An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 11 - Some Wounds Just Can't Heal

Chapter Eleven – Some Wounds Just Can't be Healed

Dumbledore met Snape in the Entrance Hall, while Fudge hovered over them looking scandalised.

"Potter's currently got the situation under control." Snape said curtly. He was remarkably casual about the two unconscious students floating around their heads.

Dumbledore nodded grimly. "Let's take these two the Hospital Wing."

"What happened to the children, Snape?" Fudge shot at him irritably. "And where's Pettigrew?"

Snape looked at them curiously.

"Hasn't Black told you?"

"Sirius is currently preoccupied." Dumbledore explained. "Now let's take the children up and let Madam Pomfrey see to them."

They began to ascend the stairs.

"Would someone please tell me what in the name of Merlin happened here?"

"The Dementors tried to attack the children, minister." Snape explained. "And unfortunately Pettigrew escaped." Snape explained everything following Lupin's transformation.

"What were Harry and his friends even doing there?" Fudge asked incredulously, his voice rising in pitch.

"I believe they had gone to see Hagrid." Dumbledore said quietly. "Although we shall have to wait until they are conscious to get the full story." Dumbledore opened the doors to the Hospital Wing with a flick of his wand. "Poppy?"

"NO!" Sirius's voice carried from the corner of the room.

"I'm very sorry." Madam Pomfrey's voice was uncharacteristically soft as it travelled to the door. "But there's nothing we can do for her."

Dumbledore strode towards them, while Snape sent the children flying gently into beds. Fudge hesitated by the entrance.

Madam Pomfrey looked up at Dumbledore, her expression was full of the deepest sorrow. Dumbledore turned his attention to Sirius, who was clutching the arm of the woman lying on the bed. It took Dumbledore a millisecond to deduce what had happened.

"Poppy, please go and attend to Harry and Hermione." Dumbledore said quietly.

Madam Pomfrey hurried off, glad to have been dismissed.

"Sirius," Dumbledore said gently. "There's nothing we can do for her now."

"She's fine!" Sirius shouted, refusing to look Dumbledore in the eye. "She's breathing! She's absolutely fine! She can get better!"

"Sirius," another voice said quietly.

Dumbledore noticed Narcissa Malfoy for the first time.

"Sirius, she's gone." Her voice was gentle, and her hand stretched out and squeezed his arm. He shrugged her off.

"There is no cure for the Dementor's kiss." Dumbledore looked directly into Sirius's desperate eyes. "We will move her to St. Mungo's in the morning. I'm sorry Sirius, she has gone."

Sirius refused to let go of her arm. He shook his head at Dumbledore. "No she's fine," he voice began to break, "she just needs to wake up."

"Sirius, she's not going to wake up." Dumbledore was as gentle as possible.

"YOU DON'T KNOW THAT!"

Dumbledore sighed sadly. "You should take some time." He waved his wand and transfigured a chair for Sirius to sit on.

He did not thank Dumbledore. He did not take his eyes from Emilia's lifeless face.

Narcissa placed her hand on his shoulder.

"Please leave us alone." He said quietly. "Please."

Narcissa withdrew her hand and moved away from the bed. Dumbledore drew the curtains around in order to give them privacy.

"Madam Malfoy!" Fudge exclaimed and then his expression went curiously blank.

Narcissa looked to Dumbledore in alarm.

"I think it would be better for all involved if Mr Fudge did not know that you were here." Dumbledore muttered. "Take care of this, Severus. Narcissa and I will be in my office."

Narcissa followed Dumbledore silently. She had only ever been in his office once before, she had been sixteen and he had summoned her to talk about her future. She had done exceptionally well in her OWLs but had shown no indication of furthering herself either by more study or a career. Narcissa could have laughed at her hindsight if it wasn't so terribly unfunny, everyone had tried to stop her going down this path, everyone who truly cared about her, she just hadn't seen it at the time and now it was too late.

When they entered Dumbledore's office, Phineas Nigellus Black spoke. "Narcissa! What brings you to Hogwarts at this late hour?"

Narcissa still couldn't speak.

Dumbledore ignored Phineas Nigellus and offered Narcissa a seat behind his desk. "Have you had any chocolate?"

Narcissa shook her head.

Dumbledore smiled at her kindly and pulled a large bar of Honeydukes from his desk drawer. He offered it to Narcissa who took it gratefully.

