winced. He patted Hermione on the shoulder kindly. "We've all been there."

"Ron don't move." Hermione said sharply and before he could do anything she had swiped a spider around the size of a ten pence piece from his arm.

Ron shuddered but his fear level had somewhat decreased. Hermione noticed this.

"Don't tell me you like spiders now?"

"No." Ron shook his head insistently. "But when you've met one the size of a house, the normal ones aren't as terrifying." Ron added a further qualification. "But they're still not exactly nice."

Harry laughed, after you had escaped a coven of flesh hungry spiders you could see the funny side. "Reckon the stuff in Care of Magical Creatures next year will be as dangerous as that?"

"Of course not," Hermione began listing the creatures the ministry had set out as appropriate while Harry and Ron grinned. Everything had truly returned back to normal.

James watched the children laughing in the garden and smiled. The front door sounded and Lily walked into the kitchen looking flustered.

"What's up?" James asked immediately.

"Veronica's handed in her notice, she's moving back to France." Lily slumped at the kitchen table and James sat opposite her.

"Is Remus going too?"

Lily shook her head. "That's the other thing, they broke up nearly a month ago!"

James was appalled. "Why?"

"Apparently it just wasn't working. It was the stuff he was saying before everything got sorted with the Chamber."

"Well why didn't he mention it?"

Lily glanced to the happy children in the garden and softened. "I think between Sirius and Harry, he might have thought that we had enough going on."

"Poor Remus." James sighed and Lily nodded in agreement.

"Have you had any luck finding out Emilia was doing in that house?" Lily asked, indicating the expansive records that James had spread over the table.

"None." He shook his head. "But I don't think I'll be looking into it much longer. Sirius came round this morning and told me he's been trying to find out what happened, and I think we should leave him to it."

"You mean that we shouldn't get further involved unless he asks?"

James nodded. "From now on, let's endeavour to interfere with other people's lives as little as possible."

"Agreed." Lily said wearily. James waved his wand and all the parchment disappeared. They sat watching the children on the garden in quiet contentment.

"You know, the one thing I'm relieved about is that Harry wasn't lying about the elf." They'd given him a sincere apology when he'd come home, which he accepted as gracefully as one who'd been in the right all along could.

James looked at her and snorted. "I think you need to prioritise there, Lil."

Lily looked back at him and with a steady conviction in her voice, said, "I am."

Severus Snape was sitting in his old house in Spinner's End reading. He enjoyed to spend his holidays alone, it was a blessed relief after spending the rest of the year dealing with loud, unruly students. There was loud and clear knock on the door. At first, Snape didn't bother getting up. Neighbourhood children often thought that it was amusing to knock on his door and immediately run away, in another lifetime he would have perhaps cursed them. There was another knock. Snape slowly put his book down and walked the few paces to the front door. He peered out and to his enormous surprise he saw Albus Dumbledore.

Snape hurriedly unbolted the door and ushered the Headmaster in. Dumbledore's manner was grave and with a heavy heart, Snape realised that this was more than just a friendly house call.

"Peter Pettigrew has escaped from Azkaban." Dumbledore looked Severus Snape directly in the eye. "Severus, it's starting. Can I count on you?"

Snape hesitated. He remembered how painful his last conversation with Lily had been and how much pity she carried in her voice. He thought about her beautiful face, those startling green eyes and the mass of deep red hair. He wasn't aware he was replying as he told Dumbledore, "yes."

"Very good." Dumbledore was brisk but satisfied. "I have two immediate requests if you'd be so kind as to hear them." Snape nodded and the two men sat down. Snape's little living room became immediately cramped when it housed more than one occupant. "Firstly, I would like you to start making regular draughts of the Wolfsbane potion, if you would consent. And secondly, I require a rather more delicate task." Dumbledore held his gaze. "You are still friendly with Lucius Malfoy?"

"Yes." Snape said slowly.

Dumbledore smiled. "Excellent. It is very important that you remain on good terms. Severus, it is very important for our cause that you befriend Narcissa Malfoy."

"Do you think she could be turned?"

"I am very hopeful." Dumbledore stood up and shook Snape's hand. "As always, I appreciate your loyalty and discretion."

"Dumbledore," Snape began. "For whom am I supplying Wolfsbane?"

Dumbledore smiled. "Remus Lupin, he shall be joining our staff next year. And if you don't mind my departing, I am just on my way to tell him."

Snape didn't have time to say anything else before Dumbledore had disappeared. He muttered darkly under his breath and went back to his living room. He couldn't pick up his book again, in a matter of moments everything had changed. Snape often noted how Dumbledore's presence rarely meant good tidings for him.

By the time Dumbledore reached the Potter's house that evening he was very tired. Convincing Remus Lupin to take the post had been more difficult than Dumbledore had anticipated and subsequently he was an hour behind schedule, and he still had much to do.

He knocked twice and Lily answered the door. "Albus!" She exclaimed. "What a wonderful surprise, do come in."

Dumbledore followed her into her sitting room and made himself comfortable. "Is James here?"

"No." Lily shook her head. "He, Sirius and Harry have gone camping. Sirius has been so down since his break up and James thought this might do him good."

"Indeed." Dumbledore nodded.

"Is everything alright, Albus?" Lily offered Dumbledore a glass of oak matured mead which he accepted gratefully.

"I've just offered Remus a position as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."

"Oh he'll be wonderful at that." Lily enthused. "He's so patient and clever and he's been struggling to keep a job since it all went wrong at the ministry."

"I quite agree." Dumbledore sipped the amber liquid. "But Lily that is where my good news ends. I have something rather unfortunate to tell you."

Lily sighed and felt her stomach fill with butterflies.

"What's happened?"

"Peter Pettigrew has escaped from Azkaban, the Prophet will announce it tomorrow." Dumbledore watched Lily's face pale in horror. "Lily. I think it might be time to tell Harry the rest of the story, I fear he's in danger."

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