An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 9 - Firings and Findings

Chapter Nine - Firings and Findings

"Of course!" Hermione exclaimed. "God, why didn't I remember that? I read it on a chocolate frog card ages ago!"

"Now she tells us!" Ron shook his head.

Harry grinned. "Well now the only mystery is why on earth Snape wants the Philosopher's Stone."

"Well that's not a mystery." Ron said, while the other two looked at him in surprise. "Oh come on, it's obvious isn't it? This stone turns any metal into gold! Who wouldn't want that? You could have everything you ever wanted!"

"Oh Ron," Hermione sighed, rolling her eyes. "It's not going to be that obvious. Snape wouldn't betray Dumbledore for riches!"

"How do you know?" Ron retorted.

"Whatever Snape wants it for," Harry cut in before Hermione could reply. "We have to make sure he doesn't get it."

"Are you absolutely sure you can't tell your dad, Harry?" This was the third time Hermione had brought this up since they had heard the name Flamel.

"Absolutely not." Harry said flatly. "He'll come down to school himself, and either pull me out or confront Snape. It would all be a disaster."

"What about your godfather?" Ron asked. "He's the one who told you who Flamel was."

"Sirius would tell my dad, and then he'd come up and drag me out or confront Snape." Harry sighed. "Except it'd be doubly as bad because Sirius would come too."

Harry, Ron and Hermione looked into the fire in Gryffindor tower. It was just the three of them in the common room, everyone else had gone to bed.

"We're going to have to watch him ourselves." Harry decided. "We can use the cloak when we need to. And we can't tell anyone what we're up to, agreed?"

The other two nodded solemnly.

Severus Snape was pacing up and down in Dumbledore's circular office. At last Dumbledore joined him.

"I apologise for my lateness, Severus." Dumbledore removed his travelling coat and slumped in the chair behind the desk. "I was waylaid by the Minister."

"What's wrong with Fudge now?" Snape asked, sitting opposite Dumbledore, who conjured them two drinks out of thin air.

"He wanted advice on Remus Lupin's werewolf rights campaign. The people surrounding him are lobbying against it. Dolores Umbridge in particular is vehemently against it and she seems to have considerable powers of influence over the minister."

Snape's mouth twitched, suppressing a smile. Dumbledore did not miss this.

"Ahh Severus." Dumbledore shook his head sadly. "Old school quarrels aside, it is very important for the future of our world that Lupin's campaign is successful. We do not need the werewolves running to Voldemort's side when he returns."

Snape shuddered at the name. "You remain convinced as ever of his return?"

Dumbledore nodded but didn't elaborate. "And when the time comes we all have our roles to play. Childish rivalries will have to be put aside." Dumbledore surveyed Snape over his half moon spectacles. "Lily Potter wrote to me over Christmas regarding your treatment of Harry."

"If Potter disrupts my lessons I have the right to discipline my own students." Snape replied stiffly.

"Would you like to write back to Lily and tell her that?"

Snape declined. "You know perfectly well I do not wish to talk to Lily Evans about Potter's son."

Dumbledore sighed. "Harry cannot help that you and his father were not friendly at school. He's more like his mother than you care to see."

"Why have you asked to see me tonight?" Snape asked abruptly.

Dumbledore acknowledged that Snape did not wish to discuss the Potters and decided not to force the issue.

"I wish to discuss Quirrell." Dumbledore said. "You remain suspicious that it was he who let the troll in on Halloween?"

"Certain." Snape corrected him.

"If you did not witness it, it remains a theory, even if it is an informed one."

"What do you wish to do?"

"Continue to watch him closely." Dumbledore told him. "Innocent until proven otherwise."

Snape nodded and stood up to leave. "Dumbledore, it would be wise to watch Potter more closely. He is overly curious and senses that something is afoot. He may enter into trouble."

"Thank you Severus." Dumbledore said graciously. "And I'll reassure Lily that you're being nothing but professional towards her son."

Snape gave a curt nod and left.

"Lupin." Fudge greeted Remus one morning in February. Remus had been so engrossed in some papers that when he heard his name he spilled an entire pot of ink all over his desk.

