An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 8 - Love in a Cold Climate

Chapter Eight – Love in a Cold Climate

Lily cleared the house of all the debris a house gathers from being lived in. It wasn't that she was worried about making a good impression, she was just too excited to sit still. Lily was happy they'd get some time just them before the boys appeared.

Ten minutes after the arranged time the doorbell rang. Lily ran to answer it and flung her arms round the neck of Mary McDonald.

"Lily!" Mary squealed in excitement. "It's so good to see you!"

"You too!" Lily pulled back, "come in, come in, let's have tea." The brunette followed the redhead into her lovely home and into the kitchen.

"You've painted," Mary noticed the walls. "It looks lovely."

"We've painted twice since you've last been here," Lily corrected her. "That's what happens when you don't visit for a decade."

"I'm here now," Mary grinned. She'd been putting off coming home for so long that she was no longer sure what she was avoiding. When Lily wrote to her about Pettigrew's escape she decided that it was time to face whatever fear she had. "How are you? How are James and Harry?"

"We're alright," Lily smiled and placed their teas on the table.

"I haven't seen Harry since he was a toddler, I'm a terrible godmother aren't I?"

"You're just a very absent one," Lily noted. "Are you back for good this time?"

"Oh I don't know Lil," Mary sighed. "We'll see. I'm here for the foreseeable future though. I need a place to stay."

"Sirius has a spare room," Lily raised her eyebrows.

Mary laughed out loud. "Sharing a house with Black, I can't imagine that staying innocent some how." Both women started cackling, it was like no time had passed.

"I spend all my time with the boys, it'd be so nice to have another girl here." Lily pleaded.

Mary chuckled. "I can't believe you're the fourth marauder."

"I'm rather shocked myself." Lily smiled.

"Do you ever find it hard to believe that you're married to James?"

Lily giggled, it reminded her of her wedding day.

"Can you believe you're marrying James Potter?" Marlene had asked, shaking her head.

"It could be more unbelievable," Mary said fairly.

"In what way?" Marlene scoffed.

"It could be Sirius Black," all the women started laughing, but Lily carried on after they had finished.

"Lil are you alright?" Marlene asked. They were all in their bridesmaid dresses but Lily was still in her dressing gown. The girls were in one of the many grand bedrooms of James's parents house while they were getting ready.

"I feel a bit hysterical to tell you the truth." Lily didn't know whether she wanted to laugh or cry. She'd been feeling that way for weeks, she'd been passing of as nerves until four days previously.

"You don't have to go through with it," Mary said suddenly and earnestly.

"It's absolutely not too late." Marlene agreed.

"Don't be ridiculous." Lily hiccoughed. "I want to marry James," she starting laughing all over again, she never thought she'd ever hear herself say that.

"Then what is it?" Marlene asked gently. "Is it your parents?"

Lily felt a violent wave of sickness and devastation overtake her, her parents had passed away four months ago. Lily felt tears spring to her eyes and she wiped them away determinedly, she had promised herself she would not cry today.

"Partly." Lily nodded, she felt herself sobering up. "James's dad offered to walk me down the aisle."

"That was nice of him," Mary enthused.

"It was. I said no though, I think I should do this myself. I have you lot to catch me if I trip over or to throw me a broom if I change my mind." Lily smiled and fought not to break out into laughter again.

"You won't," Mary assured her. "Now what else is wrong?"

Alice emerged from the bathroom sweaty faced and green.

"Alice, what on earth have you eaten?" Marlene asked, patting her friend's damp face with a tissue. "You've messed your hair up." Marlene noted Alice's drooping blonde curls. "I'm going to have to start again now."

Alice didn't fight her. She was swallowing the new rounds of vomit that came to her throat.

"Al are you sure you're alright?" Lily asked her with concern.

"I'm fine, Lil." Alice assured her through gritted teeth. "It's your big day, we should be worrying about you." The corners of Alice's mouth twitched. "You're marrying James Potter." The girls started laughing again.

Marlene fussed over Alice while Mary fed her a potion to stop her sickness. "Lily," Mary asked, "do you want a potion to calm you down? Or a stiff firewhisky maybe?"

