An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 6 - The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Chapter Six – The Ghosts of Christmas Past

The first morning he was at home for the Christmas holidays Harry didn't wake up until eleven am. He found Lily sat in the lounge, fully dressed, and reading a book.

"Good morning," She smiled as he padded into the room.

Harry yawned in response and rubbed the back of his head. Sometimes he was so adorably like James.

"Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah." Harry replied, rubbing his eyes. "But my bed is really small compared to the one at Hogwarts."

"It is about time we got you a new bed," Lily agreed.

"Mum, speaking of new things," Harry began, hopefully, "is there any chance I'd be able to get a new broom for Christmas?"

Lily tried to conceal a smile. "What do you think?"

"Great," Harry enthused. "Thanks, I was really thinking about a newer Nimbus because the comet range is just outstripped and the Firebolt is too much money." Harry watched Lily's eyes glaze over just slightly and he grinned. "I'll ask dad when he gets in."

"Good idea." Lily agreed. "He's going to try and get home early, we're going to a party tonight."

"Are you?" Harry asked.

"No, we, you're coming too."

"Where?" Harry asked carefully, he was really hoping that she wasn't going to say the Dursley's.

"It's being hosted by Horace Slughorn, he was our potion master at school, we told you about him, remember?"

Harry thought back. "Is the one that loved you and didn't think much to dad?"

"That's right," Lily smiled. "You'll like him, and he's dying to meet you."

Harry rolled his eyes. "I bet he is." Lily looked at him questioningly. "It just gets a bit much sometimes, the attention of being 'The Boy Who Lived', and now with all this Pettigrew press it's getting ridiculous." To Harry's enormous surprise Lily was smiling, she reached over an enveloped him in an enormous bear hug and kissed the top of his head. When she let go Harry looked at her in confusion. "What was that about?"

Lily laughed, "You're a good boy."

"Er, ok," Harry shot her a sideways glance and she continued to laugh. "So why aren't you at work?"

"I'm off while you're at home," Lily replied, turning back to her book.

"Not this again," Harry sighed. "Mum, you've got tons of protective magic surrounding the house, I'll be fine with you at work."

"Look," Lily put her book on the coffee table. "Dad and I agreed it was for the best if one of us stayed, for our piece of mind as well as your safety. I'm here because dad's job is currently more important," Lily paused and added, "but don't tell him I said that."

"Fine." Harry knew when he was not going to win. He looked outside to the foot of snow that hadn't been there the night before. It looked so inviting but there was no one to play with, and you couldn't well have a snowball fight on your own.

Lily watched his gaze. "Do you want to build a snowman?"

"Really?" Harry asked in surprise.

"Really, I don't know why you think I'm so boring."

"I don't think you're boring, mum." Harry insisted. "It's just always dad that wants to play."

"Well, come on then." Lily got to her feet. "I'm going to get my gloves, go and get dressed."

"Excellent." Harry jumped to his feet and ran out the room.

When he came down all wrapped up they made their way into the garden. "Harry, I'm really glad you're not still mad about Hogsmeade. We'll revisit the idea next year."

"Er, yeah." Harry tried to look busy with his handful of snow so that he didn't have to look her in the eye. Before he had broken up from school, Fred and George had given him a sort-of early Christmas present. It was a map of Hogwarts that showed the secret passages out of the grounds and into Hogsmeade. Harry had a shrewd idea who the manufacturers of the map were, and there was a fourth name, Wormtail. Harry assumed that this was Peter Pettigrew. He couldn't tell his parents about Hogsmeade, not even his dad, he knew they'd go nuts. In his heart of hearts, Harry knew that he was in the wrong and that he shouldn't really go, but he just couldn't see how it would be dangerous. Apart from one minute detail that niggled him, if Peter Pettigrew helped make that map he would know those passages. But Harry swept this idea aside, Remus would also know and would be keeping a look out, the passage clearly wasn't an option for Pettigrew.

When James finally got home from work, Lily was already dressed and waiting. "You're late." She sighed.

He kissed her. "I know, I'm sorry, it's been an absolute madhouse today." He took off his cloak and hung it up by the door. "I'll be ten minutes, I'll have a shower and get changed and Sluggy won't have noticed we're late."

As usual in matters concerning teachers, ex or otherwise, James was wrong.

"Lily, m'dear!" Slughorn boomed, "what kept you?"

"I'm sorry, professor." Lily replied, glancing at James, who was stood just behind her with Harry.

"Not to worry my dear girl," he waved her apology aside. Harry noticed that he hadn't bothered to even say hello to James yet, Harry looked up to see if he was bothered and saw the corners of James's mouth twitching.

"I told you he wanted to adopt her," James muttered so only Harry could hear.

The party was in a bewitched ballroom; there were ice sculptures, magnificent Christmas trees and an enormous, mouth-watering buffet. Slughorn's guests comprised of lots of well-dressed witches and wizards, they milled about and gave each other exaggerated greetings and air kisses. Harry thought they looked ridiculous.

"Ah and Mr Potter," Slughorn said finally. "Nice to see you again, keeping well?"

