An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 10 - The Marauders

Chapter Ten – The Marauders

"Ron," Hermione whispered, "I think we're in the Shrieking Shack."

Ron shuddered, he was sure Hermione was right and expected a spirit to pop out at them at any moment. "Come on." He replied. "We need to find Harry."

Harry had been forced into a ransacked bedroom in which it looked like bites had been taken out of the furniture. Surely spirits couldn't do that, could they?

Harry was thinking quickly. Peter Pettigrew had his and Ron's wands, but Harry didn't think an attack was imminent; Pettigrew seemed to be debating what to do, he was very clearly insane.

"… could kill but how would he know? … Dark Lord betrayal … Potter the reason behind it … bring him or kill him?"

Harry wondered if he could physically overpower Pettigrew if he managed to take him off guard. What were Ron and Hermione doing? Harry hoped they had gone to Hagrid's cabin for help.

Ron and Hermione watched Pettigrew through a crack in the door. They had one chance.

"Reducto!" Hermione blew the door to smithereens. As she'd hoped Pettigrew ducked under the weight of the shrapnel. Peter tried to gather himself but Hermione was too quick, "Expelliarmus!"

Harry and Ron's wands flew out of his hands. Harry dived and caught them, he scampered towards his friends and threw Ron his wand.

Peter began to scurry towards them. Hermione shot a bodybind curse at him and he collapsed like a statue on the floor.

"You two were brilliant!" Harry said. "Thank you."

"It was all Hermione." Ron replied. His eyes were glued to Peter Pettigrew. "What on earth do we do?"

"We need to go for help." Hermione's voice trembled but she did not lower her wand.

"We can't leave him here unguarded." said Harry. "You two go for Dumbledore and I'll stay here."

"Don't be ridiculous, Harry, that's precisely what he wants. I'll stay here and you two go." Hermione replied shrilly.

"You're not staying on your own!" Ron replied. "Harry you go and I'll stay here with Hermione."

"Why doesn't Hermione go and I'll stay here with you?" Harry suggested. Before they could come to a conclusion, a door banged and they heard hurried footsteps coming closer. Hermione kept her wand on Pettigrew while Harry and Ron pointed their wands in the direction of the unknown.

Harry had never been more relieved to see his father. "Thank Merlin." James sighed clutching his chest. "Where's Pettigrew?"

"He's in there." Harry replied in amazement.

Hermione sagged against Ron in relief and dropped her wand.

James saw the immobilised figure on the floor. "Incarcerous!" Ropes materialised around Pettigrew's body, binding him in place.

"How did you know we were here? Why are you here?" Harry asked Sirius.

Sirius didn't respond. He walked forward, past Harry, into the bedroom and Remus followed. "Go back up to school and get Dumbledore."

Harry, Ron and Hermione backed up but they didn't leave.

"Harry." James said without turning his head from Peter. "Please go and find Dumbledore. Now."

Harry looked to Ron and Hermione and the three of them departed heavy heartedly.

James, Sirius and Remus rounded by the bound man, looking down on him.

"Well, well, Peter." James said quietly. "Hasn't it been a long time?"

Emilia had only just hidden Narcissa sufficiently when she stalked back to the edge of the grounds. To her utter disbelief she saw Sirius running after James with Remus on his heels, and they were heading to the tree where she'd come from. She watched how they immobilised the tree and after giving them a few minutes head start, she followed them down.

Emilia's robes had just disappeared from sight as Dumbledore strolled from Hagrid's cabin back towards the castle. He passed the Great Hall and headed straight for Lupin's office to see what it was that Sirius had wanted.

Dumbledore rapped on the door. There was no reply. After knocking twice more to no avail Dumbledore let himself in to the empty office. He had arranged with Remus that he would meet them, he had surely not forgotten. Dumbledore went over to his desk and saw an open and astonishing piece of parchment. He saw a little dot labelled 'Remus Lupin' just as it disappeared off the edge of the map. Sensing something was amiss, Dumbledore made his way back on to the grounds.

James lifted the body bind curse on Peter but kept him tightly bound by the ropes. He did not know why, but after all these years James needed to hear Peter's story. He needed to hear from his own mouth why he did it.