For no apparent reason Lily started laughing all over again. "Evans what on earth is going on?" Marlene asked incredulously. "Has Black slipped you a laughing draught?"

"I don't think so," Lily wiped her eyes and hoped her makeup hadn't run. "The thing is, I'm pregnant."

No one spoke.

"Is it James's?" Mary asked cautiously.

"Of course it's James's baby." Lily said indignantly.

"You little slut!" Marlene exclaimed, absolutely delighted. "What did James say?"

"I haven't told him yet, I only just found out." The girls looked at her in surprise. "I didn't want to tell him before the wedding because I didn't want to trap him or anything."

Alice stopped feeling nauseous long enough to gape at Lily. "This is James Potter we're talking about Lil, if anything he's trapped you."

"With his-"

"Yes we all know what with Marlene," Mary rolled her eyes. "Blimey Lil, are you happy?"

"I think so." Lily nodded and again she didn't know whether to laugh or sob.

Mary started laughing and everyone looked at her. "Sorry, I'm just trying to imagine James changing a nappy."

Everyone started chuckling again. "He's going to be so happy, Lily." Marlene said earnestly. "Congratulations."

"Thank you," Lily smiled. "Will you girls still be my friends when I'm all dreary because I'm married and covered in baby sick?"

"You could never be dreary," Mary assured her.

"Well I'll have to love you," Alice said and everyone looked at her. "I'm going to be covered in baby sick in about seven months too." Alice looked up apologetically. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I didn't want to steal your thunder."

"Oh Al!" Lily hugged her and they looked at each other in amusement.

"Those bloody Gryffindor boys!" Marlene exclaimed. "They've impregnated half of our group."

"Are you sure it's not more than half?" Mary asked her seriously.

"What do you mean?" Marlene replied affronted.

"So you're still pretended you and Black haven't-"

"No," Marlene didn't meet anyone's eyes. "Ok, only once, in our sixth year, and never again. I just wanted to see what the fuss was about." Marlene crossed her arms. "So I'm not bloody pregnant." The girls couldn't stop laughing. "This is why I never told any of you at the time." When no one sobered up Marlene took the matter in hand. "Girls, this is not the time. We've got to get this one down the aisle in an hour, and we've already had our miracle, (because she's marrying James Potter), so we're just going to have get our bums in gear and get to work."

Everyone stopped laughing and nodded in agreement.

"Lily get your bloody dress on," Marlene instructed. "Alice, you've got flakes of sick on your dress that you need to get rid of and Mary," Marlene had run out of instructions. "Well you're pretty much ready so I don't know what you can do."

There was a knock on the door and Sirius popped his head round. "How are you lot getting on?"

He looked very dashing in his robes, his dark hair falling elegantly by his eyes.

"Ears burning Black?" Mary called and Marlene elbowed her in the ribs.

"We're nearly ready." Marlene said confidently. She pushed Sirius out of the room and into the corridor. "How's it going on your end?"

"We're good," Sirius nodded. "James is just nervous that Evans is going to do a bolt." He rolled his eyes. "The years of rejection are getting to him."

Marlene fought to keep her face straight. "Don't worry, Black, no one's backing out. Just get Potter to the church and we'll manage Lily."

"Right. We'll be off then." Sirius nodded. "See you girls later."

Marlene reappeared in the room. "I just don't think Sirius is mature enough to be the best man. I'd feel more confident that everything would go smoothly if the rings were entrusted to Remus."

"Marls, it's not your wedding." Lily reminded her as she came out of the bathroom fully dressed.

"Lily you look beautiful." Mary clutched her chest. Lily's dress was simple ivory lace with long sleeves and a straight skirt the flared out around the knee and fell to the floor.

"James isn't going to know what's hit him." Alice agreed, she felt herself welling up.

"For Merlin's sake!" Marlene exclaimed. "Let's get these two bags of hormones to the church before we have to start the beautifying process all over again."

"To the church," Mary agreed, picking up Lily's train. "We can't have Lily's child growing up a bastard, can we?"

"Thanks Mary, if I had any final doubts you've quashed them." Lily replied drily.

"Come on! Let's go before I'm sick on someone's shoes." Alice insisted, and the girls finally left for the church. ***

"Do you see Alice much?" Mary asked seriously. They were no longer those four giggling girls, they were now three woman whose lives had been seriously altered.

