An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 14 - Madness, Sadness & Nonsense

Chapter Fourteen - Madness, Sadness and Nonsense

Snape paced the circular headmaster's office, Fawkes was cawing softly from his perch disturbing many of the previous Headmasters who were napping in their frames. Snape reached inside his black robes and pulled out a battered pocket watch, he'd been in this office alone for half an hour, he sighed bitterly and resumed his pacing.

Emerald flames burst into life in the fireplace. Snape swivelled on the spot as Dumbledore stepped out, he had changed his Wizengamot robes for a set of royal blue ones.

"Thank you for waiting Severus, it would not have been prudent to discuss this at the ministry," Dumbledore acknowledged him and took his usual seat behind his desk.

Snape didn't take the chair opposite the desk, he remained a few meters away, staring out the window onto the empty grounds.

"What are your thoughts?"

Snape's lips curled into a smile.

Dumbledore caught this in his reflection and sighed. "I do not wish to discuss petty childhood disputes, Severus."

"I noticed that you stopped Umbridge bringing it up in the trial." Snape said, his back still turned.

"Would you have rather told your story?" Dumbledore said coldly.

"I would have rather a more balanced picture of Black had been given."

Dumbledore sighed, it had been a long and trying day and his patience was not up to Severus's mood. "The situation was damning enough without your input. Now will you please give me your thoughts?"

Sensing Dumbledore's irritation, Snape turned and walked towards him. "I think there is reason to be suspicious."

Dumbledore nodded in satisfaction. "Narcissa does seem to have changed her mind very abruptly. I also found her testimony problematic, I don't think she could have given it of her own accord."

"So you think she has been placed under the Imperius curse?" Snape deduced.

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and looked to the ceiling. "Indeed. The question is, how do we prove it?"

Harry had not had a pleasant day at the Weasley's, he may as well have gone to Sirius's hearing as it was all he had thought about. He'd spent the day playing Quidditch with Fred, George and Ron, and he'd even managed to exchange two words with Ginny before she became too embarrassed and had to run away.

Ron and Hermione knew exactly what was wrong with him, but they'd privately agreed talking about it would do no good. It would be best for Harry if they could take his mind from it, they had just been unsuccessful.

At three O'clock, Harry was ready to tear his hair out from the lack of news. Had the trial run long? Or had Lily and James just completely forgotten about him? He could only imagine that the news would be bad if that was the case.

Harry found himself staring at the Weasley's magical family clock while he sat at the kitchen table. Mr Weasley and Percy were at work, Bill and Charlie's hands were set to travelling, and everyone else was home. It was better than staring at a normal clock, then he'd only be able to see the time. Watching the time pass without any news would only make him anxious and frustrated.

Mrs Weasley kept shooting him sympathetic glances, but she too had decided it was better not to say anything and to just be patient, and occasionally offer him food.

At quarter to five that evening, Harry was watching Ron and Hermione play a very one sided game of Wizarding chess.

"Come on, Hermione." Ron moaned. "You should be good at this! It's all about logic and strategy, isn't it?"

Hermione's face was set into an unhappy expression. "It's very confusing, I keep getting all this different advice! Muggle chess is better, the pieces don't badger you." As she said this her pawn was lying in front of Ron's Knight moaning about his untimely demise.

"That sounds really boring." Ron protested. "It's the added challenge of having to ignore them, they're only enchanted, they're not real."

"Who are you calling enchanted?" Ron's Queen piped up from her place at the back of the board, she sounded most offended. "If that's how you feel I shan't bother playing." And with that she stalked off the board on to the floor, the King gave Ron a regretful shrug and jumped after her.

"What? No come back!" Ron said, "the game's not over."

The queen whipped her head round to face him. "Ungrateful savage." Then hopped away from him, King in toe.

"No come back!" Ron moved after them. "Percy will kill me if I lose you! I didn't mean it! I promise!" But the Queen would not be persuaded. Eventually, Ron had to just pack them away and concede his forfeit to Hermione, who tried not to look too smug.

"Exploding Snap?" Harry suggested, not having had the patience for chess.

"You can play if you want," Hermione replied. "I want to go back to my book."

