An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 7 - Suspicions

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Chapter Seven –Suspicions

As the autumn term went on, Lily and James adjusted to life without Harry at home. They found they had a lot of free time, and although they greatly enjoyed the time they spent together, putting lazy weekends in to good use, they needed more to do. So Lily picked up more shifts at the hospital and James took more active assignments, leading him to a space on the St. Mungo's curse reversal ward.

James was sure that his new supervisor was over reacting, it was laughable to think of peg-legged, one-eyed Moody sending him to the hospital over something as minor as a cursed finger. Although he wasn't in pain per se, James was uncomfortable, his finger had been vibrating for hours, and although the staff had assured him that he was in no immediate danger of death, if he was forced to be in this place he may as well get seen to.

Lily was just grabbing a bite to eat when another healer informed her that James had just been admitted. Lily had gone pale before someone could tell her that it wasn't very serious, but she'd already dropped her lunch everywhere.

"I didn't mean to startle you," Francine apologised.

"No, it's alright." Lily said clearing up her lunch with a wave of her wand. "Which floor did you say he's on?"

James was very bored. Dawlish, the Auror he had been working with, had dropped him off and left. If he'd have been working with Sirius, he would have at least stayed to keep him company. Dawlish was too 'by the book', he had no imagination. Moody always called him a ministry puppet and was surprised he could catch his own snot, never mind a dark wizard. Upon reflection James noted that work was much less interesting without Moody running the floor.

"What have you done?" A familiar voice asked. James looked up and smiled.

"Cursed finger. The bloody idiot had bad aim. Can you fix it?"

Lily took a look, she passed her wand over it muttering various incantations and finally with a wave of her wand the vibrating ceased.

"Thanks." James said flexing his hand. "That's much better."

"Did you at least catch the person?"

"Oh yeah." James shrugged. "They weren't exactly evil geniuses. It was the people behind the yo-yo thing."

Lily shuddered. It might not have been mass murder but there had been deaths. It'd gone far beyond a nasty prank. "Will that get convicted?"

"I certainly hope so." James nodded. "But they're rich pure blood offspring, fresh out of Hogwarts, and their parents will put up the money for decent representation, not to mention bribery."

Lily couldn't believe that this type of underhand behaviour still went on.

"It's an old boys club, Lil, you know how it works. If they know enough of the right people…"

"I can't believe that Madam Bones, of all people, stands for it!"

"Amelia has certainly improved matters." James agreed. "But one woman can't fight the whole infection. Fudge is the main problem."

Lily sat down on the edge of his bed. "I didn't think Fudge was dirty."

"He's not." James agreed. "He's just ignorant and useless. It passes by under his nose. Scrimgeour would make a much stronger minister."

"You like your new boss then?"

James shrugged. "I definitely respect him. Like might be pushing it."

"Are you going back to the office?"

He shook his head. "No, I've been dismissed for the day inline with some new ridiculous protocol about injuries."

"Great!" Lily said smiling. "My shift finishes soon, why don't we go out for dinner?"

Remus was having a bad week. The only movement he was making in his Werewolf Rights campaign was backwards. The Goblian Liason office were sympathetic, but their cause wasn't as personal. Remus needed a powerful advocate, someone who could make Fudge see sense. Sirius had had no practical advice to offer, but he did offer to kill Umbridge and make it look like an accident. The person he really needed was Dumbledore, but something was preventing Remus from asking him. Was it pride? He didn't think so, that had been shattered years ago by his difficulty finding jobs due to his condition. It had only been with Dumbledore vouching for him that he became employed here. He didn't feel he could ask Dumbledore for anymore help, but he had very few other options left to him. To top matters off, the full moon was approaching that weekend.

Remus was heavy hearted when he joined Sirius for a drink after work.

"Do you ever get sick of going home to an empty flat?" Remus spluttered after his fourth firewhisky.

Sirius looked at him, eyes narrowed. "Remus, are you asking me to move in with you?"

"No." He hiccoughed. "I'm just so envious of Lily and James. When they're having a bad day they go home to each other."

