An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 5 - A Marriage of Equals?

Chapter Five – A Marriage of Equals?

The mist swarmed the pitch, the wind whistled in their ears and the rain drenched the fourteen exposed blurs, but missed those in the crowds as if they repelled water.

The Quidditch match was fast and practically unobservable to the crowd due to the conditions. Dumbledore watched in mild enjoyment, observing Professors McGonagall and Sprout support their own houses and shoot each other wary glances. "All good sport." McGonagall insisted.

"Quite right." Sprout agreed, but neither could hide their desire to win.

The conditions were less than comfortable to start with and suddenly the temperature dropped twenty degrees, then an odd silence descended onto the fervent game. Dumbledore immediately sensed something was wrong. He stood up suddenly, and that's when he saw them, the Dementors were swarming, and Harry fell out of the sky.

Dear Lily and James,

I thought it my duty to inform you that during the last Quidditch match Harry fell off of his broomstick, due to the unexpected appearance of the Dementors. He is shaken and I would guess rather upset about the loss of the match, but not seriously injured. I'm incredibly sorry, I had expressly forbid their presence and I was furious at their arrival. All the students were quite upset by it.

You will obviously have heard from Remus about Pettigrew's appearance. Please do not blame Remus, the circumstances that pertained to his escape were most unfortunate and unforeseen, and we have since significantly tightened our security.

Hopefully he will make another obvious appearance and we can successfully stop him, and then the Dementors shall be sent back to Azkaban (which will be in everyone's best interests).

I am, Yours Most Sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

Dear Mum and Dad,

The Quidditch match was awful. I lost it for us, Cedric Diggory caught the snitch and Hufflepuff won. One moment I was flying and the next I was in the hospital wing. I heard horrible things again, the same laughing and green light. I think it was when Voldemort tried to kill me as a baby, I didn't even know that I could remember that. It's awful. At least no one but the Slytherins are bothering to crack jokes, Hermione said she'd never seen anything less funny, even Fred and George didn't laugh. To top it all off, my broom has been decimated by the Whomping Willow. Flitwick brought the pieces back and they're beyond repair. On the bright side, I'd rather lose to Hufflepuff than Slytherin, I couldn't begin to imagine Malfoy's smug face if he'd caught the snitch instead of Diggory. (We were supposed to play Slytherin but Malfoy cried off because of his arm, which is total codswallop). Diggory was really decent about it, wanted a rematch, but even Wood agreed it was a fair game, although I'm not sure Wood has entirely recovered yet. We could be completely out of the running for the cup.

I saw Remus, he missed the match because of the moon, and he said he'd try to teach me to ward the Dementors off, you know so I stop falling hundreds of feet. He says the basic principle of a Patronus is a happy memory, is that it? He's doing well here, I hope you're not mad about the Pettigrew thing, it was all Filch's fault! He's an absolute menace.

Speaking of menaces, Snape took one of Remus's classes when he was ill and it was awful! He spent the whole time talking about werewolves and set us a ridiculous amount of homework. He's a foul git and he's practically torturing poor Neville.

The Fat Lady has gone to be repaired, so this mad knight Sir Cadogan is guarding our common room. He tries to fight everyone and changes the password six times a day, Neville keeps getting locked out the room when he can't remember them. We never thought we'd say it, but we're desperate to get the Fat Lady back, he makes getting into the common room nothing short of a mission!

How are things at home? How's the investigation coming along? I'm sorry I didn't take Pettigrew seriously enough before.

I miss you,

Love,

Harry.

Dear James and Lily,

Can you forgive me? I don't think I can forgive myself.

The map wasn't there. I was looking for it when I found Pettigrew. I think Filch must have destroyed it, or someone took it.

I'm going to teach Harry the Patronus Charm in the New Year. This last Dementor incident has shaken him, much more than Pettigrew's attempt on the common room even. I'm keeping a close eye on him.

All the best,

Remus.

P.S. Have you heard much from Sirius? I haven't spoken to him in months, he's not replying to my owls and I'm worried.

Lily and James had received quite a few bits of post in the last week.

"Of course we're not angry with Remus," James snorted. "We can reassure his fan club."

James wrote a response to Remus, while Lily responded to Dumbledore. They both added bits to their letter to Harry. "I'm happy he's finally taking Pettigrew seriously," Lily said sadly.

"Lil," James said, looking up from his quill while Lily scratched away. "What exactly do you think he hears around Dementors?"