"You know it's not term time?" Ron asked her.

"It's not school work." Hermione retorted, she stood up from the floor and stalked from the room. She was only gone a moment when she hurried back in looking anxious. Harry and Ron didn't need to ask why, Lily followed in after her.

Harry jumped up from the floor, and looked at his mother. Her expression was annoyingly blank.

"Where's dad?"

"He's at home." Lily brushed a loose piece of hair behind her ear. She was prolonging this as long as possible.

"Lily, dear!" Mrs Weasley embraced her.

"Hello Molly," Lily patted her shoulder.

When Mrs Weasley released her, Lily noticed that everyone was looking at her expectantly. "The hearing went ok," she said flatly. "He's been sent to Azkaban for two months."

"It went ok?" Harry repeated incredulously. "He's been sent to Azkaban!"

"It could have been a lot worse," Lily sighed, she was so tired. "The maximum sentence for what he did was three years. He got off pretty well in the circumstances."

"Do you want a cup of tea?" Mrs Weasley asked.

It was the most welcome suggestion that Lily had heard all day. "That would be lovely, thank you." Mrs Weasley returned to the kitchen and Lily sat in the armchair.

No one else had moved, Ron was still watching dumbstruck from the floor and Harry and Hermione were hovering awkwardly. Harry was the first to wake up from the news, he sat on the sofa at the end nearest his mother, Hermione sat next to him.

"Was it horrible? Is that why dad's not here?"

"It wasn't nice." Lily replied. "You know what dad and Sirius are like, Harry, he's devastated by this."

"Did he say why he did it?" Harry pressed on.

"There were multiple accounts of the incident. It had something to do with Malfoy saying unpleasant things about Emilia. I don't know what."

"What was he even doing there?"

Lily frowned. "I still have no idea."

Mrs Weasley swept back in delivering Lily her drink, and Lily felt slightly better after the first sip.

"Did you ask Andromeda about what Draco said?"

Lily nodded. She put her tea down on the side table and turned to him. "Apparently, Narcissa told Sirius about the Chamber of Secrets, and he's been more sympathetic towards her ever since. But as far as Andromeda knows they hadn't seen each other since." Lily looked to the appalled faces. "It's actually quite a sad story, Andromeda told me that Narcissa had always really cared about him, which is why she couldn't understand Narcissa speaking against him now."

Andromeda had gone through everything Narcissa said with a fine tooth comb. "She would never call him Mr Black! And she would never be so slow on the uptake! Didn't you hear how long it took her to answer some of those questions?" Andromeda shook her head, and Lily was struck by how much she resembled her cousin. "I'm telling you, that wasn't Cissy."

"So is someone using the Polyjuice potion or is it the Imperius curse?" Ted asked drily.

"This isn't a laughing matter!" Andromeda batted him. "Cissy would never say those things!"

Lily thought about this as she spoke to her son.

"She's a Malfoy, mum," Harry told Lily, as though this completely explained her behaviour.

"Maybe," Lily said pensively. She was starting to think that Narcissa was a lot more complicated than she was given credit for. "Did you write to Remus?"

"Yeah and nothing, but it's only been a day. Have you told him about Sirius?"

"Dad's refusing to, he's a bit mad at him to be truthful, he's mad at both of them."

"Well this is just brilliant."

Lily reached and squeezed Harry's hand. There was no point trying to say anything comforting.

When Lily arrived home, all of the lights were out. "James?" She called, as she shut the front door. She waved her wand, lighting the corridor. She stood at the bottom of the stairs, the upper floor looked just as dark as the corridor had been, ahead of her the kitchen was pitch black. Frowning, she opened the door to her left and proceeded into the living room. It was dark in there too but she could make out James's form on the far end of the couch, he appeared to be drinking from a large bottle.

"James?" Lily tried again, approaching him.

"Where's Harry?"

"He's staying with the Weasleys until the World Cup's over," Lily sat down next to him, she reached for his hand and kissed it. "Can I turn the lights on?"

"I didn't realise it was dark."

Lily waved her wand and conjured some candles, they floated in mid air giving the room an amber glow. She looked to the half empty bottle of firewhisky in his left hand.