"Minister!" Remus said in surprise. He cleared away the ink with a wave of his wand.

"I've been considering your proposal from various angles. I've spoken to many of my advisers and I've come to the unfortunate conclusion that the legislation in favour of werewolf regulations must go through. I'm very sorry, but you'll no longer be required here." The portly man looked at Remus without a trace of remorse. "If you go to the third floor they will arrange your severance package." Fudge turned and left before Remus could say anything.

It's not like he hadn't been expecting this, Remus reasoned. Dumbledore had done his best, but while Fudge was surrounded by people with such venomous prejudices there was nothing even Dumbledore could do. Remus couldn't pretend he wasn't upset. He cleared his desk and made his way downstairs, some of his colleagues shook his hand and commiserated him, others looked at the ground as they hid behind their papers. Things had been going so well in his life recently, it was always only a matter of time before reality came crashing in. Ronnie would tell him off for that thought, she didn't approve of his pessimism. The one silver lining to this was that Remus finally had someone to console him.

Before proceeding to his exile, Remus stopped by the Auror office. Both James and Sirius were grounded at the office for the impending future, something about breach of protocol on an assignment. Scrimgeour was a stickler for sticking to protocol, he was trying to re-establish order in the office after Moody's erratic reign as head. As unconventional as Moody was he was also incredibly successful, something that people seemed to forget after the war had been wrapped up. Moody was also canny enough not to let Sirius and James work together if he could avoid it. Scrimgeour recently had this serious lapse in judgement, resulting in 50 muggles who needed their memories modified and a serious clean up operation in Nottingham city centre. James and Sirius were both on official warnings.

Remus could see them both writing furiously at their desks as he approached. It wasn't until he was stood over James's shoulder that he saw they were playing an enchanted game of battleships with parchment.

"Still in lockdown I see." Remus raised his voice so they'd hear. "At least you're putting it to good use."

"Don't let Scrimgeour hear you say that." Sirius muttered. "The man's maniacal."

"Nothing he could do, I've just been sacked."

"What?" Sirius and James said in unison.

Remus pulled up a chair from an empty cubicle behind them and they turned to face him.

"Fudge came down to my office and essentially told me I'd been wasting my time, that the anti-werewolf legislation must go ahead."

"Write to Dumbledore! He'll talk some sense into him, he always goes to Dumbledore for advice. Everyone knows he's bloody useless at his job." James insisted.

"Keep your voice down." Remus urged. "You haven't lost your job yet. Dumbledore spoke to him a few weeks ago, but clearly the likes of his council have put up more impressive arguments."

"That's ridiculous!" Sirius shouted, making the few other people in the office look over.

"Sirius, voice!" Remus looked exasperated. "There's nothing I can do. I'm just going to go home and wallow for a bit."

James looked up at him, desperate to find a way to help. "Remus, let's go for a drink tonight. The three of us, we'll get really drunk and curse Fudge until you feel better. Or for real if you'd like, I don't think it'd be difficult."

Remus smiled wryly. "He's not a bad man really. Just weak." He sighed and stood up. "Maybe tomorrow. I think I'm just going to have a quiet night in tonight with Ronnie." James and Sirius smiled wickedly. "Grow up." But Remus couldn't help smiling himself. "I'll see you soon."

"We'll have to find Padfoot a girl, then we could triple date." James said.

"Lily have you taken some polyjuice potion this morning?" Sirius shot at him. "I don't need help finding a woman."

"Can you go through the foyer yet?" Remus retorted. "I will see you boys later." Remus left them in their quiet office.

"Triple date?" Sirius asked incredulously. "Are we really that uncool?"

James laughed. But before he could reply a rough voice shouted.

"Potter! Black! Don't make me regret not sacking you both." Scrimegour looked serious. "Stop chatting and do your bloody jobs!"

They nodded and turned back to their cubicles.

"Sometimes it's like we never left school." Sirius whispered.

"That's because you behave like a pair of children, rather than 30 year old men." Kingsley said passing them.

Lily had been using her day off on this rarely bright February day to tend to her garden. She kept a selection of medicinal remedies at home because she was forever patching James up from work related injuries. She'd had some respite over the last few weeks while he'd been grounded, but now he was returning to active duty she needed to build up her stock.