Lily stopped and shuddered. "I don't know," she put her quill down and looked around her kitchen, everything was in it's place. She remembered waking up that night to dust and debris.

She rolled over and James hadn't yet stirred. Her innards froze with fear. Please don't be dead, please don't be dead, she pointed her wand at his chest and whispered "Ennervate!" There was nothing. She scrambled to her shaking feet, stepping over the fallen furniture and reaching into the cabinet for the antidote. With fumbling fingers she uncorked it and dripped a few morsels into James's open mouth. It was a very long moment before James's eyes opened.

It took him a second to register why he was lying on the ground, and why Lily's face was grey with dust. "Harry?" He croaked.

Lily's eyes filled with tears and James took a sharp intake of breath fearing the worst. "I haven't checked yet." Lily breathed.

James did not feel relieved. It wasn't time yet. Slowly, with wands drawn, they made their way upstairs. The bannister had been blown off and the wooden steps themselves had cracked and burnt in places.

James led the way, slowly approaching their son's bedroom. The door was wide open, and a horrible chill hit them from outside. The exposed wall had been blown apart, glass and other debris covered the once blue carpet. There was no baby in the cot. There were no sounds.

Not believing her eyes, Lily ran to the cot. The cushioned bottom was still warm. James joined her, his heart thumping in fear and utter refusal to believe what was in front of his eyes.

"Oh good, you're awake." A pleasant voice said.

They jumped and turned round, in the corner of the shambolic nursery was Albus Dumbledore, he was sat on a rocking chair holding a sleeping baby.

Lily fell to the floor in relief, she hugged her knees to her chest and sobbed. James had to hold on to the sides of the cot to stop him doing the same.

Dumbledore gave a small smile and stood up, Harry still sleeping in his arms. James quickly took him and held him close, taking in the smell and feel of him, their miraculous son. Lily joined them and pressed her face to Harry's warm cheek. She moved her face away and looked at his chubby face, the only sign that he had recently undergone any trauma was a thin lightening shaped scar on his forehead.

"What happened, Albus?" James finally asked, tearing his eyes away from Lily and Harry.

"I cannot be sure of the exact details, but everything seems to have worked as we had hoped."

"Where is he?" Lily asked, no one needed to be reminded who he was.

"Gone for now," Dumbledore replied.

"So he's not dead?"

"No," Dumbledore confirmed sadly.

"How?" James asked. He looked around their derelict cottage. "How can any mortal man survive this?"

Dumbledore surveyed him seriously. "Can you really think of no way?"

Lily and James had thought of many answers to that question in the intervening years, all of them too unpleasant and terrifying to dwell on.

Lily was brought back to the present, shuddering at the memory. "I don't know what Harry sees, but I know what I would." James nodded in agreement.

They went back to their respective letters, both subdued.

"James, where is Sirius?" She thought about Remus's letter. "I haven't seen him for ages either."

James shook his head. "He spends all of his free time trying to track down Emilia. He's become obsessed."

"Is he having any luck?"

"None."

"It's very weird isn't it?"

"I think that's what's really bothering him, it's not her leaving him, he's obsessed by the mystery and he needs to get to the bottom of it." James explained. "Not that he's brilliant at getting rejected."

"I think she's the only girl who has ever rejected him, though." Lily mused. "He's so used to people falling at his feet, it must be quite a shock to his system."

"He hasn't even just been rejected, she hasn't straightforward dumped him, it's all so sinister."

"I think she did love him." Lily replied. "Whatever else was going on."

"Oh Lily, come on."

"What? I saw the way she looked at him. She was besotted with him."

"Then what on earth happened?"

Lily shrugged helplessly. "I don't know."

James was concerned about the whole Emilia mystery, he spent his life solving mysteries and yet he had never been more flummoxed than by this one. "Of course you would side with the one doing the rejecting." He said to Lily, smiling.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"How many years did you spend rejecting me? How many heartbreaks-"

"-ego blows-"

"- and tears," James continued, "did I have over you?"

"I didn't reject you for sport James." Lily replied, rolling her eyes. "For the first five years that I knew you I just didn't like you."

"Aha!" James said in triumph. "I knew you started to like me in our sixth year."

"Like is a strong word, I just didn't actively dislike you."

"Liar." James smiled. He had spent the majority of their school years asking Lily Evans to go out with him on a weekly basis. She always said no. Sirius often pointed out that maybe he should play it a bit cooler, rather than following her around like a pathetic lost puppy, but James could never help himself. When he had been made Head Boy in their seventh year he was shocked, Sirius spent that last week of the summer holidays insisting that Dumbledore had sent the letter to the wrong person. James's shock quickly turned to delight when Remus had told him who the Head Girl was.