"Is he ok?" James asked, looking at the floor.

"Harry? He's fine." Lily watched him, he looked despairing. "What are you thinking about?" She asked softly.

James took a gulp of the amber liquid and put it down, he took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. "I let him down."

"You didn't!"

"I did." His voice was low and barely above a whisper. "I could have said more or done more. I let him down."

"You did all you could," Lily was still squeezing his hand but he wasn't returning the pressure. She reached round and stroked his face.

James still couldn't look at her. He'd failed his best friend. James couldn't get the image of Sirius being helplessly led out of the courtroom out of his head. Two months. Two days surrounded Dementors would be enough to drive the sanest man mad, would Sirius even be himself at the end of it?

James had only been allowed a minute with him after the sentencing.

"I'm sorry."

Sirius shook his head, a small smile on his mouth. "This was my fault."

"What happened?"

"Not now, there's no time." Sirius said firmly. "James would you do something for me?"

"Of course."

Sirius checked around him and lowered his voice. "Keep a close eye on Malfoy, something's up with Narcissa and I'm concerned."

"Sirius, are you for real?" James asked incredulously. "After everything that's happened today?"

"Especially after today." Sirius insisted. "Listen to me, something's not right with her. Something's wrong and it's my fault."

"I can't believe you! Of all the times to get sentimental!"

"James, I'm telling you something's wrong. I don't have time to explain now, just promise me you'll do it!"

"Help the woman who put you in the position?" James said tersely. "Have you gone mad?"

"James," Sirius said more insistently, his dark eyes bore into James's hazel ones. "Please."

"Fine." James was defeated.

"Thank you." Sirius could see the guards approaching him, his time was running out. "And tell Mary she can stay in the flat."

James mulled this over bitterly. He turned his head to Lily. "And do you know what the last thing he said to me was?" He broke into hiccough of laughter on the last word.

"What did he say?"

"To keep an eye on Lucius Malfoy, because he thought Narcissa was in trouble." James was properly laughing now, he was rather drunk and it was all too ridiculous.

"Andromeda said something similar. She doesn't think it was Narcissa talking."

"What is their sudden concern for her welfare? She's not concerned about them! She's never been concerned about them!" Even as James said it he knew that it wasn't strictly true. He remembered Sirius getting cornered by Narcissa at Hogwarts and told off for whatever rumour there was about his adventures that week. He would always slink away rolling his eyes and tell James that she worried too much. James once glanced back at her after one of their tenser hissed conversations in their third year, he had seen Narcissa standing still and looking fraught. It was about a particularly nasty letter Sirius had received from his mother. In that moment, although he had never spoken to her, James could see that she cared about Sirius a great deal.

"They're family, families are complicated." Lily shrugged. She lifted his arm and wrapped it round her, snuggling into his neck.

"I thought we were his family."

James's mood didn't improve at all over the following days. It was breaking Lily's heart to see him so downtrodden, she was glad Harry was staying away and wishing more than ever that Remus was around. She was writing to him all the time, sending Patronus after Patronus but nothing seemed to reach him. Harry had informed her that Hedwig had returned to him with his unopened letter to Remus. It was very clear that wherever Remus was he was determined to be alone and unreachable. Like James, Lily was starting to lose her patience with him, and his uncharacteristic selfishness.

"Your coffee's going to go cold." James noted over breakfast.

Lily saw that he looked less vacant today, she was dangerously hoping that his spirit was picking up. "So it is. I was miles away." Lily smiled at him and he returned a half smile.

"I think you're running late too," James glanced at the clock that showed it was five past eight.

"Damn!" Lily exclaimed, jumping to her feet. "That's what you get for daydreaming," she summoned her bag. "Thankfully it's Friday, have a good day love." She kissed the top of his head and disapparated.

"Thankfully it's Friday," James repeated dully. There wasn't much that he was thankful for at the moment, but Friday was at least one thing. Sirius's absence at work was painful, James felt like he'd lost a limb. To top it off, Sirius was the main topic of gossip in the office and in the Ministry itself.

