Chapter 2 - The Other Side of the Story
Chapter Two – The Other Side of the Story
"Harry, are you packed?" Lily called up the stairs. She was carrying a small overnight bag for herself and James, and had Hedwig's cage under her arm.
"Yes, coming!" Harry called back, dragging his trunk down the stairs. It was the first time Harry had been in good spirits for weeks. They had arranged to meet the Weasleys and Grangers in town and Harry had high hopes that they would be able to convince his parents that he could go to Hogsmeade with his friends.
Harry dragged his trunk towards the fireplace but Lily pulled him back. "We're not going by floo, we're going on the Knight Bus."
Harry rolled his eyes and followed his mother outside nevertheless. Lily raised her wand in the air and a large purple bus popped into existence.
"Come on," She ushered Harry inside, paying the conductor and muttering "The Leaky Cauldron."
The conductor told the driver to step on it; he was a pimply youth and looked at the Potters with interest.
"Do I know you?"
"No." Lily replied warily, she had delayed going to Diagon Alley for this long because she knew this would happen. Her, James and Harry had graced the papers all summer and she knew they'd be stopped all over.
"I do!" The conductor said merrily. "You're Harry Potter! I can see the scar, Ern, we've got Harry Potter!"
Harry sighed and Lily hissed, "keep your voice down!"
Stan Shunpike held a hand over his open mouth. "Sorry 'bout that, we just don't get many celebrities, you see."
"I told you we should have just gone by floo." Harry said pointedly.
"It's not safe."
"Is this because of the prisoner?" Stan put in and the look Lily gave him made him cower back to the driver.
"I'm not sure this is that safe." Harry said as his seat skirted around the bus, while he and Lily held on for dear life.
Lily had to admit that he had a point, it was many years since she'd travelled aboard the Knight Bus and she now remembered why.
They were both very relieved to make it safely to London, Stan helped them disembark with their luggage and to their great surprise someone met them at the pub.
"Minister," Lily addressed the man in the pinstriped cloak and the familiar lime-green bowler. "Harry, this is Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for magic."
Harry of course recognised him, but Fudge was unaware that they'd come close to meeting. "Hello," Harry shook his hand and Fudge beamed at him.
"Hello, my boy and dear Lily," he indicated the pub. "Tom will see to your things, may we have a drink inside?"
"Minister, I do apologise we've got a lot of school shopping to do," Lily explained.
"I shan't keep you long." Fudge insisted and they were lead into a small parlour. "Now Harry, you must be very frightened."
Harry and Lily looked at each other. "Erm-" Harry began but Fudge cut him off.
"Of course you are, but I wanted to assure you that your protection is the ministry's highest priority, so do not fear, we'll have rounded him up soon."
Lily smiled at him in what she hoped was an appreciative way and nudged Harry to say thank you. Lily couldn't help thinking that Fudge was almost a complete idiot, James had told her they had absolutely no idea where Peter was. Had he forgotten James worked there or assumed Lily's brain could not cope with details of the investigation?
"He seems nice." Harry observed as they walked on to the familiar bustling cobbled street. He looked at Lily who couldn't help but laugh.
"At least he means well." They wandered up to Gringotts. "Where are we meeting Ron and Hermione?"
"Flourish and Blotts."
When they emerged out of the bank Harry ran at his best friends. "Harry!" Hermione waved happily.
"It's so great to see you two! It's been the dullest summer ever."
"Only you'd say that when a madman is after you."
"Ron!" Exclaimed Hermione. "That's so insensitive."
Harry had really missed them. "Come on, tell me about your summers! How was Egypt?" The children made their way into the bookshop without a backward glance towards their parents.
"How are you, Molly?" Lily addressed the red-haired woman.
"Fine thanks dear, and how are you doing?" Molly looked at her with genuine concern, Lily was about to say that she was fine but couldn't. Molly seemed to sense this. "Why don't we go and have a coffee? The children will be fine with each other." Lily was very relieved by this suggestion and followed her.
"Where are your children?"