"Yeah well," Sirius said, Remus was making him feel uncomfortable. "They're the lucky ones, aren't they?" Sirius regarded his friend who looked close to tears. He always thought Remus deserved a family, and that his circumstances were perhaps the most unfair thing that he'd ever heard. Sirius on the other hand had acted despicably towards women on occasion. He'd never contacted the Welcome Witch after Moody's party and now spent time dodging her at work. He managed not to starve from loneliness with a string of sordid affairs or in some cases temporary relationships. He thought he'd learned his lesson not to 'shit where you eat' as James had delicately put it, but he was once again hiding behind pot plants in the foyer. It was like being back in his mid twenties. He understood what Remus meant. James certainly was lucky. Since James had married so young he'd never sown any oats, so to speak, and he had envied Sirius's freedom and fun, but Sirius couldn't work out when James had suddenly got the better end of the deal.

Sirius decided it was time to take Remus home, before he started sobbing at the bar. They passed a vaguely familiar face as they went out the door, but Sirius couldn't quite place her. It'd come to him . . . or it wouldn't. Did it matter?

"You're late." James said, as Sirius walked into the office, sliding in to his cubicle.

"Had to take the long way," he looked at James significantly, who laughed. "Has Scrimmy noticed?"

"Nah you're safe. But this is bloody ridiculous. When are you planning to face the foyer again?"

"When she gets a new position, or when one of us gets a new job."

"It's actually worse than the incident in Quidditch office."

"It's not." Sirius said darkly. "I was bloody lucky not to lose my job over that one. Don't you remember? I had to have the meeting about professional conduct in the workplace. She didn't though, which is a complete double standard. Anyway, Moody had to vouch for me in the end."

"Isn't that ironic?"

"Don't." Sirius shook his head. "Just don't. Why did you let me go with her?"

"Since when do you listen to me, I told you it was a bad idea!"

"I don't remember that."

"Because you were-"

"Do you know that you two fight like an old married couple?" Kingsley Shaklebolt said from three cubicles down, shaking his head in amusement.

"Sorry." James and Sirius chanted back, while Kingsley continued to chuckle.

"In other news." James said leaning back on his chair and swatting away the insistent memos, marked URGENT! that kept hitting him in the face. "Lily's trying to set Remus up with a colleague of hers at St. Mungos."

"Why does she never offer to set me up?"

"Because you're a health hazard."

Sirius didn't even bother arguing. He leafed through his desk, looking for the easiest task to start the day with, passing over grates emitting shrinking solutions to bemused passers by, and a cursed door handle in Norfolk that kept turning whoever touched it into a jelly mould of themselves, until he got to a muggle hospital whose doctors had been imperiused into giving their patients lethal doses of medication. "Bloody hell. The world's going mad."

"You got a full day too?"

"Yeah," Sirius sighed. "It's not that this stuff isn't nasty, but it's not exactly life changing is it? It's a dark wizard version of petty crime."

"What would you prefer?" James asked, just as Lucius Malfoy strode across the office deep in talks with Fudge.

"To catch the real bastards." Sirius was glaring at the blond man.

James nodded in agreement. "His son's at Hogwarts now. He's in Harry's year. Nasty little brat apparently."

"I'm shocked." Sirius said, deadpan. He sent a memo flying upstairs to the Obliviator squad to get the ball rolling on the hospital case. "Have you heard much from Harry?"

"Only bits." James replied. "He's excited for the first Quidditch game. But other than that he's too busy to write. Or, he's having too much fun I should say." He looked at Sirius smiling sadly.

"That's the best outcome mate."

"I know." James agreed while he sent a few memos of his own. "Snape's still being a bastard though."

"Well that was always going to happen. Harry's not too bothered is he?"

"He really hates him but I don't get the impression he's crying over it."

"Good." Sirius nodded. "Wouldn't you love to know how he convinced Dumbledore he changed sides?" He added thoughtfully. "I don't know what he could have possibly told him."