"Well it's hardly surprising is it?" Was Sirius's bored response. "You're going to spend your final year, like the previous six, pining over a girl who is not interested in you."

"She is." James insisted. "I'm growing on her, I just know it Padfoot. It's going to finally be my year."

Sirius shook his head dismissively. "You're hopeless, you know that?"

But Sirius had been wrong. Through their shared Head duty, Lily was forced to spend hours at a time in James's company, and she found that they actually had some things in common, he wasn't always an arrogant prat. She still sometimes wondered if that had been part of Dumbledore's plan when he had made James Head Boy.

They had been amiable for a whole two months of term when the first Hogsmeade weekend was announced.

"Are you sure?" James said suspiciously. They had just finished their patrol of the castle, it was long after curfew and the Gryffindor common room was empty. "You're not pulling my leg, are you?"

"James, I said yes."

He stared at Lily in disbelief. They were standing opposite each other by their respective staircases. "You're actually going to come with me to Hogsmeade?"

"You asked, and I said yes. Do you not want me to come with you?"

"No no no!" James said quickly. "Of course I do, it's just that you normally say no."

"I changed my mind."

"Right." James said slowly, he was still in utter disbelief. "You're not going to change your mind again are you?"

Lily rolled her eyes. "You're actually impossible."

James smiled. She really did like him now.

"We can shake on it if you like?" Lily suggested.

"Or make an unbreakable vow," James said, "I can fetch Sirius."

"Let's stick with the handshake." She stepped towards him and held out her hand. James quickly took it and Lily didn't withdraw her hand immediately. "Right," she took a step back. "Well goodnight, Potter."

"I thought I was James now?"

Lily laughed. "Fine. Goodnight James."

"Goodnight Lily." James watched her disappear up the girls' staircase before walking up to his own dormitory. The boys were all still awake when he walked in.

Remus was reading on his bed, Sirius and Peter were playing exploding snap on the floor and Frank was finishing their DADA essay. Frank was the first to look up when James entered.

"What's up with you?" He asked.

The other boys looked round. Sirius narrowed his eyes. "Have you been confunded? Your eyes look all unfocussed."

James shook his head and stepped over them to get to his own bed. Sirius whispered to Peter, "definitely confunded, shouldn't underestimate Evans with a wand."

"James what's wrong?" Remus asked.

"I asked Lily out-"

"- and she said no," the boys echoed.

"Actually, she said yes."

Silence befell their dormitory.

"Did you slip her a love potion?" Sirius asked seriously.

"Or is she imperiused?" said Peter.

"Shut up, Wormy." Sirius swiped him with a playing card that exploded on his face, singeing his eyebrows. "Sorry about that," Sirius fixed Peter's face. "But he's not that unethical, Pete, it's just the potion, right Prongs?"

James shook his head.

Remus looked shocked. "You mean you have imperiused her?"

"NO!" James shook his head. "I just asked her out, and well, she said yes."

"Are you sure?" Frank interjected.

"Completely." James nodded. "I asked if I'd heard her right."

"Well!" Remus exclaimed happily. "It's only taken you six years and two months."

Sirius got up from the floor and dropped a few coins on Peter's bed. He sighed before flopping on his own bed. Peter jumped up to retrieve the money happily.

"That's ten sickles you've just lost me," Sirius said to James.

"You were betting against me?" James wasn't sure if he was amused or outraged.

"You've got to admit that the odds weren't exactly in your favour." Sirius pointed out.

"Well James, I'm impressed." Frank said, ignoring Sirius. "You're like the poster boy for perseverance."

"I'm delighted." Remus said encouragingly. "You and Lily will be wonderful together."

"Eurgh, Remus, you sound like a woman." Sirius moaned. "You realise you won't be able to hex Snivellus anymore?"

"Sure I will," James said confidently. "It'll just have to be when she's not looking."

Remus rolled his eyes while Sirius and Peter laughed.

"Anyone fancy a midnight celebration of Prong's lifelong ambition?" Sirius suggested.

"What are you thinking?" Frank asked wearily.

"Kitchens." Sirius replied and Peter jumped to his feet. "Of course, Wormtail's coming."

"I'm alright thanks," James lounged on his bed in quiet contentment.