"All over," Molly sighed. "I can barely keep track, Percy's gone to find his friends, Ginny went with the twins and god knows where they've gone, but they've been threatened not to go to Knockturn Alley if they appreciate their freedom." They found an outside table and settled. "And Ron's with Harry and Hermione."
"I don't know how you do it."
"It's nothing dear," Molly said breezily. "Just love and the threat of overwhelming punishment." They ordered their drinks and watched the passage of people on the bustling street. "Now how are you?"
Molly inspired great confidence and Lily told her the complete story. Molly was quite stunned by the end of it. "That is rather complicated." She conceded. "But he will be safe at Hogwarts, and I'll doubly threaten Ron about what will happen if they wander on the wrong side of the school rules."
Lily smiled gratefully and asked how Ginny was doing after the incident the previous year. Molly said how Ginny was improving and how the trip away had done her so much good. Lily listened attentively until someone on the far side of the street distracted her. Narcissa Malfoy and her son were meandering down the street. Molly followed her gaze and huffed.
"When I think of what they put my little girl through," She glared at the pair.
"Terrible." Lily agreed. "I know her sister, lovely woman, I don't understand how they can be related."
"Families are strange sometimes. Did I mention that Percy was made Head Boy?"
"Oh mum, you might as well put an advert in the Daily Prophet." Ron grumbled. He, Harry and Hermione had come to drop off their bags before going again.
"Ronald, you should support your brother."
"Like Fred and George?"
"They hardly set a good example!" Molly shook her head. "It's shocking that neither of them was made a prefect."
"We were worried for a moment there mum," Fred appeared with Ginny and George.
"We can't tell you how relieved we were when those badges didn't come." George added.
"An awful burden to bear." Fred said solemnly. "So, luckily we've escaped that."
"You're terrible, look at the example you're setting for your brother and sister."
"As you've already pointed out mum," George said, "that's what your elder sons are for."
Lily, Harry and Hermione watched this exchange with amused expressions.
"I bet you were a prefect." Harry said to his mother.
"Of course, and Head Girl." She replied. Hermione looked mightily impressed while Harry rolled his eyes at Ron. "Dad was Head Boy."
"No!" Harry said in genuine surprise.
"We were all shocked too." Lily agreed. "At first I thought Dumbledore had lost his marbles, but it all worked out."
"Dumbledore's a great man and everything but mental," Ron's mother gave him a serious stare. "I said he was great too!"
"Very trusting," Harry capitalised on the moment. "He, for instance, would trust someone to go a village some weekends."
"Nice try Harry, but no." Lily looked at his shopping. "Is this all your stuff?"
"No, I have to go to the Magical Menagerie to get owl treats." Harry scowled.
"I'll come," Hermione said brightly. "I want a pet."
"No rats though, Dumbledore's banned them this year for some reason." Ron said.
"I don't want a rat, Ron."
Lily watched them wander away, Fred and George also left to track down their friend Lee. Only Ginny remained with her mother and Lily.
"Is this about Peter Pettigrew?" Molly asked and Lily nodded. "I wouldn't have let him go either."
Narcissa poured over the Daily Prophet in her private chambers. She had saved every edition of the paper since Pettigrew had escaped and hidden them from Lucius. She was sat at her ornate dressing table, propping up the articles she had already read on her gilded mirror. It couldn't be a coincidence that she released Emilia from the house and then Peter escaped, Emilia must have helped him. This petrified Narcissa, what if he helped resurrect the Dark Lord? He must not be permitted to do that. She knew if the ministry was having no luck tracking down the convict, she would do no better, so she had set her sights on Emilia, except that she too had evaporated into thin air. Another thing that couldn't be a coincidence.
"Mother?" A voice carried down the corridor. Narcissa quickly vanished the newspapers and pretended to be reapplying her make up. There was a knock on the door.
Draco wandered in, and perched on a chair near the door. "Professor Snape's here and father would like you to come downstairs for dinner."
"Alright." Narcissa smiled warmly at her son and accompanied him downstairs, her floaty robes sweeping behind her. "Are you looking forward to school?"