Narcissa felt the biting cold ebb away, but the numb feeling of shock remained.

"You've had a terrible ordeal tonight," Dumbledore said sincerely. "I do not want to minimise your sufferings but I need you to tell me what happened please." Dumbledore offered Narcissa a drink of mead.

After a few sips Narcissa told Dumbledore everything. Everything from the note she sent Sirius all those years ago, to her fears about Draco leading to her appearance at the grounds that night.

"She must have stunned me," Narcissa explained, "and when I woke up I was surrounded by Dementors, one was inches from my face," she shivered involuntarily. "Then Sirius appeared."

Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully. He hadn't rushed her and hadn't asked a single question, he had just drunk in every word. "You say Emilia wanted a locket from Regulus," Dumbledore said. "Do you know why?"

Narcissa answered immediately. "She said it would make the Dark Lord forgive Peter, it would prove that he didn't betray him."

Dumbledore nodded again. "Do you know why?"

Narcissa shook her head. "Emilia said that she didn't know."

"Thank you for telling me all of this." Dumbledore said kindly. "Would you like to go home?"

Narcissa shook her head. "I don't ever want to go back." She wasn't aware of anything she said until it had left her mouth. She felt an odd combination of regret and relief.

Dumbledore smiled sadly. "You are very welcome to wait here until morning. You needn't tell Lucius a thing, only Sirius, Severus and myself are aware of your presence and I assure you that none of us would tell him."

Narcissa smiled gratefully. "Thank you, Headmaster."

"You're most welcome." Dumbledore pointed to his squashy couch. "Make yourself comfortable, and feel free to leave by floo whenever you wish. I'm going to the Hospital Wing to check on the children."

When Dumbledore arrived outside the Hospital Wing, he heard the voices before he had even entered the ward.

"- breaking with procedure, you've acted unfeasibly irresponsibly and as a result a dangerous criminal has slipped through your fingers!"

"How dare you?" Sirius shot back at him. "No one wants Peter more than us. No one wants to see that scumbag behind bars more than James!"

Sighing at Fudge's usual lack of timing and tact, and Sirius's dangerous temper, Dumbledore opened the heavy doors. "What's going on?" He asked quickly. Sirius and Fudge were stood in the middle of the room, Fudge was red and flustered and Sirius looked unhinged.

"I was just informing Black that there will be repercussions for his behaviour tonight." Fudge huffed. Dumbledore looked round the ward swiftly. Snape was no longer there, and Harry and Hermione were pretending to be asleep.

"This is not the place, Cornelius." Dumbledore replied quietly. "Nor is it the time."

"You can't tell me-" Fudge began but Dumbledore cut him off.

"You're in my school, Cornelius." Dumbledore's voice was quietly dangerous. "And you're in the Hospital Wing. This is a matter for the Ministry."

Fudge got slower redder but did not argue. "Then we will deal with this Monday morning." He turned on his heel and went.

Sirius stared after him.

"Sirius," Dumbledore said gently. "When you feel ready, I can summon the Healers from St. Mungo's." The little colour in Sirius's face from shouting at Fudge vanished. Dumbledore was immediately reminded of the eleven-year-old boy he had met twenty years ago. "We can wait, if you would like more time. Sirius I'm infinitely sorry, but her soul has gone. She can't recover."

Sirius's eyes swam as he nodded and gulped.

"Take more time." Dumbledore patted his shoulder and Sirius withdrew to the curtained space. Dumbledore turned to look at Harry and Hermione. "You don't have to worry about feigning sleep," Dumbledore said kindly, he twirled his wand and a squashy armchair appeared between Harry and Hermione's beds. He sat down as they opened their eyes. "Madam Pomfrey cannot hear us. I would very much like to know what happened tonight, if you wouldn't mind."

Harry and Hermione gave each other guilty looks. They sat up in their respective beds.

"We're sorry professor," Harry said earnestly. "We just wanted to be there for Hagrid."

"We didn't know that Harry's dad or anyone would be there," Hermione added.

"And Pettigrew just ran into us."

At five am, shattered, James walked back up to the castle. He headed straight for the Hospital Wing where he knew Dumbledore would have everyone rounded up. Remus was too mortified to leave the Shrieking Shack, even though he was bitten, scratched and bleeding and needed Madam Pomfrey's help.