He dragged himself to his cubicle and gazed over the mountain of notes that had accumulated there. He started sorting them into piles based on their relative urgency and importance, even though every single crime was utterly mundane.

"Morning," a bright voice popped up behind him.

"Good morning, Nymphadora." James didn't look round and his tone suggested the morning was anything but good.

"I've told you to stop that," She grumbled.

"Sorry," James said dully.

Unperturbed by his obvious lack of interest in talking to her, Tonks continued, even drawing up a chair beside him. "Are you going to the Quidditch final tonight?"

"No, I sold my ticket the other day."

"I wish I was going," Tonks acted as if she had never heard him. "I'm not even on duty there."

"You wouldn't see the match if you were on duty anyway,"

"But you'd be so close that it would almost as good." Tonks' voice was still determinedly bright. She was trying so hard but James seemed almost as depressed as her mother. Nothing she or Ted did was dragging Andromeda out of her misery, even though they kept reminding her that it wasn't the end of the world, that it was only two months. Andromeda was solely focussed on the horrible idea of Sirius being locked up with Bellatrix.

The name Bellatrix Lestrange was widely regarded with fear in the wizarding community. She was infamous, second only to Voldemort himself. Andromeda was unlucky enough to have first hand experience of her, they were bound in a way that made Andromeda feel sick to think about. Bellatrix had always been evil, she was deranged and dangerous, even Azkaban was too good for her. And now Sirius was there with her. Andromeda was filled with a horror that she couldn't articulate to her family, only Narcissa would understand. But Andromeda was coming to the sad conclusion that she didn't understand her younger sister at all either.

When Tonks had studied for her Auror exams she had read a lot about her Aunt. It wasn't until she was late in to her teen years that she discovered she was even related to Bellatrix Lestrange, the woman responsible for some of the worst crimes of the war. She had never forgotten the day when Sirius told her what Bellatrix had done to his friends. It was at that moment Tonks had decided to follow her cousin and become an Auror. Though it was not turning out to be as she had expected.

She regarded James Potter's face, it was consumed with sadness and defeat. She retreated to her own cubicle far away. She was an optimist by nature but she was currently surrounded by a sea of misery, as if the Dementors were all around them, and Tonks was determined to stay as hopeful as she could. After all, someone needed to be.

On her way home from work that night Tonks stopped for a drink. She wasn't in a hurry to go back to her mother.

She found a lively atmosphere when passing a small bar on Diagon Alley and went in to lose herself for a while. The wireless was booming in the corner and witches, wizards, Goblins and the like were all cheering and jeering as Ireland scored or Bulgaria got in a goal.

She forced her way through the packed crowd to the bar. Her bubblegum pink hair caught the barman's attention immediately. "A gillywater please." She said, dropping two sickles on the bar.

Ludo Bagman's voice announced that Ireland had scored again and the pub went nuts. She hadn't heard any of the match before she'd left the office.

"Do you know what the score is?" She asked the person sitting next to her. They didn't reply so Tonks asked again jumping on the possibility that they just hadn't heard her. Their hood was up and they were hunched over the bar, after Tonks had asked three times to no reply she began to wonder if they were awake. Hesitantly she tapped the hooded finger on the shoulder. "Are you alright?"

"Fine." A hoarse voice replied.

"O-K." She took the hint this time, she'd had enough of bothering miserable people for one day.

She and the hooded figure sat in silence listening to the wireless, Tonks deduced that Ireland was in the lead and she wished more than ever that she was there watching.

"Have you been to any of the matches?" She asked the sandy haired barman, who was also listening wistfully.

"Nah," he shook his head, "I couldn't get the time off."

"Me neither." Tonks sighed. "I'm really junior in my office and everyone higher got priority."

"Same 'ere." He nodded. "Where's the bloody owner? He's in those stands! It's muggins 'ere who's left to look after the place."

Tonks didn't know what to say, "well at least you've got a bit of business."

"That's all going in the bloody owner's pocket, I'll barely get a galleon of it."

Tonks really wished she'd never started this conversation. She drained her drink and got to her feet, however in the process of leaving she caught her robes on the foot of the stool and flew into the hooded mute she'd been sat next to.