"My old friends!" Squawked Pettigrew.

"Are you for real?" Sirius shouted. "How dare you?"

Pettigrew flinched.

"Why Peter?" Remus asked forcefully. "Why did you sell us out?"

"Does it matter?" Sirius growled. "We should just hand him over to the Dementors, then his little worthless soul wouldn't be this world's problem."

"It does matter, Sirius." James hadn't taken his eyes from Peter. "Why did you do it?"

"… what could I have done? The Dark Lord … you have no idea … he has weapons you can't imagine … I was scared … I was never brave … I never meant it to happen … He Who Must Not Be Named forced me … he was taking over everywhere!" gasped Pettigrew. "Wh-what was there to be gained by refusing him? … You don't understand!" whined Pettigrew. "He would have killed me …" (J.K. Rowling – The Prisoner of Azkaban)

"So you thought you'd just hand us to him instead?" James's voice was even but it was as angry as it ever had been. "Frank saw it, Peter, he always noticed how much you pandered to us, how much you needed to be surrounded by bigger friends."

"We should have taken more notice of him." Remus said quietly. "You should be where he is, you worthless rodent."

"But you're back to try and finish the job you started." Sirius said dangerously. "You need to prove that you didn't betray your master, don't you? I can't imagine he's very happy with you Peter."

"How did you know it was me?" Pettigrew whimpered.

"Dumbledore." James replied coolly. "Someone who will be very pleased to see you in a few minutes." James unbound him and told Pettigrew to stand. "If you make one false move Peter, I will kill you." His voice was frighteningly calm. "After you Sirius."

Emilia listened to the entire conversation from her hiding place downstairs. It was all finally over. Peter would be taken back to Azkaban and her transgression would never be known.

As she hid in the tiny sitting room, watching the hallway from a crack in the door, she saw Sirius appear. Her heart raced, but it quickly turned to fear when Peter followed a second later with James behind him, keeping a wand pointed at his back.

Emilia stopped breathing, worried she'd be heard. Peter was directly in front of the door, she could see him clear as day and noticed his hands fumbling inside his robes. Then it happened again, Emilia realised what Peter was going to do seconds before he did it.

"NO!" She screamed, the door burst open and she pushed Sirius out of the way before a dagger found itself lodged in her stomach. Sirius caught her before she hit the floor. Peter used the distraction to transform and race off down the tunnel.

"NO YOU DON'T!" James ran after him.

"GO!" Sirius shouted to Remus, who had hesitated between the door and Emilia's bloody wound. Remus nodded and ran after James.

Harry, Ron and Hermione had just cleared the tree when they ran straight into Dumbledore.

"Professor!" They exclaimed. "Pettigrew … he's a rat … Dad, Sirius, Remus … Shrieking Shack."

Dumbledore held up a hand to stop them. "I know, I know. I'm going now. Mr Weasley, please alert Professor Snape and ask him to summon the Dementors. You two stay here until I come out. Do not tell anyone what has happened."

Ron ran off into the castle while Dumbledore crawled into the earthy tunnel.

Peter scampered easily through the tunnel as a rodent. The twilight sky was just becoming visible when a bright spell caught Peter off guard and he reappeared as the man. In front of Peter, Dumbledore made himself visible. James caught up behind him seconds later.

"Remus!" He gasped for breath. "Tell Sirius to come, Dumbledore's got him."

"I'm so sorry." Emilia gasped, she gripped Sirius's hand.

Sirius pulled the dagger out of her stomach and healed her in seconds.

"Why did you do that?" He asked her.

She felt the smooth healed skin on her abdomen and looked at the bloodstain on her clothes. "I'm so sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen." She looked so imploring and genuine that Sirius was taken for a second.

"You were helping him." It was a statement. Emilia nodded and tears sprang to her eyes.

"I came here trying to stop him, he's gone too far, I didn't mean for any of this to happen." She repeated, refusing to relinquish her grip on his hand. Sirius looked uncomfortably to the door where Remus had disappeared. "Sirius, please."

"Not now." He muttered.