"Yes professor, and yourself?"

"Well enough. Still causing havoc?"

"Only in my downtime." James replied without missing a beat. Harry could have sworn that Slughorn almost smiled.

"And how are Misters Black and Lupin? I hear the latter is now a teacher!"

"That's right professor, shall I give them your regards?"

Slughorn didn't reply immediately. "Yes, well to Mr Lupin anyway, I haven't quite forgotten Mr Black slipping a shrinking solution into my drink."

James had to fight to keep a straight face as the memory of Slughorn shrinking to the size of butter beer bottle in front of their class popped to the forefront of his mind. "I don't think that was ever proven, was it?"

McGonagall had shouted at Sirius for a full half hour and he still refused to confess, so she was forced to let him off scot-free. Sirius returned to the common room and was rewarded with a standing ovation from the Gryffindors.

Lily also smiled at the thought of that. It had been in their sixth year and she had still been trying her hardest to let the boys know she found them childish and arrogant, except no one could have failed to laugh, and she liked Slughorn.

"This is Harry, professor," Lily said, to save Slughorn from answering James.

"Oh oho!" Slughorn exclaimed, and Harry immediately felt uncomfortable. "Harry Potter, it is a pleasure to meet you!" Slughorn held out his meaty hand and Harry had no choice but to take it. "Your mother was one of my favourite students, have you inherited her brilliance in potions?"

"Er," Harry thought about everything Snape said in class, he would hazard a guess that he wasn't ever going to be as good as Lily at potions. "It's not my best subject, I'm good at Defence though, and Quidditch."

Harry registered a look on Slughorn's walrus-like face, was it disappointment? "Rather like your father then," he definitely sounded disappointed and turned back to converse more with Lily.

Harry shared an amused glance with James. "Lily, why don't you stay and chat and we'll get some food."

"Lovely," Lily agreed and they moved towards the buffet.

"So you and Mr Potter are happy?"

"Very, professor." Lily smiled.

Slughorn frowned for a moment. "Very well, very well." He turned back to happier topics than Lily's marriage. "Do you see much of your school friends? I invited Miss McDonald but she couldn't make it."

"No, Mary moved to America, we write every few months." Lily explained. "I really miss having her around."

"Indeed, what with Miss McKinnon and then the Longbottoms . . ." Slughorn trailed off unhappily, he hadn't intended to wander into death and madness.

"I visit Marlene's grave every year, and I try to see Frank and Alice every month. It's so tragic professor, their son is the same age as Harry."

"Awful," Slughorn agreed. "They were such a talented bunch."

Lily nodded sadly. "It's really just me, James and the boys now," Lily smiled as she watched Slughorn's distaste register on his face.

"Yes, well I expect life is never boring," it was the most neutral comment he could make. "How about Severus, do you see much of him?"

"No." Lily replied, almost too quickly. "He and James never . . . got on, you remember, and he's Harry's teacher now. I haven't seen him socially since school really."

"How sad," Slughorn said. "You were such good friends, I'd hate to think that Mr Potter came between you."

"Don't worry sir, it wasn't James that came between us."

"Lily, Lily, if I have told you once, I have told you many times, call me Horace, I'm no longer your teacher after all." He raised a glass to Lily who clinked it. "Ah Dumbledore!" Slughorn pulled an arm out and drew Dumbledore in out of seemingly thin air.

"Good evening, Horace and Lily, how lovely to see you." Dumbledore said pleasantly, his eyes twinkling. "It's a smashing party Horace."

"Thank you Albus." Slughorn's nose looked rather red, and Lily wondered how much he'd had to drink this evening.

"I just saw Harry and James sampling the excellent food."

"Not getting into trouble is he?" Slughorn asked quickly, everyone knew who he was referring to.

"Horace," Dumbledore waved a finger at him. "James is no longer your student, he's a grown man with a responsible job."

"Ah Albus, you know as well as I do that one remembers their charges as they were."

"It's both a blessing and a curse." Dumbledore agreed, smiling at Lily.

Someone Lily dimly recognised from the Ministry tapped Slughorn on the shoulder.

"Do excuse me, Lily, Albus." Slughorn bowed out to fawn over his latest guest, leaving Dumbledore and Lily stood together.

"He never changes, does he?"

"Not a bit." Dumbledore nodded.

Narcissa was incredibly surprised on Christmas morning to find an owl tapping on her window, luckily Lucius had been in his own quarters that night.

Dear Cissy,

Merry Christmas.

I know that this is out of the blue, but I need your help with something again.

I just need to know one thing, did Regulus ever mention Emilia Greenleaf? Please think about it, it's very important, I heard that they were friends at school. Anything you could tell me would be incredibly helpful.

I hope you're ok.

As always if you ever change your mind …

Best,

Sirius

Narcissa was shocked. In a panic she hid the note in the pocket of her robes, she should have known that Sirius was too clever to just let the matter drop. As usual he was being too much of a Gryffindor for his own good, Narcissa was always equally as frustrated with him as she was proud.