"Sorry! Sorry!" She squeaked pushing herself up. "It was the stool - I - " she paused, the figure's hood had slipped backwards and she could see his face. "Remus?"

Remus was startled by his name, he looked up at her surprised face, he hadn't realised it was Sirius's cousin. "Hello," he said quietly.

"Where have you been?" She squeaked, half in excitement half in exasperation.

Remus frowned, why would she have noticed his absence? Unless she'd caught wind of James and Sirius moaning about it, even then, why did she sound so enthusiastic? He knew from Sirius that she said whatever popped into her head, but why would that be the first thing she'd say?

"I've just been taking a break," he replied guardedly.

"Why didn't you come back sooner?"

"What- I mean -why - why are you asking?" The were both looking equally exasperated with the other.

"Well Sirius!"

"What about him? Is he annoyed?"

"Well yeah!" Tonks said obviously. "So are James and Lily."

"I thought they'd understand."

"Understand why you abandoned everyone?"

"Abandoned everyone?" Remus replied incredulously. "It had nothing to do with them. I wanted a break to be on my own, I have a right to that!"

"But what about Sirius?" Tonks's hair changed colour in exasperation.

"What about him?" Remus repeated irritated.

Tonks was about to retort and then stopped. She studied his irritated, lining face, there was no concern or guilt or anything there. The Remus she'd heard of, and briefly met, wouldn't act so blasé about his best friend going to prison. "Have you read any papers recently?"

"No." Remus sighed. "What does that have to do with anything?"

Tonks bit her lip. "There's something you should know, I'm afraid it's not good news."

Remus's eyes widened and he stayed patiently silent while Tonks told him everything that happened. "Azkaban?" Remus choked just as the room erupted into cheers as Ireland won the Quidditch.

"Yes." Tonks said patiently.

Remus ran a hand through his greying hair. "I've been ignoring their messages, I didn't want to hear from them while I was -"

"What were you doing?" Tonks asked, and then blushed, she realised afterwards that they were not close friends and it was inappropriate.

Remus frowned, he was not offended by Tonks' question, he was overwhelmed with shame at his own selfishness. "I was living among" he lowered his voice, "my kind. After what happened at Hogwarts I didn't feel fit to live in the Wizarding world." Remus was nearly knocked off his stool for the second time as some spiky pink hair was roughly squashed into his face, Tonks was hugging him.

"They'll be so glad you're back." She withdrew unabashed.

"I'm not so sure about that." Remus sighed, looking into his empty glass. Although he was nervous, he would not be a coward this time, he would go and face his friends.

"They'll understand." Tonks said confidently.

Remus looked at her shrewdly.

"Well they will eventually." Tonks amended, squeezing his shoulder.

At two am a silver Lynx with a low voice appeared in James and Lily's bedroom, as well as ten other houses, the message was short, "Death Eaters at the World Cup, come quickly we need all hands."

James and Lily sat bolt upright. It didn't take them long to come to their senses and begin gathering clothes.

"What are you doing?" James asked, halfway into his jeans.

"You don't honestly think I'm staying here?" Lily replied without looking round. She shoved a jumper over her head. "Are you ready?"

"Lily, you can't come." James said shoving his shoes on.


"Because -" James started and stopped, he didn't have the time to argue. "Fine, come on." He jogged over to her side of the room, grabbed Lily's hand and they both disapparated into the fray.

"Merlin." Lily breathed. They were surrounded by screams and fires and jostled by people running frantically in the dark. "James-"

"Come on," James held on tightly to her hand as they ran in the opposite direction to the panicking crowd, weaving in and out of brightly coloured tents. Lily kept stopping to aid those who had fallen so they weren't trampled to death by the crowd.

A scream caught Lily's attention and she stopped, jolting James backwards.

"Lily come on -"

"I just heard something," Lily withdrew her wand and turned left to where she heard the noise.

A young child was behind a partially ignited tent, she was wailing as she tried to stir an inanimate woman on the floor.