While her potion was brewing on the stove, Lily went to visit her elderly neighbour. She'd been so busy recently at work that she'd neglected Bathilda and she felt horrible for it. Lily left her cottage and walked down the country lane to the next house along. The front garden resembled a jungle, the weeds were almost a head higher than Lily and she had to fight her way through them to reach the front door.

"Bathilda?" Lily called whilst she knocked on the door. It took almost five minutes for the elderly witch to open the door, but Lily waited patiently. Bathilda didn't look good. Her skin was drawn and her liver spots had multiplied since the last time Lily had seen her.

"Lily!" Her wheezy voice sounded delighted.

"It's lovely to see you! Sorry I haven't been round, things have gotten a bit hectic."

"Quite understandable." Bathilda replied. "How's Harry enjoying being back at school?" Lily followed the elderly woman back into the house.

"He's having a wonderful time I think. Staying out of trouble too by the sounds of it."

Bathilda chuckled. "Tell him if needs help with History of Magic to come straight over."

"I will." Lily replied, but she really thought Bathilda looked too frail to be tutoring anyone. The house itself was a state. It had a strong smell of cabbage and there was mess everywhere, it seemed as though Bathilda had quite forgotten she could use magic, or her cataracts had gotten so bad that she couldn't see the mess. "Batty, when was the last time you had a check up?"

"Lily dear." She said warningly. "I'm not your patient."

Lily immediately dropped the subject. She spent a few more hours with Bathilda, who told her wonderful stories. Lily surreptitiously cleaned whilst Bathilda was in the middle of speaking so she wouldn't tell her to stop. Lily also magically pruned her garden and made Bathilda dinner. It was nearly five O' clock by the time she was leaving Bathilda's house. "Batty, call on me or James if you need anything."

"I will dear, I will." The old woman waved merrily. "I'll see you next Tuesday."

"Certainly, and I'll bring you that potion! No arguments."

Lily made her way down the path and up towards town. While she was out she may as well pop into the village for dinner things. It was dark and had gotten very cold, Lily could see her breath in the air and wondered if it was going to snow again.

Lily waved as she passed mad Monty, whose hands were in bandages, opening up the pub, and continued to the small grocers. She hadn't been inside a minute before she saw a familiar face.

"Emilia?" Lily couldn't have been more surprised if Voldemort himself had been in there buying carrots.

"Hello Lily." She said nervously. "I've been wondering when I'd see you around here. I'd have popped in but I thought that James might not have taken too kindly to me."

"You're living in the area?" Lily asked in amazement. What an odd choice! Right next to her ex-fiancé's best friend.

"I've just moved here with my husband." Emilia replied. "I saw Sirius briefly over Christmas, didn't he tell you?"

Lily shook her head in reply.

"He was with Harry, he looks like a smaller version of James. It's really uncanny."

"He didn't mention it." Lily reiterated. She didn't really know what to say, she had always gotten along with Emilia but her allegiances had to be with Sirius.

"They seem very close."

"They are." Lily replied. "Do you have any children?"

Emilia shook her head sadly. "My husband is older and already has children. He doesn't want more."

Lily was shocked. "That's not fair."

Emilia shrugged sadly. "He made that clear before I married him. Does, er, does Sirius have any?"

Lily shook her head. She felt very awkward discussing Sirius at all.

Emilia seemed to sense this because she stopped asking. "Lily, I don't have many friends around here. It would be nice if we could meet for a coffee." Lily hesitated and before she could refuse Emilia added, "I've missed you being my friend. You don't have to tell Sirius."

Lily was still flabbergasted that evening and she was on the fence about telling James. On the one hand she didn't want to keep a secret, but on the other hand he would go on about it all evening. She decided against it for now. If she wanted to meet with Emilia she would ask Sirius directly. Sirius had never told them what had happened, James had just told her one day that Emilia had called the wedding off. Sirius had gone on a bender for a few weeks and he never mentioned her again. Lily was incredibly curious about what had actually happened. She didn't know whether she was going to go and see Emilia, but she would not do it behind Sirius's back.

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