"Now!" Emilia insisted. "I need to explain." She pressed on before Sirius could stop her. "Regulus was my very best friend at school, I loved him like family. He didn't want to join the Death Eaters but it was what your family expected so he did it-"

"Emilia now isn't the time-"

"Listen! I've got to explain, it all started with Regulus. After school had finished I followed him on to the wrong side, I was never a Death Eater but I met a lot of them. That was how I met Peter, I recognised his surname and I knew who he was, our families had never had a lot of contact before that you see. After Regulus died I didn't see Peter again for years, I didn't even think about him until he wrote to me one day from Azkaban, asking me to find a locket. He said if I didn't the other inmates were going to kill him for treason. He used Regulus, he said that he had the locket and he wanted Peter to have it." Emilia was talking quickly, she was on a roll and she didn't want Sirius to interrupt. "I met you a week afterwards. I recognised you from school, you look so much like him, I knew that you didn't have anything to do with your family but it was the best chance I had. I thought the wedding might reconcile you all but then Narcissa wrote that damn letter and you called off the engagement. I was even worse off than before, I hadn't found the locket and I had lost you. Then Peter grew desperate, he said he was fending off attacks everyday and he was waiting for the Dark Lord to return and kill him. That was what led me to pursue Caius at Gringotts, after some persuasion we made an agreement that he would help me if I married him. He needed that respectable image, after a messy divorce, to rise up the ranks of the bank. After a few years building this lie, we began to plan. I knew that Lily and James still lived in Godric's Hollow and that it was my best chance of running in to you. You were still my only chance of getting that locket and we wanted to find that before resorting to breaking him out." She took a breath and looked at a speechless Sirius, "but I saw you again and got cold feet. I'd forgotten how much I loved you and I didn't want to do it anymore. I told Caius that it was all over and that Peter wasn't my problem, but then Caius sent me on a 'business' visit to Azkaban. Peter convinced me that it was my duty to help him, that if I didn't I would have good as killed him.

"Just when I thought we'd have no choice but to free him, your Aunt died and you inherited the house. It was like fate. I could see it all coming together, I could get the locket and I could still have you. I just needed to cement it, but you were adamant you didn't want a child. I thought you'd come round to the idea in time, I thought I could convince you and then we'd be tied together. Then Peter wouldn't be able to get to me because you'd protect me. But it didn't matter in the end because the locket wasn't at Grimmauld Place. The day I searched Reg's room, Narcissa Malfoy caught me, she wanted to know what I'd been doing. She was on to me from the start, she remembered me and she's always been watching you closely. She kept me there for weeks until I told her what I was doing, finally she said she'd kill me if I didn't leave you." Emilia chanced another look at him and he looked dumbstruck, she put her eyes back to the floor as she continued. "I had no options left, Caius and I had to help Peter escape. It took us months to plan, it needed to coincide with Caius's business trip there and it was crucial that Caius couldn't be tied to it. Unfortunately it worked. Peter's rat form confused the Dementors and he managed to get away. We hid at my mother's old house for months. As soon as Peter was with us I knew it had all been a mistake, but I didn't know what to do. Caius kept telling me that I couldn't go back, that it was what I'd wanted all along, but it wasn't. All I wanted was you, I was just taken in by him. I've never had a family and he convinced me that family was the highest duty." She laughed bitterly. "He killed Caius earlier tonight and took his wand. I knew he'd come here and I tried to stop him but he escaped." Emilia looked up at him. "I saw you run here and I knew you must be chasing him so I followed you. I'm so, so sorry, I never meant for any of this to happen. It got so out of hand. I love you."

Sirius didn't speak; he was still absorbing every word she said. All of their guesses had been right and she explained the last few pieces they hadn't been able to put together. He thought he would feel relieved when it was all in front of him but he didn't, he felt raw, it was like opening up an old wound that had never managed to heal properly.

Remus ran back into the shack before Sirius could speak.

Out of breath, Remus gasped. "Dumbledore caught him. Come out, it's all over."

Remus led Sirius and Emilia out of the tunnel and into the darkening evening. Stood outside the range of the Whomping Willow's branches were James, Harry and Hermione. Peter was bound on the floor again and James was stood over him.

"Where's Dumbledore?" Sirius asked.

"He's gone to get Fudge." James replied. He wasn't taking his eyes from Pettigrew for a second.