"Aguamenti!" Lily pointed her wand at the flames and dashed to the girl and her mother. "It's alright sweetheart." Lily patted the little girl's arm. "She's alive," Lily shouted back to James who was stood a metre away. "She's been stunned or something, you go and I'll stay here to help."

"I can't leave you!"

"Yes you can." Lily turned back to the woman whilst trying to comfort the sobbing child. "James go. Harry's out there somewhere too." She caught his eye. "I'll be fine, please go." She was almost pleading and reluctantly James nodded.

Glancing over his shoulder, he raced towards the fracas.

"What's your name?" Lily said kindly to the young girl, she couldn't have been more than seven. Her face was blackened by the soot and grimy tear tracks were making their way down it.

"Lucy," she sniffed.

"That's a very nice name, Lucy, is the is your mum?"

Her little white head nodded.

"Can you tell me what happened to her?"

"We were running and she just fell down. There were all these masks and we were scared and now she won't get up." Lucy's lips wobbled as she spoke. "Mummy!" She shook the woman again to no avail.

"Ok sweetheart." Lily said consolingly. "Ennervate!" Lily pointed her wand at the woman and her eyes popped open. "You're ok." Lily sighed in relief as Lucy launched herself into her mother's arms. Lily extracted the young girl and helped her mother to her feet. "Come on, you'll be safer in the shelter of the trees."

"Thank you." The woman said earnestly, and taking her daughter's hand dashed off.

Lily dawdled for a moment, unsure whether to follow in the direction James had run in or try to help those huddled and scared in the forest. Her decision making took only moments, the Dark Mark appeared in the sky and with a sickening feeling of dread Lily tore off towards the forest and what waited there.

The further from the forest James ran, the more carnage he saw and the warmer the atmosphere became from the copious fires. He started coughing from the smoke and his eyes began to water. There were ministry workers and helpers everywhere, but the flames were spreading faster than they could put them out.

James turned on the spot, there were no longer people running in the opposite direction, but he still couldn't see any Death Eaters, and the smoke was too thick for him to recognise any of his fellows. He cast the water charm along with everyone else and very gradually the air began to clear.

"Amos!" James called. "Amos!" He jogged over to the bearded man. "What on earth happened?"

"Death Eaters," Diggory huffed. "About twenty or more of them, they had a right little reunion." Diggory gestured towards the damage all around them.

"Where are they now?"

"Scattered. Didn't get a single one of them."

"What?" James said incredulously. "Slippery bastards, I could take a good guess who it was."

"We all could." Diggory agreed. "Barty Crouch is livid."

"I can imagine." James ground his teeth. "Was anyone killed?"

"Don't think so, but we won't know until everything's cleared up." Diggory gestured to the chaos that surrounded them. "The worst damage was to the - Merlin's Beard!"

Amos Diggory never finished his sentence, he looked in shock over James's shoulder and disapparated into the heart of the forest over which the Dark Mark lingered.

James looked behind him just as Diggory vanished with a pop. A second later he followed, cursing himself for allowing Lily to go off on her own without him.

When James appeared in the woods he was immediately dazed by the running and screams. "LILY!" He called fruitlessly, barely able to hear his own voice. Wand drawn, he looked up and ran faster towards the spot the Mark was below, praying that it wasn't one of his family that lay under it.

He arrived at the strange scene just as Barty Crouch sacked his elf.

"Dad." Harry caught James's eye, just before he, Ron and Hermione were marched away by Mr Weasley.

James weaved through to them, clasping one hand on Harry's shoulder as they walked he turned to Mr Weasley. "Arthur, what on earth happened?"

"Crouch's elf was caught with Harry's wand," Mr Weasley muttered back, "and the last spell it performed was the -well you know."

"An elf did that?" James asked in disbelief. "Only Death Eaters know that spell."

"Winky didn't do it!" Hermione was still furious about how the elf was treated and her voice made her feelings plain.

"Hermione don't stop walking," Mr Weasley nudged her.

"Did you get called in?" Harry looked over his shoulder at his father, his expression looked miles away. "Dad?"

"Sorry," James blinked back into the present. "Yes, I think everyone in my department was notified, I need to find Kingsley actually, I just want to find mum first. She stopped to help someone who'd been hit." James looked to Harry. "You're alright?"