"Not that often." Lily admitted. "I know I'm terrible but it's so hard, Mary. I come out every time sobbing. All I can think about is poor old Neville, and how that could well have been us."

Mary nodded sadly. "Is Neville still with Frank's terrifying mother?"

"Yes, and she spends the whole time comparing him to Frank."

"What's he like?" Mary asked, she felt overwhelmed with guilt of how little she knew about her friends' children.

"He's a lovely boy, brave, good and hardworking. Everything you'd expect from a child of theirs." Lily replied. "They'd be so proud."

"And Harry?"

"I'm a bit biased," Lily admitted, "but I like him."

"That's something, seeing as he's James's son." Mary smiled.

"I like to think he takes after me, even if he looks more like James." Lily told her. "Still don't fancy having babies?"

"Don't judge me, but I'm starting to consider it." Mary said in mock-disgust. She'd had a successful career as a journalist, which is what took her to America, now she thought she might be ready to settle down.

"You know Sirius has really matured –"

"Lily!" Mary laughed. "I don't care how many years have passed, I'm never going to go out with Sirius bloody Black!"

"Say my name McDonald?"

"I didn't hear you come in." Mary ran and hugged Sirius, then James and finally Remus. "Hello professor!"

"Oh don't! Those two won't stop teasing me." Remus said flushing. "It's wonderful to see you."

"And you lot, even Sirius."

"Thanks Mary, I've missed you too."

The five school friends had a wonderful time reminiscing of dinner and copious amounts of elf-made wine. "To Frank," James raised a glass.

"And Alice."

"And Marlene."

They clinked and drank and went back into silence.

"I just can't believe it about Peter, even now." Mary shuddered. "He was always just trailing after you lot."

"That's why we should have suspected it," Sirius said. "He was always the one with weak resolve."

"I think we just loved the attention too much to see it."

"That's very mature of you James." Mary said with mild surprise.

"Hindsight's a terrible thing." He said sadly. "It's bloody terrifying how close he was to the boys."

"We just have to be grateful he got the wrong bed," Remus rubbed his eyes. "I don't know if he would have hesitated over Harry."

"Or even Neville." Sirius shuddered. "Poor Neville."

"Augusta is going to go mad." James agreed.

"Do you remember how much she told us off at Frank and Alice's wedding because we all got too drunk?" Mary smiled.

"Even Frank and Alice were smashed by the end of it." Lily laughed.

"That wasn't nearly as bad as the telling off she gave us when we accidentally blew up her vegetable patch," Remus said smiling.

"She doted on Frank, it's no wonder she's so hard on Neville." Lily took a sip of her drink.

Sirius looked at his watch.

"Ready?" James muttered to Sirius and Remus. They nodded without the girls noticing. "Lily we're just popping out for a bit."

"Where are you going?"

"Just out for a bit."

"That's very cryptic, James, marriage should be built on honesty." Mary ducked as James chucked a bit of bread at her.

"We just have something we need to do." Sirius said. "We shouldn't be long."

"Can we come?" Lily asked.

"No, you'll make too much noise."

"Ahh, so wherever you're going you need to be sneaky." Lily deduced.

"I'll tell you about it later, just trust me for now. Please." James implored her.

"Fine," Lily shrugged. "Don't get yourselves killed."

"Don't get too sloshed." James kissed her and the boys followed him out.

"What was that about?" Mary asked.

Lily didn't answer immediately. "I don't know, but I'd bet ten galleons it has something to do with Sirius's ex."

"Ah." Mary nodded. Lily had filled her in on the whole saga. "You know, this feels just like the night that you had Harry."

"Bloody James, I told him he shouldn't have gone on duty that night. He nearly missed everything."

They had been staying in James's ancestral home in the Cotswolds. It was so big that the majority of the Gryffindors, all except Frank and Alice, had slept there. It was used as the Order's headquarters in those days.

It was supposed to be Peter's turn to go on duty that night, but he was late.

"Don't go." Lily pleaded with James. "What if something happens to you?"

"Lily, I'll be fine." James gently detached her hands from his robes.

"I've got his back, Evans." Sirius nodded solemnly.