Pettigrew smiled when he saw Emilia approach. She shivered as though she had somehow been violated. She wanted nothing more to do with this awful man, even if it meant a stint in Azkaban.

No one else acknowledged Emilia's presence. Hermione whispered something to Harry who nodded casually.

"Where's Ron?" Remus asked Harry and Hermione, they had barely said "Snape" when the man himself appeared.

Neither Sirius nor James acknowledged Snape's appearance. Remus greeted him cordially.

"The Dementors are coming. I thought it best to come see to the prisoner's recapture myself since the three of you nearly let him escape."

"Yes well now he's in your capable hands Snivellus."

"Sirius," Remus warned.

"No, don't tell Black what to do, Lupin, he always knows best, I believe that's why Hagrid's Hippogriff died earlier this afternoon."

Even in the dark, Harry and Hermione saw Sirius flush and raise his wand.

"Sirius," James snapped. "Put your wand away, it's not the time."

Snape looked moderately surprised that James hadn't immediately joined in.

"We may be at school but we're not children anymore." James muttered, still looking at Pettigrew.

No one was looking at Remus who had suddenly begun to feel quite odd. He gulped. In all the commotion he had forgotten. By the looks of it so had his friends. "Sirius." He said quietly, but Sirius paid him no attention. "Sirius." He tried again, a bit louder. Still nothing. He didn't want to alarm anyone but there wasn't long left. "SIRIUS!"

Sirius whipped his head in Remus's direction. He pushed Emilia and the children as far back as he could. James looked away momentarily as Remus began to transform. In seconds, an enormous stag replaced James. Hermione and Harry were glued to the spot, despite Sirius's attempts to shift them away from the danger. Snape was also watching transfixed. And in all the commotion, no one saw that the ropes no longer housed an occupant.

"Damn him!" Sirius shouted. He spotted the little rat in the distance and raced after him into the forest.

"Sirius!" Emilia called desperately and followed.

Snape was still rooted to the spot but Harry woke up. "Come on!" He dragged Hermione away. Unfortunately, the danger was blocking their passage back up to the castle, so grabbing Hermione's hand, Harry ran after Sirius into the forest.

Flashes of light hit the grass as spell after spell missed the small rodent. Sirius was running faster than he ever had done in his life. Everything but Pettigrew had been driven from his mind, he was barely aware that Emilia was chasing behind him. Peter had led them in a gigantic circle around the Whomping Willow. From a sliver of moonlight, Sirius could just make out a clearing in the trees. He slowed down, eventually coming to a complete halt. "He's gone." He could have screamed with frustration. They'd had him and he had escaped twice. Sirius swore loudly.

Emilia caught up. She was wheezing and clutching a stitch in her side. "Where is he?"

"He got away! He escaped!" Sirius yelled. "He's probably on his way back to Voldemort right now!" He was so livid he was shaking.

"Sirius I-"

"NO!" Sirius shouted. "NO! You can't say that you're sorry and expect everything to be all right! You've done this!" He tried to calm down, he massaged his knuckles whilst pacing. "Come on. We need to go inside the castle. There's a werewolf in the forest." Sirius didn't turn round to check that she was following him. Keeping in the shade of the foliage he rounded back towards the castle.

"Sirius-"

"I'm really not interested."

"Sirius please-"

"No. Save it for Fudge." Sirius's anger began to dissipate and was replaced by despair. They could have prevented it all. His heart started to ache and when he tried to draw breath it froze in his chest. That was when he realised that it was unnaturally cold for June, and heard the first rattling breath in the near distance. He walked forward a few more paces and saw a small crowd of Dementors deeper in the forest. Sirius found the way they were huddled unnerving; he drew his wand and progressed towards them. He was meters away when, through a gap in their cloaks, Sirius saw a pale and petrified face. The Dementor nearest the figure began to kneel and lower its hood.

"No!" Sirius exclaimed. "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" A great silver dog erupted and charged at the Dementors, they scattered, dispersing back into the darkness. The figure on the floor erupted into sobs. "Cissy?" Sirius said in disbelief. "What on earth are you doing here?" He rushed forwards and helped her to her feet. To his surprise, she flung her arms around him and continued to sob. He patted her back. "Come on, I'll take you back to the castle. The woods aren't safe."