"Yes," Draco replied but he offered no more information. Narcissa loved Draco more than anything else in the world, she knew his coldness came from the way she had allowed Lucius to raise him. She had seen Lily Potter and Molly Weasley in town with their children and hadn't been able to stop thinking about how happy they had looked. Or how much their children sparred and laughed with them. Narcissa was more envious than she could put into words, but it was too late for Draco.
The enormous dining room was arranged with four dinner places. Lucius was already sat on one end, Snape was sat in the middle and Narcissa and Draco took their places on the side nearest the fire. The table was too sparse for so few occupants.
"Severus, what do you think to the newest recruit to the Hogwarts staff?" Lucius enquired over his meal.
Snape darted a look towards Narcissa. "I'm not overly enthusiastic, but Dumbledore has been known to make unusual staffing choices."
"Who is the newest teacher?" Draco asked.
"The werewolf Remus Lupin." Lucius sneered.
"Father you can't possibly allow that!" Draco exclaimed. "He's unsafe."
Narcissa said nothing, she recognised the name, he was a friend of Sirius's. She guessed that Dumbledore had appointed him to keep an eye out for Pettigrew, it made perfect sense to her.
Lucius sighed dramatically. "I've appealed to Fudge and the Governors but they will not be swayed."
"I too have registered my concerns, Draco, but the Headmaster will not be dissuaded." Snape added.
"You will keep an eye on him though, Severus," Lucius asked. "Make sure that he doesn't infect any of our pure children."
Narcissa felt chilled by the way he said pure children, like the rest of the children didn't matter at all.
"Naturally," Snape nodded.
"Professor, don't you think that this Azkaban escape is good news?" Draco simpered. Narcissa stared firmly at her plate, Sirius's words about monsters kept echoing around her brain, had she raised a monster?
"I think," Snape answered slowly, "that we are in a delicate time and to declare any allegiance may be premature." Narcissa could have imagined it, but she could have sworn that Snape looked at her when he said allegiance. She had always found Snape a rather enigmatic character, and although Lucius had sworn he was faithful to the Dark Lord, Narcissa had always wondered. What made her curious was his closeness to Dumbledore, and, for whatever Lucius said, Dumbledore was a great wizard who would not be easily fooled. Then again, thought Narcissa, Sirius was intelligent and had been completely taken in by Emilia. People could be hoodwinked.
"I think that's wise advice, Severus." Lucius nodded in approval. "Draco seems very taken with the idea. I have told him that he must not express those words so plainly around Dumbledore."
"It's all about Harry Potter," Draco said bitterly. "Dumbledore's golden boy."
"Yes, Dumbledore is very concerned with protecting Potter from Pettigrew." Snape said neutrally.
"He was in your year at school, isn't that correct Severus?"
"Indeed, he was a friend of Potter, Lupin and Black." Again, Narcissa could have sworn that Snape looked at her when he said Black.
"What a shame you did not know you had an ally sooner," Lucius mused.
"Indeed." Snape said quietly.
"Narcissa, don't be rude to our guest, you've barely said a word." Lucius hissed suddenly.
She couldn't stop herself from glaring at him for a moment before covering her face. Draco looked like he wanted to reproach his father but Narcissa covered his hand with her own.
"I do apologise Severus, I must admit that my mind has been elsewhere."
"Not at all, Narcissa." Snape said cordially. "What are your thoughts on Pettigrew's escape?"
Narcissa was surprised, Lucius never asked her what she thought about anything. "It's all rather curious in my opinion," she said carefully. "No one has ever escaped before, and there are convincing theories that he betrayed the Dark Lord."
"Nonsense, Narcissa. I remember how loyal Pettigrew was, it was the Potters he betrayed."
"His information did backfire on the Dark Lord though," Snape pointed out. "Narcissa is right that he contributed to his downfall, whether it was intentional or not."
Both Narcissa and Lucius were surprised; no one ever stuck up for her.
"I suppose." Lucius said grudgingly.
"You could go and see Aunt Bella and ask her, mother."
Narcissa tried to hide the stricken look from her face. Even Lucius would not want to visit his sister-in-law. "No, Draco. You wouldn't want to put your mother through Azkaban, you know that she is delicate."