"Look, why don't I go with Sirius?" Mary said from the other side of the room. "Then James doesn't have to."

"No." James shook his head. "No offence Mary but I'm more trained for this than you are, it's too dangerous for you."

"I thought it was just duty?" Lily asked faintly.

"Lily, it's not a big deal." James assured her. "It's just that Sirius and I have been trained in a way Mary hasn't." He kissed her and ran a hand over her swollen stomach. "We'll be quick."

Lily nodded, clamping her lips together. She couldn't cry, she knew he had to go and she knew if she cried she'd just make it harder for him to leave.

Behind Lily's back, Mary motioned for Sirius to take James and go. It didn't take a lot to make Lily cry recently and she was about to fall apart. Sirius grabbed James and they were gone in seconds.

Lily shook as she cried and Mary hugged her the best that she could. "Lil, calm down, it's not good for the baby."

Lily wiped her eyes and nodded. "I think I'm going to go to bed."

"Alright." Mary rubbed her arm. "Get a good night's sleep and we can go and see Al and the baby in the morning."

Lily smiled through her tears. "That will be nice." Lily heaved herself from the dining room chair and waddled upstairs. The only useful thing that she'd been able to do for the Order recently was to brew potions. Marlene teased her that she'd gotten pregnant so she could go on light duties, Lily knew that she was joking but it irked her, she wanted to be more useful. She would much rather have gone in James's stead, it was much harder to sit here worrying about him.

Lily made her way to James's old room and collapsed on the bed in floods of tears, she tried her hardest to calm down and gradually fell asleep.

Mary sat in the grand drawing room writing, she thought that it was crucial that someone record what was happening to the world. Remus and Marlene arrived back from their assignment at ten pm, two hours after James and Sirius had gone.

"Hello!" Mary hugged them in relief; it was always a relief when anyone came home. "How was it?"

"Alright." Remus shrugged. "We had a close shave with Dolohov."

Mary shuddered, she knew that name.

"But we're here and we're fine." Marlene reassured Mary, "let's not dwell on it."

"Where is everyone?" Remus asked, the house was never this quiet.

"Peter is MIA, so James has gone with Sirius instead, Lily's gone to bed."

"WHAT?" Marlene exclaimed. "He can't just decide not to show up!"

"That's really worrying." Remus agreed looking to Mary in concern.

"Lily's in a state." Mary sighed. "Actually I should probably check on her." Mary vanished her parchment and left the drawing room.

Lily had awoken with rather sharp pains in her abdomen. They were intense at first and then disappeared, then came back again. Lily knew exactly what it meant but it was too early, and James wasn't here.

She slowly got up and began to walk towards the door, pausing as each contraction hit, she bumped into Mary in the corridor.

"Oh good," Mary smiled, "I was just coming to find you." Mary registered the expression on Lily's face and before she could ask what was wrong a small puddle appeared at Lily's feet and Lily began breathing deeply to suppress the pain.

"OK!" Mary tried to get a grip of the situation. "It's ok. We just need to get you to St. Mungo's."

"But James," Lily protested through gritted teeth.

"He'll be back in time," Mary reassured her, having no idea if this was true or not. She helped Lily down the stairs and into the drawing room, they needed to get to the fireplace, apparating was too dangerous; the risk of splinching was too high.

Remus and Marlene looked round in surprise.

"The baby's coming." Mary explained, she was huffing as she supported Lily's more substantial weight.

"What? But it's not due for three weeks!"

"I know that Marlene," Mary tried to keep her voice calm for Lily's sake. "Lily and I are going to the hospital and you two are going to wait here for James and Sirius and tell them where we are." Mary and Lily had already disappeared into the emerald flames before Marlene or Remus moved.

"Crap!" Remus exclaimed, which was most unlike him. "This is all Peter's fault!What if James misses the baby being born?"

"What if James doesn't-"

"Marl, don't go there." Remus sat on the sofa and Marlene on the chair. They played exploding snap to pass the time, both looking at the clock every few seconds. When midnight came they heard the heavy front door bang. They ran into the foyer to where James and Sirius were chuckling.

"They had no idea we were there."

"Dumbledore will be thrilled." Sirius caught sight of Remus and Marlene's harried expressions. "What's up with you two?"