Narcissa was still too weak and hysterical to make any discernible word. She just whimpered and did as he said. He put an arm around her shoulder as they walked.

It wasn't until they'd walked a few paces Sirius noticed what was missing. He stopped and looked behind him. There was no one there. He turned on his heel and began to jog back to where they'd come from.

"Where are you going?" Narcissa whispered. "You said the forest isn't safe!"

"It's not." Sirius gulped. "I need to find someone. Go to the castle Cissy." He turned on his heel and ran full pelt. "EMILIA!" He called. "EMILIA!" There was no reply. His heart pounded in his ears. Please have run away, please have run away, he thought desperately. Then he felt another rush of cold. He walked towards it, wand outstretched, ready to cast the moment he saw them. As he waded deeper into the shrubbery, he tripped and fell over on to his hands and knees. He drew his lit wand behind him to see what he had fallen over.

Sirius didn't know whether his scream left his mouth or simply reverberated inside his head. Emilia was lying on the floor, her limbs were splayed and her eyes were shut.

"Em!" He shook her, but there was no response. "Em! Em!" Sirius checked her throat and found a pulse. "Em, wake up! Ennervate!" There was nothing, but she was alive, she was definitely alive.

"Sirius?" A small voice called. Narcissa's head appeared over the bush Sirius had tripped after.

Sirius stood up, lifting Emilia's lifeless form into his arms. "Come on, we need to go back to the castle, I need to take her to the Hospital Wing." The biting cold Sirius felt told him that they didn't have much time.

Narcissa looked at who he was carrying but didn't say anything.

The whole way back to the castle Sirius was muttering. "You're fine. Just fine. You're alive."

Harry and Hermione had run full out in the opposite direction of the werewolf, unfortunately this was also in the opposite direction of the school.

"Hermione, come on!" Harry tried to yank her hand. She was looking over her shoulder for the werewolf. Harry thought they'd ran far enough away that it would be safe to loop back to the castle.

They kept running and in the near distance Harry spotted Hagrid's cabin. They just needed to make it as far as there and they would be safe. They were running so fast and determinedly that they didn't immediately notice the silence that descended. It wasn't until the biting chill reached their hearts and the moonlight seemed to go out that Harry realised.

"Hermione," said Harry, but he didn't need to tell her. She'd already drawn her wand as one of the beasts descended upon them. "Expecto Patronum!" A fine silver mist erupted from Harry's wand and quickly evaporated.

"Expecto, Expecto-" Hermione tried, but there were more Dementors and she was losing the will to think.

They were unmistakably descending upon them, ready to attack. Harry tried the incantation again, encouraging Hermione to do the same. Soon they were almost enclosed in a circle of them and Harry still couldn't perform the charm.

The stag and the werewolf were circling each other. Every time the werewolf tried to change direction the stag blocked it. James didn't realise they were slowly moving backwards until he heard Harry and Hermione shouting. He glanced behind him and saw the Dementors. James had seconds to think. He did the first thing that occurred to him, he charged at the werewolf and bucked him a few meters away. James prayed that this had disorientated him enough to buy him time.

James replaced the stag. He kept one eye on the werewolf and the other on the children who had collapsed on to the ground. "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" The silver stag cantered into the circle and began to force the Dementors away, but the werewolf had regained its bearings and, slowly at first, began to charge towards James. Keeping his wand raised and the Patronus working, James ran backwards as fast as he could. He couldn't change until all the Dementors were gone but the werewolf was three metres away, two metres away, if he jumped he would be able to bite. James couldn't drop his wand, the Dementors would swoop in again. He covered his arms and face and was knocked backwards on to the grass, but no weight hit him, there were no sounds of snapping teeth and he couldn't feel any hot breath on his face. He opened his eyes and saw the werewolf flat on his back in the distance. To his right he saw Severus Snape, his wand arm outstretched and pointed at the creature. He looked at James and in a moment of understanding, James resumed his other form and Snape cast a Patronus. James had run to fend off the werewolf before he saw Snape's doe.

When the stag and the werewolf had disappeared deep into the forest Snape levitated the children back up to school.

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