James shrugged. "Lily keeps telling me that we chose to trust Dumbledore too long ago to back out now."

"But you want to know?"

"It's actually killing me." James smiled as Sirius laughed, and with grumbles they got up and got on with their work.

Dear Mum and Dad,

How have you been? Did you have a nice Halloween?

Nothing too eventful going on here. The work is getting steadily more difficult, and we're getting more homework. I'm really excited about the first Quidditch match, but I'm also so nervous I feel permanently sick. We're playing Slytherin so the pressure is really on to win. Wood's quite confident, but Fred and George have warned me the real incentive to catch the snitch is how hard Wood will work us afterwards if we lose. I think the word they used was 'fanatic' but they're often joking …

I told you about the incident with Draco Malfoy? (Neville and the rembrall, how I made the Quidditch team etc.) Well, he wanted to duel. It was going to be me and Ron against him and Crabbe. He wanted to meet in an abandoned classroom on the third floor, but he never even showed up! It was all a ploy so that we'd get detention, the scheming little git! We didn't though, thanks to the cloak we got out of there before Filch showed up with that nasty little cat -

"He tried to duel the Malfoy kid?" Lily read in absolute outrage.

James, who understood these matters, tried to reason with her. "It's just what boys do."

"He could have been killed if they'd duelled!"

"Killed?" James scoffed. "Lil, they're first years, I'd be surprised if they could even properly aim a minor charm at each other. It's when he's doing OWL level magic there will be real damage in duelling."

"Why will he be duelling at OWL level?" Lily said, shrilly.

James realised he'd said the complete wrong thing. "He won't dear, my mouth ran away for a moment, let's read the rest of the letter." He gave Lily a sideways glance and she still looked furious.

… I know what you're going to say mum, but come on, how could I say no? Gryffindors aren't cowards. And like I said, we didn't even get detention. Malfoy just looked like a right prat. Anyway that happened in the first week, so no damage done and we can all see the funny side now.

Nothing much else has happened. Snape is still being evil. And oh yeah … I don't know if Dumbledore told you or not but Ron and I fought off a mountain troll that made it's way into the castle –

"WHAT!" Lily and James exclaimed together this time, looking at each other in horror and going back to the letter.

- it was going to the toilets where Hermione was and she didn't know (it was the night of Halloween and she hadn't gone to the feast). So if we hadn't have gone after her … well I'm just glad we went after her. Ron knocked it out with it's own club. It was excellent. The teachers had mixed reactions though. But all in all we ended up with house points (only five each though). McGonagall did lecture us for about half an hour about how dangerous, reckless and stupid it was though. She's very strict isn't she? But if any good has come of it, is that now Hermione (the bossy one I told you about) has become our friend and she's not so bossy anymore, and she takes good notes in class that she sometimes lets us copy.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing you at Christmas. (Please don't come to the match dad, I'm nervous enough as it is.)

Love,

Harry

"I'm speechless." Lily flopped back on the couch. "He fought a mountain troll." She said it slowly, but it was still horrifying. And then a new thought struck her. "James, how on earth did a mountain troll even get in the castle?"

"I don't know." James said darkly. That wasn't true, he knew that the only was that a troll could have found the castle was if someone led them there. It couldn't be a coincidence that this happened the same year his son was there, or was he being paranoid? "I'll have a fish around at work."

Lily nodded in appreciation. "I don't even know how to respond to that letter."

"I'm sure the appropriate response will come to you. It should probably include something about staying away from trolls."

James and Lily both laughed for a good while, until their sides felt like they were being ripped apart. "He fought off a troll and won." They eventually sobered up.

"You don't think that when we said 'be careful' he heard 'throw caution to the wind' do you?" Lily asked her husband.

"It's an easy mistake to make."

Dear Harry,

Well we're utterly speechless. Obviously we're glad that you saved your new friend Hermione, but COME ON! You fought a MOUNTAIN TROLL! WHAT ON EARTH WERE YOU BLOODY THINKING?