"Evans is already changing you." Sirius said dismissively. "Well Head Boy's out, Prefect's out I take it, what about you study boy?"

"I'm not hungry thanks Sirius." Frank rolled his eyes. "Have fun."

"Can we at least take the cloak?" Peter asked James, who threw it over without complaint.

"You know, it's almost uncomfortable how much Peter sucks up to Sirius." Frank noted after they'd left.

"Lay off them," James said lazily. "He's fine."

Frank didn't push it.

James thought about this as he replied to Harry. It was one of his happiest memories, one that was spoiled by Frank's shrewd assessment of Peter.

He turned to his letter to Harry and wrote "don't underestimate a happy memory."

Hello Father,

How is the case against the oaf going? You know I've only just regained the use of my arm.

Gryffindor lost the Quidditch match, Potter fell off his broomstick when the Dementors arrived, how hilarious, sadly Dumbledore saved him before he hit the ground. But it was still good entertainment.

Professor Snape is doing everything he can to undermine the werewolf but the other students seem to actually like him, can you believe it? It's really disgusting. No one cares for wizard purity anymore.

My regards to Mother,

Draco.

Lucius Malfoy read the note from his son proudly, he folded it and put it in his robe pocket. He had a feeling that Narcissa would not be pleased by it's contents. Narcissa had been acting peculiarly lately, ever since that dinner with Professor Snape. Lucius was also pleased to note that Severus Snape was acting against Lupin, there must be someone in that school who had true wizarding pride. Otherwise it'd be left to the disciples of Dumbledore, the blood traitors and the mudbloods.

Narcissa walked past Lucius on her way to the drawing room.

"I have arranged for you to have tea with the wives of Crabbe and Goyle tomorrow."

"No."

"Narcissa," Lucius reprimanded her. "Whatever internal crisis you are currently going through, I remind you that we have appearances to uphold."

"I don't care about appearances, Lucius, as I have told you." Her grey eyes were steely, over the last few months she had suddenly grown a strong determination.

"Narcissa this is unbecoming of you."

"Actually, I think this is the most becoming I've been in years, perhaps ever."

"Go then," he sneered. "Go and become a blood traitor, disgrace your family, disgrace yourself, disgrace Draco and I."

Narcissa's mouth hardened into a line. "You know I would never leave Draco." She looked at his cold face, there was not a trace of compassion to be seen. "Do you love me Lucius?"

Her question caught him off guard and he stumbled. "You're my wife."

"I'm your wife because our families agreed it." Narcissa said clearly. "Do you love me?"

He could not formulate an answer, which told Narcissa everything that she needed to know. "There's a benefit tonight at the ministry. Even if you do not care about upholding appearances, I would much appreciate your presence."

Narcissa surveyed him. "I'll inform you of my decision later." She replied haughtily.

Lucius nodded. He knew that she would not be reasoned with. She had suddenly grown the steely sense of entitlement that was hereditary in the Blacks.

Narcissa Black had been in the year below Lucius at school. The first time he saw her was at her sorting, from his place in the Slytherin table. The hat touched her head and after a moment's contemplation shouted "Slytherin!" Bellatrix Black stood up and cheered along with the rest of her fifth year followers. Bellatrix was a talented witch and a force of terrifying nature, she intimidated twelve year old Lucius. Their other sister watched sadly from the Hufflepuff table, her sorting was something her family did their best to ignore. Narcissa kept her head down against the cheers as she joined the Slytherin table. Like her sisters, she was very beautiful, as fair as they were dark, marked with the unmistakable privilege she had been brought up in.

Narcissa was quiet and studious, and Lucius was always very intrigued by her. He did not speak to her until he was in his fourth year, and Bellatrix had already left the school.

Narcissa was shocked that Lucius Malfoy knew her name. He was worshipped in their house, and her house at home, Narcissa had often heard of the Malfoys round the dinner table of Grimmauld Place. They were an old, respectable, pure blood family, like her own noble house. He asked if she'd like to attend Hogsmeade with him, and of course she said yes, she knew that her family would be delighted and she should consider it an honour.