Narcissa clenched her fork in anger. She was no more delicate than he was, Lucius would not face Bellatrix because of her overwhelming loyalty towards the Dark Lord, which was something he did not feel now that the Dark Lord was not in power.
"Azkaban only permits visits under exceptional circumstances." Snape said. "Fudge would not allow an unsupervised visit with such a highly guarded occupant." Narcissa noticed again that Snape had stuck up for her, and in such a subtle way that Lucius couldn't contest it.
Draco swallowed this information without complaint. Narcissa marvelled on the way that he called her Aunt Bella, she had gone to Azkaban before he had formed any memories of her. Lucius and Narcissa barely ever spoke of her, so she did not know where he had picked up his fond idea of her. Narcissa never would have noticed these aspects of Draco a year ago, it had been seeing how happy Andromeda and Sirius were that had made her re-evaluate her own life.
Later, Lucius stopped by her rooms on his way to bed, something he hadn't done in weeks. "Narcissa, your comments about Peter Pettigrew were inappropriate in front of Draco."
Narcissa glared at him and for a moment lost her temper. "Lucius, I could have said a lot more, I practically gave the man a glowing review." Lucius's eyebrows raised in shock. "You know as well as I do that Pettigrew's escape is dangerous and not just for Harry Potter. Who's to say he's not targeting death eaters who abandoned the Dark Lord? Who's to say he won't target our child?"
"He couldn't resurrect the Dark Lord," Lucius muttered, he wasn't sure if this was directed at Narcissa or he was speaking his thoughts aloud.
"Would you want him to?" Narcissa hissed. Lucius looked at the floor. "Be honest for a moment Lucius, is that the life you want for us? Is that the life you'd want for Draco?"
"It's out of our hands Narcissa," Lucius pointed out. "If he comes back, we fall in line like we should."
"I'm praying it doesn't come to that." Narcissa was expressing everything she hadn't said in a decade. "You were relieved when he was defeated Lucius, relieved, and you can't pretend otherwise. You didn't want to do all those unspeakable things." Lucius didn't answer, he couldn't contradict her. "I don't want Draco to have to be in that position. I don't want him to kill anyone."
"It won't come to that, Narcissa." Lucius's face was tinged with pink, he was very uncomfortable.
"You don't know that, and that's my point." She hissed. "He's young and doesn't know what he's saying, and he's saying dangerous things he didn't pick up from me."
Lucius stared at her like he'd never seen her before. "What do you suggest we do?"
"Nothing. I suggest we don't encourage Draco in professing his support for Pettigrew and I suggest we pray the Aurors catch Pettigrew."
"Wouldn't you be proud if dear Sirius Black was the one to catch him?" Lucius tone was malicious and for once Narcissa didn't cower.
"I would be very grateful to my cousin if he caught him, Lucius, I would be grateful to anyone who could save Draco."
"You can't think I don't care about our son."
"I think you've been blinded by your position and your money and you've forgotten what's at stake for us if he returns." Narcissa surveyed her husband coldly. There had been a time once when she had thought that she loved him. "Now will you please leave me, I'm tired." Lucius did not argue, he departed quietly and considered everything that his wife had said.
The next morning, Lucius and Narcissa barely greeted each other, since this was not an abnormal occurrence, Draco did not assume that anything was wrong. They were driven to the station and went casually through the barrier. Narcissa saw the Potters and their son laughing and smiling at each other, Harry resembled James as much as Draco resembled Lucius. She was led away from the happy family towards the sullen Crabbes and Goyles and Zabinis. They expressed their delight to see her and she smiled coldly back at them, for once she couldn't pretend. Her act was getting harder every day.
When the whistle blew, children began clambering on to the scarlet Steam Engine. Lucius gripped Draco's shoulder and told him to have a good year. Forgetting any propriety, Narcissa hugged him tightly. "Draco, do not go looking for Pettigrew. Keep your head down and stay safe. I love you."
Draco looked up to his mother in surprise. He nodded to her and his father and climbed aboard, only looking back briefly. To Narcissa's enormous surprise, Lucius gripped her hand. He was right; she could not deny that he loved Draco.