And while we're on that subject, DO NOT DUEL WITH ANYONE AND DO NOT SNEAK AROUND THE CASTLE AT NIGHT IN THAT CLOAK! It's very dangerous. And even if it happened weeks ago, there is not a funny side. I'm glad McGonagall is there to knock some sense into you. Anymore escapades like this and I'm writing to Dumbledore.

I'm glad school is going well. Would you like me to talk to Professor Snape?

Good luck with Quidditch, I've made dad promise not to turn up unexpectedly but he insists you let him come to watch once this year.

Home is quiet. Nothing out of the ordinary. We miss you!

Looking forward to Christmas,

All my love,

Mum.

P.S. Harry James Potter if you don't take my warning seriously there will be consequences. Be careful! Stop being so bloody reckless.

Harry,

Mum's not that pleased, she's going to send you a very long letter and you're going to get told off. She has a point, but you know, I get this duelling business. (Don't tell her I said that).

Good luck with Quidditch, you'll be fine. We practised all summer. I want a blow-by-blow account of the match when it's over.

Love,

Dad

P.S just try to come home for Christmas in one piece won't you?

James sent that via work owl and hoped it would reach Harry before Lily's letter. The office was quiet. Sirius was out in action, which made the room seem much less busy. James looked over to the end of the row of mahogany cubicles to where Kingsley had his nose to the grind.

"Alright James?"

"Yeah thanks, yourself?"

"Can't complain." Kingsley replied lowering his eyes back to his desk. "Do you want something? You've hovering."

"Er," James smiled. "I was just wondering if you'd heard about the mountain troll that got inside Hogwarts?"

Kingsley frowned. "That's worrying."

"I agree." James waited a moment before pressing on. "Odd things keep happening don't they? Gringotts, this, it's quite . . . unusual."

"You think they're connected?" Kingsley asked shrewdly.

"I think that Hogwarts and Gringotts are two of the most secure buildings in Britain. And someone managed to breach both in a matter of months."

Kingsley nodded. "That doesn't seem coincidental." He patted his bald head and wrote down a note, he waved his wand and sent it zooming down the corridor. "Leave it with me."

"Thanks." James patted his back and went to his own desk.

Sirius returned after lunchtime looking thoroughly dishevelled. "I had to chase to scumbag down two streets! It was like being a muggle." James didn't respond. "What's up with you?"

James told Sirius everything up to his conversation with Kingsley. To his surprise, Sirius looked somewhat uncomfortable.

"Look mate," he said awkwardly. "A while back, before Harry had even left, Kingsley told me a rumour about the Gringotts break in. But you have to understand, it was just a rumour and not a very substantial one at that."

"Well who was it?" James asked, bewildered.

"Voldemort."

"WHAT?" James yelled suddenly, making Sirius jump.

"Bloody hell, Prongs, people are looking."

"There was a rumour about him and you didn't tell me? How could you not tell me? Honestly Sirius, after everything that's happened, what were you thinking?" James was white with rage.

"That's why I didn't tell you." Sirius said quickly. "It was so insubstantial and you were already so nervous about Hogwarts. I thought that it'd worry you for no reason."

"No reason? Didn't you just hear about the troll?"

"You can't think that he was behind that? Why would he send a mountain troll into Hogwarts?" Sirius was trying to make James think rationally and failing.

James couldn't speak to Sirius for the rest of the day. He was too furious and all his effort was being put in to not cursing him.

Dumbledore,

Voldemort was rumoured to be behind the Gringotts break in, but I presume you know that, and a troll just got into your school and nearly killed my son.

Things are afoot, Albus, I can feel it. These things aren't unconnected. You need to be on your guard. We left him in your care.

Please warn us at any sign of imminent danger.

James Potter

Dear James,

I apologise for not writing to you about the troll. But I'd like to point out Harry went looking for Miss Granger and not the troll. It was an unhappy accident.

I am vigilant as ever and the care of my students is, as always, my prime concern.

I will warn you should there be concerns as to their safety.

Try not to worry, I am on my most vigilant guard,

Best to yourself and Lily,

Albus Dumbledore

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