The castle was eerily empty. Students were likely to be in bed for hours, making the most of their end of exam freedom by having a well-deserved lie-in. James knocked on the door of the Hospital Wing. It echoed much louder than normal in the empty corridors, devoid of the usual clatter made by the students.

Madam Pomfrey was dressed and at work, she let James in immediately.

"Where's Remus? He'll need seeing to from what Albus told me."

"He's in the shack." James yawned.

Madam Pomfrey just tutted. James noticed that she also looked very tired. Did that woman ever sleep? "Actually Potter, I'm glad you're here." She lowered her voice.

James looked to his left. Harry and Hermione were fast asleep. He was jealous, he wanted to sleep more than anything.

"What's up? The kids look fine."

"They're perfectly well." She was practically whispering. "It's Mr Black."

"Is he ok?" James asked quickly. He'd just assumed Sirius was fine, he knew Remus hadn't gotten anywhere near him. But there had been Dementors. James's stomach swooped and he felt sick.

"He won't leave her side, and we need to remove her before the children wake up."

His heart rate relaxed, Sirius was fine. "Sorry?" James yawned. "Whose side?"

Madam Pomfrey indicated the curtained area on the far side of the room. "Miss Hinkerton, she suffered the Dementor's kiss." Her last words were barely above a whisper.

James stopped, he had forgotten Emilia had even been there. He shuddered. He'd only ever seen someone who'd suffered the kiss once before, he'd been forced to go to the procedure as part of his Auror training, the memory had haunted him for weeks afterwards. Even Emilia didn't deserve that.

"He's just through there, you need to make him let her go."

James nodded and stepped over to the private area. He felt like knocking, but that was ridiculous, you couldn't knock on curtain. He was jittery and nervous.

"Sirius?" He said quietly, drawing apart the curtains, and despite being prepared James was shocked to see Emilia's body splayed like a rag doll, her open eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling. Sirius was sitting to the side of her, gripping her unmoving hand. His head was flat against the bed and his back was arched uncomfortably from the chair where he sat. He hadn't stirred when his name was called, James wondered if he was asleep.

"Sirius," He said again, a little louder. He patted his shoulder and Sirius moved his head to face him. James was uncomfortable to see that his eyes were bloodshot and puffy. He opened his mouth as if to talk but nothing came out. James materialised another chair and sat with him. They didn't say anything for a while.

"She's gone," Sirius choked eventually.

James just nodded and patted his back. He knew there was nothing he could say. "Do you want me to call Madam Pomfrey?"

Sirius nodded and James departed for the matron. Sirius stood up shakily, kissed her forehead and retreated so that his back was against the wall. He hugged himself and tried not to cry all over again.

James reappeared with Madam Pomfrey. "They will be here shortly." She told him.

"Come on mate," James said bracingly, "let's go home."

Sirius shook his head. "I'm going to- I just need to- I'm-"

"Want to be alone?"

Sirius nodded and had strode out without another word.

Madam Pomfrey busied herself with Emilia's transfer, using this distraction, James snuck over to where Harry was sleeping. Careful not to disturb Hermione, James gently shook Harry's shoulder, "Harry," he whispered.

Harry's eyes fluttered open, he immediately tried to reach for his glasses but James stopped him.

"It's very early," he whispered. "I just wanted to check you're alright before I go."

"M'fine." Harry mumbled drowsily. "You're an animagus."

James chuckled, Harry's narrowed eyes reminded him of Lily. "So I am. Go back to sleep. I'll tell you more next week." James stroked Harry's head and he was asleep again before James had taken four steps towards the door.

There was just one more thing he needed to do before going home. There was no point trying to reason with Remus and he knew from experience to give Sirius his space. So James took the unfamiliar path down to the dungeons.

He knocked twice and waited. He didn't answer the door immediately and in every second that elapsed James thought of all the reasons why he shouldn't be doing this. But before he could bottle it, the door opened a crack and Severus Snape's greasy face was staring suspiciously at him.

"Yes?" Snape said tightly.

"Good morning," James took a stab at conversation. Snape continued to eye him with hostility, and, unbeknownst to James, Snape was gripping his wand. "Look, I just wanted to say thank you."

Snape's expression was unreadable. Internally he was gaping. James Potter had sought him out to thank him.

"You saved my life and my son." James continued when Snape still hadn't said anything. "Right," James sighed. "Well anyway." He began to walk away, he could be home in twenty minutes and in bed in twenty one.