"I'm fine." Harry said firmly. "Go and find mum."

"Arthur-" James began but Mr Weasley waved him down.

"Go, we'll pack up early for home tomorrow. We'll see you then."

"Thank you." James said earnestly. He squeezed Harry's shoulder and darted off.

Harry and the others carried on walking towards the mouth of the forest. "All of this is going on and Sirius is in Azkaban. It's madness."

Even Mr Weasley couldn't disagree with Harry. Something was very wrong.

Lily was sitting up against a tree, holding her head in her hands. She could feel the warm blood as it dripped down her face but she couldn't heal herself without being able to look at the wound, and there was no one around to help her.

The forest had been complete mayhem when she arrived, people screaming and running, bumping into people, trampling over those that had fallen, all to get out of the way of an image in the sky. Lily could understand the terror it filled them with, she shared it, but instead of running away, she began helping those that had fallen, or that were injured and scared. That was how she found Narcissa Malfoy.

Lily's wand lit the dark shape on the floor and she ran towards it. The closer Lily approached, the more wary she became, the dark, unmarked, robes were not what someone would wear to such an occasion as the World Cup and especially not at night. Lily held her wand tighter, she had a feeling she may have just caught a Death Eater.

When she was less than a ruler length away, Lily cautiously prodded the body with her foot, but it didn't move. Slowly, and mentally preparing herself to stun the figure at the first sign of danger, she lowered the hood to find long, gleaming blonde hair. Lily rolled the figure over. Narcissa Malfoy's perfectly conscious face looked blankly at Lily. She didn't move or say anything, the only sign of life to the observer was the occasional blinking of her eyes.

Lily kept her wand pointed directly at Narcissa, but she had no intention of casting a spell, it was obvious Narcissa wasn't a threat. But she was acting peculiarly. Lily had never actually met Narcissa before, she knew who she was from school and the community, she had seen her from a distance, but they had never met face to face until now. Lily pictured the haughty expression she had always seen Narcissa Malfoy wearing, the woman lying on the grass in front of her couldn't have looked more different.

"Are you alright?" Lily asked tentatively.

Narcissa didn't reply, or make any acknowledgement that she had even heard Lily's question. The blonde woman lay stock still. Lily considered that it could be rudeness or fear that stopped Narcissa answering, but neither explanation felt right. There was something eerie about the way Narcissa just lay there. She looked as though she had just fell pray to a Dementor, but they couldn't be in the forest, Lily certainly would have felt it. Lily considered the enchantments that would do this to a person, she tried the counter-curse for stunning, body-bind and the few others she could immediately think of but nothing worked. She remained sure that something magical was affecting Narcissa, but her mind began to wander down darker alleys to darker magic.

She was just about to try and lift Narcissa to her feet when she heard hurried footsteps behind her. Lily whipped her head round but it was too dark and the foliage too thick to see anyone. Lily felt chills running down her spine, and gripped her wand tighter. "Protego!" She muttered to make herself feel less vulnerable to the invisible threat. Lily knew that the best thing to do would be to leave the forest but she felt odd about leaving Narcissa lying there defenceless under whatever spell was on her. Lily's good nature overrode her fear and she turned back to Narcissa, ready to drag her out of danger, but to Lily's astonishment Narcissa was standing bolt upright behind her. Her arms were dangling uselessly at her sides, and her gaze was still oddly blank.

Lily tried speaking again, her hackles were rising and the bizarre situation. Something felt wrong. "Narcissa, we should get out of the woods, it's not safe."

Narcissa made no sign that she had heard Lily say a word, and before Lily could do anything else, a loud crack echoed through the woods and a dark hooded figure materialised next to Narcissa. Lily didn't have a chance to raise her wand, she heard a single word in a series of low mutterings, "mudblood!", and she was thrown backwards into the air, hitting her head on a nearby tree and was knocked unconscious.

When Lily awoke she was quite alone. Her bleeding head was pounding and she wasn't able to stand up without feeling horribly sick and seeing stars in front of her eyes. She sent a Patronus directed at James and shot sparks into the sky before falling unconscious again.

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