The Malfoy Christmas was as stilted and expensive as it ever was. Since their family was so dwindled, Lucius invited his associates and their children, they always accepted and so at least it wasn't just the three of them in uncomfortable silence.

As the day drew to a close, and the last of the sycophants had departed, Narcissa stood staring into the fire. She had finally decided what to do. She took Sirius's letter out of her pocket and threw it into the flames. She watched the side curl and blacken before leaving the room.

Narcissa didn't see Draco watching from the corner. When he saw he leave he hurried to the fire and poked out the remains of the letter, enough was left to give Draco the general gist.

"Father!" Draco knocked on the door to Lucius' rooms. He did not normally enter when he had not been invited.

"What is it Draco?" A drawling voice replied.

Draco flung the door open and sat on the other end of the expensive, and uncomfortable, leather sofa. "I found this, mother was burning it."

Lucius read silently, an unpleasant look crept along his face.

"What is it father? Who is it from?"

"Sirius Black." Lucius spat.

"The Auror? Harry Potter's godfather?" Draco was incredulous. "Why would he be writing to mother?"

"Use your sense Draco," Lucius said, annoyed. "Black. He's her cousin."

"How shameful!" Draco exclaimed, and Lucius was most satisfied by that response. "Who is Emilia Greenleaf? Who is Regulus?"

"Regulus Black was Sirius's younger brother, he died under suspicious circumstances. And Emilia was a friend of his. She was never quite a follower of the Dark Lord herself, but she followed his circles."

"Why would he be asking mother any of this?" Draco was confused. "Surely mother hasn't got anything to do with blood traitors?"

"I thought not." Lucius said dangerously, and suddenly Narcissa's recent behaviour began to make sense. "Emilia played on certain emotions young Sirius had for her, and now she appears to have left him, again." Lucius smiled. He thought he could work out what this meant. "Do not mention this to your mother, Draco, leave it to me."

"Yes father." Draco recognised that he was being dismissed and stood to leave.

"Draco, you've done very well telling me this."

"Thank you father!" Draco was ecstatic, praise from his father was rare.

On the other side of the door, Narcissa heard their whole exchange. She panicked and tried to think quickly. What could she do? This was not the way to get Draco to come round to her way of feeling. He was more like Lucius than she had originally feared.

Narcissa raced silently back to her own quarters, only the portraits watched and reprimanded her for running indoors. She quickly summoned a scroll and a quill and began scribbling.

Dear Severus,

I do hope I can trust you, you've given me no reason to think otherwise.

Draco has found out that I have been corresponding with my relatives and he has told Lucius. You know how they will feel about this, particularly about my cousin.

Sirius has recently been seeing someone called Emilia and she has vanished and he is looking for her, she was once a close friend of Regulus's, do you remember her? Small and mousy haired?

If you could dissuade Draco from investigating the matter I would be eternally grateful to you. It is important that he is not encouraged anymore towards the Dark Lord, I think that you feel the same.

If I have misjudged this situation, please do me the courtesy of not telling Lucius.

My sincerest regards,

Narcissa.

When Severus Snape read Narcissa's letter he felt that he had once again triumphed. With a casual wave of his wand he sent an urgent message to Dumbledore, telling him that Narcissa Malfoy was undoubtedly coming round.

"This is excellent Severus, you've done marvellous work." Dumbledore was delighted when Snape met with him the next day.

"Thank you." Snape let himself smile, he really felt proud of this achievement. "Although convincing Draco will be much more difficult. He idolises Lucius."

"Still, we've made a step in the right direction." Dumbledore poured them both a large glass of mead and raised a toast.

"There's one other thing," Snape said. "Narcissa mentioned something about a missing girlfriend of Black's, her name was Emilia apparently she was a friend of Regulus Black's at school, I have a dim recollection of who she means."

Dumbledore looked thoughtful. "Emilia," he repeated. "Emilia Hinkerton, I believe." Dumbledore nodded. "I'm most surprised that she was ever involved with Sirius, I always expected her to join the other side."

"It's possible she deferred." Snape's tone was icy.

"Possible." Dumbledore nodded.

Snape dismissed himself soon afterwards.

Dumbledore wandered over to his stone basin, and extracted some silvery threads of memory.

A small, fifth year Slytherin girl and her rather taller Slytherin male walked arm in arm towards the Quidditch pitch. They were laughing, and Regulus was happy not to be playing in the stormy conditions. Dumbledore was on his way down too, he was walking a step behind them.

"Em, this is the first time I've seen my brother all year."

"That's terrible, Reg." The girl simpered. "He's horrid isn't he?"

"He's a blood traitor," the boy explained. "The family won't let me have anything to do with him, besides that he hates me. He's always hated me."

"Well Reg," Emilia exhaled. "If he's a Gryffindor, he doesn't stand a chance in the world when he leaves next year."

Regulus was quiet. "Come on, Em. If we don't hurry we'll miss the start. I'd love to see James Potter lose for once…"

Dumbledore returned to the present in his office and sat thoughtfully. Yes it was possible for people to change from their fifteen year old ways, but how likely was it?

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