"Potter," Snape's voice rang out in the corridors.

James turned round.

"We're even. I'm no longer in your debt."

James gave a half smile. "A life for a life, seems fair to me. We have a clean slate."

"Let's not exaggerate matters."

James strode up to Snape who gripped his wand more firmly in his pocket. To Snape's astonishment he offered him his hand. Snape shook it.

"Our paths seem to keep crossing. It would be good to be civil."

"I do not wish to be your friend."

"And I don't want to be yours." James still remembered the fact that Snape had kissed his wife the previous year. "But we're too old to be enemies now. Goodbye Severus." James walked away before Snape could register his Christian name.

Ron came bursting into the hospital wing at eleven am. The noise woke Harry and Hermione with a start.

"WEASLEY!" Madam Pomfrey called angrily. "You cannot barge in to a medical ward!"

"Sorry," Ron said hastily and hurried over to Harry and Hermione. "What on earth happened? Why are you two in here?"

"We're fine." Harry said quickly and he explained everything that had happened after Ron had left.

"He escaped?" Ron asked in disbelief.

Harry and Hermione nodded glumly. "But everyone thinks he's going straight for Voldemort-" Ron flinched-"so he won't come back to the school."

"We can get rid of those ghastly Dementors at least," Hermione added.

"So they performed the kiss on Sirius's girlfriend?"

Again Harry and Hermione nodded.

"Did you see her?" Ron asked quietly.

"Only a glimpse," replied Harry. "We just heard him shouting at everyone and refusing to believe it was true."

"Where is she now?" Ron looked round as though she'd be on display.

"Madam Pomfrey moved her to St Mungo's for more permanent care." Hermione said sadly. "Poor Sirius."

"What happened to you, anyway?" Harry looked at Ron who rolled his eyes.

"I went to find Snape and as we were coming down to the Entrance Hall we ran straight into McGonagall, she lectured me all the way up to Gryffindor tower and to prevent me leaving again she told Percy to watch our dormitory." Ron scoffed. "Obviously Seamus, Dean and Neville noticed something was going on, so I told them. Actually, you might want to go back to the tower soon, Neville thinks you're both dead." Ron rolled his eyes again. "Stupid prat. I told him you'd be fine."

"Oh Ron!" Hermione exclaimed irritably. "You've just told all of Gryffindor what happened!"

"I haven't!" Ron said indignantly.

"Yes you have! You've told Seamus and Dean who'll tell Lavender and Parvati and they will tell everyone."

Ron's ears flushed red.

"Where's the Cloak?" Harry asked suddenly. He hadn't been paying attention to Ron and Hermione bickering, but playing over the night's events in his mind.

Ron and Hermione looked at each other guiltily.

"It'll be where Pettigrew attacked us," Hermione explained.

"We didn't have time to worry about it, mate, we just ran after you."

"Course," Harry nodded in agreement. He was eternally thankful that they came after him. It just meant that now he would have to go and get it.

"Do you think Lupin's alright?" Ron asked, "has anyone seen him this morning?"

Hermione and Harry shook their heads.

"My dad popped in before he left but Remus wasn't with him."

Hermione turned round to Harry. "Speaking of you dad, why didn't you ever mention that he was an Animagus?"

Ron gaped and Harry chuckled. "Because I didn't know. Don't worry, I'll ask him all about it once we're home."

Remus snuck out of the Shrieking Shack in the afternoon. He cast a disillusionment charm over himself so that his shame would not be public. He spotted James's old cloak on the lawn and threw that over himself too for good measure.

Without hesitating, Remus strode through the castle straight to Dumbledore's office.

"Come in," a tired voice said and Remus pushed the door open and lifted his charm. "Good afternoon," Dumbledore said earnestly. "I was hoping to see you, are you alright?"

"I'm fine." Remus replied curtly. "I've come to resign."

Dumbledore sighed sadly. "Please take a seat Remus."

Remus did so, but did everything to avoid making himself comfortable. He sat on the hardest chair and kept his back poker straight.

"You are not to blame," Dumbledore said gently. "Your affliction is not your fault."

"Last night-"

"Last night was a chain of the most unfortunate circumstances. They were outside any of our control." Dumbledore was maintaining a steady eye contact. It was important for Remus to understand. "I do not blame you, and neither do your friends."

Remus clamped his mouth shut and nodded. "I still wish to resign."