"Lily's gone to St Mungo's-"

"- the baby's come early-"

" – Mary went with her but –"

"- that was hours ago, you-"

"- need to go now!"

"NOW!" Remus was pulling at James who looked dumbstruck.

"Shit! What if I've missed it all?"

"You won't have." Remus couldn't have been sure of this but he pulled James outside all the same, Sirius and Marlene followed and with a loud crack they were all gone.

When they appeared in St. Mungo's they raced to the maternity ward and a welcome witch pointed James to the right room.

"We'll wait here." Sirius gestured to the three of them who slumped on the plastic chairs.

James nodded and swallowing, he walked into the right room. Lily was hunched forward on a bed and Mary was rubbing her back and offering words of comfort.

"Oh thank god." Mary murmured. "Lily, James is here, he's going to take over." Mary nodded to James and clapped him on the shoulder as she left to join the others.

James went and sat by Lily, he breathed a sigh of relief, he hadn't missed it. "You're doing great Lil."

"If you want to swap places at any point, be my guest."

Sirius, Marlene, Remus and Mary sat and waited. An hour after they'd been there a harassed looking Frank walked past with his mother, who was jabbering in his ear. Despite visiting hours being long over Mrs Longbottom had refused to leave her son's new family. She had just been forcibly removed by the St Mungo's staff.

"Frank!" Mary exclaimed and everyone started talking at once.

"Stop, stop." Frank waved his hands. "Mary, are you looking for us?"

"No, Lily's in labour. We're waiting. We were going to call you but we – er- "

"forgot." Remus finished apologetically. "It's been an eventful evening."

"That's fine." Frank smiled generously while his mother clicked her tongue behind him.

"Hello Mrs Longbottom," Sirius waved cheerfully. Everyone bit their lips to stop them laughing.

"How's Al?" Marlene asked. "And the baby?"

"Wonderful!" Frank beamed. "Visiting is closed now," he looked meaningfully at his mother, "but you should pop in tomorrow and meet Neville."

"We definitely will." Remus waved. "Congrats, mate."

"Thank you," Frank smiled. "I'll see you in the morning." Frank and Mrs Longbottom walked away.

"They called him Neville?" Sirius asked in disbelief.

Marlene scoffed. "Black, you're first name is "serious" you really can't talk."

When James emerged out of the delivery room at four am he saw his friends sleeping on the chairs. Sirius had his head leant against the wall, Marlene was sprawled over three seats with her head in his lap. Remus had his head tipped straight back and Mary rested her head on his shoulder.

"Oi!" James said, and whistled trying to rouse them. Remus was the first to open his eyes and gradually everyone came around. No one spoke. They all looked at James expectantly. "It's a boy!" He was beaming. He couldn't stop smiling.

"McKinnon, that's five galleons." Sirius elbowed her.

"How's Lily?" Marlene batted away Sirius's elbow.

"Knackered, but wonderful." James looked around, there were no visible healers. "Come in." They snuck into the hospital room behind James. Lily was propped up in bed holding a small bundle in her arms. Her hair was all over the place and her eyes had dark circles under them, but she looked ecstatic, glowing with joy.

"He's so little!" Mary breathed running a hand over the baby's head.

"And he's not ginger." Sirius noted.

"Does he have a name?" Remus asked.

Lily and James looked at each other. "We haven't decided for sure yet," Lily replied, "but we're thinking Harry."

"Excellent choice." Sirius smiled at them and the baby. "Much better than Neville."

"Shut up Sirius." Echoed everyone in the room.

James, Remus and Sirius apparated into a dark clearing of a thick forest, they were feet from an old dilapidated cottage. "So this Emilia's real mum's house?" James asked quietly.

"The records show that her mum died years ago, no one's probably lived here for ages." Sirius approached the building. "Sounds like a great hiding place."

"What do you want to do if we find her?" Remus asked Sirius, he had agreed to come on this little mission in the hope of reigning Sirius in.

"I just want answers," Sirius replied evenly. "Then we can move on." Sirius tapped the old wooden door with his wand and it opened with a creak. Carefully, with wands raised, they walked into the house. It became apparent quickly that the house was empty. "Someone has been here recently," Sirius examined the smouldering wood in the fire place.