From then on they became an item. There was no discussion and he never formally asked her, but they became the glamorous Slytherin couple, treated like royalty by everyone in their house. Only Andromeda was disappointed by this, although she did not voice her concerns until years later, by which point it was much too late. When Narcissa was fifteen she brought Lucius home to Grimmauld place to meet her family, they fawned on him. Lucius expected that her young male cousins would instantly idolise him, but his expectations certainly fell short. Sirius couldn't have been less interested in Malfoy, even at the tender age of eleven, and Regulus was too intimidated to talk. When Sirius came to Hogwarts the following September Malfoy had assured Narcissa's mother that he would take him under his wing in the Slytherin house. When the hat fell on her young cousin's head, and it shouted "GRYFFINDOR!" almost immediately, Narcissa felt her heart drop for him. She saw Andromeda cheering very loudly from the Hufflepuff table with Ted.

The summer after Sirius's sorting Andromeda left home and her parting words begged Narcissa not to marry Lucius. Lucius proposed two years after that and Narcissa accepted, she never had the courage to tell Andromeda, not because she was scared of her, but because she would ask Narcissa if she was marrying for love or because it was what she was expected to do. They were a suitable match, but were they in love? She cared for Lucius, and Narcissa certainly knew him much better than other people, but he always kept her at a comfortable distance.

A few weeks before her wedding, Sirius left and begged her again not to do it, he told Narcissa that Malfoy was a monster. At that time Narcissa was too taken with the idea of being Mrs Malfoy and she didn't listen to her cousin. The first time that she realised that she had made a mistake was after Draco was born. Lucius came home and told her that the Dark Lord was targeting the Potters' son, Narcissa was sickened that he was trying to kill a baby. Lucius too was uncomfortable, despite his dislike of the Potters and everything they stood for, he could never kill a child. Narcissa wept silently all night, it was the first time she really realised what she'd gotten into, what Lucius was, and there was nothing she could do.

Things between them improved after the Dark Lord's demise, Narcissa didn't have to think about murder anymore and so Lucius's dubious role in the war was driven out of her mind. He had a string of affairs, none too subtle, that Narcissa did her best to ignore, after a while she stopped hurting and just became lonely. And now, she was waking up. She didn't want to be his deferential wife anymore; she wanted to go back to her family. She just needed to convince Draco this was the right decision.

Narcissa decided that she would go to the ministry benefit with Lucius. She changed into her most expensive dress robes and tied up her silky blonde hair. Lucius looked surprised for a moment when she descended into the Entrance Hall.

He thought how beautiful she looked, but didn't tell her. He knew how much everyone in the room would admire her, and feel envious of him. But did he love her? Lucius supposed that he did in his way.

Caius and Emilia were whispering in the room they shared.

"They're innocent children, Caius." Emilia hissed, she kept her voice low for fear of Peter hearing.

"What did you think he was going to do when you let him out of Azkaban?" Caius was incredulous. They'd worked for years for this exact purpose. "There's no locket, how else is he going to appease the Dark Lord?"

"I-I don't know." Emilia stuttered. She hadn't thought this through at all. She looked at her pretend-husband; their marriage had been nothing more than a business arrangement.

"Emilia, this is what you wanted." Caius said coldly. "You wanted him free, you wanted the Dark Lord to rise again, it's too late for cold feet now." Emilia looked past Caius with a determined expression on her face. He smiled humourlessly at her. "This is about Sirius Black, isn't it?"

Emilia didn't reply, she just kept her jaw clenched.

Caius leant towards her so that his mouth was right by her ear. "You need to decide where your loyalties lie. The war is coming, are you on the right side?"

Emilia didn't flinch and didn't reply, after what felt like an eternity Caius left her alone. Emilia held her face firm. She was holed up in the middle of nowhere with two men she was sure that she hated. She had made this happen, she had such good reasons in the beginning, she hadn't expected it to turn out like this. If only she had convinced Sirius to have a baby, then she would have been tied to him, and all of this could have been prevented. A lone tear made its way down her face, Emilia sat on the old creaky bed and tucked her knees to her chest, she closed her eyes and tried to breathe. This always happened when Emilia's brain meandered into thoughts of Sirius, it felt like someone was squeezing her heart as though trying to strangle it. Try as she might to stop it, all her stray thoughts wandered out to him, where he was, what he was doing and whether he had moved on.

Little did she know that Sirius was sat alone in his flat thinking about her. A few candles illuminated the large board of facts and ideas he had compiled about her. He rubbed his weary face, he was yielding no results, it was like she'd been erased from the wizarding world. He could think of no more avenues to venture down. The only small connection that was niggling him was that she had known his brother, or had she been lying about that too?

For the first time in his life, Sirius wished that his brother was around, then he'd get all the answers he needed to carry on. But Regulus was dead, dead as Sirius's chances of finding out about the woman he thought he'd known.

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