"It's a shame Remus, you are a wonderful teacher, and your students will be disappointed to see you go."

"They will be safer with me gone." He choked. "Thank you for everything Albus." Remus got to his feet. "Will you give this back to Harry for me please?" He handed him the silvery cloak and departed.

In a small way Dumbledore was thankful that Remus had resigned; it had saved Dumbledore the unpleasant job of firing him, which the governors and ministry were demanding, but he was very sorry to see him go and had meant every word he had said. Dumbledore got to his feet. There was no point dwelling over what he could not change.

On the last day of term, when the students were rounding up the last of their possessions, Dumbledore stopped by the Gryffindor third year boys' dormitory.

Seamus, Neville and Dean gaped at him. Dumbledore chuckled to himself.

"Good morning boys, I don't mean to impose myself upon you in your last hours together, at least for the present, but I would like a word with you, Harry."

Dean led the way out and the other three followed, Ron gave Harry a bemused look over his shoulder.

"Is everything alright professor?"

"Oh yes," Dumbledore nodded. "Nothing to worry about, I just wanted to give you this back."

Harry took the cloak from him with relief. "Thank you! I thought I'd lost it."

"Remus discovered it a week ago, I do apologise to the delay in its return to you, I was examining it, I hope you don't mind, it's the most marvellous thing."

"Er, no." Harry replied. "That's ok professor." He stowed it on top of his full trunk and closed the lid. "I wish he was going to be our teacher next year."

Dumbledore sighed and sat on Ron's vacated bed. "I wish he would return too. Yet again I am a staff member short." Dumbledore looked round the room fondly. "Not to worry Harry, I daresay I'll find the right person in due course."

"Sir?"

"Yes Harry?"

"The night Pettigrew escaped, professor Trelawney –" Harry told Dumbledore all about her prediction.

"That brings her total of real predictions up to two, I should offer her a pay rise." Dumbledore looked most intrigued. "Well Harry, Pettigrew is out of our hands now, what will be will be."

When Harry, Ron and Hermione descended on to platform 9 ¾ they saw their mothers huddled together.

"Well this can't be good," Ron surmised.

"We haven't done anything wrong this year," Harry pointed out.

"What about Hogsmeade, Harry?" Hermione hissed.

Harry gulped, "I'd forgotten about that." He took in his mother's face. "I don't think Remus told her, she'd look more tense."

"Well, we were breaking curfew when everything with Pettigrew happened." Hermione continued guiltily. Harry and Ron exchanged amused looks, Hermione hated to be in trouble at school, and it seemed that the pattern extended to her parents.

Molly Weasley was the first to notice the trio, she enveloped them all into a giant hug.

"Muum," Ron complained, extending it into two syllables. "You're embarrassing us, people are looking."

"I'm just so relieved you're alright. Lily's just told me what happened, you were all so brave."

"Erm, thanks." Ron patted her arm dumbstruck, he had not expected praise.

"I expect we'll see you two later in the summer, stay safe," she pointed a warning finger at them. "Come on Ron, let's find your sister and brothers."

"I'll see you soon," Ron waved to them. "The world cup."

"The world cup!" Harry repeated excitedly whilst Hermione shrugged unconcerned.

"See you soon." She repeated, giving them both brief hugs and kissing them on the cheek. Ron went decidedly red.

Lily said a fleeting goodbye to Hermione and wrapped Harry in an enormous hug.

"I feel like I haven't seen you for a year!"

"It's good to see you too." Harry replied. "How's everything? How are Remus and Sirius?"

Lily's expression told Harry that things weren't good. "I'll tell you at home." She placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Shall we go?" Harry asked when Lily still hadn't moved.

"I'm just waiting for Mary, she came with me and ran into an old friend, oh look, there she is." Lily waved.

Harry observed a pretty woman with curly brown hair approach them. "Sorry Lil, I hadn't seen Bertie since we left school." Mary smiled at the teenager beside her friend. "Hello Harry, don't you look like your dad?" She exchanged an amused grin with Lily. "I'm sorry, I bet you don't remember me, do you?"

"Sorry." Harry shook his head.

"I'm Mary, I went to school with your mum and dad." She offered Harry her hand and he shook it, shooting a bemused look at Lily.

"She's your godmother." Lily added, smiling and squeezing his shoulder.

"Right. Well, er, nice to meet you."

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