There was a thick layer of dust on the floor that they left visible footprints in.

"The wardrobes are wide open, as though someone left in a hurry." James noted from the bedroom.

"I would bet my wand she's been here." Sirius said in frustration. "We could have missed her by hours, just hours."

"Now that we know her name, we can go back to the drawing board." James said bracingly.

"Look at this." Remus said from the other side of the room. He stood by a filthy cabinet holding something in his hand.

"Is it something of Emilia's?" Sirius asked eagerly.

"No." Remus shook his head. "It's a press cutting, it's from when Harry got cornered by Lockhart in Flourish and Blotts."

James quickly took the newspaper piece. He saw Harry being dragged into the frame by the beaming Lockhart (who incidentally no longer knew who he was).

"Why would Emilia have this?" Sirius asked, perplexed.

"Sirius," Remus said slowly. "I think this might belong to Peter."

"Why on earth would you think that?"

Remus showed him another photo that he found with it, an old image of the original order with a message on the back. Feel better Wormy and come home to us, remember what we're fighting for.

They fell into silence, each man digested this information.

"He's keeping her captive!"

"Actually, mate." James looked slowly to Remus who frowned. "I think Remus means that it looks like she's been helping him."

Remus returned to Hogwarts late on the Friday night, or the early hours of Saturday morning, after their foray into Emilia's hideout. Consequently he slept in late on the Saturday. He spent his early afternoon marking homework in his office, only disturbed when Snape's voice echoed out of the fire, calling him.

When he arrived at Snape's office an unusual scene met him. Harry and Snape were stood glaring at each other while Snape held an old bit of parchment. Remus's heart raced. This was it! How on earth had Harry gotten hold of it?

"You called, Severus?" said Lupin mildly.

"I certainly did," said Snape, his face contorted with fury as he strode back to his desk. "I have just asked Potter to empty his pockets. He was carrying this."

Snape pointed at the parchment, on which the words of Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs were still shining. An odd closed expression appeared on Lupin's face.

"Well?" said Snape.

Lupin continued to stare at the map. Harry had the impression that Lupin was doing some very quick thinking.

"Well?" said Snape again. "This parchment is plainly full of Dark Magic. This is supposed to be your area of expertise, Lupin. Where do you imagine Potter got such a thing?"

Lupin looked up and, by the merest half glance in Harry's direction, warned him not to interrupt.

"Full of Dark Magic?" he repeated mildly. "Do you really think so, Severus? It looks to me as though it is merely a piece of parchment that insults anybody who tries to read it. Childish, but surely not dangerous? I imagine Harry got it from a joke-shop –"

"Indeed?" said Snape. His jaw had gone rigid with anger. "You think a joke-shop could supply him with such a thing? You don't think it more likely that he got it directly from the manufacturers?"

Right on cue, Ron came bursting into the office. He was completely out of breath, and stopped just short of Snape's desk, clutching the stitch in his chest and trying to speak.

"I – gave – Harry – that – stuff," he choked. "Bought – it – in –Zonko's – ages – ago …"

"Well!" said Lupin, clapping his hands together and looking around cheerfully. "That seems to clear that up! Severus, I'll take this back, shall I?" He folded the map and tucked it inside his robes. "Harry, Ron, come with me, I need a word about my vampire essay. Excuse us, Severus."

(Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- J.K. Rowling, pp.212-213)

Remus didn't address either boy until they were safely in his office.

"I don't know where to start!" Remus looked as angry as Harry had ever seen him. "You've been going to Hogsmeade, haven't you? You've used that map?" Harry looked at his shoes not daring to look Remus in the eye. "After everything we've done to keep you safe, you go and risk your life! And for what? The fun of it? To visit that joke shop or to get a butterbeer?" Remus wasn't shouting but his voice was uncharacteristically harsh. "You weren't raised to be this stupid or reckless. We risked our lives to keep you safe, your mum and dad were ready to give up their lives for the same thing, this is a bloody poor repayment."

Harry mumbled that he was sorry. "Are you going to tell Dumbledore?"

"No." Remus said, his mouth was set and Harry smiled. "Don't look too pleased, it'll incriminate far too many people. I'm keeping this." He indicated the map. "Did you steal it from Filch's office?"

"No." Harry said honestly. "Someone gave it to me."

Remus shook his head. "Harry you know who wrote this map, so you know who also knows the passageways into the castle, what were you thinking?"

"I'm sorry Remus." Harry capitalised on Remus's momentary silence. He knew it was risky but he was too curious not to ask. "Snape said that dad played a trick on him at school and that he would have died if dad hadn't have got cold feet, is that true?"

Remus looked at him incredulously. "Now is really not the time Harry." Remus ran a hand through his greying hair. "Just go." He said sharply and Harry and Ron didn't need telling twice.

"Blimey." Ron said once they were clear of Remus's office. "I've never heard him like that before." Harry was so ashamed of himself that he couldn't speak. "I'm sorry I told you to come." Ron said earnestly, but before Harry could reply they ran straight into Hermione.

She was holding a letter in her hands and her lip was trembling. "I just thought you ought to know … Hagrid lost his case. Buckbeak is going to be executed."

Dumbledore wasn't sure that he was making the right decision, all he knew was that now would be the best time to act. He wandered up the very long, winding drive that led to Malfoy Manor.

Dumbledore knocked twice and waited. A small, trembling house elf opened the door a crack. Dumbledore knelt down so that he was eye-level with the little creature.

"Hello there, would you please tell Mrs Malfoy that Albus Dumbledore is here to see her?"

The little elf squeaked and ran off, within moments Narcissa Malfoy had appeared at the door.

"Hello Narcissa," Dumbledore said pleasantly. "May I come in?"

Narcissa was a master at concealing her feelings from her face but she was sure that Dumbledore saw the surprise cross her eyes.

"Of course." She said graciously and led him through the large drawing room into a smaller side parlour. Narcissa sat in one armchair and offered Dumbledore the other. Narcissa couldn't begin conversation, she didn't know what to say.

"I wonder if you know why I am here," Dumbledore smiled.

Narcissa felt a bolt of shock go through her body.

"Sirius confided in me that you told him about the diary," Dumbledore thought it best to keep Snape's name out of the conversation. "It was very brave of you."

"Lucius will be home any minute." Narcissa said, fidgeting uncomfortably, she was very relieved he was only here about the diary, she feared that he'd found out about Emilia.

"Your husband is in London as we speak, at the hearing of Buckbeak the Hippogriff."

"That beast attacked my son." Narcissa said coldly.

"Now, Narcissa, you know as well as anyone that the Hippogriff was not unprovoked." Dumbledore found Narcissa fascinating, even as a girl she was fiercely loyal, but often to those who did not deserve her. True to character he saw a flicker of rage pass over her beautiful face. "Narcissa it is undeniable to anyone observing that you love your son very much." Dumbledore was treading very carefully, one false move and she would erupt faster than an exploding snap card. "It is also clear that you love your family. I remember how closely you watched your young cousins at school, and now with Regulus gone, you fear for Sirius." Dumbledore watched as her expression became rawer, less guarded, she was drinking in every word. "You can be a part of his life Narcissa, he would like that very much, he is also very concerned for you, as is your sister."

"I can't be a part of their lives," Narcissa said bitterly. "Of course I want to be. Of course I care about them. But I chose my path a long time ago and I can't abandon my child."

"Draco could come too, he's a child Narcissa, he could be brought around."

"Lucius would never allow it."

"Do you not have a say? You're his mother."

Narcissa gave Dumbledore a twisted smile. "I've thought about this Dumbledore, over and over. There's no way out for me with Draco. None. As much as I love Andromeda and Sirius, I love Draco more. Mothers should put their children first. Even if their child isn't quite what they'd like them to be."

Dumbledore nodded solemnly, he did not try to argue with her. "Thank you for giving me your time, you've been a very gracious host."

Narcissa nodded and stood as Dumbledore did. "I'll bear your words in mind."

Dumbledore gave her a kind smile and squeezed her hand as he shook it. "Thank you."

Narcissa walked him to the door. "Dumbledore?"

"Yes?"

"Will you keep an eye on Sirius for me? I try, but it's rather difficult in my position."

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled behind his half-moon spectacles. "Of course. Goodbye Narcissa."

"Goodbye Professor."

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